Gray's Sporting Journal's Noble Birds and Wiley Trout: Creating America's Hunting and Fishing Traditions

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A history of hunting and fishing through excerpted documents and as “narrated” by Gray's Sporting Journal columnist Will Ryan, the first book of its kind.
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Gray's Sporting Journal's Noble Birds and Wily Trout: Creating America's Hunting and Fishing Traditions

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Overview

A history of hunting and fishing through excerpted documents and as “narrated” by Gray's Sporting Journal columnist Will Ryan, the first book of its kind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762782888
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/17/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 783,511
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Ryan has taught expository writing at Hampshire College since 1980. He holds a BA and MEd from the University of Vermont, and an MA in American history from the University of Massachusetts. His articles appear regularly in Field & Stream, American Angler, and other publications. He is a contributing editor at Gray's Sporting Journal, where he edits and writes a column on the history of hunting and fishing. He has written two previous books on the outdoors.

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Table of Contents

Introduction. Inside the Outdoors begins with an anecdote that sets the stage for a sketch of the “heart” of the book – that hunters and anglers ultimately bind the society they seek to escape.

Chapter 1: Explorers, Naturalists and Early Sport Hunters  

“Ibis-shooting in Louisiana” by Anonymous, 1853.

A look at recreational hunting and fishing circa 1850, this chapter will include a look at tall tales (Davy Crockett) and the naturalists (Bartram, Wilson, Audubon) and how this material suddenly held a commercial interest.

Chapter 2: British Influence

“Squaring the Keeper” by Francis Francis, 1880. 

This chapter will profile British hunting and fishing at mid-19th century, and show how early American outdoor writers drew from that experience and its literature. Francis’s tale portrays the angler as a rascal worried about his reputation – to this day,  an enduring persona for anglers the world over.

Chapter 3: Outdoors as Escape.

“Point Judith” by Robert Barnwell Roosevelt, 1865.

Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle marched to his own drummer, writing colorful hunting and fishing books while the Civil War raged. His were the first sporting books published in America, and they were bibles in their day, heavily influenced by British writers, but in the end more rollicking, scandalous (American) version of the outdoor life.

Chapter 4:. The Business of Fun.

“A Fight With A Trout” by Charles Dudley Warner, 1878.

Coming of age during the Gilded Age, the American sporting experience emerged with a distinctly commercial dimension, beginning with sporting goods retailers who just happened to end up writers, too (Thaddeus Norris, John Krider, and others). Promotional magazine articles extolling the virtues of certain devices or locations were present nearly from the beginning. Regardless of century, Americans have always been able to smell the money.                                                              

 

Part II

 Chapter 5: Conservation, Scarcity and the Sporting Ethic.

“Climbing for White Goats” by George Bird Grinnell, 1894.

Market hunting, increased participation in sport hunting and fishing, and environmental destruction all had a devastating impact on native stocks of fish and game. How to increase the numbers of sportsmen and the fish and game populations became a real problem, and Grinnell’s story shows how sportsmen reframed scarcity as “elusive,” “challenging,” and therefore… “sporting.”

Chapter 6: Wing-shooting Gentlemen.

“A Match at Chickens” by Edwyn Sandys, 1905.

If the 19th century  belonged to the big-game hunter, with tales of daring and brawn, the 20th heralded the wing-shooter, whose dexterity and quick-thinking seemed well matched to the new century. Grouse and duck  hunters, following suit, increasingly waited for their quarry to take flight rather than ground swatting them or raking them on the water. Sport, put simply, became definable by the method used.

Chapter 7: Fly fishing.

“Plain Fishing” by Frank Stockton, 1888.

This chapter continues the story of how fishing and hunting methods took on a social meaning, amidst growing tension between city sports and country folks. This tale involves a city fisherman who uses flies, and his country host who is the bait-fishing father of two comely daughters. After a weekend of country living, including a sermon of sorts on the pretension of fly fishing, the visitor comes to appreciate the beauty of “plain fishing.”

 Chapter 8: A Travelin’ Man.

