The 19th century might be famous for a number of reasons, one of them had to be the increasing demand for meat, especially in the North of America.
Additionally, there was an equal but subtle increase in the demand for various animal and bird feathers in the fashion industry. Hunters jumped in to meet the demands and equipped themselves with even larger guns; some of which were gigantic and custom built, as every hunter had his own way and taste for hunting. Hunters normally don’t look into the moral aspect of what they do; they are often only concerned about the commercial aspect of their actions.
The hunters often worked in groups of eight to ten and fired their combined punt guns at the same time to maximize the number of waterfowl they could hit. Hunter Ray Todd, claimed he and three other hunters with punt guns managed to kill 419 ducks one night in a single volley after encountering a huge flock “over a half-mile long and nearly as wide”.
The hunters often worked in groups of eight to ten and fired their combined punt guns at the same time to maximize the number of waterfowl they could hit.
After the first volley, he stated, “The birds flew off a short distance and began to feed again. We made three more shots that night. By morning we had killed over 1,000 ducks. They brought $3.50 a pair in Baltimore, and it was the best night’s work we had ever done.”
Hunting with the punt gun was not an easy feat; it required extreme caution, skilful manoeuvring, and patience of a lake. The hunter would normally operate in large groups, and moved towards the birds ever so stealthily as as not to startle the prey.
The large guns would be mounted on punts, hence their names, and often meant that a hunter had to move the entire boat in order to get in line for a shot. This demanded extreme patience, as one wrong move meant that the prey would fly away and not return for a good few hours. These guns could fire a shot as big as a pound, or 0.45 kg in weight, with the bore as big as 2 inches, and with the killing ability of at least 90 waterfowl with one single shot.
One advantage of mounting a punt gun on to a small boat was that the force that came from the recoil could be absorbed by the boat and the water beneath. If the hunters were to mount the punt guns on their shoulders, there would have been more injuries then profitable kills.
Consequently, the population of waterfowl in the US fell to a dramatic level, so much so that the United States government had to step in and ban the practice as early as 1860s. After that, there was a whole host of laws established all over the United States outlawing the hunting of endangered birds, and the practice of hunting these birds became outlawed due to a number of federal laws in 1918.
On the other side of the world, the United Kingdom also had its fair share of punt guns, which by 1995 had reduced to a very low number of just 50 guns across the country. The United Kingdom’s government limited the bore diameter of the Punt guns to 1.75 inches, however, you can still watch these guns in operation.
Since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee which took place in 1897, there is a regular punt gun salute on every coronation or diamond jubilee over Cowbit Wash in Lincolnshire, England. Recently a salute of 21 punt gunshots was fired on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Modern waterfowl shotguns are required by federal law to be at most 10 gauge, while many hunters use 12 gauge magnum loads that exceed the standards of the old shells of yesterday.