“Another Attempt”

“Snapshot Saturday”

A traditional woodsman clucks twice with a wing bone call.

The post hunter’s still-hunt paused near an old shelter site. He settled in next to a wild cherry tree and surveyed the flat-topped knoll. After a brief pause, the wing-bone call touched impatient lips. Two soft clucks wandered through the cedar grove… Old Northwest Territory, a quarter mile east of the River Raisin, in the Year of our Lord, 1792.

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“A Pleasant Turkey Chase”

“Snapshot Saturday”

A returned white captive sits aginst a red oak tree.

In the midst of an October still-hunt for wild turkeys, Red Fox paused with his back against a tall oak tree. That afternoon was warm. The smell of drying leaves fragranced the glade. A wild turkey had just clucked out in the tangled trees of the river bottom. Ten minutes later he dragged two soft clucks through a single wing-bone. All that remained was to wait for a response. Old Northwest Territory, overlooking the River Raisin, in the Year of our Lord, 1794…

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“Red Fox Waits”

“Snapshot Saturday”

A traditional hunter, wrapped in a red trade blanket, sits against a tree.

Shadows grew long as the day came to a close. Msko-waagosh sat wrapped in a red wool trade blanket as he watched a trail leading from the bottom lands. The air was cool, but pleasant for late-November. It was little wonder folks associated the red blanket with this seasoned woodsman. Old Northwest Territory, overlooking the River Raisin, in the Year of our Lord, 1796…

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“Venturing Forth”

“Snapshot Saturday”

A longhunter walking from the blockhouse.

A Southeastern woodsman known only as “Lizard” ventured from the blockhouse on a bright June morn. “I’m heading up the valley,” Lizard said to no one in particular…

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An FYI…

Dear Readers:

This website and blog have been a labor of love for just shy of nine years. I am addicted to Traditional Black Powder Hunting, and wish to share my passion for this humble endeavor with anyone who will read or listen.

Writing on a journal page with a brass lead holder.The desire on my part has always been to post a snippet at least once per week. Some months I meet that goal and others I fall short. It takes time to research, compose, edit and post an 18th-century adventure of magazine length and quality. As many of you realize, family circumstances and priorities are, or were, the primary reason for not achieving that goal.

However, in mid-December the platform I use for this website changed. The new software was heralded as revolutionary, a great blessing for the blogging world, the wave of the future.

My posts are simple, or so I thought. I studied the tutorials, and when I took my first stab at posting, I discovered a glitch that will not allow me to center a “Snapshot Saturday” photo. When I attempted to post a full-length article, I hit another glitch that reduced the photo size and skewed the paragraph out of alignment. Fortunately I found a work around, for now.

To add insult to injury, I received a call from my hosting service this week. A third-party provider of key software that supports the blog platform decided early in the fall to discontinue support for the version of their product that the hosting company uses. “You could experience disruptions at any time,” this gentleman advised, with genuine concern and an offer of assistance for migrating the site to a different hosting plan, at additional cost, of course.

My policy in the past was to spend the extra hours to catch up with the changes in technology and make no mention to you, my loyal readers. Under the current circumstances, I am not comfortable following that course of action. From what I understand, this site could crash at any moment with no prior notice; nine years of work might vanish from the Internet in a nanosecond. I suppose certain politicians might embrace such a calamity with great glee and jubilation, wink, wink…

Anyway, please bear with me if, heaven forbid, Traditional Black Powder Hunting becomes unavailable on your browser. In an effort to avoid this situation, I will limit my posts over the next month or so in hopes that what is already published will remain available. But I have my doubts…

Thank you for your kind support.

Give traditional black powder hunting a try, be safe and may God bless you,

Dennis Neely

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“The Peaked Wigwam at Sunset”

“Snapshot Saturday”

Bare log poles outline a peaked wigwam against a plain sunset.

Saturday, 31 December, 1763: A plain sunset adds a poignant reminder of the difficulties of time-traveling to a bygone era as another year comes to an end. Yet, this glorious sunset only marks the passage of one day. Tomorrow is a new creation, a fresh opportunity to explore the life and times of Mi-ki-naak, the Snapping Turtle… Happy New Year, everyone! Be safe and may God bless you all!

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A Time to Reflect…

Friday, 23 December, 1763:

Two fox squirrels chattered. Sandhill cranes chortled near the Riviere aux Raisins. A crimson cardinal twittered about as if deciding whether to stay or move on. A solitary Canada goose uttered intermittent “ke-honks” on its way to the river. Orange painted the southern horizon. Patches of gray ice hinted at the tiny creek’s course, hidden in the sedge grass.

