Vol. 37, May 2012 2 responses

Bob Ellis wreathed in the smoke of his winning shot in our split-the-ball Hershel House shoot “Wanna see it again.”

2012 Easter Rendezvous

The last minute weather reports hinted a few showers – but when would they come? We got real lucky and the cold front didn’t push through until around midday on Easter Monday when most of the 24 attending had decamped and were heading home. Autumn really is a fabulous time for enjoying campfires and primitive canvas tents!

Good Friday was our official set up day although a couple of early birds had arrived in glorious weather a day earlier. The time was spent making camps shipshape and cutting stacks of firewood preparatory of cool mountain evenings to come.

A relaxing afternoon.

Saturday was clear and brisk, well, brisk for those who arose early to rekindle the campfires. Thanks Jim! But it soon warmed into another of the glorious days for which we all so love the autumn season. Around mid-morning we mustered, flintlock and caplock, at the firing line for an eye-opener – the first comp of the day.

We called it a Cape Barren goose shoot for want of better description of the grey painted life-size facsimiles. The best of three shots (closest to the ½” diameter eyeball) was won by Chook just pipping Ron Davis’ excellent target by independent judiciary. At this time, Paul, who had gone out to check the duck ponds, to enjoy some good sport, returned to camp with six plump ducks in his bag.

Paul (the wily hunter) with one from his fine bag of six duck.

The next shoot, one sadistically devised by Ian our club president, consisted of a series of three wooden blocks each dangling on a single short length of string and attached to a single rope line. Now these blocks measured a mere 2” x 2” x ½” were drilled and threaded on two corners. Threaded so as to spin like a child’s top! The rules were that you had to shoot in consecutive order from lower block up to the top block advancing only after the previous block had been obliterated.

All the while the other contestants were endeavouring to do likewise, meaning that a scoring hit by any shooter sent the whole line of blocks wildly spinning, dancing like epileptic puppets on a string at some Rocky Horror sideshow. It was not impossible but it was mildly challenging to say the least. Ronnie Davis did the prize shooting to win this event.

After lunch we re-mustered for the Hershel House shoot. The required posture proved most challenging for arthritic limbs, short legs and long alike, not to mention the shooting skills required for any “split-the-ball” type event. But there were no shirkers and everyone did their best to be part of the fun. It seemed to be heading toward a three way shoot off between Bob, Chook and Paul, but the later two were finally out-gunned by Bob’s big booming .75” smooth bore musket.

The final shooting event of the day was the Convey brothers conceived Missouri Boat Ride shoot with contestants taking turns to attempt to bust the rope. You need to have watched the film “The outlaw Josey Wales” to follow this game. Of course being a Primitive black powder group, and unlike Josey Wales, we had to use muzzleloaders without any telescope devices. We did have the benefit of a rather springy young wattle bush upon which to steady our barrel. After an eternity of rounds of individual turns during which many river crossing might have occurred Paul “Le Reynard” Sly finally cut that bit of rope to the relief of all. “Whupped them again, eh Josey!”

Michelle shows lots of style!

Andrew, our former host from the early Highlands rendezvous’, together with family, visited briefly in time to see the Missouri Boat Ride event. Andrew was mortified to see a certain someone wearing (shock/horror) trackie daks and a red hat band.

Somebody, I don’t know who, organised a knife and hawk throw to round off the day’s rivalry. Garry Baker won the hawk event and the trade blanket prize donated by Jenny Baker; possibly it was a hand woven sash, but we won’t go into that! You had to be there! Bob Ellis won the knife throw and broke the quarter off the throwing block with that huge camp knife. We’ll get a new block in time for Winter Quarters.

Best camp award went equally to the Barraclough/Sultana camp and to Jenny and Gary Baker’s Grand Portage Trading Post camp. Both camps were open to visual inspection for the duration of the weekend and not a single modern item could be seen.

The gals all gathered at Jenny & Gary’s Grand Portage Trading Post.

As for Paul’s game bag – after plucking, filleting and basting to perfection on the evening campfire, a whole plateful of beautiful duck breast took flight reincarnate when Ronnie, with plate in hand, tripped over a trivet in the dark. That meat scattered every which way as Ron quacked profanity while clutching his wounded shin. Nothing was wasted though as a Jack Russell nose can easily locate such tasty fare in the dark. Penny was so well sated she couldn’t move off her bed for 24 hours.

