Monday, January 19, 2015

The Pleasures of Outdoor Life by Edwin E. Gunther (HTT September, 1918)


 The disease to hunt, trap and roam the woods, to live in the great out-doors, to breathe the air of freedom, to feel the thrill of vital joys, and hear the music of the spheres as only the lover of nature can, is what prompted us to take this little outing. So on Nov. 31st we loaded up a tin Henry, better known as Ford, and the high places for Blackwater Creek to try our luck at trapping, hunting and to have a general good time. Here is a description of the outfit taken. One tent x 12 and poles, one box stove, and cooking utensils, lantern, oil can, blankets, groceries to last a week and after three of us, pard myself and the driver piled into the car, there was hardly room to breathe. 

 We made the trip over bad roads and steep hills in good time, arriving at our destination before noon, found a good low place in heavy timber and set up our tent and while pard manufactured a table out of timber which he said was natural oak finished, I cooked up some dinner of potatoes, bacon, bread, and coffee. After dinner we got busy again. Pard cut four poles; with these he made a sort of crib in the back end of the tent and in this we piled leaves and hay and on this our blankets and we had a real comfortable bed, and that night early we hit the hay but were awakened before break of day. Pard rubbed his eyes and says I am dreaming, I thought I heard a panther screaming. Just then 1 heard a noise right over head that would wake up the dead. And then we fell back again to dream. Boys did you ever hear an owl scream? When pard reads this I suppose he still feels like beating me up, but I had to pull one off on him, tho I admit that those owls frightened me as much as they did him. As this was the first day of the open season we struck out early with our traps. We set most of them for muskrats, coon and skunk. We caught a small bunch of rats and then it turned cold and snowed. We had to chop our traps out of the ice. We caught a few skunks, but found traps in almost every den or hole big enough for a mouse to crawl in, so you see we were not the only pebbles on the beach. I think some trapped all summer down there. While the snow was on we spent most of the time hunting rabbits. Squirrels, were plentiful down there but we never killed more than we could use.

 I remember one day I was walking along with my head down and a hickory nut dropped in front of me which caused me to look up and there up in a tree were four squirrels. I stopped still, they had not noticed me. Two were busy cracking nuts, the other two were playing hide and seek. They were having lots of fun. We needed meat and was not this a good place to get it? I raised my rifle to shoot but I did not. I guess some will say that I was chicken hearted but I would rather be a little chicken hearted than a "Game Hog". I have always admired the little wild creatures and I like to give them a fair chance for their life. We had been having squirrel or rabbit every day and we were getting awful hungry for a roast opossum or coon. 

  One sunday evening a young man came riding by our camp and informed us that he had seen a coon go up a tree a little distance above camp. We thanked him very much, rushed into the tent scrambled all over each other hunting for our guns. I almost yelled "roast coon tomorrow" I imagined I saw coons on every tree but upon closer observation found out that they were nothing but knots, snags, etc. Search as we did, we failed to find any coon. I did not say anything to pard but my thoughts were strong that the young man was telling his best girl the big joke he played on us, tho I believe he was telling us the truth. Some kind of animal had been coming to our tent every night to eat of the refuse. Pard says we will have a little fun and find out what it is. So we set two traps where he had been getting his meal and that night about 10 o'clock part punched me in the ribs and informed me that he was back. I was about to ask who he was talking about when "SNAP" went the traps. The animal gave a pitiful little whine. He was to frightened to yell, made about three big leaps and cleared the timber while pard and I were almost splitting our sides laughing. It sure amused us how we surprised him. Whatever the animal was he never got hungry enough to come back to our tent for his meals anymore.

 Isn't it strange how much one will endure in the way of sport and call it fun? We would tramp all day over hills, dodging through thick timber, get feet wet, come in at night tired out, but could laugh and joke about our days sport, and Oh! how we could eat. Our appetites could hardly be satisfied and we did not need any rocking to put us to sleep at night. Say, boys, this is the life if you really want to know your friend, take an outing with him, there you will be real pals. About the middle of December we pulled up stakes and went home. We did not have much success in trapping, but then there is a great deal of compensation from the pleasure one gets out of it. We both enjoyed it greatly and if nothing happens we expect to take more outings. One must be a lover of nature if he would get the most benefit from an outing, but whether he be a lover of nature or not he must confess that there is nothing can compare to its silent loveliness.

 * September 1918 Hunter Trader Trapper

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Building a Lean-To

  The lean-to is one of the most basic and oldest ways of creating shelter from the weather. This one is very simple and can be built fairly quickly.

 Cedar trees are excellent for building a lean-to because they grow very straight. That's what I used here. Lashing one pole between two trees gives you a good ridge to build from.

  After lashing them on my plan was to put three poles off the back and then two more running the length of the ridge pole. This reinforces the structure but also gives you a good frame for your tarp to cover. 

 After lashing these poles on with hemp rope, I cut out my oil cloth tarp and laid it on. 

Attaching this tarp to the structure can prove a bit frustrating. Sometimes folks would just lay brush over the back and stack sticks over the canvas to keep it in place. I may sew the two strips together at some point and sew some reinforced holes to loop ropes through to make attaching easier. 

 I hope to spend a night in it real soon! 

