The inspiration for this post came from a stapler.
I have a cheap, generic black stapler at work, but that bland corporate appearance masks the fact that in reality this stapler is a beast. It is not very big, but it tears through paper with two powerful steel fangs. I’ve stapled as many as forty pages of together securely with it, and I think some of my coworkers are getting stapler envy. It consistently succeeds where lesser staplers would undoubtedly fail.
The stapler is an outwardly simple design, with a humble lever and a couple of springs operating in unison with the sole end of fastening together papers. I think many inventors would be hard pressed to improve on the stapler, although without a doubt I’m sure many have tried.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. The stapler.
Where is this going? Good question.
I am not a craftsman so I lack any ethic of intrinsic appreciation for the finer points of mechanics or manufacturing. Like most of my ilk, I’m just concerned with what works. Yes, I am aware that the craftsman’s life is much richer than mine. Stop bragging.
But to that end, in honour of my desk stapler, here’s a brief list of items that hunters can use that offer the esoteric pleasure of pursuing game with tools that are simple but almost flawlessly effective.
A Break Action Shotgun
My first youthful rabbit hunts as a teen were carried out with an absolutely gorgeous 20 gauge Ruger over-under shotgun with a break action. Even for a gangly and awkward fifteen year old it swung like a dream. Now that I’m a grown man, it is the most balanced gun that I’ve ever had the pleasure of pointing at game. I’ve shot it at grouse as they exploded out of snow drifts and rabbits that made mazy runs through bottomlands. I’ve never gone after waterfowl with it, but I think it would make an exceptional gun for decoying mallards, and at this very moment I am picturing a smooth left to right swing on a plump greenhead as it drops into some secluded backwater and then pulling the trigger crisply as I move the barrel past the drake’s beak with a deft, painter’s brushstroke. Beauty and handling aside, there is a ritualistic satisfaction that comes from loading and unloading this gun, thanks to the simple machinations of the break action. Pop two shells in, snap shut, fire twice, and pluck two shells from the extractor while savouring the pungent aroma of spent gunpowder. Also, when I shot that gun I somehow found myself a better and more focused shooter, likely because I knew that I only had two shells in the gun.
A Fixed Blade Knife
I do not actually own a fixed blade hunting knife; my two knives are clean, compact lock-back folding jobs. I have however used the fixed blade knives of friends and I can say that I am a fan. A reasonably sized (no need for Crocodile Dundee here) fixed blade knife has clean classic lines, possesses exactly zero moving parts, and when a sharp, gleaming blade is fixed atop a smooth wood (or better yet, bone or horn) handle…well, you can’t get any more simple or effective than that. Period. Full stop.
They go by many names. Gumboots. Wellies. Rain-boots. Barn-boots…call them what you will: I am a devoted, and shameless, rubber boot enthusiast. Perhaps we’ve all been fooled into believing in the scent-proof, space-age fabric, elaborate lacing systems, moisture wicking, $250 a pair voodoo that we are sometimes told, and those products certainly have their merits. After all, I don’t think I’d like to hit the high Arctic in a pair of Wellies, nor would I want to go chasing Mountain Goats in the
Rockies without some real mountaineering footwear. But for the rank and file of us, do we really need anything more than a pair of well constructed rubber boots? I say no. For the average turkey hunter (except perhaps for those in heavy rattlesnake country) rubber boots offer exactly what is most needed; light, un-insulated, reliably waterproof footwear. Fall waterfowl hunts? Outside of hip or chest waders for the deep water crowd, I can think of no better boot to have than a rubber boot. But what of the late season deer hunter? Not warm enough for November and December you say? I think rubber boots are great then too, especially quality name brands that won’t freeze, rot, and crack in the cold. Still worried about insulation, eh? Well then, just layer up and put on some wool socks. What?! You don’t like wool socks?!
How can you not like wool socks?! They’re great.
I suppose that before compasses hunters determined direction by the sun, and so long as you know what time it is, the sun does give a general bearing on east versus west. Still, a simple compass (and the know how to use it) is not only a great, self-satisfying way of finding your way around, but a sight cheaper and easier to use than even the most basic of GPS units. I fear that in some ways, good old fashioned woodsmanship might be dying out thanks to the advances in GPS units, that now not only tell you where you are, but how you got there, where to go to get out, the location of nearby eateries, history on interesting tourist attractions in the vicinity, the time of sunrise and sunset, the corollary calculation of minutes of daylight, the number of days until the next full moon, and so on and so on.
I won’t spew on this too much, because I’m not of the mind that progress has no place in hunting. I did have a pretty upbeat conversation with a man once who thought the use of scoped rifles was tantamount to cheating and that the widespread use of rifle scopes only contributed to extending a hunter’s idea of “range” into untenable territories, leading to an increase in unethically distant, longer is better, “hero-type” of rifle shooting. I haven’t really seen evidence of this in my circle of hunting amigos but, like everything, I’m sure there is an element out there that views themselves less as hunters and more as special-ops snipers. So be it. But still, open sights are pretty great. By “open sight” I mean any kind of iron style sight, whether that is a bead, a peep-sight, a tang sight, or a buckhorn. Of course, even open sights have made the technological leap forward into the world of fibre optics.
There are dozens of other simple, effective tools out there for all types of hunters including wooden snowshoes, natural blinds, single reed duck (or goose) calls, bolt action rifles, and turkey box calls…but to espouse the benefits of all the gear out there that is both useful and elegantly simple would take posts upon posts.