Vol. 44, June 2013

Paul “Le Reynard” Sly observes the target with satisfaction in our 2nd Hershel House split-the-ball shoot.
Paul “Le Reynard” Sly observes the target with satisfaction in our 2nd Hershel House split-the-ball shoot.

What the heck is that 1950’s era wooden kitchen chair come rough-bush-rocker and a Blue Gum post doing in a corner of the paddock of Bernard’s Cache? Well, you have to see Hershel House shoot split-the-ball in his DVD “Building a Kentucky Rifle” to see what we are on about. Our Blue Gum post substitutes for a cabin veranda post and our rocker is – a – well, it’s a, er, rough-n-ready make-shift rocker and perhaps not as comfy as the one on Hershel’s front porch.

It’s a standard split-the-ball shoot where the target is the edge of an axe blade with a clay target fixed either side. A round ball hitting true on the axe edge will split into two breaking the clay on either side. Our variation is taken from Hershel’s DVD where he sits in a rocking chair and balances the rifle on his toes against the post. And as Hershel does in the DVD, our successful shooter must say “Wanna see it again” with a cool laconic chuckle, like he can do it first time, every time – piece of cake!

Damn, this gets hard as tired old bones fail to get those knees up high so that the toes can really steady the muzzle for a rock solid shot. Our photo by Ian Convey shows Le Reynard’s style as he has just won the event. Congratulations to Paul, nice shooting!

Easter is such a marvellous time for rendezvousing and once again we had delightful weather. We had just sufficient prior rainfall to green the grass enough to allow for contained cooking fires and the evening main cabin blaze.

Shining times for kids
Shining times for kids

Attendance was slightly down – only fourteen pilgrims plus four children. The kids, of course, had a ball, as kids do – feeding sticks into the fires, shooting toy bows and arrows and doing rather well at that, and of course on Sunday morning there was an Easter egg hunt and lots of semi-hidden chocolate goodies discovered and devoured.

The shooting comps interfered somewhat with our otherwise relaxed atmosphere, but there weren’t really any complaints about that. After the Hershel House shoot we had spinning clay discs-on-a-string; and damned difficult to hit they turned out to be. Paul had good success at these, just pipping Jeff in a deciding shoot-off at a longer distance.

This was followed up with a Mike Fink shoot at about 25 yards with lots of mugs of “booze” being dispatched. It came down to a shoot-off back at 35 yards between Le Reynard and Griz once again. Jeff was ultimately the winner, by default, when Le Reynard shot the balloon head right between the eyes.

The final shoot was a cut-the-stake team event with three teams, two of three and one of four shooters. The wooden planks put up a good resistance and some team members reported firing up to 30 rounds before the triple-J/M team of Jenny, Jim, Grub Box John and Murray broke through in resounding style, the final shot actually made by Jim shooting a minuscule .32 cal ball from Jenny’s little flinter. Many felt this cut-the-stake shoot was the highlight of all these fun events.

Trade blankets held some really good craft goodies but sales were reported as slow, perhaps due to the relatively small attendance. Evening entertainment consisted of lots of good conversation, adequate lubrication, and some fine guitar playing and singing by Ian, duets from Jeff and Katherine, dulcimer tunes from Jenny and one of Bernard’s traditional dampers smothered with Judy’s home-made jams. Yum!

The new South Pass route through the Rocky outcrops avoids the boggy sections of the lower segment and will be a great boon come Winter Quarters weekend. Our thanks again to Bernard and Judy for our continuing welcome.

Dogs: Bernard has stipulated that pets are not to be brought to the farm.

The next two stories are contributed by Michelle Barraclough and should have been included in Vol 43 however it seems they got lost in the National Broadband Network.

The Day the Austin 7’s visited for a Picnic at Caveat

March 10th 2013: The day dawned HOT again, we all arose prepared breakfast and proceeded to remove any modern wares. Once we were back in the early 19th century we eagerly awaited the arrival of the cars. The first one arrived early and we all flocked to marvel at its beauty. Then several more arrived and slowly throughout the morning, and into the afternoon, but there were still one missing and then finally “the Jeep” (yes, Bob did buy a Jeep) arrived towing a poor little Austin Ute behind it. Finally all was in readiness for our picnic luncheon.

Venison sausages and onions were grilled on the BBQ, bread, sauce and some yummy homemade chutney ready to be added to individual taste. (We simply weren’t to know that the A7 folks had been treated to a variety of sausages all weekend.)

