The bull kept running around the tree after me, while Jim kept screaming, “Farther out, farther out. I can’t get you in focus.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 27, 1937.

“I’m through,” said Jimmie Frise, “with killing.”

“Why, you haven’t killed much,” I assured him, “especially this past year.”

“That’s what I mean,” explained Jim. “I’m through with it. I can’t see wasting time and money chasing after fish and game just for the fresh air of it.”

“That’s the best part of outdoor sport,” I protested. “The outdoors of it.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “it costs me five cents every time I shoot my shotgun. It costs me twelve cents every time I shoot my rifle. That’s the cost of the shells alone. The cost of the guns, the cost of all my expensive fishing tackle that I have waved in vain over the waters of Ontario this past year, is the capital expenditure.”

“But your profits,” I said, “are good health, a happy frame of mind and so forth. Intangible assets, if you like, but mighty real.”

“Happy frame of mind?” cried Jim. “Do you call it a happy frame of mind if you sit here looking back over a year with no trout, no muskies, no duck and no deer?”

“But the fun?” I reminded him.

“The best fun,” stated Jim, “is coming home, after a happy trip in the woods, with a basket of fish, a bag of ducks, or a deer lashed on your car fender.”

“This was just a bad year,” I comforted him. “You’ve had your share, in former years.”

“Have I?” questioned Jim. “I was just thinking. Thinking of all the shells I’ve fired, all the guns I’ve owned, all the fishing rods and big cases of tackle that have come and gone in my life. And all the miles I’ve walked, and rowed, and driven, and all the hours spent in hard, rough work. And yet the kill is mighty slim, as my memory holds it. A good muskie, once or twice. Three or four good bags of ducks. Maybe one deer, really killed without help from others.”

“It seems to me,” I said, “that is the experience of the average sportsman. People imagine, when they see hundreds and hundreds of us going forth with guns, that there is to be a dreadful slaughter of wild life. But the fact of the matter is, nine out of ten who pretend to be killers are anything but killers. If their kill was to be measured against their tackle, their outfit, their energy and the time they spend at it, even they would have to laugh.”

“Still,” said Jimmie, “what right have a few of us, a little percentage of the population, to assume we have the right to kill game?”

“Hmmmm,” I mused, “you have been converted, haven’t you?”

“I mean it,” declared Jim. “Why should a little handful of gunners be allowed to go forth into the public domain to kill birds and animals that belong to all? There are plenty of people who love as much to see a deer as we love to kill one. Maybe more. Maybe twice or three times as many.”

“Sssshhh,” I said, “Jim, this is heresy.”

Reformed Hunters

“I Don’t care,” insisted Jim. “Now that I find I can’t kill anything anyway, I am beginning to doubt the right to kill of those who can kill.”

“That’s perfectly human of you,” I agreed. “That’s the proper way to feel about it.”

“What I mean,” said Jim, “why haven’t you and I taken up camera hunting years ago? Imagine some of the swell shots we could have had with cameras, and be able to have, instead of a few horns hung up on the wall, beautiful enlargements of pictures of wild game, deer, moose and even bears, to adorn our homes and stand as a lasting record of our skill as hunters?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess cameras don’t go bang.”

“When I think of it,” said Jim, moodily. “That time I was standing at the beaver dam and that glorious buck came by me within twelve feet.”

“You missed it with your gun,” I reminded him. “Probably you would have missed it with your camera.”

“I could have made three or four pictures of him,” declared Jim. “Imagine. I heard a twig crack in the thicket. Then a full five minutes elapsed. Nothing stirred. As it was, I was standing there, with my rifle ready, slowly starting to shake and tremble with buck fever. Then, with a bound, he came out, his head laid back, his great antlers glittering in the sun, to pass so close to me I was actually frozen, with astonishment. In that five minutes, I could have got my camera set, my time set, my focus fixed. And the way he leaped out and halted and stood glaring at me not twenty feet off, with one of these new fast cameras, I could have had a picture that would have been one of my proudest possessions.”

“Or imagine, “I contributed, “hunting birds with a camera. That would be my line.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “how about selling our guns and buying cameras, these new candid cameras?”

