Stories from a 100-year-old sporting magazine

Ken Kieser
This ad from a 1923 copy of National Sportsman showed how cheaply you could by Luger.

Finding an almost 100-year-old magazine is discovering a treasure trove. So when a friend found a copy of National Sportsman, dated July 1923, I pulled out my billfold.

Reading this magazine gave me a look into days long gone with great interest and some laughs. I was fascinated how sportsmen perceived various outdoor subjects, especially how firearms we take for granted today were debated. 

Here are a few hunting quotes from this cherished time machine from the voices of long-gone sportsmen:

Kenneth Kieser

G. Walter Booth wrote in his story, “Winnipeg Ducks:”

 “The present Prince of Wales had shot here in 1919 and his father, King George, had done so back in 1902 when he visited Canada as the Duke of York. We were on the shooting grounds of royalty, the greatest duck shooting ground in all the world.

“Ducks have become a pest in Manitoba this last year. They settle in the grain fields in clouds and they are said to have done more damage to the grain than crows. In many places the farmers have applied to the Provincial Governments for permission to kill more than the lawful number per diem. Such permission is almost always granted, and the result had been that automobiles have been driven out in the grain fields and filled with ducks.”

Richard H. Booth wrote an amusing story of trying to catch a young crow to tame, for whatever reason. Their outing did not go as planned: 

“Bill said he would climb up the tree and get the crows. He was about halfway up when I looked back and saw what I thought was an old woodchuck with a litter of young ones. About that time our dog Spank started across the fields after them. We soon decided that it was not a woodchuck but a wildcat. Spank retreated pretty quickly and the cat was chasing him. Bill climbed out of the tree and we wondered how long it would be before the old cat took a notion to eat us up. A fellow walked up and took aim with his gun, but nothing happened when he pulled the trigger. His shells were no good. The cat finally returned to its young and we didn’t get any crows.”

Lans Leneve’s duck season ended too soon:

“The closing of the duck season was ten days off. Two days previously I had been duck hunting and swamped my boat in eight feet of water, and only from knowing where a long strip of land was submerged saved me from going to the bottom of that old duck pond. I was chilling through, blue with cold and the man that I had come twenty miles to go hunting with was too blamed tight to offer me a drink of the bonded stuff he had been sucking on all morning.”

Walter M.McDougall was an angry reader in 1923:

“I have just finished reading the March issue of the National Sportsman, and as usual I have found many things to disagree with. I don’t suppose you are bothered by criticism of the matter that makes up your magazine, but Mr. Alexander’s letter has me so ‘het’ that the best way for me to cool off is to write this letter.”

“Mr. Alexander says ‘Don’t tell anyone else that number seven shot is proper for rabbits. The truth is a rabbit will often run away with a handful of No. 7 shot in him.’ Now I don’t know what sort of rabbits they have in Mr. Alexander’s neck of the woods, but I do know something about rabbits in general, and I have never known of one getting away with a great many 7 shot in him.

“Not satisfied to tell us that No. 7 shot are no good for rabbits, he goes on and takes a fall out of what he terms the 20-gauge pea shooter. Now I am to admit that a 20-gauge is no gun for a man whose one thought is to get the limit, or one who is too indifferent to attain a fair degree of skill, but I seriously object to a man’s arbitrarily ruling my favorite gauge out of the hunting game. However, if he is ever in this section of the country and will take the trouble to look me up, I will do my best to show him what a sporting gun in the hands of a real sportsman is capable of doing.”

J.W. Gates wrote of a Pennsylvania bear hunt:

“One of our hunting party had a bum knee after a bear came too close to him, causing his knees to knock together, causing his knee soreness.”

I.G. Rea addressed semi-automatic shotguns in 1923:

“Just let me have a few words to say. Some of you brother sportsmen are making quite a lot of kicking about the man who uses a pump or automatic shotgun. It doesn’t seem right to condemn a brother because he wishes to use one of the above guns mentioned. It’s not the gun that makes him a game hog. Just go ahead and shoot your singles and doubles, twenty and ten gauges and remember, the man behind the gun is not always a true sportsman.”