Great Tips To Take Your Rifle Skills To The Next Level.

The hunting season certainly presents a great opportunity for hunters to go out in the field and enjoy doing what they like doing the most. However, a period of fun and excitement is not all that it presents. Every hunter should look to improve his game with each passing season. Elevating ones’ skills for the forthcoming hunting season is not always easy. However, several of the best shooting coaches have prescribed methods that can help a hunter take his or her rifle skills to the next level. Most of these sound easy, but require quite a lot of practice. Here are some of those expert tips.

Focusing on practice

The process of effective shooting begins in the hunter’s mind, whether you want to master short range or long range shooting. When it comes to increasing the focus on practicing, dry firing can be as good as live fire practice. However, just pulling the trigger is not an effective drill. Making each shot count is what matters. Hunters should create drills that challenge them. Long before the hunting season starts, the seeds of practice must be sown. Honing such extreme levels of focus can be exhausting for hunters. This is why limited yet consistent amounts of practice time are essential to become a better shooter. Hunters should keep in mind that a bad shot in practice, is a bad shot in the live field. Such high standards should be maintained in practice session.

Practicing with modern equipment

There’s no point in practicing with guns that our grandfathers used to use. Practicing with them, only to find out in a few seasons that they are obsolete makes no sense whatsoever. The hunter should research for the up to date guns and equipment suitable for his or her type of hunting expeditions. The Nikon P 223 Riflescope 3X 32mm for instance, is a great piece of modern rifle. It completely removes parallax and its light transmission friendly nature makes it perfect for new hunters.

Positioning

Positioning, for a hunter, is crucial. Without the correct posture, everything can go wrong. Every hunter must master these sitting positions – crossed leg, crossed ankle and with the knees shaped like a tent, a comfortable spread with the heels grounded.

Mastering the sling

Unlike carrying straps, slings come with an adjustable loop. They are great for providing support to the shoulder while carrying guns. A hunter who has mastered the sling is a hunter who can move as fast as his/her prey. Also, a sleek leather sling can make anyone look better.

Firing only when prepared

Most hunters usually have more time on their hand than they choose to use. Noticing a field full of prey, they tend to rush and forget to settle their rifle. Again, some engage in unnecessary delays causing the prey to run away. A hunter should only fire when he is prepared and a hunter must always be prepared.

Experience and practice are two key components of becoming the next level hunter. Aspiring hunters must follow these tips in order to set themselves on a path of constant improvement.

 

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Jon Sutton – How To Get Kids Into Hunting.

Our right to bear arms was not necessarily designed in direct association with firearms being used for hunting, but today the two are critically linked. While second amendment supporters place substantial value on maintaining widespread gun rights, hunting is an area that people on the fence about gun control deem a sensible use of firearms. Obviously, being able to hunt with a firearm is highly dependent on gun laws, but it would appear that gun rights and hunting are connected on multiple levels.

suttonAnyone who is passionate about guns, hunting or both is very aware that preserving our rights and opportunities requires an ongoing battle. It is important that as gun owners and hunters we band together to continue our defense of those rights, but we also look forward to the future. That means getting today’s youth involved with hunting and guns so they can carry on the traditions as well as the defense of our rights.

The Value of Getting Kids Involved

Clearly, there is value in getting kids started hunting and using firearms when it comes to preserving the rights, opportunities and culture of the sport. There is also significant value to the individual kids. Both shooting and hunting are great ways to promote maturity and respect, as both are fun, but come with a lot of responsibilities. As you begin to teach your kid about serious topics like safety and ethics, it should help develop their ability to make sound decisions.

Hunting and shooting sports both encourage exercise and time spent in the outdoors- both things kids today could use a little more of. They also include quality time spent with friends and family, something that today’s youth lacks whenever their lives become a little too focused on technology-derived entertainment.

How to Get Them Started

If you are a hunting or shooting parent, many kids will take an early interest in participating, because that is what kids do- try to emulate their parents. Early introduction to any hobby or sport should be done with a certain amount of caution and patience since burnout is a real possibility. We have all seen the prodigies that are great at something when very young, but lose interest before adulthood because they overdo it early on. Hunting and shooting are no different. Try to involve them at a level and pace that mirrors their interest; do not force it on them.

