Category Archives: Hunting

The Wildfowler’s Quest: Forty Years of Wandering with America’s Foremost Wildfowler. — George Reiger


The Wildfowler’s Quest, by George Reiger, published by Nick Lyons Books in 1989 is his memoir of gunning for wildfowl in the latter half of the 20th century. I remember when I was growing up my father had amassed a pile of hunting magazines, copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream to name a few. I spent many hours poring over these magazines looking for articles on waterfowling. I learned a great deal about wildfowling across the United States and to a limited extent in Canada. At the time it never occurred to me that people across the world enjoyed wildfowling too. What makes this such a good read is that Reiger recounts his experiences gunning for wildfowl both in North America and in different parts of the world including chapters on wildfowling in Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the UK and the USSR.

Among the more interesting accounts Reiger includes is that of gunning for wild geese in the Netherlands over live decoys. He described this wild goose hunting strategy noting the following:

The greatest excitement for me was that we were using flying decoys. My host had raised the decoys (all white-fronts) from eggs, and he had four family groups. As you know, geese maintain very close family bonds. The male decoys are tethered in the field in front of the blind at a range where the shooting is to occur–20 to 25 yards–, no more! The females and young are taken into the hide (alias, blind), and this is the stimulus for every bird to set up the most unbelievable clamor to try to locate one another. This certainly gets the attention of the wild birds which look, but usually continue on their way. That is, continue until the young birds in the hide are thrown into the air whereupon they fly about in search of their parents. Meanwhile the adult females are allowed to wander outside of the hide. With all this activity, the wild birds come in as if on elastics! (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

This goose hunting strategy worked very well as Reiger recounts “every time my host lofted a bird, we had a little bunch come to us. We shot (two guns: a double and an o/u) ten birds in half an hour and decided that was quite enough–but we could have had 25 geese by 10 o’clock!” (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

The book includes chapters on various species of wildfowl, including rails, geese, sea ducks and woodcock and is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joseph Fornelli. In the concluding chapters Reiger discusses clubs, conservation and the appeal of wildfowling for those who take part in the sport. In my opinion, this book is well worth reading for anyone who relishes wildfowling and wants an understanding of the history of the sport in North America and across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey

Gunner’s Guide. — George Baekeland


Here is an item I found this afternoon in a local used bookshop. Gunner’s Guide was published in  New York in 1948 by the Macmillan Company. That I found a first edition copy with its dust jacket pleases me no end. Gunner’s Guide is a neat little book that will appeal to the shotgunner who fancies side-by-side double barrelled guns. The book consists of seven chapters in 101 pages. It includes 8 tables and 12 illustrations (line drawings) and a bibliography and index. While the author discusses the different repeating actions in shotguns of the time (semi-automatic and pump action) he makes his preference plain in noting “observation leads me to conclude that double-barrelled guns are more reliable, better proportioned, and better balanced than repeaters of similar bore. They are usually lighter than repeating guns, notwithstanding the added weight of their second barrel. Recently, however, some light pump guns have been produced which compare favorably, weight by weight, with double-barrelled guns. But the finest examples of gun beauty and precision are to be found only in double-barrelled guns.”

While I am inclined to concur with the author on the elegance and some of the features he attributes to the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun, I cannot discount the utility of semi-automatic and pump action shotguns. While I have no semi-automatic shotguns in my collection, as I am a left-handed gunner and semi-autos are typically manufactured with right-handed gunners in mind, I swear by my Browning BPS pump action shotgun for waterfowling. I have used my Lanber Model 95 over and under effectively as a waterfowl gun, but find I prefer the pump action as it has the advantage of a third shot. In the uplands, I swear by my Winchester side-by-side in 20 gauge with 26 inch barrels and choked improved cylinder and modified. It is very light to carry in the thickets where I gun for woodcock and grouse and practically points itself when I walk up my dog Hera’s points and flush a bird.


For those shotgunners who appreciate the look and feel of the side-by-side, Gunner’s Guide is a good read as Baekeland discusses topics familiar to shotgunners, bores, chokes, patterns, shells, fit, form, lead and safety, from the perspective of his preference for the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun.

Posted by Geoffrey



Deer Hunting Hints. — C-I-L (Canadian Industries Limited)


Some of you may remember C-I-L as the manufacturer of ammunition and sporting guns commonly found for sale at Canadian Tire and other retailers of hunting and shooting supplies. Imperial and Canuck were the brand names for the shotgun shells I recall seeing and using on occasion when I was a boy. C-I-L also manufactured rifle cartridges under the Imperial brand name. Together with the ammunition C-I-L manufactured the company published a series of booklets packed with useful information for hunters, and,  of course, advertisements for its line of sporting guns and ammunition. I remember my father had some of these booklets, which, unfortunately, are lost to history, but I keep an eye out for these booklets when I browse at used and antiquarian book shops. Deer Hunting Hints was published in 1950, though there is no date on the copy in our library collection; it may be a reprinted edition. Still, in its 37 pages, it packs a lot of useful information for the hunter interested in the pursuit of deer.

