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Ch. 4: Personal Equipment con't.

Matches, knife, and a compass are the three indispensables. By way of ignition you will take a decided step backward from present-day civilization in that you will pin your faith to the old sulphur "eight-day" matches of your fathers. This for several reasons. In the first place they come in blocks, unseparated, which are easily carried without danger of rubbing one against the other. In the second place, they take up about a third the room the same number of wooden matches would require. In the third place, they are easier to light in a wind, for they do not flash up and out, but persist. And finally, if wet, they can be spread out and dried in the sun, which is the most important of all. So buy you a nickel's worth of sulphur matches.


One of the mishaps to be expected.


The main supply you will pack in some sort of waterproof receptacle. I read a story recently in which a man was recognized as a true woodsman because he carried his matches in a bottle. He must have had good luck. The cardinal principle of packing is never to carry any glassware. Ninety and nine days it may pass safely, but the hundredth will smash it as sure as some people's shooting. And then you have jam, or chili powder, or syrup, or whiskey, all over the place—or else no matches. Any good screw top can—or better still, two telescoping tubes—is infinitely better.

The day's supply you will put in your pocket. A portion can go in a small waterproof match safe; but as it is a tremendous nuisance to be opening such a contrivance every time you want a smoke, I should advise you to stick a block in your waistcoat pocket, where you can get at them easily. If you are going a-wading, and pockets are precarious, you will find your hat band handy.

The waterproof pocket safe is numerous on the market. A ten-gauge brass shell will just chamber a twelve-gauge. Put your matches in the twelve-gauge, and telescope the ten over it. Abercrombie & Fitch, of New York, make a screw top safe of rubber, which has the great advantage of floating if dropped, but it is too bulky and the edges are too sharp. The Marble safe, made by the Marble Axe Company, is ingenious and certainly waterproof; but if it gets bent in the slightest degree, it jams, and you can no longer screw it shut. Therefore I consider it useless for this reason. A very convenient and cheap emergency contrivance is the flint and steel pocket cigar lighter to be had at most cigar stores. With it as a reserve you are sure of a fire no matter how wet the catastrophe.

Your knife should be a medium size two-bladed affair, of the best quality. Do not get it too large and heavy. You can skin and quarter a deer with an ordinary jackknife. Avoid the "kit" knives. They are mighty handy contraptions. I owned one with two blades, a thoroughly practicable can opener, an awl or punch, a combined reamer, nail pull and screwdriver, and a corkscrew. It was a delight for as long as it lasted. The trouble with such knives is that they are too round, so that sooner or later they are absolutely certain to roll out of your pocket and be lost. It makes no difference how your pockets are constructed, nor how careful you are, that result is inevitable. Then you will feel badly—and go back to your old flat two-bladed implement that you simply cannot lose.

A butcher knife of good make is one of the best and cheapest of sheath knives. The common mistake among amateur hunters is that of buying too heavy a knife with too thick a blade. Unless you expect to indulge in hand to hand conflicts, or cut brush, such a weapon is excessive. I myself have carried for the last seven years a rather thin and broad blade made by the Marble Axe Company on the butcher knife pattern. This company advertises in its catalogue a knife as used by myself. They are mistaken. The knife I mean is a longer bladed affair, called a "kitchen or camp knife." It is a most excellent piece of steel, holds an edge well, and is useful alike as a camp and hunting knife. The fact that I have killed some thirty-four wild boars with it shows that it is not to be despised as a weapon.

Your compass should be large enough for accuracy, with a jewel movement. Such an instrument can be purchased for from one to two dollars. It is sheer extravagance to go in for anything more expensive unless you are a yachtsman or intend to run survey lines.

I have hesitated much before deciding to say anything whatever of the sporting outfit. The subject has been so thoroughly discussed by men so much more competent than myself; there are so many theories with which I confess myself not at all conversant, and my own experience has been so limited in the variety of weapons and tackle, that I hardly felt qualified to speak. However, I reflected that this whole series of articles does not pretend to be in any way authoritative, nor does it claim to present the only or the best equipment in any branch of wilderness travel, but only to set forth the results of my own twenty years more or less of pretty steady outdoor life. So likewise it may interest the reader to hear about the contents of my own gunrack, even though he himself would have chosen much more wisely.

My rifle is a .30-.40 box magazine Winchester, with Lyman sights. This I have heard is not a particularly accurate gun. Also it is stated that after a few hundred shots it becomes still more inaccurate because of a residue which only special process can remove from the rifling. This may be. I only know that my own rifle to-day, after ten years' service, will still shoot as closely as I know how to hold it, although it has sixty-four notches on its stock and has probably been fired first and last—at big game, small game, and targets—upward of a thousand times. I use the Lyman aperture sight except in the dusk of evening, when a folding bar sight takes its place. At the time I bought this rifle the .33 and .35 had not been issued, and I thought, and still think, the .30-.30 too light for sure work on any animal larger than a deer. I have never used the .35, but like the .33 very much. The old low-power guns I used to shoot a great deal, but have not for some years.

The handiest weapon for a woods trip where small game is plentiful is a single-shot pistol. Mine is a Smith & Wesson, blued, six-inch barrel, shooting the .22 caliber long-rifle cartridge. An eight-inch barrel is commonly offered by the sporting dealers, but the six-inch is practically as accurate, and less cumbersome to carry. The ammunition is compact and light. With this little pistol I have killed in plenty ducks, geese, grouse, and squirrels, so that at times I have gone two or three months without the necessity of shooting a larger weapon. Such a pistol takes practice, however, and a certain knack. You must keep at it until you can get four out of five bullets in a three-inch bull's-eye at twenty yards before you can even hope to accomplish much in the field.