Sunday was a typical laid back Trapper’s day with some casual black powder burning done by those with inclination. Quite a few dancing blocks were still begging to be shot at but generally it was day of total relaxation, visiting, mixing and chatting around the various camps and trade blankets. Our Open-faced Shelter is proving a fabulous asset particularly with the new rock fireplace and back rock reflector.

Our hosts, Bernard and Judy arrived early evening when Bernie set about to prepare his traditional damper. Baked to perfection, we all hoed in to thick slabs of it smothered in Judy’s homemade mouth-watering apricot jam or homemade blackberry jam, both loaded with whole lumps of plump fruit. Then someone produced some fresh cream! Yummy! Fortunately there was ample damper for all to go for seconds.

By Monday a change was in the wind and most Trappers were able to break camp with dry canvas and head off home before the autumn showers arrived.

It was by far our best roll up for an Easter rondy. Attending in no particular order of arrival were Jenny & Gary Baker; Michelle Barraclough & John Sultana; the Convey deviates – Ian, Murray & Peter; Ron Davis; Cameron Cowled; Bob Ellis; Justin & Louise Fletcher with young Rohmi; Chook Fowler; Caleb Johnson; John Maccioni; Glen & Anthea Mitchell; George Mohr; John Morland; Paul Sly & Lisa Poulier with young’uns Nathaniel and Nicholas; Jim “Red Pants” Walker.

“Don’t ya wanna have fun no more”

The “Hershel House” shoot.

Ian and I were enjoying Hershel House’s DVD “Building a Kentucky Rifle”, our attention drawn to Hershel’s cool “Split-the-Ball” shot taken from just outside of his cabin. There’s Hershel loafing on the porch rocking chair, perching the muzzle of his flinter between his toes, his foot steadied against the veranda post.

The target, a double headed axe blade buried in a nearby tree trunk with a clay pigeon fixed either side. Hershel’s shot is true, the axe splitting the ball perfectly to bust the two clays; but it was his laid-back “Wanna see it again” chuckle that really appealed to our whimsy.

Ian demonstrates the way Hershel done did it!

We’ve all participated in Split-the-Ball events before, but we decided that the scene described above deserved a special shoot. We named it the Hershel House Shoot to pay homage to the man and his apparent cool humour. Participants would shoot seated in a rocking chair and supporting the rifle barrel just as Hershel does in the DVD scene. Our comp would be a best of three shots event!

We couldn’t readily lay hands on a rocking chair so substituted with a 1940’s style wooden kitchen seat, set it up behind a treated pine post some 20 yards from our axe head. This was a single headed axe head pinned on top of a stump with a heavy railway spike. The two clays were resting in shallow slots cut into the stump. When the split ball broke both clays the shooter is required to say “Wanna see it again.” You can just imagine the chorus and cat-calls!

We had ten competitors including two ladies and our featured winner is Bob Ellis using a .75” round ball in his musket. Bob won the beaut little scrimmed powder horn kindly donated by George Mohr. But there were no losers on this day as it was such marvellous fun, well shared by all; I’m guessing our Hershel House Shoot will become a regular annual match at future rendezvous at Bernard’s Cache. See our special Hershel House Shoot gallery for more pictures of this event. http://freetrappers.org.au/gallery/

Hunting the Labour Day Ghost

The March 2012 Labour Day long weekend brought thoughts of all the chores around the house. Getting a supply of firewood seemed most urgent with the weather turning towards autumn. Firewood gathering was now permitted in the local bush areas so I grabbed the chainsaw, hitched the trailer to my Ute and set about the task.

Finding a good spot, I was just about to start up the chainsaw when a “ghostly” apparition moving through the trees caught my eye. After blinking a few times to make sure I was not hallucinating, I made out the shape of a white fallow deer. It was a young spiker buck. Fortunately, I had put my flintlock Kentucky rifle and possibles in the Ute so I quietly put down the chainsaw and proceeded to load the rifle with my standard load (35gr 3f powder and .451 ball).

The wind was in my favour so after a quick prayer to the hunting gods for that bit of luck, I started to stalk the “ghost”. Little by little I managed to get closer until I was able to get behind a nice sized tree with a fork in the middle to use as a barrel rest and waited for the right moment to take the shot. The deer was quietly browsing along and slowly, ever so slowly, he came within range.