After lunch the games began, there was the boot throwing & rolling pin throwing. Then there was the hawk & knife throwing. Unfortunately the only shooting we could manage was with a bow and arrow due to the fire conditions of the day. However I think a very good time was had by all of the Austin 7 Club visitors as well as the members of the Southern Cross Free Trappers who attended. Sadly then it was time to wave bye to the little Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs as they made their way back to their motel accommodation at Rusty Springs, Avenel. Michelle

The Austin 7 Club visit.
The Austin 7 Club visit.

Put your foot on that or it will kick you in the balls:

Sunday Night, A very warm night, the clamour of the Austin 7’s had faded into the distance, Dinner had been cooked and eaten and darkness had fallen.

Whilst we looked on from a distance the men gathered for their ritual, there were four men in a circle, lit only by the lantern placed in the centre of the circle. Slowly they went about their ritual whilst we all watched on in hushed silence. They moved and swayed in line with the orders being given by the master of the circle, slowly completing their ritual tasks at his bidding.

All appeared to be going as to the rules set by the master until a loud voice broke through the night; the master of ceremonies screamed to one of the men “Put your foot on it or it will kick you in the balls.”

We all sat there in stunned silence waiting for the next part of the ritual, watching waiting for more shouts, the retorts, any sound to come. However no sound came, the time ticked by slowly, seconds seemed like minutes.

Then suddenly it was all over, the ritual had been completed. All the men retired to begin the next ritual, drinking, eating chocolate and nuts and talking long into the night. Michelle

(For the uninitiated, it should be stated that Michelle is describing the take-down of Bob’s mighty 22 foot tipi. Careful handling when lowering the lengthy poles and a firm foot at the base thereof is required to prevent accidental “tripod” damage. Ed.)


Upcoming Events

June 8th, 9th, & Mon 10th Queen’s B’day – Winter Quarters – Bernard’s Cache.

Spring R’voo – W’end of 3rd Sunday i.e. Sat 14th – Sun 15th Monday 16th September at Bernard’s Cache. (Note Sept 2013 has 5 Sundays again)

Adjusting Trigger Pull

Many replica muzzleloaders (as supplied) come with rather a heavy trigger pull which does nothing to enhance accuracy due to the excessive pressure pull or tug required on the trigger. Such a gun is never as much fun to shoot as it should be.

Many shooters seem to put up with this situation while others leave the sport believing they cannot shoot when really it is the gun at fault. You don’t have to put up with this strong action because it is often not difficult to correct the problem without having to stone sears or tumblers on the lock or trigger. All that is required is the simple soft soldering of a metal shim onto the tumbler.

To start, remove the lock from the gun and strip the lock. A word of caution here – always use a spring vice to remove the mainspring as anything else will likely eventually result in a broken spring. So buy a spring vice – many Buckskinners keep one in their possibles at all times.

When dismantling the tumbler from the lock, be very careful that you don’t lose the “fly”. Put the fly in a container with a lid or the little bugger will go walk-about and is so easily lost, never to be found on any regular workshop floor. Now take the tumbler and polish (do not grind) the curved flat face behind the full cock notch. Then, tin this area with soft solder – use a soldering iron not a torch.

Next, cut a small shim to fit the curved surface thus tinned. A slither cut from an ordinary tin-can usually makes a good shim. Now solder the shim onto the tumbler, file off any excess solder and shim and reassemble the lock. Don’t forget the fly!

Refit the lock to the gun and test the trigger pull. It should now be a lot easier to release, but if not, you may need a thicker shim, or if it’s still bloody awful, a gunsmith may be required to adjust the lock by stoning the parts. Don’t try stoning it yourself as it is a tricky job to keep the lock geometry correct and there is danger of removing the hard facing.

Diagram of Tumbler with shim soldered.
Diagram of Tumbler with shim soldered.

A simple single shim made from tin-can is usually enough to lighten the trigger to an acceptable pull without causing a safety problem, however it is prudent to have any home gun-smithing thoroughly checked for complete safety.

Watch yer topknot Ian Convey

A restoration project

Jim acquired a rather sad looking flinter at a gun show earlier this year – here’s his story how he dressed it up. “I reckon it was built approx 50 years ago and had never been fired. The outside of the barrel was covered with surface rust and with some light pitting. The stock had been painted with brown varnish and the trigger pull was very heavy at, I guess, about 10 lbs. By contrast, the bore and rifling was very clean.

Following an initial try-out shooting session, I made the decision to do a complete restoration job. First, was to completely dismantle all parts from the stock then scrape off all of the old varnish. After much scraping, sanding, and rubbing down, linseed oil was applied every time I walked past, til it fairly glowed. The next task was to redress the barrel! The remains of the old blueing and all the rust was removed by draw filing and rubbing with 200 and 400 grit emery paper, until no signs of rust or the original blue remained and the outside was truly shining.

