Jack O'Connor Big Game Hunter

Ernie Shipman

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Such depth & breadth in his writing! VERY missed, along with Finn!
 

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I doubt there will ever again be a person who will enjoy such an enlightened and productive life.
 

tarbe

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Game in the Desert Revisited is still one of my favorite books to just pick up and read a chapter.

I have a lot of rifles now (too many, if that's possible?), but when I just had one... it was a Remington 700 classic with a 4x Leopold. Always felt Jack would have approved. I brought home a lot of venison with that rifle.
 

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I read an article of his in, I think, Outdoor Life, when I was about 13 or 14 about rifles and cartridges for big game. I think it was the start of my rifle and big game hunting addiction. My dad never cared for anything except following a bird dog with his Browning Auto 5. I had to wait till I could drive to go deer hunting. Killed my first deer at 15 and been chasing them ever since. Your fault, Jack.
 

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He was a great writer. I grew up reading Jack, Jim Carmichael, Patrick F McManus et al. That, along with a good dog, reliable old gun, and farms to roam, created an addiction that appears to be without cure.
 

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He was a great writer. I grew up reading Jack, Jim Carmichael, Patrick F McManus et al. That, along with a good dog, reliable old gun, and farms to roam, created an addiction that appears to be without cure.

Thank God!
 

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Lots of us old-timers remember reading his work as a kid. It would be great if he, Elmer Keith, Skeeter Skeleton etc. were still around. One can only imagine.

I agree but if you look closely I think some of the next generation of Keith, O'Conner, etc are already alive and kicking around , some of them on this site. We just don't recognize them sometimes
 

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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
Excellent. I love this. In the mid '70s, I bought my .270 Winchester M70 based on Jack O'Connor's hunting exploits. But, just to be FAIR, I would love to see his arch nemesis (big bore aficionado) Elmer Keith's African adventure stories. Apparently, they had different ideas on their choice of hunting rifle calibers.
 
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sierraone

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Excellent. I love this. In the mid '70s, I bought my .270 Winchester M70 based on Jack O'Connor's hunting exploits. But, just to be FAIR, I would love to see his arch nemesis (big bore aficionado) Elmer Keith's African adventure stories. Apparently, they had different ideas on their choice of hunting rifle calibers.
Go to one of the online book sellers and find and order Hell I Was There... Elmer's autobiography, then you read about his African exploits and guns among other stories of his life. I read it in about 91-92.
One or two of his doubles just sold in the last year or two at auction.
 

CoElkHunter

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Go to one of the online book sellers and find and order Hell I Was There... Elmer's autobiography, then you read about his African exploits and guns among other stories of his life. I read it in about 91-92.
One or two of his doubles just sold in the last year or two at auction.
Thank you! I will do that.
 

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Game in the Desert Revisited is still one of my favorite books to just pick up and read a chapter.

I have a lot of rifles now (too many, if that's possible?), but when I just had one... it was a Remington 700 classic with a 4x Leopold. Always felt Jack would have approved. I brought home a lot of venison with that rifle.
Probably not that Remington action. ;) Most of his rifles were beautiful custom things built on the Winchester Model 70.
 
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Skinnersblade

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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.
Given that you've got experience up and down the ladder with '06 variations what's your opinion on the larger wild cats. 338-06? 35 whelan ( although not really a wildcat anymore) .375-06?. Do the larger bullets lend themselves better to Alaskan game or is the loss of volicity detrimental to performance? I've been considering rebarreling my model 700 rem and would appreciate your imput.
 

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Hello Skinnersblade,

Thanks for the vote of confidence.
There are members here who have more experience than I do with the cartridges you mentioned.
Nonetheless, I tend to talk too much and now is a good chance for me to do that, lol.

In the velocity topic, most bottle neck cartridges of today, including the ones you mention have plenty of velocity for most hunting conditions, world wide.
In fact the .35 Whelen shoots very flat indeed when loaded with 225 grain spitzer and generally flat enough to about 300 paces, with 250 grain round nose bullets.

Of those three cartridges you mentioned, due to factory ammunition availability, my first choice would be the .35 Whelen.
My 2nd choice would be the .338-06.
(I would not bother with the .375-06 at all, ever).

The .35 Whelen factory live ammunition is fairly common on gun shop shelves, at least here in Alaska.
It’s not as common as long established calibers but common enough.

The 338-06 is officially a factory standard cartridge now but, even here in Alaska, where we have some large critters, live factory ammunition for it is not very common.
If not for that, then the .338-06 would be my preference, due to bullet construction.
I’m referring to old fashioned lead core / guilding metal jacket bullets which I like very much.

That having been said, if one was to hunt strictly with premium / bonded core bullets, such as the excellent Swift A-Frame then of course, there would likely be no reality based difference in performance between these two cartridges.

I think it was Craig Boddington who once wrote something like, “It seems strange that the .35 Whelen never became very popular in Africa”.
I agree with him on that thought.

As for the .375-06, I see no earthly reason for it’s existence.
Since the hunting world has enjoyed perfect success from the well over 100 year old 9.3x62, what is the point of messing around with some wildcat cartridge that only does the same thing?

“Wildcatting” has never appealed to me, not even a little bit.
In long ago times perhaps it made some kind of sense, underline “perhaps”.
But, in these times, there are always factory standard cartridges that will do the same thing.
No doubt our wildcat fans here will chime in any day now and I welcome their thoughts on the topic.
I might be a cave man but, I’m always interested in what other folks are thinking.

For those who enjoy re-inventing the wheel, I find their work interesting but, just not enough for me to spend what little time I have left on earth, tinkering around with cartridges like the .375-06.
If I wanted to shoot super heavy bullets from the .30-06 size of brass, I totally would just buy a CZ Model 550 in 9.3x62, put a well made scope on it and go my merry way.

Well I guess that’s about it from my padded cell point of view.

Cheers,
Velo Dog.
 
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