Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

F-Troop Camp

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, December 27, 2008.)

Feigert’s prose is a treat to read. His paragraphs are
like potato chips -- you can’t stop with one.

Most hunting camps are buttoned up for a long winter, mothballed until the approach of trout season or spring gobbler season. But memories of camp continue to live as those who hunt or fish from them reminisce about camp camaraderie.

Hunting camps are a living paradox. Collectively they’re a breed that has a zillion things in common, but the paradox is that each camp is unique to itself. When camp owners maintain a logbook of their adventures, it reveals that camps are as unique as the individuals that make up the roster.

Such a logbook is behind a new volume by a writer you’ll take a liking to. Don Feigert writes about his camp and his comrades along the west bank of the Allegheny River in Warren County, PA, between Irvine and Tidioute -- a place called Althom.

Whenever you drive through hunting camp country you’ll note that every camp seems to have a name. In compliance with this unwritten rule of owning a hunting camp, Feigert named his camp “F-Troop Camp,” not for the antics of the 1960s TV sitcom, but for the antics of the Feigert family and friends. And of course, books need names, too, so his book is called The F-Troop Camp Chronicles -- A Life in the Pennsylvania Outdoors.

Feigert is the outdoor scribe for the Sharon, PA Herald, and as a writer he’s no amateur. During the past 25 years he has been published in more than 75 magazines -- including high-flying literary magazines -- and he has won numerous awards putting pen to paper.

Most importantly, with both feet firmly planted on the steep hillsides of western Pennsylvania, he knows how to connect with his readers. F-Troop Camp Chronicles recalls incidents from 22 years of camp life, complete with pranks and pratfalls that would otherwise be forgotten. Feigert’s prose is a treat to read. His paragraphs are like potato chips -- you can’t stop with one.

Along the way you’ll meet lots of Feigert’s cohorts, including “Miss Kentucky,” an able trout fisherperson in her own right, along with a host of other nicknamed associates: Pieman, Pigpen, Pocahontas, Decibel, Millimeter Matt, Wildflower and many others who have enjoyed the hospitality of F-Troop. You’ll also meet some of the guys who’ve written the stories you’ve read in Pennsylvania Game News and other magazines.

One of the great things about hunting camp is that no one is ever ordinary. People’s lives might seem mundane to an observer, but camp life somehow pulls them together and transforms them into something extraordinary. They might reveal themselves as first-class cooks and handymen, world-class fireside philosophers, or buffoons who claim no class at all.

Whether you’re the owner of a camp or a guest in one, there’s a good chance that camp owns a part of you -- which is why The F-Troop Camp Chronicles is proof that the days of hunting camps are far from over.

Two of Feigert’s previous three books are already sold out, including one with the bold title Trucks are Better Than Women. This book is likely headed for the same happy fate, so get your hands on it while you can. To order an autographed copy, send a check or money order for $16.75 per paperback copy (includes postage.) A limited edition signed and numbered hardcover is also available for $36.75. Send to Don Feigert, P.O. Box 1381, Hermitage, PA, 16148.

If you’re just starting a camp, or are a camp veteran of 50 years, you know that camp is a place where some of your fondest memories happened. And you’ll know that the memories have only just begun.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What’s so special about a knife?

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, December 13, 2008.)

When you’re given a knife,
you’re being told you can be trusted.

I doubt there’s a guy who doesn’t like knives. If there is, he probably wouldn’t admit it. That would be admitting he didn’t have the right upbringing.

Something about a knife gets a man’s attention. A knife is the universal tool, and much more.

Soon after some creative caveman invented the first stone knife, knives were everywhere. Since then every man has shared that interest.

Of the dozens of knife manufacturers in this neck of America’s woods a hundred years ago, few are left. And none have carved a deeper groove than W. R. Case of Bradford, Pennsylvania -- sharper than ever after almost 120 years.

A quick look at the catalog or website of the W.R. Case & Sons Company reveals a knife for every purpose, every man, every taste -- and that knife making and collecting are going strong. The proof is that Case continues to develop new models.

Why so many? The answer: A man never has enough knives. I met one man last summer who is still adding to his modest collection of more than 1000, but he uses only two.

Butchers, bankers, bartenders and boy scouts all have their specialized knives. Other models are crafted especially for doctors, cattlemen, trappers, soldiers and executives. It’s just a thought, but maybe every profession ought to have a unique knife. Whether it needs one or not is hardly the issue. If your profession doesn’t have its own knife, there’s nothing stopping you from inventing one.

What is the attraction of knives? Part of it is that we use them to cleanly separate things -- the hide from a deer, its innards from its abdomen, its meat from its bones. You may not butcher a deer every day, but hardly a day goes by when a man doesn’t need to cut something.

Part of the appeal of a knife is its simplicity. A knife calls out to the minimalist in a man. Never has there been a low-tech tool with higher fascination. It’s so simple it can be made from just one material -- handle and blade the archetype of unity -- yet it’s obvious which end to grab and which is the business end.

And part of our interest in knives is their beauty. Knives are like women. Men don’t get tired of looking at knives, or talking about how sharp they are. And it can’t be denied -- the beauty is often beneath the surface.

Then there’s the allure of creativity. The shapes of classic knife blades were developed for utility, but modern designs show lots of imagination. A blade can be made from flint, obsidian, ceramic, or a wide variety of steels -- even a car spring or a saw blade.

Besides the steel itself, the handle material can be virtually anything -- from the antler of last year’s buck, to the ivory of a wooly mammoth, to wood from Grandpa’s apple tree. Add any color you want, and dress it up any way you like with intricate carvings, slogans, or a notch for every deer it has field-dressed.

Knives are personal, so they need names. Some of the W. R. Case designs are named after animals: muskrat, moose, shark, and on it goes. Some are named for their shape: canoe, butterbean, toothpick, gunstock, peanut. Some knives are named for their function: hunter, lockback, fillet.

And some are named for the people who carried them. Few people have occasion to use a knife the way Jim Bowie did, fighting for his life, but no one passes a Bowie without taking a second look. When you invent your knife, you can name it anything you like.

A knife takes you back to your boyhood. Maybe you still have your old boy scout knife. Maybe the shield has fallen out. Maybe the tip of the blade was broken when you took to prying with it. Or maybe your special knife is a W. R. Case hunter Dad placed under the Christmas tree while thinking about how your eyes were going to light up.

What’s the best knife? That’s it -- the one that’s a gift -- because when you’re given a knife, you’re being told you can be trusted.