The next job was to degrease the outside with Bon-Ami on a damp cloth before commencing to brown the barrel. I blocked the muzzle and touch hole then, using rubber gloves, applied a browning solution which I purchased from Green River Rifle Works. This was done using a soft cloth and was repeated every morning and night for four days until the desired depth of colour was reached.

I then rubbed down the outside of the barrel with laundry detergent made into a paste with water. For this I used a piece of coarse denim cloth. Wash the outside of the barrel with cold water then pour two litres of boiling water over the barrel and when finally dry, oil copiously.

To lighten the trigger I soldered a shim on the underside of the tumbler notch, just as Ian has described elsewhere in this newsletter. Unskilled persons are advised to seek the professional help of a competent gunsmith to complete this task. Finally the rifle was re-assembled and thoroughly tested with most satisfactory results.” Trapper Jim

A nice restoration!     Photo by Jim Walker
A nice restoration! Photo by Jim Walker

The Age of Gunpowder, all era event at Barwon Park held 4th/5th May

Having arrived at the Barwon Park site early morning it was certainly something different to see a Stuart tank and Willy’s jeeps driving around and people carrying MG 42 machine guns, semi auto and bolt action rifles and sub machine guns instead of flintlock rifles and fowlers.

I was allocated a spot to set up my little camp site that was beside the Napoleonic re-enactors. It did not take me long as I only brought along the canvas lean-to, oil cloth, blanket and bed roll and the tripod to hang the small tin kettle on. With all this I would hopefully convey the image of an 18th century Trapper/Longhunter camp.

Le Reynard’s simple Trapper camp at the “Age of Gunpowder” event.
Le Reynard’s simple Trapper camp at the “Age of Gunpowder” event.

At ten o’clock the gates were opened to the public and a steady stream of people throughout the day came and to look at all of the sites, and to watch the battle displays that were held out in front of the Barwon Park mansion. Later on Lisa, Nathaniel and Nicholas arrived and the boys really liked all of the old army trucks, machine guns and especially the tank.

The WWI and WWII guys put on quite a show with the pyrotechnics and the Stuart tank driving about. The Napoleonic crew showed the public how it was done in the old style and just what a difference the evolution of gun powder and firearms has been. I had quite a few people come up and ask me what period I was from and who I portrayed.

Saturday night was the combined BBQ for everyone. It was amusing to see a 18th century Longhunter standing behind an American GI. With a plate full of meat and salad people either sat on the Mansion’s veranda or went back to their respective camp sites and made merry during the evening, aided by a few beers and some wine.

Later on in the evening I went back to the motel in Winchelsea, only 3 km’s away, with Lisa and the boys. In the morning a cooked breakfast was put on for everyone and was cooked by volunteers from the participating groups. Also on the Sunday I was “conscripted” into the French army to bolster their numbers as a few of their members could only make it for the Saturday. Certainly a bit of fun for the day and at one stage I could not touch the barrel of “Precious” because it was too hot, but despite the odds, ‘we’ the French, won the skirmish.

The day before it was the British who won the day. But all good things come to an end and it was time to pack all the gear away, say good- byes and thank you to everyone and head for home. All in all I enjoyed myself, the setting was good especially with the old blue stone mansion nearby, the other re-enactors were good company and seeing how the modern military groups show what they can do was great to see. We would certainly go again in two years time, if it does not clash with another event that occurs in Belgium – the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. But I would bring along the butane gas burner so a warm cuppa could be had. Le Reynard

More notes from Jim “Sloe Bear” Douglass on the Cache Valley Rendezvous site:

I have been doing some additional study on the site of the “Cache Valley Rendezvous” while going over the Journal of Peter Skene Ogden 1824-25. On May 3 that year he added this statement to his diary.

“Raised camp and took an eastern course leaving the river on our right. More Black Feet seen. Encamped on a small river well lined with willows, after making about 10 miles east. This stream is large and comes from the N.E. direction and steering S.W. course to the Bear River. Grey left behind making a skin Canoe, in which he is to come down to the main Branche. In the afternoon 7 Snake Indians paid us a visit, they were very shy at first but soon got acquainted with us.

They were well mounted and wore war garments. (They said 25 Americans had wintered on this river the last winter and made many skins, but left them en Cache in the Mountains).” This area was identified by Ogden’s chief clerk, William Kittson, in his journals, for it definitely locates (for the first time) the camp of John Weber’s party of Rocky Mountain trappers known to have been in Cache Valley that winter.

Guesswork had placed the encampment in many different locations; however from this description it was probably from this American camp near “Franklin Idaho” that Jim Bridger made his famous “bull boat” voyage down the Bear River to discover the Great Salt Lake. This was in the fall of 1824. This would have indeed placed the known position of the Rendezvous on familiar grounds in the Northern part of the valley.

