SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – If you had the opportunity to learn how to hunt deer and wild hog from a man who lived in the 1400s, would you take that chance? If so, this article is for you.
Six hundred years ago, between the years 1406 and 1413, a dude named Edward of Norwich wrote a book called “Master of Game.” It’s hailed as the most important work on hunting from the Middle Ages, and it’s the very first hunting book written in English.
But Edward, the author of “Master of Game,” wasn’t an ordinary fellow. Edward was King Edward III’s grandson, and Edward (the grandchild) wrote the book while he was imprisoned in a castle for plotting to kill the King of England. Edward and his sister had also planned to kidnap the two heirs to the throne, but their plan was thwarted and Edward was placed under house arrest in a sprawling castle with hunting lands.
And it was there, while under house arrest, that Edwards took to the woods and wrote “Master of Game.”
Almost 500 years later, a new printing of Edward’s hunting book “Master of Game” included a foreword by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
“Game abounded, and not only the chase but the killing of the quarry was a matter of intense excitement and an exacting test of personal prowess, for the board, or the bear, or hart at bay was slain at close quarters with the spear of a long knife,” wrote Roosevelt.
Roosevelt said that Edward’s “Master of Game” is “not only of interest to the sportsman but also to the naturalist, because of its quaint accounts of the “nature” of the various animals…”
Edward’s tips for hunting the hart (deer)
- “They (male deer) slay, fight and hurt each other, when they be in rut, that is to say in their love, in a forest where there be few hinds (females) and many hearts or male deer, they slay, hurt, and fight with each other, for each would be master of the hinds.”
- Harts (male deer) sing when they’re in love (rut/heat). In England hunters called it bellowing, just as a man does for his lover.
- While in love, a deer (hart) can “slay hounds and horses and men at that time and turn to the abbay (be at bay) as a board does especially when they be weary.”
- “They are in their love, which men call rut, about the time of the Holy Rood in September and remain in their hot love a whole month and ere they be fully out thereof they abide in rut nigh two months.”
- After rut, deer “are bold, and run upon men as a wild board would do if he were hunted.”
- The greatest of the male deer, which is the strongest, is the master of the rut.
- When the greatest of the males (determined by fighting with all other males) is finished mating, the male deer he chased away will reappear and kill him. “…for there is never a season but the greatest hart will be slain by the others while he is at the rut, but when he has withdrawn and is poor of love.”
- Male deer do not often kill each other in the woods. They typically fight and kill one another in the open fields.
- After the males withdraw from the females, the males group together in small herds.
- Young deer stay in fields more than they do in woods so they may enjoy the heat of the sun.
- When males lose their antlers, they hide in thick bushes until their antlers have regrown.
- After males regrow their antlers, they “seek good country for meeting (feeding) of corn, of apples, of vines, of tender growing trees, of peas, of beans, and other fruits and grasses whereby they live.”
- Sometimes a great hart (male deer) has another deer that stays with him. The deer that follows is called his squire, for the squire does as the leading male wishes.
- The male deer polish their horns on trees around Mary Magdalene Day (July 22) and use this technique to rub the skin away from their antlers.
- Male deer burnish their antlers in charcoal pits made by men.
- If deer can’t find manmade charcoal pits, they sharpen their antlers on trees or against the corners of rocks.
- Deer frequently have their calves in May, and deer can have three calves at a time.
- Calves are typically born with red and white hair, and by the end of August they turn red.
- The first year of a male deer’s life it is called a calf, the second year a bullock, and in that year they go into first rut. The third year of a hart’s life he is called a bracet, the fourth year a staggard, the fifth a stag. During the sixth year of life a male deer is called a hart of ten, and then it is fair to hunt him.
- Some deer are more cunning than others.
- Some deer are better at running than others.
- “And it cometh to them of the good kind of their father and mother, and of good getting (breeding) and of good nurture and from being born in good constellations, and in good signs of heaven, and that (is the case) with men and all other beasts.”
- An old deer is both wise and cunning when he is uncoupled and being hunted…
- An old deer that is being hunted by hounds will leave his fellow deer to the hounds so that he may save himself.
- When a deer runs into the wind, it dries out his mouth and does him great harm. That’s why he will run with the wind, plus running with the wind helps him hear the hounds that are chasing him. He will be sideways to the wind if he can’t run with the wind so that the wind is in his nostrils.
- When a deer is exhausted from running from dogs, he will run to a river to cool off and have a drink.
- Dogs can’t come after a deer in the water as they do on land.
- A deer in water will keep in the middle of the water and not touch any branches so the hounds cannot find his scent.
- If a deer is running from dogs and cannot get to a river, he will go into a marsh and run around before coming out the same way he came in, and the hounds will follow his trail to find that he has gone into the marsh. They will then stop chasing him.
- “An hart liveth longest of any beast for he may well live a hundred years and the older he is the fairer he is of body and of the head, and more lecherous, but he is not so swift, nor so light, nor so mighty.”
- A deer will beat a snake with his foot and then eat it. The deer will then drink water and the snake’s venom will not hurt him.
- “They have a bone within the heart which hath great medicine, for it comforteth the heart, and helpeth for the cardiac.”
- Deer are wiser than man or any other beast in two things: in the tasting of herbs and in the ability to survive.
- A female deer will force her calve to lie down by striking him with her foot. She will leave her calf there until she eats, then she will call him with her voice and he will run to her.
- Male deer in the hills will sometimes come down into the forests to rut, and they will stay there all winter until April.
- Deer like the hills because there are no flies there in warmer months.
Edward’s tips for hunting the wild hog
- The wild hog “is the beast of this world that is strongest armed and can sooner slay a man than any other.”
- There is “neither lion nor leopard that slayeth a man at one stroke as a board doth, for they mostly kill with the raising of their claws and through biting, but the wild board slayeth a man with one stroke as with a knife, and therefore he can slay any other beast sooner than they could slay him.”
- Wild hogs are proud and fierce.
- Wild hogs go into their love (rut/heat) around the feast of St. Andrew and are in love for about three weeks. The boar does not leave the sows when they are cool. He leaves them on the 12th day after Christmas.
- Few wild sows farrow more than once a year, but it can happen.
- Sometimes hogs go far to feed at night and return to their den by morning. But if they don’t make it home by morning, wild hogs will stay in a thicket until night returns.
- Wild hogs live on herbs and flowers in May.
- Wild hogs eat all manner of fruits and all manner of corn, and when these fail them they root in the ground with their snouts unit they find roots.
- Wild hogs will eat vermin and carrion.
- The skin of wild hogs is hard and strong, especially on the shoulders. The tough skin on the shoulders is called their shield.
- If a boar is “heated, or wrathful, or hurt, then he runneth upon all things that he sees before him.”
- Sows live in the thickest woods they can find so they can’t be seen.
- Boars have four tusks-two in the jaw above and two in the jaw below, and the above tusks are to sharpen the below tusks.
- A three-year-old boar is more swift and does more harm than an older board.
- A wild hog has a wonderful sense of hearing.
- A boar will rarely leave the forest to run through a field.
- A wild hog will rarely complain or cry when wounded but will strongly groan when he is running upon a man. But when he can no longer defend himself and knows he is about to be killed, he will cry out.
- Boars only lose their tusks by accident.
- The foreleg of a boar might have as many small pits as each year of his age.
- A sow does not have tusks to slay a human, but she will do great harm by biting.
If you’d like to read more of this hunting book from the early 1400s, click here.