(20) Market Hunting

Beginning with the earliest settlement and throughout the 1700s, an abundance of game furnished food for the settlers in addition to marketable furs, especially deerskins, to hunters and fur dealers. Wild game and especially waterfowl remained important food sources well into the 1900s. This was particularly so in rural areas and among poorer residents and increased during the Great Depression of the 1930s. 


Great flocks of migratory waterfowl along the Atlantic coast made the Albemarle one of the prime hunting spots on the east coast. In the late 1800s, this abundance of fowl, a growing urban population in the North, and improved transportation encouraged the hunting of waterfowl and wildlife for profit, a practice known as market hunting. This industry became especially important in Currituck, Dare, and Hyde counties, aided by an absence of hunting laws, bag limits, and other shooting regulations that allowed hunters to sell as much game as they could shoot. Market hunters killed waterfowl and other birds for their plumage as well as for their meat. Hunting methods depended on the types of water and species present. The birds themselves were considered an unlimited, renewable, natural resource. Sport hunting was immensely popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s, particularly among urban Northerners. The region’s sounds provided bountiful opportunities, and numerous hunt clubs acquired large tracts of land and built hunting lodges, with many of the most noted clubs being along Currituck Sound. Hunting waterfowl required decoys and by the early 1900s local craftsmen—some of who were hunting guides as well-- were supplying gun clubs and clients with skillfully executed goose, duck, and shorebird decoys.


Market hunting and other hunting methods were made illegal by state and federal laws in the early 1900s. Limits were placed on the numbers and kinds of birds hunted, and preserves were established to provide havens for migrating waterfowl.