Conservation Minnesota

The Dean of American Sportsmen

My last blog posting discussed the founder of Hallock, Minnesota, the town where I live. Charles Hallock was a well-known environmentalist who traveled, wrote and undertook research throughout the United States and Canada.

Hallock’s autobiography mentions that in 1858 he received “the thanks of Minnesota…for his services to the state.” * However, it doesn’t explain in detail what actual services were being acknowledged or in what form the “thanks” were given.

In 1873 Hallock’s book “Fishing Tourist” was published. A record of personal observation and travel, the book was a complete guide to the salmon and trout districts of the United States and Canada.  It received commendations for its scope and accuracy. In 1877 Hallock published “Sportsman’s Gazetteer,” a 900 page standard reference book or encyclopedia for American sportsmen that described and classified some 300 varieties of salt and freshwater fish, providing their local names and synonyms. This was the first attempt ever made to catalog fish. It included a glossary of sporting terms and a complete directory to all sporting localities in each state, territory and Canadian province by townships and counties. In 1880 “The Dog Fanciers Directory and Medical Guide,” was published. This included a list of dog shows in the United States in the 1870s and a description of the rise in popularity of dog breeding, showing and selling after the Civil War.  Hallock also wrote of Florida and Alaska, logging, Bermuda, the Russian fur trade, and hunting the musk ox to name a few of the many topics he covered.

Robert Bell, who wrote “The Bison’s Paradise” described Hallock’s writings of the Red River Valley. “You can almost feel the wind waving in the tall grass and hear the cries of the various kinds of birds. [Hallock] must have a good knowledge of botany, as well as natural history, to be able to describe the flora of that region so accurately. The whole is a vivid picture of the Red River Valley…”

Angling was Hallock’s passion but he enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities. His peers referred to him as the “Dean of American Sportsmen.” He was an accepted authority on fishing, fishing science and travel. He was also an entrepreneur. One of his ventures included establishing the first exchange and money office in New Brunswick, Canada.

What might be described as Hallock’s most important contribution to wildlife was his work protecting game. Hallock formulated some of the basic ideas on game protection. At one point he asked “…what is the use of catching as many fish as the majority of anglers aspire to do? Does the record of great counts establish one’s title to superiority as an angler? Does it prove anything more than a super abundance of fish?” He founded the International Association for the Protection of Game and Fish, comprised of 260 members of leading sportsmen, naturalists and fishing enthusiasts. Its goal was to establish standard laws and rules that would apply to the United States as a whole. Later, he formulated uniform game laws that were endorsed by the U.S. Biological Survey.

Besides his writing career, Hallock had a distinguished career undertaking research on numerous topics. He researched sunflower culture for oil for northern Minnesota, the basket willow culture in North Carolina and engaged in countless research projects for the Smithsonian Institute.

Hallock also spent several months of each year traveling mostly by canoe and horseback. He was especially interested in the remote regions of Canada and the United States.

Hallock died in 1917 after a long life filled with numerous contributions to science, wildlife protection and literature.

*I have been unable to verify the accuracy of this statement. It is mentioned in Hallock’s book An Angler’s Reminiscences; A Record of Sport, Travel and Adventure, with Autobiography of the Author.

Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota. 

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