MEMORABILIA SHEDS LIGHT ON HUNTING
- Dick Mason
- The Observer
Mirrors are impossible to find in Phil Gillette's La Grande outdoor store.
This is not surprising since hunters and angler express limited interest in fashion.
Still, Gillette's store, Phil's Outdoor Surplus & More, does, in a figurative sense, offer reflections Â— reflections of the past.
They can be seen in two new display cases filled with historic hunting and fishing memorabilia. These items reveal how much Â— and how little Â— things have changed in the world of hunting and fishing since the late 1800s.
Gillette's display cases feature items such as:
Â• Editions of old hunting and fishing magazines such as an 1898 edition of Forest and Stream Â— Rod and Gun, all published more than a century ago.
Â• Oregon Game Commission bulletins that are at least seven decades old. The commission was the forerunner of today's Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Â• Hunting licenses dating as far back as 1910 from different states.
The licenses are well preserved in part because many were made of cloth-like materials through the 1920s and as a late as the 1940s. Licenses then were often called coupons. Gillette's collection includes a cloth set of three Oregon deer "coupons'' from 1913. The set then sold for $1.
Two of Gillette's most prized items are his smallest Â— national wolf tags from 1945 and 1946. Anyone who bought one of the leather tags could kill a wolf anywhere in the United States. The tags stopped being sold shortly after 1946.
Wolf hunting, of course, has been banned everywhere in the United States except Alaska for many decades. Today, though, there is talk of lifting the protection of wolves in places like Idaho where they are thriving after having been reintroduced. Gillette jokes that someday he may take his national wolf tags to a wildlife agency and ask to have them redeemed for new ones.
Many items in Gillette's old publications are fascinating when viewed through history's prism. Case in point: articles written at least six decades ago about the projected development of motion decoys for duck hunters. Writers wondered whether they would have to be prohibited because they would provide an unfair advantage to waterfowl hunters. Such duck decoys were developed, and today many states have started prohibiting them.
Military veterans are another topic addressed in some of the old publications. Articles indicate that war veterans were allowed to hunt for free many decades ago in some states. Today groups are pushing states to allow veterans to again be allowed to hunt for free.
"It is interesting how some issues keep coming back,'' Gillette said.
The writing in late 1800s editions of magazines like Forest and Stream Â— Rod and Gun is different than what is in outdoor magazines today. The writers are less concise, take longer to get the point and are more verbose.
"It's almost like they wrote books within an article,'' Gillette said.
The outdoorsman hopes youths take an interest in the memorabilia in his display cases.
"I want them to see where we came from,'' Gillette said.
He said it is important for young people to realize that there was hunting and fishing 100 years ago in the United States. Today, though, deer, elk and turkey populations are higher than a century ago in many places because of proper game management. Gillette said he hopes that his display cases will help young outdoor sports enthusiasts appreciate that the efforts of those before them are why they can hunt and fish today.
"It's important that they don't take (the opportunity to hunt and fish) for granted.''
The new display cases are sparking interesting conversations among people of all ages. Recently two 80-year-olds started reminiscing about the hunting and fishing in the 1940s while looking at the memorabilia.
"I wish that I had had a tape recorder going,'' Gillette said. "I could have made a book about (their conversation).''