In the early days of the population and industrial boom, it was difficult to keep up with the nutritional needs of a rapidly increasing population and fortunes, especially in the economically prosperous West. Due to refrigeration, the reach of food had compounded, and people now could enjoy perishable delicacies from far-off places. Among these was bird meat that hadn’t seen the likes of broilers and layer varieties that are mass-produced these days, so there was a shortage of it in the marketplace.
Domestic fowls were expensive, so people turned to hunt wild water fowls. Also, the ridiculous women fashion of those days demanded a healthy dose of feathers in the dress, so the poor fowls’ hides ended up as part of clothing as well. Both of these uses resulted in a sharp surge in demand But how do you hunt so many wild birds commercially? Enter the Punt Gun!
To meet the demands of the bird market, local hunters developed a ridiculously long, yet powerful shotgun with a 2″ bore. They were often mounted on flat boats called Punts, and it is from there that they got the name. It was made for a singular purpose: To target as many fowls as possible in a single shot. And boy, it did that. We have records that claim more than 90 birds were killed in a single shot by the dreaded hunter gun in the 19th and 20th centuries. The hunters would also work in groups. By lining boats with each other and firing shots together, the huntsmen could easily “harvest” five hundred birds in a single day with the help of the big Punt gun. But, the hunting expeditions didn’t take place without problems. The Punt gun was so powerful that its reactionary force would push the boat back towards the water. It could capsize the boat too!
The gun was fixed to the vessel because of its bulky nature, so the whole boat had to be moved to take aim at the birds. But, nevertheless, the guns were a cause of massive bird genocide as much as food and a lower number of water fouls remained in the wildlife, prompting many states in the US to ban its use entirely. In many parts of the world including Britain, their use continued.