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The Bad Old Days (Part 1) - Did sportsmen really have it better back in the day?

Did sportsmen 50-100 years ago have it better than modern sportsmen? Did they worry about the same things? Were they more skilled? Did they have better access to game?

Anyone who hunts or fishes consistently and does so with a group of other sportsmen are bombarded by stories of the “bad old days” when men hunted out of need and could take game with their eyes closed.  

These hunters could sniff the wind, lick the dirt, and still hunt a deer in the worst of conditions with the worst equipment. They could flip a bait caster a quarter mile and would net fish out of the pond like they were scooping them out of a barrel.   

There were less regulations, less people pushing them around and setting limits, they could live off the land and be left in peace.  We’ve all heard these stories and thought, "Man, that would be the life".  

I really started to wonder if this was true.  I weighed some pros and cons and I started to come up with some questions. Were they worried about the same things modern day sportsmen are? Did sportsmen back in the day really have it better than we did? Were they truly better skilled than their modern day counterparts?

Were sportsman worried about the same things we are?

Bob Sargent was a correspondent for the Spartansburg Herald and wondered the same thing.  He wrote an article in 1982 using Field and Stream Magazine as a measure.  Since we are almost 30 years away from his piece, I figured I could measure against his article.  

He took a 1925 edition and wondered if sportsman then were concerned with the same things we are now. Here is an excerpt from the magazine in 1925. 

“The sportsman of the nation realize more and more every day that they must organize... Unless such action is taken their interests will be buffeted around from pillar to post. While forests are swept away, streams despoiled and polluted, fish life exterminated and game depleted - and sportsman will hold the sack.”

This is something sportsmen today worry about heavily.  Will there be land and water for our children and grandchildren to hunt and fish from? People don’t realize that the greatest conservationists in the country are hunters and fishermen wanting to keep our lands un-developed and pure to enjoy.

Sportsmen in those days were also learning of a new form of regulation called gun control, something sportsmen still worry about today on many levels. 

In 1927, shipping firearms through the mail became illegal, creating an outcry among the sportsman community. The NRA was formed 30 years prior and pressure from the government was looming preceding the National Firearms Act of 1934. 

Coming off of the birth of the 20th century, hunting and fishing was not culturally popular, deemed as barbaric and the roaring 20’s were a cultural divide.  

I think in this category the old and new sportsmen are tied. Every generation has to fight for what it wants, and theirs was no different. 

To Be Continued in Part 2

Source: Spartanburg Herald, Spartanburg, SC Thursday July 22nd 1982 pg C4.

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Bill Joherl, Esq. March 09, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I am a bit confused by your post. It seems you are suggesting that the sportsman of 50 -100 years ago had an abundance of game in which to fill their need for sustenance versus sport. You noted that “men hunted out of need and could take game with their eyes closed." However, it is well know that from 1904 to 1923 there were few, if any, whitetail deer living in Ohio. This is (100 years ago) and in the 1950’s the deer season consisted of a just a few days. Today’s issues of land access, gun control, and adverse public opinion pale in comparison to the fact that 50 – 100 years ago there simply was not the game population that we have today. I believe today's sporstman would rather deal with the liberals than have no game to pursue… grandpa can have his "good old days"
Shawn VanHuss March 09, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Hi Bill, Perfect segue into Part 2 which will be out tomorrow or Saturday depending on approval. I talk in more detail, and in that I discuss abundance of game. The quote "men hunted out of need and could take game with their eyes closed" is to demonstrate the stories heard about the sportsmen of old, not saying it is necessarily true. We have all heard those stories, I still hear them every time my family gets together. :) Thanks For Reading!
Joe Strailey March 09, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Great article. I would love to read something about how the hunting game itself has changed. How have the upgrades in weapons, bullets, camo etc changed hunting? Do you feel it has helped or hurt it? Is hunting still as 'pure' as it was, say, 50 years ago?
Shawn VanHuss March 09, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Hi Joe, Part 2 has been submitted and will be out Monday 3/12, and it will address some of those very things from technology to overall hunting skill. Stay tuned and check back next week. Thanks for Reading!

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