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March 09 , 2011

A Southern Sportsman

The Hunting Memoirs of Henry Edwards Davis


Henry Edwards Davis (1879–1966) began his hunting adventures as a boy riding in the saddle with his father on foxhunts and deer drives in the company of Confederate cavalry veterans. Born on Hickory Grove Plantation in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, Davis developed his taste for the hunt at an early age. In later years he became a renowned sportsman and expert on sporting firearms. Published here for this first time after a four-decade-long hiatus, his collection of southern hunting tales describes his many experiences in pursuit of turkeys, deer, ducks, and partridges through the fields, forests, and swamps of South Carolina’s Pee Dee region. His memoir offers a lucid firsthand account of a time before paved roads and river-spanning bridges had penetrated the rural stretches of Williamsburg and Florence counties, when hunting was still one of a southerner’s chief social activities. With a sportsman’s interest and a historian’s curiosity, Davis intersperses his hunting narratives with tales of the region’s rich history, from before the American Revolution to his times in the first half of the twentieth century. Davis, a connoisseur of fine sporting firearms, also chronicles his personal experiences with a long line of rifles and shotguns, beginning with his first “Old Betsy,” a fourteen-gauge, cap-lock muzzleloader, and later with some of the finest modern American and British shotguns. He describes as well a host of small-bore rifles, many of which he assembled himself, bedding the barrels and actions in hand-carved stocks. Edited by retired lowcountry game warden Ben McC. Moïse and featuring a foreword by outdoor writer Jim Casada, Davis’s memoir is a valuable account of hunting lore and historic firearms, as well as a record of evolving cultural attitudes and economic conditions in post-Reconstruction South Carolina and of the practices that gave rise to modern natural conservation efforts.
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