PIGEON AND SPARROW SHOOTS From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 10

live pigeons


From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 10

By Samuel Herbert (1876-1866)

The Stanley Gun Club held regular Pigeon and Sparrow shoot in Stark’s Athletic Grounds, about opposite McGee Street, south of Eastern Avenue where commercial industries are now located.

19001123GL Stark Athletic Grounds shooting match
The old Stark Athletic Grounds Globe, Nov. 23, 1900
Detail Goad’s Atlas 1899 Added “Stark’s Athletic Grounds”

Its members came from different parts of the city, mostly from the east end, and the sport was very popular. Old residents who were ardent shooters have passed on years ago and many keen matches were shot out with money wagered on both sides.


One match that stands out clearly in my memory was between two well known prominent residents of the east end. There was light snow on the ground, and the match was “miss and out”.

Forest and Stream. v.36 Feb. 19, 1891
Forest and Stream. v. 36 Feb. 19, 1891


Twenty-four birds had been killed by each of the contestants.

Pigeon Match – Trap Shooting by Henry Downes Miles. The Book of Field Sports. London, Henry Lea, c. 1870

It was getting late in the afternoon and a little snow on the ground. Visibility was poor. A white pigeon was placed surreptitiously in one of the traps, and when the word “pull” was given, the pigeon was just faintly discernable.

White pigeonThe contestant fired and knocked it down. The other side demanded he “gather his bird inside the line”, this he did and went back to his position on the firing line making a twenty-five straight. The other contestant fired, and missed his bird, my relative winning the match.

There was hilarity in the winner’s home that evening, and the winner later on had the white pigeon stuffed and mounted in a glass case which hung on the wall of his living room. He always relished telling how the pigeon won him the match and a challenge cup as well.


The cost of pigeons for shooting purposes was twenty-five cents. Each of the contestants kept all the birds they shot. Many a pigeon pie was the reward from these matches in Stark’s grounds.

18921205 Toronto Daily Mail Shooting Grounds HP Davies
Toronto Daily Mail, December 5, 1892

Sometimes in the early evening one could see persons going stealthily with a long bamboo fishing rod which had a small net attached to the end. They were snaring sparrows from the eaves and other parts of the house and buildings.


The sparrows were later sold to the gun club for sparrow shoots. Light snow on the ground was always a help, and if I remember correctly, the traps were placed about ten yards from the firing line.  Number ten shot was generally used. Sparrow shoots were less expensive than for pigeons, and were well patronized.


18930227 GL Sparrows Stark's
53 birds without a miss Globe, Feb. 27, 1893
redwinged blackbird
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phœniceus). From New York Public Library Digital Collections
Forest and Stream. v. 39, Aug. 4, 1892 Aug 4
Forest and Stream, v. 39, Aug. 4, 1892
18651118 GL Pigeon shoot
‘Tis good sport, we presume: but is it right? Globe, November 18, 1865







Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

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