“We could have fun,” I admitted. “Until about next summer, when we’d begin to hanker for our guns again. It’s a hobby that seems to last only for about three or four rolls of film.”

“Ah, but with us,” argued Jim, “reformed hunters. It would be like reformed drunks eating apples. Without our guns, we’d have to do something.”

So, at lunch hour, we strolled around to a camera store and sized the situation up. There were certainly a lot of new kinds of cameras since we had last pulled a bellows. There were handy little outfits, with interchangeable lenses running into three figures. There were cameras not much bigger than a package of cigarettes, with a film about the size of a thimble, with which, as the salesman explained to us, you could take a picture even of a detective and he would never know it. Palmed photography, as it were. There were about 40 different kinds of film for about 90 different kinds of cameras.

“When I was last in a camera store,” I told the clerk, “there were about seven different kinds of cameras and only one kind of film for each. The cameras were all standing open inside glass showcases, and it reminded me of an undertaker’s. The nearest thing to an undertaker’s was the camera store. Now look at you.”

To Set an Objective

And it certainly was a scene of glitter and color, cameras in green and pink and yellow, and everything very jazzy and chromium-plated.

So he showed us one of the newest candid cameras. He talked about “shiners” and light meters, and it seemed more like University mathematics than just up and banging a camera, the way I recalled it. The prices staggered us.

We asked him if he took anything in exchange, like guns or anything, and he said no.

So we went a little farther up the street to a gun shop and made some casual inquiries as to the turn-in value of sundry guns, rifles, micrometer sights, gun cases and what not.

“Well,” said the gun clerk, there isn’t much call for that old-fashioned equipment, but we could allow you perhaps $15 or $20 for it if you are buying a new outfit.”

Back at the office, we decided to use what cameras we had and perhaps borrow one, if we knew anybody that had got tired of theirs. But it seems the best way to remind anybody that they have an expensive camera which they ought to use oftener is to ask to borrow it.

“What have you in mind?” I asked Jim.

“It’s a poor time of year to start,” said he, “but at least we can go out into the country and look around for what we can see. We ought to set an objective, the same as hunting with guns. For instance, we might go out this week end to hunt jack rabbits.”

“There’s an idea,” I agreed. “But how could we get near enough a jack rabbit to take his picture? It would just be a speck.”

“Use this new modern film that guy was telling us about,” said Jim, “and enlarged, that speck will prove to be a jack rabbit, clear as crystal, in full flight.”

“But they get up so quick,” I pointed out.

“Don’t you see,” cried Jim, “what a sport this can be? You know how it is hunting jack rabbits with a gun. Walking across stubble fields, along snake fences, and not a sign of anything. You are going along very careless. You would say that no living creature, not even a mouse, could hide in that bare stubble. And then, all of a sudden, with a soundless bound, a great big jack rabbit, as big as a calf, leaps up not twenty feet from you and starts away with fifteen foot hops.”

“How would we ever have time to focus?” I demanded.

“We would have our cameras set,” explained Jim, “the same as we have our guns loaded and cocked. We would just have to up and bang, the same as with our guns.”

“Well, we can try,” I submitted.

“And once we get good,” said Jim, “we can plan trips for deer, moose, bears, ducks. I can just see me in a blind, shooting pictures of flocks of ducks storming into my decoys.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and wishing you had a gun, and throwing your camera into the drink in rage.”

“Not if I get some swell pictures that I can keep for years and show for my trouble.”

“Your walls,” I stated, “will hold just so many enlargements. Photograph albums grow fat and shabby. But you can eat ducks forever and ever.”

Across the Stubble

However, we went out Saturday. Jim had got from some camera fiend a little book that had tables and scales in it, showing exactly how much time to allow for certain lights. And he had got for a dollar a tiny gadget that you looked through. I had numbers in it, which you could faintly see. Depending on the light, the faintest number you could see was the one to work to, in the printed tables. It was a little complicated. It was like reading railway time tables, only the signs were different. We spent about an hour or so, after we had parked our car down a promising looking side-road, trying to figure out the light tables. So we gave it up and decided to take everything the old way. 25th of a second, distance inf. and the little hole open as wide as it would go.

