Author Topic: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting  (Read 11021 times)

Offline 54ball

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forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« on: March 22, 2012, 09:56:14 AM »
 I think this is shooting related. I was going to post this in the period smooth bore loading thread but I felt it may be better as a seperate thread.

  The solitary frontier hunter is a popular image.  Whether potrayed with a long rifle or smoothbore, the image is popular and often imitated.
  Lets look at this for a moment.  Why would he or yes she, be hunting alone.  Would the market hunter be hunting alone?  What would be the situation for hunting alone?  Food for the table, furs and skins?  What would he carry rifle or smooth?  How concerned is he about accuracy?  How did he load his rifle or gun?  This has all been discussed.  There are aspects of period hunting that seem to be overlooked or simply not thought of because modern methods of hunting or reenacting are not condusive to these methods.

  Just like there were two types of militia, farmer class and partisan fighter, there were two types of hunters, market and farmers or gentlemen who supplimented their diet with wild game.  I would consider the market hunter "longhunter", native and frontiersman-indian fighter to be in the partisan class.  While the occasional gentlemen, boy, or woman taking a squirrel or  maybe even a deer from the back 40 to be the farmer class.  I know this is a generalization and the line is easily blurred between the groups but I hope I have expressed my point.

  Getting back to hunting alone, lets take a rifle armed hunter.  He must be accurate.  If he misses he does not eat or has no skins for trade.  If he wounds large game he may have to track it for miles with a very good possibility of losing the trail or simply getting lost.  He does have an avantage over a smoothbore for distant game small and large.
  The smoothbore hunter is handicapped by his range.  He is better suited fo small game or fowl.  Deer can be taken but they need be close and he needs to be accurate and loaded with ball.  He is in trouble if he encounters deer while loaded with shot or small game and fowl when loaded with ball.  Is the smoothbore really versitle or is it more of a jack of all traits master of none in this circumstance?
  Both rifle and gun are handicapped here for profit or food.  In my opinion the smoothebore gun even more so.
  I have not even mentioned the constant threat of hostiles or bandity.

  Lets change the dynamics a little lets give the gun hunter a pack of well trained hounds.  Now he is a force.  It matters little if he has loaded shot or ball.  If he can wound large prey his hounds can do the rest.  They'll find em and run em.  Since the gun hunter now knows his quarry he can load for bear or deer , if the hounds have not finished the job first.  For smaller game he may not even use his gun at all.  With hounds a smoothbore gun hunter could even be profitable as a market hunter.
  The rifleman also benifits with hounds.  If he wounds on longer shots they will find em.  Add a pack of hounds and a few companions the market hunters could successfully persue the ever vanishing deer through untold miles of territory.

  When it comes to hostiles good dogs will warn their masters.  Their master's know if their dogs are upset, reluctant or nervous their warning needs to be trusted and it's time to high tail.
  When it comes to a confrontation hounds can save the day like they saved the stockade at Nashborough in 1779 or the women except sweet Sarah at Fort Sinquifield Alabama in 1813.
  This kind of changes the dynamic of rifles and more so smooth guns.  Dogs can't make up for a poor shot but the pinpoint accuracy of todays world with dogless hunts and modern ethics was some what unessesary in that long lost time.  What say you?
"These Americans had riflemen-they could hit a man at 200 paces distance. We came to dread them far more than the regular Continentals. At Kings Mountain they destoyed us."

 English Captain 1802

Offline James Wilson Everett

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 11:20:42 AM »
Very well thought out, indeed.  A good dog is extremely valuable for these and even for more reasons.

Jim

Offline James Rogers

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 01:15:37 PM »

 
   He is in trouble if he encounters deer while loaded with shot or small game and fowl when loaded with ball.  Is the smoothbore really versitle or is it more of a jack of all traits master of none in this circumstance?
 

Even more so at a disadvantage if on is thinking in modern context with a patched round ball in the smooth gun. Of course it is not always possible but there have been times when one wadded load was replaced by another quickly enough to make the kill.

 Market hunting fowl=smooth gun....... Market hunting fur= rifle.......
pot shooting=either.......

