Most of us know the name Daniel Boone but know little else of the man. I’m sure you’ve heard of him and you may even remember a legend or two about his life. Maybe you remember seeing episodes of the popular live-action Disney TV show about him that aired in the ’60s. Or maybe you know he wore a coonskin cap. Daniel Boone was a true American hero, pioneer, hunter, trapper, and man of upstanding character. Also, to quote Boone biographer Robert Morgan, “…Boone hated Coonskin hats and likely never wore one. He instead wore a beaver skin trapper’s hat.” Let’s look at why he was such an influential figure to the United States and the world of hunting.
The key to understanding Daniel Boone is the state of Kentucky. Boone lived in the Yadkin River valley in North Carolina in the 1750s. At that time, few white men had ever gone west into Kentucky. The state was relatively uninhabited even by Native Americans, being shared by multiple tribes and used as hunting grounds. Kentucky was a wealth of pristine wilderness and natural resources. Filled with bears, beavers, otters, buffalo, deer, turkeys, and many other animals it was viewed by colonial Americans the way we might view Alaska today. There had been no settlement of any kind into the state.
Daniel Boone began sneaking into the state undetected via the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian mountains. He once spent over two years in Kentucky, much of that time by himself, hunting and trapping. Daniel Boone was a great hunter because he taught himself how to hunt in the wilderness from the land. He started hunting with sticks and handmade spears and rocks. When he finally got a rifle in his hands, he became absolutely deadly. Learning from Native Americans, he developed a hunting style reminiscent of the old hunter-gatherers. He learned to study the land and track both animals and humans better than most men.
Eventually, he led other settlers through the Cumberland Gap and began to establish settlements on the western frontier. Fraught with legal issues, trouble with the Native Americans, and the harsh nature of frontier life, many of the settlers ultimately turned back to North Carolina. Daniel Boone stayed though. Through thick and thin, famine, Indian wars, and eventually the American Revolution, Daniel Boone went on to become a high ranking member of the Kentucky Militia. He would go on to help push the British back from the western front of the revolutionary war and saved the settlement of Kentucky. This later paved the way for the acquisition of Ohio, Michigan, and all of the other western states that now make up the United States.
For many, Boone represents the ultimate frontiersman. He lived his life wanting to know what was over the next ridge and was never afraid to find out. His ability to be self-sufficient and thrive in harsh and hostile environments allowed him to successfully live in areas where no other settlers dared go. It is reported that he even learned how to make his own gunpowder when supplies were dwindling. Beyond his physical skills, he was also a man who was of the highest integrity. His word was beyond reproach and he treated all people with respect. He was a hunter that all future outdoorsmen would do well to model themselves after.