“That has taken millions of good pictures,” said Jim. “It will do for us.”

So, with cameras held open and ready, we started across the wintry stubble fields, heading for a distant clump of dark cedars that suggested a brook.

“Where there are brooks,” said Jim, “there is game.”

Walking slowly and alert, we quartered the first two fields very thoroughly. It was a cold day, and it got pretty cold, even with gloves on, holding a hard chilly camera in a position of readiness. So we rigged up straps and handkerchiefs to hang the cameras around our necks.

Some little gray birds got up and cheeped and flew away, and by the time I had decided whether or not to try a shot at them, they were so far off that they do not show on the negative at all, just a thin edge of land and a lot of sky.

“Don’t shoot at everything,” protested Jim.

“It was just a practice shot,” I explained.

We found another field, full of dead weeds, burrs, stickers, prongs and sheep-snatchers, which we waded through very stealthily without raising so much as a small bird. So at the end of it, I snapped a candid camera shot of Jimmie bent down picking burrs off himself, and he shot one of me climbing a fence.

“Those will be the kind of thing,” said Jim, “informal, unposed stuff, our descendants will be interested in.”

“Except that I got you from the back,” I corrected, “and it might be anybody.”

The next field led down to the cedar clump and there was a little frozen brook running in it, ice and tiny falls making some pretty closeups, which I took and then Jim reminded me that I was set at infinity. So I finished up the roll, pacing the distances.

“Nice little shots,” agreed Jim, “of icicles and stuff. Very interesting. A good big fat album of that kind of thing certainly ought to amuse your guests whenever they call around.”

“All right,” I declared. “What have you got?”

“The thing about camera hunting,” said Jim. “Is the same as shooting. Wait till something turns up. Don’t bang your gun just for the fun of hearing it go off.”

As we climbed out of the valley of cedars, we saw a farm in the near distance.

“Good,” said Jum, “at least we can get some shots at cattle and pigs and barnyard stuff. There is a lot of humor and human interest in really characteristic shots of everyday beasts. We can stir ’em up and get them to show a little action.”

“You tickle a pig,” I said, “and I’ll get a picture of it.”

We walked across the fields to the farm, and as we drew near, we saw a little cluster of cows gathered in a fence corner, numbly feeding on a pile of hay. The farmer had let them out for a little fresh air which does not come often to cows in winter.

They looked up at us as we drew quietly near.

“Just that look of dumb curiosity,” said Jim, “would make a nice picture if we could get a close-up.”

“Cows won’t hurt you,” I assured him.

Taking our cameras in our hands and setting them, we began to stalk the cows, watching down in our finders to get the distance right.

I was looking down in the finder, preparing to say moo or otherwise attract their attention, when I heard a kind of a loud snort, and Jim’s feet pounding heavily on the frozen earth.

I looked up just in time to see that one of the cows was a bull, a large bull with that lithe humped look some bulls have, and, as he slowly curled around and advanced, I caught a glimpse of Jim’s vanishing back.

Instead of taking the fence which was quite handy, I too turned, and saw that Jim had reached a small tree and was already winging himself up into the branches. By the time I got to the tree, I discovered the lowest branch was too high for my reach, and the bull, without any excitement at all, was right behind me.

“Keep running around the tree,” shouted Jimmie from aloft.

Which I did, and the bull kept coming around after me, while above Jim kept screaming:

“Farther out, farther out, I can’t get you in focus!”

But I didn’t get farther out. And Jim, leaning down aiming his camera kept screaming orders at me and clicking his camera, until the farmer arrived and, with a fork, prodded the bull away.

“I never saw,” declared Jim, coming angrily down out of the tree, “less co-operation in my life. The most wonderful candid camera shot in the world, it would have been the sensation of camera shows all over the earth, and you wouldn’t even get in focus.”

I am happy to say that none of Jim’s shots turned out, as he had his finger over the lens hole in all of them.

Editor’s Note: Remember that all camera settings at the time were manual, and that they would not know how the pictures turned out until they were developed.