At about 50 yards I set the trigger at full cock, settled the sights just behind the young buck’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. With a whoosh, bang, and a cloud of smoke the ball rocketed towards the spiker. Hit hard he jumped up into the air and started running. I cursed the “buck fever” that had caused me to flinch a little, the ball going low and left had broken a front leg.

I quickly reloaded and started to track him. His serious wound caused him to stop near-by in a dry creek bed but when I came up closer he broke cover and trotted off a short way before stopping again. I dropped down into the creek bed and sneaked downstream to a convenient deadfall tree on the edge of the creek in front of me. I rested the rifle on top of it and through a gap in the trees I fired a clean killing shot.

The “Ghost”- a young white Fallow buck in excellent condition. Prime venison!

With a quick field dress (as best as one can with only a pocket knife) I placed him in the back of the ute and took him home to hang and dress out properly .With that done I went back to the same spot to get that load of firewood but I saw no more ghosts.

The following day I butchered up the meat into smaller quantities, gave some to the Nathaniel’s and Nicholas’s Godparents and stowed the rest in the freezer. So far the venison medallions topped with a plum sauce and mashed potatoes tastes terrific. It was certainly a different form of “ghost” hunting and a first for me and the rifle. The first deer I have harvested with a flintlock! Paul “Le Reynard” Sly

Next Club Event

June 9, 10 & 11th Queen’s Birthday long weekend – our 8th Winter Quarters in the Caveat/Highlands area. Come to Bernard’s Cache and the hidden treasures on the Painted Pony Plains, Caveat. Enjoy sunny winter’s days and warm campfires at night; do as much or as little shooting as you want. Join in our after-dinner song sessions, wailing, preaching (to the converted) and spinning yarns and maybe some bullshit too!

Emailed compliments from the U.S.A.

Hello There…and as you folks say “Gud day” Was doing a little late night reading (or early, early morning) and came upon a web site with a bunch of “Down Under Guys and Gals” doing an American Fur Trade 1825-40 camp site of perhaps a Green River type Rendezvous….Looks like you’ve all done quite a good job of it too! WhaTaYa yer Plunder were a shining! However; not sure how many drop sleeve cotton mill shirts at the rendezvous were dyed using “Kurrajong Tree Saps”…hard to get near PoPo Agee or around Jackson’s Hole..!

As an American; relatively well versed on the Fur Trade…. It is a wonderful tribute to my country you are paying… I am a Vietnam Veteran (age 61) and made some nice friends and had great card games with ‘Diggers” fighting alongside me in the jungles and rice paddys of that now long nearly forgotten war….My son recently came home from his third deployment in Iraq/Afghanistan …and he too met Aussie Soldiers with us there too… What a great free people you all are!

Well: have great times with your Fordney’s, Hawkins, Demmic’s, Tennessee and Kentucky Rifles and Crown Fowlers….. I’m Ted M. Spring…A Shining Time..as well as ..Sketch Book 56…artist and author…AMM St Louis. chapter of Higgins group…1970 – ……thanks for your time….enjoyed your photos too!!!

Ted Spring, Choctaw- Oklahoma Territory: Indian Nations of USA

(Of course we have replied to Ted’s email, thanking him for these nice comments.)

Mountain Man Art – superb quality!

Some readers will have seen my late January email regarding the breathtaking art of Marian Anderson. This fine American artist has donated many of her works to the Blue Earth County Historical Society. This 110 year old non profit society in Minnesota operates a museum and heritage centre preserving the past. Their motto “Preserve the Past, Protect our Future” We can all relate to that. Of special interest to us is Marian’s Western / Mountain Man gallery.

To view these works go to http://www.mariananderson.com/gallery_western.html and you will see some fabulous art works featuring all the typical scenes to which we all relate and love. To enquire or purchase Marian’s prints or originals, contact JoLynn Crowe via email bechsms@hickorytech.net or email volunteer promoter Deb Schlingmann dschlingy@hotmail.com The still high-riding Aussie dollar makes possible bargain buying from the States. I took the opportunity to dress up my home ordering one of Marian’s prints which arrived promptly and well protected in a strong mailing tube.

It would be great to know of more Mountain Man art arriving here Down Under. I feel sure any visitors calling at the Chook house will be wowed to see my framed Marian Anderson print!

The Hunting Pouch

Shooting bags, possibles bags, hunting pouches, whatever you want to call ’em, we all need one to store the gear we require to keep our muzzleloaders shooting on the range or in the field.

The bags come in many shapes, sizes and styles. The materials that they are made of are also varied, although leather of one form or other is used in the majority of cases. There is no golden rule for design, but most bags would fall into the D shape and be from 6”x6” up to 10”x10”.

Styles range from the simple flat single pocket bag through single compartment with wall gusset up to multi compartments (2 or 3) and pockets inside the bag. All have a shoulder strap of various widths; some are buckled and adjustable while others are of fixed length, as I have already said – there is no golden rule.

L to R- Bag for 36 cal, made by the author; Bag for 45 cal by the late Don McShane (1972); Bag for 40 cal by Jenny Baker.

Now, what is carried inside the bag and outside on the strap or the bag can be a contentious question with some folk.

Firstly do you hang the powder horn from the shooting bags strap? Some like to hang their powder horn/flask on the opposite shoulder, for balance I suppose, but I prefer the horn to be on the hunting bag strap – pick up your bag and the horn comes too.

Inside the bag you will find round ball, patches, flints/caps and turnscrew/nipple wrench, these are needed to shoot your muzzleloader. Anything else is an extra, but some say essential – cows knee if hunting, cleaning gear, rag to wipe the lock, maybe an oilstone, folding knife and compass. These I would consider a maximum, remember it can get bloody heavy lugging a lot of gear you won’t use. Items in the bag are usually stored in small drawstring bags or containers of horn, bone or tinplate.

Items that are either fixed to the strap or kept in the bag are loading block, short starter, vent pick and maybe a priming horn/flask.

If you attach items to the strap or outside the bag, fix it so that they don’t bang against each other and make a noise, nothing will scare game more than rattling equipment.

I have found over the years that the best place to wear your bag is the top of the bag just above your belt height with the powder horn a palms width above the bag. In this position the bag and horn don’t bang and bounce about keeping noise to a minimum and tending not to snag on shrubs and branches also if you have to run you can hold the gear against your side with your elbow.

I hang my powder measure from the spout of my horn and have it so that it will fit inside the bag – it doesn’t rattle there and you just pull the thong and you have it. My loading block is stored in a pocket sewn on the front of the bag strap; if I use a short starter it also goes in the pocket and is attached to the loading block with a leather thong. The vent pick, if not attached to the trigger guard is attached to the bag strap and stuck in the strap for storage.

Remember to keep it light, no need to pack 50 round ball for a days hunt, same goes for powder, just enough for the number of ball that you carry. As for bullet moulds, lead ladles, bar lead, tools etc. I don’t think these are needed in the hunting bag; these items would be on a trapper’s packhorse or canoe or in a Longhunter’s station camp.

Bear in mind, make your bag to fit you, and carry what you need, not what looks good in the movies. Make the bag comfortable to wear, wide straps spread the load, soft leather or fabric will conform to your body and not create sharp edges to rub and chafe. Thongs and dangling equipment catch on each other (? Ed.) as well as everything else in the environment. It’s also a good idea to have a bag and powder horn for each of your muzzleloaders, that way you won’t forget that vital piece of equipment when you need it most. WYTK Ian

My Persona. Well hey – it’s only a hobby, like a game that big kids can play.

I started writing this article some 12 months or more back after the subject of persona had yet been raised again at rendezvous; but I put it aside feeling the lines were developing somewhat too personal. When I mentioned it recently to club president Ian Convey he persuaded me to sign off and put it to print, so here we go…

I’ve always had trouble with this Persona stuff. Like, I was drawn into re-enactment through a love of guns. I have always held a fascination of arms and their accoutrements. And I have never had any problems with taking game, fish or fowl for table tucker. I think it all started sometime between the ages of five and ten. My old man liked hunting, my brother, eight years my senior, also loved hunting and shooting. So it was unsurprising that I should follow family footsteps, for the thrill of the shooting sports was in the name and the blood – it came naturally.