A young doe plodded through a tight-packed clump of red cedar trees that grew at the edge of the big swamp. Her damn followed. The creamy-tined spike measured the pair’s progress from a stand of poplar trees that grew on the west side of the wide fen. A sharpened lead, secured in a brass holder, scribbled the scene on folded paper.

Anxious legs tore tangled sedge grass as the spike made his way to the east bank. The doe and her summer fawn walked the earthen trail north, then east. The little buck pursued. The three passed. A fox squirrel barked. A Sandhill crane chortled. The pencil ceased writing. Mi-ki-naak paused, then reflected…

A Time for Fond Memories

Michigan’s muzzleloading deer season falls during Advent, a time of preparation and great anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Christ. On that evening, I stepped over time’s threshold and found myself thinking back to a hunting camp sequestered in the pines and hardwoods of Swamp Hollow.

Mi-ki-naak did not attend that simple pursuit, the post hunter did. That early October evening was mild and pleasant. A full moon rose above the tree line. A central campfire blazed away, and a handful of hearty 18th-century woodsmen gathered to share the harrowing tales of another day in the forest. A peaceful tranquility fell upon the lodges in that tiny hollow.

The post hunter slept on two blankets beside the crackling fire. The majesty of the universe shone down through the pine boughs. For me, that night is an enduring pristine memory. And as so often happens, I reflected on the shepherds and Luke’s telling of the Christmas story…

Woodsmen gather around a campfire in the dark of night.

“…And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord…” (New Testament, Luke 2: 8 – 11)

May the peace of the Christmas season be always with you, be safe and may God bless you.

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So Many Times Before…

Monday, December 19, 1763:

Half-frozen muck crackled. Here and there, pointed skunk cabbage sprouts poked through black humus. Slow and quiet, cowhide moccasins stepped on moss-covered roots and sedge grass clumps. Forty paces into the Riviere aux Raisins’ bottoms, Mi-ki-naak paused beside an east-leaning maple with a “J-shaped” trunk.

Decades before, God’s whimsy pushed the tree hard, leaving its westerly roots exposed. The three largest looked like gaunt fingers grasping and clawing at the earth in great desperation. The returned white captive knew this lair well. He pulled the trade blanket, the one that was once white but now dyed a forest brown, about his body, skootched back between two of the fingers and sat upon the raised seat formed by smaller, tangled roots. The evening sun was a finger above the far tree line.

After looking about, the woodsman checked the French fusil’s prime. As was his habit, he attempted to place the smoothbore across his wool-covered legs with the lock tucked under the blanket fold that passed beneath his right shoulder. The forestock bumped the root to his left, skewing the barrel skyward at an awkward and unacceptable angle. He huffed, a bit upset with himself for not recalling this problem. His hips moved to the right a bit. The long fusil’s barrel found its way to a somewhat bare spot on the root, a place where he had pulled off moss the fall before.

The bottoms remained quiet, almost too quiet. A red squirrel twittered, spiraled around a powder-keg-sized yellow birch, then glared at the interloper. The chatter turned confrontational, leaving little doubt this forest tenant intended to spend the night in the leaning maple tree’s upper reaches. Fur and fluff bounded from yellow birch to a dead ash to another yellow birch. From safe perch to safe perch, the red squirrel circled Mi-ki-naak. In time the woodsman heard tiny claws scratching bark on the maple at his back.

A French fusil's long barrel rests on a moss-covered maple root.Throughout this woodland comedy, a lone goose ke-honked from the sand flats at the river’s bend. For whatever reason, the seasoned hunter glanced down. The fusil’s barrel and forestock stood out in stark contrast to the bright green moss that covered the exposed root. And yet, this implement of death appeared as just another harmless branch scattered about the tangle of tipped trees and fallen hulks.

Orange and lavender streamed from behind the far tree line. A barn owl hooted from the direction of the huckleberry swamp. “Hoo, Hoo…Hoo, Hooooo…” came the familiar cry. “Hoo, Hoo…Hoo, Hooooo,” deep and crisp in tone as if to ask: “Just who are yoouuu…”

Above the tree tops, far out over the river proper, two geese winged hard. The sky was a dark grayish-blue, the geese mere black silhouettes. Three times they circled, each time descending more, silent, beautiful, expected. One of the birds above uttered a single “ke-honk;” one of the birds below answered, “honk.” Cupped wings floated against an orange backdrop.