Practicality and logic aside, both have been used with success to fill the pot in the very recent past as well as way back. Historically, the smooth gun predominated due to cost, availability and not so much the modern theory of versatility.
One has to be a specialist in my opinion to be a good rifleman or a good wingshooter.
To be a specialist, one must be able to repeat their success over and over.
An average hunter is incapable of that with either firearm but usually brings home some food. ;D

As far as dogs go, I think them a very large part of historical hunting.
I also believe it mush easier to improve your own ability with a firearm then to find and train a good dog.  ;D

Offline Dphariss

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 03:27:29 PM »
The problem with dogs is noise.
If the area really is the frontier or close too it dogs could be a death sentence.
If they hunt silent nobody can find them.

Yes people used dogs extensively. In some places.
But we don't hear of people like Kenton or Boone using them in hostile times. Boone and Kenton survived to die of natural causes, though the issue was seriously in doubt at times...
The one thing people need to ask is this.
What would I do if I were going into the woods that might contain people who will kill me or burn me at the stake for amusement.

A silent dog, that stays with the hunter can be an aid in warning of the enemy. But he better not bark in the woods....
He barks, you die.

Dan


No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Offline bob in the woods

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 03:43:57 PM »
Dan beat me to it .  If Indians are about, barking hounds on the chase would be an invitation  ;D

Offline omark west cen colo

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 06:02:53 PM »
dan and bob are right. dogs can certainly give away your presence, but then, a shot will, too.    mark
on the 4th of julypeople should fire their guns into the air to show the government who does have the power,,,b franklin!   on these walks make your gun your constant companion,,,t jefferson!   those that will give up freedom for security deserve neither freedom or security,,,b franklin!   west colo

Offline Robby

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 07:41:41 PM »
I guess it would depend on the dog. My wife will take our dog for walks in the woods to a spot about a mile and a half in that is a very peaceful and scenic spot along the Conesus Creek. the dog typically ranges twenty to fifty yards in front. On more than one occasion she has come back to my wife and stood in front of her broadside, and if my wife tries to go forward the dog will move and block her path repeatedly till she turns around and heads back, while the dog circles around her for a spell, then takes its typical ranging distance, all the time never making a noise. There are coyotes, an occasional bear, and some people (seldom) that travel the old logging trails.
only on one occasion have they come within " high how you doing" distance, and then the dog held its ground hair up barking and growling on the inhale and exhale! Sounds like a Lassie moment, don't it! ;D

Robby
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northmn

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 08:18:03 PM »


Dogs beat swimming and get game you would not find otherwise.  Market hunters used dogs for the same reason I do.  Also where dogs were used for chasing, I doubt if people expected to meet "hostiles". 
A common misconception is the lone hunter in hostile territory.  More often they went out in groups.  Mountain men formed "brigades" for that reason.  Also most are discounting the dangers of being alone back then for more natural occurances.  Today a good emergency item is a cell phone as one can call for help.  Back then an accident could be pretty fatal.  Also if the times were such that hostile's were expected, many did not go out.  We were not always at war with each other. 
Do not discount a smoothbore loaded with shot on larger game.  Shot used back then was larger than what we use today.  "Swan shot" was about the size of #4 buck shot, "goose shot" maybe the size of T shot and even "duck shot" was closer to BB or 2's.  A load up close to the head will down a deer.  I have known some people that have a different idea of hunting seasons that have done so.   Making shot before about 1800 when the shot towers were used was a tedious operation and small shot was not used. 

DP
 

Offline Leatherbelly

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 10:50:00 PM »
   Also,one must think about the terrain. Were the forests old growth with not much underbrush? If this was the case, a rifle could reach out a bit farther.Now if the forests were thick, with lots of underbrush, a smoothbore would be just dandy. For still hunting,take your pick. In colonial times, I think there were more smoothguns then not.( from what I've read from posters on here.)
  The French imported Tradeguns by the boatload through their ports in Quebec.I'm sure the English did the same through American ports.  Rifles too, but I don't think as many due to the added cost of production. The flintlock rifle would be a huge advantage over the smooth gun, but the average "farmer" group may not have had the means to afford one.JMHO.
  Now if I applied my present working status to my 1770's persona, I'd be able to afford to have both....and I do!
  As far as dogs, I'm too lenient with dogs, and if it barked,it would be accompanied with a bark from my smoothbore, then the sound of dogfat burning on the fire.If the Indians showed up, we'd have a weiner dog party.lol!
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Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2012, 12:35:14 AM »
Smart dogs that wanted to continue going hunting learned to be quiet ......
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The other DWS

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2012, 12:48:38 AM »
You have to factor in why you are hunting.   commercial hunters fell into at least two classes, fur/hide hunters and meat hunters.    fur and hide hunters could do a rough cure and compress, and then pack hides and furs out by boat or packhorse.  They were the ones who made the extended hunts into hostile territories.  The ones who were successful were the ones who were the most stealthy, to get more spooky large game and to avoid contact with the native population.  