A good way to start is to get them behind an air rifle and then a .22. If they have toy guns when they are younger, start to explain to them the rules of gun safety. These obviously become significantly more important when the gun is real, so you want to make sure they are old enough and mature enough to grasp the differences and the gravity of using guns before introducing them. Once they reach that point, target practice is a great way for them to start developing marksmanship skills. Some kids may develop a love for shooting but not for hunting. Transversally, some people end up liking hunting but shoot guns only for that purpose.

The next gun you buy them is a critical step. Make sure it is appropriately sized and in a reasonable chambering. Too much gun is a great way to turn a young shooter away from the sport or cause them to develop bad habits. Starting with the pellet gun and moving on up, make sure they always have more than enough ear and eye protection.

Getting them out Hunting

When it comes time to start taking your kid along on a hunting trip, safety will be of utmost importance. Hopefully, they will be old enough to have the patience and stamina for a decent amount of time hunting, but a shortened trip because they are worn out matters little compared to an accident because safety rules were not followed. Many states require kids to pass a hunter safety course before hunting, but some do not. Either way, it is ultimately up the parent or guardian to make that final call as to whether the kid is mature and safe enough to start carrying a firearm in the field.

Once you make that decision, follow these guidelines to make their first trip enjoyable:

  • Go on a good weather day
  • Pick a hunt where encounters are likely
  • Pack lots of snacks
  • Dress them to stay warm and dry
  • Be patient and do not put too much pressure on them
  • Encourage questions and take advantage of teaching moments
  • End the hunt when they are ready to be done

Moving Forward

Just like when they are very young, allow the kid to dictate how often, how long and how hard they hunt. Not everyone will fall in love with hunting and guns, but many become very passionate about one or both. The best you can do as parents, guardians or mentors is to put it out there for them, try to make it special for them and see if it sticks. Hopefully, they will join the masses of people who love the sport and support our related rights and opportunities.

 

 

 

Hunting Deer In Pennsylvania? Don’t Bring A Modern Sporting Rifle.’

At the end of this month the Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold their first quarterly meeting of 2017, and the agenda will include approval of new changes in hunting regulations which go into effect.  Hunting is a big deal in Pennsylvania; only one state (Wisconsin) issues more resident hunting licenses, and the only state which derives more licensing revenue is Colorado because buying a license to hunt elk ain’t cheap. So when the Game Commission sits down to revise hunting regulations, the changes will affect a lot of Pennsylvania hunters this year.

hunting             Yet despite these impressive numbers, the truth is that hunters in Pennsylvania, like everywhere else, are a vanishing breed.  Since the early 1980’s, the Pennsylvania deer-hunting population has dropped by more than 25%, and in a 2004 survey, more than one-third of all Keystone State hunters said that declining health and increasing age would keep them from engaging in the sport any more.

So what do you do if you’re an industry that depends, in part, on hunters to buy your products and those particular consumers tell you that they no longer want or need the products you sell? You come up with a new type of product, sell it to a new group of consumers and let them decide how best it can be used.  Voila! – the modern sporting rifle, a marketing slogan of the gun industry whose nomenclature bears absolutely no resemblance to even the remotest definition of the word ‘truth.’  But now that we have a President who also seems unable to discern the difference between the words ‘true’ and ‘false,’ what difference does that make?  Well, in the case of the Pennsylvania Game Commission it seems to make a big difference, at least when it comes to the 2017 version of their hunting regs.

What the Commission is proposing is a rule change which will define the capacity of any rifle that can be used to hunt big game, which in Pennsylvania basically means the ol’ white-tail deer.  Pennsylvania contains some of the most rural (and beautiful) uninhabited landscapes in the eastern half of the Lower 48, and the deer abound, even if the number of hunters keeps dwindling down.  And what the new regs say is that if you want to go into the woods to take a pot-shot at Bambi, your rifle cannot have a ‘total aggregated capacity’ (breech and magazine) of more than five rounds.  Which means that you can’t go hunting with an AR-style rifle and only put 5 rounds in the mag. It means you can’t take an AR-style rifle (that’s an assault rifle, by the way) into the woods to go hunting at all.  Period.

Try as they might, the geniuses in the gun marketing community have obviously not convinced the Pennsylvania Game Commission that an AR-style rifle is no different in form or function than the old, semi-automatic Remington or Winchester hunting rifles that have basically stopped selling because the kind of people who used to buy them are either too dead or too old.  The industry has been lying about ‘modern sporting rifles’ ever since Chuckie Schumer and Di Feinstein first started going after assault rifles in 1994. And the NSSF has convinced a lot of people who should know better that any rifle that can’t fire all its ammunition with one squeeze of the trigger is just another type of sporting gun which can and should be used for any kind of shooting at all.

