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A Letter to The Field

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

This letter was sent to The Field magazine and printed on Saturday, January 10, 1877. It was written by Dr. George Henry Kingsley, who met Texas Jack on a hunt with the Earl of Dunraven in 1872 and renewed the friendship during a trek of several weeks into Yellowstone Park in 1874. Jack saved Kingsley's life when the Doctor got lost one stormy night in the park, losing hope for his survival when he heard Jack riding to his rescue in the dark.

Kingsley was an experienced traveler, hunter, and outdoorsman, and often wrote to The Field magazine to share his insights with other nimrods. Here, he is answering a question about the best rifle to use when hunting deer in America: "My experienced friend Mr. Omohundro, better known as "Texas Jack," strongly recommended the last edition (the last, mind that) of the Winchester rifle for deer shooting. The earlier ones, to my certain knowledge, were very apt to get out of order at critical moments, their pet vice being the tilting of the ball just as it entered the breach, whence arose jammings and rammings. Apart from this, they were most pleasant and handy tools; but I should not much like to trust my life to them against any very tough beast. The charge of powder is very small, and consequently the driving power not very great.

"The Winchester to the beloved tool of the pot-hunter, who "skins out" now and then for a " load of meat," and whose only aim Is to get his " load" as soon as he can without a gleam of sport being developed in his greedy heart whilst doing so. He works up and down, and in and out, refusing all single or chance shots amongst the timber, till he has found some quiet valley, where a small band of deer love to congregate, generally a bit of sweet pasture, with a live spring running through it even in the sharpest weather, and a clump, or possibly a lane, of trembling aspens (Populus nemuloides) in the middle. Here, after patient watching and waiting, the hardy hunter of the West, more often than not a German, or a runagate Canadian Frenchman, and his mate, take their stands, or rather their sits. Some day, when the wind is in the right airt, and as the deer come by, the does, with their marvelous ears ever in motion, sensitive to the tips as a woodcock's bill. in search of danger, and the bucks apparently considering that "the whole duty of bucks," is looking handsome and flourishing their comely tails—pop, thud! pop, thud! pop, thud! shows them that they have fallen into a mean ambuscade. Without taking the Winchester from his shoulder, the hardy hunter "pumps"—to use his own expression—ball after ball into the blundering group, anywhere and anyhow, as long as they are near enough to give his rather powerless gun a chance of reaching them. Some are dead. some kicking in the sun, some staggering away, bleeding from haunch and flank, to meet the same reception from the hardy one's “pal” on the other side of the aspens, till "the hull mob is wiped out," gralloched, and frozen, to be taken to the nearest station and sold at per cent. pet lb. The ease with which the Winchester, when in good order, is loaded and fired almost takes it out of the category of "arms of precision," and reduces it to that of the slug-carrying scattergun.

"Still, as I have said, the new Winchester is a most pleasant and handy weapon, and though there be better in many ways, both in England and the States, it would be worth any man's while to take one with him, if the expense of porterage was no object. May I add, that anyone starting from Denver will get every American arm quite as good, if not better, from the great gunsmith and marvelous shot of that town as he can from any other place.—


George Henry Kingsley

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