Admiring my first whitetail buck
In 1816, on a cool fall day in New York, a young man, just 23 years old, participated in a shooting match with a flintlock rifle that sported a barrel he made on his father’s forge. The young man came in second that day, but the fine craftsmanship of his rifle so impressed his fellow shooters that it ensured his name would be remembered 200 years later. His name was Eliphalet, but many hunters and shooters know him better by his last name, a name the company he founded over two centuries ago still bears. That company is Remington Arms.
Winchester Horse and Rider by Phillip R. Goodwin circa 1919
In 1810 Oliver Fisher Winchester was born in Boston, his first stride into business was as a maker of men's shirts, but seeing that the true money was in the fast growing firearms industry, with the help from investors he secured controlling interest in Volcanic Repeating Arms Company from two gentlemen named Horace and Daniel. Now you might not know them by their first names, but their last names are know the world over, Smith & Wesson. Oliver Winchester kept refining firearms designs and on May 22,1866 the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was born. Well that's the backstory on how two of the biggest names in firearms industry got their start. There are plenty of places you can read the res of the story of Remington and Winchester online or in books, but this blog is how their stories shaped mine.
Over 100 years after Eliphalet founded his company in New York, another young man sat on the edge of a North Carolina swamp watching the sun sink low behind the trees. A few squirrels stole cobs of corn from the pile while he sat waiting. As the last of legal shooting light neared, he looked up and noticed a black shape that had stepped out of the trees at the edge of the pile. His eyes adjusted, and it did not take him long to recognize the shape was a deer. He knew he had time to make the shot, but he needed to hurry. He raised the rifle and rested the cross hairs behind the shoulder the same way he had rehearsed so many times in his mind. The shot shattered the silence of the fall afternoon, and after a short recovery, I had my first deer. A small doe, I had taken her with a Remington Woodsmaster that was chambered in 30.06, a rifle that I had saved for and bought with my own money. A rifle that was mine, and I had used it to take my first big game animal. While this was not Boone and Crockett buck, I could not have been any happier if I were holding a world record set of antlers in my hands.
Two thousand sixteen marks the 200th anniversary of Remington Arms and the 150th anniversary of Winchester. I debated writing a blog post about the historical milestones for these two companies simply because I have never waterfowl hunted with a Remington or a Winchester shotgun, but both of these companies have played major roles in my hunting life. To not mark these events with a blog on my Fowl Weather & Co site would be something the history buff in me would regret, so allow me this.
Oliver F. Winchester
I cannot remember a time when the old Winchester Model 67 single shot .22 was not in the corner of the barn. The bluing had long been replaced with a layer of rust, and the stock was battered and dented, worn from years of use. It was the rat and occasional snake killer. It was also the first rifle I learned to shoot on. I remember the many paper targets, cans, and bottles that went into my training as a marksman and helped lay the foundation of that as a hunter. The rifle belonged to my paternal great grandfather, who himself was a sportsmen and part time hunting guide. Behind the iron sites of that old Winchester, I not only learned to squeeze a trigger instead of jerking it, but I learned respect for a firearm, and that you don’t point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot. The time spent with my daddy while he showed me how to load and unload the rifle and how to shoot are some of the fondest memories of my life.
Advertisement for Winchester Model 67
The Christmas tree stood in the corner and strewn on the floor was wrapping paper, ribbons and emptied boxes, the result of Christmas morning. I can’t exactly remember what Christmas it was or how old I was, but I do remember the box. It was a long rectangular shaped cardboard box with big green letters on the side that simply read Remington. Daddy brought the unwrapped box from behind the couch. I lifted the lid, and there inside was a Remington 870 express magnum chambered in 20 gauge. I stared down at the disassembled shotgun with pure joy and an excitement that can only be described as euphoric. It might of well have been Nash Buckingham’s famed Bo Whoop laying in a felt lined case. I doubt a kid could have smiled any harder or been more excited. My shotgun before that had been a single shot 20gauge this new Remington would see action in the dove fields
The results of a good a good dove hunt
Several years later I would have the opportunity to finally try my hand at deer hunting when a family friend allowed me the chance to hunt with him on his property. It was sitting in that box stand on the cool fall day staring down a shooting lane, that I would use the Remington Woods Master I named “KillDeer” to take my first whitetail deer. KillDeer would be my rifle of choice for several more years, and when the magnum bug bit, as it does, I moved to a Remington 710 chambered in 7mm Mag. The Remington 710 took quite a beating during our adventures together. It was the rifle I had with me when I fell from a tripod stand after breaking a golden rule of hunting by getting into a rush. In a hurry to move to another stand for an evening hunt, I lost my footing and fell from the ladder. Luckily, nothing was broken and my rifle was still on target when I checked it later. I used that rifle to take my first buck a three point, and later on, when I purchased my own hunting property, my biggest buck to date.I am now back to where I started, using a Remington chambered for 30.06 once again. Several years ago, I did add another Remington to the family. Remington Gauge, my faithful yellow lab, has been as reliable a hunting partner as my Remington rifle. Thank you to Remington & Winchester for making quality reliable products that have been such an important part of my story and great memories made. Here's to many more years!
Robert C. Ruark Jr.
If you enjoy reading adventures on hunting and legendary hunters, like I do the name Robert Ruark will eventually cross your path. I had seen the cover for Ruark’s (as he is referred to by his fans) “Horn of the Hunter”his account of his Safaris in Africa. I had even read many quotes by him that reflected on hunting and fishing and the meaning it had to him, but I had never found Ruark. I have always enjoyed the company of a good book. Papa Hemingway once said “ There is no friend as loyal as a book” and while I tend to think a labrador,boykin or some other gunning dog would be more loyal I understand Hemingway’s meaning.The joy of reading was instilled upon me at an early age just like a love of hunting and the outdoors. In my reading adventures I have fought massive blue marlin in the waters of Cuba with an old man in a tiny boat,I have strolled the South Carolina pines with Rutledge, and survived the long grass in Africa with Capstick. I still had yet to add any of Ruark’s work to my shelves. In doing some reading for Fowl Weather & Co. I came across a quote by Ruark that would set me on a course to find Ruark.
“The best thing about hunting and fishing ,‘ the Old Man said , is that you don’t have to actually do it to enjoy it.You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had twenty years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight” - The Old Man and the Boy.
How often as Sportsmen(and I use the term to cover women & men) have we reflected on our past times in the field and the memories that we made. It does not matter how long ago that duck hunt or quail hunt was, all you have to do is reflect on the hunt or catching that fish and you are right back in those woods, marsh, or stream. I remember the first duck I killed, hunting with my dad and good family friend I can see the duck flying and and hear the echo of the shotgun and my dad handing me my hen wood duck.The memory is clear and replays in my mind often and I am transported back to that moment in time. After reading that quote, I wanted to read the works of Ruark and find out who he was.
Robert Chester Ruark Jr. was born December 29, 1915 in Wilmington, North Carolina. When one North Carolinian finds another one there’s an instant connection, even if you’ve never met the person, you feel a bond. It was both a shock and surprise to learn that not only was Ruark from North Carolina, but he grew up and spent time in the same part of the state I had. The depression had an effect on Ruark’s family as it did on many families of that time period, but Ruark was still able to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after graduating from New Hanover High School at age 12. He would go on to graduate from college in 1935 with a degree in journalism. Rurak would go on to work at two newspapers in North Carolina the Hamlet News Messenger and the Sanford Herald. Over the next several years Ruark’s life would take several different paths. He worked in Washington, D.C as an account for the Works Progress Administration or WPA, he enlisted in the Navy as a seaman and also worked at the Washington Post and the Star. He would end up settling at Washington Daily News and in 1938 marry Virginia Webb, who was an interior decorator from an upper class Washington Family. Like so many others WWII came calling and Ruark joined the Navy as a gunnery officer and later became a press censor in the Pacific. In 1945 he would return to the Washington Daily News, with a syndicated column that would make him a household name and the astonishing payout of $40,000 a year! In 1950 Robert Ruark would realize a childhood dream and at the urging of his Doctor to take time off, he traveled on his first safari to Africa. Ruark’s time in Africa would not only allow him to write one of his most famous books “Horn of the Hunter” but he would also seal Harry Selby's faith as a sought after Professional Hunter and he would be booked up years in advance with hunters wanting to enjoy the same hunts that Ruark did. While “Horn of the Hunter”might be Ruark’s most sought after work on his adventures in the dark continent, it was his the collection of stories first published in Field and Stream and later as a book in 1957 that would turn Robert Ruark into a legend. The book was the “Old Man and The Boy” and it was collection of stories and life lessons from time spent with his grandfather Capt. Edward Adkins, a retired river pilot. North Carolina is a sportsmen’s paradise and growing up in Brunswick county gave Robert Ruark the opportunity to take in all the hunting and fishing that North Carolina had to offer.
Robert Ruark and Harry Selby
In my search for Ruark, I purchased Horn of the Hunter and of course The Old Man and The Boy. Before I began reading I flipped the book over and read a review by the Herald Tribune, that said “Filled with homespun humor and salty common sense. This is a book savored slowly, and kept and cherished” I had no way of knowing just how true those words would be once I started reading. Ruark recounts the wisdom and knowledge bestowed upon him by his grandfather. Line after line and chapter after chapter you get a sense an understanding of the world around you that is some how missing today. One of the first quotes to really captured my attention is when his grandfather is teaching him about respect when it comes to hunting a covey of quail and how you should treat the quail.
“ This little bobwhite, the Old Man told me, was a gentleman and you had to approach hims as a gentleman to gentleman you had to cherish him and look after him and make him very important in his own right, because there weren’t many of him around and he was worthy of respectful shooting. The way you handled quail sort of kicked back on you.”
Ruark’s grandfather also thought him that hunting was more than killing just for killings sake.
..."Hunting," the Old Man said, "is the noblest sport yet devised by the hand of man. There were mighty hunters in the Bible, and all the caves where the cave men lived are full of carvings of assorted game the head of the house drug home. If you hunt to eat, or hunt for sport for something fine, something that will make you proud, and make you remember every single detail of the day you found him and shot him, that is good too. But if there's one thing I despise is a killer, some blood crazed idiot that just goes around bam-bamming at everything he sees. A man that takes pleasure in death just for death's sake is rotten somewhere inside, an you'll find him doing things later on in life that'll prove it."
It’s all about respecting the game we hunt and how we treat the game no matter if it’s the smallest bobwhite quail or a big bull elephant in Africa. Our respect for the game is a reflection of who we are as sportsmen and as conservationist . The Old Man and The Boy goes onto not only offer insight into what it means to be a hunter, but also what it means to be a man. Ruark’s grandfather teaches the young boy a wealth of knowledge and values that will prepare him in life and Ruark reflects back often to how those lessons impacted him.
“A boy has got to grow up to be a man some day. You can delay the process, but you can’t protect the boy from manhood forever. The best and easiest way is to expose the boy to people who are already men, good and bad, drunk and sober, lazy and industrious. It is really, after all, up to the boy, when all is said and done, and there are a lot of boys who never get to be men, and a lot of men who never quit being boys.”
Illustrations by Walter Dower, depict scenes in " The Old Man and The Boy"
.."A gentleman starts down at his boots and works up to his hat. A gentleman is, first of all, polite. A gentleman never talks down to nobody, or even to anybody that says 'anybody' instead of 'nobody.' A gentleman ain't greedy. A gentleman don't holler at anybody else's dogs. A gentleman pays his score as he goes. He don't take what he can't put back, and if he borrows, he borrows from banks. He never troubles his friends with his troubles.
..."A sportsman, is a gentleman first. But a sportsman, basically, is a man who kills what he needs, whether it's fish or bird or animal, or what he wants for a special reason, but he never kills anything just to kill it. And he tries to preserve the very same thing that he kills a little of from time to time. The books call this conservation. It's the same reason why we don't shoot that tame covey of quail down to less'n ten birds."
Ruark’s grandfather knew that while classroom education was important, education can be found in the outdoors among the marsh grass and pine forests of North Carolina, there is a lot that we can learn from the natural world if we just slow down and take the time.
“Fishing gives a man some time to think.”
With Ruarks 100th Birthday approaching, that I want to take a moment and honor one of the greatest sporting authors and North Carolinas greatest sons. The last thing I wanted to do was rush reading “ The Old Man and The Boy” as the quote from the Herald Tribune says, the book should be savored slowly and thats what I intend on doing. I like to enjoy good book as you would a good meal. Being from the south myself food is apart of our culture and cretainly not taken a backseat in Ruark’s work. It’s refreshing to read an author refer to eating fatback or grits,like Ruark does when speaking from memories of his childhood. Southern cuisine plays an important role and helps to move the story along. One can almost taste the oysters, fried quail and venison.
In finding Ruark, I not only found an author that will rank among my favorites, but I have also found a part of myself. My love of hunting, the outdoors and how to be a man were lessons passed down to me from my father. In reading Ruark’s works I was able to reflect on the memories made afield with my dad and the wisdom he shared with me. Like Ruark I to hope to one day travel to Africa and go on Safari,but no matter if I am hunting Kudu in Africa or Swan hunting a wheat field at Lake Mattamuskeet the lessons I learned as a boy will stay with me.
Robert C. Ruark Jr. passed away in a London hospital in 1956 at the age of 49. He lived his life to the fullest and left behind his mark in literature and the sporting world. Ruark’s works were left to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They are now housed in the Wilson Library. Robert Ruark is buried in Spain a country he called home for many years. From one Carolina boy to another, …thank you
American Wigeon Taken by Charles Nunnery
We all have that special duck maybe its the beautiful colored wood duck drake you took on your first time duck hunting, or maybe its a mallard that your favorite four legged hunting partner brought back on his firs retrieve or last, or is it that perfect sprigged bull pintail that you have been trying to harvest for years, if you hunt long enough there is going to be a duck or goose that you want to have mounted to preserve the memory of that special day in the field.
Here are the best tips on getting your bird ready for the taxidermist .
A good taxidermy mount starts in the field.
1. Don't wring the neck, or hang on a lanyard by the neck this can damage head and neck feathers.
2. If you can try and rinse off any blood or mud, especially important on white birds ( snow geese or swans ) blood can be removed by a taxidermist but it can cause a stain, its a good idea to try and rinse away what you can.
3. Be careful about laying the bird where the feathers can freeze to a metal object such as a boat.
4. Treat it with care while in the field, be careful not to damage feathers.
5. Once you return home or back to duck camp, you want to fold the head under a wing or lay it on the birds back, if its a fresh kill make sure that you let it cool before closing up in a bag.
6. Wrap it in several quality freezer of heavy trash bags and make sure you remove as much air as you can! ( Don't wrap newspaper around the feet as that can cause freezer burn to happen faster also avoid putting the bird in pantyhose as this can cause damage. )
7. One of the most important factors that will ensure you will have a quality mount to enjoy for years to come is selecting the right taxidermist, Take time to research taxidermist in your area or check out social media sites like Facebook for their business pages and links to their websites looking at pictures is a start, but seeing their work in person is most important, Once you have selected a taxidermist, make a time to visit their shop and inspect their work in person, pictures are no substitute for seeing the work up close, look at eye sets to determine if they are set properly and that the feathers are groomed correctly. Before you go look at pictures of live ducks or geese online and have an image in your mind what a live bird looks like and let that help you determine if you want to have that taxidermist mount your bird.
Following these tips will help ensure that you have a mount that you will be happy with for years to come!
Two thousand year old canvasback decoys
The Canvasback duck has a storied and prestigious history. Known as the “King” of ducks, the Canvasback served as inspiration for the oldest known decoy (which is thought to have been constructed around 2,000 years ago) and has been offered in some of the finest restaurants in Baltimore and New York City in the glory days of market hunting. Canvasback’s natural propensity to feast on wild celery gave their meat a distinct flavor that guaranteed its place on dining room tables and brought punt guns to life. They were so favored market hunters like Ward Allen, were able to command top dollar for them and restaurants sold single cooked canvasbacks for over $100 per bird in today’s currency. However, such popularity caused a marked decrease in their population. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was set in place to help bring an end to the sale of waterfowl which allowed the Canvasback to successfully bounce back from endangerment.
For all that the King of Ducks has come to represent and to honor the history of those involved in their pursuit, we at Fowl Weather and Co. chose the Canvasback to symbolize what motives us…preserving honorable water fowling traditions, educating newcomers to our sport and bringing awareness to water fowl and wetlands conservation.
Armistice Day Blizzard by Michael Sieve
The sound of passing geese was almost deafening. Ten thousand birds or more passed out of shooting range above our heads as we lay out in the middle of a 350 acre wheat field in costal North Carolina. The approximate 200 decoys we staked out in the blackened pre-dawn hours did little to break the wind that came blistering across, cutting any exposed skin. We lay there with eyes fixed to the sky waiting for a group that would break free and commit to our decoy spread. I adjusted my wool face mask as I looked over my shoulder to see my fellow hunters wrapped up in their thick hunting clothes. We did not have to wade through water, however I wore my insulated waders adding a blessing of warmth.
Cold is a part of waterfowl hunting. Like a good dog or your favorite shotgun, cold weather comes with the territory. Even our company name “Fowl Weather & Co. “ pays homage to the fact that when waterfowling, the weather conditions tend to be more on the extreme side than not. We are truly blessed today to have the many advantages to combat the cold and extreme weather conditions. We can bundle up in the latest and warmest clothing to enjoy a day in the marsh or in my case crop field. This has not always been the case. Before there were GORTEX duck hunting jackets that we have now (some even come with battery packs that will keep them heated while you hunt) waterfowl hunters made the best with what they had, which usually consisted of wool or canvas jackets and thick pants. Waterfowlers went out, hunted and survived the cold best they could.
On November 11, 1940 the conditions were perfect for some of the best duck hunting that many had seen all season. Birds were coming in by the droves and many headed out that morning to get in on the action. Hunters could not have known that flocks of ducks and geese were trying to out run what would go down in history as the worst blizzard to ever hit the Upper Midwest on armistice day. When the "winds of hell" ( as the storm would later be called) passed the death toll was a staggering 159 individuals with at least half of them being duck hunters. Fowl Weather & Co asks you to take a moment to remember these fallen waterfowlers. We all as waterfowlers are exposed to some of the most extreme weather conditions there are, so make sure to plan and prepare this waterfowl season.
The South is know for its " Southern Style" and casual, laid back, social lifestyle. With Fowl Weather & Co. being based within North Carolina , a state rich in waterfowling history, we wanted the look and feel of our apparel to be nothing more than a product of that southern environment. We began with a quality shirt that fits just right and added simple ,yet stylish, eye-catching graphics. It was not our goal to simply throw a picture or drawing of a duck on a t shirt. We wanted designs that would have meaning and reflect waterfowling heritage. From these concepts, we designed apparel items that would express a passion for waterfowl and waterfowl hunting while at the same time blend into a lifestyle. Waterfowl hunting is a social activity where time spent in the duck blind is normally filled with lots of laughs, storytelling and even good food. Fowl Weather and Co. embraces that social time, so whether you're sitting around duck camp after a successful hunt, sharing a few drinks with friends, or shucking away at an oyster roast, allow Fowl Weather & Co's signature apparel to showcase your passion.