The military rifle – M4 – that our troops use in battle theaters does, in fact, allow its user to pull the trigger once and shoot a three-round burst.  But the gun can also be set to fire one round at a time, just like any other semi-automatic rifle.  So when a soldier decides that the tactical situation calls for using his rifle in semi-auto mode, does this mean he’s going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?  At least the Pennsylvania Game Commission seems to understand the difference.

 

If Trump Thinks He Can Get Elected With The Hunting Vote, He Better Think Again.

Donald Trump is out with a new ad which features the Great White Hunter Ted Nugent and a bunch of other right-wing television personalities posing in front of various camera-ready montages of wilderness and other natural spaces, the whole point of the ad promoting hunting as one of America’s true values which the Shlump will defend and protect from the villainous Hillary gang.

trump2The video is narrated by the NRA’s favorite Hillary attack-dog, an ex-Navy Seal named Mark Geist whose version of who was at fault for the Benghazi mess-up has changed as many times as the veritable cat has lives. In this video he begins by intoning what has become the standard anti-Hillary mantra, i.e., she’s against everything we hold dear, and what Geist and the other performers claim to cherish above all is their right to hunt.

You may recall that during the 2008 election Obama appeared to have met his Waterloo when he talked about how all those dispossessed workers in the backwoods of Pennsylvania clung “to their religion and their guns.”  Actually, he made the comment during the primary season, and it didn’t hurt him at all against Hillary, nor did it hurt him against McCain.  In fact, he beat McCain by nearly 600,000 votes out of less than 6 million votes cast in Pennsylvania, a margin that was close to ten overall points.

Going into the last seven weeks of this campaign, the Shlumper gang appears to believe that the hunting vote could make a difference in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and the Gunshine State.  And there’s no question that the gap has narrowed in all four states to the point that if Shlump-o were to win three of those states, he might actually be able to move from his new hotel in the Old Post Office Building to an older address right down the block.

I have always wondered about the actual voting strength of the gun-owning population and, in this case, those gun owners who like to hunt.  So I took a look at the number of hunting licenses that were purchased in 2014 by the residents of those four swing states and the numbers look like this:  PA – 900,000; OH – 400,000; NC – 500,000; FL – 175,000.  I’m rounding off a bit but the bottom line is that roughly 2 million people bought hunting licenses in those four states.  Now this happens to work out to roughly 3.5% of the total population of those four states. That’s not fifteen percent, that’s not ten percent, that’s not even five percent.  That’s three percent.

In 2012 the Bomber racked up 12.2 million votes and won three out of those four states.  Romney polled 11.7 million and managed to win North Carolina, but the overall difference between blue and red in those battleground states was roughly half a million votes. Hey – wait a minute!  I just said that 2 million residents of those states bought hunting licenses in 2014.  So add 2 million to the votes that Romney received in those states and the Shlump-o is on his way to ga-ga land, right?

Duhhh, there’s only one little problem.  Romney got most of those hunting votes in 2012.  And McCain got most of them four years before.  And Bush got them in 2004, and on and on and on.   This totally contrived video ad may appear to be scouring the landscape for new votes but the fact is that, generally speaking, the hunting vote has already been counted by both sides.  Which is why Obama’s ‘clinging’ comment didn’t hurt him in 2008, and which is why this ad won’t make a dime’s worth of difference this time around.

Know how many hunting licenses were sold in 2014?  Fourteen million.  Know how many hunting licenses were sold in 1959?  Fourteen million.  Know what happened to the U.S. population between 1959 and 2014?  It just about doubled.  Shlump can portray himself from here to tomorrow as America’s defender of traditional ‘values,’ but one of those so-called values known as hunting is slowly but surely withering away.

Why Do We Buy Guns? It Sure Isn’t Because We Need Them.

In 1883 a young New Yorker named Theodore Roosevelt went out on a hunting trip to the Dakota and Montana territories.  His goal was to get a trophy-sized American bison and mount the trophy in the family home at Oyster Bay.  The reason he went on this hunt, and he did bring back a bison trophy, was he had been told that the bison herd was about to become extinct.

