How will we describe 2020 going forward? Surely there will be acronyms galore, that will remind us of this travesty. Will it be called the “virus” year? Perhaps this one will go down as the year of “Fires, Floods, and Fights.” Who can come up with a description for total disregard for property, businesses, and human life? I think no one will forget the mayhem at local grocers and the greed exhibited when everything on the shelves disappeared in a wave of panic. Meats, bottled water, canned goods, and let’s not forget the paper towels and the oh so desperate fight for toilet paper.
I am still reminded of an acquaintance pushing and pulling carts overflowing with every brand of toilet tissue known to mankind. It must have been serious when he grabbed one last roll of a “generic” brand. Holy smokes, there must have been a long list of appointments for repeated colonoscopies on his calendar. I shudder to think of the “raw” properties in some of these brands. The shortages don’t end here, as I found out last week.
With the smell of cotton defoliant in the air, and the subtle change in foliage color, I knew it was time to check inventories of arrows and ammunition. Archery necessities are in pretty good supply. Dove loads have been accumulating in the closet for years, so the immediate supply has been ok. However, this is changing quickly as quart freezer bags full of the morsels from the skies have been stacking up over the last few weeks. Just think, the migratory birds aren’t even here yet! Hopefully the fall flight will be good. But back to the supply chain.
In a nutshell, rifle ammunition availability is from extremely tight in supply to non-existent. Our iconic Weatherby calibers are not to be found. I called every supplier known to man, and everything is out of stock. In fact, miraculously, I reached a representative at the Weatherby headquarters in Sheridan, Wyoming to inquire about the status of hunting ammunition. I was told, due to the manufacturing “shutdowns” from Covid-19, normal firearm and ammunition production ceased for a while. Now there is a backlog and it will take time to recover and fill the product pipeline again. In other words, shortages will continue for quite some time. To add to these shortages, there was indeed a run on ammunition, just as there was with the bathroom necessity. This just added to the depletion of inventories. As usual, this dilemma stirred my thought process to ponder what those before us did when ammunition and other “necessities” were unavailable centuries ago.
Think of the archaic times before modern firearms were in existence, or any firearm for that matter. What did these noble people do for hunting supplies when the need for protein dictated their basic survival? They sure didn’t drive to Walmart or a local sporting goods store and pick up what they needed. Representatives from Weatherby, Remington, and Browning, weren’t available to advise them when stocks would be replenished. So, necessity was the mother of invention.
Let’s go back in time, perhaps five to ten thousand years ago. Picture a man, or woman, sitting on a small knoll or ridge overlooking a serpentine creek. Tools for survival may have included stone clubs, sticks, and more notable, spears and arrows tipped with pristine points attached to wooden shafts. The business end of these weapons wasn’t ordered from some catalog. No, crude blocks of flint and chert were carefully “knapped” by highly skilled individuals to form what we now know as spearheads and arrowheads. These points, now rich in history, were formed by striking pieces of flint with a deer antler known as direct percussion. Flakes of this material would be separated from the larger pieces of rock and these smaller pieces would become the finished product. By applying pressure to the edges of this “flake” with the antler, small flecks of flint would be removed and form the actual point.
Though we don’t know for certain, it took less time than one would think to produce one of these points. Of course, this skill took quite some time to become an accomplished “knapper” but with practice, they became better and better at this endeavor. Today’s “knappers” can produce a point in less than five minutes so this indicates prehistoric man could probably also accomplish this feat in a short amount of time as well.
The skill in producing a point is quite high. The rest of the arrow or spear didn’t take the skill to produce, but it took more time to form a shaft from a piece of wood. Archeologists surmise that to produce the point would be a high skill, low labor, endeavor and conversely, the shaft would be relatively low skill but high labor to de-bark, polish, and fletch with feathers.
We are pretty sure that there was no need for everyone to become an expert flint knapper. For the time it would take to make a point, compared to the amount of time actually needed to use that skill, didn’t make for an efficient process. In other words, just a few highly skilled specialists could produce enough points to supply many other individuals.
Put in perspective how dependent we think we are on modern luxuries. I stress myself wondering if I will have enough cartridges to make it through a season of target practice and hunting for the next three months. Is this really an insecurity embedded within me to make sure I always “have enough?” What would you do if there was no bottled water on the shelves? Would you perish from thirst? Did our ancestors grab bottles of Ozarka and DaSani to moisten a parched palate? Think about not having toilet tissue or even modern plumbing. Could you make it without a hot shower at your beckoned call? Oh, such a tragedy to not be able to purchase a fully cooked, rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight. Would it be accurate to say we may be just a bit spoiled in our everyday lives? I think that would be an understatement.
I will admit, one of the great shortages this year has been the lack of canning jars and lids. Without these, none of the delicious jams, jellies, and salsas would adorn the pantry shelves. I am so thankful there was a supply of these necessary containers stowed away to be able supply my upcoming needs. I shudder to think of cold winter nights without the delicious treats paired with aged libations and a warm fire. Such a soft people we have become!
I invite you to think about the survival of our ancestors. Think about their skills and adaptation to what they were subjected to. Try to produce a point from a rock that you would use to protect and feed your family. Does this put into perspective, our modern day lives and humble you just a bit? I would like to think so. Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.