Ogden describes the Bear River as milky white and running thick, this is recognisable, only the advent of modern dams has the river cleared up. Even now the run off produces a very muddy watered river.

Ogden proceeded down the Cache Valley for the next fifteen days trapping and camping on the east side of the Bear River next to fresh running rivers that flow into the Bear River. His schedule was kept in his journal and would put them camped in Franklin area May 2nd 1825, Richmond Cherry creek May 3-4.

This area is less than 4 miles from Franklin and is probably the location of the 1826 rendezvous, then to Smithfield area May 8, Logan May 9-10, Hy Rum area May 11-12, Paradise May 13-14, May 15 Liberty, May 20-21 Huntsville, May 22-24 Mt. Green on the Weber river.

I guess that we all have our own opinion of the exact location of any of these camps; however with extensive knowledge of this valley and its rivers and streams, my opinion remains the same about the Rendezvous site. After one hundred and eighty-seven or so years the proof is still only one guess. Jim “Sloe Bear” Douglass

Murray takes a steady shot. Photo by Ian Convey
Murray takes a steady shot. Photo by Ian Convey

Historic Hand-Painted Targets

The Encyclopaedia Britannica suggests that shooting at a mark as a test of skill began with archery, long before the advent of firearms. It is not known when target shooting with firearms began, but the earliest recorded shooting match is one held in Eichstäat, Bavaria, in 1477; the shooters, probably using matchlocks, competed at 200 yards.

A Swiss painting from 1504 shows a rifle shooting setup that is quite modern. Contestants fire from enclosed and covered shooting booths at targets in the background. The judges and scorekeepers sit at a table under a roof. Several wind flags are flying, and spectators are shown.

Some German museums have painted wooden targets dating to 1540 that were made for weddings and were shot at by the guests and then given to the host as a memento. By the 16th century target shooting with rifled arms was a popular pastime in much of Europe, especially in the Germanic countries. Elaborately decorated German wheel locks, presumably intended for target shooting, with rifled bores and quite sophisticated peep or aperture rear sights, appeared late in the 16th century.

In his book “A History of Shooting” Jaroslav Lars tells us that it was during the last quarter of the 18th century, that painted targets became popular. These were mainly the work of local artists and painted with oil paints on wood or on cloth. As works of art they were of no special value, but as historic documents, surviving specimens are very valuable. Unfortunately many have been destroyed by ignorance or during wars. Most of the targets that had been collected in Prague were burned by the French army during the occupation of Prague in 1743.

In the 19th century two main types of painted targets developed – “festive” and “amusing”. Those of the former category were to commemorate some person or event, such as military leaders, weddings and anniversaries, political events, victorious battles or the like. Painted targets are valuable to the historian because they depict many aspects of town life, events and local landscapes of the period. Among the favourite subjects were alpine scenes, pub scenes, girls, hunters and hunting scenes, lovers, mermaids, farmers and portraits of notable persons.

Targets designed for amusement or as jokes were far more numerous. They represent in picture and verse (often containing limericks) jokes shared among or played on friends, often political caricatures or dignitaries and of course the usual husband / wife banter. One did not always aim into the middle of these targets, but sometimes at other points as determined and marked by the owner or designer of the target.

Competition organisers were required to ensure that no obscene or disgusting pictures should appear on targets. But in spite of this regulation, such pictures – especially nudes – were often painted on amusing targets. Women, usually wives of shooters, were painted on some grotesque targets.

In Bohemia a special rifle-shooting match for the wives of shooters took place on 15th September, 1789. To commemorate this event a special target was made: To the right of the picture are men sitting and drinking coffee, to the left their wives are occupied with loading and cleaning rifles. Under the picture is the following motto: “You men come and make your rifles clean, otherwise they’ll get rusty and mean.”

“Luck” targets first became fashionable in the 16th century and were designed so that the bull’s-eye was the least valued, so that the less-talented shooter could also win a prize. These were more likely to consist of scoring rings rather than painted pictures and so fall outside the scope of this brief.

The Free Trapper group have attempted several Painted Target events where one shot only is fired by each contestant; the bull’s-eye being an off-centre red painted heart. The last such event was to commemorate 5 years of our incorporation. The target was painted by Ian Convey and was won by Murray Convey. (See Vol 25, July 2010) We plan to have another painted target shoot to celebrate our 10th year in 2014.


1. Encyclopaedia Britannica; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/541546/shooting;

2. A History of Shooting by Jaroslav Lars, 1968.

Trade Blanket at Pine Ridge, Whorouly. May 2013.  Photo by George Mohr
Trade Blanket at Pine Ridge, Whorouly. May 2013. Photo by George Mohr