TR           This was not the only game animal that was fast disappearing from its natural habitat; the white-tailed deer was also an endangered species by the end of the nineteenth century, the carrier pigeon was almost gone (and did disappear), and had it not been for the foresight and advocacy of conservationists and naturalists like Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, many other animal and game species would have also faded away.

How did this happen?  It happened because almost from the moment that Europeans arrived on America’s eastern shore, hunting became a commercial endeavor in response to a growing population that wanted and needed animal products both to consume for food and to use for clothing and other consumer wares.  Bear in mind that hunting in Europe, particularly England, was an activity reserved only for the nobility and the Crown.  Commoners, on the other hand, didn’t hunt, they poached, and as late as 1820 in Britain poaching was still a crime for which one could be hung.  But the United States had vast amounts of open space and if much of that space belonged to Native Americans nobody really cared.  These open spaces and the animals that roamed or flew there meant meat on the table for the average diet, leather coats for men, fur coats for women, feathers for decorative purposes and style – all of these products created opportunities for commercial endeavors resulting in the massive destruction of herds, fish and fowl.

And when it came to killing off all those animals, what could be more efficient than using a gun?  But with all due respect to how Davy Crockett ‘kilt him a bar when he was only three,’ very little of this hunting activity was done either then or now for sport.  Know how many hunting licenses were sold in 1955?  Roughly 14 million.  Know how many were sold in 2014?  Roughly 14 million. That’s an astonishingly flat trend line for nearly sixty years.  But there’s only one little problem.  During that same period, the country’s population grew from 166 million to 319 million, an increase of nearly 100% while the number of hunters hasn’t changed at all.  In other words, hunters constituted 8% of the national population in 1955, now they constitute a whole, big 4%.

Let’s remember something else.  Guns aren’t like television sets, laptop computers or cars.  They don’t wear out. And hunters are a funny breed because once they find a gun that really shoots perfectly for them, the last thing they’re going to do is trade it in.  There have been some product changes that have kept the hunting gun market from total collapse, most of all more powerful calibers like 44 magnums replacing the venerable 30-30 for deer, or 3 ½ inch magnum shotgun shells for those hy-flyers zipping by or those turkeys cluckety-clucking through the woods.

Take a look at Pamela Haag’s study of the marketing strategy adopted by Winchester Firearms which recognized that the idea of the gun as a necessary ‘tool’ was failing to attract consumers before World War I.  So Winchester began marketing its products to what they referred to in company discussions as ‘gun cranks’ –  people who wanted guns even if they didn’t particularly need them for any practical use.

Sound familiar?  The gun industry now sells guns as protection against crime, even though the number of times that people use guns as protective devices is actually little to none.  In 1910 Winchester discovered that people would buy guns even though there was no practical reason to own a gun.  Boy, things have really changed.

 

A Guide To Gun Lethality.

                See link below for downloading this Guide. mcx

             Last week I uploaded a document that described the basic design and function of handguns, rifles and shotguns, with an eye towards giving GVP advocates some basic information on how guns work. But understanding the design and mechanics of guns is one thing, understanding their lethality is something else.  Because until the 1980s, a combination of manufacturing technologies employed by the gun industry and the perceived consumer market for guns kept most gun models very lethal for use in hunting small and medium-sized game, but were not designed to be highly lethal in situations where human beings were the targets that would be injured or killed.

This traditional approach to gun design and function began to change in the 1980s when Gun-nut Nation discovered that hunting and sport shooting were quickly becoming relics of a distant past; i.e., people who owned guns for hunting or sport were not being replaced as the older gun-owning generations died out.  So Gun-nut Nation came up with a new reason for owning guns, namely, the myth that guns were necessary to protect society from crime.  An in this respect the industry was not so much inventing a fanciful reason for gun ownership as it was responding to an increased and generalized fear that crime and the ‘criminal element’ was out of control.

The public concern about crime also coincided with new technologies, in particular the use of lightweight alloys and polymers that allowed guns to withstand higher pressures from more powerful ammunition while, at the same time, being designed and built on smaller and lighter frames. Polymer and injection-molding manufacturing has enabled all kinds of consumer products to be miniaturized yet made more durable at the same time; this miniaturization has gone hand-in-hand with personalization; i.e., the consumer becomes the ultimate arbiter for determining the design and function of the product itself.

