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American Family Insurance agent Jeff O’Donnell of Hastings, Neb.stays close to him roots, hunting with a flintlock and wearing period clothing.  (AP Photo/The Hastings Tribune, Amy Roh)

Nebraska hunter goes back in time; hunts with flintlock

March 17, 2013 at 04:59 PM

The Associated Press

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — For as long as he can remember, Jeff O'Donnell has been an enthusiast of the Old West.

The American Family Insurance agent, 60, has written nine books on the subject.

As a boy, O'Donnell loved to play cowboys and Indians with his friends and watch western TV shows.

"All my buddies ... we were all the same," he said.

About a year ago he became interested in switching from a high-powered rifle for hunting to "the old ways," with a custom-made flintlock rifle.

He said the gun was most common from the 1750s to the 1780s.

"For me and my life, that's more exciting to me than going out in the modern way and doing things," he said. Hunting with a flintlock rifle requires the shooter to be extremely close to prey. O'Donnell said a high-powered rifle is accurate from 250-300 yards, but a flintlock rifle has a range of about 100 yards.

"You're limited by range and to one shot," he said. "You don't have time for another shot."

This anachronistic approach to hunting includes clothing. O'Donnell wears a deer skin shirt and pants, beaver skin gloves and fur-lined, knee-high moccasins.

"I don't know how they did it, to be honest with you," he said. "I don't know how they were out in the cold and the snow and everything else. They were tougher than I am."

He wears a hat made from a red fox fur to keep his head warm.

"Actually, that works pretty good," he said. "That's not bad."

Since making the leap to centuries-old technology and clothing styles, O'Donnell began practicing his shooting skills to attend a rendezvous. A rendezvous was a gathering in the early 19th century when trappers would meet en masse and exchange pelts with traders for needed goods such as gunpowder, lead, sugar and coffee.

Today there are living-history rendezvous events. All goods and activities there must be authentic to the frontier period. Skills competitions, such as pistol and rifle shooting and tomahawk throwing, also occur there.

O'Donnell sees the hobby as a way to escape modern conveniences.

"It's the challenge of trying to do the things they did with the same equipment," he said.

He went to his first rendezvous, the Frozen Butt Rendezvous in Marysville, Kan., about a month ago. He participated in several of the skills competitions. There were more than 80 shooters and about120 people altogether there, O'Donnell said.

"I prepared all last year, because there's a lot to learn about this stuff," he said. "The learning curve is unbelievable."

O'Donnell was on the Hastings Board of Education for about 15 years. He made a lot of presentations at schools about the Old West then.

"The kids don't have a clue, to be honest with you, what it was," he said.


Information from: Hastings Tribune,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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