Skip to main content

A Child Hunter Feeding his Family

A Child Hunter Feeding his Family
Even during the Great Depression, most could afford a sense of humor. Courtesy of The Library of Congress

The Future of Working Class Hunting Pt. 5

Lane Van Orman, Great Depression era hunter.

*This series is dedicated to examining the evolution of hunting through the Great Recession, which as of August 1st may become the Great Depression 2.0. If you just thought, "huh?" Google "US Default". Today we look back at the memories of a man who hunted through the Great Depression to see what we can learn.


Lane Van Orman, born in 1923,was six years old when the Great Depression hit his dad's hardscrabble farm near Blaney, Michigan on the Upper Peninsula. The 180-acre farm focused on dairy but also produced hay, oats, and a large family garden. A quarry accident broke his dad's leg. The doc set the legged crooked and another doc broke it again to reset it. It never healed after the second break.  His dad held the leg together with kangaroo tendon. So, although his dad could get around the farm pretty well, he didn't do much hunting.


They lived in poverty, but as Van Orman quoted a friend, "We were all in the same boat so we didn't know we were poverty stricken." "It (The Great Depression) wasn't a good experience." The poor people felt rich people were taking advantage of them. "Easy to do when you can't put food on table and a $5000 car drives by. No animosity. Just wish you could join them."

During the depression, dairy prices dropped to the point his family couldn't afford to produce milk. He set out to do his part when he turned 11, and began meat hunting nearly year round with the farmer's standard .22 rifle. During the Great Depression the wild game he hunted accounted for about 25 percent of the family's meat. He hunted snowshoe rabbit, squirrels (red, fox, gray and black), lots of partridge and deer.  Whitetail was the jackpot as it was a significant amount of food. As you can imagine, when supper is the trophy, folks ignored game seasons. The philosophy was, "Well, if they put me in jail they'll have to feed my family".  Gasoline was valuable, so Van Orman hunted most of his game within walking distance of the farmhouse.


Van Orman said, "Took your hunting from a completely different perspective than now. Hunting meant you had food the next day. I was selective of game as food not for trophy." Hunters treated ammunition differently. He trapped muskrat and a hide brought in between 15 and 30 cents. A box of 50 .22 shells cost about 25 cents. So he traded muskrat hides for ammunition.

The family also owned a Model 99 Savage .303. The expense of ammunition often kept the .303 home. In those days folks bought ammo by the piece not the box and would typically only take two or three rounds with them. A box of ammo would last for years. They figured, "any man who couldn't get a deer with two or three rounds didn't deserve one".

Van Orman told a funny Great Depression hunting tale that takes, "It fed toward me" to a another level. He'd set out a salt lick despite the fact that he was pretty sure it was not kosher with the regs. He climbed up in the crook of a maple tree, setting his single barrel shotgun loaded with buckshot on a nearby branch. A deer came in and ignored the lick, instead browsing leaves from the maple tree he hid in. Van Orman slowly swung the gun down and held it with one hand. The deer fed in to the point where its forehead was 18 inches from the muzzle. He squeezed the trigger and "that deer didn't suffer". He was strictly looking for food to put on the table.


Fishing figured into filling the larder very little for the Van Orman family. With the prohibitive expense of gasoline, driving ten miles to a lake wasn't cost effective except during the spring mullet run. He would on occasion fish nearby creeks. They would smoke the fish.

Van Orman shared some advice he learned from the Great Depression. He suggests we "Should worry more about tomorrow and be a little more thrifty." He also recommends, "Get out of debt. Stay out of debt. Pay your bills."

What does Van Orman think the future holds? He's keenly concerned about our country defaulting on our loans August 1. If this happens and there is the predicted economic collapse rivaling the Great Depression he feels game animals will be hunted out in short order. Van Orman thinks the high human poplulation combined with technological advancement in equipment including ATVs, semi-auto rifles and night vision will allow hunters doing just what he did some seventy five years ago to wipe out viable game populations in 12 to 24 months.

Lane Van Orman is the Field Advisor for Deep Countree Productions.

Postscript: Dr. Lane Van Orman went on to achieve a great deal. He made up his mind he didn't want to be a hardscrabble farmer and went off to work on a road crew after WWII, he saved money to move and worked in a factory. He spent three years in the Air Force, then attended North Michigan University and earned his Bachelor's Degree. He went on to teach Industrial Arts in rural schools. He earned his Master's Degree in Ann Arbor and finally earned his Doctorate Degree in Vocational Education because he believed good jobs could be available for people who chose a vocational or technical path rather than college.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Kevin Steele and Jason Morton are above the Arctic Circle pursuing grizzly bears in Alaska and put a stalk on what they believe is a good one.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and spicy relish made with white-flesh peaches.Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe Recipes

Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe

Jack Hennessy

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and...

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are created equal. How to Properly Grill Venison Steak Recipes

How to Properly Grill Venison Steak

Hank Shaw

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are...

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop is the most impressive yet; here's a look at the top five that caught our eye.Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020 Bowhunting

Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020

Chris Larsen - September 21, 2020

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop...

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

For your redneck brother who is about to make the biggest mistake of his life is blessed enough toRedneck Bachelor Party is a Blast Stories

Redneck Bachelor Party is a Blast

Awesome Rednecks - September 23, 2013

For your redneck brother who is about to make the biggest mistake of his life is blessed...

Seth O'Hara Bellamy's skull art isn't created using lasers or advanced machinery. It's much simplerCarved in Bone: A Look Inside S.O.B. Skulls Stories

Carved in Bone: A Look Inside S.O.B. Skulls

Ben OBrien - November 20, 2014

Seth O'Hara Bellamy's skull art isn't created using lasers or advanced machinery. It's much...

If there's one word that describes us rednecks, it's innovative. If one of our favorite pastimesThe Redneck Pontoon Picnic Table Stories

The Redneck Pontoon Picnic Table

Awesome Rednecks - July 25, 2013

If there's one word that describes us rednecks, it's innovative. If one of our favorite...

Our phones pressed against the window, eyes wide open and speechless, my colleague, Steve Best, andThe Maasai: A Day in the Life of a Lion Killer Stories

The Maasai: A Day in the Life of a Lion Killer

Cody Altizer - April 05, 2016

Our phones pressed against the window, eyes wide open and speechless, my colleague, Steve...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now