An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Judd Cawley of Burlington, NJ

Judd Cawley contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

“When we use to go cattailing back in the day, we always went Gregory’s either in Burlington or Mt. Holly to grab a couple pair of Converse All Stars (Chuck Taylor’s) what we called “bobos”. Perfect cattailing footwear, they was comfy, dried quickly, and lasted most of the season. Even used em for clamming.”

Judd Cawley
Judd Cawley along the railroad tracks to Chatsworth

Interview Conducted on 11/12/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Judd- “Hunting and trapping out in the Pines. Kinda living off the land like we did years and years ago when the dried flower business was really big and booming. It was in the late 70s early 80s for me all the way to the 1990s. Living off the land doing what you could do to make a living to put food on the table. That was my interest was down there. I like the beauty of the Pines down there that’s all. Pretty much there of living off the land is kinda how I got my nickname to of ‘Indian’.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Judd- “What I did in the woods it would be my dad Reds Cawley. He did woods work and hunting and trapping with a good work ethic. Not because he was my dad just the way he did everything and how he went about things. My good friend Jimmy Durr, who was a hard worker, had a real influence on me. He’s right up there side by side with my dad. And the old Pineys of the woods of yesteryears who worked the woods making a living out there. People like Hazy Dilks, Cowboy Henry Webb, and Gordy Lockwood. Just watching them when I was young and seeing how hard they worked. I kinda wanted to do it after seeing them.”

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Judd- “Depends on what your doing (chuckles). I like to be alone. If you’re out doing some woods work and you’re not supposed to be there or kinda sneaking on some ground. Kinda wanna be by yourself so you don’t get nobody else in trouble. Sometimes with another person there an extra set of eyes don’t hurt. Basically, by myself that way you can get out there and kinda reflect on things by yourself and concentrate on what your doing. Hunting and trapping we never hunted with groups always just me and dad or by myself. You never liked to give up too many good spots for trapping so keep that to yourself. And same thing with the woods work. You don’t want to take other people out to your hotspots. Next thing you know the person you took out there with you gathering your stuff or trapping your muskrats. More alone than anything.”   

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Judd- “Hobby I guess you could say but also trying to keep the heritage alive for me. Everything is not the same as it used to be years ago. Trapping wise there no trappers left out there. Hunting there’s nobody that hunts like they used to. The woods work same deal its not like it used to be. Just trying basically as a hobby making some extra money and keeping that heritage alive. It’s changed so much its like a dying breed especially the woods work.”  

Judd Cawley with nuisance beavers removed with license

5) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Judd- “Can’t really encourage anybody to do something I like to do. Maybe just take a kid out trapping and hunting and watch what I do. Maybe they’ll take an interest in it. There is so many different views on what I do. To many ‘antis’ out there. I do nuisance beaver trapping. The fur market went belly up years ago so there is not much draw to it.”  

6) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Judd-“Just keeping everything… I don’t know just trying to keep everything the same as it used to be. I wouldn’t say its religious just the way I feel about doing things. Keeping that heritage alive. My nephew AJ took a liking to working in the woods with me. I’m the only one left right now in all the pineys that gathered stuff doing it part time now. AJ is into the trapping part and hunting too. Even passing it on to his buddies. Makes me feel good that I got him into it and that he’s passing onto his younger generation of friends in their 20s. He got his girlfriend recently a hunting license too.”

AJ Cawley with grey fox

7) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Judd- “Whole shit load of em. Years ago, when the woods work was really up and jumping a lot of people really knew back then what you were doing. They understood didn’t think you were nuts or crazy maybe nuts when you were coming home full of mud, full of stickers and cuts just to go out to make $75 or $100 bucks. Nowadays though they look at you and say yeah, your crazy and why don’t you get a real job? That’s the way I was brought up and I’m going to try to keep it going as long as I can. There’s a handful out there says I’m nuts and there are some out there that understand as times are tight so you make some money however you can make it.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Judd- “Open up the freakin woods! There’s enough room out there for everyone. There is 1.2 million acres of Pinelands out there. They can designate areas for motocross, they could designate areas for four-wheelers, whatever they want to do just keep it clean and don’t tear it up too bad. They could even make money off it. Im sure people would be willing to pay a little fee to get out there and the state makes money, and the kids could have fun. There are too many rules and regulations; “keep out of here keep out of there, no cutting this no cutting that, no hunting no trapping.“ Open it up. The mudding doesn’t affect me.

Just don’t tear up all the main roads where everyone rides at. But if they had a designated area for them, let em have it. Even with the four wheelers let them ride the state forest maybe put a speed limit on it and let them register a vehicle and insure it and set some rules. Let them go by them rules. They’re not hurting nobody. Just don’t tear the woods up don’t trash the woods I don’t have anything against that. Let everyone respect it a little bit is all.

Also, years ago, you could get a permit from the state to cut hog brush. Lebanon state forest there was a $10 fee. And go anywhere in the state forest and cut all the hog brush or all the sweethuck you wanted, and you was doing the state a favor taking all that undergrowth out of there. For the forest fires all that undergrowth would be gone. All of a sudden, they shut it right down. Not sure if it was because you were making a little bit of money on it or maybe someone dumped trash somewhere and the people cutting the brush got the blame for it. I don’t know why they shut it down. It was a good thing back in the 80s and 90s when the woods work was still going. If they offered a permit today and there was a market for that brush every piney out there would probably jump right on it. Most of those guys took care of the woods. When we were taking care of the woods cutting cattails and other grasses you could find it nice year after year. But since the Pineys stopped you can’t find those meadows of cattails anymore its all grown up. Dad used to say we were stewards of the land us Pineys.”  

9) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Judd- “Take some kids hunting or do some trapping and go out in the woods and be respectful.”

9a) Is the Pines the Piney’s heritage?

Judd- “It’s part of it. Does the Pines really define the Piney? Answer-No. What I call the true piney the independent worker who went out making a living off the woods and land there are a lot of items on the Richardson Calendar that didn’t grow down the Pines. Like penny crest, pepper grass, tansy, timothy, brown burr, I could go on on with names of plants where you had to go up in the country. The pines and the piney, I mean the true piney, worked the land not just the pines.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Judd- “Yeah I do even I know a lot of people are like, “you gotta be born and bred down there.” When I was born, I lived down there in Chatsworth on Johnson road down by four-mile circle. Moved back and forth a few times. I also lived on Sooy place road but always between there and Burlington. Never a full-time person that lived down there. But what I consider myself what I call the true piney the independent worker that lived off that land whether be down in the pines or in the country that’s what I call a true piney and what I call myself. I would say there are probably just a handful of us left; Hazy Dilks, Joe Lewis, Bill Wasiowich the hermit and that’s it there might be a few others out there that I don’t know of but that’s about it.”  

One thought on “An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Judd Cawley of Burlington, NJ”

  1. Great article Judd and helpful suggestions for designated areas to so some four-wheeling and mud tromping. I really like the interest that you take in the plants of the pines. I can recall when I saw my first mullein plant on the side of the road, I was amazed that this giant was actually an biennial herb Verbascum thapsus and was useful for the respiratory system and the giant fuzzy leaves could be dried and smoked in a Piney corn cob pipe! I think it is the herbal lore of the plants that drew me in. And, what is not to love when walking in the woods and pulling back some leaves to find some wintergreen to chew on? The Pinelands are amazing and they deserve to be respected for all the beauty they offer us, not a giant place to dump your trash. Hey, where was that bittersweet patch?

    Vintage Woods Witch
    Enchanted Wood Herbs

Leave a Reply