The joy of it progressed from a child’s broomstick rifle (full auto of course) to diecast cowboy six-shooters, then a Daisy airgun, to various .22’s, a Hornet, a 12 bore Shottie and then a Three-O. And then it just got better, you know the story. Years later I was introduced to the black powder world – best thing out! I began shooting more regularly, but I was still being me, just another Aussie sportsman shooter, only now using the black stuff as propellant.

At a big rendezvous I got bitten by a green bug called military re-enacting. The green was the uniform of the British 95th Rifles circa Napoleonic wars. Suddenly, without realising what was happening, I had adopted a persona – I was a Rifleman, one of Wellington’s elite to be issued with a rifled flintlock. And so a new love had evolved – not so much for the uniform, but the kind which one feels toward all things flintlock.

The persona for a Rifleman circa 1815 didn’t require a great deal of in depth study. You were a low-down scallywag – scum, fond of a grog or two, got drunk in a London pub, accepted the King’s shilling and afterwards got told what to do and when, by a mean brute of a sergeant. Not really, but its all part of the act. A very simple persona!

Camping was almost synonymous with shooting, trapping rabbits was akin to both and meant good eating. Eating is important if you want to get old like me, and let’s face it, I am an old codger. Oh I had a late mid-life crisis – after my first rendezvous experience I suddenly had urgent need of a period style canvas tent and a wardrobe full of “funny” clothes – our affectionate term for period costume – or dressing like Davey Crockett did, for the uninitiated. And after all, didn’t old Davey use a flintlock?

Fortunately, the life of a Free Trapper was persistently calling and I heeded that call. Camping and shooting with black powder flintlocks – rifle or smoothbore or both, old traps (with real use memories) on display and no bossy Sergeant or Officer in peacock costume. Just being “free” to hang the traps alongside some plews, do some shootin’ if the inclination held, gather firewood, boil the kettle, make coffee or tea while staring into the flames hypnotised by the natural world. Then a drop of Muscat shared with the best of friends under the Southern Cross. Pure magic!

But, snapping to, I still had that trouble with the Persona thing. Who was I? In our re-enactment dreams many of us older blokes still think of portraying a younger, fitter person – what we’d still like to be. You know – if I knew now what I didn’t know then! But when you are over sixty years old it seems rather futile to attempt the persona of an athletic youth bound for glory on the Seneca Run.

I’d studied the history books. I like the free trapper concept, but I also liked the clothing of mid to late 18th C. I liked the Eastern Longhunter look as well. Who to be, who to be? The answer remained obscure. Meanwhile, I also appreciated the atmosphere created by the presence of a few tipis in camp. Is it possible to be and have all these preferences while developing a single persona?

Probably not, but maybe, well, just maybe… What if I am truly an old fart? One who hates change! Miraculously I’m still alive in 1830, a cantankerous sixty something years old still wearing the fashions of my twenties, because I like ’em. So my duds are part eastern Longhunter as I wore in the late 1770’s when I was not yet 20. I’m attached to tipi life as I was fond of my Indian squaw when in my thirties, so when I lost her to the measles I packed up the tipi, left the western plains heading still further west where I took up the quest for Griz and Beaver and the Grand Tetons.

Well these were just random thoughts, an attempt to wring out this persona thingy, to be a certain someone with a legacy of many experiences and therefore multiple styles, damned with a rather complex character! Right back where I started actually – just trying to be me, whilst enjoying the maximum of muzzleloading heritage…

See you around the traps. Chook

2 Responses feed


    Really enjoyed the Hershel House article. Was chatting with his brother, Frank just two weekends ago at the Kentucky/Tennessee CLA show a few miles from my house. Hershel is a really great guy who you all would love to sit with around the campfire. Getting ready for Martin’s Raid at Wilderness State Park,Virginia…a few miles from the Cumberland Gap….where we all get together and play at the ultimate re-enactment. Wish you folks could join me! You might want to check out my facebook page (if ya want to see it all request friendship and mention your group) and see the pics from last year in photo section. “John Arthur Cooper”

    PS..You might also attempt to catch the nationally broadcasted PBS Special; “The Lost State Of Franklin” on July 1st at 10:30 P.M. EST I think…Maybe thru satellite/cable on your side of the world,lol.

  2. Keith H says:

    Thanks! Really enjoyed the article on the hunting bags.