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Turtle Man of Lubeck

By Mike Brant

Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Photograph by Tyler Evert.

In a rural area just southwest of Parkersburg lives a man by the name of Joe Rector, known to many as the Turtle Man of Lubeck. Joe lives on a family farm that dates back to the late 1800’s. Retired from Ames tools in Parkersburg about 12 years ago, he has been a farmer all of his life. The farm is located on Sun Valley Road off of State Route 68, just south of the town of Lubeck.

The original 100-acre farm, located on the south side of Sun Valley Road, was purchased in 1892 by Joe’s grandfather, Patrick McDonough, from Thomas Boreman who had purchased the farm in 1888 from Arthur Boreman, the first governor of West Virginia. Joe bought an additional 27 acres from a neighbor in the 1980’s.

Joe and his brother George began hunting snapping turtles as kids. They first learned turtle hunting from a man named Glen Bailey and then developed their knowledge of turtle hunting from personal experience.

There are several methods of catching turtles. Noodling is when you catch them with your bare hands. Other methods include jugging – using a floating plastic jug with a line and baited hook - trotlines, and traps. Joe and his buddies prefer reaching up under the bank and feeling for the turtles with their bare hands. Joe doesn’t know an exact number of turtles he has caught by hand, but estimates that it is over 1,000. All of the meat from these turtles was used for food.

Turtle hunting regulations can be found under fishing regulations at the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Web site.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.