The opening chapter introduces the reader to the three species of deer, white-tailed, mule and black-tailed, their ranges and provides illustrations on how to identify them. The second chapter takes on the subject of firearms, offering hints as to what kind of rifle and ammunition the hunter should use in deer hunting and showing the C-I-L line of rifles and shotguns and ammunition, how very clever of them.


The remaining chapters cover topics such as cleaning and maintaining your deer rifle, sighting it in, clothing and equipment for deer hunting, deer hunting techniques and how to dress and butcher a deer once it is on the ground and crucially, the Ten Commandments of Hunting Safety, in this publication called the Basic Rules for Hunting Safely. I remember in each of these C-I-L publications these safety rules were included.


In keeping copies of these publications I enjoy learning about the hunting culture in Canada as it was in the past, before I was born. I find that it is really not so different in the present as this quote from the introduction of Deer Hunting Hints shows: “The first consideration, of course, is sportsmanship; the good sportsman respects his quarry as well as the rights of others. In the actual hunting of game, the first concern of the novice should be to perfect his marksmanship. He must be able to place his shots where he wishes them to go. This is his prime objective and it is not achieved without constant practice.” Publications such as Deer Hunting Hints preserve a record of our hunting and sport shooting heritage, that it has always been about sportsmanship and safety and is well worth defending for succeeding generations of hunters and sport shooters in Canada.

Posted by Geoffrey

Hunter’s Guide. — Revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Originally published by the National Rifle Association of America)


The Hunter’s Guide was revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with permission from the National Rifle Association of America and the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The National Rifle Association holds the copyright to the material used in this publication. It was first published in 1982. The Hunter’s guide was printed and distributed in Ontario by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and served as the text book for the Hunter Education Program prospective hunters are required to complete before being issued their first hunting license. In its 301 pages, it is a comprehensive guide to hunting, hunting regulations, wildlife management, hunter safety, proper and safe gun use and the science of wildlife management. Of those 301 pages, there is one page (shown above) which demonstrates how to use handguns safely. These were included as the safety test one was required to pass before being granted their Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC), the precursor to the current Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) included handling of handguns, whether you intended to acquire handguns or not. This was a provision mandated by the passage of Bill C-17 in 1991 by then Minister of Justice Kim Campbell in the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The fact that the NRA had a hand in the publication of the Hunter’s Guide did not go unnoticed by prohibitionists. In 2000 controversy erupted when the OFAH donated copies of the Hunter’s Guide to Ontario School Boards for addition to school library collections. Gail Nyberg, Chair of the Toronto School Board in 2000, objected to the donation and ordered the books returned to the OFAH. Her complaint was “it sends a message that it’s okay to me. That our government, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and a legitimate group, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters think it’s okay to have handguns. Well I don’t think it is okay to have handguns. We’ve had to deal with school violence. The possibility of guns and weapons are all over North America. I just think it’s highly insensitive.” (as cited in CBC News)

I remember when this story broke. As a librarian myself, I made a point of contacting the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and bringing to their attention the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom. I pointed out that somehow these principles were lost on the the Toronto School Board in 2000.

All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation’s Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.

Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library’s public facilities and services to all individuals and groups who need them.

Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.

Though the Hunter’s Guide is no longer in use as the textbook for the Hunter Education Program in Ontario, it remains a very useful source of information for new hunters and a good read.

Posted by Geoffrey


Automatic and Repeating Shotguns. — Richard Arnold


The latest selection from the shelves of our library is this volume, Automatic and Repeating Shotguns, by Richard Arnold, originally published in 1958 in London, UK by Nicholas Kaye and reprinted in 1960 and 1962 in New York by the A. S. Barnes and Company. By repeating shotguns, Arnold refers to autoloading, slide or pump action and bolt action, noting “the modern repeating semi-automatic shotgun is essentially an American invention which was introduced more than fifty years ago by John Moses Browning. Today the repeating shotgun in semi-automatic, in slide action, and in bolt-action form is a formidable competitor to the conventional double-barreled weapon.” As it happens, the development of the repeating shotgun has an interesting history. Continue reading

The Shotgun Book. — Jack O’Connor


I spend most of my time in fields, marshes and the uplands in pursuit of game birds so shotgunning is something with which I am very well acquainted. My first shotgun was a hammerless Savage break action single shot with a 28 inch barrel, and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it in 1965, in Maryland, when I was four years old. We were living in Laurel at the time. My father was serving in the Canadian Army and had been posted to work in Washington, DC. Ten years later he offered it to me and I happily accepted the offer. I shot my first grouse with this gun, on the wing no less. It was a snap shot, just like I read in a booklet published by Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L) on upland gunning. The bird flushed and I caught sight of it between two cedar trees. I mounted the gun and fired. I walked up to the gap between the cedar trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited. I remember calling out “Dad, I got a grouse!”