“Fishing for Black Bass on the Maumee Rapids” by J.E. Gunkel, 1896.

Increasingly, midwestern bass fishing became a form of boosterism. In towns on the eastern Great Lakes, in fact, black bass became the face of the local economy, as in “Cape Vincent: Home of the Gamey Black Bass.”  This chapter will look at the rise of tourism, and also how this development related to the previous chapter’s look at growing tensions between city sports and their small-town hosts, and to the regional elevation of certain species.

Chapter 9: Guides.  

“After  Grouse with Hiram” by Max Foster, 1906.

One of the great ironies of the sportsman’s search for manliness and virtue was that he often engaged a guide to aid in his quest, even as he (the sport) decided what the experience meant and what he needed to do method-wise to make it mean that. After all, the guys who lived in the country  (i.e., the guides) knew where the grouse were. Almost invariably guides were treated as partners, nostalgia was used as salve for any tensions that might show, and money never changed hands.

 

Chapter 10: Danger!

“An Escape from Niagara Falls” by Orrin E. Dunlap, 1901.

Hunting and fishing needed some element of actual danger in order to rise above simple child’s play and confer manly virtues on the participants. The challenge became, at least in the minds of many, how to make sure the nation’s men wouldn’t get soft with all the sentimentality and citifying, and with no war to toughen them up.

Chapter 11: Can I Go?

“A Fatal Success” by Henry Van Dyke, 1913

What to do with the loved ones while you’re busy fighting bears? Turn of the century stories typically featured women who outfished, outshot their male-companions (usually husbands, but often would-be husbands, in which case the heroine would typically swear off the rod or gun, having secured the catch she was after.) In “A Fatal Success” the woman not only boats the fish, she shows no sign of ever again staying home.

Part III

Chapter 12: Huntin’ Camp

“That Ten-Point Buck” by Leonard DeWitt Sherman, 1912.

Big-game hunters saw themselves following in path of Boone and Crockett, right down to building a cabin in the woods.  As this chapter shows, deer camp became a two-week tradition associated with the white-tail deer, which in time would become the most prized game animal on the continent.

Chapter  13: Front Page News.

“A Lion Drive,” by John T. McCutcheon, 1910.

When former president Theodore Roosevelt celebrated his “retirement” with a well-publicized safari, The Chicago Tribune announced  a safari of its own, one that would appear in serial form. Hunting and fishing was considered news of the highest order – particularly when they involved celebrity globetrotting.

Chapter 14: Pushing Boundaries.

“Great Sport: A Fishing Story,” by Aimee Morrison, 1919.

Hunting and fishing also became a way for Americans to do things “out there” they wouldn’t do “in here.” Increasingly, in the early 1920s, articles appeared by women on their own in the outdoors. This piece is a classic example of that change. Of particular interest is the idea that Ms. Morrison is a self-taught fly fisher, unescorted, in a sporting camp with boys who do their best to keep her out of the tree house. But she has more than enough pluck to make the club.

Chapter 15: Life As We Know It.

“Jean Pierre and the Mayflies” by Romilly Fedden, 1919.

Outdoors as healing has been one of the great promises of the outdoor life since Boone kicked it with the Indians back in the 1700s, and came back whole. The aftermath of WWI gave us perhaps the greatest fishing story ever told, “Big Two Hearted River,” Hemingway’s haunting story of post traumatic stress, or “shell-shock,” as it was known. The story profiled in this chapter was written by an Englishman in the trenches of World War I and is in the Nick Adams tradition of exploring how hunting and fishing had become a way to get a fellow’s bearings. This chapter will show how, for an activity that began on the margins of society, fishing and hunting had now become a way to reconnect.

Chapter 16: Modern Love.

“Geese” by Rex Beach, 1921. The new outdoor story starts with a touch of fame (Max Foster and Grantland Rice are the hunting buddies in this piece), the desire for game, the fantasy of the perfect duck blind or boat or convenience, the tug of home – and the self-irony to understand how the entire experience was at once socially created and naturally human. Beach’s story gives us that and, in many ways, offers a look at what the outdoor experience will become in the decades ahead.

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