Land Cruising - Prospecting:
Poor Man's Ore Mill
Prospecting For Fur
Prospecting For Pearls
Prospecting For Bees
Rations And Camp Cooking
Guns, Axes And Packstraps
Building Cabins, Tanning, Etc
The Red River Trapper
Read More Articles About: Land Cruising - Prospecting
Guns, Axes And Packstraps
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There is a great difference of opinion in regard to rifles. Every one has his pet and one has to consider what kind of game he is going after. A barrel should be rifled with a twist that will spin a bullet just right. If it spins too fast it will keyhole or go sideways, and it will do this same thing if it spins too slow. I have never had a sunstroke or a brainstorm over these small bore high power and dód high cost of ammunition guns. They may be and are all right for what they are intended for, that is for killing men with and will do for the army, but in my opinion there is no gun today for big game that can compete with the old Sharp's Reliable or Ballard 45-90-300 black powder gun.
They were the only meat getters and with the Springfield Needle gun did more to civilize and pacify the Indians than all the Peace Commission that ever came down the pike. Although the first issue of breech loaders made by the government I am free to say were a delusion and mistake, otherwise there would be a different story to tell of the Little Big Horn and Custer. They would not extricate an empty shell and especially so if they were a little dirty or dusty, One had to get a gum weed or stick or take his pocket knife, if he had one, to get the empty shell out of the gun.
This was soon rectified and another good gun was the Spencer, but the load was a little light, but they had a firstclass reloading mechanism. If I was rich and could have a big game rifle made to order I would take a Needle gun and have a Marlin or Winchester breech pit on it, to handle about eight shots. I know an army officer who had a Remington barrel put on a Spring-field breech and it was a daisy. The old government barrel was too long for him.
In my opinion the best big game gun for the Rocky Mountains is the Marlin or Winchester 45-90-300, and for the timber the carbine size. I am not considering smokeless powder at all, for this reason: Shells that are kept too long in stock are apt to deteriorate and lose power, if kept in too high or too low a temperature and this accounts for the automatic balking some-times. And besides it is tricky to handle. Even lien who make a study of it blow themselves up on our battleships every once in a while.
As to the high speed small bore rifles the steel jacket bullet cuts the rifling out or spoils it in about 1000 or 1500 shots and that is too expensive shooting for me, as I do not trot in the Oily John class. The Automatics are all right in their place, but the place burned down, and, speaking seriously, there is too much machinery about them for a practical hunter or trapper. A whole lot of these guns are made to sell more than anything else and the "dude tenderfeet" make a fad of them.
Understand, I am speaking of big game rifles and Mr. Grizzly bear is in that class, and in figuring on big game we must figure on the biggest and most dangerous we will have to meet. If any of the boys meet him and wish to cultivate an intimate acquaintance or even to be on speaking terms and say "Howdy" I would advise that he have a good 45-90-300 and have the magazine full and one in the barrel.
I could never understand the condition of a man's mind when he is in a country where no big game exists, why he takes. along on a cruise, trapping or hunting, some of the batteries I have seen. Guns of all kinds, revolvers of all descriptions made out of tin and pot metal castings, knives that would scare a wooden Indian to death, and that is all they are good for, ammunition from 4-11-44 up and loaded with powder of the Lord knows what kind. I wonder if they ever think that every pound of such trash they pack bars out so much grub or good traps. Still different people have different notions and I sup-pose mine looks as odd to others. I have found my outfit very light, practical and durable and after experimenting some time and spending some money I have got what I want.
Some time ago I came to the conclusion that I wanted a light, strong take-down gun that I could put in a pack-sack out of the way when traveling or in town. One that I could kill either a deer or a rabbit with. I found in the gun store a Hopkins & Allen, single gun that suited, but the barrel was too long. I wrote to the H. & A. people and got a Stubbs twist barrel, 28 inches long, modified choke, bored, 16 gauge take-down and automatic ejector. It weighs 6 1/2 pounds and costs the whole sum of $8.00.
