Petzal: Were Hunters in the 1920s Tougher than We Are?

This past week, I came into possession of half a dozen copies of Field & Stream from the early 1920s. Reading them, you can't help but be struck how little things have changed, and how much (the price of an issue was 25 cents.) What does leap out at you, though, is that hunters then were a hell of a lot tougher than we are.

When they went big-game hunting, they expected to be wet and cold. If you were warm and dry at the end of the day it was because you had spent your time in the cabin playing cards. But there was more than that.

If you got into trouble in the outdoors back then, you were on your own in a way we can't imagine today. No GPS. No satellite phone. No search and rescue efforts by air. Unless you were extremely lucky and/or provident, no one would even know you were missing until it was way too late. When Townsend Whelen hunted in British Columbia in the early part of the 20th century, there were not even maps of some of the places he went.

This took a brand of resolve that's not required of us today. The only place I know where you can still go and get into plenty of trouble, even with modern gadgetry, is Alaska. It's so big and so wild that it can still swallow people without a trace.