December 1887 - Shortly after Theodore Roosevelt convinced his friends that they should take up the charge to put a halt to the destruction of America's wildlife, their first order of business was to name this new fraternity of sportsmen.
The founders decided on Boone and Crockett—two illustrious names from the country’s frontier past, names that are synonymous with America’s pioneering vitality and with rugged individualism, the very personification of the soul of Nimrod, the hunter. Both witnessed a land of abundance stripped of its soul and lamented over the progresses of civilization, well before conservation had a name.
Daniel Boone was born in 1735 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Limited in formal education, Boone’s adventurous nature led him to acquire exceptional skills in woodcraft at a young age. Even at a time when self-reliance and courage were commonplace virtues among the people of settlement communities, Boone was distinguished for his uncommon boldness, enterprise and skill as a longhunter – a huntsman who spent months away from home in the wilderness building a cache of meat and hides.
At age 34, Daniel Boone, in the company of five others, pressed into the wilds of what is now the state of Kentucky. At a site along the Kentucky River, he constructed a fort (Boonesboro) and soon settled his family and 30 volunteers there.
Boone’s proficiency in carving a settlement from the wilderness, provisioning it by trapping and hunting, and defending it from almost continual siege by Indians, became legendary. He was once captured by Indians and taken to Old Chillocothe on the Miami River, where a Shawnee chief adopted him. Boone subsequently escaped after learning of an impending Indian raid on Boonesboro, returning to the settlement in time to warn its inhabitants and help in repelling the attack.
Boone remained in Kentucky until 1795, playing a prominent role in the history of the territory until its admission to statehood in 1791. When the state was surveyed, his land claims were disputed. So, Boone moved to Missouri, then a Spanish province, where he had been awarded a grant of 8,000 acres. With the Louisiana Purchase, Boone again lost his holdings, but Congress awarded him a parcel of 850 acres.
A popular notion about Daniel Boone is that he moved westward from Kentucky to find “elbow room”—solitude and distance from advancing civilization. While in fact a man contemptuous of urban surroundings and the trappings of regimented life, Boone was never in retreat from civilization. His path findings were usually undertaken as an agent of settlement. The wilderness he explored, he intended to civilize. Nevertheless, his pluck and woodsmanship were the stuff of tales and folklore. Boone himself was amused, and sometimes annoyed, by his celebrity status.
Whatever the true measure of Daniel Boone’s motivations, character, and skills, he came to symbolize that mythical cadre of leatherstocking frontiersmen who bridged the time and place between wildland and civilization.
Toward the end of his life in 1820, Boone recognized and lamented the unnecessary loss and retreat of wildlife from the expanded civilizations he helped to establish. Yet, he continued to be lured to the hunt as late as his 82nd year of life.
Boone’s junior by about 50 years, but his equal in fame, was Davy Crockett. Born in Tennessee, Crockett, like Boone, was wilderness educated. His ambition, shrewdness, wit, hunting expertise, and marksmanship made him legendary. He fought with General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Nation, and he was elected three times to Congress, where his eccentricity of manner and backwoods dress added to his renown and public mystique.
Shortly after retiring from Congress, Crockett further ennobled himself to the public and to history by taking up arms with Texas in its fight for independence. A casualty of the Mexican army’s sacking of the Alamo in 1836, Davy Crockett-woodsman, hunter, scout, Indian fighter, politician, and soldier-added the mantle of hero.
Both Boone and Crockett were the archetypal American buckskinned hunter, full of grit, determination, and savvy afield. They symbolize still the restlessness and sense of adventure that lie deep and indelibly within the breast of every true hunter. And for the past 125 years, their names have been linked in the title of an organization that is widely and correctly associated with conservation of America’s natural resources, and with the best traditions of hunting.