Friday, May 18, 2012

Thought on Hunting Pouches and Horns by Chris Barker

During the last thirty five years I have heard much discussion about the correct way to carry one's shot pouch and powder horn.  Some say the horn should always be carried on a strap separate from the pouch.  Others say the horn must be carried on short straps attached to the shot bag's shoulder strap.  Since these details are not often mentioned in period literature, I began to look at examples in art.  It seems that a horn on a strap separate from the bag was observed with greater frequency in Eighteenth Century examples, and that horns on straps attached to the shoulder straps of the pouch were more likely in the Nineteenth Century.  When the horn was carried on its own strap it could be carried either on the same side as the shot bag or on the opposite side.  I believe that there is no hard and fast rule here.  Powder horns were carried on both their own straps or attached to the bag strap throughout America's entire muzzle loading era.

Presently we see shot pouches more often than not carried on the right side.  The reality is that the shot pouch could be carried on whichever side deemed to be the most comfortable by the user.  In the Appalachians traditionally a left side pouch was the most common, but in photographs of the Soddy shoots during the early Twentieth Century a bag on the right was common.  If the horn was attached to the pouch strap, no matter which side, the horn was pointed to the front.  A modern artist made a serious mistake about this in a text book we use in Texas public schools.  An old pouch and horn set was acquired as a prop for a painting.  It was a right side carry setup.  The horn straps were attached to the pouch strap.  The model put it on his left side.  Thus the horn was backwards!  Now, some folks might have worn a powder horn with the spout to the rear, but that would have presented great difficulties in measuring out powder.  The painting showing the backwards bag and horn setup is well known here, and it has made a number of modern people think that spout to the rear powder horn carry was common.  I truly believe that the painter failed to do his homework before picking up his brush.

I have seen folks carrying shot pouches and powder horns low down on their hips.  This may be due to a famous Frederick Remington painting of a mountain man carrying his shot bag thus.  This portrait, really a caricature, was partially created from Remington's imagination.  It is said that he had never really seen a mountain man, but that he possessed a large collection of Fur Trade and Old West artifacts.  Unknowingly some shooters tried to copy Remington's art.  In the old days folks tended to carry their shot pouches at least at waist level, maybe a bit higher.  This can be clearly seen in examples of period art.  When a person was moving through dense brush or forest it was important to be able to pull the pouch in close with the elbow.  The whole kit was designed to be hung close to the body without projections which could be caught on a branch or bush.

In the examples provided here, the kit on the left has the powder horn on its own strap.  Mike Small made the horn, and I made the bag.  On the right, the horn is suspended on short straps attached to the shot pouch's shoulder strap.  Ed Wilde made the pouch, and Mark Ewing Made the powder horn and measure.

Copy and photos by Chris Barker.


  1. Also, keep in mind that if you are viewing a tintype photo of a hunter wearing bag and horn, the image on the tintype is reversed.

  2. Way to go Cuz, I couldn't have said it any better. The key words here are "a matter of preference."
    Regards Frank

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