Near dark the owl hooted and a hen mallard began quacking. Seven more geese flew south, following the Riviere aux Raisins’ murky-brown waters. With little pretense, these birds dropped straight down, disappearing in the charcoal-colored abyss of the hardwoods on the far bank. At dark, nine Canada geese arrived, ke-honking all the way in.

Nary a deer ventured out of the bottoms that night. Dried jerk would suffice for an evening meal as it had so many times before…

Beginning a Humble Wilderness Abode

The last two years have been challenging, to say the least. In such situations, the “must do” list sees a daily shuffling, and carry-overs stack upon carry-overs…big sigh…yes, that was a second big sigh you heard… It is little wonder that all three of my personas are 18th-century, homeless vagabonds.

On the positive side, the knee has gotten stronger with each outing, and I have spent an almost normal number of days searching for fresh venison. In looking back, I realize that this entire deer season has been devoted to fleshing out Mi-ki-naak. “Old Turkey Feathers” has not made it out once. For me, that is a huge surprise.

There is much more to do, and there always is for the traditional black powder hunter. A key element in the positive progression of any historical persona is the constant learning and evaluating process that accompanies attempting to re-live the past. This self-scrutiny is both a blessing and a curse, a source of great exhilaration and humbling frustration. As past posts have reflected, the development of the third persona, Mi-ki-naak, set in the fall of 1763 in the Lower Great Lakes region, has focused my thinking on the pluses and minuses of the other two characters from the mid-1790s.

As regular readers know, I try to establish a fall hunting camp for each of the characters. In 2016 and 2017 the emphasis was on Msko-waagosh, the Red Fox, and his domed wigwam. Over the years, the trading post hunter has occupied a number of camps, and a couple of those abodes still existed when Msko-waagosh began gallivanting around the North-Forty. Yes, the post hunter played second fiddle, but he at least had a fixed place in the wilderness. The untimely destruction of Msko-waagosh’s not-so-old canvas wigwam in the sequestered valley was a setback, magnified tenfold by the events of this summer.

Hope hides in the midst of calamity. With two returned captive personas, I did not want to create two domed wigwams. Not only is this confusing for the re-enactor, but it is also confusing for readers trying to figure out who is where and when. Again, out of confusion emerges historical clarity.

The People of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi used similar shelters in the 18th century peninsulas that became Michigan. John Tanner speaks of staying with different bands. In reflection of this intermingling, Msko-waagosh uses an Odawa-inspired shot pouch. The one made for Mi-ki-naak follows this same lineage.

The interpretation of primary historical documents varies, but there is solid evidence that these Native Peoples had two styles of wigwam, one domed and the other peaked. Eighteenth-century paintings and illustrations reflect both structure types. So why not engage in experimentation in the wilderness classroom with one shelter of each style? That solution seems simple enough.

The Development of a Housing Plan

By early August, I envisioned a lean-to station camp for the post hunter, a domed wigwam for Msko-waagosh and a peaked wigwam for Mi-ki-naak. With the inception of that plan, I knew I would be lucky to get one shelter completed, and I was right.

The post hunter still had the “duck camp,” and all that shelter needed was a new cedar-brush covering. Msko-waagosh’s wigwam was gone, but the camp area was still intact. A quick-up stick shelter would suffice there. (To add insult to injury, a buck has used the south leg of the fire pit tripod for his personal rubbing post.)  Mi-ki-naak had nothing.

Although kneeling was a still a problem, I began collecting cedar poles the third week in October. A week or so later, fourteen pealed poles leaned against a modest white oak on the Snapping Turtle’s new homestead, a gentle knoll that overlooked the Riviere aux Raisins’ bottomlands.

Snapping Turtle places a cedar pole on the peaked wigwam.The winter fury hit that weekend. The unusual arctic cold and accompanying snow was described by many veteran hunters as poor for late-December, much less early deer season. Just making it out and back for a 1763-era simple pursuit was taxing and sometimes life-threatening; the discomfort made worse by Mi-ki-naak’s scanty wardrobe. Spending time on the peaked wigwam was not possible.

Then on that glorious December afternoon in 1763, Mi-ki-naak found time to begin his peaked wigwam. The sun was bright and warm, the air a balmy 38-degrees. The wind was calm. After a bit of trial and error learning the peaked wigwam’s frame took shape. The next phase would have to wait. Following in the moccasins steps of the hunter heroes before him, a compelling desire to chase white-tailed deer overtook the need for immediate housing. And like so many times before, an alter ego’s moccasins crept off into the bottomlands of the Riviere aux Raisins…

Give traditional black powder hunting a try, be safe and may God bless you.

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