Crossing Fences with a Firearm
WHEN THE HUNTER GOES "OVER THE TOP"
By F. E. BRIMMER
IT is not all of hunting to hunt. A big part of it consists in going "over the top" of the numerous fences that come across the hunting trail. To the outdoor lover who wants to get away from the manmade town, oft" the manmade highways, far from the 'noise and confusion of manmade cars and mills; the ever present fence still spreads its manmade net about the woods and fields in a most disconcerting manner. Even when hunting the mountain regions of Allegheny and Adirondack, when I believed myself far away from civilization, deep into the heart of the Godmade wilderness; I have stumbled into a tangled fence.
Over territory, which the small game hunter roams, there is hardly a square rod of ground that is not enclosed within its fence. Ever count the fences that you went over in a single day on such a hunt? I counted one hundred and fourteen once — and not so very close to a city or town either — that had to be scaled in one day's tramp. Probably if you have never thought much about it you will be surprised the next time you go out if you only consider the amount of time and energy you use in climbing fences. How good it must have been to hunt in pioneer days when nothing but nature's barriers faced the hunter.
"Where in blankety-blank-blank are we going to get over this fence!" rages Bill.
"Mighty likely looking' ground on the other side, too," goads his companion, then adds, "Here, let's crawl under." Whereupon Bill gets down on all fours and seeks to imitate the caterpillar tank which the British used so successfully on the German wire entanglements. But the back of his hunting coat catches upon a barb, a broken strand of wire stabs him in the neck, and worst of all his companion, who is politely holding up the bottom wire as high as he can, suddenly lets out a roar of laughter at the sorry sight; and Bill beats a backward retreat in disgust and with the loss of some hair and hide.
Next the hunters walk along the fence several rods and find a place where the top wire sags somewhat between the posts. This time Bill holds down the wire and Fred attempts to straddle over. The upper wires are pretty high on the fences they build nowadays, and what is more, they build them at the bottom to hold in hogs, they mesh the wire in the middle to hold sheep enclosed, and the top must be high and formidable enough to keep inside the steer and horse.
In some sections of the eastern United States you find almost nothing but stonewall fences. In others the old crisscross rail still stands to do its share. There are yet many up turned pine roots, making the so-called "stump-fence." Then there's the brush-fence and the picket fence, the log-fence and the board-fence, the pole-fence and the wire fence. Everywhere the wire-fence-barb, mesh, smooth, or combinations of them all. But they all must be climbed and doesn't have to see a friend rushed to the hospital. Every stump-fence that is climbed with a gun in hand is a gamble with death! Better set the gun carefully over first and then go over yourself.
A well-built board fence looks safe enough to climb with your gun carried in one hand. But it isn't. Notice in the photograph how slim a hold the hunter has upon his gun. He simply rests the middle of the shotgun on the top board and balances it there with the one hand while he uses the other to balance his body. Suppose he momentarily lost his equilibrium, his gun would probably slip from his grasp, drop to the ground with the muzzle pointing straight up, and the results prove fatal. At least he stands a mighty good chance of denting or breaking the gun parts. Better play safe and set the gun over first. It doesn't require much effort to do things right. Just a little habit of carefulness formed about getting over the fence safely and you will never take the chances that you used to.
But don't play the fool once you have climbed over the fence by reaching back and pulling the gun after you. Set it over first and then you will never unintentionally make this mistake. Form the habit of careful handling of the firearm and you will never regret it. It is rarely necessary to allow the muzzle to point towards a companion, even when standing, yet it is constantly done .in a thoughtless manner. Loaded or empty, keep that rifle or shotgun pointed where an accidental discharge will sail harmlessly into space or plough a hole into the ground. Whatever else; you decide to be careless and undisciplined about, resolve to be the acme of care when you come to any kind of a fence. Better be safe than sorry!
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
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