21st Century Longhunter ............ what would they do

So, dear Reader, to finalise the articles about the long hunter - or more correctly the 21st Century Longhunter let me first remind you of my original thought/post that started us off ................

So what is this? I've heard the term popularised by Dave Canterbury and his disciples and frankly like the sound of creating a kit based on what our ancestors carried for hundreds of years using items that are simple and can be used for a multitude of tasks, its something I have promoted many times myself over the years.

A Longhunter (or long hunter) was an 18th-century explorer and hunter who made expeditions into the American frontier wilderness for as much as six months at a time. Historian Emory Hamilton asserts that "The Long Hunter was peculiar to Southwest Virginia only, and nowhere else on any frontier did such hunts ever originate"[1] although the term has been used loosely to describe any unofficial American explorer of the period. The parties of two or three men (and rarely more) usually started their hunts in October and ended toward the end of March or early in April (Wikipedia)

We've explored what a 18th/19th Century long hunter would carry and we've also considered what modern models of their traditional kit we could use, but lastly lets us put ourselves in their shoes.

Firstly, and this is where we sometimes can go wrong, we imagine the longhunter as a figure of romanice, the back woodsman fighting the cunning savage while at one with nature. And while I grant they may have been more experience and more in tune with their environment I doubt the longhunter was any different than a modern outdoorsman in his mind set. And this is the key for as we all know 99% of us into bushcraft or wilderness living aren't adverse to kit. Indeed this series or articles are really about kit, old fashion style!

So what would the 21st century long hunter do for kit? He'd have all the modern gear or at least the best he could afford - and this is where I think our 21st Century Longhunter AKA DC fans have gotten it wrong.

Traditional skills and kit are great fun and we should all espire to learn the skills and have a working understanding of traditional skills and clothing, what worked and why but we, like a modern longhunter shouldn't ignore the modern alternatives if available and better.

Now that is another question, are they better? As I have mentioned before a Swandri Mosgiel or bushshirt is only a modern version of a blanket coat or wool hunting shirt so very similar and very effective garments (as is a modern blanket coat you make yourself provided to get the correct materials) so in this light we see traditional items or skills as being better than some modern alternatives.

Undoubtedly some modern kit is superior, its no coincidence that sleeping bags have replace blankets or a nylon tarp a canvas diamond shelter for example - but don't write the old stuff off either - a blanket, for me, still has its place in bushcraft and I always carry one. Indeed back in the days when I worked for Woodlore even the great bushcraft guru Ray Mears used to recommend them and we even had them on the kit list for courses! A blanket is a item of multiple uses and anything that has more than one use should always be considered at least.

So in conclusion my friends, what is all this fuss about the 21st Century longhunter?? Sure, travelling back in time, taking to the woods with old time gear and using only old time skills makes you a better bushcrafter, or at least a more well rounded one skills and experience wise. And to me it's also fun to challenge myself to find food, keep warm etc etc using minimal kit but lets not lose track of the fact that Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett or Jim Bridger if they were alive today would all be out there in goretex smocks and be using blue flame lighters ....................

But that doesn't detract from the purest skill - the zen of bushcraft which to me is still a weekend in the woods with just a blanket, a billy and a knife!!


Ross Gilmore said...

I love it when you write posts like these. I know I give you a hard time, but it's only because I am very interested in what you have to say.

I think you are right in that the 21st century long hunter would use modern gear. In fact, such people exist today. Hunts over vast distances that take prolonged periods of time are indeed done, and those people rely on modern gear.

Canterbury's approach is a little strange to me. He wants to create the 21st century longhunter, but still relies on what are just modern reworkings of older gear instead of fully embracing what is currently available.

There is also another interesting aspect of all this, and that is that while some of the old gear might still be good to use in buschraft, it is a lot less useful for the long hunter.

A wool blanket may be put to good use at a buschraft meeting, but it would almost certainly be left out of the pack of a 21st century long hunter.

The reason is that longhunters were in the woods for reasons other than the fact that they liked the woods. They were there for financial reason-hunting trading, opening up routes, mapping for the government, etc. As a result, being in the woods was only incidental to their true goal.

That main goal (hunting, mapping, etc) usually tends to be very gear intensive. For example, my shotgun (not a particularly heavy one) weighs 7.5 lb (about 4kg). Together with ammunition and other gear used in hunting, we can be talking about 5kg before we even get to the backpacking/bushcraft gear. Similarly, surveying equipment can be extremely heavy, so can trading items. On top of that, anything you hunt or trade for has to be brought back.

That puts severe limitations on what gear can be brought for what we now call bushcraft.

I think a 21st century longhunter would move to lighter and less robust gear just out of necessity. We like to talk about how the 19th century gear was bomb proof and extremely durable, but the reality is that a lot of the time it was so heavy that it got left behind all together by the longhunters. You can read many reports from them where they didn't carry any shelter and other items they needed, and suffered as a result. That was a necessity created by the fact that they had to be able to move over long distances.

Survivall said...

Ross mate I look forward to your comments, you often talk a lot a sense too - indeed I think it a shame were not on the same continent as I think we would get on famously.

And I agree, when I was in the army our personal gear was whittled down to not much more than a warm top and a spoon everything else was wargear ............so the long hunter would be no different!