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  Big-Game Hunter To Promote Manly Sport with the Rifle In December of 1887, twenty-nine-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, back in his native Manhattan after a two-year stint playing cowboy in the Badlands, hosted a dinner party for ten of his closest chums. Among those in attendance were his dashing brother Elliott Roosevelt and the influential naturalist George Bird Grinnell (editor of the nation’s foremost periodical for sportsmen, Forest and Stream). They were all men of wealth and prominence, and we can rest assured that there were no “mollycoddles ” in the group: all were experienced in, and devotedto ,the“manlyoutdoorsports,”especiallybig-game hunting in the wilds of North America.1 After the plates were removed, the guests began spinning tales of their hunting exploits and frontier adventures . Teddy was enjoying it all immensely, and it occurred to him that it would be bully if the group could meet on a more regular and formal basis. He proposed that they form a club for big-game hunters who would gather to discuss matters of common interest and to share hunting lore. The club, according to Roosevelt, would be “emphatically an association of men who believe that the hardier and manlier the sport is, the more attractive it is, and who do not think that there is any place in the ranks of true sportsmen . . . for the man who wishes to . . . shirk rough hard work.”2 This proposal was applauded by his guests, one of whom wryly suggested that the club be named “The Swappers,” since they were obviously going to be spending the bulk of their time swapping stories, “true or otherwise,” of their escapades. Roosevelt was not amused, and convinced the group to call their new association “The Boone and Crockett Club” in honor The vision of some of the most advanced thinkers is even yet obscured by the lingering cobwebs of the myths they absorbed in their youth. Madison Grant of “those two typical pioneer hunters Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett, the men who have served in a certain sense as the tutelary deities of American hunting lore.”3 Rooseveltandcompanydrewupaconstitutiondeclaringthatthechiefobject of the Boone and Crockett Club was “To promote manly sport with the rifle.” Membership was limited to an elite core of one hundred hunters who had killed large North American game animals of at least three different species (identified as bear, buffalo, caribou, cougar, deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, musk ox, pronghorn antelope, white goat, and wolf). Though not explicitly stated in the original constitution, it was understood that said specimens must be full-grown adult males, as the killing of females or the young was considered 4 the evolution of scientific racism Teddy in the 1880s, looking manly in custom-made buckskin and Tiffanycarved knife. beyond the pale. Furthermore, the trophies must have been killed “in fair chase,” which meant that such unsportsmanlike practices as “crusting” (killing game rendered helpless in deep snow), “jacking” (shining lanterns into the darkness to hypnotize passing animals), and “hounding” (driving prey into a lake with dogs) were verboten. Well-bred hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell were outraged by such uncouth practices, which were “unworthy of gentlemen or of sportsmen.” After all, anyone strong enough to pull a trigger could be a “hunter”; the true sportsman therefore had to find a way to set himself apart from the rude killers. This was accomplished via an aristocratic code of ethics that held that the hunter measured his success not by the quantity of game he killed but by the quality of the chase. The point was that a gentleman did not hunt for crass economicreasons;hehuntedforsport—andanactivityisnotasportunlessthere arechallengestobeovercomeandaclearsetofrulesabouthowtoconfrontthose challenges. Thus, for example, in addition to abjuring unsportsmanlike practices , the sport hunter willingly limited the technological sophistication of his weapon; he passed up the easy shot in favor of killing at the farthest possible range; he preferred the taking of a single fine specimen to the slaughter of a dozen inferior heads; and so forth. This was in direct contrast to the “market hunters,” those commercial hunters (members of one of the oldest trades in America) who supplied the urban markets with game. Driven by the profit motive , the despicable market hunters utilized the most effective weaponry, actively sought the easy kill, and had no qualms about shooting young or even female animals. “It is becoming a recognized fact,” huffed George Bird Grinnell’s Forest and Stream in 1889, “that a man who wastefully...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781584658108
Related ISBN
9781584657156
MARC Record
OCLC
667076920
Pages
508
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-31
Language
English
Open Access
No
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