My six-shooter is a .45 Colt, New Service model. It is fitted with Lyman revolver sights. Originally it was a self-cocker, but I took out the dog and converted it to single action. The trigger pull on the double action is too heavy for me, and when I came to file it down, I found the double action caused a double jerk disconcerting to steady holding. Now it goes off smoothly and almost at a touch—the only conditions under which I can do much with a revolver. It is a very reliable weapon indeed, balances better than the single-action model, and possesses great smashing power. I have killed three deer in their tracks with it, and much smaller game. This summer, however, I had the opportunity of shooting a good deal with two I like better. One is the Officer's Model Colt, chambered to shoot interchangeably either the .38 Colt long or short, or the .38 Smith & Wesson special. In finish it is a beautiful weapon, its grip fits the hand, its action is smooth, and it is wonderfully accurate. The other is the special target .44 Russian. The automatics I do not care for simply because I never learned to shoot with the heavier trigger pull necessary to their action.

I have two shotguns. One I have shot twenty-one years. It has killed thousands of game birds, is a hard hitter, throws an excellent pattern, and is as strong and good as the day it was bought. I use it to-day for every sort of shooting except ducks, though often I have had it in the blinds lacking the heavier weapon. It is doubtful if there are in use to-day many guns with longer service, counting not so much the mere years of its performance, as the actual amount of hunting it has done. The time of its construction was before the days of the hammerless. It was made by W. & C. Scott & Sons, is 16 gauge, and cost $125. My other is a heavily choked Parker twelve. It I use for wild fowl, and occasionally at the trap.

The main point with guns, no matter what the kind, is to keep them in good shape. After shooting, clean them, no matter how tired you may be. It is no great labor. In the field a string cleaner will do the business, but at once when you get to permanent camp use a rod and elbow grease. In a damp country, oil them afresh every day; so they will give you good service. The barrels of my 16 are as bright as new. The cleaning rods you can put in your leather fishing-rod case.

Now all these things of which we have made mention must be transported. The duffle bag is the usual receptacle for them. It should be of some heavy material, waterproofed, and should not be too large. A good one is of pantasote, with double top to tie. One of these went the length of a rapids, and was fished out without having shipped a drop. On a horseback trip, however, such a contrivance is at once unnecessary and difficult to pack. It is too long and stiff to go easily in the kyacks, and does not agree well with the bedding on top.

This is really no great matter. The heavy kyacks, and the tarpaulin over everything, furnish all needed protection against wet and abrasion. A bag of some thinner and more pliable material is quite as good. Brown denim, unbleached cotton, or even a clean flour sack, are entirely adequate. You will find it handy to have them built with puckering strings. The strings so employed will not get lost, and can be used as a loop to hang the outfit from a branch when in camp.

A similar but smaller bag is useful to be reserved entirely as a toilet bag. Tar soap in a square—not round—celluloid case is the most cleansing. A heavy rubber band will hold the square case together.[2] The tooth brush should also have its case. Tooth wash comes in glass, which is taboo; tooth powder is sure sooner or later to leak out. I like best any tooth soap which is sold in handy flat tin boxes, and cannot spill. If you are sensible you will not be tenderfoot enough to go in for the discomfort of a new beard. Razors can be kept from rusting by wrapping them in a square of surgeon's oiled silk. Have your towel of brown crash—never of any white material. The latter is so closely woven that dirt gets into the very fiber of it, and cannot be washed out. Crash, however, is of looser texture, softens quickly, and does not show every speck of dust. If you have the room for it, a rough towel, while not absolutely necessary, is nevertheless a great luxury.

By way of medicines, stick to the tablet form. A strong compact medicine case is not expensive. It should contain antiseptics, permanganate for snake bites, a laxative, cholera remedy, quinine, and morphine. In addition antiseptic bandages and rubber or surgeon's plaster should be wrapped in oiled silk and included in the duffle outfit.

The fly problem is serious in some sections of the country and at some times of year. A head net is sometimes useful about camp or riding in the open—never when walking in the woods. The ordinary mosquito bar is too fragile. One of bobbinet that fits ingeniously is very effective. This and gloves will hold you immune—but you cannot smoke, nor spit on the bait.

The two best fly dopes of the many I have tried are a commercial mixture called "lollacapop," and Nessmuk's formula. The lollacapop comes in tin boxes, and so is handy to carry, but does not wear quite as well as the other. Nessmuk's dope is:

Oil pine tar, 3 parts
Castor oil, 2 parts
Oil pennyroyal, 1 part


It is most effective. A dab on each cheek and one behind each ear will repel the fly of average voracity, while a full coating will save you in the worst circumstances. A single dose will last until next wash time. It is best carried in the tiny "one drink" whiskey flasks, holding, I suppose, two or three ounces. One flask full will last you all summer. At first the pine tar smell will bother you, but in a short time you will get to like it. It will call up to your memory the reaches of trout streams, and the tall still aisles of the forests.


SUMMARY:

Minimum for comfort
Matches and safe
Pocket knife (2 blade)
Sheath knife
Compass
1 bandana
Sporting outfit
Duffle bag
Soap and case
Crash towel
Tooth brush
Tooth soap
Shaving set in oiled silk
Medicines and bandages
Fly dope (sometimes)

Maximum for comfort:
Matches and safe
Pocket knife
Sheath knife
Compass
2 bandanas
Sporting outfit
Duffle bag
Soap and case
Crash towel
Bath towel
Tooth brush
Tooth soap
Shaving set in oiled silk
Medicines and bandages
Fly dope and head net.


Footnote [2]: Kephart, in his excellent book on Camping and Woodcraft, suggests carrying soap in a rubber tobacco pouch. This is a good idea.

Stewart Edward White

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