Meat hunters had to live and work within range of their markets and the existing limited methods of met preservation (salting/smoking/pickling)  Since the larger game was rapidly shot or driven out of the areas where there was enough population to create a market I suspect most were hunting seasonal migratory game--mostly fowl--that came to them----that pretty well means smoothbores in my mind.

I seriously doubt that many of the long range fur/hide hunters used dogs,  I think they failed in a cost/benefits analysis in that area.   Even the native population seem to have had only rudimentary use of them in an alarm basis; however they clearly were part of the food supply.   I think hunting with hounds was a somewhat later post frontier (at least the cutting edge of it) phenomena once much of the native population ceased being a significant threat.

JMHO of course

Offline Leatherbelly

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2012, 01:50:24 AM »
The Indians didn't have a noisy dog long. If a dog was yappy in camp,thud with a warclub,then dipped in a clay slurry and into the fire for baked poochie! Apparently they tasted good!
 
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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 02:43:02 AM »
16th and 17th century french accounts usually refer to dogs going into a stew pot along with what ever else was handy.  they clearly were not pets or what we would call working dogs.  there is firm evidence that the buffalo hunting migratory tribes in the pre-horse era (amazingly late) used dogs to pull small travois,  either big dogs or very small travois.   there is not a whole lot of evidence concerning dogs in the more sedentary tribes and bands other than occasional references to dogs making a racket when strangers approached.

back to the original topic we really need to take a closer look at "hunting and hunters" in terms of a regional, economic, social class, and environmental structure.   Its hard to compare a landed southern gentry perpetuating the English "hunting to hounds" model by transferring the sport from foxes to deer  to a New England of Chesapeake commercial waterfowler to a youth hunting birds and small game for the family dinner and selling or trading the excess to the local Inn or townsfolk (all of whom may have used dogs in some capacity)to the architypical over-the-mountain "long hunter" (who I am pretty convinced did not-allowing for a couple possible exceptions) .   There are just too many variables to make general statements much beyond "they all hunted"

Offline bob in the woods

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2012, 06:16:05 AM »
The value of a dog in the woods is for its keen senses. My dog "Fred" comes hunting with me,usually staying 10 to 15 feet ahead,  but when on watch ie deer hunting,he sits beside me . I keep my eyes on him ,since he always  is scanning the woods, and will tense up etc. He doesn't bark.

Offline Leatherbelly

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 09:04:56 AM »
Beardog!


 
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Offline Dphariss

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2012, 11:36:41 AM »
dan and bob are right. dogs can certainly give away your presence, but then, a shot will, too.    mark

One shot is hard to trace. 2 Oh-oh! 3? expect company.
Other than is certain instances, and a friend of mine tells me that they had a dog a VN dog not a US "war dog" that went on ambush with them. Before the gooks appeared he said the dog would start a soft rumble in his chest no sound just feel. When this happened they KNEW things would pop.

There are exceptions to any rule. But a dog used as the English did to hunt deer/stags. Not a good idea.
Retrievers? People who used retrievers were likely not in a dangerous part of the country.
On the Frontier, for the most part hunting waterfowl used too much shot unless shooting them on the water in large bunches. Then its hard to preserve the stuff.
I don't remember hearing of jerked goose.

Dan
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Offline James Rogers

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2012, 02:26:20 PM »
Interesting how this went from 18th century hunting to a very small, thin, moving line called the frontier.  ;D
Definitely a different MO for hostile territory that's fur sher.

doug

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2012, 02:54:52 AM »
     I am not convinced there is a tremendous advantage to a rifle.  Out to 75 yards or so a good smoothbore shooter can come close to matching a rifle shooter.  The big advantage of the smoothbore is weight; they weigh anything up to several pounds less that a rifle.  I also think at a time when lead and powder were extremely expensive, you would not take a shot that was not guaranteed to bring the animal down.  People like Baker in Ceylon in the 1840s did take long shots but they were hunting for sport and travelled with lots of ammunition and were wealthy.

