Jack O'Connor Big Game Hunter

Discussion in 'Legends Of Big Game Hunting' started by monish, Aug 14, 2010.

  1. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Jack O'Connor (1902-1978), Big Game Hunter
    Biography Written by Eldon “Buck” Buckner


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    Jack O'Connor (1902-1978), Big Game Hunter

    Jack O'Connor was born in Arizona in 1902, a land that he described as "the last frontier." He taught English at the University of Arizona, and became its first journalism professor. His first love was the outdoors and writing about hunting, firearms, and the natural history of big game animals. As the longtime firearms editor for OUTDOOR LIFE magazine, O'Connor hunted and collected trophies throughout the world, and introduced millions of readers to hunting and firearms. O'Connor moved to Lewiston, Idaho in 1948 and he lived there until his death in 1978.

    John Woolf O’Connor was born January 22, 1902, in Nogales, Arizona Territory . The timing of his birth allowed Jack to witness the end of the old West as well as the space age where men walked on the moon. Such mythical western figures as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Geronimo were still alive and kicking when Jack was in high school.

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    Jack O'Connor with Elk in Wyoming in 1944

    Jack’s parents divorced when Jack was five and his sister, Helen, was two years old. His mother, a teacher, moved her family to Tempe where they initially lived in a large tent on a city block owned by her father. She never remarried and eventually retired from what is now Arizona State University.

    Jack maternal grandfather, James Wiley Woolf, was a pioneer westerner of standing in the community as well as a sportsman who appreciated firearms and enjoyed shooting. Jack’s paternal uncle, Jim O’Connor, was a judge in nearby Florence who also owned a ranch in the nearby desert country. Both men served as surrogate father figures for young Jack, teaching him to shoot and encouraging his interest in firearms, hunting and adventure. An avid reader, young Jack devoured the men’s books and magazines on the sporting life.

    During World War I, Jack lied about his age and joined the Army at age 15, but was soon discharged when he was diagnosed with chronic tuberculosis. He returned to school, graduating in 1919, and spent the summer shooting deer to feed an uncle’s sawmill workers in Sinaloa, Mexico. He joined the Navy that fall, saw a lot of the world as a hospital corpsman on the USS Arkansas and was discharged the summer of 1921.

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    Jack O'Connor (1902-1978), Big Game Hunter

    Jack attended Tempe Normal (now Arizona State University ) for two years, University of Arizona at Tucson one year, and graduated from University of Arkansas in June, 1925, with a degree in banking and finance. Following a brief stint as a cub reporter in Chicago , he enrolled in graduate school at University of Missouri where he met his future wife, Eleanor Bradford Barry, and obtained his masters degree in English/Journalism in 1927. That fall, he married Eleanor and accepted a teaching position at what is now Sul Ross University at Alpine, Texas.

    While at Alpine, Jack taught Eleanor to shoot and hunt, explored southwest Texas and northern Chihuahua on various hunting trips, worked as an Associated Press stringer on the side , became a father and wrote a controversial novel (Conquest) which was published in 1930. In 1931, he returned to Arizona as a public relations staff member at the State Teachers College at Flagstaff (now Northern Arizona University ). It was here that Jack wrote his first outdoor stories, published in Sports Afield and Field & Stream magazine, to augment his Depression era salary. His first article published in Outdoor Life (May, 1934) was a conservation piece entitled “Arizona ’s Antelope Problem,” written from his observations of the Anderson Mesa herd nearby. In 1934, Jack began his tenure at The University of Arizona where he became the school’s first journalism professor establishing that department.

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    By 1936, he was becoming well known as an outdoor writer on the subject of firearms, hunting and big game natural history. He also wrote fictional short stories for popular magazines such as Redbook and Saturday Evening Post. By the end of the year Jack had an exclusive contract with Outdoor Life, became its gun columnist in 1939 and assumed position of Arms and Ammunition Editor in 1941. In 1945, Jack resigned from the university and academia and began his full time career as an outdoor writer with Outdoor Life.

    Jack O'Connor's reputation as a journalist and hunter often over-shadow his legacy of responsible hunting and conservation. In fact, his first appearance in Outdoor Life Magazine (May 1934) was a conservation piece entitled "Arizona's Antelope Problem."

    In 1972, he was selected by a national poll of more than 5,000 outdoor writers and conservationists for the prestigious Winchester-Western Outdoorsman of the Year Award. The award recognized O'Connor's contributions to journalism, sportsmanship, marksmanship, and practical conservation practices.

