Vol. 26, September 2010

Win this exceptional hunting pouch hand-sewn by Brad Randall of the Hatchierun Longrifles, North Mississippi, USA. Other prizes shown are man’s shirt donated by Justin & Louise Fletcher, blanket pin made by Chips Whitthread and red Voyager cap donated by John Morland.

Come to Horseshoe Bend, Beaver Creek, September 17th-20th

Welcome to another ramble on Trapper & Longhunter doings. We are seeing a new interest in the sound of Rendezvous. After months (read years) of friendly cajoling to our musically inclined members we seem to be gaining ground. Our good friend Jenny Baker from the Frontiers Living History Group had some influence too – playing her Mountain Dulcimer in camp last September. Then at Winter Quarters there were Justin, John Morland and Ian taking turns to pick a few guitar tunes. Now I’m told Anthea Mitchell has a good ear for the sweet sounds of a family violin while her man, Glen, claw-hammers at open backed banjo lessons as only a Blacksmith can.

It’s mighty encouraging to see so many keen to add this extra dimension to campfire life. All we need now is one or two unafraid to support the musicians, adding their voices to the tunes. Whether you sing in silky tones like Julio Iglesias or are gifted with a whiskey croak similar to Lee Marvin – no one will complain if you have a go!

Then there’s the music of the guns in friendly marksman competition – that whoosh-bang-clang gottcha sound of successful shots. This year Glen and Bob are conducting the Mountain Man hunt again. It is sure to test a steady aim and good eye. Entry fee is only a worthwhile vegetable or two in the cane basket. No onions and no husbands (we went through all that last year). Lady competitors welcome. All shoots are fun shoots and our primitive style prizes are all well worth your best endeavours.

The above pictured hand made – hand sewn hunting pouch has been generously gifted to us by Brad Randall (U.S.A.) whom we introduced in our December ‘09 newsletter. Brad first contacted us after discovering our website and maintains regular correspondence. The pouch will be our major prize this Spring Rondyvoo, but you will have to be there and participate in the shooting to be in the running.

Anna and Henry Findlay wearing authentic smiles and having fun inside Bob’s covered wagon – Beechworth Festival, 7/8/2010.

Beechworth – 130th anniversary of Ned Kelly’s committal hearing 6th-8th August.

Early August saw a handful of Free Trappers catapulted into the future – that being the year 1880, the same year when the wounded Ned Kelly was brought to Beechworth for a committal hearing at what would become the “historic” courthouse.

This festival weekend draws thousands of visitors to the town and the Free Trappers were there to add to the historic flavour of this annual event. Three wall tents lined up with a covered wagon bogged to its axles in the police paddock behind the court house. Of course we were ideally situated to view Ned and the police re-enactors and the whole proceedings. We also drew huge numbers of the public to our display, all keen to learn more about our re-enactments and how we camp cosy and comfortable under old fashioned canvas shelters.

On the Saturday, we shared the police paddocks with a ladies spinning and weaving craft group, plus members of several antique stationary engine clubs, with their beautiful engines carefully restored and running sweetly. Most interesting for us though was the display of “Traditional Bush Timber Skills” demonstrated by James Findlay of Cheshunt. James showed us how to build log cabin style structures with excellent fitting locking corners, post and rail fencing, gates and other almost forgotten timber working skills.

Thanks to James for the overnight loan of a pot-bellied stove. His two children, Henry and Anna, (pictured) were ever ready to join us for fun, mischief and romping in Bob’s wagon. Also on display in secure surroundings nearby were all four sets of armour worn by the Kelly gang – very impressive! We were invited to exhibit again in Beechworth next August and you can bet we’ll be there to promote re-enacting, black powder and muzzleloader era activities.

Come to Beaver Creek

Annual Spring Rendezvous first weekend of Victorian school holidays. Camping is available from Friday 17th September thru to Monday 20th. Plenty of firewood available but you’ll need to fetch in drinking water. A minimum of 20 litres is recommended for each camp. Due to better seasonal rains we may have to relocate from the Horseshoe Bend to higher grounds up the creek – bright orange beaver markers will indicate the trail. You can read sign, can’t you?

Ram’s head firepoker

Raffle We’ll be raffling a superb Glen Mitchell ram’s head fire poker valued around $150 so bring along a pocketful of gold coin and get your tickets early from Murray.

Notice of AGM – Saturday 18th September 3.30pm at Beaver Creek camp.
As usual, Spring Rendezvous brings about our Annual General Meeting and the elections of Committee to take us forward another year. We’ll try to keep it as brief as possible so as to not interfere with the fun programmed for the weekend. Well, “Don’t ya wanna have fun no more?”

Ian’s thoughts on keeping your Smokepole clean.

Today many shooters uninitiated in the ways of black powder steer clear of muzzleloaders mistakenly thinking that cleaning them after each use is a major chore. Quite a few muzzleloaders consider it a burdensome task also! But I regard the cleaning as part of the fun of shooting and caring for a muzzleloader, and have refined this small task to the simple method described herewith.

