A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun

A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun
Here's a photo of the real thing. Guns like this flintlock from the late 1800s in the Illinois State Museum in Springfield were among the many tools -- including bait, multi-barreled battery guns, and pump and autloading shotguns with magazine extensions -- with which market hunters devastated waterfowl populations. Market hunting became illegal in 1918, although some outlaws hid their big guns by day and hunted by night into the 1930s.Courtesy of the Illinois State Museum
A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun
At the same time American market hunters were shooting punt guns at our birds, sportsmen and market hunters in England were doing the same in coastal estuaries throughout the British Isles. This illustration shows an English sportsmen sculling to a flock of geese circa 1860. Note the swivel mount for the gun to allow limited traverse. The breeching ropes from the bow to the trunnions on the stock absorbed recoil.Instructions to Young Sportsmen in all that relates to Guns and Shooting, Lt.Col. Peter Hawker, London, 1859
A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun
The punt gun, punt, and associated paraphernalia shown here belonged to Col. Peter Hawker, a sporting author of the first half of the 19th century. Hawker's gun was a rarity: a double punt gun. One lock was percussion, one was flint. A pull of a lanyard fired both barrels. The difference in lock time between percussion and flint meant the first shot raked the flock, the second hit the survivors as they took wing.Instructions to Young Sportsmen in all that relates to Guns and Shooting, Lt.Col. Peter Hawker, London, 1859
A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun
Here's a cutaway of a 19th-century breechloading punt gun. This one has a screw-in breech plug; some other guns had drop actions. Breechloading guns were much easier to load in a small, tippy boat than 8-foot long muzzleloaders, though there are still some muzzleloading punt guns in use in England today. Notice the shot charge wrapped with wire to hold it together for tighter patterns.Modern Wildfowling, Lewis Clements, London, 1880
A 13-Foot-Long Shotgun
A handful of English waterfowlers still scull ducks and geese in tidal estuaries throughout the British Isles. Punt gunning, as practiced in England, remains an arduous, traditional form of waterfowling. Punts are little changed in the last 150 years or so; they're entirely hand-powered; they're rowed, sometimes pushed across the mud, and the final stalk is made with a sculling oar. Punt gunners often return from a day on the water without having fired a shot. A survey of active English punt gunners showed the average hunter made seven outings per season; took four shots all year; and averaged 16 birds per shot. This gunner looks very happy with his shot on six teal, which probably represents about an ounce of meat per ounce of shot fired. I prefer to take my birds in the air, one at a time. But you could argue (and I would) that punt gunners pay a much higher price in effort and suffering for their birds than, say, the Amercan waterfowler who drives an ATV to a heated pit and switches on a roboduck. What do you think?Photo: Modern Wildfowling, Lewis Clements, London, 1880