|July - August 2000
Volume 32, Number
The Weatherby .280 Remington was produced in the W
Finn Aagaard, whom I’m
lucky to have had as my father, was a good man, an avid gun writer, an ethical hunter and
a patriotic citizen. He slipped away quietly April 3, 2000, after a long battle with
cancer. He made this world a better place to live and will be sorely missed by all.
He had a strong sense of ethics and
always did the right thing. He took the moral high ground. He accepted responsibility for
his actions. He spoke nothing but the truth and was good for his word wherever he went. In
a time of slogans, sound bites and spin doctors, his reputation was beyond reproach, and
his actions spoke louder than words. He built his house on the solid rock, while many
others waffled on the shifting sand. He was a good friend to many and set a fine example
for them to follow.
Through his writing, Finn was in a
unique position to influence more than just his friends. He started writing seriously in
1983 and has had quite a following ever since. I don’t know how many articles he
wrote during that time, but a compilation of his works would probably fill several
volumes. He really loved his job. He got to hunt and shoot and reload ammunition every
day. Finn joked that all he had to do was write about it and get paid.
Writing, however, never came easily for him.
He wrote and rewrote and wrestled with every sentence to get it just right. He spent hours
and hours doing meticulous research and testing. He kept detailed diaries of all his hunts
and painstaking notes of all his tests. (For example, he fired over 2,000 rounds through
his .375 before changing the barrel, and documented every single shot. Of those rounds,
many were at targets and for penetration tests. But his notes also record over 48 buffalo,
two lions, one elephant and one hippopotamus killed with that rifle.)
The Aagaard family (left to right): Harald and Teresa Aagaard, Gavin and Marit (Aagaard) Mundy, Erik and Posie Aagaard, and Finn and Berit (circa 1997).
I think a cartoon clipping hanging
above his desk sums it up nicely. Two guys are walking out of an office supply store. One
man, carrying a new typewriter, turns to the other and says, “All I have to do to be
a good writer is figure out which keys to hit.” He spent years pecking at the
keyboard, trying to do just that.
Finn wrote what he believed, not
what he thought others wanted to hear. He was honest in his reviews of hunting outfits,
rifles, cartridges and equipment. He used his vast experience and interesting stories to
support his straightforward writing style. This agreed well with his readers. Modest as he
was, fame left him unchanged. However, without the popularity and success of his stories,
far fewer people would know who he was and what he stood for.
He felt very strongly about gun
safety. Through the years, he saw or heard of many negligent firearm discharges and
shooting deaths. This prompted him to write one of his favorite articles on the subject,
“The Four Commandments.” They can be summed up as follows: Treat every gun as if
it is loaded, don’t point it at anything you do not want to shoot, keep your finger
off the trigger until you are ready to shoot and be sure of your target and what lies
Finn was also a big proponent of
hunting ethics. In a time of deer blinds, feeders and guaranteed kills on tiny parcels of
land, he believed in fair chase hunts. The animals he hunted had an even chance of getting
away. They roamed free while he stalked them on foot in their natural environment, pitting
his hunting skills against their wits. Far more than collecting trophies, he enjoyed
pursuing game for the sake of hunting. He loved the time spent outdoors, searching for
game, and he enjoyed the excitement of a long stalk on his hands and knees. Whether he
shot something or not mattered little. (My last and most memorable hunt with my dad
yielded nothing but a good time together.)
He respected the animals and would
not fire unless he had a clear shot and was assured a clean kill. He once wrote an
article, complete with pictures of a dissected goat, showing all the vital organs in the
body cavity to demonstrate proper bullet placement. In his mind, this was far more
important than gun caliber. If an animal were ever wounded, he went to great lengths to
track it down so it would not have to suffer.
Finally, my father was a patriotic
citizen. He loved this country and all that it stood for. We flew the flag at half mast at
his memorial service. Finn was a big defender of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights -
especially the Second Amendment. Guns were his livelihood. He could not imagine giving
them up. He felt it was his duty to be armed in order to protect his family and fellow
citizens. He recently wrote an article explaining why he obtained a concealed handgun
permit and carried a Colt .45 Officer’s Model pistol wherever he went.
I have been very fortunate to have had Finn
Aagaard as my father. He taught me about gun safety, hunting ethics and Second Amendment
rights. He passed on to me his .375 and to my brother, Erik, his .458. He left with us a
legacy to pass on to our children. My hope is that through his writing he has also passed
on to others his morals and values and made this
world a better place to live. - Harald Aagaard, Capt. USMC
Tribute to Finn Aagaard
The richness of the shooting and
hunting community has been considerably lessened by the passing of Finn Aagaard. Finns
writing was widely read and respected by everyone in the shooting industry, but what
distinguished Finn from the vast majority of gun writers was the genuine abiding respect
he received from knowledgeable, highly experienced shooters and hunters. Finn was one who
had been there and seen the elephant.
The first time I made Finns
acquaintance was many years ago when he first began writing in this country. He was
writing about the .30-06 and claimed it was suitable for everything on this continent
except for the great bears. Having personally killed numerous large brown bears with the
.30-06, I took Finn to task, assuming he was little different than the majority of writers
who think that by belittling one cartridge or another they can boost their stature as an
expert. I couldnt have been more wrong. Finn promptly and courteously wrote back
that the only reason he had not recommended the .30-06 on large bears was the simple fact
that he had no experience with bears. He said he wasnt surprised that the .30-06 was
effective on bears as he had killed lions in Africa with one but that he could not
recommend something he knew nothing about.
That, in a nut shell, was Finn. If
he did not have first-hand experience with a rifle, caliber or game animal he was the
first to tell you. If he thought another person had a valid point of view, he was glad to
pass it on to his readers giving credit to its originator. Finn was never presumptuous and
always a courteous listener who, when presented with an opinion, would succinctly and
politely ask, How is it you know that to be true?
Finn was an avid shooter and in
order to satisfy his insatiable curiosity was forever testing bullets, powders,
cartridges, rifles and handguns. For many years his range was in a dry wash a short walk
from his front door. While other gun writers were condemning one cartridge or another as
totally useless - usually due to someones poor shooting - Finn would be objectively
testing them against measurable means.
Finns experiences, however,
were not just on the test range. He was a serious, dedicated, consummate hunter. Born and
raised in Kenya, he began big game hunting at a tender age. He earned a full professional
hunters license and guided hunters until Kenya closed all hunting in 1977. After
moving to Texas in 1978 with his wife and three children, he continued to guide for about
10 years in that state. Besides keeping his family fed with venison, he hunted widely in
the United States and Canada for whitetail, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou and twice
visited Alaska on brown bear hunts.
I consider myself exceedingly
privileged to have shared hunting camps with Finn. He will be missed by all who knew him.
- Phil Shoemaker
* * *
in Finns memory can be made to your local American Cancer Society. Cards sent to
Wolfe will be forwarded to Berit.