From Our Farm to Your Table

There's a Bullet in My Steer

Sun, 2018-02-11 07:23 -- Carole Soule
A minié bullet from a Civil War-era musket-rifle

The bullet was lodged under the steer’s skin for at least six months. It was a bullet, called a minié, from a Civil War era rifle-musket that didn’t kill the animal. The butcher found the bullet when the steer was processed. He must have been shot in the Fall during hunting season.

Hunting season starts in mid-September with waterfowl, followed by deer and ends in mid-December with turkey. There are strict rules each hunter must follow to acquire a license to hunt in New Hampshire. Hunters perform a service by harvesting deer so the remaining animals have enough food found in the wild to survive. Too many deer and not enough forage means starvation.

All the hunters I know eat the animals they shoot. A hunter knows what good meat tastes like and many buy grassfed beef when they run out of venison. I love responsible hunters. Even so, mistakes are made and domestic livestock as well as people are occasionally shot.

I’ve heard of farmers painting the word “COW” on their bovines to alert the less-observant hunters that this is a domestic animal and not part of the wild kingdom. While I’ve never lost a critter during hunting season, my steer had been hit by a minié bullet from a Civil War-era musket-rifle.

I found a picture of the type of bullet online where I learned that unlike a smoothbore-loading musket or shotgun which is hard to aim and not accurate, the soft-lead minié ball expands to fit the rifling of the barrel giving it greater accuracy. The muzzle-loading rifle bullet was named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié.

“The rifle-musket and minié bullet together changed the face of warfare forever. For the first time in history, infantrymen could aim their weapons at a target a fair distance away and actually have a chance of hitting it. Ninety percent of the soldiers in the Civil War were killed by the rifle-musket and the minié bullet,”

Thankfully my steer did not become a casualty of a Civil War-era weapon. I image the bullet bounced off a rock or tree with so little impact it felt more like a bee sting when it hit the steer and lodged under his skin. I have great respect for hunters; this was probably an accident.

We don’t close our farm to hunters but I do expect them to avoid shooting my livestock. It would take an awfully long time to paint the word, “Cow,” on all my critters.

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