As it happens, The Shotgun Book was published in 1965 by Alfred A. Knopf. The author, Jack O’Connor (1902-1978) was the arms and ammunition editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 31 years. The book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of shotgun most commonly in use: double barrelled, pump action, autoloading and the less common bolt-action. O’Connor opens the book with a chapter on a brief history of the shotgun. Shotguns, their forebears at least, were first manufactured in the 18th century. The book is well illustrated, with plates and diagrams, showing the inner workings of shotgun actions, models of shotguns, cartridges, chokes, shot and, interestingly, the earliest models of variable choke in use, the Poly-Choke, shown in the illustration below.


While some of the information found in The Shotgun Book is dated–it was published before the ban on the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting went into effect–it is still a good read. It brings back memories for me of the old copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream my father had accumulated over the years. I pored over these magazines in the years leading up to my 15th birthday when I would be old enough to get my first hunting license. I searched through the magazines, looking up every article on shotgunning, learning about gauge, shot sizes, choke, patterns, the basics of wing shooting, all the while dreaming of getting into the field in pursuit of upland game birds and waterfowl. The Shotgun Book compiles all this information very masterfully and includes an index which makes for quick reference. For anyone interested in seeing the hunting culture in North America, as it existed in the mid-twentieth century, The Shotgun Book is well worth reading.

Posted by Geoffrey

My Friend the Partrige: Memories of New England Shooting . — S.T. Hammond


Stephen Tillingshast Hammond (1831- ) had a lifelong love of upland gunning with dogs, the ruffed grouse being his favourite quarry. My Friend the Partridge was published in 1908 by the Forest and Stream Publishing Company. The copy in our library collection is from a limited edition reprint, one of 1025 copies (copy no. 812), published by Laurence G. Barnes of the Gunnerman Press. The book is an early form of the genre that became very popular in  the 20th century. It is a memoir of Hammond’s experience in gunning for ruffed grouse, ecology of the ruffed grouse, training dogs for the hunt and wing shooting. He dedicates a chapter to wing shooting, noting that in his boyhood, ground swatting was the norm, noting that “I well remember that, when I was a boy, the man who could ‘shoot flying’ was looked upon as a wonder, and pointed out to strangers as one far above the common herd, but now ‘the woods are full of them’.”

Times have changed since 1908 when My Friend the Partridge was published. In Hammond’s day, hunting was viewed more favourably and the introduction of young people, boys and young men, to gun ownership and hunting were seen as a good thing, not cause for alarm. He notes in the chapter on wing shooting:

The noble sport of field shooting has done much for the men and boys of the last two generations. It has enabled them to store up a stock of vitality that has done them good service in the time of need. The forms of those who practice it will not be prematurely decayed, their minds will not easily be warped by worldly cares; for there is a stimulus in the air of the forest that fills their veins with a potent power to withstand the debilitating effects of the strenuous life. Not only this, but the average boy must perforce, in some manner, work off the surplus steam that all boys are possessed of–at least, all boys  that are worth while. It has been my experience that in many instances these high-strung youngsters, who did not take to the woods, have worked off this surplus steam in a manner that was very distressing to their friends, and far from being conducive to their own well being.

So when your boy asks for a gun, thankfully place it in his hands and wish him good luck.

In spite of the negative attitudes held by some in the present day toward hunting and gun ownership, for those who appreciate upland gunning over dogs as I do, Hammond’s words ring true. I grew up learning from my father and other hunters to appreciate the pleasures of the hunt and looked forward to the day when I could have my own gun. When I came of age, I was given my own gun, with the understanding this was a privilege, that I was leaving childhood behind and taking on the responsibilities of an adult. What has changed since Hammond wrote these words is that in the present day it is both young men and young women who are introduced to the pleasures of hunting and gun ownership. I am bringing the son of friends of mine into the field this season as he has come of age and desires to take up hunting. I am happy to bring him into the fold and hope that the hunting tradition S.T. Hammond wrote of continues in North American culture for generations to come.

Posted by Geoffrey