Senior Stories

Favorite Senior Hobbies: Up in Smoke

Favorite Senior Hobbies - Senior Man Working in Workshop

We all should have a hobby to keep us from fading into oblivion in our sunset years. I have had two and they both seemed to show up in smoke recently when I discovered a “Revised and Updated Edition” of a book first published in 1942.

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Actually, it was released in 1988 – 31 years ago – and I somehow overlooked it. The book is Rick Hacker’s “The Muzzleloading Hunter.” I vaguely remember reading the original book somewhere along the way. I developed an interest in building, shooting, and hunting with replicas of antique black powder front loaders.

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My other hobby for many years has been restoring, trading, and smoking old briar pipes. A good pipe goes well around an evening campfire on a hunt. I have always found a restored aged briar pipe gives me a delightful repast from a day in the blind or up in the tree stand. It’s where I’m most likely stalking wild pigs or an occasional wild turkey.

The choice of only one shot from a black powder rifle hones one’s hunting skills to a maximum. It’s especially true if one expects to take fresh meat home for the table. I was raised in a rural area where hunting was a regular part of our life. The proceeds from those hunts gave us a variety of meat on the table.

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I am solely a meat hunter. I shoot only those wild animals that can be served on the dinner table. There are many trophy hunters out there who shoot game for its skin or head to mount on their walls. I am not one of them. It’s the nutritional value of the meat I am under. I have been fortunate enough to feed literally hundreds of people with the wild game I have shot.

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Black powder hunting, as Hacker acknowledges, began coming into its own in the mid-20th century. It opened up new seasons for the hunter. Its popularity grew until some of us, with custom-built black powder rifles, regularly competed in matches across the country.

The skill of placing one shot well to drop some game is one that takes a lot of patience. Patience is the essence of muzzleloader hunting. Hacker addresses it well in both his original book and in the updated version.

What was more surprising to me when I read Hacker’s book is that he is the same person who wrote some of the most important research books used in restoring old pipes. What confused me is that he goes by Richard Carleton Hacker when he talks about pipes. He used Rick Hacker in his younger days of gun writing.

Being a lover of the outdoors, and a writer, I too have written about hunting and pipes. Hacker is a much more erudite writer than me. In both his muzzleloader and pipe books, he is far more detailed in his writings than I am with the possible exception of his paragraph on cooking game.

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Hacker lists the top 10 recipes he and his wife have developed for preparing the game he takes with his muzzleloaders. On the other hand, I have a cookbook – “Kickers, Carbines & Cookpots” – that is available on Amazon in either Kindle or softcover editions. It contains 288 pages and 400 or more recipes for preparing game, fish, and seafood. All of which I have prepared at one time or another in my more than eight decades of living.

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I also have a pipe book – “Old Briar – Pipe Smoking on a Budget” – available on Amazon Kindle that will soon be available in paperback.

One of the joys of working with these books, updating them occasionally, and developing new recipes, in particular, is that they help keep me going. They have proven to me the need for having career hobbies to sustain us in our golden years.

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I went so far as to buy enough parts off eBay a year or so ago to build another .45-caliber black powder hunting rifle. It shoots well and is ready to take to the field. If I can just find someone to help me up into a tree stand I will once again enjoy what has always been a respite for me from the hustle and bustle of urban living.

I’ll take along one of my restored pipes to enjoy around the evening campfires for sure.

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