Amazing tales of a winter’s trapping north of Rangeley

I owe Bill Pierce a big thank you. While visiting with Bill at the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Oquossic, he recommended a book that turned out to be fascinating.

It’s a detailed report on a winter wilderness adventure by Fred Barker, who spent the winter with a friend, J.S. Danforth, hunting and trapping in the region northwest of Rangeley, in 1882-83.

The book’s title is a long one: Hunting And Trapping On the Upper Magalloway River and Parmachenee Lake – First Winter in the Wilderness.  And it’s Fred’s diary, which he wrote each and every day of that winter’s experience.

His stories are astonishing, including the time he and JS jumped on two huge bucks and rode them downhill through the deep snow. Then there’s the time they chased a lynx, stuck to one of their traps, into a cave, only to hastily retreat when the lynx went crazy.

They shot and trapped their own food, from bears to grouse, but towards the end of their long winter, they ran out of food and chowed down on muskrats on their way out of the woods. Apparently muskrats are tasty. Who knew?

They concentrated on killing caribou, their favorite meat, and trapped lots of critters from beaver to sable. And they hiked and camped all over that territory. I was amazed to learn they only brought one change of clothes with them!

Actually, I was amazed by many of Barker’s stories, from how they smoked a fisher out of a small cave so they could shoot it, to the time they both nearly drowned when they fell through the ice into a fast-moving stream.

The Oquossic museum has an original of Fred’s book, but they also printed books in paperback to sell. Now, I’ve got to get back up there to buy Barker’s other book!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.