Originally, I used the hot water method – I splashed water everywhere, dripping rags, wet gun, soggy sleeves, scolded fingers – all the time thinking there’s got to be a better way. All the proprietary cleaners seemed to clean out my wallet quicker than cleaning my gun. After much experimenting I have settled on a technique that I find quick, easy and most importantly, that keeps my gun clean and protected.

For a black powder solvent I use Cloudy Ammonia – straight out of the bottle! First I place a piece of rag in the pan and close the frizzen on it. I then soak a patch in the Cloudy Ammonia and run it through the bore, down and up three or four times. I repeat this one or two times using a freshly soaked clean patch each time. Then I run a dry patch down the bore and check to see if any crud stains the patch. I continue with this wet / dry sequence until the last dry patch comes out clean. It only takes about 3 or 4 pairs of patches. I then run a patch soaked in Methylated Spirits through the bore, followed by a dry patch. I then clean the lock with the Ammonia solvent and dry it.

Finally, I oil the bore and lock – I use Inox, sprayed in the bore and followed by an oily patch. Then I wipe the stock with a cloth dampened with boiled linseed oil and the job’s done. It takes only five to ten minutes and isn’t your gun worth that time? Then just before you next go out to shoot your gun, run a Metho soaked patch down and up the bore to remove any oil and its then ready to load and shoot again.
Watch your top knot! Ian.

Candid Camera

Our President shares a few concerns that some members are becoming complacent towards our goals on pre 1840 authenticity, see his comments under the heading “Palaver”. These remarks refer mainly to seasoned hivernants who have achieved better previously. We do not wish to deter the new chums who we understand may not be fully kitted or unsure of correct gear. But in all cases the remarks are very “candid camera” as we poke serious fun at ourselves, all and sundry. Serious fun? Yeah, why not!

Wet to the Arse!

Six Free Trappers journeyed to the 2010 Western Districts Muzzleloader Club’s annual Wet to the Arse shoot. Here they are pictured directing the unwary. Just don’t go assumptin’ there’s anything civilised down Immigrants Lane. The flattened grass under foot indicates the degree of flooding from heavy rains just two days earlier.

The WDML cabin is out of picture to the left, the wagon track leads to a Town somewhere; travelling Immigrants Lane could get you mighty confused.

The celebrated main event for the weekend is a simulated hunt for teams of two following along the creek, down the creek, in the creek, over the creek, back in the creek, across the creek, and finally up the creek and generally getting soaked and chilled to the bone, all the while trying to keep your powder dry and shoot straight at any nasty critters spotted along the way.

About 30 ’Skinners participated in this legendary event and no doubt there were one or two thoroughly wet backsides with that creek well up after a month of good local rainfall. Murray Convey and Don Kay teamed successfully again scoring consecutive wins in 2009 and 2010. How high’s the water, Murray?

President’s Palaver

Actress, Julie Andrews, performed more than one version of her hit song “My Favourite Things”. But it’s highly unlikely she would find favour in lines such as –

“Milk cartons and gal-iron buckets and dippers,
Plastic butter tubs and gumboots and rubber sole slippers…”

You know the tune, but sometimes we forget that the above items are not in tune with “primitive” encampments. Yet those things are indeed items a critical observation at our last event might have recorded. Some were not so obviously on display, but a later examination of photographs, show that they were indeed there – at our Primitive. Doh!

The more serious primitive enthusiast club members will chuckle at this discussion and perhaps at others adherence to modern ways; however we should all remember what the whole exercise is about. Some want to live the theme in the extreme, while for many it is sufficient to present only the image. That is adequate, and that is all we ask! It isn’t very hard to cover or hide modern stuff that you can’t manage without. I’ll bet if someone said “Gee, your camp looks real good, real 1820-1840’s era” you will get a huge buzz of pride out of the compliment paid to all your efforts.

At our Winter Quarters, one tent was left open displaying a cardboard tucker box and a plastic Esky – spoiled that photo, didn’t it! These little anomalies are easy to overcome with just a minimum effort. A blanket or calico bag makes a quick cover for the Esky; using tins or ceramic containers for butter, coffee, tea, jam, powdered ingredients etc. avoids the modern packaging. Replace the cardboard tucker box with a large calico bag or with a wooden box that can double as a work surface or a seat.

Galvanised buckets could be given a coat of paint, preferably matt black or otherwise blackened in a fire. Keep your bread in the plastic bag for hygiene but hide it in an outer calico bag for storage. Fruit and vegetables store quite well in calico bags which are quite authentic having been in favour and use for hundreds of years.

Food in cartons such as milk and eggs should be kept in covered Esky’s or stored in closed tucker boxes (of wood). Keeping these items out of sight isn’t hard and it makes our camp look so much better when they are not on view. Stowing all your coffee, tea and food items and utensils back into your tent or tucker box after each use also improves the general appearance and photo visuals around the campfire.

