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... Prof. Fuller Bullspit Review of ...
"Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter"
Book Review of "Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter" published first in 1905 

Theodore Roosevelt lived an amazing life. In fact, it could be said that he lived more than one life including that of a rancher, politician, soldier and explorer. TR as he was said to prefer to be called was a prolific author, penning more than 20 books. I read one of these books recently, Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter. This book includes several chapters that were originally published elsewhere along with some written specifically for this book. 

The tales begin with a chapter entitled, With the Cougar Hounds which recounts various hunts with dogs over many years. It was interesting to read TR's analysis of cougar kills and habits and he spends quite of bit of time explaining how many writers have spread much incorrect information about cougars. It was also interesting to read the descriptions of the many different types of dogs used, their personalities and styles such as the fighting dogs that swarm the cougar when on the ground and prevent it from
treeing or running. He writes rather matter of factly, without any embellishment or braggadocio about one incident with these fighting dogs where he killed a cougar with a knife as "To shoot would have been quite as dangerous for the dogs as for their quarry" (P. 41).

The second chapter, A Colorado Bear Hunt tells of a 1905 hunt where he used one of the ".new model Springfield military rifles, a 30-40, with a soft-nosed bullet-a very accurate and hard-hitting gun" (p. 76). On this particular hunt the rifle surely a Krag, although the one picture with the chapter doesn't show the gun clearly enough for positive identification, gave good service accounting for not only bear, but several cats as well. 

1905 was certainly a busy year for TR. In addition to being inaugurated for his second term as president in March, he was an active participant in the negotiation of an end to the Russo-Japanese war, for which he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906,  the first American thus honored. In addition to all of this he found time to go hunting in Colorado as related above and to go hunting Coyotes in Oklahoma which is the subject of the third chapter in this book, Wolf-Coursing.  In this chapter Roosevelt tells of a number of exciting chases where he and his various companions tore across the planes on horseback following hounds in full chase of coyotes. 

In chapter 4, Hunting in the Cattle Country; TR begins with a very good description of the Antelope and it's habitat. The hunts he tells of in this chapter are mostly accounts from his years as a rancher in the Badlands of the Dakota territories in about 1883-1884 and include antelope, deer and elk. 

Chapter 5, A Shot at a Mountain Sheep tells of Roosevelt's 1893 sheep hunt near his Dakota ranch as well as discussing the disappearance of many species including the bison and others. It is interesting here to read that in his opinion it was at that time impossible to clearly define clearly all of the different deer species in North America. Clearly Roosevelt was more than just a hunter, he was quite a good field naturalist who incidentally collected many species for museums throughout his hunting career. 

In addition Roosevelt wrote extensively about the various animals of North America as is evidenced by chapters 6, 7 and 8, The Whitetail Deer, The Mule-Deer or Rocky Mountain Blacktail, and The Wapiti or Round-Horned Elk respectively. In these chapters he gives descriptions of each animal, their habitat preferences and their distributions. He also relates his understanding of each animal's distribution in North America at that time and in past times. Interspersed with these descriptions are hunting stories
that punctuate the naturalistic discourse.

Roosevelt is well known as one of the most important figures in American history when it comes to wildlife habitat preservation. This side of TR is shown throughout this book, but best in chapter 9, Wilderness Reserves. In this chapter Roosevelt decries the rapidly vanishing game and points out the need for sensible game laws that preserve species as well as the need for preserving habitat, opportunities for which were as he saw it were slipping away as people settled more and more of the country. Any student of conservation will of course be familiar with the camping trip that TR took with John Muir and that is covered in this chapter as well. 

Chapter 10, Books on Big Game demonstrated that as well as being an ardent hunter, Roosevelt was also quite a consumer of books on the topics of hunting and nature. He discusses many authors and many more books, including many in which he pointed out error. 

Chapter 11, the final chapter of this fine book is entitled, At Home and is without a doubt the finest chapter as it is timeless in it's insight into the deep appreciation a true hunter has for nature and animals, not just the game animals but all even down to the smallest birds found nearby to home.. Roosevelt encourages the enjoyment of nature as well as the development of proficiency with the rifle and horsemanship which in addition to being valuable to the individual as a hunter, are valuable to the nation as these
skills, and the hardiness coming from days spent in the field as, "Cavalrymen and infantrymen.are easily developed out of men who are already soldiers in the rough." (p. 395). 

In the final pages of the book he tells of a 200 yard rifle range set up at his home, Sagamore, in Oyster Bay and how they mostly shoot sporting rifles with. However, just to make sure there is a black powder reference in this review it should be noted that Roosevelt writes, ".for some purposes an old 45-70 or 45-90, even with black powder, is as good as any modern weapon."
(p. 397). And on that I think we should all be able to agree!

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