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    Jack O'Connor, Big Game Hunter, 1951

    Jack was always an inquisitive and observant man with a high IQ and abundant energy. He had many and varied interests, including history, archaeology, anthropology and natural history. He cultivated friends who were well educated and knowledgeable in many walks of life. A man of strong opinions but a logical thinker with an unparalleled gift for writing, he was a convincing proponent for whatever cause he espoused. Wildlife conservation he championed his entire life.

    Jack was very active with the Arizona Game Protective Association, which eventually evolved into the Arizona Wildlife Federation of today. He proposed an open season for Arizona’s antelope as a way of creating interest among both hunters and the Arizona Game Department while at the same time aiding the over population. His campaign, publicly first aired in Outdoor Life in the 1930’s, continued until the first experimental season took place in 1941. Jack and his wife both participated in that first hunt and lived to see Arizona become the leading state for world record heads.

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    Jack O'Connor Pheasant hunting

    Sheep hunting has become the world’s most prestigious hunting sport. It owes much of its notoriety to O’Connor, whose name is inexorably and forever linked with the activity. O’Connor collected his first ram, a Desert Bighorn, in Sonora, Mexico, in 1935. By 1946, he had collected three or more of each of the four wild sheep species in North America , becoming the fourth and fifth man to complete such a collection. However, Jack hunted sheep because he loved the country they inhabited, and the sport, and could care less about any associated notoriety. From the 1930’s onward, he championed the wild sheep, especially the Desert Bighorns of the Southwest. He used his bully pulpit as popular writer, professor, Arizona Wildlife & Sportsman editor, and radio host to promote modern game management techniques for Desert sheep and a limited open season. Arizona held its first Desert sheep season in the early 1950’s and eventually adopted nearly all the recommendations made by Jack.

    The .270 Winchester became one of the most popular big game cartridges due to Jack’s promotion of it as an effective caliber for the average hunter; sheep hunting and sheep conservation became more visible to the average sportsman resulting in an awareness of habitat requirements that led to the establishment of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, the first of several species-specific similar conservation organizations; and sportsmen were much more aware of the importance of ethical hunting standards and professional game management to the continuance of their sport.

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    Arizona ’s post-World War II population explosion so changed the state Jack loved that he decided to leave in 1948. He chose Idaho to move to, debating between Boise and Lewiston . His friend Vernon Speer of Speer Bullet Company, persuaded him to choose Lewiston and helped him locate the house at the corner of 7th and Prospect Avenues overlooking the Snake River , that was O’Connor’s home for the rest of his life.

    Jack enjoyed Lewiston’s small town way of life, the close proximity of good big-game hunting and upland bird shooting and the availability of a commercial airport for long distance trips. He served as secretary of the Lewis-Clark Wildlife Club and fought against the construction of new dams in the Clearwater drainage which would destroy elk winter range and adversely affect steelhead and salmon.

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    During most of Jack’s writing career, Outdoor Life was the most popular magazine for sportsmen, in large part due to Jack’s efforts. An effective educator and communicator, he could explain technical ideas by using humor and personal anecdotes in a way that the average man could both understand and find entertaining. Too, his vast hunting experience, which included safaris to twelve African countries, two Indian shikars, several Iranian hunts with the royal family, and numerous trips to Europe and Scotland, lent much credence to his observations.

    When Jack retired from Outdoor Life in 1972, he was immediately hired as executive editor for the new Petersen's Hunting magazine where he served until his death.

    During his life, Jack authored 16 hard-covered books, many of which were revised and updated later, and numerous soft cover publications.

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    Most were on the subject of hunting, big game animals, or guns and shooting, but two were autobiographical and two were novels.

    Jack received several major honors during his life. He was the second person to win the Weatherby Award, the “Oscar” of the hunting world, in 1957. In 1972 he was selected by the nation’s outdoor writers to receive Winchester ’s Outdoorsman of the Year Award. In 1974 he was inducted into the Hunting Hall of Fame.

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    By the end of his life Jack’s influence, both directly and indirectly, on American sportsmen was considerable. Firearm manufacturers were producing lighter, handier and better stocked rifles than ever before, largely due to the influence of Jack’s prolific writing about design features of his custom rifles. Thousands of hunters had been educated to the fact that shot placement was much more important to making a quick, humane kill on game than the caliber of the rifle. The .270 Winchester became one of the most popular big game cartridges due to Jack’s promotion of it as an effective caliber for the average hunter; sheep hunting and sheep conservation became more visible to the average sportsman resulting in an awareness of habitat requirements that led to the establishment of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, the first of several species-specific similar conservation organizations; and sportsmen were much more aware of the importance of ethical hunting standards and professional game management to the continuance of their sport.