In the gun industry, these two factors – social attitudes, manufacturing technologies – have combined to revolutionize the look, feel and use of guns.  The revolver that I purchased in 1976 looked, felt and weighed the same as the same gun manufactured seventy years before.  I can purchase that same gun today, but I can also purchase a revolver that is half as large and fires ammunition that is twice as powerful. Which means that if I want to get close enough to another person to shoot and hurt them I can now stick a little gun in my pocket, walk right up next to them with my unnoticed gun, and quickly deliver a very shot, whether I have practiced shooting the gun or not.

Taking all these factors into account, I have created a gun lethality scorecard which you can download here.  It contains my best guess for the lethality rating of 95 different kinds of guns.  Like the ‘guns for dummies” document that I posted last week, this document will also shortly be available in published form.

Does Shooting A Gun Turn Someone Into A Gun Owner? I Don’t Think So.

The Washington Post can usually be counted on to carry an article now and again that challenges the gun lobby on issues related to gun ownership, gun violence, or other contentious topics related to guns.  Recall that it was The Post which carried a multi-part, detailed series on gun dealers who sold most of the crime guns in northern Virginia, reportage which no doubt helped guide the Brady Organization to start up its “rotten apples” campaign against rogue dealers in Chicago and other locations.

rangeNow the Post has turned around and given a large, online editorial space to Michael Rosenwald, who went across the Potomac River to Manassas and evidently spent some time at the Elite Shooting Sports range, and then wrote an article describing the emergence of a new trend in the gun industry, something which he calls “guntry” ranges that allow patrons to rent guns and bang away either on a membership or per-try basis.  Most shooting ranges have a collection of guns that can be rented or used by visitors (the real revenue at a range is from ammunition sales) but what makes ranges like Elite different, according to Rosenwald, is these enterprises cater to a “younger, more affluent, style-focused, increasingly female and even environmentally conscious” customer base, quite unlike the gritty, hard-core, blue-collar gunnies and trigger-heads that usually hang around the local gun range.

Rosenwald mentions other guntry locations in South Beach, Florida, and a few spots around the country, all of which are catering, according to him, to a “new breed” of shooter.  And he paints a pretty accurate description of what he refers to as these “shooting retreats,” which, by the way, are usually part of a complex that includes a cigar lounge, a high-end restaurant, catering venues and other amenities that draw younger folks with a buck to spend.

That’s fine as far as it goes.  But the moment that Rosenwald stops writing about what he knows – business – and begins writing about what he doesn’t know – the gun business – mistakes and misstatements abound.  The truth is that there has yet to be any connection between the development of this business model, successful or not, and a penetration of gun sales into the younger, more affluent and more diverse population groups.  Try as they might, the gun lobby has been unable to persuade racial minorities, women or more affluent/educated folks of the value of owning guns, and Rosenwald’s comment that gun sales are now “leveling out” is remarkably disingenuous.  Does he really believe that a 40% decline in revenues of gun makers like Smith & Wesson and Ruger, along with major job layoffs, constitutes simply a leveling out?  What it means is that once Obama-fear disappeared, the gun industry has not been able to attract buyers beyond the traditional White, older, blue-collar demographic, even if the kids on occasion want to stop playing video shooting games and try the real thing.

Rosenwald quotes the NSSF that Americans spend $10 billion yearly on target shooting, but he also says that the industry as a whole tracked up $15 billion last year in sales.  Is he claiming that 2/3 of the revenue of the gun industry comes from people who just go out somewhere, set up a target and shoot their guns? That’s all fine and well except that hunters spend more than $38 billion annually on their hobby, and if you’re going to include in target shooting such expenditures as the cost of driving back and forth to the range, don’t you have to compare this number to the cost of driving back and forth to where someone went to hunt?

An article about the gun industry based on the unqualified statements of the NSSF may fill an op-ed piece for The Post, but it doesn’t help us understand the current debate about guns.  If it were the case that gun makers were finding new markets, then perhaps the whole discussion about gun safety would need to change.  Rosenwald may have found a new way in which Millennials spend their money, but shooting a gun and becoming a shooter are two very different things.

Guns And Millennials: Which Way Will It Go?

