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The big bucks stopped here

November 29, 2008
By Howard Riley

Mr. Webster says in his dictionary that the word buck is used as an expression of responsibility such as in "passing the buck'', meaning, of course, to blame someone else for your own shortcomings. President Harry Truman made the saying famous, "the buck stops here" when it adorned his desk in the oval office.

Historian John Duquette writing in The Enterprise years ago opined about the big bucks harvested in the Adirondacks in the late 1800's:

"A couple of outstanding records authenticated by game commissioners are almost unbelievable when compared to the big bucks of today. During the open season of 1877, a hunter named John Denny killed a buck at Meacham Lake which weighed 357 pounds, live weight. During October, 1890, Denny's record was smashed by Henry Ordway, at Mud Lake, who bagged a 388 pound buck, live weight, with antler beams of 32 inches and a maximum point length of 13 inches."

Article Photos

There was no date on this picture, but my guess it was the late 1950s. The location is 42 Main St., then Saranac Lake Hardware, with the company truck in the background, now the home of Compass Printing. With the help of a magnifying glass and Michele Tucker, chief of my research team and curator of the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Adirondack Room, we were able to read the names of some of the shooters. The first deer, from the left, was Alfred H. Martelle’s; the next was Shirley McCarthy’s, and then next to the last was Paul Roberts’. The moose was shot in Quebec by Bob Liddy, and if one can believe the pictures, our local moose look pretty wimpy by comparison.
(Photo No. 8813, courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library)

The Trudeau Big Buck Contest

I have no idea when the Trudeau Big Buck Contest left the downtown area (I believe the tradition lives on with the Saranac Lake Fish & Game Club) but I found this treasured piece of history in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library in the form of a clipping from The Enterprise of Nov. 22, 1930.

In the same folder at the Library there is a copy of an advertisement from the Blue Sport Shop dated September, 1993 telling of new rules for the contest, mainly that the hunters must pre-register. The biggest buck would win a Winchester 94 with a plaque on the stock with other prizes for smaller deer and a drawing at the conclusion for a $150.00 gift certificate at the Blue Line.

The contest in 1930

This contest used to be a big deal - The headline on the 1930 story reads, "North Elba Hunter Is Winner of Famous Cup Offered by Dr. Trudeau"

"Another cup is about to be awarded in the famous Trudeau buck contest, and another name added to the roll of honor on the silver plaque.

"The winner this year is Norval Watson of North Elba who entered a buck weighing 217 pounds after being dressed. Watson's buck was closely pressed by another big fellow killed by William J. Claus of Sugar Bush which weighed 213 pounds after being dressed. The one killed by Watson was brought down in the Cascade Lake section, that of Claus in the Sugar Bush district.

"As has been the custom since the Trudeau cup contest started, all the deer entered were officially weighed at the food shop of William H. Gibney (now the Post Office Pharmacy) on Main Street and were afterward exhibited there along with the cup and the handsome plaque bearing the names of those who have won the contest in former years.

"The cup, plaque and deer were viewed by scores. The deer were hung outside the shop while the cup and plaque were surrounded by a variety of mounted game in a window made to represent a forest scene.

"The trophy this year was particularly handsome, being in the form of a beautiful silver pitcher, instead of the usual loving cup type. As a result the Trudeau cup this season is as useful as it is ornamental and will serve not only the hunter who wins it but also the great grandchildren of that hunter, is the hope of the donor."

It started in 1916

"It was in 1916 that Dr. Francis B.Trudeau (Garry Trudeau's grandfather) first offered the Trudeau cup in loving memory of his distinguished and beloved father, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who was an ardent sportsman and loved the woods and the hunt. The contest has now become one of the most famous in the United States and the beautiful trophy one of the most valued. Hunters consider it a great honor to win the Trudeau cup contest."

(I wonder where all those plaques and cups are today if those great grandchildren hung onto them and we could find them it would make a great window display for Winter Carnival).



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