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WILTZ: Pack extra underwear on a six-month trip

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Relative to hunting or fishing adventures, I really enjoy reading about the way it was.

Along with this, my favorite firearms are those that were popular when we entered the 20th century. Guns were in a transition period between black and smokeless powder, and even seasoned hunters were hesitant to give up the heavy, low-velocity slugs they were familiar with and switch to lighter, higher-velocity smokeless loads. I'll give some specific examples later in this column.

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Those hunters also had more time. African safaris were six-month affairs, as were hunts into our great Northwest. While family ties and obligations would prohibit such an adventure today, I'd relish finding a retired partner(s) like myself, and heading into the relative wilderness for just two weeks of hunting, fishing or otherwise roughing it.

I just finished reading "Red Letter Days in British Columbia" by Lt. Townsend Whelen. It is in the anthology "The Best Hunting Stories Ever Told," edited by Jay Cassell. It tells of a 1901 hunt by Whelen and his partner Bill Andrews. A few readers will recognize Whelen's name as the very potent .35 Whelen round was named in his honor by Griffin & Howe back in 1922.

The Whelen-Andrews expedition, a six-month plus adventure into country an official map labeled as "unexplored," began at a small Hudson Bay post near the bank of the Scumscum River in northern British Columbia. Let's take a look at the provisions they carried out on the four-pack horses trailed between their two saddle mounts.

Included were: Tent, 10 heavy army blankets, 150 pounds of flour, 50 pounds sugar, 30 pounds beans, 10 pounds rice, 10 pounds dried apples, 20 pounds prunes, 30 pounds corn meal, 20 pounds oatmeal, 30 pounds potatoes, 10 pounds onions, 50 pounds bacon, 25 pounds salt, one pound pepper, six cans baking powder, 10 pounds soap, 10 pounds tobacco and 10 pounds tea. They also carried two extra sets of horseshoes for each horse and tools for shoeing, two axes, 25 boxes of waxed matches, a can of gun oil, flannel gun rags, gun-cleaning rods, toilet articles, 100 yards of fishing line, two dozen hooks, a stove, misc. tools and needles and thread.

Clothing, other than what they wore when they embarked in July, included a change of underwear and six moccasins each with buckskin for resoling. For cooking utensils, they carried two frying pans, three nesting kettles, two tin cups, three tin plates and a gold pan. They packed 300 rounds of ammo for each of their two rifles, and an extra front sight, firing pin and main spring for each. Their trusty Winchesters never needed the additional parts.

In spite of the fact that smokeless powder was slowly gaining popularity, Whelen carried a Model 95 Winchester in .40-72 caliber while Andrews toted a Model 94 Winchester in .38-55 caliber. By today's standards, both men were way under-gunned in country crawling with grizzly bears, cougars and moose.

I just have to talk about the one additional pair of underwear. Even at three months per pair, those shorts would get thinner than Subway's sliced turkey. Just how gamey those shorts would get I can't imagine, especially when one considers how often one would bathe in a British Columbia December. Those shorts might run off by themselves if ever took them off.

In today's high-tech age, folks bathe every day. When I was a kid, Saturday night was bath night for the entire family. When I came to South Dakota in 1960, many families didn't have running water in their homes. There was the outhouse and the Saturday night washtub in the kitchen by the stove.

That water was pretty thick by the time the kids got to it. I guess it's all relative. Whelen and Andrews apparently saw no need for additional shorts. I'll have to ask some old-timers how often they changed their underwear back in the day.

The men's appetites were prodigious. They ate two gallons of thick stew in one sitting. A deer lasted three days at best. It appeared that their heaviest work centered around the pack string. The horses would stampede for no apparent reason, leaving gear and goods strewn up and down the mountain. And then they had to catch them.

Let's take a closer look at their rifles. This is going to get technical, and some of you may not bear with me. The Models 94 and Model 95 Winchesters were as good as it gets in 1901, and both are coveted today. For comparison's sake, a modern .30-06 round will push a 180 grain bullet at 2,700 feet per second (fps). This produces about 2,900 foot pounds of muzzle energy (ME). Today, most experts would call this ME, or knock-down power, minimal performance for moose and grizzly bear.

Townsend Whelen personally hand-loaded all of their .40-72 and .38-55 ammunition with black powder and lead bullets. Fifty-five grains of black powder will deliver 1,320 fps muzzle velocity and 985 foot pounds ME in a .38-55 lead bullet weighing 255 grains. This is approximately a third the energy of the .30-06.

Whelen's .40-72 was developed for the Model 95 Winchester. It developed 1,451 foot pounds ME by pushing a 330 grain lead bullet at 1407 fps. This is slightly less than half the .30-06's energy performance. Both men had inadequate stopping power by today's standards, but they didn't know it.

What could our hunters' Model 94 and Model 95 Winchesters have achieved with the then available modern smokeless cartridges? Andrew's Model 94 could have been chambered in .30-30 caliber. A 180 grain bullet from a .30-30 could have yielded 2000 foot pounds ME for him -- more than twice what he had. In the .30-40 Krag caliber, Whelan's Model 95 would have delivered a 180 grain bullet at 2,480 fps or 2,460 foot pounds ME -- which is 1,000 pounds more energy than that of his .40-72.

Although I wonder why such notable hunters as Whelen and Andrews resisted change, they had the necessary skill to handle all the game encountered with the guns they had and trusted. They resisted change the same way I resist change by not being burdened with a cell phone or an Ipod.

*****

Walleye action beneath the Fort Randall Dam is HOT. Put your boat in beneath Pickstown, use light line and small jigs with a minnow, keep noise to a minimum and fish slowly.

Next week, I just might run some of my ideas by you about the semi-modern wilderness hunt or fishing trip mentioned above.

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