Written by Justin Brett
This blog has posted quite a few stories of historical importance, or the lives of significant people in history. But does this mean that that a story must be one of these two things in order to be interesting historically? Not so, as the Batchewana Moose Hunt of 1906 proves.
The Batchewana Moose Hunt of 1906 is, well, more or less what it sounds: a group of friends from around Canada and North America traveling to Sault Ste. Marie in order to hunt Moose and other game. Many readers may remember being a part of hunting trips growing up or are still going on them today, but it was obviously a very different experience in the early Twentieth Century. Instead of a local weekend trip, this was a truly dedicated one spanning about three weeks and involving people living as far away as California.
Exactly why their trip was this long can be explained by the time period, and a helpful supplement at the back of the retelling. In that time virtually every part of the Moose was worth something: their horns were valued as decorations, the hide for making moccasin shoes among other clothes, and even the hooves could be used as inkstands. The men on the trip are focused only interested in hunting Bull Moose, which are much bigger than their female counterparts and have the antlers they lack, so profit does seem to have been a consideration for the group as a whole.
Another difference is in how much effort was needed to hunt back then. In 1906 there were far fewer cleared out areas for hunters, and by that time moose had moved far into the wilderness. The Batchewana hunting party had to employ the services of a group of native guides to assist them, and several times in the story someone is mentioned having been waylaid or injured in the brush.
Of course, no-one ends up in danger beyond one day where a member of the party is away in the woods for some time, and by all accounts the trip seems to have been successful. Again, their journey has no real historical influence on anything else. It simply happened to be recorded in detail while many others were not.
But at the same time, it is a fascinating look back at a bygone age, while also feeling oddly relevant even more than a hundred years later. The trip is clearly as much to enjoy each-other's
company as anything else, with the game they attempt to hunt feeling downplayed by the writing at times. There are many photos contained within featuring them admiring various parts of the landscape or notable
A great deal of the story is also spent describing things that have nothing to do with hunting at all, such as a conversation between two of the party about swapping watches that is told in full detail. There is a particular moment where the narration describes the feeling of sitting up in bed just before someone comes to wake you up for real, which I imagine we can all relate to in some way. Even things like the meals they were eating at the time ("fried pork, boiled potatoes, milk gravy, bread and tea" sounds appetizing no matter what era you are in, I think) or the details of their temporary household (lines such as Jack's "fifteen hundred Kodak films and ten cans of chocolate" paint a vivid description of his bunk).
Overall, while their hunt certainly doesn't play a part of a massive shift in history, such as the Sault Locks' role in the Red River Rebellion discussed previously on this blog. But all the same, this is certainly still a valid historical piece that can bring one back to that time period in a way that politics or a newspaper article cannot. Here were a group of men living their lives and enjoying each-other's company, and regardless of what you're doing and who you're doing it with, everyone has a group of their own they can compare to them. That's one thing that will never go out of style.