    On January 20, 1978 , Jack O’Connor died of heart failure while aboard the SS Mariposa en route to San Francisco from Hawaii . Eleanor survived him by six months and died at their Lewiston home on July 25 from emphysema.

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    The Big Game Rifle by Jack O'Connor. From deer to rhino the author covers every available rifle and calibre suitable for game. This book also covers equipment for hunting from horseback.

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    The Lost Classics of Jack O'Connor by Jim Casada. Born January 22, 1902, in Arizona Territory, John Woolf O'Connor ultimately became America's most popular outdoor writer. From his first magazine article in 1934, which he sold to Sports Afield for a whopping $12.50, and continuing until just a few weeks before his death in 1978, Jack O'Connor would write nine books on hunting and sporting firearms and more than 1,200 articles for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Redbook, True and Esquire. His longest and most treasured magazine association, however, was with Outdoor Life. The Lost Classics of Jack O'Connor features 40 of his best Outdoor Life articles, none of which have ever appeared in any other book. They range from O'Connor's hunts for Coues deer in his beloved desert Southwest to his pursuit of Dall sheep and grizzlies in the Yukon and lions and leopards in Africa.

    About the Author. Jim Casada is a veteran outdoor writer who has written, edited or contributed to more than forty books. He writes three newspaper columns each week and serves as a columnist for several magazines, including Sporting Classics, Mossy Oak's Hunting the Country, Turkey & Turkey Hunting and Predator Xtreme. His articles on turkey and deer hunting, fly fishing, sporting literature, natural history and game cookery regularly appear in national magazines. Together with his wife, Ann, he has written or been a major contributor to a number of cookbooks, including Wild Bounty, The Complete Venison Cookbook, Wild Fare & Wise Words, The Ultimate Venison Cookbook and Backyard Grilling.



    Monish
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2016
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  2. jaustin

    jaustin AH Veteran

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    Thanks for the post Monish. My grandfather (my hero) was a 270 man so when I learned to read Jack O'connor became my favorite because he agreed with my grandfather. Jack's experiences are likely never to be repeated. I still enjoy rereading his work. Jim
     
  3. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Thanks Jim , glad you enjoyed the post...

    Monish
     
  4. lwaters

    lwaters BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Jack was my favorite writer. I have several of his books.
     
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  5. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH Elite

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    Jack was one of my hunting heros as a boy. I have always enjoyed reading his articles and stories. Thanks Monish for sharing. Bruce
     
  6. Mekaniks

    Mekaniks GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    This is a cool old thread, thanks for brining it back.
    I have visited the Jack OConner Museum in Lewiston and it's really really cool, I recommend it to anyone that is in the area.
    Super good stuff...
     
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  7. adgunner

    adgunner AH Fanatic

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    I grew up reading Jack O'Connor and my first big game rifle was a .270 win due in large part to his writings that it was the only rifle I would ever need. I still have that rifle. Thanks for posting his bio Monish.
     
  8. Brent in Az

    Brent in Az AH Fanatic

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    The good old days! I remember his articles in Outdoor Life Magazine' when I was a teenager.
     
  9. HuntingGold

    HuntingGold AH Enthusiast

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    Another O'Connor fan here! Thanks much for the post.
     
  10. lwaters

    lwaters BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Jack wrote that if he could own only one rifle it would be a 375 H&H. If two the other would be a 270.
     
  11. Velo Dog

    Velo Dog SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Ladies & Gents,

    I think Jack O'Connor was a fake and a phoney.
    Because, in all of his animals-bagged photos, his rifles were almost always wearing nothing more than a 4x Weaver scope and/or iron sights only.

    There's just no way on earth that, any hunter could possibly have enjoyed so many local and international hunting adventures, successfully bagging all those diversified critters, by means of such feeble sighting equipment - it's impossible!

    Anyone will tell you that, to be a successful hunter, one simply must have a huge inter-galactic variable power plasma Hubble Telescope.
    Furthermore, it must be adjustable in magnification (via one touch electric motor drive) of at least 6.5x to 24x minimum.