In February the Center for American Progress, which is Washington’s pre-eminent liberal think tank, jumped into the gun debate by holding a national conference attended by all the usual suspects (Bloomberg, Coalition Against Gun Violence, et. al.,) and issuing a report which described a “crisis” of youth gun violence.  The report is basically old wine in a new bottle and doesn’t really say anything that can’t be found in any number of other gun control reports, but since CAP often defines the issues that sooner or later end up spearheading the liberal legislative agenda, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the details, which I’m sure have also been read with interest at the headquarters of the NRA.

capAccording to the CAP report, of everyone killed by guns each year, one in five was 24 years old or younger, making gun death the second most common form of morbidity for this age group, surpassed only by motor vehicle accidents.  Actually, the number and rate of guns deaths has been pretty steady or declining slightly since 2000, while car accident deaths for people under age 25 has dropped by nearly 30% during the same period. On the other hand, vehicle deaths held steady and actually increased between 1990 and 2000, whereas young gun deaths declined more than 20% during that same period.  So first it was gun deaths that declined significantly for ten years and then stabilized, then car deaths dropped and likewise stabilized, with the two trends running very similar numbers since 2010.

Why was there such a significant decline in young gun deaths between 1994 and 1999?  The truth is, we don’t know.  Even though homicides usually account for less than 3% of all violent crimes, they tend to follow other crime trends and violent crime in the United States dropped significantly in every category between 1993 and 1999. Why did this happen?  There are lots of theories out there, from aggressive policing to increased jail populations, to removing lead from paint, less unwanted babies after Roe vs. Wade, and God knows what else.  Perhaps the decline in violent crime occurred for all those reasons, but the truth is that we simply don’t know.

One thing we do know is that the decline in gun violence before 2000 and its stabilization in the years since then occurred in the absence of any new gun control legislation at all.  The NICS background check system wasn’t operating in any comprehensive sense until 1998, which is when the decline in gun violence began to slow down.  For that matter, while the authors of the CAP report bemoan the fact that gun deaths are “failing to go down,” one could turn this completely around and wonder why gun deaths haven’t gone back up?  This is a particularly vexing question given the fact that gun violence remains stable at a time when more guns are being manufactured and sold than at any time in the history of American small arms.

Don’t get me wrong.  The fact that a group of Millennials came together to organize a grass-roots movement aimed at their peers, particularly the college-age population, is a wonderful antidote to the fear-mongering and glorification of the “armed citizen” that  the NRA cynically uses to promote gun sales.  And maybe the Millennials will be the first generation since my generation (I’m a pre-Boomer) to once again embrace the traditional notions of guns as necessary for hunting and sport but not much else.

On the other hand, I hope that the CAP and its legislative followers won’t just seize on this document to promote yet another round of political hand-wringing that will no doubt result in little, if anything, getting done.  I’m all for solutions to public health issues whose origins, incidence and impact we truly understand.  We know how many people are killed by guns every year, but I have yet to see a convincing study that explains why some people who have access to guns point them at themselves or others and pull the trigger, but most of the gun-owning population leaves the gun alone.  Like Walter Mosley says, “If you carry a gun, it’s bound to go off sooner or later.”

Can Hunters Do What Beavers Do?

Previous posts explained the primary role played by hunters in exploring, opening and ultimately settling the Western wilderness, an experience motivated by financial rewards from the trade in furs. But it would be a mistake to assume that this took place only as we pushed West.  In fact, from the moment that white Europeans first set foot on the East Coast, moving inland was as much a taming of the wilderness as would later happen when we began moving across the territory that we owned by dint of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

According to the biologist and agriculturalist Toby Hemenway, within a decade after the first landing by the Mayflower in 1620, at least 100,000 beaver pelts were shipped back to Europe, and by 1640 as many as 800,000 beavers had been slaughtered over the previous ten years.   The demand for animal fur, largely beaver but also including bear and wolf, continued to grow over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the point that more ships crossed the Atlantic carrying furs than were used to catch and carry fish.

Trappers and hunters who extended the fur trade beyond the Missouri after 1810 found that Europe’s demand for furs was now subordinate, in many cases, to home-grown demand from within the United States. Cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston now had large populations whose tastes in clothing meant that furs were treated and re-sold within the domestic market rather than being sent overseas.  When fashion began changing in the 1840s and fur garments gave way to leather goods, the Western hunters shifted away from slaughtering beavers and quickly made the buffalo almost extinct as well.

While hunters and trappers were still exploring and opening the Western wilderness, in the East the process of moving from farming to industry had begun. Factories began springing up all over New England by the 1840’s, with textile, firearms and clothing manufacturing combining natural resources like furs and hides from the West with abundant energy from the fast-moving streams in the East.  The growth of a huge internal market based on cheap resources from the frontier combined with cheap energy from what had previously been the frontier launched a half-century of economic expansion that no other country has experienced before or since.