Modern axes, wood splitters, spades and other tools should also be kept out of sight, if they must be present at all. Check what other campers are using and discuss what, how, and if, it fits our themes; how it is made or from where it can be obtained. An example I have seen is a very authentic looking axe at a certain covered wagon. It apparently started life as a modern El Cheapo axe but when fitted out with a new handle it looks for all-the-world like great-Grandpa’s favourite cherry tree chopper.

Some Buckskinners get cold feet about moccasins after every downpour of rain, then the elastic-sided “Blundstone” style boots reappear in our camp. But have you looked at other alternatives to maintain comfortable warm feet? A check of catalogues such as Jas Townsend’s could provide the answer. Whatever you do, maintain the fun, and keep searching; keep striving for that pre-1840 authentication of your “favourite things”.
Ian Convey.

Squirrel Guns Down Under

Many traditionalists regard a squirrel rifle as being a .32 calibre. Even David Crockett had a 32 cal. Yet squirrels are not present in Australia, so why bother with such tiny bores? I have heard it often said that they are difficult to load, hard to clean and needing a barrel swab out after every shot – downright pernickety! But are they really?

The closest thing to squirrel hunting here Down Under is bunny busting. Most old-timers refer to the humble rabbit as underground mutton, but lately I prefer to think of them as underground squirrels and they provide great shooting for the diminutive 32’s.

Aim small – miss small!

Rabbits are classified vermin and are usually shot at anything from 10 to 50 yards by front-stuffers and at far greater distances by modern scoped cartridge guns. Due to its vermin status, some hunters have no concern whether the rabbit is destroyed with a clean head shot or blown away with a 58 cal round ball passing the full length of the carcase. They have no interest in harvesting the rabbit meat, not even as dog tucker!

Looking back, I do recall the lean times of the 1950’s, when, with little beef or lamb in the Coolgardie safe, our Dad struggled to raise my brother, two sisters and I. Underground mutton was often on the menu and we all learned about shooting for the pot, about snares, trapping, ferreting and even the salt on the end of a long stick trick.

Nowadays, for too many Aussies, a meal of rabbit seems to have lost all the prestige given it on so many European dining tables; possibly due to that vermin status across our nation. But for us hungry kids growing up, a bunny dinner was special for it spelled success at hunting, shooting or trapping in which we, as a family, all took part.

I’d been reading lots about squirrel hunts and squirrel rifles in Muzzleloader and Muzzle Blasts and other U.S. publications. Over and over I read stories of American woodsmen enthusing about a good feed of squirrel and of how fond they were of their little 32 cal rifles for the job. “My Squirrel Gun” is a phrase stated with great affection!

So when I came across a second-hand .32 flinter begging for a new owner I decided it was time to satisfy myself whether the claims about finicky, difficult to clean, troublesome small bore flinters were indeed actual fact, or just another campfire myth.

My squirrel gun certainly needed a little caring attention – mainly an overhaul of the lock and re-alignment of the sights. I soon learned how a loading block was a must for getting those tiny round balls into the muzzle smartly. The slender ramrod will always need handling with great care and ramming with hand over hand short thrusts.

At first I used greased felt wads between 28 grains of Wano PPP powder and patched ball, thinking that wads would help to keep the fouling soft thereby reducing the build up of crud between shots. In this first “range” session I fired 21 shots with no extra cleaning of the bore, stopping at that number only due to a time factor. Loading had not been a problem!

On my next range visit I omitted the felt wads loading 28 grains of C&H 3Fg behind cotton patched .315 round balls. Wet weather induced me to call it a day after 25 shots, all of which loaded smoothly down the bore without any cleaning between loads. So, as for squirrel guns needing a swab out after every shot – myth busted!

The after-shooting clean-up is no different to that required for larger calibres, excepting for the very necessary prudent use of that skinny wiping stick.

“Aim small, miss small” – is the axiom that Mel Gibson picked up from Mark Baker and used as a Patriot father’s shooting advice to his sons. It is indeed good instruction when hunting rabbits for the pot. Our photo illustrates the “miss small” effect where the rabbit’s eye was targeted. Nevertheless, there is real satisfaction when such a near “miss” still provides the tucker, with literally no meat spoiled by that tiny .315” ball.

If you merely aim at a rabbit you may well thump that rabbit – probably gut shot and wasted! However if you aim small – at the eye of the rabbit, whilst you may miss the eyeball, any head shot kill still provides a very fine meal. Cooked your favourite way and topped with rashers of bacon, rabbit makes a delicious feast. Aim small – eat well!

There actually is a place for the little squirrel guns here Down Under. They are traditional small game getters that truly can “make meat”. They are ideal for most range competitions, remarkably cheap to run and plainly put, are just – damn good fun!

Good friends

Best of friends and long supporters of the Free Trappers, Bill and Beryl Wilson of Bundaberg, Queensland have blessed us again. They have forwarded a beautiful hand-carved Mountain Man figurine made by Bill. We have yet to decide how best to utilise this generous gift. Meanwhile our warmest thanks go to Bill and Beryl. By the way, Bill turned 82 the day the carving arrived at my post box. Good health and many happy returns of the day, Bill – from all of us at Southern Cross Free Trappers.