This gun answers all my purpose to do all my killing with and as there are no more long shots on the prairie at buffalo and elk the largest thing I can find are chicks, coyotes and ducks and I never made a howling success shooting these with a rifle. In the timber 40 or 50 yards is all the distance you can see. My gun with a bullet cast from a mould I had the Ideal people make and backed up with 60 grains of good black powder, rather coarse in grain, so it will burn slow and give power the whole length of the barrel and not kick. It is dead medicine up to 70 or 100 yards and its smashing power is some-times immense. You don't have to follow a deer all day after he is hit and with a small load of shot I have put many a rabbit and partridge in my kettle and fry pan, when I wanted a change of meat.
I carry a sheath knife in a leather sheath of my own make. The knife was once a Wilson sticking knife with a five inch blade and four inch beech-wood handle riveted on. I have carried it for about ten years and find it first-class to dress meat, cut bacon, or fish poles, dig bean holes and for a general all round tool it is O. K. and cost the whole amount of 60e ten years ago. The blade is pretty well worn and the handle has some brass wire wrapped around it, but it is an old friend of mine and we would not part company at any price or any of Mr. Marble's more aristocratic knives.
I carry an ax that with sheath and all weighs one and a fourth pounds and cost 70e about eight years ago. The ax is shaped the same as any ax and the handle is 13 inches long over all. There is a hole through the end and a rawhide string looped through to slip over my wrist so I won't lose it when cutting a hole through the ice or when using it around the water. I also. carry a small whetstone for my knife and ax. Cartridge belts I don't use. If I want to shoot quick I want my shells loose in my pocket and if on a runaway and a single barrel gun I lay a few beside me in the crown of my old hat. If you don't get what you shoot at the first time, the second shot is a quick snapshot and usually draws a blank.
Before closing the arms subject, I would say never fool with the ax or have any loads in your gun around camp, and I never pack a revolver or a bottle of whiskey and won't have any around my camp. Get this stamped on a piece of sheet brass and rivet it in your hat, a jug of whiskey and a fool revolver have no place in a camp or on the trail in any man's country. The whiskey belongs in the medicine chest with the rest of the drugs and the revolver with the fool killer.
I like a good pack strap better than a pack sack as it can be adjusted to your load. Mine I got in Chicago and cost 90e, but there is no head strap on it. That you will have to put on yourself. I like a head strap it rests your shoulders and back and don't ever let your load come on your hips or the small of the back. You will tire out much quicker.
In making up your pack, lay your strap on the ground smooth and the strap properly arranged, fold and adjust your tent for the pack cloth. Now fold your woolen blanket and lay it on. This makes a soft cushion for your back, next your bed tick, then your canvas sheet, then your flour sack of cooking utensils and flour. This will probably leave some humps on top of your pack. Now gather up the corners of your t and pack cloth and fold them nicely over your pack. Pick up your straps and draw them tight between the humps your cooking utensils make and you are ready to hit the trail.
I usually stick. the small ax under a strap on top of the pack and tie it with the string in the handle as this is the first thing you will use when you start to make camp. Your pard takes the hatchet and starts a fire while you undo the pack. Your cooking kit and grub comes first. Then lay aside your bedding, and if it is storming spread your waterproof canvas sheet over it and proceed to pitch your tent, as by that time your pard has got his wood ready and you can use the ax for tent poles. By the time your tent is up the bacon, flapjacks and coffee are ready for you, fill the canteen at the last creek you crossed and you don't have to hunt for water. In 30 or 40 minutes you are ready to turn in well sheltered, fed and housed. Of course you have not had time to fill your tick as you are going to hit the trail in the morning so you lie on it.
I will say if you encounter storms and cold and blow, go into camp and wait for it to clear up. There is no use wasting your strength bucking up against something you can make no headway at. Save your strength for useful work.