Beavers at work: stream, marsh and woods.

Beavers at work: stream, marsh and woods.

What lay behind this enormous economic growth was the handiwork of hunters whose ability to kill off beavers brought about a crucial change in the ecosystem that allowed all those New England factories to create the goods and satisfy both domestic and foreign demand.  The deep gullies and fast-moving streams that created energy for factories was not a natural feature of the New England landscape; it was what happened to slow-moving and gentle ponds when, as Toby Hemenway says, they were fed by “beaverless watersheds.” Beavers create environments that hold maximum amounts of water and soil on the land.  Remove the beavers and the water turns into a cascade.

Beaver activity creates a natural cycle of environmental replenishment. Ponds become marsh, then meadow then woodland, and then the beavers build another dam, and the cycle repeats again.  We’ve tried to do the same thing in many places where the hunters killed off the beavers, because this let us us build factories. Except the factories then collapsed.  A paper factory in Monroe, Massachusetts first gained a workforce when it opened in 1866 because farmers in the surrounding Monroe Plateau were happy to trade their plows for a steady wage.  The town lived off the mill for more than one hundred years, but when it was shuttered in 1985, the town basically shut down as well.

Monroe, Massachusetts

Monroe, Massachusetts

Nobody has come up with a plan for these towns; fancy catchwords like rural reindustrialization can’t  do for this environment what the beaver could do for its environment with a flat tail and some sharp teeth. I can tell you, however, that most of the remaining residents in Monroe and other small, country towns love to hunt.  Who knows?  Previous generations of hunters sparked an economic miracle, maybe it could happen again.

Based on my book, Hunters in the Wilderness.  Volume II in the series, Guns in America, to be published in December.

Want To Play A Shooting Game? Buy A Redfield Scope

When I was a kid, which was before most of the readers of this blog were born, the gun industry made two very different types of guns. They made rifles and shotguns for hunting, and they made handguns and military-style rifles for the armed forces and the police.  There was some cross-over in products of course, largely because most adult males did military service thanks to the draft, so if they wanted to own a handgun as a civilian they would naturally gravitate to a Colt .45 pistol or a Smith & Wesson revolver.  But if you walked into a gun shop in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s you were in a place that sold arms, ammunition and accessories for outdoor sports, which meant hunting, with an occasional self-defense handgun thrown into the mix.

Even though hunting remains popular in certain parts of the country, nobody can deny that the consumer taste in guns hasn’t changed.  In 2010 for the first time, American gun companies manufactured more handguns than long guns, and more than 200,000 of the 1.8 million rifles manufactured that year were military-style AR-15s.  This blending of military and civilian styles isn’t just a function of the design of guns.  It’s taking over the nomenclature of the industry to the point that you can hardly tell the difference between what a soldier carries into the field and a hunter carries into the woods.  Take, for example, the Redfield Optics Company.

The company was founded in 1909 by John Redfield, an avid sportsman and hunter, whose product line was aimed at the “middle market” consumer who could afford to pay a bit more for his equipment but expected some quality in return.  Like many smaller companies in consumer optics and electronics, Redfield fell prey to overseas brands in the 1980s, limped along for another few years and eventually shuttered the doors in 1998.  One thing led to another and in 2008 the brand name was purchased by the most iconic American optics company – Leupold – who now sells Redfield products through their multiple channels both here and overseas.

To see where I’m going with this post, take a look at the Redfield website.  The scopes haven’t changed, they are the same mid-level, mid-priced optics that the company has been selling for more than one hundred years.  But the old scopes had names like Partner, Widefield and Accu-Range, the last being a 3x-9x scope that was originally mounted on a variation of the Remington 700 rifle  used as a sniper gun by the Marines. What does Redfield call its scopes now?  Names like Battlezone, RevolutionCounterstrike and Revenge, the last being their standard hunting scopes that can also be mounted for archery hunts. Naming a hunting scope Revenge?  What are the hunters avenging themselves about? Because the deer ate some apples off a tree?

A new study says that violence in PG-13 movies is more common than in popular, R-rated films.  Which means that children are being exposed to shootings and violent gun use at a younger and younger age. Why wouldn’t companies like Leupold take advantage of this trend towards more violence?  After all, there’s really no difference between a movie, a video game and a real AR-15, right?