Looking through the newspaper files of 1953 at the Aberdeen Room Archives, we found an interesting article about "Night Gunners" around the Bush River area.

Now, "gunning" in Harford was a very popular legal sport in and around the area of Bush River and other waterways where ducks were very plentiful in the early part of the 1900s. Many sportsmen enjoyed the sport, and many dinner tables showed the fruits of their endeavors. We spent many a very early morning gunning for ducks with family and friends.


Long before Aberdeen Proving Ground was a reality in Harford (before 1917) old-timers can remember the nightly dull red glow along Bush River that flared up and disappeared immediately, followed by a rumbling cannon-like boom.

The professional night gunner had again fired into a rick of ducks bedded down for the night, and in those days a rick of ducks covered acres of water.

The nightly kill of from 100 to 200 ducks was put into bags and loaded on the baggage cars at Bush River station for shipment to various hotels and commission men in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

Farm waterfront owners along the upper part of Bush River and Aberdeen proving Ground became disgusted at the nightly slaughter, which was quite obvious by the cripples and dead ducks seen along the shores the next morning. It also interfered with legal blind shooting, including those Bush River neck farmers who obtained an additional income by renting their shore front to duckers.

Local game wardens were called upon, but no results. Chief game warden Gilbert from Baltimore was then called. He tried numerous times, but could not catch this one shrewd night gunner with the goods on him. Finally, it was discovered that the telegraph operator at Bush River station was blinking a warning out to the night gunner as soon as the warden stepped off the train.

Of course, any professional night gunner was always prepared by having a cord tied to the gun stock, and at the other end of the cord a bag of salt and a cork. The cork would only float to the surface after the salt had dissolved, therefore the bag contained only sufficient salt to outlast the searching warden.

Finally, waterfront farm owners came to help the game warden and after much waiting and searching. H.H. Boyer found the night gun carefully hidden in the woods, just 200 years from Bush River station.

The huge gun was turned over to detective Smart, who took it to Baltimore. There it was lost in the great Baltimore fire of 1905.

The story included a photo of H.H. Boyer, who owned a farm on Bush River, holding the stock of a gun used by a night gunner. The operator and owner of this cannon was never caught, although he had slaughtered ducks on Bush River for years.

This is one part of Harford's history of which none of us are proud.