Jake Book, Kentucky 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Coming Up Empty

 I decided I would head out for a morning hunt yesterday , looking to go after a rabbit or squirrel.

 My arsenal for the hunt included :

1897 Winchester Shotgun
 The 1897 Winchester Shotgun is really a great gun. I like the hammer, for nothing really more than my own esthetic preference. 

Harrington & Richardson 22-Caliber Revolver 

H&R 22 Revolver in the 1908 Sears and Roebuck Catalog
 I love my H&R .22 Revolver. Dad gave it to me a few years back as a Christmas gift and I have always taken it to the woods with me. The cylinder holds 7 rounds (but I always load 6 with the hammer on an empty chamber when I go out, as my dad taught me). 

Joseph, Allen and Sons, Sheffield England. NON-XXL Knife

 This knife is was made after 1890. A good example of a hunting knife of the period.

 Now that I've shown you my arms assortment I will now relate my hunting experience.

 The morning hunt I descended into the woods and right away saw two squirrels. They must have been in the midst of playing and very quickly scampered off and I was quickly out of range.

 I knew where there was a briar patch and had seen many a rabbit there in the past. A good dog would have been a big help on this excursion. I approached the briar and all of the sudden up sprang a rabbit. I leveled my shotgun and fired just as he ducked behind a log. I missed. This is where the dog would have been handy. I had to go in to the briar patch a short ways to see if I could kick him up again. I did but he was soon out of my sight and scampered on up the hill.

 I continued on my way but didn't see anything as I sat and waited under a tree.

 Soon I headed back up the trail. I soon saw a squirrel come barreling across the trail about 20 yards in front of me. As I lowered my gun he began up the hill. I fired and just like the rabbit he ducked behind a log as I fired. I kept my eyes on the spot where I fired and ran towards it. The squirrel appeared to have just vanished into thin air.

 I came back to the house and then around 4 o'clock I went back out for another try. I immediately saw another squirrel and fire at him. Again just like the rabbit and the squirrel he ducked behind a log and vanished. My frustration was getting high at this point.

 I moved along and soon saw another squirrel close to where I saw the rabbit earlier. I should have waited and been patient but I let my frustration get the best of me and fired, missing him altogether.
 After a while longer dark was approaching and decided to head home. 

 When I arrived at home I reached for my knife and realized it wasn't there. All that was left was the loop and the sheath had completely torn off. I panicked for a moment as I thought back to what I was doing that could have made that happen. I remembered! I slid down the bank of the dry creek bed and it must have caught and ripped off of my belt. So I knew I would have to go hunting for it in the morning which would give me another opportunity at those pesky squirrels. 

 I headed out and just like the day before saw two squirrels right away. And yet again they alluded me.

 I returned to the creek bed where I was sure my knife would be and finally after a while found it, half buried in the dirt.

 The things I learned from this hunt is to be more patient and don't fire your gun after a squirrel in frustration. Be patient and wait for him. It had been some time since I had been out in the woods hunting so I am sort of getting used to it again. 

 -Jake Book, Kentucky

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Back Then : A Pictorial History of American's Afield (Book Review)

 Back Then : A Pictorial History of American's Afield

 The book that started it all.

 The idea of doing "back then", a term in our house that has come to mean anything pre-1920, came about really because of this book. Dad had gotten a copy a long time ago and for years we would get it out every now and again and make these great plans to start recreating the golden age of hunting and trapping. These passing moments would be spent pouring over the contents of this book.

 The book is FULL of photographs from the 1870s all the way to the 1930s. The large photo layouts, complete with year, location and descriptions, along with articles from sporting magazines of the time makes this book a must have for anyone recreating the Early 20th Century Sportsman.

 Copies can be found here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year and a Rabbit Story

 Well, the new year is upon us and the 2015 will I hope prove to be an exciting time for the Early 20th Century Sportsman.

 We have been busy here trying to get our first event planned and a newsletter out there to our members. Stay tuned for that.

 As I think about this time of year I am reminded of a short story from my childhood.

Boys and their rabbits, 1904

 We moved to the old farm back in Numa, Iowa when I was about 4-5 years old. Our first winter in the house, I remember being a wonderful time. I feel like much of my childhood was spent in the past, or the distant past as it were. The house had been an old company mining house but now it was a warm little farm house on the southern Iowa prairie. I always had a toy gun laying around the house and I was always hunting wild animals or pretending to be Davy Crockett at the Alamo. One day I was looking out the big window of the bedroom. This window faced the south of the farm and from it I could see all the way back to the end of our property. Out away from the house about 100 yards was this old shed. Well, I looked out and I saw a rabbit! This rabbit was just waiting to be taken as my prize so I carefully took aim as my mom looked over my shoulder. I fired! BANG! The rabbit instantly flew up in the air and then lay there...dead! I was thrilled! My mom was very surprised at this and wondered what in the world had happened.

 Well soon the truth came out. I had not shot the rabbit like I had thought. Out from behind that shed emerged my father carrying his .22 rifle. He had shot that rabbit at the exact same moment I had shot my rifle. My mother was none to pleased and ran out to tell him that he wasn't allowed to shoot rabbits in her yard because she liked to watch them and if Dad wanted to hunt rabbits he should go to the woods. But the little boy with the toy rifle was still convinced it was he that had shot the rabbit.

Jake Book, Kentucky