Getting Medieval: Serious Hunting With Gear From the Middle Ages

St. Hubert’s Rangers reenact medieval hunting as closely as is possible in the 21st century, adopting the personae of nobles, … Continued

St. Hubert’s Rangers reenact medieval hunting as closely as is possible in the 21st century, adopting the personae of nobles, huntsmen and foresters of the middle ages. Fascinated by the middle ages as a child, Rangers founder Paul Wilburn of South Lyon, Michigan discovered traditional archery in college and from there began hunting. After meeting a like-minded archer, Lance Paulson of Moore, Oklahoma on a traditional archery website, Wilburn was inspired to become the first St. Hubert’s Ranger in 2006. Paulson soon followed, and today there are 34 Rangers from across the United States, Canada, England and the Netherlands forming an online community dedicated to reenacting medieval hunting. The Rangers wear authentic clothes and use period weapons, animals and methods to recreate hunting as it was in England and Europe from 500 to 1500 while adhering to modern seasons and regulations. Named for the patron saint of hunters, the Rangers hold an annual rendezvous the weekend after St. Hubert’s day (November 3).
Paul Wilburn, of South Lyon, Michigan, poses with a wild boar he took in Crossville, Tennessee. Fascinated by the middle ages as a child, Wilburn discovered traditional archery in college and from there began hunting. He combined his two passions by founding the Rangers. He is dressed here as a 14th century forester. Medieval hunting clothes are remarkably practical, says Wilburn. Linen underclothes wick away moisture while the outer wool garments retain warmth even when wet. The boots are “turnshoes,” essentially a leather sock sewn inside out then reversed for wear. Great for stalking, like a moccasin, but not too durable. A huntsman might wear a pair through in three months.
Here’s Richard Swinney, of Nixa, Missouri, who portrays a 15th century minor noble, with a wild boar he took with a spear in Okeechobee, Florida. Nobles often wore brighter, more colorful clothes (dyeing fabric bright colors was costly) rather than the muted wools of huntsmen and foresters.
Swinney took this mature female elk with a 60# yew longbow and homemade medieval-style arrows in a 2,000 acre modern deer park in Crawford County, Missouri. Enclosed deer parks, usually between 150 – 300 acres, were common in the later Middle Ages, as was the hunting of managed herds by nobles. Bows made for battle had draw weights from 80 to 150 pounds, but hunting longbows were made lighter so they could be held at half draw when game approached during a drive. Nobles often participated in “bow and stable” hunts in which archers waited in elevated stands for horsemen to drive game to them.
In this photo, Scott Crawford, of Springfield, Missouri, who portrays a 14th century bisshunter (a bisshunter hunted animals for their fur), poses near a burrow with one of his ferrets, Philippe. Ferreting is still practiced in England today.
Dale Gienow, of Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada portraying a 14th century nobleman took this pheasant near his home with his goshawk, Providence. Falconry was a favorite pastime among nobles.
Edward Hurman displays his bounty. He has had a successful hunt flushing a rabbit into a purse net by sending his ferret, Tristan, into the warren. Tristan is a “hob” or male ferret. Female ferrets are called “jills.”
Paul Wilburn with a raccoon he took on his property using a replica 14th century crossbow and a bolt with a hand-forged, medieval-style broadhead. His crossbow has a spring steel bow, which appeared in the late 14th century. Earlier crossbows had bows made of yew staves or laminated strips of wood.
Swinney takes aim at a flushed pheasant in Dade County, Missouri. His falconry apprentice managed Richard’s red tailed hawk, Phebus, during the hunt. Phebus was released to go after the birds Richard missed with his longbow.
Here, Swinney arrowed a flushed pheasant that took cover in nearby trees. Richard found him on a low branch and connected with an arrow tipped with a hand-forged, medieval-style, crescent shaped arrowhead.
Steven Roe, of Battlefield, Missouri, who portrays a 15th century yeoman, assisted Swinney on a rabbit hunt in Christian County, Missouri with Phebus. Phebus is named for Gaston Phebus, author of “Book of the Hunt” a well-illustrated tome from the 15th century that contains a wealth of information on medieval hunting that serves as an invaluable reference for medieval hunt re-enactors.
Swinney and Phebus with a nice grey squirrel they took in Christian County, Missouri.
Paul Wilburn took this whitetail doe in South Lyon, Michigan, with a medieval-style crossbow and bolt. Notice the leaf-shaped strips of wool camouflaging his bow, a detail gleaned from the artwork in Book of the Hunt.
Phebus, when newly captured by Richard Swinney, being given his daily exercise and training during a hunt in South Lyon, Michigan.
Here Swinney and his brother,David, take part in a St. Hubert’s Rangers group hunt in Cook Station, Missouri. David portrays a 15th century huntsman.
Paul Wilburn displays a fox squirrel he took in South Lyon, Michigan. He used his crossbow and a bolt with a wooden blunt that was patterned after one illustrated in a 14th century medieval hunting manuscript.
North Gienow, of Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, portrays a 14th century nobleman, as is evident by the fine brocade cloth of his tunic and ornate belt fittings. Many hunts that nobility took part in served as grand social affairs and opportunities for the nobles to display their wealth.
Members of St. Hubert’s Rangers take a boar with a spear in the swamps of Okeechobee, Florida.
Jesse Weber (center), of Columbus, Ohio with the boar he took in Okeechobee, Florida. The hunt was actually a close call for Weber. The boar charged him and met the point of his spear. Holding Jesse’s trophy is Joe Stevenson (left), of Zachary, Louisiana, who portrays a 14th century forester, and Edward Lindey (right), of Oak Grove, Kentucky, who portrays a 14th century huntsman.
Lance Paulson, of Moore, Oklahoma, who portrays a 12th century huntsman, crouches in a ground blind in hopes of ambushing a passing wild boar in Canton, Oklahoma.
Paul Wilburn sounding his hunting horn. Hunting horns were extremely important for communicating during hunts in the Middle Ages, which were almost always group affairs. Different combinations of short and long notes, not unlike morse code, let hunters who were spread out over great distances instantly know what was happening. A special call signaled the “mort,” or killing of an animal.
This is a horn-nocked English longbow with medieval-style self-nocked arrows (bottom), popular for hunting and warfare during the Middle Ages. Many of the rangers use turkey feathers for fletching although goose quill, the classic fletching material is used by some. Says Wilburn: “the idea is you get started with a basic outfit, then continually refine your clothing and gear to become more authentic.” Above are medieval-style points on crossbow bolts. The points shown (from left to right) are a wooden blunt and bodkin point (both good for birds and small game) and two broadheads suitable for large game, the first of which is barbed.
Donna Mitchell, of Bloomfield, New York, who portrays a 15th century noble falconer, is shown here with a grey squirrel she took near her home with her red tailed hawk, Clarice. Donna had the honor of being the first member of St. Hubert’s Rangers to have a successful medieval-style hunt. Many noblewomen enjoyed hunting as a pastime, especially the sport of falconry.
Members of St. Hubert’s Rangers and the Bramble Schoole of Defence conducting educational presentations about medieval hunting at the Ozark medieval Fortress in Boone County, Arkansas.

St. Hubert’s Rangers reenact medieval hunting as closely as is possible in the 21st century, adopting the personae of nobles, huntsmen and foresters of the middle ages. They wear authentic clothes and use period weapons, animals and methods to recreate hunting as it was in England and Europe from 500 to 1500.