    It also must have at least a 30mm main tube, with 50mm front lens, as well as 4" tall glow in the dark external adjustment turrets, several lighted aiming reticules with multiple color choices, calibrated for your favorite hand loads, at least a wind gauge, if not a whole weather analyzing system, lazer range finder, cable TV, satellite phone, alarm clock, zombie battle video games, on-line college courses,

    Successful hunts are simply not possible when the best a hunter can do is to, put nothing more a 4x scope, plus iron sights on their rifle and that is a fact (just ask anyone).

    Regards,
    V. Smartypants.
     
  12. Brent in Az

    Brent in Az AH Fanatic

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    The scope on my first hunting rifle was a Weaver 4x. It was good enough for Jack, it was good enough for me.
     
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  13. BWH

    BWH AH Elite

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    It was well after his death when I became a fan...... my first rifle was a 270 because of him. Always admired his opinion/research/advice. Took it as law/gospel. He has spent time/life in great hunting country!!! Northern AZ & West TX!!!! He had it made!
     
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  14. HuntingGold

    HuntingGold AH Enthusiast

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    VeloDog.... you had me for the first line or two!
     
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  15. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH Enthusiast

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    Never owned a 270. My first was a 257 Roberts which O'Connor also thought well of and his wife used it a lot. Unfortunately I had to sell it in 1965 to cover tuition, books, etc in college. Always wanted another.
    I don't think the 270 Win ever got the respect for its long range capabilities it deserved. For years bullets were never developed in the .277 caliber (too few cartridges) for the same accuracy as 7mm, .308, 243, 6.5, etc. today the processes are so much better controlled that almost ever caliber bullet is of match accuracy if the right powder, case controls, rifle quality, etc are maintained.

    Another interesting bit of history. Thanks!
     
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  16. lwaters

    lwaters BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Jack told the truth. The 270 with 130 grain bullets will get a little over 3100 in a 22 in barrel with 62 grains of H-4831. Ive chronographed it
     
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  17. Clayton

    Clayton AH Fanatic

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    A man I never met and yet I still miss him.
     
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  18. Velo Dog

    Velo Dog SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Brent in Az,

    I'm in agreement with you and Jack, for sighting arrangements on most of my hunting rifles.
    In furtherance of this way of thinking, my very favorite hunting rifle today wears "only" a 4x scope (and iron sights).
    It is a Bruno Model 602, caliber .375 H&H and my scope is a Zeiss 4x that, came from a limited run of their "Conquest" series of scope models, only a few short years ago.
    It's clamped in a pair of Alaska Arms brand lever rings and I've never wanted any different sighting arrangement on this excellent hunting rifle.

    Regarding the .270 Winchester cartridge itself, as good as it is, my fascination with it has come and gone.
    However, it is quite a good one for what it was designed - longish shots on deer, sheep, pronghorn and similar sized animals worldwide, with 130 gr to 150 gr spitzers.
    Furthermore, with various 110 gr through 130 gr spitzers, it is a serious long range "varmint cartridge" as well.
    I have owned a Ruger M77, a Remington Model-721, and a dreaded Pre-64 Model-70 in this cartridge.
    And with same, I have shot caribou, blacktail deer and marmot in Alaska.

    30+ something years ago, back in California and Nevada both, I had used it well on the occasional coyote, plus countless jack rabbits and ground squirrels.
    I liked 130 grain flat based spitzers, both in my own hand-loads and factory ammunition alike.
    For a few years, I also had owned a .25-06 and it shot very well for me but, between these two similar cartridges, I definitely preferred the .270, no question.

    At the risk of being haunted by Jack O'Connor's ghost;
    These days as mentioned, I'm no longer interested in this cartridge and so, I do not own one now.
    This being primarily because, I eventually concluded that anything I can hit with a .270 / 130 gr, I can also hit just as well with a .30-06 / 150 gr.
    Plus, the .30-06 / 220 gr round nose at 2400 fps is excellent on larger animals in heavy cover, here in Alaskan alder thickets, dark woods, etc., and "over there" in thick African bush as well.
    The .270 can't match that sort of "both ends of the spectrum" versatility near as well - IMO.

    Best regards,
    Velo Dog.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017
  19. sierraone

    sierraone SILVER SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    For those of you of the proper age....do any of you remember reading one of his articles in Outdoor Life in the late 60s? He was complaining about the invention of the commercial jet airliners. The essence of the story was that all hunting in Africa had been ruined since the inventions of the Boeing 707 and such, because far too many American hunters were now able to afford the time and money to go hunt in Africa, creating too many hunters in his opinion. I always admired him as a hunter, but this is the one article that I have always remembered. Wish I could remember the year at least, if not the month.
     
  20. ack

    ack AH Veteran

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