     About the only counter point to the powder and shot issue was that a 60 cal smoothbore took a lot more lead and powder per shot than a 40 cal rifle.

cheers Doug

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2012, 03:58:19 AM »
Remember too that the over the mountain long-hunters pretty much had to pack everything in and out on pack horses. Logistics is something that is seldom taught or discussed in the educational systems when dealing with the trans-mountain exploration and settlement. It had a huge, long, and far reaching effect on our history.
 Lead is a heavy commodity to haul.  There is a reasonable chance that a rifle ball or  a PRB in a smooth bore could be salvaged from a carcass of large game and recycled.  Shot, even for pot game, is far less efficient in a logistical sense.

Offline E. Smith

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2012, 02:12:00 PM »
I don't think Boone took hounds with him when he crossed over the Cumberland in '69, but I'll bet he left a few behind with Rebbecca. Hounds were mostly used within the confines of settled territory and seldom used, I think, more than 20 or 30 miles away from home. Hound were a very important part of settled life on the frontier.
  Many years ago I read somewhere that the .45 was the choice of the longhunter. Note that I say longhunter and not frontiersman. There is a difference. The longhunter went out for months at a time, even years as is recorded in the history of Boone. Lead being a very heavy commodity,  more lead could be cast from a .45 than from a .54. A well placed shot in a vital with a .45 will bring down any animal likely to be encountered east of the Mississippi. West of the Mississippi is another story.
  Being in hostile territory, I think it would have been prudent for the longhunter to lay low after a shot. Two reasons, 1st to give that animal time to lie down, bleed out and die, 2nd to see if any hostile had been drawn to the scene from the sound of the shot. Terrain being what it was in those days, virgin forests we can only imagine today because none exist, most shot would have been at relatively close range by today's standards.
 The frontiersman was another persona altogether, although the term longhunter and frontiersman could apply to the same individual, as in Boones case. The frontiersman might arm himself with any weapon he chose. Powder and ball were much more available near the settlements. The rifle was not the primary weapon of the frontiersman, only secondary. The primary weapon of the frontiersman was the felling axe.
"Three things prompt Men to a regular discharge of their Duty in time of Action, Natural bravery—hope of reward—and fear of punishment."       George Washington

Offline Dphariss

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2012, 04:28:01 PM »
Interesting how this went from 18th century hunting to a very small, thin, moving line called the frontier.  ;D
Definitely a different MO for hostile territory that's fur sher.

You have to remember that in America and elsewhere large drives were conducted in "civilized" areas and they killed every wild animal they saw. Bears, deer, fox, rabbits etc. Predators killed livestock, deer, rabbits ate crops. Raccoons, for example, did both. Beaver can decimate corn crops close to the colony. Bison are poison to grain crops. Bears LOVE oats after then head out (and hogs I hear) and I assume wheat as well and will mash down a lot that they don't eat.
This would have thinned the population considerably and relegated serious hunting to areas where this did not occur.
Using dogs in this context would work, if nobody shot the dog by mistake.
Once the "hostile native problem" was diminished then dogs would be and were, a valuable asset.

Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Mike R

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2012, 04:39:07 PM »
There are plenty of period references to the use of dogs in American hunting in the 18th and 19th cent.  Obviously there were situations where a dog, especially a noisy one, would be a liability, but in other cases, dogs were great assets.  Deer, bear, big cats and other game were typically hunted with dogs and game was often cornered or treed and shot at close range.  Boone had dogs, Crockett had dogs and many lesser known hunters, too.  Alot of hunt shooting took place at pointblank range--even with the muzzles touching the hide of a cornered animal--held at bay by a dog pack.  Bear were often smoked out of dens/caves and shot at close range--indeed many bear were finished off with long knives.  Dogs were also used for home defense/early warning systems and as attack dogs--there  are stories of dogs running off Indians, for example.  My own hunting dogs are pretty quiet, pointers and 'tree dogs', though my Coonhound has a nice bugle when chasing fox...

Offline James Rogers

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2012, 05:53:11 PM »
Agreed.

When we think about the 18th century frontier we immediately think unsettled wilderness far beyond settlement when the frontier is actually the last SETTLED area on the fringe. Dogs were there and documented as Mike points out.

In the area beyond the frontier, there would have been such a scarce few non-native people limited to volume meat/hide hunters and explorers. The populous involved in such activity is small, but it seems to be the only vision we conjure in our minds for the 18th century. This would be an area where dogs might not be the best thing BUT Thomas Walker and his group carried hounds with them in their 1750 trek  into Kentucky far beyond the frontier! :o
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 05:56:12 PM by James Rogers »

Offline Dphariss

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2012, 06:17:34 PM »
     I am not convinced there is a tremendous advantage to a rifle.  Out to 75 yards or so a good smoothbore shooter can come close to matching a rifle shooter.  The big advantage of the smoothbore is weight; they weigh anything up to several pounds less that a rifle.  I also think at a time when lead and powder were extremely expensive, you would not take a shot that was not guaranteed to bring the animal down.  People like Baker in Ceylon in the 1840s did take long shots but they were hunting for sport and travelled with lots of ammunition and were wealthy.

     About the only counter point to the powder and shot issue was that a 60 cal smoothbore took a lot more lead and powder per shot than a 40 cal rifle.

cheers Doug

You need to do more research. This was actually done back in the day and I believe was quoted here on the site not too long ago. My average shot at deer last year was about 50-60 yards. But one was 105 and there was no real option other than not filling the tag.

A man was convinced that a smooth rifle would shoot as well as a rifle. Till he had one made. After testing, and chagrined, he took it to the maker to be rifled. When he came back the maker laughed at him.
We need to understand that hunting was not the only use a rifle was put to. Rifle matches were typical forms of recreation and were often weekly events from what I read. If you want to try shooting a smoothbore in a chunk or turkey match its your choice but success will be fleeting at best.
In the Warner-Lowe papers there is an account which I find amusing:
One time there was t be a turkey shoot for smooth bores. Kendall had a gun all ready for rifling. He put it gun in rifling machine and laid the surface with course emery. The gun was almost equal to a rifle for say a hundred shots.
  The upshot of it was that Mr. Smith & Kendall shot all the turkeys the man was willing to put up.


  The bullets for the above gun ftiited rather tight.


Given this when someone tells me of some shooter with a wonderfully accurate smooth bore if its not been scratch rifled. A trick that far predates Kendall's devious little stunt. It could be done very quickly and easily if a rifle barrel were used as a rifling guide.

I would also point out that for the people hunting in hostile areas that the least noisy firearm would be the best choice.
And even a 45 caliber rifle will kill deer sized animals to 120+ yards and men to 200+ if the shooter has the skills. In my experience some SBs require a lot of powder for best accuracy. A 50 caliber 70 twist GM shoots very well with 75 gr of FFF swiss. The same gun with a GM smooth 50 caliber shot best with 110 gr of FF, more powder, more noise, less effective. At this level it was suitable for deer to 60 yards or so and would shoot into 3.5 to 4.5" for 5 shots. But this in RANGE shooting. In my experience field shooting will increase the group size.
A person that cannot hit a deer at 75-100 yards with any firearm, or perhaps cannot see well enough to shoot well has little use for a rifle and probably does not shoot much in any event. Their primary need for a firearm would be MILITIA USE. Here the SB was often REQUIRED. But actual shooting practice often was not.
The "smoothbore is better" simply does not stand any test if removed from the linear tactics battlefield or shooting birds. If it really was better then why are there so many rifles and accounts of rifle use?  Why did people spend the money on rifles?
This said smooth bores were often used for heavy game in Africa and India. Couple of valid reasons but its hardly relevant when speaking of use in North America we don't shoot many Elephant here. Most of this was because English/European makers generally used far to fast a twist in large bore rifles and they were useless for HV hunting loads needed for large game.
One other point is that a muzzle heavy gun is easier to keep on target than a light one is.
Dan
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Offline Dphariss

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Re: forgotten aspect of 18th century hunting
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2012, 06:22:58 PM »
<snip>
 This would be an area where dogs might not be the best thing BUT Thomas Walker and his group carried hounds with them in their 1750 trek  into Kentucky far beyond the frontier! :o

Did the men and dogs all survive? Apparently enough did to document it. Did they ever do this again? The dog thing that is. Did all the dogs come back would be the question I suppose.
Lots of people went into the wilderness, most of them survived, but a significant portion did not. Bad luck is major factor but doing things that attract attention is another way to decrease survivability. Dogs and Horses fall into this category. So the trade offs have to be considered.
Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman