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Full text of "The wilderness hunter; an account of the big game of the United States and its chase with horse, hound, and rifle"

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Sagamore Series 
The Works of 

Theodore Roosevelt 

In 15 volumes, each containing frontispiece 
16, cloth per volume . . . 50 cents 
Paper, per volume .... 25 cents 

1. American Ideals. 

2. Administration Civil Service. 

3. The Wilderness Hunter. 

4. Hunting the Grisly. 

5. Hunting Trips of a Ranchman. 

6. Hunting Trips on the Plains and in the Mountains. 

7. The Rough Riders.* 

8. The Winning of the West. Part I. 

9. The Winning of the West. Part II. 

10. The Winning of the West. Part III. 

11. The Winning of the West. Part IV. 

12. The Winning of the West. Part V. 

13. The Winning of the West. Part VI. 

14. The Naval War of 1812. Part I. Events of 1812-13. 

15. The Naval War of 1812. Part II. Events of 1814-15. 
Published under arrangement with Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons. 



Q. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

New York and London 




THEODORE ROOSEVELT IN HUNTING COSTUME. 



The 

Wilderness Hunter 

An Account of the Big Game of the United 

States and its Chase with Horse 

Hound, and Rifle 

By 

Theodore Roosevelt 

Author of " The Winning of the West," u American Ideals," 
* Hunting Trips of a Ranchman," etc. 



G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 

1900 



COPYRIGHT, 1893 

BY 
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 



TO 

E. K. R. 



514149 



" They saw the silences 
Move by and beckon ; saw the forms, 
The very beards, of burly storms, 
And heard them talk like sounding seas . . . 
They saw the snowy mountains rolled 
And heaved along the nameless lands 
Like mighty billows ; saw the gold 
Of awful sunsets ; saw the blush 
Of sudden dawn, and felt the hush 
Of heaven when the day sat down 
And hid his face in dusky hands." 

Joaquin Miller. 



" In vain the speeding of shyness ; 

In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods . . . 

. . . where geese nip their food with short jerks, 
Where sundown shadows lengthen over the limitless prairie, 
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spaead of the square 
miles, far and near, 

Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and ice-clad trees . . . 
^ The moose, large as an ox, cornered by hunters, plunging with his 

forefeet, the hoofs as sharp as knives . . . 

The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the 
bed of hemlock boughs, and the bear-skin." 

WaU Whitman. 



CONTENTS 

PREFACE > 



CHAPTER I. 

THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS; WILDERNESS HUNTERS 
AND WILDERNESS GAME. 

The American wilderness Forests, plains, moun- 
tains Likeness and unlikeness to the old-world 
wilderness Wilderness hunters Boone, Croc- 
kett, Houston, Carson The trappers The 
buffalo hunters The stockmen The regular 
army Wilderness game Bison, moose, elk, cari- 
bou, deer, antelope Other game Hunting in 
the wilderness 13 

CHAPTER II. 

HUNTING FROM THE RANCH; THE BLACKTAIL DEER. 

In the cattle country Life on a ranch A round- 
up Branding a maverick The Bad Lands A 
shot at a blacktail Still-hunting the blacktail 
Its habits Killing a buck in August A shot at 
close range Occasional unwariness of black- 
tail 33 

CHAPTER III. 

THE WHITETAIL DEER ; AND THE BLACKTAIL OF THE 
COLUMBIA. 

The whitetail Yields poor sport Fire hunting- 
Hunting with hounds Shooting at running 
game Queer adventure Anecdotes of plains- 
men Good and bad shots A wagon trip A 
shot from the ranch-house verandah The Co 
lumbian blacktail 51 

CHAPTER IV. 

ON THE CATTLE RANGES ; THE PRONG-HORN ANTE- 
LOPE. 

Riding to the round-up The open plains Sights 
and sounds Gophers, prairie dogs, sharp-tail 

7 



8 CONTENTS. > 

grouse, antelope The cow-camp Standing 
night guard Dawn Make an antelope hunt 
An easy stalk A difficult stalk Three antelope 
shot The plains skylark The meadow lark 
The mocking-bird Other singers Harsher wil- 
derness sounds Pack rats Plains ferret, Its 
ferocity The war eagle Attacks antelope 
Kills jack-rabbit One shot on wing with rifle. . 70 

CHAPTER V. 

HUNTING TH.E PRONG-BUCK; FROST, FIRE, AND 
THIRST. 

Hunting the prong-buck Long shots Misses 
Winter weather A hunt in December Riding 
in the bitter cold The old hunter's tepee A 
night in a line camp An antelope herd Two 
bucks shot Riding back to ranch The immi- 
grant train Hunting in fall Fighting fire A 
summer hunt Sufferings from thirst Swim- 
ming cattle across a swollen stream Wagon trip 
to the Black Hills The great prairies A prong- 
buck shot Pleasant camp Buck shot in morn- 
ing Continue our journey Shooting sage fowl 
and prairie fowl with rifle 90 

CHAPTER VI. 

AMONG THE HIGH HILLS; THE BIGHORN OR MOUN- 
TAIN SHEEP. 

A summer on the ranch Working among the 
cattle Killing game for the ranch A trip after 
mountain sheep The Bad Lands Solitary 
camp The old horse Manitou Still-hunt at 
dawn Young ram shot A hunt in the Rocky 
Mountains An old bighorn stalked and shot 
Habits of the game 1 18 

CHAPTER VII. 

MOUNTAIN GAME; THE WHITE GOAT. 

A trip to the Bighole Basin Incidents of travel 
with a wagon Camp among the mountains A 
trip on foot after goats Spruce grouse Lying 
out at night A climb over the high peaks Two 
goats shot Weary tramp back A hunt in the 
Kootenai country Hard climbing among the 



CONTENTS. 9 

wooded mountains Goat shot on brink of 
chasm Ptarmigan for supper Goat hunting 
very hard work Ways and habits of the goats 
Not much decrease in numbers 129 

CHAPTER VIII. 

HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS ; THE CARIBOU. 

A camp on Kootenai Lake Travelling on foot 
through the dense forests Excessive toil Wa- 
ter shrew and water thrush Black bear killed 
Mountain climbing Woodchucks and conies 
The Indian Amma.1 Night sounds A long 
walk A caribou killed A midwinter trip on 
snow-shoes in Maine Footprints on the snow 
A helpless deer Caribou at ease in the deep 
drifts 1 50 

CHAPTER IX. 

THE WAPITI OR ROUND-HORNED ELK. 

A hunt in the Bitter Root mountains A trip on 
foot Two bull elk fighting The peace-maker 
All three shot Habits of the wapiti Their 
bungling A grand chorus Shooting a bull at 
sunrise Another killed near the ranch Vanish- 
ing of the elk Its antlers The lynx Porcupine 
Chickarees and chipmunks Clarke's crow 
Lewis' woodpecker Whisky-jack Trout The 
Yellowstone canyon 176 

CHAPTER X. 

AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 

In the Shoshones Travelling with a pack-train 
Scenery Flowers A squaw-man Bull elk shot 
in rain while challenging Storm Breaking 
camp in rain Two-Ocean Pass Our camp A 
y^oung ten-pointer shot The mountains in moon- 
light Blue grouse Snow-shoe rabbits Death 
of a master bull The Tetons Following a bull 
by scent 111 luck Luck changes Death of 
spike bull Three bulls killed Travelling home 
Heavy snowstorm Bucking horse various 
hunts compared Number cartridges used Still- 
hunting the elk 198 



10 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XL 

THE MOOSE; THE BEAST OF THE WOODLAND. 

The moose of the Rocky Mountains Its habits 
Difficult nature of its haunts Repeated failures 
while hunting it Watching a marsh at dawn 
A moose in the reeds Stalking and shooting 
him Travelling light with a pack-train A bea- 
ver meadow Shooting a big bull at dawn The 
moose in summer , in winter Young moose 
Pugnacity of moose Still-hunting moose 
Rather more easy to kill than whitetail deer At 
times a dangerous antagonist The winter yards 
Hunting on snow-shoes A narrow escape 
A fatal encounter 226 

CHAPTER XII. 

HUNTING LORE. 

Game which ought not to be killed Killing black 
bear with a knife Sports with rod and shotgun 
Snow-shoeing and mountaineering American 
writers on out-door life Burroughs Thoreau 
Audubon, Coues, etc. American hunting 
books American writers on life in the wilder- 
ness : Parkman, Irving Cooper on pioneer life 
American statesmen and soldiers devoted to 
the chase Lincoln, Jackson, Israel Putnam 
A letter from Webster on trout-fishing Clay 
Washington Hunting Extracts from Wash- 
ington's diaries Washington as a fox- 
hunter 255 

APPENDIX. 273 



PREFACE. 

FOR a number of years much of my life 
was spent either in the wilderness or on 
the borders of the settled country if, indeed, 
" settled " is a term that can* rightly be ap- 
plied to the vast, scantily peopled regions 
where cattle-ranching is the only regular in- 
dustry. During this time I hunted much, 
among the mountains and on the plains, both 
as a pastime and to procure hides, meat, and 
robes for use on the ranch ; and it was my 
good luck to kill all the various 'kinds of large 
game that can properly be considered to 
belong to temperate North America. 

In hunting, the finding and killing of the 
game is after all but a part of the whole. 
The free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with 
its rugged and stalwart democracy ; the wild 
surroundings, the grand beauty of the scenery, 
the chance to study the ways and habits of 
the woodland creatures all these unite to 
give to the career of the wilderness hunter its 
peculiar charm. The chase is among the best 
of all national pastimes ; it cultivates that 
vigorous manliness for the lack of which in a 
nation, as in an individual, the possession of 
no other qualities can possibly atone. 

No one, but he who has partaken thereof, 
can understand the keen delight of hunting in 

ii 



PREFACE. 

lonely lands. For him is the joy of the horse 
well ridden and the rifle well held ; for him 
the long days of toil and hardship, resolutely 
endured, and crowned at the end with tri- 
umph. In after years there shall come for- 
ever to his mind the memory of endless prai- 
ries shimmering in the bright sun ; of vast 
snow-clad wastes lying desolate under gray 
skies ; of the melancholy marshes ; of the rush 
of mighty rivers ; of the breath of the ever- 
green forest in summer ; of the crooning of 
ice-armored pines at the touch of the winds of 
winter ; of cataracts roaring between hoary 
mountain masses ; of all the innumerable 
sights and sounds of the wilderness ; of its 
immensity and mystery ; and of the silences 
that brood in its still depths. 

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. 

SAGAMORE HILL, 
June, 1893. 



THE WILDERNESS ^HUNTER. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS ; WILDERNESS 
HUNTERS AND WILDERNESS GAME. 

MANIFOLD are the shapes taken by the 
American wilderness. In the east, 
from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi 
valley, lies a land of magnificent hardwood 
forest. In endless variety and beauty, the 
trees cover the ground, save only where they 
have been cleared away by man, or where to- 
wards the west the expanse of the forest is 
broken by fertile prairies. Towards the north, 
this region of hardwood trees merges insen- 
sibly into the southern extension of the great 
sub-arctic forest ; here the silver stems of 
birches gleam against the sombre background 
of coniferous evergreens. In the. southeast 
again, by the hot, oozy coasts of the South 
Atlantic and the Gulf, the forest becomes 
semi-tropical ; palms wave their feathery 
fronds, and the tepid swamps teem with 
reptile life. 

Some distance beyond the Mississippi, 



I 4 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

stretching from Texas to North Dakota, and 
westward, to the Reeky Mountains, lies the 
plains country." This is a region of light rain- 
fall, where^the groimd is clad with short grass, 
while ccttonwood trees fringe the courses of 
die winding plains streams ; streams that are 
alternately turbid torrents and mere dwin- 
dling threads of water. The great stretches of 
natural pasture are broken by gray sage-brush 
plains, and tracts of strangely shaped and 
colored Bad Lands ; sun-scorched wastes in 
summer, and in winter arctic in their iron des- 
olation. Beyond the plains rise the Rocky 
Mountains, their flanks covered with conifer- 
ous woods ; but the trees are small, and do 
not ordinarily grow very closely together. 
Towards the north the forest becomes denser, 
and the peaks higher ; and glaciers creep down 
towards the valleys from the fields of ever- 
lasting snow. The brooks are brawling, trout- 
filled torrents ; the swift rivers foam over 
rapid and cataract, on their way to one or the 
other of the two great oceans. 

Southwest of the Rockies evil and terrible 
deserts stretch for leagues and leagues, mere 
waterless wastes of sandy plain and barren 
mountain, broken here and there by narrow 
strips of fertile ground. Rain rarely falls, 
and there are no clouds to dim the brazen 
sun. The rivers run in deep canyons, or are 
swallowed by the burning sand ; the smaller 
watercourses are dry throughout the greater 
part of the year. 

Beyond this desert region rise the sunny 
Sierras of California, with their flower-clad 
slopes and groves of giant trees ; and north 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS. 15 

of them, along the coast, the rain-shrouded 
mountain chains of Oregon and Washington, 
matted with the towering growth of the 
mighty evergreen forest. 

The white hunters, who from time to 
time first penetrated the different parts of 
this wilderness, found themselves in such 
hunting grounds as those wherein, long ages 
before, their Old-World forefathers had 
dwelt; and the game they chased was much 
the same as that their lusty barbarian an- 
cestors followed, with weapons of bronze and 
of iron, in the dim years before history dawned. 
As late as the end of the seventeenth century 
the turbulent village nobles of Lithuania and 
Livonia hunted the bear, the bison, the elk, 
the wolf, and the stag, and hung the spoils in 
their smoky wooden palaces ; and so, two 
hundred years later, the free hunters of Mon- 
tana, in the interludes between hazardous 
mining quests and bloody Indian campaigns, 
hunted game almost or quite the same in 
kind, through the cold mountain forests sur- 
rounding the Yellowstone and Flathead lakes, 
and decked their log cabins and ranch houses 
with the hides and horns of the slaughtered 
beasts. 

Zoologically speaking, the north temperate 
zones of the Old and New Worlds are very 
similar, differing f' om one another much less 
than they do from the various regions south 
of them, or than these regions differ among 
themselves. The untrodden American wilder- 
ness resembles both in game and physical 
character the forests, the mountains, and the 
steppes of the Old World as it was at the 



1 6 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

beginning of our era. Great woods of pine 
and fir, birch and beech, oak and chestnut; 
streams where the chief game fish are spotted 
trout and silvery salmon ; grouse of various 
kinds as the most common game birds ; all 
these the hunter finds as characteristic of the 
New World as of the Old. So it is with most 
of the beasts of the chase, and so also with 
the fur-bearing animals that furnish to the 
trapper alike his life work and his means of 
livelihood. The bear, wolf, bison, moose, 
caribou, wapiti, deer, and bighorn, the lynx, 
fox, wolverine, sable, mink, ermine, beaver, 
badger, and otter of both worlds are either 
identical or more or less closely kin to one 
another. Sometimes of the two forms, that 
found in the Old World is the largest. Per- 
haps more often the reverse is true, the 
American beast being superior in size. This 
is markedly the case with the wapiti, which is 
merely a giant brother of the European stag, 
exactly as the fisher is merely a very large 
cousin of the European sable or marten. The 
extraordinary prong-buck, the only hollow- 
horned ruminant which sheds its horns an- 
nually, is a distant representative of the Old- 
World antelopes of the steppes ; the queer 
white antelope-goat has for its nearest kinsfolk 
certain Himalayan species. Of the animals 
commonly known to our hunters and trappers, 
only a few, such as the cougar, peccary, rac- 
coon, possum (and among birds the wild 
turkey), find their nearest representatives and 
type forms in tropical America. 

Of course this general resemblance does not 
mean identity. The differences in plant life 



THE A ME RICA 2V WILDERNESS. 17 

and animal life, no less than in the physical 
features of the land, are sufficiently marked 
to give the American wilderness a character 
distinctly its own. Some of the most charac- 
teristic of the woodland animals, some of 
those which have most vividly impressed 
themselves on the imagination of the hunters 
and pioneer settlers, are the very ones which 
have no Old-World representatives. The 
wild turkey is in every way the king of 
American game birds. Among the small 
beasts the coon and the possum are those 
which have left the deepest traces in the 
humbler lore of the frontier ; exactly as the 
cougar usually under the name of panther 
or mountain lion is a favorite figure in the 
wilder hunting tales. Nowhere else is there 
anything to match the wealth of the eastern 
hardwood forests, in number, variety, and 
beauty of trees ; nowhere else is it possible 
to find conifers approaching in size the giant 
redwoods and sequoias of the Pacific slope. 
Nature here is generally on a larger scale 
than in the Old-World home of our race. The 
lakes are like inland seas, the rivers, like 
arms of the sea. Among stupendous moun- 
tain chains there are valleys and canyons of 
fathomless depth and incredible beauty and 
majesty. There are tropical swamps, and 
sad, frozen marshes ; deserts and Death Val- 
leys, weird and evil, and the strange wonder- 
land of the Wyoming geyser region. The 
waterfalls are rivers rushing over precipices ; 
the prairies seem without limit, and the forest 
never ending. 

At the time when we first became a nation, 



1 8 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

nine tenths of the territory now included 
within the limits of the United States was 
wilderness. It was during the stirring and 
troubled years immediately preceding the out- 
break of the Revolution that the most adven- 
turous hunters, the vanguard of the hardy 
army of pioneer settlers, first crossed the 
Alleghanies, and roamed far and wide through 
the lonely, danger-haunted forests which filled 
the No-man's-land lying between the Tennessee 
and the Ohio. They waged ferocious warfare 
with Shawnee and Wyandott and wrought 
huge havoc among the herds of game with 
which the forest teemed. While the first Con- 
tinental Congress was still sitting, Daniel 
Boone, the archetype of the American hunter, 
was leading his bands of tall backwoods rifle- 
men to settle in the beautiful country of Ken- 
tucky, where the red and the white warriors 
strove with such obstinate rage that both races 
alike grew to know it as " the dark and bloody 
ground." 

Boone and his fellow-hunters were the 
heralds of the oncoming civilization, the 
pioneers in that conquest of the wilderness 
which has at last been practically achieved 
in our own day. Where they pitched their 
camps and built their log huts or stockaded 
hamlets, towns grew up, and men who were 
tillers of the soil, not mere wilderness wan- 
derers, thronged in to take and hold the land. 
Then, ill-at-ease among the settlements for 
which they had themselves made ready the 
way, and fretted even by the slight restraints 
of the rude and uncouth semi-civilization of 
the border, the restless hunters moved onward 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS. 19 

into the yet unbroken wilds where the game 
dwelt and the red tribes marched forever to 
war and hunting. Their untamable souls ever 
found something congenial and beyond meas- 
ure attractive in the lawless freedom of the 
lives of the very savages against whom they 
warred so bitterly. 

Step by step, often leap by leap, the fron- 
tier of settlement, was pushed westward ; and 
ever from before its advance fled the warrior 
tribes of the red men and the scarcely less 
intractable array of white Indian fighters 
and game hunters. When the Revolution- 
ary war was at its height, George Rogers 
Clarke, himself a mighty hunter of the old 
backwoods type, led his handful of hunter- 
soldiers to the conquest of the French towns 
of the Illinois. This was but one of the many 
notable feats of arms performed by the wild 
soldiery of the backwoods. Clad in their 
fringed and tasselled hunting shirts of buck- 
skin or homespun, with coonskin caps and 
deer-hide leggings and moccasins, with toma- 
hawk and scalping knife thrust into their 
bead-worked belts, and long rifles in hand, 
they fought battle after battle of the most 
bloody character, both against the Indians, 
as at the Great Kanawha, at the Fallen 
Timbers, and at Tippecanoe, and against more 
civilized foes, as at King's Mountain, New 
Orleans, and the River Thames. 

Soon after the beginning of the present 
century Louisiana fell into our hands, and the 
most daring hunters and explorers pushed 
through the forests of the Mississippi valley 
to the great plains, steered across these vast 



20 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

seas of grass to the Rocky Mountains, and then 
through their rugged defiles onwards to the Pa- 
cific Ocean. In every work of exploration, and 
in all the earlier battles with the original lords of 
the western and southwestern lands, whether 
Indian or Mexican, the adventurous hunters 
played the leading part ; while close behind 
came the swarm of hard, dogged, border- 
farmers, a masterful race, good fighters and 
good breeders, as all masterful races must 
be. 

Very characteristic in its way was the career 
of quaint, honest, fearless Davy Crockett, the 
Tennessee rifleman and Whig Congressman, 
perhaps the best shot in all our country, 
whose skill in the use of his favorite weapon 
passed into a proverb, and who ended his 
days by a hero's death in the ruins of the 
Alamo. An even more notable man was an- 
other mighty hunter, Houston, who when a 
boy ran away to the Indians ; who while still 
a lad returned to his own people to serve 
under Andrew Jackson in the campaigns 
which thatgreatest of all the backwoods leaders 
waged against the Creeks, the Spaniards, and 
the British. He was wounded at the storm- 
ing of one of the strongholds of Red Eagle's 
doomed warriors, and returned to his Tennes- 
see home to rise to high civil honor, and be- 
come the foremost man of his State. Then, 
while Governor of Tennessee, in a sudden 
fit of moody anger, and of mad longing for 
the unfettered life of the wilderness, he aban- 
doned his office, his people, and his race, and 
fled to the Cherokees beyond the Mississippi. 
For years he lived as one of their chiefs ; 



THE AMERICAN- WILDERNESS. 21 

until one day, as he lay in ignoble ease and 
sloth, a rider from the south, from the roll- 
ing plains of the San Antonio and Brazos, 
brought word that the Texans were up, and 
in doubtful struggle striving to wrest their free- 
dom from the lancers and carbineers of Santa 
Anna. Then his dark soul flamed again 
into burning life ; riding by night and day he 
joined the risen Texans, was hailed by them 
as a heaven-sent leader, and at the San Ja- 
cinto led them on to the overthrow of the Mexi- 
can host. Thus the stark hunter, who had 
been alternately Indian fighter and Indian 
chief, became the President of the new 
Republic, and, after its admission into the 
United States, a Senator at Washington ; and, 
to his high honor, he remained to the end 
of his days staunchly loyal to the flag of the 
Union. 

By the time that Crockett fell, and Houston 
became the darling leader of the Texans, the 
typical hunter and Indian fighter had ceased 
to be a backwoodsman; he had become a 
plains-man, or mountain-man ; for the frontier, 
east of which he never willingly went, had 
been pushed beyond the Mississippi. Rest- 
less, reckless, and hardy, he spent years of 
his life in lonely wanderings through the 
Rockies as a trapper; he guarded the slowly 
moving caravans, which for purposes of trade 
journeyed over the dangerous Santa Fe trail ; 
he guided the large parties of frontier settlers 
who, driving before them their cattle, with all 
their household goods in their white-topped 
wagons, spent perilous months and seasons 
on their weary way to Oregon or California. 



22 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

Joining in bands, the stalwart, skin-clad rifle- 
men waged ferocious war on the Indians, 
scarcely more savage than themselves, or 
made long raids for plunder and horses against 
the outlying Mexican settlements. The best, 
the bravest, the most modest of them all was 
the renowned Kit Carson. He was not only 
a mighty hunter, a daring fighter, a finder of 
trails, and maker of roads through the un- 
known, untrodden wilderness, but also a real 
leader of men. Again and again he crossed 
and re-crossed the continent, from the Mis- 
sissippi to the Pacific ; he guided many of the 
earliest military and exploring expeditions of 
the United States Government ; he himself 
led the troops in victorious campaigns against 
Apache and Navahoe ; and in the Civil War 
he was made a colonel of the Federal army. 

After him came many other hunters. Most 
were pure-blooded Americans, but many were 
Creole Frenchmen, Mexicans, or even mem- 
bers of the so-called civilized Indian tribes, 
notably the Delawares. Wide were their 
wanderings, many their strange adventures in 
the chase, bitter their unending warfare with 
the red lords of the land. Hither and thither 
they roamed, from the desolate, burning 
deserts of the Colorado to the grassy plains 
of the Upper Missouri ; from the rolling Texas 
prairies, bright beneath their sunny skies, to 
the high snow peaks of the northern Rockies, 
or the giant pine forests, and soft rainy 
weather, of the coasts of Puget Sound. Their 
main business was trapping, furs being the 
only articles yielded by the wilderness, as 
they knew it, which were both valuable and 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS. 23 

portable. These early hunters were all trap- 
pers likewise, and, indeed, used their rifles 
only to procure meat or repel attacks. 
The chief of the fur-bearing animals they 
followed was the beaver, which abounded in 
the streams of the plains and mountains ; 
in the far north they also trapped otter, mink, 
sable, and fisher. They married squaws from 
among the Indian tribes, with which they 
happened for the moment to be at peace ; 
they acted as scouts for the United States 
troops in their campaigns against the tribes 
with which they happened to be at war. 

Soon after the Civil War the life of these 
hunters, taken as a class, entered on its final 
stage. The Pacific coast was already fairly 
well settled, and there were a few mining 
camps in the Rockies ; but most of this 
Rocky Mountains region, and the entire 
stretch of plains country proper, the vast belt 
of level or rolling grassland lying between the 
Rio Grande and the Saskatchewan, still re- 
mained primeval wilderness, inhabited only 
by roving hunters and formidable tribes of 
Indian nomads, and by the huge herds of 
game on which they preyed. Beaver swarmed 
in the streams and yielded a rich harvest to 
the trapper ; but trapping was no longer the 
mainstay of the adventurous plainsmen. 
Foremost among the beasts of the chase, on 
account of its numbers, its size, and its eco- 
nomic importance, was the bison or American 
buffalo ; its innumerable multitudes darkened 
the limitless prairies. As the transcontinental 
railroads were pushed towards completion, 
and the tide of settlement rolled onwards 



24 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

with ever increasing rapidity, buffalo robes 
became of great value. The hunters forth- 
with turned their attention mainly to the 
chase of the great clumsy beasts, slaughtering 
them by hundreds of thousands for their 
hides ; sometimes killing them on horseback, 
but more often on foot, by still-hunting, with 
the heavy long-range Sharp's rifle. Through- 
out the fifteen years during which this slaugh- 
ter lasted, a succession of desperate wars was 
waged with the banded tribes of the Horse 
Indians. All the time, in unending succes- 
sion, long trains of big white-topped wagons 
crept slowly westward across the prairies, 
marking the steady oncoming of the frontier 
settlers. 

By the close of 1883 the last buffalo herd 
was destroyed. The beaver were trapped out 
of all the streams, or their numbers so thinned 
that it no longer paid to follow them. The 
last formidable Indian war had been brought 
to a successful close. The flood of the in- 
coming whites had risen over the land ; tongues 
of settlement reached from the Mississippi to 
the Rocky Mountains, and from the Rocky 
Mountains to the Pacific. The frontier had 
come to an end ; it had vanished. With it 
vanished also the old race of wilderness hun- 
ters, the men who spent all their days in the 
lonely wilds, and who killed game as their 
sole means of livelihood. Great stretches of 
wilderness still remain in the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and here and there in the plains country, 
exactly as much smaller tracts of wild land 
are to be found in the Alleghanies and northern 
New York and New England ; and on these 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS, 25 

tracts occasional hunters and trappers still 
linger ; but as a distinctive class, with a peculiar 
and important position in American life, they 
no longer exist. 

There were other men beside the professional 
hunters, who lived on the borders of the 
wilderness, and followed hunting, not only as 
a pastime, but also as yielding an important 
portion of their subsistence. The frontier 
farmers were all hunters. In the eastern back- 
woods, and in certain places in the west, as in 
Oregon, these adventurous tillers of the soil 
were the pioneers among the actual settlers; 
in the Rockies their places were taken by the 
miners, and on the great plains by the ranch- 
men and cowboys, the men who lived in the 
saddle, guarding their branded herds of horses 
and horned stock. Almost all of the miners 
and cowboys were obliged on occasions to 
turn hunters. 

Moreover, the regular army which played so 
important a part in all the later stages of the 
winning of the west produced its full share of 
mighty hunters. The later Indian wars were 
fought principally by the regulars. The West 
Point officer and his little company of trained 
soldiers appeared abreast of the first hardy 
cattlemen and miners. The ordinary settlers 
rarely made their appearance until in campaign 
after campaign, always inconceivably wearing 
and harassing, and often very bloody in 
character, the scarred and tattered troops had 
broken and overthrown the most formidable 
among the Indian tribes. Faithful, uncom- 
plaining, unflinching, the soldiers wearing the 
national uniform lived for many weary years 



26 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

at their lonely little posts, facing unending 
toil and danger with quiet endurance, sur- 
rounded by the desolation of vast solitudes, 
and menaced by the most merciless of foes. 
Hunting was followed not only as a sport, but 
also as the only means of keeping the posts 
and the expeditionary trains in meat. Many 
of the officers became equally proficient as 
marksmen and hunters. The three most 
famous Indian fighters since the Civil War, 
Generals Custer, Miles, and Crook, were all 
keen and successful followers of the chase. 

Of American big game the bison, almost 
always known as the buffalo, was the largest 
and most important to man. When the first 
white settlers landed in Virginia the bison 
ranged east of the Alleghanies almost to the 
sea-coast, westward to the dry deserts lying 
beyond the Rocky Mountains, northward to 
the Great Slave Lake and southward to 
Chihuahua. It was a beast of the forests and 
mountains, in the Alleghanies no less than 
in the Rockies ; but its true home was on the 
prairies, and the high plains. Across these it 
roamed, hither and thither, in herds of enor- 
mous, of incredible magnitude ; herds so large 
that they covered the waving grass land for 
hundreds of square leagues, and when on the 
march occupied days and days in passing a 
given point. But the seething myriads of 
shaggy-maned wild cattle vanished with re- 
markable and melancholy rapidity before the 
inroads of the white hunters, and the steady 
march of the oncoming settlers. Now they 
are on the point of extinction. Two or three 
hundred are left in that great national game 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS, 27 

preserve, the Yellowstone Park ; and it is said 
that others still remain in the wintry desolation 
of Athabasca. Elsewhere only a few in- 
dividuals exist probably considerably less 
than half a hundred all told scattered in 
small parties in the wildest and most remote 
and inaccessible portions of the Rocky Moun- 
tains. A bison bull is the largest American 
animal. His huge bulk, his short, curved 
black horns, the shaggy mane clothing his 
great neck and shoulders, give him a look of 
ferocity which his conduct belies. Yet he is 
truly a grand and noble beast, and his loss 
from our prairies and forest is as keenly re- 
gretted by the lover of nature and of wild life 
as by the hunter. 

Next to the bison in size, and much superior 
in height to it and to all other American game 
for it is taller than the tallest horse comes 
the moose, or broad-horned elk. It is a 
strange, uncouth-looking beast, with very long 
legs, short thick neck, a big, ungainly head, 
a swollen nose, and huge shovel horns. Its 
home is in the cold, wet pine and spruce 
forests, which stretch from the sub-arctic 
region of Canada southward in certain places 
across our frontier. Two centuries ago it was 
found as far south as Massachusetts. It has 
now been exterminated from its former haunts 
in northern New York and Vermont, and is 
on the point of vanishing from northern 
Michigan. It is still found in northern Maine 
and northeastern Minnesota and in portions 
of northern Idaho and Washington ; while 
along the Rockies it extends its range south- 
ward through western Montana to northwest- 



28 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

ern Wyoming, south of the Tetons. In 1884 
I saw the fresh hide of one that was killed in 
the Bighorn Mountains. 

The wapiti, or round-horned elk, like the 
bison, and unlike the moose, had its centre of 
abundance in the United States, though ex- 
tending northward into Canada. Originally 
its range reached from ocean to ocean and it 
went in herds of thousands of individuals ; 
but it has suffered more from the persecution 
of hunters than any other game except the 
bison. By the beginning of this century it 
had been exterminated in most localities east 
of the Mississippi ; but a few lingered on for 
many years in the Alleghanies. Col. Cecil 
Clay informs me that an Indian whom he 
knew killed one in Pennsylvania in 1869. A 
very few still exist here and there in northern 
Michigan and Minnesota, and in one or two 
spots on the western boundary of Nebraska 
and the Dakotas ; but it is now properly a 
beast of the wooded western mountains. It 
is still plentiful in western Colorado, Wyoming, 
and Montana, and in parts of Idaho, Wash- 
ington, and Oregon. Though not as large 
as the moose it is the most beautiful and 
stately of all animals of the deer kind, and 
its antlers are marvels of symmetrical grand- 
eur. 

The woodland caribou is inferior to the 
wapiti both in size and symmetry. The tips 
of the many branches of its long irregular 
antlers are slightly palmated. Its range is 
the same as that of the moose, save that it 
does not go so far southward. Its hoofs are 
long and round ; even larger than the long:, 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS. 29 

oval hoofs of the moose, and much larger 
than those of the wapiti. The tracks of all 
three can be told apart at a glance, and can- 
not be mistaken for the footprints of other 
game. Wapiti tracks, however, look much 
like those of yearling and two-year-old cattle, 
unless the ground is steep or muddy, in 
which case the marks of the false hoofs ap- 
pear, the joints of wapiti being more flexible 
than those of domestic stock. 

The whitetail deer is now, as it always has 
been, the best known and most abundant of 
American big game, and though its numbers 
have been greatly thinned it is still found in 
almost every State of the Union. The com- 
mon blacktail or mule deer, which has like- 
wise been sadly thinned in numbers, though 
once extraordinarily abundant, extends from 
the great plains to the Pacific ; but is sup- 
planted on the Puget Sound coast by the 
Columbian blacktail. The delicate, heart- 
shaped footprints of all three are nearly indis- 
tinguishable ; when the animal is running the 
hoof points are of course separated. The 
track of the antelope is more oval, growing 
squarer with age. Mountain sheep leave 
footmarks of a squarer shape, the points of 
the hoof making little indentations in the 
soil, well apart, even when the animal is only 
walking ; and a yearling's track is noi inlike 
that made by a big prong-buck when striding 
rapidly with the toes well apart. White-goat 
tracks are also square, and as large as those 
of the sheep ; but there is less indentation of 
the hoof points, which come nearer together. 

The antelope, or prong-buck, was once 



30 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

found in abundance from the eastern edge of 
the great plains to the Pacific, but it has 
everywhere diminished in numbers, and has 
been exterminated along the eastern and 
western borders of its former range. The 
bighorn, or mountain sheep, is found in 
the Rocky Mountains from northern Mexico 
to Alaska ; and in the United States from the 
Coa^t and Cascade ranges to the Bad Lands 
of the western edges of the Dakotas, wherever 
there are mountain chains or tracts of rugged 
hills. It was never very abundant, and, 
though it has become less so, it has held its 
own better than most game. The white goat, 
however, alone among our game animals, has 
positively increased in numbers since the 
advent of settlers ; because white hunters 
rarely follow it, and the Indians who once 
sought its skin for robes now use blankets 
instead. Its true home is in Alaska and 
Canada, but it crosses our borders along the 
lines of the Rockies and Cascades, and a few 
small isolated colonies are found here and 
there southward to California and New 
Mexico. 

The cougar and wolf, once common through- 
out the United States, have now completely 
disappeared from all save the wildest regions. 
The black bear holds its own better ; it was 
never found on the great plains. The huge 
grisly ranges from the great plains to the 
Pacific. The little peccary or Mexican wild 
hog merely crosses our southern border. 

The finest hunting ground in America was, 
and indeed is. the mountainous region of 
western Montana and northwestern Wyoming. 



THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS. 31 

In this high, cold land, of lofty mountains, 
deep forests, and open prairies, with its 
beautiful lakes and rapid rivers, all the species 
of big game mentioned above, except the 
peccary and Columbian blacktail, are to be 
found. Until 1880 they were very abundant, 
and they are still, with the exception of the 
bison, fairly plentiful. On most of the long 
hunting expeditions which I made away from 
my ranch, I went into this region. 

The bulk of my hunting has been done in 
the cattle country, near my ranch on the Little 
Missouri, and in the adjoining lands round 
the lower Powder and Yellowstone. Until 
1881 the valley of the Little Missouri was 
fairly thronged with game, and was absolute- 
ly unchanged in any respect from its original 
condition of primeval wildness. With the 
incoming of the stockmen all this changed, 
and the game was wofully slaughtered ; but 
plenty of deer and antelope, a few sheep and 
bear, and an occasional elk are still left. 

Since the professional hunters have van- 
ished with the vast herds of game on which 
they preyed, the life of the ranchman is that 
which yields most chance of hunting. Life 
on a cattle ranch, on the great plains or among 
the foothills of the high mountains, has a 
peculiar attraction for those hardy, adventur- 
ous spirits who take most kindly to a vigor- 
ous out-of-door existence, and who are there- 
fore most apt to care passionately for the 
chase of big game. The free ranchman lives 
in a wild, lonely country, and exactly as he 
breaks and tames his own horses, and guards 
and tends his own branded herds, so he takes 



32 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the keenest enjoyment in the chase, which is 
to him not merely the pleasantest of sports, 
but also a means of adding materially to his 
comforts, and often his only method of pro- 
viding himself with fresh meat. 

Hunting in the wilderness is of all pastimes 
the most attractive, and it is doubly so when 
not carried on merely as a pastime. Shooting 
over a private game preserve is of course in 
no way to be compared to it. The wilderness 
hunter must not only show skill in the use of 
the rifle and address in finding and approach- 
ing game, but he must also show the qualities 
of hardihood, self-reliance, and resolution 
needed for effectively grappling with his wild 
surroundings. The fact that the hunter needs 
the game, both for its meat and for its hide, 
undoubtedly adds a zest to the pursuit. 
Among the hunts which I have most enjoyed 
were those made when I was engaged in get- 
ting in the winter's stock of meat for the ranch, 
or was keeping some party of cowboys sup- 
plied with game from day to day. 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 33 



CHAPTER II. 

HUNTING FROM THE RANCH ; THE BLACKTAIL 
DEER. 

NO life can be pleasanter than life during 
the months of fall on a ranch in the 
northern cattle country. The weather is 
cool ; in the evenings and on the rare rainy 
days we are glad to sit by the great fireplace, 
with its roaring cottonwood logs. But on most 
days not a cloud dims the serene splendor of 
the sky ; and the fresh pure air is clear with 
the wonderful clearness of the high plains. 
We are in the saddle from morning to night. 

The long, low, roomy ranch house, of clean 
hewed logs, is as comfortable as it is bare and 
plain. We fare simply but well ; for the wife 
of my foreman makes excellent bread and 
cake, and there are plenty of potatoes, grown 
in the forlorn little garden-patch on the bot- 
tom. We also have jellies and jams, made 
from wild plums and buffalo berries ; and all 
the milk we can drink. For meat we depend 
on our rifles ; and, with an occasional inter- 
lude of ducks or prairie chickens, the mainstay 
of each meal is venison, roasted, broiled, or 
fried. 

Sometimes we shoot the deer when we hap- 
pen on them while about our ordinary business, 
indeed throughout the time that I have lived 



34 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

on the ranch, very many of the deer and an- 
telope I killed were thus obtained. Of course 
while doing the actual round-up work it is 
impossible to attend to anything else ; but 
we generally carry rifles while riding after the 
saddle band in the early morning, while visit- 
ing the line camps, or while in the saddle 
among the cattle on the range ; and get many 
a shot in this fashion. 

In the fall of 1890 some friends came to my 
ranch ; and one day we took them to see a 
round-up. The OX, a Texan steer-outfit, had 
sent a couple of wagons to work down the 
river, after beef cattle, and one of my men 
had gone along- to gather any of my own scat- 
tered steers that were ready for shipping, and 
to brand the late calves. There were perhaps 
a dozen riders with the wagons ; and they 
were camped for the day on a big bottom 
where Blacktail and Whitetail creeks open 
into the river, several miles below my ranch. 

At dawn one of the men rode off to bring 
in the saddle band. The rest of us were up 
by sunrise ; and as we stood on the verandah 
under the shimmering cottonwood trees, rev- 
elling in the blue of the cloudless sky, and 
drinking in the cool air before going to break- 
fast, we saw the motley-colored string of 
ponies file down from the opposite bank of the 
river, and splash across the broad, shallow 
ford in front of the ranch house. Cantering 
and trotting the band swept towards the high, 
round horse-corral, in the open glade to the 
rear of the house. Guided by the jutting 
wing which stuck out at right angles, they 
entered the open gate, which was promptly 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 35 

closed by the cowboy who had driven them 
in. 

After breakfast we strolled over to the cor- 
ral, with our lariats, and, standing by the 
snubbing-post in the middle, roped the horses 
we wished for the party some that were 
gentle, and others that were not. Then every 
man saddled his horse ; and at the moment of 
mounting for the start there was, as always, a 
thrill of mild excitement, each rider hoping 
that his own horse would not buck, and that 
his neighbor's would. I had no young horses 
on the ranch at the time ; but a number of the 
older ones still possessed some of the least 
amiable traits of their youth. 

Once in the saddle we rode off down river, 
along the bottoms, crossing the stream again 
and again. We went in Indian file, as is nec- 
essary among the trees and in broken ground, 
following the cattle-trails which themselves 
had replaced or broadened the game paths 
that alone crossed the plateaus and bottoms 
when my ranch house was first built. Now 
we crossed open reaches of coarse grass, 
thinly sprinkled with large, brittle cotton-wood 
trees, their branches torn and splintered ; now 
we wound our way through a dense jungle 
where the gray, thorny buffalo bushes, span- 
gled with brilliant red berry clusters, choked 
the spaces between the thick-growing box- 
alders ; and again the sure-footed ponies 
scrambled down one cut bank and up another, 
through seemingly impossible rifts, or with 
gingerly footsteps trod a path which cut the 
side of a butte or overhung a bluff. Some- 
times we racked, or shacked along at the fox 



36 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

trot which is the cow-pony's ordinary gait ; 
and sometimes we loped or galloped and ran. 

At last we came to the ford beyond which 
the riders of the round-up had made their 
camp. In the bygone days of the elk and 
buffalo, when our branded cattle were first 
driven thus far north, this ford had been dan- 
gerous from quicksand ; but the cattle, ever 
crossing and re-crossing, had trodden down 
and settled the sand, and had found out the 
firm places ; so that it was now easy to get 
over. 

Close beyond the trees on the farther bank 
stood the two round-up wagons ; near by was 
the cook's fire, in a trench, so that it might 
not spread ; the bedding of the riders and 
horse-wranglers lay scattered about, each roll 
of blankets wrapped and corded in a stout 
canvas sheet. The cook was busy about the 
fire ; the night-wrangler was snatching an hour 
or two's sleep under one of the wagons. 
Half a mile away, on the plain of sage brush 
and long grass, the day-wrangler was guarding 
the grazing or resting horse herd, of over a 
hundred head. Still farther distant, at the 
mouth of a ravine, was the day-herd of cattle, 
two or three cowboys watching it as they lolled 
drowsily in their saddles. The other riders 
were off on circles to bring in cattle to the 
round-up ; they were expected every moment. 

With the ready hospitality always shown in 
a cow-camp we were pressed to alight and 
take dinner, or at least a lunch ; and accord- 
ingly we jumped off our horses and sat down. 
Our tin plates were soon heaped with fresh 
beef, bread, tomatoes, rice, and potatoes, all 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 37 

very good ; for the tall, bearded, scrawny 
cook knew his work, and the OX outfit always 
fed its men well, and saw that they worked 
well too. 

Before noon the circle riders began to ap- 
pear on the plain, coining out of the ravines, 
and scrambling down the steep hills, singly or 
in twos and threes. They herded before them 
bunches of cattle, of varying size ; these were 
driven together and left in charge of a couple 
of cow-punchers. The other men rode to the 
wagon to get a hasty dinner lithe, sinewy 
fellows, with weather-roughened faces and 
fearless eyes ; their broad felt hats flapped as 
they galloped, and their spurs and bridle 
chains jingled. They rode well, with long 
stirrups, sitting straight in the deep stock sad- 
dles, and their wiry ponies showed no signs of 
fatigue from the long morning's ride. 

The horse-wrangler soon drove the saddle 
band to the wagons, where it was caught in a 
quickly improvised rope-corral. The men 
roped fresh horses, fitted for the cutting-work 
round the herd, with its attendant furious gal- 
loping and flash-like turning and twisting. In 
a few minutes all were in the saddle again and 
riding towards the cattle. 

Then began that scene of excitement and 
turmoil, and seeming confusion, but real 
method and orderliness, so familiar to all who 
have engaged in stock-growing on the great 
plains. The riders gathered in a wide ring 
round the herd of uneasy cattle, and a couple 
of men rode into their midst to cut out the 
beef steers and the cows that were followed 
by unbranded calves. As soon as the ani- 



38 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

mal was picked out the cowboy began to drive 
it slowly towards the outside of the herd, and 
when it was near the edge he suddenly raced 
it into the open. The beast would then start 
at full speed and try to double back among 
its fellows ; while the trained cow-pony fol- 
lowed like a shadow, heading it off at every 
turn. The riders round that part of the herd 
opened out and the chosen animal was speed- 
ily hurried off to some spot a few hundred 
yards distant, where it was left under charge 
of another cowboy. The latter at first had his 
hands full in preventing his charge from re- 
joining the herd; for cattle dread nothing so 
much as being separated from their comrades. 
However, as soon as two or three others were 
driven out, enough to form a little bunch, it 
became a much easier matter to hold the 
" cut " as it is called. The cows and calves 
were put in one place, the beeves in another ; 
the latter were afterwards run into the day- 
herd. 

Meanwhile from time to time some clean- 
limbed young steer or heifer, able to run like 
an antelope and double like a jack-rabbit, 
tried to break out of the herd that was being 
worked, when the nearest cowboy hurried in 
pursuit at top speed and brought it back, after 
a headlong, break-neck race, in which no heed 
was paid to brush, fallen timber, prairie-dog 
holes, or cut banks. The dust rose in little 
whirling clouds, and through it dashed bolting 
cattle and galloping cowboys, hither and 
thither, while the air was filled with the shouts 
and laughter of the men, and the bellowing of 
the herd. 



BUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 39 

As soon as the herd was worked it was 
turned 'loose, while the cows and calves were 
driven over to a large corral,where the branding 
was done. A fire was speedily kindled, and 
in it were laid the branding irons of the dif- 
ferent outfits represented on the round-up. 
Then two of the best ropers rode into the 
corral and began to rope the calves, round the 
hind legs by preference, but sometimes round 
the head. The other men dismounted to 
" wrestle " and brand them. Once roped, the 
calf, bawling and struggling, was swiftly 
dragged near the fire, where one or two of the 
calf-wrestlers grappled with and threw the 
kicking, plunging little beast, and held it while 
it was branded. If the calf was large the wres- 
tlers, had hard work ; and one or two young 
maverick bulls that is, unbranded yearling 
bulls, which had been passed by in the round- 
ups of the preceding year fought viciously, 
bellowing, and charging, and driving some of 
the men up the sides of the corral, to the bois- 
terous delight of the others. 

After watching the work for a little while 
we left and rode homewards. Instead of 
going along the river bottoms we struck back 
over the buttes. From time to time we 
came out on some sharp bluff overlooking the 
river. From these points of vantage we could 
see for several miles up and down the valley 
of the Little Missouri. The level bottoms 
were walled in by rows of sheer cliffs, and 
steep, grassy slopes. These bluff lines were 
from a quarter of a mile to a mile apart ; they 
did not run straight, but in a succession of 
cnrves, so as to look like the halves of many 



40 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

amphitheatres. Between them the river 
swept in great bends from side to side ; the 
wide bed, brimful during the time of freshets, 
now held but a thin stream of water. Some 
of the bottoms were covered only with grass 
and sage brush ; others with a dense jungle of 
trees ; while yet others looked like parks, the 
cottonwoods growing in curved lines or in 
clumps scattered here and there. 

On our way we came across a bunch of 
cattle, among which the sharp eyes of my fore- 
man detected a maverick two-year-old heifer. 
He and one of the cowboys at once got down 
their ropes and rode after her ; the rest of us 
first rounding up the bunch so as to give a fair 
start. After a sharp run one of the men, 
swinging his lariat round his head, got close 
up ; in a second or two the noose settled round 
the heifer's neck, and as it became taut she 
was brought to with a jerk; immediately after- 
wards the other man made his throw and clev- 
erly heeled her. In a trice the red heifer was 
stretched helpless on the ground, the two 
fierce little ponies, a pinto and a buckskin, 
keeping her down on their own account, toss- 
ing their heads and backing so that the ropes 
which led from the saddle-horns to her head 
and hind feet never slackened. Then we 
kindled a fire; one of the cinch rings was 
taken off to serve as a branding iron, and the 
heifer speedily became our property for she 
was on our range. 

When we reached the ranch it was still 
early, and after finishing dinner it lacked over 
an hour of sundown. Accordingly we went 
for another ride ; and I carried my rifle. 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH, 41 

We started up a winding coulie which opened 
back of the ranch house ; and after half an 
hour's canter clambered up the steep head- 
ravines, and emerged on a high ridge which 
went westward, straight as an arrow, to the 
main divide between the Little Missouri and 
the Big Beaver. Along this narrow, grassy 
crest we loped and galloped ; we were so high 
that we could look far and wide over all the 
country round about. To the southward, 
across a dozen leagues of rolling and broken 
prairie, loomed Sentinel Butte, the chief land- 
mark of all that region. Behind us, beyond 
the river, rose the weird chaos of Bad Lands 
which at this point lie for many miles east of 
the Little Missouri. Their fantastic outlines 
were marked against the sky as sharply as if 
cut with a knife ; their grim and forbidding 
desolation warmed into wonderful beauty by 
the light of the dying sun. On our right, as 
we loped onwards, the land sunk away in 
smooth green-clad slopes and valleys ; on our 
left it fell in sheer walls. Ahead of us the sun 
was sinking behind a mass of blood-red clouds ; 
and on either hand the flushed skies were 
changing their tint to a hundred hues of opal 
and amethyst. Our tireless little horses sprang 
under us, thrilling with life ; we were riding 
through a fairy world of beauty and color and 
limitless space and freedom. 

Suddenly a short hundred yards in front 
three blacktail leaped out of a little glen and 
crossed our path, with the peculiar bounding 
gait of their kind. At once I sprang from my 
horse and, kneeling, fired at the last and larg- 
est of the three. My bullet sped too far back, 



42 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

but struck near the hip, and the crippled deer 
went slowly down a ravine. Running over a 
hillock to cut it off, I found it in some brush a 
few hundred yards beyond and finished it with 
a second ball. Quickly dressing it, I packed it 
on my horse, and trotted back leading him ; 
an hour afterwards we saw through the waning 
light the quaint, home-like outlines of the 
ranch house. 

After all, however, blacktail can only at times 
be picked up by chance in this way. More 
often it is needful to kill them by fair still- 
hunting, among the hills or wooded mountains 
where they delight to dwell. If hunted they 
speedily become wary. By choice they live 
in such broken country that it is difficult to pur- 
sue them with hounds ; and they are by no 
means such water-loving animals as whitetail. 
On the other hand, the land in which they dwell 
is very favorable to the still-hunter who does 
not rely merely on stealth, but who can walk 
and shoot well. They do not go on the open 
prairie, and, if possible, they avoid deep for- 
ests, while, being good climbers, they like hills. 
In the mountains, therefore, they keep to 
what is called park country, where glades al- 
ternate with open groves. On the great plains 
they avoid both the heavily timbered river bot- 
toms and the vast treeless stretches of level or 
rolling grass land ; their chosen abode being 
the broken and hilly region, scantily wooded, 
which skirts almost every plains river and 
forms a belt, sometimes very narrow, some- 
times many miles in breadth, between the 
alluvial bottom land and the prairies beyond. 
In these Bad Lands dwarfed pines and cedars 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 43 

grow in the canyon-like ravines and among 
the high steep hills ; there are also basins 
and winding coulies, filled with brush and 
shrubbery and small elm or ash. In all such 
places the blacktail loves to make its home. 

I have not often hunted blacktail in the 
mountains, because while there I was gener- 
ally after larger game ; but round my ranch I 
have killed more of them than of any other 
game, and for me their chase has always pos- 
sessed a peculiar charm. We hunt them in 
the loveliest season of the year, the fall and 
early winter, when it is keen pleasure merely 
to live out-of-doors. Sometimes we make a 
regular trip, of several days' duration, taking 
the ranch wagon, with or without a tent, to 
some rugged and little disturbed spot where the 
deer are plenty ; perhaps returning with eight or 
ten carcasses, or even more enough to last 
a long while in cold weather. We often make 
such trips while laying in our winter supply of 
meat. 

At other times we hunt directly from the 
ranch house. We catch our horses overnight, 
and are in the saddle for an all-day's hunt 
long before the first streak of dawn, possibly 
not returning until some hours after nightfall 
The early morning and late evening are the 
best time for hunting game, except in regions 
where it is hardly ever molested, and where in 
consequence it moves about more or less 
throughout the day. 

During the rut, which begins in September, 
the deer are in constant motion, and are often 
found in bands. The necks of the bucks 
swell and their sides grow gaunt ; they chase 



44 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the does all night, and their flesh becomes 
strong and stringy far inferior to that of 
the barren does and yearlings. The old 
bucks then wage desperate conflicts with one 
another, and bully their smaller brethren un- 
mercifully. Unlike the elk, the blacktail, like 
the whitetail, are generally silent in the rutting 
season. They occasionally grunt when fighting; 
and once, on a fall evening, I heard two young 
bucks barking in a ravine back of my ranch 
house, and crept up and shot them ; but this 
was a wholly exceptional instance. 

At this time I hunt on foot, only using the 
horse to carry me to and from the hunting- 
ground ; for while rutting, the deer, being 
restless, do not try to escape observation by 
lying still, and on the other hand are apt to 
wander about and so are easily seen from a dis- 
tance. When I have reached a favorable place 
I picket my horse and go from vantage point to 
vantage point, carefully scanning the hillsides, 
ravines, and brush coulies from every spot that 
affords a wide outlook. The quarry once seen 
it may be a matter of hours, or only of min- 
utes, to approach it, accordingly as the wind 
and cover are or are not favorable. The walks 
for many miles over the hills, the exercise of 
constant watchfulness, the excitement of the 
actual stalk, and the still greater excitement 
of the shot, combine to make still-hunting the 
blacktaii, in the sharp fall weather, one of 
the most, attractive of hardy outdoor sports. 
Then after the long, stumbling walk home- 
wards, through the cool gloom of the late 
evening, comes the meal of smoking venison 
and milk and bread, and the sleepy rest, lying 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 45 

on the bear-skins, or sitting in the rocking 
chair before the roaring fire, while the icy 
wind moans outside. 

Earlier in the season, while the does are 
still nursing the fawns, and until the bucks 
have cleaned the last vestiges of velvet from 
their antlers, the deer lie very close, and wan- 
der round as little as may be. In the spring 
and early summer, in the ranch country, we 
hunt big game very little, and then only ante- 
lope ; because in hunting antelope there is no 
danger of killing aught but bucks. About the 
first of August we begin to hunt blacktail, but 
do not kill does until a month later and then 
only when short of meat. In the early weeks 
of the deer season we frequently do even the 
actual hunting on horseback instead of on 
foot ; because the deer at this time rarely ap- 
pear in view, so as to afford chance for a stalk, 
and yet are reluctant to break cover until very 
closely approached. In consequence we keep 
on our horses, and so get over much more 
ground than on foot, beating through or beside 
all likely looking cover, with the object of 
jumping the deer close by. Under such cir- 
cumstances bucks sometimes lie until almost 
trodden on. 

One afternoon in mid- August, when the 
ranch was entirely out of meat, I started with 
one of my cow-hands, Merrifield, to kill a 
deer. We were on a couple of stout, quiet 
ponies, accustomed to firing and to packing 
game. After riding a mile or two down the 
bottoms we left the river and struck off up a 
winding valley, which led back among the hills. 
In a short while we were in a blacktail coun- 



46 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

try, and began to keep a sharp lookout for 
game, riding parallel to, but some little dis- 
tance from, one another. The sun, beating 
down through the clear air, was very hot ; the 
brown slopes of short grass, and "still more 
the white clay walls of the Bad Lands, threw 
the heat rays in our faces. We skirted 
closely all likely-looking spots, such as the 
heavy brush-patches in the bottoms of the 
winding valleys, and the groves of ash and 
elm in the basins and pockets flanking the 
high plateaus ; sometimes we followed a cat- 
tle trail which ran down the middle of a big 
washout, and again we rode along the brink 
of a deep cedar canyon. After a while we 
came to a coulie with a small muddy pool at 
its mouth ; and round this pool there was 
much fresh deer sign. The coulie was but 
half a mile long, heading into and flanked by 
the spurs of some steep, bare hills. Its bot- 
tom, which was fifty yards or so across, was 
choked by a dense growth of brush, chiefly 
thorny bullberries, while the sides were formed 
by cut banks twelve or fifteen feet high. 
My companion rode up the middle, while I 
scrambled up one of the banks, and, dis- 
mounting, led my horse along its edge, that 
I might have a clear shot at whatever we 
roused. We went nearly to the head, and 
then the cowboy reined up and shouted to 
me that he " guessed there were no deer in the 
coulie." Instantly there was a smashing in 
the young trees midway between us, and I 
caught a glimpse of a blacktail buck speeding 
round a shoulder of the cut bank : and though 
I took a hurried shot I missed. However, 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 47 

another buck promptly jumped up from the 
same place ; evidently the two had lain secure 
in their day-beds, shielded by the dense cover, 
while the cowboy rode by them, and had only 
risen when he halted and began to call to me 
across them. This second buck, a fine fel- 
low with big antlers not yet clear of velvet, 
luckily ran up the opposite bank and I got a 
fair shot at him as he galloped broadside to 
me along the open hillside. When I fired he 
rolled over with a broken back. As we came 
up he bleated loudly, an unusual thing for a 
buck to do. 

Now these two bucks must have heard us 
coming, but reckoned on our passing them by 
without seeing them ; which we would have 
done had they not been startled when the 
cowboy halted and spoke. Later in the sea- 
son they would probably not have let us ap- 
proach them, but would have run as soon as 
they knew of our presence. Of course, how- 
ever, even later in the season, a man may by 
chance stumble across a deer close by. I 
remember one occasion when my ranch 
partner, Robert Munro Ferguson, and I al- 
most corralled an unlucky deer in a small 
washout. 

It was October, and our meat supply un- 
expectedly gave out ; on our ranch, as on 
most ranches, an occasional meat famine of 
three or four days intervenes between the 
periods of plenty. So Ferguson and I started 
together, to get venison ; and at the end of 
two days 7 hard work, leaving the ranch by 
sunrise, riding to the hunting grounds and 
tramping steadily until dark, we succeeded. 



48 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

The weather was stormy and there were con- 
tinual gusts of wind and of cold rain, sleet, or 
snow. We hunted through a large tract of 
rough and broken country, six or eight miles 
from the ranch. As often happens in such 
wild weather the deer were wild too ; they 
were watchful and were on the move all the 
time. We saw a number, but either they ran 
off before we could get a shot, or if we did 
fire it was at such a distance or under such 
unfavorable circumstances that we missed. 
At last, as we were plodding drearily up a 
bare valley, the sodden mud caking round our 
shoes, we roused three deer from the mouth 
of a short washout but a few paces from us. 
Two bounded off ; the third by mistake 
rushed into the washout, where he found him- 
self in a regular trap and was promptly shot 
by my companion. We slung the carcass on 
a pole and carried it down to where we had 
left the horses ; and then we loped home- 
wards, bending to the cold slanting rain. 

Although in places where it is much per- 
secuted the blacktail is a shy and wary beast, 
the successful pursuit of which taxes to the 
uttermost the skill and energy of the hunter, 
yet, like the elk, if little molested it often 
shows astonishing tameness and even stupid- 
ity. In the Rockies I have sometimes come 
on blacktail within a very short distance, 
which would merely stare at me, then trot off 
a few yards, turn and stare again, and wait 
for several minutes before really taking alarm. 
What is much more extraordinary I have had 
the same thing happen to me in certain little 
hunted localities in the neighborhood of my 



HUNTING FROM THE RANCH. 49 

ranch, even of recent years. In the fall of 
1890 I was riding down a canyon-coulie with 
my foreman, Sylvane Ferris, and a young 
friend from Boston, when we almost rode over 
a barren blacktail doe. She only ran some 
fifty yards, round a corner of the coulie, and 
then turned and stood until we ran forward 
and killed her for we were in need of fresh 
meat. One October, a couple of years before 
this, my cousin, West Roosevelt, and I took a 
trip with the wagon to a very wild and rugged 
country, some twenty miles from the ranch. 
We found that the deer had evidently been 
but little disturbed. One day while scram- 
bling down a steep, brushy hill, leading my 
horse, I came close on a doe and fawn ; they 
merely looked at me with curiosity for some 
time, and then sauntered slowly ofl, remain- 
ing within shot for at least five minutes. For- 
tunately we had plenty of meat at the time, 
and there was no necessity to harm the grace- 
ful creatures. A few days later we came on 
two bucks sunning themselves in the bottom 
of a valley. My companion killed one. The 
other was lying but a dozen rods off ; yet it 
never moved, until several shots had been 
fired at the first. It was directly under me 
and in my anxiety to avoid overshooting, to 
my horror I committed the opposite fault, and 
away went the buck. 

Every now and then any one will make 
most unaccountable misses. A few days after 
thus 'losing the buck I spent nearly twenty 
cartridges in butchering an unfortunate year- 
ling, and only killed it at all because it be- 
came so bewildered by the firing that it hardly 



50 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER, 

tried to escape. I never could tell why I 
used so many cartridges to such little purpose. 
During the next fortnight I killed seven deer 
without making a single miss, though some of 
the shots were rather difficult. 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 51 



CHAPTER III. 

THE WHITETAIL DEER ; AND THE BLACKTAIL 
OF THE COLUMBIA. 

THE whitetail deer is much the commonest 
game animal of the United States, be- 
ing still found, though generally in greatly 
diminished numbers throughout most of 
the Union. It is a shrewd, wary, knowing 
beast ; but it owes its prolonged stay in the 
land chiefly to the fact that it is an inveterate 
skulker, and fond of the thickest cover. Ac- 
cordingly it usually has to be killed by stealth 
and stratagem, and not by fair, manly hunt- 
ing ; being quite easily slain in any one of 
half a dozen unsportsmanlike ways. In con- 
sequence I care less for its chase than for the 
chase of any other kind of American big 
game. Yet in the few places where it dwells 
in open, hilly forests and can be killed by 
still-hunting as if it were a blacktail ; or 
better still, where the nature of the ground 
is such that it can be run down in fair chase 
on horseback, either with greyhounds, or with 
a pack of trackhounds, it yields splendid sport. 
Killing a deer from a boat while the poor 
animal is swimming in the water, or on snow- 
shoes as it flounders' helplessly in the deep 
drifts, can only be justified on the plea of 
hunger. This is also true of lying in wait at 



52 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

a lick. Whoever indulges in any of these 
methods save from necessity, is a butcher, 
pure and simple, and has no business in the 
company of true sportsmen. 

Fire hunting may be placed in the same 
category ; yet it is possibly allowable under 
exceptional circumstances to indulge in a fire 
hunt, if only for the sake of seeing the wilder- 
ness by torch-light. My first attempt at big- 
game shooting, when a boy, was "jacking" 
for deer in the Adirondacks; on a pond or 
small lake surrounded by the grand northern 
forests of birch and beech, pine, spruce, and 
fir. I killed a spike buck ; and while I have 
never been willing to kill another in this man- 
ner, I cannot say that I regret having once 
had the experience. The ride over the glassy, 
black water, the witchcraft of such silent 
progress through the mystery of the night, 
cannot but impress one. There is pleasure 
in the mere buoyant gliding of the birch-bark 
canoe, with its curved bow and stern ; noth- 
ing els.e that floats possesses such grace, such 
frail and delicate beauty, as this true craft of 
the wilderness, which is as much a creature 
of the wild woods as the deer and bear them- 
selves. The light streaming from the bark 
lantern in the bow cuts a glaring lane through 
the gloom ; in it all objects stand out like 
magic, shining for a moment white and ghastly 
and then vanishing into the impenetrable 
darkness ; while all the time the paddler in 
the stern makes not so much as a ripple, and 
there is never a sound but the occasional 
splash of a muskrat, or the moaning uloo-oo 
uloo-uloo of an owl from the deep forests ; and 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER, 53 

at last perchance the excitement of a shot at 
a buck, standing at gaze, with luminous eye- 
balls. 

The most common method of killing the 
whitetail is by hounding ; that is, by driving 
it with hounds past runways where hunters 
are stationed for all wild animals when on 
the move prefer to follow certain definite 
routes. This is a legitimate, but inferior, kind 
of sport. 

However, even killing driven deer may be 
good fun at certain times. Most of the white- 
tail we kill round the ranch are obtained in 
this fashion. On the Little Missouri as 
throughout the plains country generally these 
deer cling to the big wooded river bottoms, 
while the blacktail are found in the broken 
country back from the river. The tangled 
mass of cottonwoods, box-alders, and thorny 
bullberry bushes which cover the bottoms 
afford the deer a nearly secure shelter from 
the still-hunter ; and it is only by the aid of 
hounds that they can be driven from their 
wooded fastnesses. They hold their own 
better than any other game. The great herds 
of buffalo, and the bands of elk, have vanished 
completely ; the swarms of antelope and black- 
tail have been wofully thinned ; but the white- 
tail, which were never found in such throngs 
as either buffalo or elk, blacktail or antelope, 
have suffered far less from the advent of the 
white hunters, ranchmen, and settlers. They 
are of course not as plentiful as formerly ; but 
some are still to be found in almost all their 
old haunts. Where the river, winding be- 
tween rows of high buttes, passes my ranch 



54 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

house, there is a long succession of heavily 
wooded bottoms ; and on all of these, even 
on the one whereon the house itself stands, 
there are a good many whitetail yet left. 

When we take a day's regular hunt we usu- 
ally wander afar, either to the hills after black- 
tail or to the open prairie after antelope. But 
if we are short of meat, and yet have no time 
for a regular hunt, being perhaps able to spare 
only a couple of hours after the day's work is 
over, then all hands turn out to drive a bottom 
for whitetail. We usually have one or two 
trackhounds at the ranch ; true southern deer- 
hounds, black and tan, with lop ears and 
hanging lips, their wrinkled faces stamped 
with an expression of almost ludicrous mel- 
ancholy. They are not fast, and have none 
of the alert look of the pied and spotted 
modern foxhound ; but their noses are very 
keen, their voices deep and mellow, and they 
are wonderfully staunch on a trail. 

All is bustle and laughter as we start on 
such a hunt. The baying hounds bound 
about, as the rifles are taken down ; the wiry 
ponies are roped out of the corral, and each 
broad-hatted hunter swings joyfully into the 
saddle. If the pony bucks or "acts mean" 
the rider finds that his rifle adds a new ele- 
ment of interest to the performance, which is 
of course hailed with loud delight by all the 
men on quiet horses. Then we splash off over 
the river, scramble across the faces of the 
bluffs, or canter along the winding cattle paths, 
through the woods, until we come to the bot- 
tom we intend to hunt. Here a hunter is 
stationed at each runway along which it is 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 55 

deemed likely that the deer will pass ; and 
one man, who has remained on horseback, 
starts into the cover with the hounds ; oc- 
casionally this horseman himself, skilled, as 
most cowboys are, in the use of the revolver, 
gets a chance to kill a deer. The deep bay- 
ing of the hounds speedily gives warning that 
the game is afoot ; and the watching hunters, 
who have already hid their horses carefully, look 
to their rifles. Sometimes the deer comes far 
ahead of the dogs, running very swiftly with 
neck stretched straight out ; and if the cover 
is thick such an animal is hard to hit. At 
other times, especially if the quarry is a young 
buck, it plays along not very far ahead of its 
baying pursuers, bounding and strutting with 
head up and white flag flaunting. If struck 
hard, down goes the flag at once, and the 
deer plunges into a staggering run, while the 
hounds yell with eager ferocity as they follow 
the bloody trail. Usually we do not have to 
drive more than one or two bottoms before 
getting a deer, which is forthwith packed be- 
hind one of the riders, as the distance is not 
great, and home we come in triumph. Some- 
times, however, we fail to find game, or the 
deer take unguarded passes, or the shot is 
missed. Occasionally I have killed deer on 
these hunts ; generally I have merely sat still 
a long while, listened to the hounds, and at 
last heard somebody else shoot. In fact such 
hunting, though good enough fun if only tried 
rarely, would speedily pall if followed at all 
regularly. 

Personally the chief excitement I have had 
in connection therewith has arisen from some 



56 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

antic of my horse ; a half-broken bronco is 
apt to become unnerved when a man with 
a gun tries to climb on him in a hurry. On 
one hunt in 1890 I rode a wild animal named 
Whitefoot. He had been a confirmed and 
very bad bucker three years before, when I 
had him in my string on the round-up ; but 
had grown quieter with years. Nevertheless 
I found he had some fire left ; for a hasty 
vault into the saddle on my part, was followed 
on his by some very resolute pitching. I 
lost my rifle and hat, and my revolver and 
knife were bucked out of my belt ; but I kept 
my seat all right, and finally got his head up 
and mastered him without letting him throw 
himself over backwards, a trick he sometimes 
practised. Nevertheless, in the first jump 
when I was taken unawares, I strained my- 
self across the loins, and did not get entirely 
over it for six months. 

To shoot running game with the rifle it is 
always necessary to be a good and quick 
marksman ; for it is never easy to kill an 
animal, when in rapid motion, with a single 
bullet. If on a runway a man who is a fairly 
skilful rifleman, has plenty of time for a 
clear shot, on open ground, at comparatively 
short distance, say under eighty yards, and if 
the deer is cantering, he ought to hit ; at 
least I generally do under such circum- 
stances, by remembering to hold well forward, 
in fact just in front of the deer's chest. But 
I do not always kill by any means ; quite 
often when I thought I held far enough 
ahead, my bullet has gone into the buck's 
hips or loins. However, one great feature 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 57 

in the use of dogs is that they enable one 
almost always to recover wounded game. 

If the animal is running at full speed a 
long distance off, the difficulty of hitting is of 
course very much increased ; and if the 
country is open the value of a repeating rifle 
is then felt. If the game is bounding over 
logs or dodging through underbrush, the 
difficulty is again increased. Moreover, the 
natural gait of the different kinds of game 
must be taken into account. Of course the 
larger kinds, such as elk and moose, are the 
easiest to hit ; then comes the antelope, in 
spite of its swiftness, and the sheep, because 
of the evenness of their running ; then the 
whitetail, with its rolling gallop ; and last and 
hardest of all, the blacktail, because of its 
extraordinary stiff-legged bounds. 

Sometimes on a runway the difficulty is not 
that the game is too far, but that it is too 
close ; for a deer may actually almost jump 
on the hunter, surprising him out of all 
accuracy of aim. Once something of the sort 
happened to me. 

Winter was just beginning. I had been off 
with the ranch wagon on a last round-up of 
the beef steers; .and had suffered a good 
deal, as one always does on these cold 
weather round-ups, sleeping out in the snow, 
wrapped up in blankets and tarpaulin, with 
no tent and generally no fire. Moreover, I 
became so weary of the interminable length 
of the nights, that I almost ceased to mind 
the freezing misery of standing night guard 
round the restless cattle ; while roping, 
saddling, and mastering the rough horses 



58 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

each morning, with numbed and stiffened 
limbs, though warming to the blood was har- 
rowing to the temper. 

On my return to the ranch I found a 
strange hunter staying there ; a clean, square- 
built, honest-looking little fellow, but evi- 
dently not a native American. As a rule, 
nobody displays much curiosity about any 
one's else antecedents in the Far West ; but 
I happened to ask my foreman who the new- 
comer was, chiefly because the said new- 
comer, evidently appreciating the warmth 
and comfort of the clean, roomy, ranch 
house, with its roaring fires, books, and good 
fare, seemed inclined to make a permanent 
stay, according to the custom of the country. 
My foreman, who had a large way of looking 
at questions of foreign ethnology and geogra- 
phy, responded with indifference : " Oh, he's 
a kind of a Dutchman ; but he hates the 
other Dutch, mortal. He's from an island 
Germany took from France in the last war ! " 
This seemed puzzling; but it turned out that 
the " island " in question was Alsace. Na- 
tive Americans predominate among the 
dwellers in and on the borders of the wilder- 
ness, and in the wild country over which the 
great herds of the cattle-men roam ; and they 
take the lead in every way. The sons of the 
Germans, Irish, and other European new- 
comers are usually quick to claim to be 
" straight United States," and to disavow all 
kinship with the fellow-countrymen of their 
fathers. Once, while with a hunter bearing a 
German name, we came by chance on a 
German hunting party from one of the eastern 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 59 

cities. One of them remarked to my com- 
panion that he must be part German himself, 
to which he cheerfully answered : " Well, 
my father was a Dutchman, but my mother 
was a white woman ! I'm pretty white my- 
self ! " whereat the Germans glowered at him 
gloomily. 

As we were out of meat the Alsatian and 
one of the cowboys and I started down the 
river with a wagon. The first day in camp it 
rained hard, so that we could not hunt. To- 
wards evening we grew tired of doing noth- 
ing, and as the rain had become a mere fine 
drizzle, we sallied out to drive one of the 
bottoms for whitetail. The cowboy and our 
one trackhound plunged into the young cot- 
tonwood, which grew thickly over the sandy 
bottom ; while the little hunter and I took 
our stands on a cut bank, twenty feet high 
and half a mile long, which hedged in the 
trees from behind. Three or four game 
trails led up through steep, narrow clefts in 
this bank ; and we tried to watch these. 
Soon I saw a deer in an opening below, 
headed towards one end of the bank, round 
which another game trail led ; and I ran hard 
towards this end, where it turned into a 
knife-like ridge of clay. About fifty yards 
from the point there must have been some 
slight irregularities in the face of the bank, 
enough to give the deer a foothold ; for as I 
ran along the animal suddenly bounced over 
the crest, so close that I could have hit it 
with my right hand. As I tried to pull up 
short and swing round, my feet slipped from 
under me in the wet clay, and down I went ; 



6o THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

while the deer literally turned a terrified 
somersault backwards. I flung myself to the 
edge and missed a hurried shot as it raced 
back on its tracks. Then, wheeling, I saw 
the little hunter running towards me along 
the top of the cut bank, his face on a broad 
grin. He leaped over one of the narrow 
clefts, up which a game trail led ; and hardly 
was he across before the frightened deer 
bolted up it, not three yards from his back. 
He did not turn, in spite of my shouting and 
handwaving, and the frightened deer, in the 
last stage of panic at finding itself again 
almost touching one of its foes, sped off 
across the grassy slopes like a quarter horse. 
When at last the hunter did turn, it was too 
late; and our long-range fusillade proved 
harmless. During the next two days I re- 
deemed myself, killing four deer. 

Coming back our wagon broke down, no un- 
usual incident in ranch-land, where there is 
often no road, while the strain is great in 
hauling through quicksands, and up or across 
steep broken hills ; it rarely makes much dif- 
ference beyond the temporary delay, for 
plains-men and mountain-men are very handy 
and self-helpful. Besides, a mere break-down 
sinks into nothing compared to having the 
team play out ; which is, of course, most apt 
to happen at the times when it insures hard- 
ship and suffering, as in the middle of a snow- 
storm, or when crossing a region with no water. 
However, the reinsmen of the plains must 
needs face many such accidents, not to speak 
of runaways, or having the wagon pitchpole 
over on to the team in dropping down too 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 6 1 

steep a hillside. Once after a three days' 
rainstorm some of us tried to get the ranch 
wagon along a trail which led over the ridge 
of a gumbo or clay butte. The sticky stuff 
clogged our shoes, the horses' hoofs, and the 
wheels ; and it was even more slippery than 
it was sticky. Finally we struck a sloping 
shoulder ; with great struggling, pulling, push- 
ing, and shouting, we reached the middle of 
it, and then, as one of my men remarked, 
"the whole darned outfit slid into the coulie." 
These hunting trips after deer or antelope 
with the wagon usually take four or five days. 
I always ride some tried hunting horse ; and 
the wagon itself when on such a hunt is apt 
to lead a chequered career, as half the time 
there is not the vestige of a trail to follow. 
Moreover we often make a hunt when the 
good horses are on the round-up, or otherwise 
employed, and we have to get together a scrub 
team of cripples or else of outlaws vicious 
devils, only used from dire need. The best 
teamster for such a hunt that we ever had on 
the ranch was a weather-beaten old fellow 
known as " Old Man Tompkins." In the 
course of a long career as lumberman, plains 
teamster, buffalo hunter, and Indian fighter, 
he had passed several years as a Rocky 
Mountain stage driver ; and a stage driver of 
the Rockies is of necessity a man of such skill 
and nerve that he fears no team and no coun- 
try. No matter how wild the unbroken horses, 
Old Tompkins never asked help ; and he 
hated to drive less than a four-in-hand. When 
he once had a grip on the reins, he let no one 
hold the horses' heads. All he wished was 



62 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

an open plain for the rush at the beginning. 
The first plunge might take the wheelers 7 fore- 
feet over the cross-bars of the leaders, but he 
never stopped for that ; on went the team, 
running, bounding, rearing, tumbling, while 
the wagon leaped behind, until gradually 
things straightened out of their own accord. 
I soon found, however, that I could not allow 
him to carry a rifle ; for he was an inveterate 
game butcher. In the presence of game the 
old fellow became fairly wild with excitement, 
and forgot the years and rheumatism which 
had crippled him. Once, after a long and 
tiresome day's hunt, we were walking home 
together; he was carrying his boots in his 
hands, bemoaning the fact that his feet hurt 
him. Suddenly a whitetail jumped up ; down 
dropped Old Tompkins' boots, and away he 
went like a college sprinter, entirely heedless 
of stones and cactus. By some indiscriminate 
firing at long range we dropped the deer; and 
as Old Tompkins cooled down he realized that 
his bare feet had paid full penalty for his dash. 
One of these wagon trips I remember be- 
cause I missed a fair running shot which I 
much desired to hit ; and afterwards hit a 
very much more difficult shot about which I 
cared very little. Ferguson and I, with Syl- 
vane and one or two others, had gone a day's 
journey down the river for a hunt. We went 
along the bottoms, crossing the stream every 
mile or so, with an occasional struggle through 
mud or quicksand, or up the steep, rotten 
banks. An old buffalo hunter drove the 
wagon, with a couple of shaggy, bandy-legged 
ponies ; the rest of us jogged along in front 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 63 

on horseback, picking out a trail through the 
bottoms and choosing the best crossing places. 
Some of the bottoms were grassy pastures ; on 
others great, gnarled cottonwoods, with shiv- 
ered branches stood in clumps ; yet others 
were choked with a true forest growth. Late 
in the afternoon we went into camp, choosing 
a spot where the cottonwoods were young; 
their glossy leaves trembled and rustled un- 
ceasingly. We speedily picketed the horses 
changing them about as they ate off the 
grass, drew water, and hauled great logs in 
front of where we had pitched the tent, while 
the wagon stood nearby. Each man laid out 
his bed ; the food and kitchen kit were taken 
from the wagon ; supper was cooked and 
eaten; and we then lay round the camp-fire, 
gazing into it, or up at the brilliant stars, and 
listening to the wild, mournful wailing of the 
coyotes. They were very plentiful round this 
camp ; before sunrise and after sundown they 
called unceasingly. 

Next day I took a long tramp and climb 
after mountain sheep and missed a running 
shot at a fine ram, about a hundred yards off; 
or rather I hit him and followed his bloody 
trail a couple of miles, but failed to find him ; 
whereat I returned to camp much cast down. 

Early the following morning Sylvane and I 
started for another hunt, this time on horse- 
back. The air was crisp and pleasant ; the 
beams of the just-risen sun struck sharply on 
the umber-colored hills and white cliff walls 
guarding the river, bringing into high relief 
their strangely carved and channelled fronts. 
Below camp the river was little but a succes- 



64 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

sion of shallow pools strung along the broad 
sandy bed which in spring-time was filled 
from bank to bank with foaming muddy water. 
Two mallards sat in one of these pools ; and 
I hit one with the rifle, so nearly missing that 
the ball scarcely ruffled a feather ; yet in some 
way the shock told, for the bird after flying 
thirty yards dropped on the sand. 

Then we left the river and our active ponies 
scrambled up a small canyon-like break in the 
bluffs. All day we rode among the hills ; 
sometimes across rounded slopes, matted with 
short buffalo grass ; sometimes over barren 
buttes of red or white clay, where only sage 
brush and cactus grew ; or beside deep 
ravines, black with stunted cedar; or along 
beautiful winding coulies, where the grass 
grew rankly, and the thickets of ash and wild 
plum made brilliant splashes of red and yellow 
and tender green. Yet we saw nothing. 

As evening grew on we rode riverwards ; we 
slid down the steep bluff walls, and loped across 
a great bottom of sage brush and tall grass, 
our horses now and then leaping like cats over 
the trunks of dead cottonwoods. As we came 
to the brink of the cut bank which forms the 
hither boundary of the river in freshet time, 
we suddenly saw two deer, a doe and a well 
grown fawn of course long out of the spotted 
coat. They were walking with heads down 
along the edge of a sand-bar, near a pool, on 
the farther side of the stream bed, over two 
hundred yards distant. They saw us at once, 
and turning, galloped away, with flags aloft, 
the pictures of springing, vigorous beauty. I 
jumped off my horse in an instant, knelt, and 



THE WHITETAIL DEER. 65 

covered the fawn. It was going straight away 
from me, running very evenly, and I drew a 
coarse sight at the tip of the white flag. As 
I pulled trigger down went the deer, the ball 
having gone into the back of its head. The 
distance was a good three hundred yards ; and 
while of course there was much more chance 
than skill in the shot I felt well pleased with 
it though I could not help a regret that 
while making- such a difficult shot at a mere 
whitetail I should have missed a much easier 
shot at a noble bighorn. Not only I, but all 
the camp, had a practical interest in my suc- 
cess ; for we had no fresh meat, and a fat 
whitetail fawn, killed in October, yields the 
best of venison. So after dressing the deer I 
slung the carcass behind my saddle, and we 
rode swiftly back to camp through the dark ; 
and that evening we feasted on the juicy 
roasted ribs. 

The degree of tameness and unsuspicious- 
ness shown by whitetail deer depends, of 
course, upon the amount of molestation to 
which they" are exposed. Their times for 
sleeping, feeding, and coming to water vary 
from the same cause. Where they are little 
persecuted they feed long after sunrise and 
before sunset, and drink when the sun is high 
in the heavens, sometimes even at midday ; 
they then show but little fear of man, and 
speedily become indifferent to the presence 
of deserted dwellings. 

In the cattle country the ranch houses are 

often shut during the months of warm weather, 

when the round-ups succeed one another 

without intermission, as the calves must be 

5 



66 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

branded, the beeves gathered and shipped, 
long trips made to collect strayed animals, 
and the trail stock driven from the breeding 
to the fattening grounds. At that time all 
the men-folk may have to be away in the 
white-topped wagons, working among the 
horned herds, whether plodding along the 
trail, or wandering to and fro on the range. 
Late one summer, when my own house had 
been thus closed for many months, I rode 
thither with a friend to pass a week. The 
place already wore the look of having slipped 
away from the domain of man. The wild 
forces, barely thrust back beyond the thresh- 
old of our habitation, were prompt to spring 
across it to renewed possession the moment 
we withdrew. The rank grass grew tall in the 
yard, and on the sodded roofs of the stable 
and sheds ; the weather-beaten log walls of 
the house itself were one in tint with the 
trunks of the gnarled cottonwoods by which 
it was shaded. Evidently the woodland 
creatures had come to regard the silent, de- 
serted buildings as mere outgrowths of the 
wilderness, no more to be feared than the 
trees around them or the gray, strangely 
shaped buttes behind. 

Lines of delicate, heart-shaped footprints 
in the muddy reaches of the half-dry river-bed 
showed where the deer came to water ; and 
in the dusty cattle-trails among the ravines 
many round tracks betrayed the passing and 
repassing of timber wolves, once or twice in 
the late evening we listened to their savage 
and melancholy howling. Cotton-tail rabbits 
burrowed under the verandah. Within doors 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 67 

the bushy-tailed pack-rats had possession, 
and at night they held a perfect witches' 
sabbath in the garret and kitchen ; while a 
little white-footed mouse, having dragged half 
the stuffing out of a mattress, had made there- 
of a big fluffy nest, entirely filling the oven. 

Yet, in spite of the abundant sign of game, 
we at first suffered under one of those spells 
of ill-luck which at times befall all hunters, 
and for several days we could kill nothing, 
though we tried hard, being in need of fresh 
meat. The moon was full each evening, 
sitting on the ranch verandah, or walking 
homeward, we watched it rise over the line of 
bluffs beyond the river and the deer were 
feeding at night ; moreover in such hot 
weather they lie very close, move as little as 
possible, and are most difficult to find. Twice 
we lay out from dusk until dawn, in spite of 
the mosquitoes, but saw nothing; and the 
chances we did get we failed to profit by. 

One morning, instead of trudging out to 
hunt I stayed at home, and sat in a rocking- 
chair on the verandah reading, rocking, or 
just sitting still listening to the low rustling 
of the cottonwood branches overhead, and 
gazing across the river. Through the still, 
clear, hot air, the faces of the bluffs shone 
dazzling white ; no shadow fell from the cloud- 
less sky on the grassy slopes, or on the groves 
of timber ; only the faraway cooing of a 
mourning dove broke the silence. Suddenly 
my attention was arrested by a slight splash- 
ing in the water ; glancing up from my book 
I saw three deer, which had come out of the 
thick fringe of bushes and young trees across 



68 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the river, and were strolling along the sand- 
bars directly opposite me. Slipping stealthily 
into the house I picked up my rifle, and 
slipped back again. One of the deer was 
standing motionless, broadside to me; it was 
a long shot, two hundred and fifty yards, 
but I had a rest against a pillar of the ve- 
randah. I held true, and as the smoke cleared 
away the deer lay struggling on the sands. 

As the whitetail is the most common and 
widely distributed of American game, so the 
Columbian blacktail has the most sharply 
limited geographical range ; for it is confined 
to the northwest coast, where it is by far the 
most abundant deer. In antlers it is indis- 
tinguishable from the common blacktail of the 
Rockies and the great plains, and it has the 
regular blacktail gait, a succession of stiff- 
legged bounds on all four feet at once ; but 
its tail is more like a whitetail's in shape, 
though black above. As regards methods of 
hunting, and the amount of sport yielded, it 
stands midway between its two brethren. It 
lives in a land of magnificent timber, where 
the trees tower far into the sky, the giants of 
their kind ; and there are few more attractive 
sports than still-hunting on the mountains, 
among these forests of marvellous beauty and 
grandeur. There are many lakes among the 
mountains where it dwells, and as it cares 
more for water than the ordinary blacktail, it 
is comparatively easy for hounds to drive it 
into some pond where it can be killed at lei- 
sure. It is thus often killed by hounding. 

The .only one I ever killed was a fine young 



THE WHITE TAIL DEER. 69 

buck. We had camped near a little pond, 
and as evening fell I strolled off towards it 
and sat down. Just after sunset the buck 
came out of the woods. For some moments 
he hesitated and then walked forward and 
stood by the edge of the water, about sixty 
yards from me. We were out of meat, so I 
held right behind his shoulder, and though he 
went off, his bounds were short and weak, and 
he fell before he reached the wood. 



70 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER, 



CHAPTER IV. 

ON THE CATTLE RANGES ; THE PRONG-HORN 
ANTELOPE. 

EARLY one June just after the close of the 
regular spring round-up, a couple of 
wagons, with a score of riders between them, 
were sent to work some hitherto untouched 
country, between the Little Missouri and the 
Yellowstone. I was to go as the representa- 
tive of our own and of one or two neighbor- 
ing brands ; but as the round-up had halted 
near my ranch I determined to spend a day 
there, and then to join the wagons ; the ap- 
pointed meeting-place being a cluster of red 
scoria buttes, some forty miles distant, where 
there was a spring of good water. 

Most of my day at the ranch was spent in 
slumber; for I had been several weeks on 
the round-up, where nobody ever gets quite 
enough sleep. This is the only drawback to 
the work ; otherwise it is pleasant and excit- 
ing, with just that slight touch of danger nec- 
essary to give it zest, and without the wear- 
ing fatigue of such labor as lumbering or min- 
ing. But there is never enough sleep, at least 
on the spring and mid-summer round-ups. 
The men are in the saddle from dawn until 
dusk, at the time when the days are longest 
on these great northern plains ; and in addi- 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 71 

tion there is the regular night guarding and 
now and then a furious storm or a stampede, 
when for twenty-four hours at a stretch the 
riders only dismount to change horses or 
snatch a mouthful of food. 

I started in the bright sunrise, riding one 
horse and driving loose before me eight 
others, one carrying my bedding. They 
travelled strung out in single file. I kept 
them trotting and loping, for loose horses are 
easiest to handle when driven at some speed, 
and moreover the way was long. My rifle 
was slung under my thigh ; the lariat was 
looped on the saddle-horn. 

At first our trail led through winding cou- 
lies, and sharp grassy defiles ; the air was 
wonderfully clear, the flowers were in bloom, 
the breath of the wind in my face was odorous 
and sweet. The patter and beat of the un- 
shod hoofs, rising in half-rhythmic measure, 
frightened the scudding deer ; but the yellow- 
breasted meadow larks, perched on the bud- 
ding tops of the bushes, sang their rich full 
songs without heeding us as we went by. 

When the sun was well on high and the 
heat of the day had begun we came to a 
dreary and barren plain, broken by rows of 
low clay buttes. The ground in places was 
whitened by alkali; elsewhere it was dull 
gray. Here there grew nothing save sparse 
tufts of coarse grass, and cactus, and sprawl- 
ing sage brush. In the hot air all things 
seen afar danced and wavered. As I rode 
and gazed at the shimmering haze the vast 
desolation of the landscape bore on me , it 
seemed as if the unseen and unknown powers 



72 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

of the wastes were moving by and marshal- 
ling their silent forces. No man save the 
wilderness dweller knows the strong melan- 
choly fascination of these long rides through 
lonely lands. 

At noon, that the horses might graze and 
drink, I halted where some box-alders grew 
by a pool in the bed of a half-dry creek ; and 
shifted my saddle to a fresh beast. When we 
started again we came out on the rolling 
prairie, where the green sea of wind-rippled 
grass stretched limitless as far as the eye 
could reach. Little striped gophers scuttled 
away, or stood perfectly straight at the 
mouths of their burrows, looking like picket 
pins. Curlews clamored mournfully as they 
circled overhead. Prairie fowl swept off, 
clucking and calling, or strutted about with 
their sharp tails erect. Antelope were very 
plentiful, running like race-horses across the 
level, or uttering their queer, barking grunt as 
they stood at gaze, the white hairs on their 
rumps all on end, their neck bands of broken 
brown and white vivid in the sunlight. They 
were found singly or in small straggling 
parties ; the master bucks had not yet begun 
to drive out the younger and weaker ones as 
later in the season, when each would gather 
into a herd as many does as his jealous 
strength could guard from rivals. The nurs- 
ing does whose kids had come early were 
often found with the bands ; the others kept 
apart. The kids were very conspicuous 
figures on the prairies, across which they 
scudded like jack rabbits, showing nearly as 
much speed and alertness as their parents ; 



ON THE CA TTLE RANGES. 73 

only the very young sought safety by lying 
flat to escape notice. 

The horses cantered and trotted steadily 
over the mat of buffalo grass, steering 1 for the 
group of low scoria mounds which was my 
goal. In mid-afternoon I reached it. The 
two wagons were drawn up near the spring ; 
under them lay the night-wranglers, asleep ; 
nearby the teamster-cooks were busy about 
the evening meal. A .little way off the two 
day-wranglers were watching the horse-herd ; 
into which I speedily turned my own animals. 
The riders had already driven in the bunches 
of cattle ; and were engaged in branding the 
calves, and turning loose the animals that 
were not needed, while the remainder were 
kept, forming the nucleus of the herd which 
was to accompany the wagon. 

As soon as the work was over the men rode 
to the wagons ; sinewy fellows, with tattered 
broad-brimmed hats and clanking spurs, some 
wearing leather shaps or leggings, others 
having their trousers tucked into their high- 
heeled top-boots, all with their flannel shirts 
and loose neckerchiefs dusty and sweaty. A 
few were indulging in rough, good-natured 
horse play, to an accompaniment of yelling 
mirth ; most were grave and taciturn, greeting 
me with a silent nod or a " How ! friend.'' A 
very talkative man, unless the acknowledged 
wit of the party, according to the somewhat 
florid frontier notion of wit, is -always looked 
on with disfavor in a cow-camp. After supper, 
eaten in silent haste, we gathered round the 
embers of the small fires, and the conversa- 
tion glanced fitfully over the threadbare sub- 



74 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

jects common to all such camps ; the antics 
of some particularly vicious bucking bronco, 
how the different brands of cattle were show- 
ing up, the smallness of the calf drop, the 
respective merits of rawhide lariats and grass 
ropes, and bits of rather startling and violent 
news concerning the fates of certain neigh- 
bors. Then one by one we began to turn in 
under our blankets. 

Our wagon was to furnish the night guards 
for the cattle ; and each of us had his gentlest 
horse tied ready to hand. The night guards 
went on duty two at a time for two-hour 
watches. By good luck my watch came last. 
My comrade was a happy-go-lucky young 
Texan who for some inscrutable reason was 
known as " Latigo Strap " ; he had just come 
from the south with a big drove of trail cattle. 

A few minutes before two one of the guards 
who had gone on duty at midnight rode into 
camp and wakened us by shaking our shoul- 
ders. Fumbling in the dark I speedily 
saddled my horse ; Latigo had left his saddled, 
and he started ahead of me. One of the an- 
noyances of night guarding, at least in thick 
weather, is the occasional difficulty of finding 
the herd after leaving camp, or in returning 
to camp after the watch is over ; there are 
few things more exasperating than to be help- 
lessly wandering about in the dark under such 
circumstances. However,, on this occasion 
there was no such trouble ; for it was a bril- 
liant starlight night and the herd had been 
bedded down by a sugar-loaf butte which 
made a good landmark. As we reached the 
spot we could make out the loom of the cattle 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 75 

lying close together on the level plain ; and 
then the dim figure of a horseman rose vaguely 
from the darkness and moved by in silence ; 
it was the other of the two midnight guards, 
on his way back to his broken slumber. 

At once we began to ride slowly round the 
cattle in opposite directions. We were silent, 
for the night was clear, and the herd quiet ; 
in wild weather, when the cattle are restless, 
the cowboys never cease calling and singing 
as they circle them, for the sounds seem to 
quiet the beasts. 

For over an hour we steadily paced the end- 
less round, saying nothing, with our great- 
coats buttoned, for the air is chill towards 
morning on the northern plains, even in sum- 
mer. Then faint streaks of gray appeared in 
the east. Latigo Strap began to call merrily 
to the cattle. A coyote came sneaking over 
the butte nearby, and halted to yell and wail ; 
afterwards he crossed the coulie and from the 
hillside opposite again shrieked in dismal 
crescendo. The dawn brightened rapidly; 
the little skylarks of the plains began to sing, 
soaring far overhead, while it was still much 
too dark to see them. Their song is not 
powerful, but it is so clear and fresh and long- 
continued that it always appeals to one very 
strongly; especially because it is most often 
heard in the rose-tinted air of the glorious 
mornings, while the listener sits in the saddle, 
looking across the endless sweep of the 
prairies. 

As it grew lighter the cattle became rest- 
less, rising and stretching themselves, while 
we continued to ride round them. 



76 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

" Then the bronc' began to pitch 

And I began to ride ; 
He bucked me off a cut bank, 
Hell ! I nearly died ! " 

sang Latigo from the other side of the herd. 
A yell from the wagons told that the cook 
was summoning the sleeping cow-punchers to 
breakfast ; we were soon able to distinguish 
their figures as they rolled out of their bed- 
ding, wrapped and corded it into bundles, 
and huddled sullenly round the little fires. 
The horse wranglers were driving in the 
saddle bands. All the cattle got on their feet 
and started feeding. In a few minutes the 
hasty breakfast at the wagons had evidently 
been despatched for we could see the men 
forming rope corrals into which the ponies 
were driven ; then each men saddled, bridled, 
and mounted his horse, two or three of the 
half-broken beasts bucking, rearing, and 
plunging frantically in the vain effort to un- 
seat their riders. 

The two men who were first in the saddle 
relieved Latigo and myself, and we immedi- 
ately galloped to camp, shifted our saddles to 
fresh animals, gulped down a cup or two of 
hot coffee, and some pork, beans, and bread, 
and rode to the spot where the others were 
gathered, lolling loosely in their saddles, and 
waiting for the round-up boss to assign them 
their tasks. We were the last, and as soon 
as we arrived the boss divided all into two 
parties for the morning work, or " circle rid- 
ing," whereby the cattle were to be gathered 
for the round-up proper. Then, as the others 
started, he turned to me and remarked : 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 77 

" We 've got enough hands to drive this open 
country without you ; but we 're out of meat, 
and I don't want to kill a beef for such a 
small outfit ; can't you shoot some antelope 
this morning ? We '11 pitch camp by the big 
blasted cottonwood at the foot of the ash 
coulies, over yonder, below the breaks of Dry 
Creek/' 

Of course I gladly assented, and was speed- 
ily riding alone across the grassy slopes. There 
was no lack of the game I was after, for from 
every rise of ground I could see antelope 
scattered across the prairie, singly, in couples, 
or in bands. But their very numbers, joined 
to the lack of cover on such an open, flattish 
country, proved a bar to success ; while I was 
stalking one band another was sure to see me 
and begin running, whereat the first would 
likewise start ; I missed one or two very long 
shots, and noon found me still without game. 

However, I was then lucky enough to see a 
band of a dozen feeding to windward of a 
small butte, and by galloping in along circle I 
got within a quarter of a mile of them before 
having to dismount. The stalk itself was 
almost too easy ; for I simply walked to the 
butte, climbed carefully up a slope where the 
soil was firm and peered over the top to see 
the herd, a little one, a hundred yards off. 
They saw me at once and ran, but I held well 
ahead of a fine young prong-buck, and rolled 
him over like a rabbit, with both shoulders 
broken. In a few minutes I was riding on- 
wards once more with the buck lashed behind 
my saddle. 

The next one I got, a couple of hours later, 



78 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

offered a much more puzzling stalk. He was 
a big fellow in company with four does or 
small bucks. All five were lying in the mid- ' 
die of a slight basin, at the head of a gentle 
valley. At first sight it seemed impossible to 
get near them, for there was not so much 
cover as a sage brush, and the smooth, shal- 
low basin in which they lay was over a thou- 
sand yards across, while they were looking 
directly down the valley. However, it is 
curious how hard it is to tell, even from near- 
by, whether a stalk can or cannot be made ; 
the difficulty being to estimate the exact 
amount of shelter yielded by little inequali- 
ties of ground. In this instance a small 
shallow watercourse, entirely dry, ran along 
the valley, and after much study I decided to 
try to crawl up it, although the big bulging 
telescopic eyes of the prong-buck which 
have much keener sight than deer or any 
other game would in such case be pointed 
directly my way. 

Having made up my mind I backed cau- 
tiously down from the coign of vantage 
whence I had first seen the game, and ran 
about a mile to the mouth of a washout 
which formed the continuation of the water- 
course in question. Protected by the high 
clay banks of this washout I was able to walk 
upright until within half a mile of the prong- 
bucks ; then my progress became very tedious 
and toilsome, as I had to work my way up 
the watercourse flat on my stomach, dragging 
the rifle beside me. At last I reached a spot 
beyond which not even a snake could crawl 
unnoticed. In front was a low bank, a couple 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 79 

of feet high, crested with tufts of coarse grass. 
Raising my head very cautiously I peered 
through these and saw the prong-horn about 
a hundred and fifty yards distant. At the 
same time I found that I had crawled to the 
edge of a village of prairie dogs, which had 
already made me aware of their presence by 
their shrill yelping. They saw me at once : 
and all those away from their homes scuttled 
towards them, and dived down the burrows, 
or sat on the mounds at the entrances, scold" 
ing convulsively and jerking their fat little 
bodies and short tails. This commotion at 
once attracted the attention of the antelope. 
They rose forthwith, and immediately caught 
a glimpse of the black muzzle of the rifle 
which I was gently pushing through the grass 
tufts. The fatal curiosity which so often in 
this species offsets wariness and sharp sight, 
proved my friend ; evidently the antelope 
could not quite make me out and wished to 
know what I was. They moved nervously to 
and fro, striking the earth with their fore 
hoofs, and now and then uttering a sudden 
bleat. At last the big buck stood still broad- 
side to me, and I fired. He went off with the 
others, but lagged behind as they passed over 
the hill crest, and when I reached it I saw 
him standing, not very far off, with his head 
down. Then he walked backwards a few 
steps, fell over on his side, and died. 

As he was a big buck I slung him across 
the saddle, and started for camp afoot, leading 
the horse. However my hunt was not ove. , 
for while still a mile from the wagons, going 
down a coulie of Dry Creek, a yearling prong- 



8o THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

buck walked over the divide to my right and 
stood still until I sent a bullet into its chest ; 
so that I made my appearance in camp with 
three antelope. 

I spoke above of the sweet singing of the 
western meadow lark and plains skylark ; 
neither of them kin to the true skylark, by the 
way, one being a cousin of the grakles and 
hang-birds, and the other a kind of pipit. To 
me both of these birds are among the most 
attractive singers to which I have ever lis- 
tened ; but with all bird-music much must be 
allowed for the surroundings and much for 
the mood, and the keenness of sense, of the 
listener. The lilt of the little plains skylark 
is neither very powerful nor very melodious; 
but it is sweet, pure, long-sustained, with a 
ring of courage befitting a song uttered in 
highest air. 

The meadow lark is a singer of a higher 
order, deserving to rank with the best. Its 
song has length, variety, power and rich 
melody ; and there is in it sometimes a 
cadence of wild sadness, inexpressibly touch- 
ing. Yet I cannot say that either song would 
appeal to others as it appeals to me ; for to 
me it comes forever laden with a hundred 
memories and associations ; with the sight of 
dim hills reddening in the dawn, with the 
breath of cool morning winds blowing across 
lonely plains, with the scent of flowers on the 
sunlit prairie, with the motion of fiery horses, 
with all the strong thrill of eager and buoy- 
ant life. I doubt if any man can judge dis- 
passionately the bird songs of his own 
country ; he cannot disassociate them from 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 8 1 

the sights and sounds of the land that is so 
dear to him. 

This is not a feeling to regret, but it must 
be taken into account in accepting any esti- 
mate of bird music even i'n considering the 
reputation of the European skylark and 
nightingale. To both of these birds I have 
often listened in their own homes ; always 
with pleasure and admiration, but always with 
a growing belief that relatively to some other 
birds they were ranked too high. They are 
pre-eminently birds with literary associations ; 
most people take their opinions of them at 
second-hand, from the poets. 

No one can help liking the lark ; it is such 
a brave, honest, cheery bird, and moreover 
its song is uttered in the air, and is very long- 
sustained. But it is by no means a musician 
of the first rank. The nightingale is a per- 
former of a very different and far higher 
order ; yet though it is indeed a notable and 
admirable singer, it is an exaggeration to call 
it unequalled. In melody, and above all in 
that finer, higher melody where the chords 
vibrate with the touch of eternal sorrow, it 
cannot rank with such singers as the wood 
thrush and hermit thrush. The serene, 
ethereal beauty of the hermit's song> rising 
and falling through the still evening, under 
the archways of hoary mountain forests that 
have endured from time everlasting ; the 
golden, leisurely chiming of the wood thrush, 
sounding on June afternoons, stanza by 
stanza, through sun-flecked groves of tall 
hickories, oaks, and chestnuts ; with these 
there is nothing in the nightingale's song to 
6 



82 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

compare. But in volume and continuity, in 
tuneful, voluble, rapid outpouring and ardor, 
above all in skilful and intricate variation of 
theme, its song far surpasses that of either of 
the thrushes. In all these respects it is more 
just to compare it with the mocking-bird's, 
which, as a rule, likewise falls short precisely 
on those points where the songs of the two 
thrushes excel. 

The mocking-bird is a singer that has suf- 
fered much in reputation from its powers of 
mimicry. On ordinary occasions, and espe- 
cially in the daytime, it insists on playing the 
harlequin. But when free in its own favorite 
haunts at night in the love season it has a 
song, or rather songs, which are not only 
purely original, but are also more beautiful 
than any other bird music whatsoever. Once 
I listened to a mocking-bird singing the live- 
long spring night, under the full moon, in a 
magnolia tree ; and I do not think I shall 
ever forget its song. 

It was on the plantation of Major Camp- 
bell Brown, near Nashville, in the beautiful, 
fertile mid-Tennessee country. The mocking- 
birds were prime favorites on the place ; and 
were given full scope for the development, 
not only of their bold friendliness towards 
mankind, but also of that marked individual- 
ity and originality of character in which they 
so far surpass every other bird as to become 
the most interesting of all feathered folk. 
One of the mockers, which lived in the hedge 
bordering the garden, was constantly engaged 
in an amusing feud with an honest old setter 
dog, the point of attack being the tip of the 



ON THE CA TTLE RANGES. 83 

dog's tail. For some reason the bird seemed 
to regard any hoisting of the setters tail as a 
challenge and insult. It would flutter near 
the dog as he walked ; the old setter would 
become interested in something and raise his 
tail. The bird would promptly fly at it and 
peck the tip ; whereupon down went the tail 
until in a couple of minutes the old fellow 
would forget himself, and the scene would be 
repeated. The dog usually bore the assaults 
with comic resignation ; and the mocker 
easily avoided any momentary outburst of 
clumsy resentment. 

On the evening in question the moon was 
full. My host kindly assigned me a room of 
which the windows opened on a great magno- 
lia tree, where, I was told, a mocking-bird 
sang every night and all night long. I went 
to my room about ten. The moonlight was 
shining in through the open window, and the 
mocking-bird was already in the magnolia. 
The great tree was bathed in a flood of shin- 
ing silver ; I could see each twig, and mark 
every action of the singer, who was pouring 
forth such a rapture of ringing melody as I 
have never listened to before or since. 
Sometimes he would perch motionless for 
many minutes, his body quivering and thrill- 
ing with the outpour of music. Then he 
would drop softly from twig to twig, until the 
lowest limb was reached, when he would rise, 
fluttering and leaping through the branches, 
his song never ceasing for an instant, until he 
reached the summit of the tree and launched 
into the warm, scent-laden air, floating in 
spirals, with outspread wings, until, as if 



84 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

spent, he sank gently back into the tree and 
down through the branches, while his song 
rose into an ecstasy of ardor and passion. 
His voice rang like a clarionet, in rich, full 
tones, and his execution covered the widest 
possible compass ; theme followed theme, a 
torrent of music, a swelling tide of harmony, 
in which scarcely any two bars were alike. I 
stayed till midnight listening to him ; he was 
singing when I went to sleep ; he was still 
singing when I woke a couple of hours later ; 
he sang through the livelong night. 

There are many singers beside the meadow 
lark and little skylark in the plains country ; 
that brown and desolate land, once the home 
of the thronging buffalo, still haunted by the 
bands of the prong-buck, and roamed over in 
ever increasing numbers by the branded herds 
of the ranchman. In the brush of the river 
bottoms there are the thrasher and song spar- 
row ; on the grassy uplands the lark finch, 
vesper sparrow, and lark bunting ; and in the 
rough canyons the rock wren, with its ringing 
melody. 

Yet in certain moods a man cares less for 
even the loveliest bird songs than for the 
wilder, harsher, stronger sounds of the wil- 
derness ; the guttural booming and clucking of 
the prairie fowl and the great sage fowl in 
spring ; the honking of gangs of wild geese, 
as they fly in rapid wedges ; the bark of an 
eagle, wheeling in the shadow of storm-scarred 
cliffs ; or the far-off clanging of many sand- 
hill cranes, soaring high overhead in circles 
which cross and recross at an incredible 
altitude. Wilder yet, and stranger, are the 



ON THE CATTLE RANGES. 85 

cries of the great four-footed beasts ; the 
rhythmic pealing of a bull-elk's challenge ; 
and that most sinister and mournful sound, 
ever fraught with foreboding of murder and 
rapine, the long-drawn baying of the gray wolf. 

Indeed, save to the trained ear most mere 
bird songs are not very noticeable. The 
ordinary wilderness dweller, whether hunter 
orcowboy, scarcely heeds them ; and in fact 
knows but little of the smaller birds. If a bird 
has some conspicuous peculiarity of look or 
habit he will notice its existence; but not 
otherwise. He knows a good deal about 
magpies, whiskey jacks, or water ousels ; but 
nothing whatever concerning the thrushes, 
finches, and warblers. 

It is the same with mammals. The prairie- 
dogs he cannot help noticing. With the big 
pack-rats also he is well acquainted ; for they 
are handsome, with soft gray fur, large eyes, 
and bushy tails ; and, moreover, no one can 
avoid remarking their extraordinary habit of 
carrying to their burrows everything bright, 
useless, and portable, from an empty cartridge 
case to a skinning knife. But he knows 
nothing of mice, shrews, pocket gophers, or 
weasels ; and but little even of some larger 
mammals with very marked characteristics. 
Thus I have met but one or two plainsmen 
who knew anything of the curious plains fer- 
ret, that rather rare weasel-like animal, which 
plays the same part on the plains that the 
mink does by the edges of all our streams and 
brooks, and the tree-loving sable in the cold 
northern forests. The ferret makes its home 
in burrows, and by preference goes abroad at 



86 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

dawn and dusk, but sometimes even at mid- 
day. It is as blood-thirsty as the mink itself, 
and its life is one long ramble for prey, 
gophers, prairie-dogs, sage rabbits, jack-rab- 
bits, snakes, and every kind of ground bird 
; furnishing its food. I have known one to 
fairly depopulate a prairie-dog town, it being 
the arch foe of these little rodents, because of 
its insatiable blood lust and its capacity to 
follow them into their burrows. Once I found 
the bloody body and broken eggs of a poor 
prairie-hen which a ferret had evidently sur- 
prised on her nest. Another time one of my 
men was eye-witness to a more remarkable 
instance of the little animal's blood-thirsty 
ferocity. He was riding the range, and being 
attracted by a slight commotion in a clump of 
grass, he turned his horse thither to look, and 
to his astonishment found an antelope fawn at 
the last gasp, but still feebly struggling, in 
the grasp of a ferret, which had throttled it and 
was sucking its blood with hideous greediness. 
He avenged the murdered innocent by a 
dexterous blow with the knotted end of his 
lariat. 

That mighty bird of rapine, the war eagle, 
which on the great plains and among the 
Rockies supplants the bald-headed eagle of 
better-watered regions, is another dangerous 
foe of the young antelope. It is even said 
that under exceptional circumstances eagles 
will assail a full-grown prong-horn ; and a 
neighboring ranchman informs me that he was 
once an eye-witness to such an attack. It was 
a bleak day in the late winter, and he was 
riding home across a wide dreary plateau, 



ON THE CA TTLE RANGES. 87 

when he saw two eagles worrying and pounc- 
ing on a prong-buck seemingly a yearling. 
It made a gallant fight. The eagles hovered 
over it with spread wings, now and then 
swooping down, their talons out-thrust, to 
strike at the head, or to try to settle on the 
loins. The antelope reared and struck with 
hoofs and horns like a goat ; but its strength 
was failing rapidly, and doubtless it would 
have succumbed in the end had not the 
approach of the ranchman driven off the 
marauders. 

I have likewise heard stones of eagles at- 
tacking badgers, foxes, bob-cats, and coyotes ; 
but I am inclined to think all such cases ex- 
ceptional. I have never myself seen an eagle 
assail anything bigger than a fawn, lamb, kid, 
or jack-rabbit. It also swoops at geese, sage 
fowl, and prairie fowl. On one occasion while 
riding over the range I witnessed an attack on 
a jack-rabbit. The eagle was soaring over- 
head, and espied the jack while the latter was 
crouched motionless. Instantly the great bird 
rushed down through the humming air, with 
closed wings ; checked itself when some forty 
yards above the jack, hovered for a moment, 
and again fell like a bolt. Away went long- 
ears, running as only a frightened jack can ; 
and after him the eagle, not with the arrowy 
rush of its descent from high air, but with 
eager, hurried flapping. In a short time it 
had nearly overtaken the fugitive, when the 
latter dodged sharply to one side, and the 
eagle overshot it precisely as a grayhound 
would have done, stopping itself by a power- 
ful, setting motion of the great pinions. 



88 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

Twice this manoeuvre was repeated ; then the 
eagle made a quick rush, caught and over- 
threw the quarry before it could turn, and in 
another moment was sitting triumphant on the 
quivering body, the crooked talons driven deep 
into the soft, furry sides. 

Once while hunting mountain sheep in the 
Bad Lands I killed an eagle on the wing with 
the rifle. I was walking beneath a cliff of 
gray clay, when the eagle sailed into view over 
the crest. As soon as he saw me he threw his 
wings aback, and for a moment before wheel- 
ing poised motionless, offering a nearly station- 
ary target; so that my bullet grazed his 
shoulder, and down he came through the air, 
tumbling over and over. As he struck the 
ground he threw himself on his back, and 
fought against his deajh with the undaunted 
courage proper to his brave and cruel nature. 

Indians greatly prize the feathers of this 
eagle. With them they make their striking 
and beautiful war bonnets, and bedeck the 
manes and tails of their spirited war ponies. 
Every year the Grosventres and Mandans from 
the Big Missouri come to the neighborhood 
of my ranch to hunt. Though not good marks- 
men they kill many whitetail deer, driving the 
bottoms for them in bands, on horseback ; 
and they catch many eagles. Sometimes they 
take these alive by exposing a bait near which 
a hole is dug, where one of them lies hidden 
for days, with Indian patience, until an eagle 
lights on the bait and is noosed. 

Even eagles are far less dangerous enemies 
to antelope than are wolves and coyotes. 
These beasts are always prowling round the 



ON THE CA TTLE RANGES. 89 

bands to snap up the sick or unwary ; and in 
spring they revel in carnage of the kids and 
fawns. They are not swift enough to over- 
take the grown animals by sheer speed ; but 
they are superior in endurance, and especially 
in winter, often run them down in fair chase. 
A prong-buck is a plucky little beast, and 
when cornered it often makes a gallant, 
though not a very effectual, fight. 



go THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER V. 

HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK ; FROST, FIRE, AND 
THIRST. 

AS with all other American game, man is a 
worse foe to the prong-horns than all 
their brute enemies combined. They hold 
their own much better than the bigger game ; 
on the whole even better than the blacktail ; 
but their numbers have been wofully thinned, 
and in many places they have been completely 
exterminated. The most exciting method of 
chasing them is on horseback with gray- 
hounds ; but they are usually killed with the 
rifle. Owing to the open nature of the ground 
they frequent the shots must generally be 
taken at long range ; hence this kind of hunt- 
ing is pre-eminently that needing judgment of 
distance and skill in the use of the long- 
range rifle at stationary objects. On the 
other hand the antelope are easily seen, mak- 
ing no effort to escape observation, as deer 
do, and are so curious that in very wild dis- 
tricts to this day they can sometimes be tolled 
within rifle shot by the judicious waving of a 
red flag. In consequence, a good many very 
long, but tempting, shots can be obtained. 
More cartridges are used, relatively to the 
amount of game killed, on antelope, than in 
any other hunting. 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 91 

Often I have killed prong-bucks while 
riding between the outlying line camps, which 
are usually stationed a dozen miles or so back 
from the river, where the Bad Lands melt 
into the prairie. In continually trying long 
shots, of course one occasionally makes a 
remarkable hit. Once I remember while 
riding down a broad, shallow coulie with two 
of my cow-hands Seawell and Dow, both 
keen hunters and among the staunchest friends 
I have ever had rousing a band of antelope 
which stood irresolute at about a hundred 
yards until I killed one. Then they dashed 
off, and I missed one shot, but with my next, 
to my own utter astonishment, killed the last 
of the band, a big buck, just as he topped a 
rise four hundred yards away. To offset 
such shots I have occasionally made an unac- 
countable miss. Once I was hunting with 
the same two men, on a rainy day, when we 
came on a bunch of antelope some seventy 
yards off, lying down on the side of a coulie, 
to escape the storm. They huddled together 
a moment to gaze, and, with stiffened ringers 
I took a shot, my yellow oilskin slicker flap- 
ping around me in the wind and rain. Down 
went one buck, and away went the others. 
One of my men walked up to the fallen beast, 
bent over it, and then asked, " Where did 
you aim ? " Not reassured by the question, I 
answered doubtfully, " Behind the shoulder " ; 
whereat he remarked drily, " Well, you hit it 
in the eye ! " I never did know whether I 
killed the antelope I aimed at or another* 
Yet that same day I killed three more bucks 
at decidedly long shots ; at the time we lacked 



92 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

meat at the ranch, and were out to make a 
good killing. 

Besides their brute and human foes, the 
prong-horn must also fear the elements, and 
especially the snows of winter. On the north- 
ern plains the cold weather is of polar seventy, 
and turns the green, grassy prairies of mid- 
summer into ironbound wastes. The blizzards 
whirl and sweep across them with a shrieking 
fury which few living things may face. The 
snow is like fine ice dust, and the white waves 
glide across the grass with a stealthy, crawling 
motion which has in it something sinister and 
cruel. Accordingly, as the bright fall weather 
passes, and the dreary winter draws nigh, 
when the days shorten, and the nights seem 
interminable, and gray storms lower above 
the gray horizon, the antelope gather in bands 
and seek sheltered places, where they may 
abide through the winter-time of famine and 
cold and deep snow, Some of these bands 
travel for many hundred miles, going and 
returning over the same routes, swimming 
rivers, crossing prairies, and threading their 
way through steep defiles. Such bands make 
their winter home in places like the Black 
Hills, or similar mountainous regions, where 
the shelter and feed are good, and where in 
consequence antelope have wintered in count- 
less thousands for untold generations. Other 
bands do not travel for any very great dis- 
tance, but seek some sheltered grassy table- 
land in the Bad Lands, or some well-shielded 
valley, where their instinct and experience 
teach them that the snow does not lie deep in 
winter. Once having chosen such a place 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 93 

they stand much persecution before leav- 
ing it. 

One December, an old hunter whom I knew 
told me that such a band was wintering a few 
miles from a camp where two line-riders of 
the W Bar brand were stationed; and I made 
up my mind to ride thither and kill a couple. 
The line camp was twenty miles from my 
ranch ; the shack in which the old hunter 
lived was midway between, and I had to stop 
there to find out the exact lay of the land. 

At dawn, before our early breakfast, I sad- 
dled a tough, shaggy sorrel horse ; hastening 
in-doors as soon as the job was over, to warm 
my numbed ringers. After breakfast I started, 
muffled in my wolf-skin coat, with beaver-fur 
cap, gloves, and shaps, and great felt over- 
shoes. The windless air was bitter cold, the 
thermometer showing well below zero. Snow 
lay on the ground, leaving bare patches here 
and there, but drifted deep in the hollows. 
Under the steel-blue heavens the atmosphere 
had a peculiar glint as if filled with myriads 
of tiny crystals. As I crossed the frozen 
river, immediately in front of the ranch house, 
the strangely carved tops of the bluffs were 
reddening palely in the winter sunrise. Prai- 
rie fowl were perched in the bare cottonwoods 
along the river brink, showing large in the 
leafless branches ; they called and clucked to 
one another. 

Where the ground was level and the snow 
not too deep I loped, and before noon I 
reached the sheltered coulie where, with long 
poles and bark, the hunter had built his tepee- 
wigwam, as eastern woodsmen would have 



94 



THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



called it. It stood in a loose grove of elms 
and box-alders ; from the branches of the 
nearest trees hung saddles of frozen venison. 
The smoke rising from the funnel-shaped top 
of the tepee showed that there was more fire 
than usual within ; it is easy to keep a good 
tepee warm, though it is so smoky that no one 
therein can stand upright. As I drew rein 
the skin door was pushed aside, and the hard 
old face and dried, battered body of the hunter 
appeared. He greeted me with a surly nod, 
and a brief request to " light and hev some- 
thin' to eat " the invariable proffer of hospi- 
tality on the plains. He wore a greasy buck- 
shin shirt or tunic, and an odd cap of badger 
skin, from beneath which strayed his tangled 
hair; age, rheumatism, and the many ac- 
cidents and incredible fatigue, hardship, and 
exposure of his past life had crippled him, 
yet he still possessed great power of endur- 
ance, and in his seamed weather-scarred face 
his eyes burned fierce and piercing as a 
hawk's. Ever since early manhood he had 
wandered over the plains, hunting and trap- 
ping ; he had waged savage private war 
against half the Indian tribes of the north ; 
and he had wedded wives in each of the tribes 
of the other half. A few years before this 
time the great buffalo herds had vanished, 
and the once swarming beaver had shared the 
same fate the innumerable horses and horned 
stock of the cattlemen, and the daring rough 
riders of the ranches, had supplanted alike 
the game and the red and white wanderers 
who had followed it with such fierce rivalry. 
When the change took place the old fellow, 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 95 

with tailing bodily powers, found his life-work 
over. He had little taste for the career of the 
desperado, horse-thief, highwayman, and man- 
killer, which not a few of the old buffalo 
hunters adopted when their legitimate occu- 
pation was gone ; he scorned still more the 
life of vicious and idle semi-criminality led by 
others of his former companions who were of 
weaker mould. Yet he could not do regular 
work. His existence had been one of excite- 
ment, adventure, and restless roaming, when 
it was not passed in lazy ease ; his times of 
toil and peril varied by fits of brutal revelry. 
He had no kin, no ties of any kind. He 
would accept no help, for his wants were very 
few, and he was utterly self-reliant. He got 
meat, clothing, and bedding from the antelope 
and deer he killed ; the spare hides and ven- 
ison he bartered for what little else he needed. 
So he built him his tepee in one of the most 
secluded parts of the Bad Lands, where he 
led the life of a solitary hunter, awaiting in 
grim loneliness the death which he knew to be 
near at hand. 

I unsaddled and picketed my horse, and 
followed the old hunter into his smoky tepee; 
sat down on the pile of worn buffalo robes 
which formed his bedding, and waited in 
silence while he fried some deer meat, and 
boiled some coflee he was out of flour. As 
I ate, he gradually unbent and talked quite 
freely, and before I left he told me exactly 
where to find the band, which he assured me 
was located for the winter, and would not leave 
unless much harried. 

After a couple of hours' rest I again started, 



96 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

and pushed out to the end of the Bad Lands. 
Here, as there had been no wind, I knew I 
should find in the snow the tracks of one of 
the riders from the line camp, whose beat lay 
along the edge of the prairie for some eight 
miles, until it met the beat of a rider from the 
line camp next above. As nightfall came on 
it grew even colder; long icicles hung from 
the lips of my horse ; and I shivered slightly 
in my fur coat. I had reckoned the distance 
ill, and it was dusk when I struck the trail ; 
but my horse at once turned along it of his 
own accord and began to lope. Half an hour 
later I saw through the dark what looked like 
a spark on the side of a hill. Toward this 
my horse turned ; and in another moment a 
whinneying from in front showed I was near 
the camp. The light was shining through a 
small window, the camp itself being a dugout 
with a log roof and front a kind of frontier 
building always warm in winter. After turn- 
ing my horse into the rough log stable with 
the horses of the two cowboys, I joined the 
latter at supper inside the dugout ; being re- 
ceived of course with hearty cordiality. After 
the intense cold outside the warmth within 
was almost oppressive, for the fire was roaring 
in the big stone fireplace. The bunks were 
broad,* my two friends turned into one, and I 
was given the other, with plenty of bedding ; 
so that my sleep was sound. 

We had breakfasted and saddled our horses 
and were off by dawn next morning. My 
companions, muffled in furs, started in op- 
posite directions to ride their lonely beats, 
while I steered for my hunting-ground. It 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 97 

was a lowering and gloomy day ; at sunrise 
pale, lurid sundogs hung in the glimmering 
mist ; gusts of wind moaned through the ra- 
vines. 

At last I reached a row of bleak hills, and 
from a ridge looked cautiously down on the 
chain of plateaus, where I had been told I 
should see the antelope. Sure enough, there 
they were, to the number of several hundred, 
scattered over the level snow-streaked surface 
of the nearest and largest plateau, greedily 
cropping the thick, short grass. Leaving my 
horse tied in a hollow I speedily stalked up a 
coulie to within a hundred yards of the near- 
est band and killed a good buck. Instantly 
all the antelope in sight ran together into a 
thick mass and raced away from me, until 
they went over the opposite edge of the pla- 
teau ; but almost as soon as they did so they 
were stopped by deep drifts of powdered snow, 
and came back to the summit of the table- 
land. They then circled round the edge at a 
gallop, and finally broke madly by me, jos- 
tling one another in their frantic haste and 
crossed by a small ridge into the next plateau 
beyond ; as they went by I shot a yearling. 

I now had all the venison I wished, and 
would shoot no more, but I was curious to 
see how the antelope would act, and so walked 
after them. They ran about half a mile, and 
then the whole herd, of several hundred indi- 
viduals, wheeled into line fronting me, like so 
many cavalry, and stood motionless, the white 
and brown bands on their necks looking like 
the facings on a uniform. As I walked near 
they again broke and rushed to the end of the 
7 



98 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

valley. Evidently they feared to leave the 
flats for the broken country beyond, where 
the rugged hills were riven by gorges, in some 
of which snow lay deep even thus early in the 
season. Accordingly, after galloping a couple 
of times round the valley, they once more 
broke by me, at short range, and tore back 
along the plateaus to that on which I had first 
found them. Their evident and extreme re- 
luctance to venture into the broken country 
round about made me readily understand the 
tales I had heard of game butchers killing 
over a hundred individuals at a time out of a 
herd so situated. 

I walked back to my game, dressed it, and 
lashed the saddles and hams behind me on 
my horse ; I had chosen old Sorrel Joe for the 
trip because he was strong, tough, and quiet. 
Then I started for the ranch, keeping to the 
prairie as long as I could, because there the 
going was easier ; sometimes I rode, some- 
times I ran on foot leading Sorrel Joe. 

Late in the afternoon, as I rode over a roll 
in the prairie I saw ahead of me a sight very 
unusual at that season ; a small emigrant train 
going westward. There were three white- 
topped prairie schooners, containing the 
household goods, the tow-headed children, 
and the hard-faced, bony women ; the tired 
horses were straining wearily in the traces ; 
the bearded, moody men walked alongside. 
They had been belated by sickness, and the 
others of their company had gone ahead to 
take up claims along the Yellowstone ; now 
they themselves were pushing forward in 
order to reach the holdings of their friends 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 99 

before the first deep snows stopped all travel. 
They had no time to halt ; for there were still 
two or three miles to go that evening before 
they could find a sheltered resting-place with 
fuel, grass, and water. A little while after 
passing them I turned in the saddle and 
looked back. The lonely little train stood 
out sharply on the sky-line, the wagons loom- 
ing black against the cold red west as they 
toiled steadily onward across the snowy plain. 

Night soon fell ; but I cared little, for I was 
on ground I knew. The old horse threaded 
his way at a lope along the familiar game 
trails and cattle paths ; in a couple of hours I 
caught the gleam from the firelit windows of 
the ranch house. No man who, for his good- 
fortune, has at times in his life endured toil 
and hardship, ever fails to appreciate the 
strong elemental pleasures of rest after labor, 
food after hunger, warmth and shelter after 
bitter cold. 

So much for the winter hunting. But in 
the fall, when the grass is dry as tinder, the 
antelope hunter, like other plainsmen, must 
sometimes face fire instead of frost. Fire is 
one of the most dreaded enemies of the 
ranchmen on the cattle ranges ; and fighting 
a big prairie fire is a work of extraordinary 
labor, and sometimes of danger. The line of 
flame, especially when seen at night, undulat- 
ing like a serpent, is very beautiful ; though 
it lacks the terror and grandeur of the great 
forest fires. 

One October, Ferguson and I, with one of 
the cow-hands, and a friend from the East, 
took the wagon for an antelope hunt in the 



100 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

broken country between the Little Missouri 
and the Beaver. The cowboy drove the 
wagon to a small spring, near some buttes 
which are well distinguished by a number of 
fossil tree-stumps ; while the rest of us, who 
were mounted on good horses, made a circle 
after antelope. We found none, and rode on 
to camp, reaching it about the middle of the 
afternoon. We had noticed several columns 
of smoke in the southeast, showing that 
prairie fires were under way ; but we thought 
that they were too far off to endanger our 
camp, and accordingly unsaddled our horses 
and sat down to a dinner of bread, beans, and 
coffee. Before we were through the smoke 
began to pour over a ridge a mile distant in 
such quantities that we ran thither with our 
slickers, hoping to find some stretch of broken 
ground where the grass was sparse, and where 
we could fight the fire with effect. Our hopes 
were vain. Before we reached the ridge the 
fire came over its crest, and ran down in a 
long tongue between two scoria buttes. Here 
the grass was quite short and thin, and we 
did our best to beat out the flames ; but they 
gradually gained on us, and as they reached 
the thicker grass lower down the slope, they 
began to roar and dart forward in a way that 
bade us pay heed to our own safety. Finally 
they reached a winding line of brushwood in 
the bottom of the coulie ; and as this burst 
into a leaping blaze we saw it was high time 
to look to the safety of our camp, and ran 
back to it at top speed. Ferguson, who had 
been foremost in fighting the fire, was already 
scorched and blackened. 



HUNTING THE PROXC-BUC'X. ' TGI' 

We were camped on the wagon trail which 
leads along the divide almost due south to 
Sentinel Butte. The line of fire was fanned 
by a southeasterly breeze, and was therefore 
advancing diagonally to the divide. If we 
could drive the wagon southward on the trail 
in time to get it past the fire before the latter 
reached the divide, we would be to windward 
of the flames, and therefore in safety. Accord- 
ingly, while the others were hastily harness- 
ing the team, and tossing the bedding and 
provisions into the wagon, I threw the saddle 
on my horse, and galloped down the trail, to 
see if there was yet time to adopt this expedi- 
ent. I soon found that there was not. Half 
a mile from camp the trail dipped into a deep 
coulie, where fair-sized trees and dense under- 
growth made a long winding row of brush and 
timber. The trail led right under the trees 
at the upper end of this coulie. As I galloped 
by I saw that the fire had struck the trees a 
quarter of a mile below me ; in the dried tim- 
ber it instantly sprang aloft like a giant, and 
roared in a thunderous monotone as it swept 
up the coulie. I galloped to the hill ridge 
ahead, saw that the fire line had already 
reached the divide, and turned my horse 
sharp on his haunches. As I again passed 
under the trees, the fire, running like a race- 
horse in the brush, had reached the road ; its 
breath was hot in my face ; tongues of quiver- 
ing flame leaped over my head and kindled 
the grass on the hillside fifty yards away. 

When I got back to camp Ferguson had 
taken measures for the safety of the wagon. 
He had moved it across the coulie, which at 



:<R2 TtfE Wtt&BRNESS HUNTER. 

this point had a wet bottom, making a bar to 
the progress of the flames until they had 
time to work across lower down. Meanwhile 
we fought to keep the fire from entering the 
the well-grassed space on the hither side of 
the coulie, between it and a row of scoria 
buttes. Favored by a streak of clay ground, 
where the grass was sparse, we succeeded in 
beating out the flame as it reached this clay 
streak, and again beating it out when it ran 
round the buttes and began to back up to- 
wards up against the wind. Then we re- 
crossed the coulie with the wagon, before the 
fire swept up the farther side ; and so, when 
the flames passed by, they left us camped on 
a green oasis in the midst of a charred, smok- 
ing desert. We thus saved some good graz- 
ing for our horses. 

But our fight with the fire had only begun. 
No stockman will see a fire waste the range 
and destroy the winter feed of the stock with- 
out spending every ounce of his strength in 
the effort to put a stop to its ravages even 
when, as in our case, the force of men and 
horses at hand is so small as to offer only the 
very slenderest hope of success. 

We set about the task in the way custom- 
ary in the cattle country. It is impossible 
for any but a very large force to make head 
against a prairie fire while there is any wind ; 
but the wind usually fails after nightfall, and 
accordingly the main fight is generally waged 
during the hours of darkness. 

Before dark we drove to camp and shot a 
stray steer, and then split its carcass in two 
lengthwise with an axe. After sundown the 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK, 103 

wind lulled ; and we started towards the line 
of fire, which was working across a row of 
broken grassy hills, three quarters of a mile 
distant. Two of us were on horseback, drag- 
ging a half carcass, bloody side down, by 
means of ropes leading from our saddle-horns 
to the fore and hind legs ; the other two fol- 
lowed on foot with slickers and wet saddle 
blankets. There was a reddish glow in the 
night air, and the waving, bending lines of 
flame showed in great bright curves against 
the hillside ahead of us. 

When we reached them, we found the fire 
burning in a long, continuous line. It was 
not making rapid headway, for the air was 
still, and the flames stood upright, two or 
three feet high. Lengthening the ropes, one 
of us spurred his horse across the fire line 
and then, wheeling, we dragged the carcass 
along it ; one horseman being on the burnt 
ground, and one on the unburnt grass, while 
the body of the steer lay lengthwise across 
the line. The weight and the blood smothered 
the fire as we twitched the carcass over the 
burning grass ; and the two men following be- 
hind with their blankets and slickers readily 
beat out any isolated tufts of flame. 

The fire made the horses wild, and it was 
not always easy to manage both them and the 
ropes, so as to keep the carcass true on the 
line. Sometimes there would be a slight puff 
of wind, and then the man on the grass side 
of the line ran the risk of a scorching. We 
were blackened with smoke, and the taut 
ropes hurt our thighs ; while at times the 
plunging horses tried to buck or bolt. It 



104 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

was worse when we came to some deep gully 
or ravine, breaking the line of fire. Into this 
we of course had to plunge, so as to get across 
to the fire on the other side. After the 
glare of the flame the blackness of the ravine 
was Stygian ; we could see nothing, and simply 
spurred our horses into it anywhere, taking 
our chances. Down we would go, stumbling, 
sliding, and pitching, over cut banks and into 
holes and bushes, while the carcass bounded 
behind, now catching on a stump, and now 
fetching loose with a " pluck " that brought it 
full on the horses' haunches, driving them 
nearly crazy with fright. The pull up the 
opposite bank was, if anything, worse. 

By midnight the half carcass was worn 
through ; but we had stifled the fire in the com- 
paratively level country to the eastwards. Back 
we went to camp, drank huge draughts of 
muddy water, devoured roast ox-ribs, and 
dragged out the other half carcass to fight 
the fire on the west. But after hours of 
wearing labor we found ourselves altogether 
baffled by the exceeding roughness of the 
ground. There was some little risk to us who 
were on horseback, dragging the carcass ; we 
had to feel our way along knife-like ridges in 
the dark, one ahead and the other behind, 
while the steer dangled over the precipice 
on one side ; and in going down the buttes 
and into the canyons only by extreme care 
could we avoid getting tangled in the ropes 
and rolling down in a heap. Moreover the 
fire was in such rough places that the carcass 
could not be twitched fairly over it, and so 
we could not put it out. Before dawn we 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK, 



I0 5 



were obliged to abandon our fruitless efforts 
and seek camp, stiffened and weary. From 
a hill we looked back through the pitchy 
night at the fire we had failed to conquer. 
It had been broken into many lines by the 
roughness of the chasm-strewn and hilly 
country. Of these lines of flame some were 
in advance, some behind, some rushing for- 
ward in full blast and fury, some standing 
still; here and there one wheeling towards a 
flank, or burning in a semicircle, round an 
isolated hill. Some of the lines were flicker- 
ing out ; gaps were showing in others. In 
the darkness it looked like the rush of a 
mighty army, bearing triumphantly onwards, 
in spite of a resistance so stubborn as to 
break its formation into many fragments and 
cause each one of them to wage its own battle 
for victory or defeat. 

On the wide plains where the prong-buck 
dwells the hunter must sometimes face thirst, 
as well as fire and frost. The only time I 
ever really suffered from thirst was while 
hunting prong-buck. 

It was late in the summer. I was with the 
ranch wagon on the way to join a round-up, 
and as we were out of meat I started for a 
day's hunt. Before leaving in the morning I 
helped to haul the wagon across the river. It 
was fortunate I stayed, as it turned out. 
There was no regular ford where we made the 
crossing ; we anticipated no trouble, as the 
water was very low, the season being dry. 
However, we struck a quicksand, in which 
the wagon settled, while the frightened horses 
floundered helplessly. All the riders at once 



ic6 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER 

got their ropes on the wagon, and hauling 
from the saddle, -finally pulled it through. 
This took time ; and it was ten o'clock when 
I rode away from the river, at which my horse 
and I had just drunk our last drink for over 
twenty-four hours as it turned out. 

After two or three hours' ride, up winding 
coulies, and through the scorched desolation 
of patches of Bad Lands, I reached the roll- 
ing prairie. The heat and drought had long 
burned the short grass dull brown ; the 
bottoms of what had been pools were covered 
with hard, dry, cracked earth. The day was 
cloudless, and the heat oppressive. There 
were many antelope, but I got only one shot, 
breaking a buck's leg ; and though I followed 
it for a couple of hours I could not overtake 
it. By this time it was late in the afternoon, 
and I was far away from the river ; so I 
pushed for a creek, in the bed of which I had 
always found pools of water, especially to- 
wards the head, as is usual with plains water- 
courses. To my chagrin, however, they all 
proved to be dry, and though I rode up the 
creek bed toward the head, carefully search- 
ing for any sign of water, night closed on me 
before I found any. For two or three hours 
I stumbled on, leading my horse, in my fruit- 
less search ; then a tumble over a cut bank in 
the dark warned me that I might as well stay 
where I was for the rest of the warm night. 
Accordingly I unsaddled the horse, and tied 
him to a sage brush ; after awhile he began to 
feed on the dewy grass. At first I was too 
thirsty to sleep. Finally I fell into slumber, 
and when I awoke at dawn I felt no thirst. 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. TO; 

For an hour or two more I continued my 
search for water in the creek bed ; then 
abandoned it and rode straight for the river. 
By the time we reached it my thirst had come 
back with redoubled force, my mouth was 
parched, and the horse was in quite as bad a 
plight ; we rushed down to the brink, and it 
seemed as if we could neither of us ever drink 
our fill of the tepid, rather muddy water. Of 
course this experience was merely unpleasant ; 
thirst is not a source of real danger in the 
plains country proper, whereas in the hideous 
deserts that extend from southern Idaho 
through Utah and Nevada to Arizona, it ever 
menaces with death the hunter and explorer. 

In the plains the weather is apt to be in 
extremes ; the heat is tropical, the cold 
arctic, and the droughts are relieved by furi- 
ous floods. These are generally most severe 
and lasting in the spring, after the melting of 
the snow ; and fierce local freshets follow the 
occasional cloudbursts. The large rivers then 
become wholly impassable, and even the 
smaller are formidable obstacles. It is not 
easy to get cattle across a swollen stream, 
where the current runs like a turbid mill-race 
over the bed of shifting quicksand. Once 
five of us took a thousand head of trail steers 
across the Little Missouri when the river was 
up. and it was no light task. The muddy 
current was boiling past the banks, covered 
with driftwood and foul yellow froth, and the 
frightened cattle shrank from entering it. At 
last, by hard riding, with much loud shouting 
and swinging of ropes, we got the leaders in, 
and the whole herd followed. After them we 



io8 THR WILDERNESS HUNTER, 

went in our turn, the horses swimming at one 
moment, and the next staggering and floun- 
dering through the quicksand. I was riding 
my pet cutting horse, Muley, which has the 
provoking habit of making great bounds 
where the water is just not deep enough for 
swimming; once he almost unseated me. 
Some of the cattle were caught by the currents 
and rolled over and over ; most of these we 
were able, with the help of our ropes, to put 
on their feet again ; only one was drowned, or 
rather choked in a quicksand. Many swam 
down stream, and in consequence struck a 
difficult landing, where the river ran under a 
cut bank; these we had to haul out with our 
ropes. Both men and horses were well tired 
by the time the whole herd was across. 

Although I have often had a horse down in 
quicksand, or in crossing a swollen river, and 
have had to work hard to save him, I have 
never myself lost one under such circum- 
stances. Yet once I saw the horse of one of 
my men drown under him directly in front of 
the ranch house, while he was trying to cross 
the river. This was in early spring, soon 
after the ice had broken. 

When making long wagon trips over the 
great plains, antelope often offer the only 
source of meat supply, save for occasional 
water fowl, sage fowl, and prairie fowl the 
sharp-tailed prairie fowl, be it understood. 
This is the characteristic grouse of the cattle 
country; the true prairie fowl is a bird of the 
farming land farther east. 

Towards the end of the summer of '92 I 
found it necessary to travel from my ranch to 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 109 

the Black Hills, some two hundred miles 
south. The ranch wagon went with me, 
driven by an all-round plainsman, a man of 
iron nerves and varied past, the sheriff of our 
county. He was an old friend of mine; at 
one time I had served as deputy-sheriff for 
the northern end of the county. In the 
wagon we carried our food and camp kit, and 
our three rolls of bedding, each wrapped in a 
thick, nearly waterproof canvas sheet ; we had 
a tent, but we never needed it. The load 
being light, the wagon was drawn by but a 
span of horses, a pair of wild runaways, tough, 
and good travellers. My foreman and I rode 
beside the wagon on our wiry, unkempt, un- 
shod cattle-ponies. They carried us all day 
at a rack, pace, single-foot or slow lope, 
varied by rapid galloping when we made long 
circles after game ; the trot, the favorite gait 
with eastern park-riders, is disliked by all 
peoples who have to do much of their life- 
work in the saddle. 

The first day's ride was not attractive. 
The heat was intense and the dust stifling, as 
we had to drive some loose horses for the first 
few miles, and afterwards to ride up and down 
the sandy river bed, where the cattle had gath- 
ered, to look over some young steers we had put 
on the range the preceding spring. When we 
did camp it was by a pool of stagnant water, 
in a creek bottom, and the mosquitoes were a 
torment. Nevertheless, as evening fell, it was 
pleasant to climb a little knoll nearby and 
gaze at the rows of strangely colored buttes, 
grass-clad, or of bare earth and scoria, their 
soft reds and purples showing as through a 



no THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

haze, and their irregular outlines gradually 
losing their sharpness in the fading twilight. 

Next morning the weather changed, grow- 
ing cooler, and we left the tangle of ravines 
and Bad Lands, striking out across the vast 
sea-like prairies. Hour after hour, under the 
bright sun, the wagon drew slowly ahead, over 
the immense rolling stretches of short grass, 
dipping down each long slope until it reached 
the dry, imperfectly outlined creek bed at the 
bottom, wholly devoid of water and without 
so much as a shrub of wood, and then 
ascending the gentle rise on the other side 
until at last it topped the broad divide, or 
watershed, beyond which lay the shallow wind- 
ing coulies of another creek system. From 
each rise of ground we looked far and wide 
over the sunlit prairie, with its interminable 
undulations. The sicklebill curlews which in 
spring, while breeding, hover above the travel- 
ling horseman with ceaseless clamor, had for 
the most part gone southward. We saw only 
one small party of half a dozen birds ; they 
paid little heed to us, but piped to one 
another, making short flights, and on alight- 
ing stood erect, first spreading and then fold- 
ing and setting their wings with a slow, 
graceful motion. Little horned larks contin- 
ually ran along the ruts of the faint wagon 
track, just ahead of the team, and twittered 
plaintively as they rose, while flocks of long- 
spurs swept hither and thither, in fitful, irreg- 
ular flight. 

My foreman and I usually rode far off to 
one side of the wagon, looking out for ante- 
lope. Of these we at first saw few, but they 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. in 

grew more plentiful as we journeyed onward, 
approaching a big, scantily wooded creek, 
where I had found the prong-horn abundant 
in previous seasons. They were very wary 
and watchful whether going singly or in small 
parties, and the lay of the land made it ex- 
ceedingly difficult to get within range. The 
last time I had hunted in this neighborhood 
was in the fall, at the height of the rutting 
season. Prong-bucks, even more than other 
game, seem fairly maddened by erotic excite- 
ment. At the time of my former hunt they 
were in ceaseless motion ; each master buck 
being incessantly occupied in herding his 
harem, and fighting would-be rivals, while 
single bucks chased single does as grayhounds 
chase hares, or else, if no does were in sight, 
from sheer excitement ran to and fro as if 
crazy, racing at full speed in one direction, 
then halting, wheeling, and tearing back again 
just as hard as they could go. 

At this time, however, the rut was still 
some weeks off, and all the bucks had to do 
was to feed and keep a look-out for enemies. 
Try my best, I could not get within less than 
four or five hundred yards, and though I took 
a number of shots at these, or at even longer 
distances, I missed. If a man is out merely [ 
for a day's hunt, and has all the time he 
wishes, he will not scare the game and waste 
cartridges by shooting at such long ranges, 
preferring to spend half a day or more in pa- 
tient waiting and careful stalking ; but if he 
is travelling, and is therefore cramped for 
time, he must take his chances, even at the 
cost of burning a good deal of powder. 



112 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

I was finally helped to success by a char- 
acteristic freak of the game I was following. 
No other animals are as keen-sighted, or are 
normally as wary as prong-horns ; but no 
others are so whimsical and odd in their be- 
havior at times, or so subject to fits of the most 
stupid curiosity and panic. Late in the after- 
noon, on topping 1 a rise I saw two good bucks 
racing off about three hundred yards to one 
side ; I sprang to the ground, and fired three 
shots at them in vain, as they ran like quarter- 
horses until they disappeared over a slight 
swell. In a minute, however, back they came, 
suddenly appearing over the crest of the same 
swell, immediately in front of me, and, as I 
afterwards found by pacing, some three hun- 
dred and thirty yards away. They stood side 
by side facing me, and remained motionless, 
unheeding the crack of the Winchester ; I 
aimed at the right-hand one, but a front shot 
of the kind, at such a distance, is rather dif- 
ficult, and it was not until I fired for the 
fourth time that he sank back out of sight. I 
could not tell whether I had killed him, and 
took two shots at his mate, as the latter went 
off, but without effect. Running forward, I 
found the first one dead, the bullet having 
gone through him lengthwise ; the other did 
not seem satisfied even yet, and kept hanging 
round in the distance for some minutes, look- 
ing at us. 

I had thus bagged one prong-buck, as the 
net outcome of the expenditure of fourteen 
cartridges. This was certainly not good 
shooting ; but neither was it as bad as it 
would seem to the man inexperienced in an- 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 113 

telope hunting. When fresh meat is urgently 
needed, and when time is too short, the 
hunter who is after antelope in an open flat- 
tish country must risk many long shots. In 
no other kind of hunting is there so much 
long-distance shooting, or so many shots fired 
lor every head of game bagged. 

Throwing the buck into the wagon we con- 
tinued our journey across the prairie, no longer 
following any road, and before sunset jolted 
down towards the big creek for which we had 
been heading. There were many water-holes 
therein, and timber of considerable size ; box 
alder and ash grew here and there in clumps 
and fringes, beside the serpentine curves of 
the nearly dry torrent bed, the growth being 
thickest under the shelter of the occasional 
low bluffs. We drove down to a heavily 
grassed bottom, near a deep, narrow pool, 
with, at one end, that rarest of luxuries in the 
plains country, a bubbling spring of pure, cold 
water. With plenty of wood, delicious water, 
ample feed for the horses, and fresh meat we 
had every comfort and luxury incident to 
camp life in good weather. The bedding was 
tossed out on a smooth spot beside the wagon ; 
the horses were watered and tethered to 
picket pins where the feed was best ; water 
was fetched from the spring; a deep hole 
was dug for the fire, and the grass roundabout 
carefully burned off ; and in a few moments 
the bread was baking in the Dutch oven, the 
potatoes were boiling, antelope steaks were 
sizzling in the frying-pan, and the kettle was 
ready for the tea. After supper, eaten with 
the relish known well to every hard-working 
8 



114 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

and successful hunter, we sat for half an hour 
or so round the fire, and then turned in under 
the blankets, pulled the tarpaulins over us, 
and listened drowsily to the wailing of the 
coyotes until we fell sound asleep. 

We determined to stay in this camp all day, 
so as to try and kill another prong-buck, as 
we would soon be past the good hunting 
grounds. I did not have to go far for my 
game next morning, for soon after breakfast, 
while sitting on my canvas bag cleaning my 
rifle, the sheriff suddenly called to me that a 
bunch of antelope were coming towards us. 
Sure enough there they were, four in number, 
rather over half a mile off, on the first bench 
of the prairie, two or three hundred yards 
back from the creek, leisurely feeding in our 
direction. In a minute or two they were out 
of sight, and I instantly ran along the creek 
towards them for a quarter of a mile, and then 
crawled up a short shallow coulie, close to 
the head of which they seemed likely to pass. 
When nearly at the end I cautiously raised 
my hatless head, peered through some strag- 
gling weeds, and at once saw the horns of the 
buck. He was a big fellow, about a hundred 
and twenty yards off ; the others, a doe and 
two kids, were in front. As I lifted myself 
on my elbows he halted and turned his raised 
head towards me ; the sunlight shone bright 
on his supple, vigorous body with its mark- 
ings of sharply contrasted brown and white. 
I pulled trigger, and away he went ; but I 
could see that his race was nearly run, and he 
fell after going a few hundred yards. 

Soon after this a wind storm blew up so 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 115 

violent that we could hardly face it. In the 
late afternoon it died away, and I again 
walked out to hunt, but saw only does and 
kids, at which I would not shoot. As the sun 
set, leaving bars of amber and pale red in the 
western sky, the air became absolutely calm. 
In the waning evening the low, far-off ridges 
were touched with a violet light ; then the 
hues grew sombre, and still darkness fell on 
the lonely prairie. 

Next morning we drove to the river, and 
kept near it for several days, most of the time 
following the tracks made by the heavy 
wagons accompanying the trail herds this 
being one of the regular routes followed by 
the great throng of slow-moving cattle yearly 
driven from the south. At other times we 
made our own road. Twice or thrice we 
passed ranch houses ; the men being absent 
on the round-up they were shut, save one 
which was inhabited by two or three lean 
Texan cow-punchers, with sun-burned faces 
and reckless eyes, who had come up with a 
taail herd from the Cherokee strip. Once, 
near the old Sioux crossing, where the Dakota 
war bands used to ford the river on their 
forays against the Crows and the settlers 
along the Yellowstone, we met a large horse 
herd. The tough, shabby, tired-looking an- 
imals, one or two of which were loaded with 
bedding and a scanty supply of food, were 
driven by three travel-worn, hard-faced men, 
with broad hats, shaps, and long pistols in 
their belts. They had brought the herd over 
plain and mountain pass all the way from far 
distant Oregon. 



Ii6 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

It was a wild, rough country, bare of trees 
save for a fringe of cottonwoods along the 
river, and occasional clumps of cedar on the 
jagged, brown buttes ; as we went farther the 
hills turned the color of chalk, and were 
covered with a growth of pine. We came 
upon acres of sunflowers as we journeyed 
southward ; they are not as tall as they are in 
the rich bottom lands of Kansas, where the 
splendid blossoms, on their strong stalks, 
stand as high as the head of a man on horse- 
back. 

Though there were many cattle here, big 
game was scarce. However, I killed plenty of 
prairie chickens and sage hens for the pot ; 
and as the sage hens were still feeding largely 
on crickets and grasshoppers, and not ex- 
clusively on sage, they were just as good eat- 
ting as the prairie chickens. I used the rifle, 
cutting off their heads or necks, and, as they 
had to be shot on the ground, and often while 
in motion, or else while some distance away, 
it was more difficult than shooting off the 
heads of grouse in the mountains, where the 
birds sit motionless in trees. The head is a 
small mark, while to hit the body is usually 
to spoil the bird ; so I found that I averaged 
three or four cartridges for every head neatly 
taken off, the remaining shots representing 
spoiled birds and misses. 

For the last sixty or seventy miles of our 
trip we left the river and struck off across a 
great, desolate gumbo prairie. There was no 
game, no wood for fuel, and the rare water- 
holes were far apart, so that we were glad 
when, as we toiled across the monotonous 



HUNTING THE PRONG-BUCK. 117 

succession of long, swelling ridges, the dim, 
cloud-like mass, looming vague and purple on 
the rim of the horizon ahead of us, gradually 
darkened and hardened into the bold outline 
of the Black Hills. 



Ii8 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER VI. 

AMONG THE HIGH HILLS ; THE BIGHORN OR 
MOUNTAIN SHEEP. 

DURING the summer of 1886 I hunted 
chiefly to keep the ranch in meat. It was 
a very pleasant summer ; although it was fol- 
lowed by the worst winter we ever witnessed on 
the plains. I was much at the ranch, where I 
had a good deal of writing to do ; but every 
week or two I left, to ride among the line 
camps, or spend a few days on any round-up 
which happened to be in the neighborhood. 

These days of vigorous work among the 
cattle were themselves full of pleasure. At 
dawn we were in the saddle, the morning air 
cool in our faces ; the red sunrise saw us 
loping across the grassy reaches of prairie 
land, or climbing in single file among the 
rugged buttes. All forenoon we spent riding 
the long circle with the cow-punchers of the 
round-up ; in the afternoon we worked the 
herd, cutting the cattle, with much breakneck 
galloping and dextrous halting and wheeling. 
Then came the excitement and hard labor of 
roping, throwing, and branding the wild and 
vigorous range calves ; in a corral, if one was 
handy, otherwise in a ring of horsemen. 
Soon after nightfall we lay down, in a log hut 



AMONG THE HIGH HILLS. 119 

or tent, if at a line camp ; under the open sky, 
if with the round-up wagon. 

After ten days or so of such work, in which 
every man had to do his full share for lag- 
gards and idlers, no matter who, get no mercy 
in the real and healthy democracy of the 
round-up I would go back to the ranch to 
turn to my books with added zest for a fort- 
night. Yet even during these weeks at the 
ranch there was some out-door work ; for I 
was breaking two or three colts. I took my 
time, breaking them gradually and gently, 
not, after the usual cowboy fashion, in a hurry, 
by sheer main strength and rough riding, with 
the attendant danger to the limbs of the man 
and very probable ruin to the manners of the 
horse. We rose early ; each morning I stood 
on the low-roofed verandah, looking out un- 
der the line of murmuring, glossy-leaved cot- 
tonwoods, across the shallow river, to see the 
sun flame above the line of bluffs opposite. 
In the evening I strolled off. for an hour or 
two's walk, rifle in hand. The roomy, home- 
like ranch house, with its log walls, shingled 
roof, and big chimneys and fireplaces, stands 
in a glade, in the midst of the thick forest, 
which covers half the bottom ; behind rises, 
bare and steep, the wall of peaks, ridges, and 
table-lands. 

During the summer in question, I once or 
twice shot a whitetail buck right on this large 
bottom ; once or twice I killed a blacktail in 
the hills behind, not a mile from the ranch 
house. Several times I killed and brought 
in prong-bucks, rising before dawn, and rid- 
ing off on a good horse for an all day's hunt 



120 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

in the rolling prairie country twelve or fifteen 
miles away. Occasionally I took the wagon 
and one of the men, driving to some good 
hunting ground and spending a night or two ; 
usually returning with two or three prong- 
bucks, and once with an elk but this was 
later in the fall. Not infrequently I went 
away by myself on horseback for a couple of 
days, when all the men were on the round-up, 
and when I wished to hunt thoroughly some 
country quite a distance from the ranch. I 
made one such hunt in late August, because 
I happened to hear that a small bunch of 
mountain sheep were haunting a tract of very 
broken ground, with high hills, about fifteen 
miles away. 

I left the ranch early in the morning, riding 
my favorite hunting horse, old Manitou. The 
blanket and oilskin slicker were rolled and 
strapped behind the saddle ; for provisions I 
carried salt, a small bag of hard tack, and a 
little tea and sugar, with a metal cup in which 
to boil my water. The rifle and a score of 
cartridges in my woven belt completed my out- 
fit. On my journey I shot two prairie chickens 
from a covey in the bottom of a brush coulie. 

I rode more than six hours before reaching 
a good spot to camp. At first my route lay 
across grassy plateaus, and along smooth, 
wooded coulies ; but after a few miles the 
ground became very rugged and difficult. At 
last I got into the heart of the Bad Lands 
proper, where the hard, wrinkled earth was 
torn into shapes as sullen and grotesque as 
those of dreamland. The hills rose high, 
their barren flanks carved and channelled, 



AMONG THE HIGH HILLS. 121 

their tops mere needles and knife crests. 
Bands of black, red, and purple varied the 
gray and yellow-brown of their sides ; the 
tufts of scanty vegetation were dull green. 
Sometimes I rode my horse at the bottom of 
narrow washouts, between straight walls of 
clay, but a few feet apart ; sometimes I had 
to lead him as he scrambled up, down, and 
across the sheer faces of the buttes. The 
glare from the bare clay walls dazzled the 
eye ; the air was burning under the hot August 
sun. I saw nothing living except the rattle- 
snakes, of which there were very many. 

At last, in the midst of this devil's wilder- 
ness, I came on a lovely valley. A spring 
trickled out of a cedar canyon, and below this 
spring the narrow, deep ravine was green with 
luscious grass and was smooth for some hun- 
dred of yards. Here I unsaddled, and turned 
old Manitou loose to drink and feed at his 
leisure. At the edge of the dark cedar wood 
I cleared a spot for my bed, and drew a few 
dead sticks for the fire. Then I lay down 
and watched drowsily until the afternoon 
shadows filled the wild and beautiful gorge in 
which I was camped. This happened early, 
for the valley was very narrow and the hills 
on either hand were steep and high. 

Springing to my feet, I climbed the nearest 
ridge, and then made my way, by hard clamber- 
ing, from peak to peak and from crest to crest, 
sometimes crossing and sometimes skirting 
the deep washouts and canyons. When pos- 
sible I avoided appearing on the sky line, and 
I moved with the utmost caution, walking in 
a wide sweep so as to hunt across and up 



122 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

wind. There was much sheep sign, some of 
of it fresh, though I saw none of the animals 
themselves ; the square slots, with the in- 
dented marks of the toe points wide apart, 
contrasting strongly with the heart-shaped 
and delicate footprints of deer. The animals 
had, according to their habit, beaten trails 
along the summits of the higher crests ; little 
side trails leading to any spur, peak, or other 
vantage-point from which there was a wide 
outlook over the country roundabout. 

The bighorns of the Bad Lands, unlike 
those of the mountains, shift their range but 
little, winter or summer. Save in the breed- 
ing season, when each master ram gets to- 
gether his own herd, the ewes, lambs, and 
yearlings are apt to go in bands by them- 
selves, while the males wander in small par- 
ties ; now and then a very morose old fellow 
lives by himself, in some precipitous, out-of- 
the-way retreat. The rut begins with them 
much later than with deer ; the exact time 
varies with the locality, but it is always after 
the bitter winter weather has set in. Then 
the old rams fight fiercely together, and on 
rare occasions utter a long grunting bleat or 
call. They are marvellous climbers, and dwell 
by choice always among cliffs and jagged, 
broken ground, whether wooded or not. An 
old bighorn ram is heavier than the largest 
buck ; his huge, curved horns, massive yet 
supple build, and proud bearing mark him as 
one of the noblest beasts of the chase. He 
is wary ; great skill and caution must be shown 
in approaching him ; and no one but a good 
climber, with a steady head, sound lungs, and 



AMONG THE HIGH HILLS. 



123 



trained muscles, can successfully hunt him in 
his own rugged fastnesses. The chase of no 
other kind of American big game ranks higher, 
or more thoroughly tests the manliest qualties 
of the hunter. 

I walked back to camp in the gloaming, tak- 
ing care to reach it before it grew really dark; 
for in the Bad Lands it is entirely impossible 
to travel, or to find any given locality, after 
nightfall. Old Manitou had eaten his fill 
and looked up at me with pricked ears, and 
wise, friendly face as I climbed down the side 
of the cedar canyon ; then he came slowly 
towards me to see if I had not something for 
him. I rubbed his soft nose and gave him a 
cracker ; then I picketed him to a solitary 
cedar, where the feed was good. Afterwards 
I kindled a* small fire, roasted both prairie 
fowl, ate one, and put the other by for break- 
fast ; and soon rolled myself in my blanket, 
with the saddle for a pillow, and the oilskin 
beneath. Manitou was munching the grass 
nearby. I lay just outside the line of stiff 
black cedars ; the night air was soft in my 
face ; I gazed at the shining and brilliant 
multitude of stars until my eyelids closed. 

The chill breath which comes before dawn 
awakened me. It was still and dark. Through 
the gloom I could indistinctly make out the 
loom of the old horse, lying down. I was 
speedily ready, and groped and stumbled 
slowly up the hill, and then along its crest to 
a peak. Here I sat down and waited a 
quarter of an hour or so, until gray appeared 
in the east, and the dim light-streaks enabled 
me to walk farther. Before sunrise I was 



124 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

two miles from camp ; then I crawled cau- 
tiously to a high ridge and crouching behind 
it scanned all the landscape eagerly. In a 
few minutes a movement about a third of a 
mile to the right, midway down a hill, caught 
my eye. Another glance showed me three 
white specks moving along the hillside. 
They were the white rumps of three fine 
mountain sheep, on their way to drink at a 
little alkaline pool in the bottom of a deep, 
narrow valley. In a moment they went out 
of sight round a bend of the valley ; and I 
rose and trotted briskly towards them, along 
the ridge. There were two or three deep gul- 
lies to cross, and a high shoulder over which 
to clamber ; so I was out of breath when I 
reached the bend beyond which they had dis- 
appeared. Taking advantage of a scrawny 
sage brush as cover I peeped over the edge, 
and at once saw the sheep, three big young 
rams. They had finished drinking and were 
standing beside the little mirey pool, about 
three hundred yards distant. Slipping back I 
dropped down into the bottom of the valley, 
where a narrow washout zigzagged from side 
to side, between straight walls of clay. The 
pool was in the upper end of this washout, 
under a cut bank. 

An indistinct game trail, evidently some- 
times used by both bighorn and blacktail, ran 
up this washout ; the bottom was of clay so 
that I walked noiselessly ; and the crooked- 
ness of the washout's course afforded ample 
security against discovery by the sharp eyes 
of the quarry. In a couple of minutes I 
stalked stealthily round the last bend, my rifle 



AMONG THE HIGH HILLS, 125 

cocked and at the ready, expecting to see the 
rams by the pool. However, they had gone, 
and the muddy water was settling in their deep 
hoof marks. Running on I looked over the 
edge of the cut bank and saw them slowly 
quartering up the hillside, cropping the sparse 
tufts of coarse grass. I whistled, and as they 
stood at gaze I put a bullet into the biggest, a 
little too far aft of the shoulder, but ranging 
forward. He raced after the others, but soon 
fell behind, and turned off on his own line, at 
a walk, with dropping head. As he bled 
freely I followed his tracks, found him, very 
sick, in a washout a quarter of a mile beyond, 
and finished him with another shot. After 
dressing him, and cutting off the saddle and 
hams, as well as the head, I walked back to 
camp, breakfasted, and rode Manitou to where 
the sheep lay. Packing it securely behind 
the saddle, and shifting the blanket roll to in 
front of the saddle-horn, I led the horse until 
we were clear of the Bad Lands ; then 
mounted him, and was back at the ranch soon 
after midday. The mutton of a fat young 
mountain ram, at this season of the year, is 
delicious. 

Such quick success is rare in hunting 
sheep. Generally each head has cost me sev- 
eral days of hard, faithful work ; and more 
than once I have hunted over a week without 
any reward whatsoever. But the quarry is so 
noble that the ultimate triumph sure to 
come, if the hunter will but persevere long 
enough atones for all previous toil and 
failure. 

Once a lucky stalk and shot at a bighorn 



126 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

was almost all that redeemed a hunt in the 
Rockies from failure. I was high among the 
mountains at the time, but was dogged by ill 
luck ; I had seen but little, and I had not shot 
very well. One morning I rose early, and 
hunted steadily until midday without seeing 
anything. A mountain hunter was with me. 
At noon we sat down to rest, and look over 
the country, from behind a shield of dwarf 
evergreens, on the brink of a mighty chasm. 
The rocks fell downwards in huge cliffs, stern 
and barren ; from far below rose the strangled 
roaring of the torrent, as the foaming masses 
of green and white water churned round the 
boulders in the stream bed. Except this 
humming of the wild water, and the soughing' 
of the pines, there was no sound. We were 
sitting on a kind of jutting promontory of rock 
so that we could scan the cliffs far and near. 
First I took the glasses and scrutinized the 
ground almost rod by rod, for nearly half an 
hour ; then my companion took them in turn. 
It is very hard to make out game, especially 
when lying down, and still ; and it is curious 
to notice how, after fruitlessly scanning a 
country through the glasses for a considerable 
period, a herd of animals will suddenly appear 
in the field of vision as if by magic. In this 
case, while my companion held the glasses for 
the second time, a slight motion caught his 
eye ; and looking attentively he made out, 
five or six hundred yards distant, a mountain 
ram lying among some loose rocks and small 
bushes at the head of a little grassy cove or 
nook, in a shallow break between two walls of 
the cliff. So well did the bluish gray of its 



AMONG THE HIGH HILLS. 127 

body harmonize in tint with the rocks and 
shrubbery that it was some time before I 
could see it, even when pointed out to me. 

The wind was favorable, and we at once 
drew back and began a cautious stalk. It was 
impossible, owing to the nature of the cliffs 
above and below the bighorn's resting-place, 
to get a shot save by creeping along nearly on 
a level with him. Accordingly we worked our 
way down through a big cleft in the rocks, 
being forced to go very slowly and carefully 
lest we should start a loose stone ; and at last 
reached a narrow terrace of rock and grass 
along which we walked comparatively at our 
ease. Soon it dwindled away, and we then 
had to do our only difficult piece of climbing 
a clamber for fifty or sixty feet across a 
steep cliff shoulder. Some little niches and 
cracks in the rock and a few projections and 
diminutive ledges on its surface, barely en- 
abled us to swarm across, with painstaking 
care not merely to avoid alarming the game 
this time, but also to avoid a slip which would 
have proved fatal. Once across we came on 
a long, grassy shelf, leading round a shoulder 
into the cleft where the ram lay. As I neared 
the end I crept forward on hands and knees, 
and then crawled flat, shoving the rifle ahead 
of me, until I rounded the shoulder and 
peered into the rift. As my eyes fell on the 
ram he sprang to his feet, with a clatter of 
loose stones, and stood facing me, some sixty 
yards off, his dark face and white muzzle 
brought out finely by the battered, curved 
horns. I shot into his chest, hitting him in 
the sticking place ; and after a few mad 



128 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

bounds he tumbled headlong, and fell a very 
great distance, unfortunately injuring one 
horn. 

When much hunted, bighorn become the 
wariest of all American game, and their chase 
is then peculiarly laborious and exciting. 
But where they have known nothing of men, 
not having been molested by hunters, they 
are exceedingly tame. Professor John Bache 
McMaster informs me that in 1877 ne pene- 
trated to the Uintah Mountains of Wyoming, 
which were then almost unknown to hunters ; 
he found all the game very bold, and the wild 
sheep in particular so unsuspicious that he 
could walk up to within short rifle range of 
them in the open. 

On the high mountains bighorn occasion- 
ally get killed by a snow-slide. My old friend, 
the hunter Woody, once saw a band which 
started such an avalanche by running along 
a steep sloping snow field, it being in the 
spring ; for several hundred yards it thun- 
dered at their heels, but by desperate racing 
they just managed to get clear. Woody was 
also once an eye-witness to the ravages the 
cougar commits among these wild sheep. 
He was stalking a band in the snow when he 
saw them suddenly scatter at a run in every 
direction. Coming up he. found the traces of 
a struggle, and the track of a body being 
dragged through the snow, together with the 
round footmarks of the cougar ; a little farther 
on lay a dead ewe, the blood flowing from the 
fang wounds in her throat. 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 129 



CHAPTER VII. 

MOUNTAIN GAME ; THE WHITE GOAT. 

LATE one August I started on a trip to the 
Big Hole Basin, in Western Montana, to 
hunt white goats. With me went a friend of 
many hunts, John W T illis, a tried mountain 
man. 

W r e left the railroad at the squalid little 
hamlet of Divide, where we hired a team and 
wagon from a " busted" granger, suspected 
of being a Mormon, who had failed, even 
with the help of irrigation, in raising a crop. 
The wagon was in fairly good order; the har- 
ness was rotten, and needed patching with 
ropes ; while the team consisted of two spoiled 
horses, overworked and thin, but full of the 
devil the minute they began to pick up condi- 
tion. However, on the frontier one soon 
grows to accept little facts of this kind with 
bland indifference ; and Willis was not only 
an expert teamster, but possessed that inex- 
haustible fertility of resource and unfailing 
readiness in an emergency so characteristic 
of the veteran of the border. Through hard 
experience he had become master of plains- 
craft and woodcraft, skilled in all frontier lore. 

For a couple of days we jogged up the 
valley of the Big Hole River, along the mail 
road. At night we camped under our wagon. 



130 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

At the mouth of the stream the valley was a 
mere gorge, but it broadened steadily the 
farther up we went, till the rapid river wound 
through a wide expanse of hilly, treeless 
prairie. On each side the mountains rose, 
their lower flanks and the foot-hills covered 
with the evergreen forest. We got milk and 
bread at the scattered log-houses of the few 
settlers ; and for meat we shot sage fowl, 
which abounded. They were feeding on 
grasshoppers at this time, and the flesh, es- 
pecially of the young birds, was as tender 
and well tasting as possible ; whereas, when 
we again passed through the valley in Sep- 
tember, we found the birds almost uneatable, 
being fairly bitter with sage. Like all grouse 
they are far tamer earlier in the season than 
later, being very wild in winter; and, of 
course, they are boldest where they are least 
hunted ; but for some unexplained reason 
they are always tamer than the sharp-tail 
prairie fowl which are to be found in the 
same locality. 

Finally we reached the neighborhood of the 
Battle Ground, where a rude stone monument 
commemorates the bloody drawn fight between 
General Gibbons' soldiers and the Nez Perec's 
warriors of Chief Joseph. Here, on the third 
day of our journey, we left the beaten road 
and turned toward the mountains, following 
an indistinct trail made by wood-choppers. 
We met with our full share of the usual mis- 
haps incident to prairie travel ; and towards 
evening our team got mired in crossing a 
slough. We attempted the crossing with 
some misgivings, which were warranted by 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 131 

the result ; for the second plunge of the 
horses brought them up to their bellies in the 
morass, where they stuck. It was freezing 
cold, with a bitter wind blowing, and the bog 
holes were skimmed with ice ; so that we 
passed a thoroughly wretched two hours while 
freeing the horses and unloading the wagon. 
However, we eventually got across ; my com- 
panion preserving an absolutely unruffled 
temper throughout, perseveringly whistling 
the " Arkansas Traveller." At one period, 
when we were up to our waists in the icy 
mud, it began to sleet and hail, and I mut- 
tered that I would " rather it did n't storm" ; 
whereat he stopped whistling for a moment 
to make the laconic rejoinder, " We 're not 
having our rathers this trip." 

At nightfall we camped among the willow 
bushes by a little brook. For firewood we had 
only dead willow sticks ; they made a hot 
blaze which soon died out ; and as the cold 
grew intense, we rolled up in our blankets as 
soon as we had eaten our supper. The cli- 
mate of the Big Hole Basin is alpine ; that 
night, though it was the 2oth of August, the 
thermometer sank to 10 F. 

Early next morning we struck camp, shiv- 
ering with cold as we threw the stiff, frozen 
harness on the horses. We soon got among 
the foot-hills, where the forest was open and 
broken by large glades, forming what is called 
a park country. The higher we went the 
smaller grew the glades and the denser the 
woodland ; and it began to be very difficult 
to get the wagon forward. In many places 
one man had to go ahead to pick out the way 



132 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

and if necessary do a little chopping and lop- 
ping with the axe, while the other followed 
driving the team. At last we were brought to 
a standstill, and pitched camp beside a rapid, 
alder-choked brook in the uppermost of a 
series of rolling glades, hemmed in by moun- 
tains and the dense coniferous forest. Our 
tent stood under a grove of pines, close to the 
brook ; at night we built in front of it a big 
fire of crackling, resinous logs. Our goods 
were sheltered by the wagon, or covered with 
a tarpaulin ; we threw down sprays of odorous 
evergreens to make a resting-place for our 
bedding ; we built small scaffolds on which to 
dry the flesh of elk and deer. In an hour or 
two we had round us all the many real com- 
forts of such a little wilderness home. 

Whoever has long roamed and hunted in 
the wilderness always cherishes with wistful 
pleasure the memory of some among the 
countless camps he has made. The camp by 
the margin of the clear, mountain-hemmed 
lake ; the camp in the dark and melancholy 
forest, where the gusty wind booms through 
the tall pine tops ; the camp under gnarled 
cottonwoods, on the bank of a shrunken river, 
in the midst of endless grassy prairies, of 
these, and many like them, each has had its 
own charm. Of course in hunting one must 
expect much hardship and repeated disap- 
pointment ; and in many a camp, bad weather, 
lack of shelter, hunger, thirst, or ill success 
with game, renders the days and nights irk- 
some and trying. Yet the hunter worthy of 
the name always willingly takes the bitter if 
by so doing he can get the sweet, and gladly 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 133 

balances failure and success, spurning the 
poorer souls who know neither. 

We turned our horses loose, hobbling one ; 
and as we did not look after them for several 
days, nothing but my companion's skill as a 
tracker enabled us to find them again. There 
was a spell of warm weather which brought 
out a few of the big bull-dog flies, which drive 
a horse or indeed a man nearly frantic ; 
we were in the haunts of these dreaded and 
terrible scourges, which up to the beginning 
of August render it impossible to keep stock 
of any description unprotected where they 
abound, but which are never formidable after 
the first frost. In many parts of the wilder- 
ness these pests, or else the incredible swarms 
of mosquitoes, blackflies, and buffalo gnats, 
render life not worth living during the last 
weeks of spring and the early months of sum- 
mer. 

There were elk and deer in the neighbor- 
hood ; also ruffed, blue, and spruce grouse ; 
so that our camp was soon stocked with meat. 
Early one morning while Willis was washing 
in the brook, a little black bear thrust its 
sharp nose through the alders a few feet from 
him, and then hastily withdrew and was seen 
no more. The smaller wild-folk were more 
familiar. As usual in the northern mount- 
ains, the gray moose-birds and voluble, nerv- 
ous little chipmunks made themselves at 
home in the camp. Parties of chickadees 
visited us occasionally. A family of flying 
squirrels lived overhead in the grove ; and at 
nightfall they swept noiselessly from tree to 
tree, in long, graceful curves. There were 



134 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

sparrows of several kinds moping about in the 
alders ; and now and then one of them would 
sing a few sweet, rather mournful bars. 

After several days' preliminary exploration 
we started on foot for white goat. We took 
no packs with us, each carrying merely his 
jacket, with a loaf of bread and a paper of 
salt thrust into the pockets. Our aim was to 
get well to one side of a cluster of high, bare 
peaks, and then to cross them and come back 
to camp ; we reckoned that the trip would 
take three days. 

All the first day we tramped through dense 
woods and across and around steep mountain 
spurs. We caught glimpses of two or three 
deer and a couple of elk, all does or fawns, 
however, which we made no effort to molest. 
Late in the afternoon we stumbled across 
a family of spruce grouse, which furnished 
us material for both supper and breakfast. 
The mountain men call this bird the fool- 
hen ; and most certainly it deserves the 
name. The members of this particular flock, 
consisting of a hen and her three-parts grown 
chickens, acted with a stupidity unwonted 
even for their kind. They were feeding on 
the ground among some young spruce, and on 
our approach flew up and perched in the 
branches four or five feet above our heads. 
There they stayed, uttering a low, complain- 
ing whistle, and showed not the slightest sus- 
picion when we came underneath them with 
long sticks and knocked four off their perches 
for we did not wish to alarm any large 
game that might be in the neighborhood by 
firing. One particular bird was partially saved 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 135 

from my first blow by the intervening twigs ; 
however, it merely flew a few yards, and then 
sat with its bill open, having evidently been 
a little hurt, until I came up and knocked it 
over with a better directed stroke. 

Spruce grouse are plentiful in the moun- 
tain forests of the northern Rockies, and, 
owing to the ease with which they are killed, 
they have furnished me my usual provender 
when off on trips of this kind, where I carried 
no pack. They are marvellously tame and 
stupid. The young birds are the only ones 
I have ever killed in this manner with a stick ; 
but even a full plumaged old cock in Sep- 
tember is easily slain with a stone by any one 
who is at all a good thrower. A man who has 
played much base-ball need never use a gun 
when after spruce grouse. They are the 
smallest of the grouse kind ; the cock is very 
handsome, with red eyebrows and dark, glossy 
plumage. Moreover, he is as brave as he is 
stupid and good-looking, and in the love season 
becomes fairly crazy : at such time he will occa- 
sionally make feint of attacking a man, strut- 
ting, fluttering, and ruffling his feathers. The 
flesh of the spruce grouse is not so good as 
that of his ruffed and blue kinsfolk ; and in 
winter, when he feeds on spruce buds, it is 
ill tasting. I have never been able to under- 
stand why closely allied species, under ap- 
parently the same surroundings, should differ 
so radically in such important traits as wan- 
ness and capacity to escape from foes. Yet 
the spruce grouse in this respect shows the 
most marked contrast to the blue grouse and 
the ruffed grouse. Of course all three kinds 



136 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

vary greatly in their behavior accordingly as 
they do or do not live in localities where they 
have been free from man's persecutions. The 
ruffed grouse, a very wary game bird in all old- 
settled regions, is often absurdly tame in the 
wilderness ; and under persecution, even the 
spruce grouse gains some little wisdom ; but 
the latter never becomes as wary as the for- 
mer, and under no circumstances is it possi- 
ble to outwit the ruffed grouse by such clumsy 
means as serve for his simple-minded brother. 
There is a similar difference between the sage 
fowl and prairie fowl, in favor of the latter. 
It is odd that the largest and the smallest 
kinds of grouse found in the United States 
should be the tamest ; and also the least savory. 
After tramping all day through the forest, at 
nightfall we camped in its upper edge, just at 
the foot of the steep rock walls of the moun- 
tain. We chose a sheltered spot, where the 
small spruce grew thick, and there was much 
dead timber; and as the logs, though long, 
were of little girth, we speedily dragged to- 
gether a number sufficient to keep the fire 
blazing all night. Having drunk our full at 
a brook we cut two forked willow sticks, and 
then each plucked a grouse, split it, thrust the 
willow-fork into it, and roasted it before the 
fire. Besides this we had salt, and bread ; 
moreover we were hungry and healthily tired ; 
so the supper seemed, and was, delicious. 
Then we turned up the collars of our jackets, 
and lay down, to pass the night in broken 
slumber ; each time the fire died down 'the 
chill waked us, and we rose to feed it with 
fresh logs. 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 137 

At dawn we rose, and cooked and ate the 
two remaining grouse. Then we turned our 
faces upwards, and passed a day of severe 
toil in climbing over the crags. Mountain- 
eering is very hard work ; and when we got 
high among the peaks, where snow filled the 
rifts, the thinness of the air forced me to stop 
for breath every few hundred yards of the 
ascent. We found much sign of white goats, 
but in spite of steady work and incessant care- 
ful scanning of the rocks, we did not see our 
quarry until early in the afternoon. 

We had clambered up one side of a steep 
saddle of naked rock, some of the scarped 
ledges being difficult, and indeed dangerous, 
of ascent. From the top of the saddle a 
careful scrutiny of the neighboring peaks 
failed to reveal any game, and we began to go 
down the other side. The mountain fell 
away in a succession of low cliffs, and we had 
to move with the utmost caution. In letting 
ourselves down from ledge to ledge one would 
hold the guns until the other go safe footing, 
and then pass them down to him. In many 
places we had to work our way along the 
cracks in the faces of the frost-riven rocks. 
At last, just as we reached a little smooth 
shoulder, my companion said, pointing down 
beneath us, " Look at the white goat ! " 

A moment or two passed before I got my 
eyes on it. We were looking down into a 
basin-like valley, surrounded by high mount- 
ain chains. At one end of the basin was a 
low pass, where the ridge was cut up with the 
zigzag trails made by the countless herds of 
game which had travelled it for many genera- 



138 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

tions. At the other end was a dark gorge, 
through which a stream foamed. The floor 
of the basin was bright emerald green, dotted 
with darker bands where belts of fir trees 
grew ; and in its middle lay a little lake. 

At last I caught sight of the goat, feeding 
on a terrace rather over a hundred and twenty- 
five yards below me. I promptly fired, but 
overshot. The goat merely gave a few jumps 
and stopped. My second bullet went through 
its lungs ; but fearful lest it might escape to 
some inaccessible cleft or ledge I fired again, 
missing ; and yet again, breaking its back. 
Down it went, and the next moment began to 
roll over and over, from ledge to ledge. I 
greatly feared it would break its horns ; an 
annoying and oft-recurring incident of white- 
goat shooting, where the nature of the ground 
is such that the dead quarry often falls hun- 
dreds of feet, its body being torn to ribbons 
by the sharp crags. However in this case 
the goat speedily lodged unharmed in a little 
dwarf evergreen. 

Hardly had I fired my fourth shot when my 
companion again exclaimed, " Look at the 
white goats ! look at the white goats ! " 
Glancing in the direction in which he pointed 
I speedily made out four more goats stand- 
ing in a bunch rather less than a hundred 
yards off, to one side of my former line of 
fire. They were all looking up at me. They 
stood on a slab of white rock, with which the 
color of their fleece harmonized well ; and 
their black horns, muzzles, eyes, and hoofs 
looked like dark dots on a light-colored sur- 
face, so that it took me more than one glance 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 139 

to determine what they were. White goat 
invariably run up hill when alarmed, their one 
idea seeming to be to escape danger by get- 
ting above it ; for their brute foes are able to 
overmatch them on anything like level ground, 
but are helpless against them among the crags. 
Almost as soon as I saw them these four 
started up the mountain, nearly in my direc- 
tion, while I clambered down and across to 
meet them. They halted at the foot of a 
cliff, and I at the top, being unable to see 
them ; but in another moment they came 
bounding and cantering up the sheer rocks, 
not moving quickly, but traversing the most 
seemingly impossible places by main strength 
and sure-footedness. As they broke by me, 
some thirty yards off, I fired two shots at the 
rearmost, an old buck, somewhat smaller than 
the one I had just killed ; and he rolled down 
the mountain dead. Two of the others, a 
yearling and a kid, showed more alarm than 
their elders, and ran off at a brisk pace. 
The remaining one, an old she, went off a 
hundred yards, and then deliberately stopped 
and turned round to gaze at us for a couple 
of minutes ! Verily the white goat is the 
fool-hen among beasts of the chase. 

Having skinned and cut off the heads we 
walked rapidly onwards, slanting down the 
mountain side, and then over and down the 
pass of the game trails ; for it was growing 
late and we wished to get well down among 
the timber before nightfall. On the way an 
eagle came soaring over head, and I shot at 
it twice without success. Having once killed 
an eagle on the wing with a rifle, I always 



140 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

have a lurking hope that sometimes I may be 
able to repeat the feat. I revenged myself 
for the miss by knocking a large blue goshawk 
out of the top of a blasted spruce, where it 
was sitting in lazy confidence, its crop stuffed 
with rabbit and grouse. 

A coupl of hours' hard walking brought us 
down to timber ; just before dusk we reached 
a favorable camping spot in the forest, be- 
side a brook, with plenty of dead trees for 
the night-fire. Moreover, the spot fortunately 
yielded us our supper too, in the shape of a 
flock of young spruce grouse, of which we 
shot off the heads of a couple. Immediately 
afterwards I ought to have procured our 
breakfast, for a cock of the same kind sud- 
denly flew down nearby ; but it was getting 
dark, I missed with the first shot, and with 
the second must have merely creased the neck, 
for though the tough old bird dropped, it 
fluttered and ran off among the underbrush 
and escaped. 

We broiled our two grouse before our fire, 
dragged plenty of logs into a heap beside it, 
and then lay down to sleep fitfully, an hour 
or so at a time, throughout the night. We 
were continually wakened by the cold, when 
we had to rise and feed the flames. In the 
early morning we again started, walking for 
some time along the fresh trail made by a 
large band of elk, cows and calves. We 
thought we knew exactly the trend and outlet 
of the valley in which we were, and that there- 
fore we could tell where the camp was ; but, 
as so often happens in the wilderness, we 
had not reckoned aright, having passed over 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 141 

one mountain spur too many, and entered the 
ravines of an entirely different watercourse- 
system. In consequence we became en- 
tangled in a network of hills and valleys, 
making circle after circle to find our bear- 
ings ; and we only reached camp after twelve 
hours' tiresome tramp without food. 

On another occasion I shot a white goat 
while it was in a very curious and character- 
istic attitude. I was hunting, again with an 
old mountain man as my sole companion, 
among the high mountains of the Kootenai 
country, near the border of Montana and 
British Columbia. We had left our main 
camp, pitched by the brink of the river, and 
were .struggling wearily on foot through the 
tangled forest and over the precipitous mount- 
ains, carrying on our backs light packs, con- 
sisting of a little food and two or three in- 
dispensable utensils, wrapped in our blankets. 
One day we came to the foot of a great chain 
of bare rocks, and climbed laboriously to its 
crest, up cliff after cliff, some of which were 
almost perpendicular. Swarming round cer- 
tain of the rock shoulders, crossing an occa- 
sional sheer chasm, and in many places cling- 
ing to steep, smooth walls by but slight holds, 
we reached the top. The climbing at such a 
height was excessively fatiguing ; moreover, 
it was in places difficult and even dangerous. 
Of course it was not to be compared to the 
ascent of towering, glacier-bearing peaks, 
such as those of the Selkirks and Alaska, 
where climbers must be roped to one an- 
other and carry ice axes. 

Once at the top we walked very cautiously, 



142 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

being careful not to show ourselves against 
the sky line, and scanning the mountain sides 
through our glasses. At last we made out 
three goats, grazing unconcernedly on a nar- 
row grassy terrace, which sloped abruptly to 
the brink of a high precipice. They were not 
very far off, and there was a little rock spur 
above them which offered good cover for a 
stalk; but we had to crawl so slowly, partly 
to avoid falling, and partly to avoid detaching 
loose rocks, that it was nearly an hour before 
we got in a favorable position above them, 
and some seventy yards off. The frost-dis- 
integrated mountains in which they live are 
always sending down showers of detached 
stones, so that the goats are not very sensitive 
to this noise ; still, they sometimes pay in- 
stantaneous heed to it, especially if the sound 
is repeated. 

When I peeped over the little ridge of rock, 
shoving my rifle carefully ahead of me, I found 
that the goats had finished feeding and were 
preparing to leave the slope. The old billy 
saw me at once, but evidently could not quite 
make me out. Thereupon, gazing intently at 
me, he rose gravely on his haunches, sitting 
up almost in the attitude of a dog when beg- 
ging. I know no other horned animal that 
ever takes this position. 

As I fired he rolled backwards, slipped 
down the grassy slope, and tumbled over the 
brink of the cliff, while the other two, a she 
and a kid, after a moment's panic-struck 
pause, and a bewildered rush in the wrong 
direction, made off up a little rocky gully, and 
were out of sight in a moment. To my 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 143 

chagrin when I finally reached the carcass, 
after a tedious and circuitous climb to the 
foot of the cliff, I found both horns broken 
off. 

It was late in the afternoon, and we clam- 
bered down to the border of a little marshy 
alpine lake, which we reached in an hour or 
so. Here we made our camp about sunset, 
in a grove of stunted spruces, which furnished 
plenty of dead timber for the fire. There 
were many white-goat trails leading to this 
lake, and from the slide rock roundabout we 
heard the shrill wHistling of hoary rock-wood- 
chucks, and the querulous notes of the little 
conies two of the sounds most familiar to 
the white-goat hunter. These conies had 
gathered heaps of dried plants, and had 
stowed them carefully away for winter use 
in the cracks between the rocks. 

While descending the mountain we came 
on a little pack of snow grouse or mountain 
ptarmigan, birds which, save in winter, are 
always found above timber line. They were 
tame and fearless, though hard to make out 
as they ran among the rocks, cackling noisily, 
with their tails cocked aloft; and we had no 
difficulty in killing four, which gave us a good 
breakfast and supper. Old white goats are 
intolerably musky in flavor, there being a very 
large musk-pod between the horn and ear. 
The kids are eatable, but of course are rarely 
killed ; the shot being usually taken at the 
animal with best horns and the shes and 
young of any game should only be killed when 
there is a real necessity. 

These two hunts may be taken as samples 



144 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

of most expeditions after white goat. There 
are places where the goats live in mountains 
close to bodies of water, either ocean fiords 
or large lakes ; and in such places canoes 
can be used, to the greatly increased comfort 
and lessened labor of the hunters. In other 
places, where the mountains are low and the 
goats spend all the year in the timber, a 
pack-train can be taken right up to the hunt- 
ing grounds. But generally one must go on 
foot, carrying everything on one's back, and at 
night lying out in the open or under a brush 
lean-to ; meanwhile living on spruce grouse 
and ptarmigan, with an occasional meal of 
trout, and in times of scarcity squirrels, or 
anything else. Such a trip entails severe 
fatigue and not a little hardship. The actual 
hunting, also, implies difficult and laborious 
climbing, for the goats live by choice among 
the highest and most inaccessible mountains ; 
though where they are found, as they some- 
times are, in comparatively low forest-clad 
ranges, I have occasionally killed them with 
little trouble by lying in wait beside the well- 
trodden game trails they make in the timber. 
In any event the hard work is to get up to 
the grounds where the game is found. Once 
the animals are spied there is but little call 
for the craft of the still-hunter in approaching 
them. Of all American game the white goat 
is the least wary and most stupid. In places 
where it is much hunted it of course gradually 
grows wilder and becomes difficult to ap- 
proach and kill ; and much of its silly tame- 
ness is doubtless due to the inaccessible 
nature of its haunts, which renders it ordina- 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 145 

rily free from molestation ; but aside from this 
it certainly seems as if it was naturally less 
wary than either deer or mountain sheep. 
The great point is to get above it. All its 
foes live in the valleys, and while it is in the 
mountains, if they strive to approach it at 
all, they must do so from below. It is in 
consequence always on the watch for danger 
from beneath ; but it is easily approached 
from above, and then, as it generally tries to 
escape by running up hill, the hunter is very 
apt to get a shot. 

Its chase is thus laborious rather than ex- 
citing ; and to my mind it is less attractive 
than is the pursuit of most of our other 
game. Yet it has an attraction of its own 
after ail ; while the grandeur of the scenery 
amid which it must be carried on, the freedom 
and hardihood of the life and the pleasure of 
watching the queer habits of the game, all 
combine to add to the hunter's enjoyment. 

White goats are self-confident, pugnacious 
beings. An old billy, if he discovers the 
presence of a foe without being quite sure 
what it is, often refuses to take flight, but 
walks around, stamping, and shaking his 
head. The needle-pointed black horns are 
alike in both sexes, save that the males' are 
a trifle thicker ; and they are most effective 
weapons when wielded by the muscular neck 
of a resolute and wicked old goat. They 
wound like stilettos and their bearer is in 
consequence a much more formidable foe in 
a hand-to-hand struggle than either a branch- 
ing-antlered deer or a mountain ram, with his 
great battering head. The goat does not 
TO 



I 4 6 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

butt ; he thrusts. If he can cover his back 
by a tree trunk or boulder he can stand off 
most carnivorous animals, no larger than he is. 

Though awkward in movement, and lacking 
all semblance of lightness or agility, goats 
are excellent climbers. One of their queer 
traits is their way of getting their forehoofs 
on a slight ledge, and then drawing or lifting 
their bodies up by simple muscular exertion, 
stretching out their elbows, much as a man 
would. They do a good deal of their climbing 
by strength and command over their muscles; 
although they are also capable of making as- 
tonishing bounds. If a cliff surface has the 
least slope, and shows any inequalities or 
roughness whatever, goats can go up and down 
it with ease. With their short, stout legs, and 
large, sharp-edged hoofs they clamber well 
over ice, passing and repassing the mountains 
at a time when no man would so much as 
crawl over them. They bear extreme cold 
with indifference, but are intolerant of much 
heat ; even when the weather is cool they are 
apt to take their noontide rest in caves ; I 
have seen them solemnly retiring, for this pur- 
pose, to great rents in the rocks, at a time 
when my own teeth chattered because of the 
icy wind. 

They go in small flocks ; sometimes in pairs 
or little family parties. After the rut the 
bucks often herd by themselves, or go off 
alone, while the young and the shes keep 
together throughout the winter and the spring. 
The young are generally brought forth above 
timber line, or at its uppermost edge, save 
of course in those places where the goats 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 147 

live among mountains wooded to the top. 
Throughout the summer they graze on the 
short mountain plants which in many places 
form regular mats above timber line ; the 
deep winter snows drive them low down in 
the wooded valleys, and force them to subsist 
by browsing. They are so strong that they 
plough their way readily through deep drifts ; 
and a flock of goats at this season, when their 
white coat is very long and thick, if seen 
waddling off through the snow, have a comical 
likeness to so many diminutive polar bears. 
Of course they could easily be run down in 
the snow by a man on snowshoes, in the 
plain ; but on a mountain side there are 
always bare rocks and cliff shoulders, glassy 
with winter ice, which give either goats or 
sheep an advantage over their snowshoe- 
bearing foes that deer and elk lack. When- 
ever the goats pass the winter in woodland 
they leave plenty of sign in the shape of 
patches of wool clinging to all the sharp 
twigs and branches against which they have 
brushed. In the spring they often form the 
habit of drinking at certain low pools, to 
which they beat deep paths ; and at this 
season, and to a less extent in the summer 
and fall, they are very fond of frequenting 
mineral licks. At any such lick the ground 
is tramped bare of vegetation, and is filled 
with pits and hollows, actually dug by the 
tongues of innumerable generations of ani- 
mals ; while the game paths lead from them 
in a dozen directions. 

In spite of the white goat's pugnacity, its 
clumsiness renders it no very difficult prey 



148 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

when taken unawares by either wolf or cou- 
gar, its two chief enemies. They cannot 
often catch it when it is above timber line ; 
but it is always in sore peril from them when 
it ventures into the forest. Bears, also, prey 
upon it in the early spring ; and one mid- 
winter my friend Willis found a wolverine 
eating a goat which it had killed in a snow- 
drift at the foot of a cliff. The savage little 
beast growled and showed fight when he came 
near the body. Eagles are great enemies of 
the young kids, as they are of the young lambs 
of the bighorn. 

The white goat is the only game beast of 
America which has not decreased in numbers 
since the arrival of the white man. Although 
in certain localities it is now decreasing, yet, 
taken as a whole, it is probably quite as plen- 
tiful now as it was fifty years back ; for in the 
early part of the present century there were 
'Indian tribes who hunted it perseveringly to 
make the skins into robes, whereas now they 
get blankets from the traders and no longer 
persecute the goats. The early trappers and 
mountain-men knew but little of the animal. 
Whether they were after beaver, or were 
hunting big game, or were merely exploring, 
they kept to the valleys ; there was no induce- 
ment for them to climb to the tops of the 
mountains ; so it resulted that there was no 
animal with which the old hunters were so 
unfamiliar as with the white goat. The pro- 
fessional hunters of to-day likewise bother it 
but little ; they do not care to undergo severe 
toil for an animal with worthless flesh and a 
hide of little value for it is only in the late 



MOUNTAIN GAME. 149 

fall and winter that the long hair and fine wool 
give the robe any beauty. 

So the quaint, sturdy, musky beasts, with 
their queer and awkward ways, their boldness 
and their stupidity, with their white coats and 
big black hoofs, black muzzles, and sharp, 
gently- curved span-long black horns, have 
held their own well among the high mountains 
that they love. In the Rockies and the Coast 
ranges they abound from Alaska south to 
Montana, Idaho, and Washington ; and here 
and there isolated colonies are found among 
the high mountains to the southward, in Wy- 
oming, Colorado, even in New Mexico, and, 
strangest of all, in one or two spots among 
the barren coast mountains of southern Cali- 
fornia. Long after the elk has followed the 
buffalo to the happy hunting grounds the white 
goat will flourish among the towering and 
glacier-riven peaks, and, grown wary with 
succeeding generations, will furnish splendid 
sport to those hunters who are both good 
riflemen and hardy cragsmen. 



150 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS ; THE CARIBOU. 

IN September, 1888, I was camped on the 
shores of Kootenai Lake, having with me 
as companions, John Willis and an impassive- 
looking Indian named Ammal. Coming 
across through the dense coniferous forests of 
northern Idaho we had struck the Kootenai 
River. Then we went down with the current 
as it wound in half circles through a long 
alluvial valley of mixed marsh and woodland, 
hemmed in by lofty mountains. The lake 
itself, when we reached it, stretched straight 
away like a great fiord, a hundred miles long 
and about three in breadth. The frowning 
and rugged Selkirks came down sheer to the 
water's edge. So straight were the rock walls 
that it was difficult for us to land with our 
batteau, save at the places where the rapid 
mountain torrents entered the lake. As these 
streams of swift water broke from their narrow 
gorges they made little deltas of level ground, 
with beaches of fine white sand ; and the 
stream-banks were edged with cottonwood 
and poplar, their shimmering foliage relieving 
the sombre coloring of the evergreen forest. 

Close to such a brook, from which we drew 
strings of large silver trout, our tent was 
pitched, just within the forest. From be- 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 151 

tween the trunks of two gnarled, wind-beaten 
trees, a pine and a cottonwood, we looked out 
across the lake. The little bay in our front, 
in which we bathed and swam, was some- 
times glassily calm ; and again heavy wind 
squalls arose, and the surf beat strongly on 
the beach where our boat was drawn up. 
Now and then great checker-back loons 
drifted buoyantly by, stopping with bold curi- 
osity to peer at the white tent gleaming 
between the tree-trunks, and at the smoke 
curling above their tops ; and they called to 
one another, both at dawn and in the day- 
time, with shrieks of unearthly laughter. 
Troops of noisy, parti-colored Clatk^s erows 
circled over the tree-tops or hung from among 
the pine cones ; jays and chickadees came 
round camp, and woodpeckers hammered 
lustily in the dead timber. Two or three 
times parties of Indians passed down the 
lake, in strangely shaped bark canoes, with 
peaked, projecting prows and sterns ; craft 
utterly unlike the graceful, feather-floating 
birches so beloved by both the red and the 
white woodsmen of the northeast. Once a 
couple of white men, in a dugout or pirogue 
made out of a cottonwood log, stopped to 
get lunch. They were mining prospectors, 
French Canadians by birth, but beaten into 
the usual frontier-mining stamp ; doomed to 
wander their lives long, ever hoping, in the 
quest for metal wealth. 

With these exceptions there was nothing to 
break the silent loneliness of the great lake. 
Shrouded as we were in the dense forest, and 
at the foot of the first steep hills, we could 



152 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

see nothing of the country on the side where 
we were camped ; but across the water the 
immense mountain masses stretched away 
from our vision, range upon range, until they 
turned to a glittering throng of ice peaks and 
snow fields, the feeding beds of glaciers. 
Between the lake and the snow range were 
chains of gray rock peaks, and the mountain 
sides and valleys were covered by the prime- 
val forest. The woods were on fire across 
the lake from our camp, burning steadily. At 
night the scene was very grand, as the fire 
worked slowly across the mountain sides in 
immense zigzags of quivering red ; while at 
times isolated pines of unusual size kindled, 
and flamed for hours, like the torches of a 
giant. Finally the smoke grew so thick as to 
screen from our views the grand landscape 
opposite. 

We had come down from a week's fruitless 
hunting in the mountains ; a week of exces- 
sive toil, in a country where we saw no game 
for in our ignorance we had wasted time, not 
going straight back to the high ranges, from 
which the game had not yet descended. After 
three or four days of rest, and of feasting on 
trout a welcome relief to the monotony of 
frying-pan bread and coarsey salt pork we 
were ready for another trial ; and early one 
morning we made the start. Having to pack 
everything for a fortnight's use on our backs, 
through an excessively rough country we of 
course travelled as light as possible, leaving 
almost all we had with the tent and boat. 
Each took his own blanket ; and among us we 
carried a frying-pan, a teapot, flour, pork, 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 153 

salt, tea, and matches. I also took a jacket, 
a spare pair of socks, some handkerchiefs, 
and my washing kit. Fifty cartridges in my 
belt completed my outfit. 

We walked in single file, as is necessary in 
thick woods. The white hunter led and I 
followed, each with rifle on shoulder and pack 
on back. Ammal, the Indian, pigeon-toed 
along behind, carrying his pack, not as we did 
ours, but by help of a forehead-band, which he 
sometimes shifted across his breast. The 
travelling through the tangled, brush-choked 
forest, and along the boulder-strewn and precip- 
itous mountain sides, was inconceivably rough 
and difficult. In places we followed the valley, 
and when this became impossible we struck 
across the spurs. Every step was severe toil. 
Now we walked through deep moss and rot- 
ting mould, every few feet clambering over 
huge trunks ; again we pushed through a stiff 
jungle of bushes and tall, prickly plants 
called " devil's clubs,' 7 which stung our 
hands and faces. Up the almost perpendicu- 
lar hill-sides we in many places went practi- 
cally on all fours, forcing our way over the 
rocks and through the dense thickets of laurels 
or young spruce. Where there were windfalls 
or great stretches of burnt forest, black and 
barren wastes, we balanced and leaped from 
log to log, sometimes twenty or thirty feet 
above the ground ; and when such a stretch 
was on a steep hill-side, and especially if the 
logs were enveloped in a thick second growth 
of small evergreens, the footing was very in- 
secure, and the danger from a fall consider- 
able. Our packs added greatly to our labor, 



154 



THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



catching on the snags and stubs ; and where 
a grove of thick-growing young spruces or a 
balsams had been burned, the stiff and brittle 
twigs pricked like so much coral. Most 
difficult of all were the dry water-courses, 
choked with alders, where the intertwined 
tangle of tough stems formed an almost liter- 
ally impenetrable barrier to our progress. 
, Nearly every movement leaping, climbing, 
swinging one's self up with one's hands, burst- 
ing through stiff bushes, plunging into and 
out of bogs was one of strain and exertion ; 
the fatigue was tremendous, and steadily con- 
tinued, so that in an hour every particle of 
clothing I had on was wringing wet with sweat. 

At noon we halted beside a little brook for 
a bite of lunch a chunk of cold frying-pan 
bread, which was all we had. 

While at lunch I made a capture. I was 
sitting on a great stone by the edge of the 
brook, idly gazing at a water-wren which had 
come up from a short flight I can call it 
nothing else underneath the water, and was 
singing sweetly from a spray-splashed log. 
Suddenly a small animal swam across the little 
pool at my feet. It was less in size than a 
mouse, and as it paddled rapidly underneath 
the water its body seemed flattened like a 
disc and was spangled with tiny bubbles, like 
specks of silver. It was a water-shrew, a 
rare little beast. I sat motionless and watched 
both the shrew and the water-wren water- 
ousel, as it should rightly be named. The 
latter, emboldened by my quiet, presently flew 
by me to a little rapids close at hand, light- 
ingon a round stone, and then slipping un- 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 155 

concernedly into the swift water. Anon he 
emerged, stood on another stone, and trilled 
a few bars, though it was late in the season 
for singing; and then dove again into the 
stream. I gazed at him eagerly ; for this 
strange, pretty water-thrush is to me one of 
the most attractive and interesting birds to be 
found in the gorges of the great Rockies. Its 
haunts are romantically beautiful, for it always 
dwells beside and in the swift-flowing mount- 
ain brooks ; it has a singularly sweet song ; 
and its ways render it a marked bird at once, 
for though looking much like a sober-colored, 
ordinary woodland thrush, it spends half its 
time under the water, walking along the bot- 
tom, swimming and diving, and flitting through 
as well as over the cataracts. 

In a minute or two the shrew caught my 
eye again. It got into a little shallow eddy 
and caught a minute fish, which it carried to 
a half-sunken stone and greedily devoured, 
tugging voraciously at it as it held it down 
with its paws. Then its evil genius drove 
it into a small puddle alongside the brook, 
where I instantly pounced on and slew it ; for 
I knew a friend in the Smithsonian at Wash- 
ington who would have coveted it greatly. 
It was a soft, pretty creature, dark above, 
snow-white below, with a very long tail. I 
turned the skin inside out and put a bent 
twig in, that it might dry ; while Ammal, who 
had been intensely interested in the chase and 
capture, meditatively shook his head and 
said "wagh," unable to fathom the white 
man's medicine. However, my labor came to 
nought, for that evening I laid the skin out on 



156 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

a log, Ammal threw the log into the fire, and 
that was the end of the shrew. 

When this interlude was over we resumed 
our march, toiling silently onwards through 
the wild and rugged country. Towards even- 
ing the valley widened a little, and we were 
able to walk in the bottoms, which much 
lightened our labor. The hunter, for greater 
ease, had tied the thongs of his heavy pack 
across his breast, so that he could not use his 
rifle ; but my pack was lighter, and I carried 
it in a manner that would not interfere with 
my shooting, lest we should come unawares 
on game. 

It was well that I did so. An hour or two 
before sunset we were travelling, as usual, in 
Indian file, beside the stream, through an 
open wood of great hemlock trees. There 
was no breeze, and we made no sound as we 
marched, for our feet sunk noiselessly into 
the deep sponge of moss, while the incessant 
dashing of the torrent, churning among the 
stones, would have drowned a far louder 
advance. 

Suddenly the hunter, who was leading, 
dropped down in his tracks, pointing forward ; 
and some fifty feet beyond I saw the head 
and shoulders of a bear as he rose to make a 
sweep at some berries. He was in a hollow 
where a tall, rank, prickly plant, with broad 
leaves, grew luxuriantly ; and he was gather- 
ing its red berries, rising on his hind legs and 
sweeping them down into his mouth with his 
paw, and was much too intent on his work to 
notice us, for his head was pointed the other 
way. The moment he rose again I fired, 



HUNTING IN THE S ELK IRKS. 157 

meaning to shoot through the shoulders, but 
instead, in the hurry, taking him in the neck. 
Down he went, but whether hurt or not we 
could not see, for the second he was on all 
fours he was no longer visible. Rather to my 
surprise he uttered no sound for bear when 
hit or when charging often make a great noise 
so I raced forward to the edge of the hollow, 
the hunter close behind me, while Ammal 
danced about in the rear, very much excited, 
as Indians always are in the presence of big 
game. The instant we reached the hollow 
and looked down into it from the low bank on 
which we stood we saw by the swaying of the 
tall plants that the bear was coming our way. 
The hunter was standing some ten feet dis- 
tant, a hemlock trunk being between us ; 
and the next moment the bear sprang clean 
up the bank the other side of the hemlock, 
and almost within arm's length of my com- 
panion. I do not think he had intended to 
charge ; he was probably confused by the 
bullet through his neck, and had by chance 
blundered out of the hollow in our direction ; 
but when he saw the hunter so close he 
turned for him, his hair bristling and his teeth 
showing. The man had no cartridge in his 
weapon, and with his pack on could not have 
used it anyhow ; and for a moment it looked 
as if he stood a fair chance of being hurt, 
though it is not likely that the bear would 
have done more than knock him down with 
his powerful forepaw, or perchance give him 
a single bite in passing. However, as the 
beast sprang out of the hollow he poised for 
a second on the edge of the bank to recover 



158 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

his balance, giving me a beautiful shot, as he 
stood sideways to me ; the bullet struck be- 
tween the eye and ear, and he fell as if hit 
with a pole axe. 

Immediately the Indian began jumping 
about the body, uttering wild yells, his usually 
impassive face lit up with excitement, while 
the hunter and I stood at rest, leaning on our 
rifles and laughing. It was a strange scene, 
the dead bear lying in the shade of the giant 
hemlocks, while the fantastic-looking savage 
danced round him with shrill whoops, and the 
tall frontiersman looked quietly on. 

Our prize was a large black bear, with two 
curious brown streaks down his back, one on 
each side the spine. We skinned him and 
camped by the carcass, as it was growing 
late. To take the chill off the evening air 
we built a huge fire, the logs roaring and 
crackling. To one side of it we made our 
beds of balsam and hemlock boughs ; we 
did not build a brush lean-to, because the 
night seemed likely to be clear. Then we 
supped on sugarless tea, frying-pan bread, 
and quantities of bear meat, fried or roasted 
and how very good it tasted only those 
know who have gone through much hardship 
and some little hunger, and have worked 
violently for several days without flesh food. 
After eating our fill we stretched ourselves 
around the fire ; the leaping sheets of flame 
lit the tree-trunks round about, causing them 
to start out against the cavernous blackness 
beyond, and reddened the interlacing branches 
that formed a canopy overhead. The Indian 
sat on his haunches, gazing steadily and 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 159 

silently into the pile of blazing logs, while 
the white hunter and I talked together. 

The morning after killing Bruin, we again 
took up our march, heading up stream, that 
we might go to its sources amidst the mount- 
ains, where the snow fields fed its springs. 
It was two full days' journey thither, but we 
took much longer to make it, as we kept 
halting to hunt the adjoining mountains. On 
such occasions Animal was left as camp 
guard, while the white hunter and I would 
start by daybreak and return at dark utterly 
worn out by the excessive fatigue. We knew 
nothing of caribou, nor where to hunt for 
them ; and we had been told that thus early 
in the season they were above tree limit on 
the mountain sides. Accordingly we would 
climb up to the limits of the forests, but 
never found a caribou trail ; arid once or 
twice we went on to the summits of the crag- 
peaks, and across the deep snow fields in the 
passes. There were plenty of white goats, 
however, their trails being broad paths, es- 
pecially at one spot where they led down to 
a lick in the valley ; round the lick, for a 
space of many yards, the ground was trampled 
as if in a sheepfold. 

The mountains were very steep, and the 
climbing was in places dangerous, when we 
were above the timber and had to make our 
way along the jagged knife-crests and across 
the faces of the cliffs ; while our hearts beat 
as if about to burst in the high, thin air. In 
walking over rough but not dangerous ground 
across slides or in thick timber my com- 
panion was far more skilful than I was ; but 



160 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

rather to my surprise I proved to be nearly as 
good as he when we came to the really dan- 
gerous places, where we had to go slowly, and 
let one another down from ledge to ledge, or 
crawl by narrow cracks across the rock walls. 
The view from the summits was magnifi- 
cent, and I never tired of gazing at it. Some- 
times the sky was a dome of blue crystal, and 
mountain, lake, and valley lay spread in 
startling clearness at our very feet ; and again 
snow-peak and rock-peak were thrust up like 
islands through a sea of billowy clouds. At 
the feet of the topmost peaks, just above the 
edge of the forest, were marshy alpine valleys, 
the boggy ground soaked with water, and 
small bushes or stunted trees fringing the icy 
lakes. In the stony mountain sides surround- 
ing these lakes there were hoary woodchucks, 
and conies. The former resembled in their 
habits the alpine marmot, rather than our 
own common eastern woodchuck. They 
lived alone or in couples among the rocks, 
their gray color often making them difficult to 
see as they crouched at the mouths of their 
burrows, or sat bolt upright ; and as an 
alarm note they uttered a loud piercing 
whistle, a strong contrast to the querulous, 
plaintive " p-a-a-y " of the timid conies. 
These likewise loved to dwell where the 
stones and slabs of rock were heaped on one 
another ; though so timid, they were not 
nearly as wary as the woodchucks. If we 
stood quite still the little brown creatures 
would venture away from their holes and hop 
softly over the rocks as if we were not 
present. 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 161 

The white goats were too musky to eat, and 
we saw nothing else to shoot ; so we speedily 
became reduced to tea, and to bread baked 
in the frying-pan, save every now and then for 
a feast on the luscious mountain blueberries. 
This rather meagre diet, coupled with inces- 
sant fatigue and exertion, made us fairly long 
for meat food ; and we fell off in flesh, though 
of course in so short a time we did not suffer 
in either health or strength. Fortunately the 
nights were too cool for mosquitoes ; but once 
or twice in the afternoons, while descending 
the lower slopes of the mountains, we were 
much bothered by swarms of gnats ; they 
worried us greatly, usually attacking us at a 
time when we had to go fast in order to reach 
camp before dark, while the roughness of the 
ground forced us to use both hands in climb- 
ing, and thus forbade us to shield our faces 
from our tiny tormentors. Our chief luxury 
was, at the end of the day, when footsore and 
weary, to cast aside our sweat-drenched clothes 
and plunge into the icy mountain torrent for 
a moment's bath that freshened us as if by 
magic. The nights were generally pleasant, 
and we slept soundly on our beds of balsam 
boughs, but once or twice there were sharp 
frosts, and it was so cold that the hunter and 
I huddled together for warmth and kept the 
fires going till morning. One day, when we 
were on the march, it rained heavily, and we 
were soaked through, and stiff and chilly when 
we pitched camp ; but we speedily built a 
great brush lean-to, made a roaring fire in 
front, and grew once more to warmth and 
comfort as we sat under our steaming shelter. 
ii 



1 62 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

The only discomfort we really minded was an 
occasional night in wet blankets. 

In the evening the Indian and the white 
hunter played interminable games of seven-up 
with a greasy pack of cards. In the course 
of his varied life the hunter had been a pro- 
fessional gambler ; and he could have easily 
won all the Indian's money, the more speedily 
inasmuch as the untutored red man was 
always attempting to cheat, and was thus 
giving his far more skilful opponent a certain 
right to try some similar deviltry in return. 
However, it was distinctly understood that 
there should be no gambling, for I did not 
wish Ammal to lose all his wages while in my 
employ ; and the white man stood loyally by 
his agreement. AmmaPs people, just before 
I engaged him, had been visited by their 
brethren, the Upper Kootenais, and in a series 
of gambling matches had lost about all their 
belongings. 

Ammal himself was one of the Lower Koot- 
enais ; I had hired him for the trip, as the 
Indians west of the Rockies, unlike their 
kinsmen of the plains, often prove hard and 
willing workers. His knowledge of English 
was almost nil ; and our very scanty conver- 
sation was carried on in the Chinook jargon, 
universally employed between the mountains 
and the Pacific. Apparently he had three 
names : for he assured us that his " Boston " 
(/. e., American) name was Ammal ; his 
" Siwash " (/. e., Indian) name was Appak ; 
and that the priest called him Abe'l for the 
Lower Kootenais are nominally Catholics. 
Whatever his name he was a good Indian, as 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 163 

Indians go. I often tried to talk with him 
about game and hunting, but we understood 
each other too little to exchange more than 
the most rudimentary ideas. His face bright- 
ened one night when I happened to tell him 
of my baby boys at home ; he must have been 
an affectionate father in his way, this dark 
Ammal, for he at once proceeded to tell me 
about his own papoose, who had also seen 
one snow, and to describe how the little fellow 
was old enough to take one step and then fall 
down. But he never displayed so much 
vivacity as on one occasion when the white 
hunter happened to relate to him a rather 
gruesome feat of one of their mutual acquaint- 
ances, an Upper Kootenai Indian named 
Three Coyotes. The latter was a quarrelsome, 
adventurous Indian, with whom the hunter 
had once had a difficulty "I had to beat 
the cuss over the head with my gun a little,* 
he remarked parenthetically. His last feat 
had been done in connection with a number 
of Chinamen who had been working among 
some placer mines, where the Indians came to 
visit them. Now the astute Chinese are as 
fond of gambling as any of the borderers, 
white or red, and are very successful, generally 
fleecing the Indians unmercifully. Three 
Coyotes lost all he possessed to one of the 
pigtailed gentry ; but he apparently took his 
losses philosophically, and pleasantly followed 
the victor round, until the latter had won 
all the cash and goods of several other In- 
dians. Then he suddenly fell on the exile 
from the Celestial Empire, slew him and took 
all his plunder, retiring unmolested, as it did 



1 64 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

not seem any one's business to avenge a mere 
Chinaman. Ammal was immensely interest- 
ed in the tale, and kept recurring to it again 
and again, taking two little sticks and making 
the hunter act out the whole story. The 
Kootenais were then only just beginning to 
consider the Chinese as human. They knew 
they must not kill white people, and they had 
their own code of morality among themselves ; 
but when the Chinese first appeared they evi- 
dently thought that there could not be any 
especial objection to killing them, if any 
reason arose fordoing so. I think the hunter 
himself sympathized somewhat with this view. 

Ammal objected strongly to leaving the 
neighborhood of the lake. He went the first 
day's journey willingly enough, but after that 
it was increasingly difficult to get him along, 
and he gradually grew sulky. For some time 
we could not find out the reason ; but finally 
he gave us to understand that he was afraid 
because up in the high mountains there were 
" little bad Indians " who would kill him if 
they caught him alone, especially at night. 
At first we thought he was speaking of stray 
warriors of the Blackfeet tribe ; but it turned 
out that he was not thinking of human beings 
at all, but of hobgoblins. 

Indeed the night sounds of these great 
stretches of mountain woodland were very 
weird and strange. Though I have often and 
for long periods dwelt and hunted in the 
wilderness, yet I never before so well under- 
stood why the people who live in lonely forest 
regions are prone to believe in elves, wood 
spirits, and other beings of an unseen world. 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 165 

Our last camp, whereat we spent several days, 
was pitched in a deep valley nearly at the 
head of the stream. Our brush shelter stood 
among the tall coniferous trees that covered 
the valley bottom ; but the altitude was so 
great that the forest extended only a very 
short distance up the steep mountain slopes. 
Beyond, on either hand, rose walls of gray 
rock, with snow beds in their rifts, and, high 
above, toward the snow peaks, the great white 
fields dazzled the eyes. The torrent foamed 
swiftly by but a short distance below the 
mossy level space on which we had built our 
slight weather-shield of pine boughs ; other 
streams poured into it, from ravines through 
which they leaped down the mountain sides. 

After nightfall, round the camp fire, or if I 
awakened after sleeping a little while, I would 
often lie silently for many minutes together, 
listening to the noises of the wilderness. At 
times the wind moaned harshly through the 
tops of the tall pines and hemlocks ; at times 
the branches were still ; but the splashing 
murmur of the torrent never ceased, and 
through it came other sounds the clatter of 
huge rocks falling down the cliffs, the dashing 
of cataracts in far-off ravines, the hooting of 
owls. Again, the breeze would shift, and 
bring to my ears the ringing of other brooks 
and cataracts and wind-stirred forests, and 
perhaps at long intervals the cry of some wild 
beast, the crash of a falling tree, or the faint 
rumble of a snow avalanche. If I listened 
long enough, it would almost seem that I 
heard thunderous voices laughing and calling 
to one another, and as if at any moment some 



1 66 THE V/ILDERNESS HUNTER. 

shape might stalk out of the darkness into the 
dim light of the embers. 

Until within a couple of days of turning our 
faces back towards the lake we did not come 
across any caribou, and saw but a few old 
signs ; and we began to be fearful lest we 
should have to return without getting any, for 
our shoes had been cut to ribbons by the 
sharp rocks, we were almost out of flour, and 
therefore had but little to eat. However, our 
perseverance was destined to be rewarded. 

The first day after reaching our final camp, 
we hunted across a set of spurs and hollows 
but saw nothing living ; yet we came across 
several bear tracks, and in a deep, mossy 
quagmire, by a spring, found where a huge 
silver-tip had wallowed only the night before. 

Next day we started early, determined to 
take a long walk and follow the main stream 
up to its head, or at least above timber line. 
The hunter struck so brisk a pace, plunging 
through thickets and leaping from log to log 
in the slashes of fallen timber, and from 
boulder to boulder in crossing the rock-slides, 
that I could hardly keep up to him, struggle 
as I would, and we each of us got several ugly 
tumbles, saving our rifles at the expense of 
scraped hands and bruised bodies. We went 
up one side of the stream, intending to come 
down the other ; for the forest belt was nar- 
row enough to hunt thoroughly. For two or 
three hours we toiled through dense growth, 
varied by rock-slides, and once or twice by 
marshy tracts, where water oozed and soaked 
through the mossy hillsides, studded rather 
sparsely with evergreens. In one of these 



HUNTING IN THE S ELK IRKS. 167 

places we caught a glimpse of an animal which 
the track showed to be a wolverine. 

Then we came to a spur of open hemlock 
forest ; and no sooner had we entered it than 
the hunter stopped and pointed exultingly to 
a well-marked game trail, in which it was easy 
at a glance to discern the great round foot- 
prints of our quarry. We hunted carefully 
over the spur and found several trails, gener- 
ally leading down along the ridge ; we also 
found a number of beds, some old and some 
recent, usually placed where the animal could 
keep a lookout for any foe coming up from 
the valley. They were merely slight hollows 
or indentations in the pine-needles ; and, like 
the game trails, were placed in localities 
similar to those that would be chosen by 
blacktail deer. The caribou droppings were 
also very plentiful ; and there were signs of 
where they had browsed on the blueberry 
bushes, cropping off the berries, and also ap- 
parently of where they had here and there 
plucked a mouthful of a peculiar kind of moss, 
or cropped off some little mushrooms. But 
the beasts themselves had evidently left the 
hemlock ridge, and we went on. 

We were much pleased at finding the sign 
in open timber, where the ground was excel- 
lent for still-hunting ; for in such thick forest 
as we had passed through, it would have been 
by mere luck only that we could have ap- 
proached game. 

After a little while the valley became so 
high that the large timber ceased, and there 
were only occasional groves of spindling ever- 
greens. Beyond the edge of the big timber 



1 68 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

was a large boggy tract, studded with little 
pools ; and here again we found plenty of 
caribou tracks. A caribou has an enormous 
foot, bigger than a cow's, and admirably 
adapted for travelling over snow or bogs ; 
hence they can pass through places where the 
long slender hoofs of moose or deer, or the 
round hoofs of elk, would let their own- 
ers sink at once ; and they are very difficult 
to kill by following on snow-shoes a method 
much in vogue among the brutal game 
butchers for slaughtering the more helpless 
animals. Spreading out his great hoofs, and 
bending his legs till he walks almost on the 
joints, a caribou will travel swiftly over a 
crust through which a moose breaks at every 
stride, or through deep snow in which a deer 
cannot flounder fifty yards. Usually he trots ; 
but when pressed he will spring awkwardly 
along, leaving tracks in the snow almost ex- 
actly like magnified imprints of those of a 
great rabbit, the long marks of the two hind 
legs forming an angle with each other, while 
the forefeet make a large point almost be- 
tween. 

The caribou had wandered all over the bogs 
and through the shallow pools, but evidently 
only at night or in the dusk, when feeding or 
in coming to drink; and we again went on. 
Soon the timber disappeared almost entirely, 
and thick brushwood took its place ; we were 
in a high, bare alpine valley, the snow lying 
in drifts along the sides. In places there 
had been enormous rock-slides, entirely filling 
up the bottom, so that for a quarter of a mile 
at a stretch the stream ran underground. In 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 169 

the rock masses of this alpine valley we, as 
usual, saw many conies and hoary wood- 
chucks. 

The caribou trails had ceased, and it was 
evident that the beasts were not ahead of us 
in the barren, treeless recesses between the 
mountains of rock and snow ; and we turned 
back down the valley, crossing over to the 
opposite or south side of the stream. We 
had already eaten our scanty lunch, for it was 
afternoon. For several miles of hard walk- 
ing, through thicket, marsh, and rock-slide, 
we saw no traces of the game. Then we 
reached the forest, which soon widened out, 
and crept up the mountain sides ; and we 
came to where another stream entered the 
one we were following. A high, steep shoul- 
der between the two valleys was covered with 
an open growth of great hemlock timber, and 
in this we again found the trails and beds 
plentiful. There was no breeze, and after 
beating through the forest nearly to its upper 
edge, we began to go down the ridge, or point 
of the shoulder. The comparative freedom 
from brushwood made it easy to walk without 
noise, and we descended the steep incline 
with the utmost care, scanning every object, 
and using every caution not to slip on the 
hemlock needles, nor to strike a stone or break 
a stick with our feet. The sign was very 
fresh, and when still half a mile or so from 
the bottom we at last came on three bull 
caribou. 

Instantly the hunter crouched down, while 
I ran noiselessly forward behind the shelter 
of a big hemlock trunk until within fifty yards 



I yo THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

of the grazing and unconscious quarry. They 
were feeding with their heads up-hill, but so 
greedily that they had not seen us ; and they 
were rather difficult to see themselves, for 
their bodies harmonized well in color with the 
brown tree-trunks and lichen-covered boulders. 
The largest, a big bull with a good but by no 
means extraordinary head, was nearest. As 
he stood fronting me with his head down I 
fired into his neck, breaking the bone, and he 
turned a tremendous back somersault. The 
other two halted a second in stunned terror ; 
then one, a yearling, rushed past us up the 
valley down which we had come, while the 
other, a large bull with small antlers, crossed 
right in front of me, at a canter, his neck 
thrust out, and his head so coarse-looking 
compared to the delicate outlines of an elk's 
turned towards me. His movements seemed 
clumsy and awkward, utterly unlike those of 
a deer ; but he handled his great hoofs 
cleverly enough, and broke into a headlong, 
rattling gallop as he went down the hillside, 
crashing through the saplings and leaping 
over the fallen logs. There was a spur a little 
beyond, and up this he went at a swinging 
trot, halting when he reached the top, and 
turning to look at me once more. He was 
only a hundred yards away ; and though I 
had not intended to shoot him (for his head 
was not good), the temptation was sore ; and 
I was glad when, in another second, the stupid 
beast turned again and went off up the valley 
at a slashing run. 

Then we hurried down to examine with pride 
and pleasure the dead bull his massive form, 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 171 

sleek coat, and fine antlers. It was one of 
those moments that repay the hunter for days 
of toil and hardship ; that is if he needs re- 
payment, and does not find life in the wilder- 
ness pleasure enough in itself. 

It was getting late, and if we expected to 
reach camp that night it behooved us not 
to delay ; so we merely halted long enough to 
dress the caribou, and take a steak with us 
which we did not need, by the way, for almost 
immediately we came on a band of spruce 
grouse and knocked off the heads of five with 
our rifles. The caribou's stomach was filled 
with blueberries, and with their leaves, and 
with a few small mushrooms also, and some 
mouthfuls of moss. We went home very fast, 
too much elated to heed scratches and tum- 
bles ; and just as it was growing so dark that 
further travelling was impossible we came 
opposite our camp, crossed the river on a fal- 
len hemlock, and walked up to the moody 
Indian, as he sat crouched by the fire. 

He lost his sullenness when he heard what 
we had done ; and next day we all went up 
and skinned and butchered the caribou, re- 
turning to camp and making ready to start 
back to the lake the following morning ; and 
that night we feasted royally. 

We were off by dawn, the Indian joyfully 
leading. Coming up into the mountains he 
had always been the rear man of the file ; but 
now he went first and struck a pace that, con- 
tinued all day long, gave me a little trouble to 
follow. Each of us carried his pack ; to the 
Indian's share fell the caribou skull and ant- 
lers, which he bore on his head. At the end 



172 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

of the day he confessed to me that it had 
made his head " heap sick " as well it might. 
We had made four short days', or parts of 
days' march coming up ; for we had stopped 
to hunt, and moreover we knew nothing of 
the country, being probably the first white 
men in it, while none of the Indians had 
ever ventured a long distance from the 
lake. Returning we knew how to take the 
shortest route, we were going down hill, 
and we walked or trotted very fast ; and so 
we made the whole distance in twelve hours' 
travel. At sunset we came out on the last 
range of steep foot-hills, overlooking the 
cove where we had pitched our permanent 
camp ; and from a bare cliff shoulder we saw 
our boat on the beach, and our white tent 
among the trees, just as we had left them, 
while the glassy mirror of the lake reflected 
the outlines of the mountains opposite. 

Though this was the first caribou I had 
ever killed, it was by no means the first I had 
ever hunted. Among my earliest hunting ex- 
periences, when a lad, were two fruitless and 
toilsome expeditions after caribou in the 
Maine woods. One I made in the fall, going 
to the head of the Munsungin River in a 
pirogue, with one companion. The water 
was low, and all the way up we had to drag 
the pirogue, wet to our middles, our ankles 
sore from slipping on the round stones under 
the rushing water, and our muscles aching 
with fatigue. When we reached the head- 
waters we found no caribou sign, and came 
back without slaying anything larger than an 
infrequent duck or grouse. 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 173 

The following February I made a trip on 
snow-shoes after the same game, and with the 
same result. However, I enjoyed the trip, for 
the northland woods are very beautiful and 
strange in winter, as indeed they are at all 
other times and it was my first experience on 
snow-shoes. I used the ordinary webbed 
racquets, and as the snow, though very deep, 
was only imperfectly crusted, I found that for 
a beginner the exercise was laborious in the 
extreme, speedily discovering that, no matter 
how cold it was, while walking through the 
windless woods I stood in no need of warm 
clothing. But at night, especially when lying 
out, the cold was bitter. Our plan was to 
drive in a sleigh to some logging camp, where 
we were always received with hearty hospital- 
ity, and thence make hunting trips, in very 
light marching order, through the heart of the 
surrounding forest. The woods, wrapped in 
their heavy white mantle, were still and life- 
less. There were a few chickadees and wood- 
peckers ; now and then we saw flocks of red- 
polls, pine linnets, and large, rosy grossbeaks ; 
and once or twice I came across a grouse or 
white rabbit, and killed it for supper ; but 
this was nearly all. Yet, though bird life was 
scarce, and though we saw few beasts beyond 
an occasional porcupine or squirrel, every 
morning the snow was dotted with a network 
of trails made during the hours of darkness ; 
the fine tracery of the footprints of the little 
red wood-mouse, the marks which showed the 
loping progress of the sable, the V and dot of 
the rabbit, the round pads of the lucivee, and 
many others. The snow reveals, as nothing 



174 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

else does, the presence in the forest of the 
many shy woodland creatures which lead 
their lives abroad only after nightfall. Once 
we saw a coon, out early after its winter nap, 
and following I shot it in a hollow tree. An- 
other time we came on a deer and the fright- 
ened beast left its " yard," a tangle of beaten 
paths, or deep furrows. The poor animal 
made but slow headway through the powdery 
snow ; after going thirty or forty rods it sank 
exhausted in a deep drift, and lay there in 
helpless panic as we walked close by. Very 
different were the actions of the only caribou 
we saw a fine beast which had shed its 
antlers. I merely caught a glimpse of it as it 
leaped over a breast-work of down timbers ; 
and we never saw it again. Alternately trot- 
ting and making a succession of long jumps, 
it speedily left us far behind ; with its great 
splay-hoofs it could snow-shoe better than we 
could. It is among deer the true denizen of 
the regions of heavy snowfall ; far more so 
than the moose. Only under exceptional con- 
ditions of crust-formation is it in any danger 
from a man on snow-shoes. 

In other ways it is no better able to take 
care of itself than moose and deer ; in fact I 
doubt whether its senses are quite as acute, or 
at least whether it is as wary and knowing, for 
under like conditions it is rather easier to 
still-hunt. In the fall caribou wander long 
distances, and are fond of frequenting the 
wet barrens which break the expanse of the 
northern forest in tracts of ever increasing 
size as the subarctic regions are neared. At 
this time they go in bands, each under the 



HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS. 175 

control of a master bull, which wages repeated 
and furious battles for his harem ; and in their 
ways of life they resemble the wapiti more 
than they do the moose or deer. They 
sometimes display a curious boldness, the 
bulls especially showing both stupidity and 
pugnacity when in districts to which men 
rarely penetrate. 

On our way out of the woods, after this 
hunt, there was a slight warm spell, followed 
by rain and then by freezing weather, so as to 
bring about what is known as a silver thaw. 
Every twig was sheathed in glittering ice, and 
in the moonlight the forest gleamed as if 
carved out of frosted silver. 



176 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE WAPITI OR ROUND-HORNED ELK. 

ONCE, while on another hunt with John 
Willis, I spent a week in a vain effort 
to kill moose among the outlying mountains 
at the southern end of the Bitter Root range. 
Then, as we had no meat, we determined to 
try for elk, of which we had seen much 
sign. 

We were camped with a wagon, as high 
among the foot-hills as wheels could go, but 
several hours' walk from the range of the 
game ; for it was still early in the season, and 
they had not yet come down from the upper 
slopes. Accordingly we made a practice of 
leaving the wagon for two or three days at a 
time to hunt ; returning to get a night's rest 
in the tent, preparatory to a fresh start. On 
these trips we carried neither blankets nor 
packs, as the walking was difficult and we had 
much ground to cover. Each merely put on 
his jacket with a loaf of frying-pan bread and 
a paper of salt stuffed into the pockets. We 
were cumbered with nothing save our rifles 
and cartridges. 

On the morning in question we left camp 
at sunrise. For two or three hours we walked 
up-hill through a rather open growth of small 
pines and spruces, the travelling being easy. 



THE WAPITI, 177 

Then we came to the edge of a deep valley, 
a couple of miles across. Into this we 
scrambled, down a steep slide, where the 
forest had grown up among the immense 
boulder masses. The going here was difficult 
to a degree ; the great rocks, dead timber, 
slippery pine needles, and loose gravel entail- 
ing caution at every step, while we had to 
guard our rifles carefully from the conse- 
quences of a slip. It was not much better at 
the bottom, which was covered by a tangled 
mass of swampy forest. Through this we 
hunted carefully, but with no success, in spite 
of our toil ; for the only tracks we saw that 
were at all fresh were those of a cow and calf 
moose. Finally, in the afternoon, we left the 
valley and began to climb a steep gorge, down 
which a mountain torrent roared and foamed 
in a succession of cataracts. 

Three hours' hard climbing brought us to 
another valley, but of an entirely different 
character. It was several miles long, but less 
than a mile broad. Save at the mouth, it was 
walled in completely by chains of high rock- 
peaks, their summits snow-capped ; the forest 
extended a short distance up their sides. The 
bottom of the valley was in places covered by 
open woodland, elsewhere by marshy meadows, 
dotted with dense groves of spruce. 

Hardly had we entered this valley before 
we caught a glimpse of a yearling elk walk- 
ing rapidly along a game path some distance 
ahead. We followed as quickly as we could 
without making a noise, but after the first 
glimpse never saw it again ; for it is astonish- 
ing how fast an elk travels, with its ground- 



178 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

covering walk. We went up the valley until 
we were well past its middle, and saw abun- 
dance of fresh elk sign. Evidently two or 
three bands had made the neighborhood their 
headquarters. Among them were some large 
bulls, which had been trying their horns not 
only on the quaking-asp and willow saplings, 
but also on one another, though the rut had 
barely begun. By one pool they had scooped 
out a kind of a wallow or bare spot in the grass, 
and had torn and tramped the ground with 
their hoofs. The place smelt strongly of their 
urine. 

By the time the sun set we were sure the 
elk were towards the head of the valley. We 
utilized the short twilight in arranging our 
sleeping place for the night, choosing a thick 
grove of spruce beside a small mountain tarn, 
at the foot of a great cliff. We were chiefly 
influenced in our choice by the abundance of 
dead timber of a size easy to handle ; the fuel 
question being all-important on such a trip, 
where one has to lie out without bedding, and 
to keep up a fire, with no axe to cut wood. 

Having selected a smooth spot, where some 
low-growing firs made a wind break, we drag- 
ged up enough logs to feed the fire through- 
out the night. Then we drank our fill at the 
icy pool, and ate a few mouthfuls of bread. 
While it was still light we heard the queru- 
lous bleat of the conies, from among the slide 
rocks at the foot of the mountain ; and the 
chipmunks and chickarees scolded at us. As 
dark came on, and we sat silently gazing into 
the flickering blaze, the owls began muttering 
and hooting. 



THE WAPITI. 179 

Clearing the ground of stones and sticks, 
we lay down beside the fire, pulled our soft 
felt hats over our ears, buttoned our jackets, 
and went to sleep. Of course our slumbers 
were fitful and broken, for every hour or two 
the fire got low and had to be replenished. 
We wakened shivering out of each spell of 
restless sleep to find the logs smouldering ; 
we were alternately scorched and frozen. 

As the first faint streak of dawn appeared 
in the dark sky my companion touched me 
lightly on the arm. The fire was nearly out ; 
we felt numbed by the chill air. At once we 
sprang up, stretched our arms, shook our- 
selves, examined our rifles, swallowed a 
mouthful or two of bread, and walked off 
through the gloomy forest. 

At first we could scarcely see our way, but 
it grew rapidly lighter. The gray mist rose 
and wavered over the pools and wet places ; 
the morning voices of the wilderness began 
to break the death-like stillness. After we 
had walked a couple of miles the mountain 
tops on our right hand reddened in the sun- 
rays. 

Then, as we trod noiselessly over the dense 
moss, and on the pine needles under the scat- 
tered trees, we heard a sharp clang and clatter 
up the valley ahead of us. We knew this 
meant game of some sort ; and stealing lightly 
and cautiously forward we soon saw before us 
the cause of the noise. 

In a little glade, a hundred and twenty-five 
yards from us, two bull elk were engaged in 
deadly combat, while two others were looking 
on. It was a splendid sight. The great 



l8o THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

beasts faced each other with lowered horns, 
the manes that covered their thick necks, and 
the hair on their shoulders, bristling and erect. 
Then they charged furiously, the crash of the 
meeting antlers resounding through the valley. 
The shock threw them both on their haunches ; 
with locked horns and glaring eyes they strove 
against each other, getting their hind legs 
well under them, straining every muscle in 
their huge bodies, and squealing savagely. 
They were evenly matched in weight, strength, 
and courage ; and push as they might, neither 
got the upper hand, first one yielding a few 
inches, then the other, while they swayed to 
and fro in their struggles, smashing the bushes 
and ploughing up the soil. 

Finally they separated and stood some little 
distance apart, under the great pines ; their 
sides heaving, and columns of steam rising 
from their nostrils through the frosty air of 
the brightening morning. Again they rushed 
together with a crash, and each strove mightily 
to overthrow the other, or get past his guard ; 
but the branching antlers caught every vicious 
lunge and thrust. This set-to was stopped 
rather curiously. One of the onlooking elk 
was a yearling; the other, though scarcely as 
heavy-bodied as either of the fighters, had a 
finer head. He was evidently much excited 
by the battle, and he now began to walk to- 
wards the two combatants, nodding his head 
and uttering a queer, whistling noise. They 
dared not leave their flanks uncovered to his 
assault ; and as he approached they promptly 
separated, and walked off side by side a few 
yards apart. In a moment, however, one 



THE WAPITI. 181 

spun round and jumped at his old adversary, 
seeking to stab him in his unprotected flank ; 
but the latter was just as quick, and as before 
caught the rush on his horns. They closed 
as furiously as ever ; but the utmost either 
could clo was to inflict one or two punches on 
the neck and shoulders of his foe, where the 
thick hide served as a shield. Again the 
peace-maker approached, nodding his head, 
whistling, and threatening ; and again they 
separated. 

This was repeated once or twice ; and I 
began to be afraid lest the breeze which was 
very light and puffy should shift and give 
them my wind. So, resting my rifle on my 
knee I fired twice, putting one bullet behind 
the shoulder of the peace-maker, and the 
other behind the shoulder of one of the com- 
batants. Both were deadly shots, but, as so 
often with wapiti, neither of the wounded 
animals at the moment showed any signs of 
being hit. The yearling ran off unscathed. 
The other three crowded together and trotted 
behind some spruce on the left, while we ran 
forward for another shot. In a moment one 
fell; whereupon the remaining two turned 
and came back across the glade, trotting to 
the right. As we opened fire they broke into 
a lumbering- gallop, but were both downed 
before they got out of sight in the timber. 

As soon as the three bulls were down we 
busied ourselves taking off their heads and 
hides, and cutting off the best portions of the 
meat from the saddles and hams to take 
back to camp, where we smoked it. But first 
we had breakfast. We kindled a fire beside 



1 82 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

a little spring of clear water and raked out 
the coals. Then we cut two willow twigs as 
spits, ran on each a number of small pieces 
of elk loin, and roasted them over the fire. 
We had salt ; we were very hungry ; and I 
never ate anything that tasted better. 

The wapiti is, next to the moose, the most 
quarrelsome and pugnacious of American 
deer. It cannot be said that it is ordinarily a 
dangerous beast to hunt ; yet there are in- 
stances in which wounded wapiti, incauti- 
ously approached to within striking distance, 
have severely misused their assailants, both 
with their antlers and their forefeet. I my- 
self knew one man who had been badly 
mauled in this fashion. When tamed the 
bulls are dangerous to human life in the rutting 
season. In a grapple they are of course in- 
finitely more to be dreaded than ordinary 
deer, because of their great strength. 

However, the fiercest wapiti bull, when in 
a wild state, flees the neighborhood of man 
with the same panic terror shown by the cows ; 
and he makes no stand against a grisly, 
though when his horns are grown he has little 
fear of either wolf or cougar if on his guard 
and attacked fairly. The chief battles of the 
bulls are of course waged with one another. 
Before the beginning of the rut they keep by 
themselves : singly, while the sprouting horns 
are still very young, at which time they lie in 
secluded spots and move about as little as 
possible ; in large bands, later in the season. 
At the beginning of the fall these bands join 
with one another and with the bands of cows 
and calves, which have likewise been keeping 



THE WAPITI. 183 

to themselves during the late winter, the 
spring, and the summer. Vast herds are thus 
sometimes formed, containing, in the old days 
when wapiti were plenty, thousands of head. 
The bulls now begin to fight furiously with 
one another, and the great herd becomes split 
into smaller ones. Each of these has one 
master bull, who has won his position by 
savage battle, and keeps it by overcoming 
every rival, whether a solitary bull, or the 
lord of another harem, who challenges him. 
When not fighting or love-making he is kept 
on the run, chasing away the young bulls who 
venture to pay court to the cows. He has 
hardly time to eat or sleep, and soon becomes 
gaunt and worn to a degree. At the close of 
the rut many of the bulls become so emaciated 
that they retire to some secluded spot to re- 
cuperate. They are so weak that they readily 
succumb to the elements, or to their brute 
foes ; many die from sheer exhaustion. 

The battles between the bulls rarely result 
fatally. After a longer or shorter period of 
charging, pushing, and struggling the heavier 
or more enduring of the two begins to shove 
his weaker antagonist back and round ; and 
the latter then watches his chance and bolts, 
hotly, but as a rule harmlessly, pursued for a 
few hundred yards. The massive branching 
antlers serve as effective guards against the 
most wicked thrusts. While the antagonists 
are head on, the worst that can happen is a 
punch on the shoulder which will not break 
the thick hide, though it may bruise the flesh 
underneath. It is only when a beast is caught 
while turning that there is a chance to deliver 



1 84 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

a possibly deadly stab in the flank, with the 
brow prongs, the " dog-killers " as they are 
called in bucks. Sometimes, but rarely, fight- 
ing wapiti get their antlers interlocked and 
perish miserably ; my own ranch, the Elkhorn, 
was named from finding on the spot where the 
ranch house now stands two splendid pairs of 
elk antlers thus interlocked. 

Wapiti keep their antlers until the spring, 
whereas deer and moose lose theirs by mid- 
winter. The bull's behavior in relation to the 
cow is merely that of a vicious and brutal 
coward. He bullies her continually, and in 
times of danger his one thought is for sneak- 
ing off to secure his own safety. For all his 
noble looks he is a very unamiable beast, who 
behaves with brutal ferocity to the weak, and 
shows abject terror of the strong. According 
to his powers, he is guilty of rape, robbery, 
and even murder. I never felt the least com- 
punction at shooting a bull, but I hate to 
shoot a cow, even when forced by necessity. 
Maternity must always appeal to any one. A 
cow has more courage than a bull. She will 
fight valiantly for her young calf, striking 
such blows with her forefeet that most beasts 
of prey at once slink away from the combat. 
Cougars and wolves commit great ravages 
among the bands ; but they often secure their 
quarry only at the cost of sharp preliminary 
tussles and in tussles of this kind they do 
not always prove victors or escape scathless. 

During the rut the bulls are very noisy ; 
and their notes of amorous challenge are 
called " whistling " by the frontiersmen, very 
inappropriately. They begin to whistle about 



THE WAPITI. 185 

ten days before they begin to run ; and they 
have in addition an odd kind of bark, which 
is only heard occasionally. The whistling is 
a most curious, and to me a most attractive 
sound, when heard in the great lonely mount- 
ains. As with so many other things, much 
depends upon the surroundings. When lis- 
tened to nearby and under unfavorable cir- 
cumstances, the sound resembles a succession 
of hoarse whistling roars, ending with two or 
three gasping grunts. 

But heard at a little distance, and in its 
proper place, the call of the wapiti is one of 
the grandest and most beautiful sounds in 
nature. Especially is this the case when 
several rivals are answering one another, on 
some frosty moonlight night in the mountains. 
The wild melody rings from chasm to chasm 
under the giant pines, sustained and modu- 
lated, through bar after bar, filled with chal- 
lenge and proud anger. It thrills the soul of 
the listening hunter. 

Once, while in the mountains, I listened to 
a peculiarly grand chorus of this kind. We 
were travelling with pack ponies at the time, 
and our tent was pitched in a grove of yellow 
pine, by a brook in the bottom of a valley. 
On either hand rose the mountains, covered 
with spruce forest. It was in September, and 
the first snow had just fallen. 

The day before we had walked long and 
hard ; and during the night I slept the heavy 
sleep of the weary. Early in the morning, 
just as the east began to grow gray, I waked ; 
and as I did so, the sounds that smote on my 
ear,, caused me to sit up and throw off the 



l86 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

warm blankets. Bull elk were challenging 
among the mountains on both sides of the 
valley, a little way from us, their notes echo- 
ing like the calling of silver bugles. Groping 
about in the dark, I drew on my trousers, an 
extra pair of thick socks, and my moccasins, 
donned a warm jacket, found my fur cap and 
gloves, and stole out of the tent with my 
rifle. 

The air was very cold ; the stars were be- 
ginning to pale in the dawn ; on the ground 
the snow glimmered white, and lay in feathery 
masses on the branches of the balsams and 
young pines. The air rang with the chal- 
lenges of many wapiti ; their incessant calling 
came pealing down through the still, snow- 
laden woods. First one bull challenged ; 
then another answered ; then another and 
another. Two herds were approaching one 
another from opposite sides of the valley, a 
short distance above our camp ; and the 
master bulls were roaring defiance as they 
mustered their harems. 

I walked stealthily up the valley, until I 
felt that I was nearly between the two herds ; 
and then stood motionless under a tall pine. 
The ground was quite open at this point, the 
pines, though large, being scattered ; the 
little brook ran with a strangled murmur be- 
tween its rows of willows and alders, for the 
ice along its edges nearly skimmed its breadth. 
The stars paled rapidly, the gray dawn 
brightened, and in the sky overhead faint 
rose-colored streaks were turning blood-red. 
What little wind there was breathed in my 
face and kept me from discovery. 



THE WAPITI. 187 

I made up my mind,, from the sound of the 
challenging, now very near me, that one bull 
on my right was advancing towards a rival on 
my left, who was answering every call. Soon 
the former approached so near that I could 
hear him crack the branches, and beat the 
bushes with his horns ; and I slipped quietly 
from tree to tree, so as to meet him when he 
came out into the more open woodland. Day 
broke, and crimson gleams played across the 
snow-clad mountains beyond. 

At last, just as the sun flamed red above 
the hill-tops, I heard the roar of the wapiti's 
challenge not fifty yards away ; and I cocked 
and half raised my rifle, and stood motion- 
less. In a moment more, the belt of spruces 
in front of me swayed and opened, and the 
lordly bull stepped out. He bore his massive 
antlers aloft ; the snow lay thick on his mane ; 
he snuffed the air and stamped on the ground 
as he walked. As I drew a bead, the motion 
caught his eye ; and instantly his bearing of 
haughty and warlike self-confidence changed 
to one of alarm. My bullet smote through 
his shoulder-blades, and he plunged wildly 
forward, and fell full length on the blood- 
stained snow. 

Nothing can be finer than a wapiti bull's 
carriage when excited or alarmed ; he then 
seems the embodiment of strength and stately 
grace. But at ordinary times his looks are 
less attractive, as he walks with his neck level 
with his body and his head outstretched, his 
horns lying almost on his shoulders. The 
favorite gait of the wapiti is the trot, which is 
very fast, and which they can keep up for 



l88 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

countless miles ; when suddenly and greatly 
alarmed, they break into an awkward gallop, 
which is faster,, but which speedily tires them. 

I have occasionally killed elk in the neigh- 
borhood of my ranch on the Little Missouri. 
They were very plentiful along this river until 
1881, but the last of the big bands were 
slaughtered or scattered about that time. 
Smaller bunches were found for two or three 
years longer ; and to this day, scattered indi- 
viduals, singly or in parties of two or three, 
linger here and there in the most remote and 
inaccessible parts of the broken country. In 
the old times they were often found on the 
open prairie, and were fond of sunning them- 
selves on the sand bars by the river, even at 
midday, while they often fed by daylight (as 
they do still in remote mountain fastnesses). 
Nowadays the few survivors dwell in the tim- 
ber of the roughest ravines, and only venture 
abroad at dusk or even after nightfall. 
Thanks to their wariness and seclusiveness, 
their presence is often not even suspected by 
the cowboys or others who occasionally ride 
through their haunts ; and so the hunters only 
know vaguely of their existence. It thus hap- 
pens that the last individuals of a species 
may linger in a locality for many years after 
the rest of their kind have vanished ; on the 
Little Missouri to-day every elk (as in the 
Rockies every buffalo) killed is at once set 
down as "the last of its race." For several 
years in succession I myself kept killing one 
or two such " last survivors." 

A yearling bull which I thus obtained was 
killed while in company with my staunch 



THE WAPITI, 189 

friend Will Dow, on one of the first trips 
which I took with that prince of drivers, old 
man Tompkins. We were laying in our stock 
of winter meat; and had taken the wagon to 
go to a knot of high and very rugged hills 
where we knew there were deer, and thought 
there might be elk. Old Tompkins drove 
the wagon with unmoved composure up, down, 
and across frightful-looking hills, and when 
they became wholly impassable, steered the 
team over a cut bank and up a kind of winding 
ravine or wooded washout, until it became too 
rough and narrow for farther progress. There 
was good grass for the horses on a hill off to one 
side of us; and stunted cottonwood trees grew 
between the straight white walls of clay and 
sandstone which hemmed in the washout. We 
pitched our tent by a little trickling spring 
and kindled a great fire, the fitful glare light- 
ing the bare cliffs and the queer, sprawling 
tops of the cottonwoods ; and after a dinner 
of fried prairie-chicken went to bed. At dawn 
we were off, and hunted till nearly noon ; when 
Dow, who had been walking to one side, beck- 
oned to me and remarked, " There's some- 
thing mighty big in the timber down under the 
cliff; I guess it's an elk " (he never had seen 
one before) ; and the next moment, as old 
Tompkins expressed it, " the elk came bilin' 
out of the coulie." Old Tompkins had a rifle 
on this occasion and the sight of game always 
drove him crazy ; as I aimed I heard Dow 
telling him " to let the boss do the shoot- 
ing " ; and I killed the elk to a savage inter- 
jectional accompaniment of threats delivered 
at old man Tompkins between the shots. 



190 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

Elk are sooner killed off than any other game 
save buffalo, but this is due to their size and 
the nature of the ground they frequent rather 
than to their lack of shyness. They like open 
woodland, or mountainous park country, or hills 
riven by timber coulies ; and such ground is 
the most favorable to the hunter, and the most 
attractive in which to hunt. On the other 
hand moose, for instance, live in such dense 
cover that it is very difficult to get at them ; 
when elk are driven by incessant persecution 
to take refuge in similar fastnesses they be- 
come almost as hard to kill. In fact, in this 
respect the elk stands to the moose much as 
the blacktail stands to the whitetail. The 
moose and whitetail are somewhat warier 
than the elk and blacktail ; but it is the nature 
of the ground which they inhabit that tells 
most in their favor. On the other hand, as 
compared to the blacktail, it is only the elk's 
size which puts it at a disadvantage in the 
struggle for life when the rifle-bearing hunter 
appears on the scene. It is quite as shy and 
difficult to approach as the deer ; but its bulk 
renders it much more eagerly hunted, more 
readily seen, and more easily hit. Occa- 
sionally elk suffer from fits of stupid tameness 
or equally stupid panic ; but the same is true 
of blacktail. In two or three instances, I 
have seen elk show silly ignorance of danger ; 
but half a dozen times I have known black- 
tail behave with an even greater degree of 
stupid familiarity. 

There is another point in which the wapiti 
and blacktail agree in contrast to the moose 
and whitetail. Both the latter delight in 



THE WAPITI. 191 

water-lilies, entering the ponds to find them, 
and feeding on them greedily. The wapiti 
is very fond of wallowing in the mud, and of 
bathing in pools and lakes ; but as a rule it 
shows as little fondness as the blacktail for 
feeding on water-lilies or other aquatic 
plants. 

In reading of the European red deer, which 
is nothing but a diminutive wapiti, we often 
see a " a stag of ten " alluded to as if a full- 
grown monarch. A full-grown wapiti bull, 
however, always has twelve, and may have 
fourteen, regular normal points on his ant- 
lers, besides irregular additional prongs ; and 
he occasionally has ten points when a two- 
year-old, as I have myself seen with calves 
captured young and tamed. The calf has no 
horns. The yearling carries two foot-long 
spikes, sometimes bifurcated, so as to make 
four points. The two-year-old often has six 
or eight points on his antlers ; but some- 
times ten, although they are always small. 
The three-year-old has eight or ten points, 
while his body may be nearly as large as 
that of a full-grown animal. The four-year- 
old is normally a ten or twelve pointer, but as 
yet with much smaller antlers than those so 
proudly borne by the old bulls. 

Frontiersmen only occasionally distinguish 
the prongs by name. The brow and bay 
points are called dog-killers or war-tines ; the 
tray is known simply as the third point ; and 
the most characteristic prong, the long and 
massive fourth, is now and then called the 
dagger-point; the others being known as the 
fifth and sixth. 



192 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

In the high mountain forest into which the 
wapiti has been driven, the large, heavily 
furred northern lynx, the lucivee, takes the 
place of the smaller, thinner-haired lynx of 
the plains and of the more southern districts, 
the bobcat or wildcat. On the Little Missouri 
the latter is the common form ; yet I have 
seen a lucivee which was killed there. On 
Clarke's Fork of the Columbia both occur, 
the lucivee being the most common. They 
feed chiefly on hares, squirrels, grouse, fawns, 
etc. ; and the lucivee, at least, also occasion- 
ally kills foxes and coons, and has in its turn 
to dread the pounce of the big timber wolf. 
Both kinds of lynx can most easily be killed 
with dogs, as they tree quite readily when 
thus pursued. The wildcat is often followed 
on horseback, with a pack of hounds, when 
the country is favorable ; and when chased in 
this fashion yields excellent sport. The skin 
of both these lynxes is tender. They often 
maul an inexperienced pack quite badly, in- 
flicting severe scratches and bites on any 
hound which has just resolution enough to 
come to close quarters, but not to rush in 
furiously ; but a big fighting dog will readily 
kill either. At Thompson's Falls two of 
Willis' hounds killed a lucivee unaided, though 
one got torn. Archibald Rogers' dog Sly, a 
cross between a greyhound and a bull mastiff, 
killed a bobcat single-handed. He bayed the 
cat and then began to threaten it, leaping from 
side to side ; suddenly he broke the motion, 
and rushing in got his foe by the small of the 
back and killed it without receiving a scratch. 

The porcupine is sure to attract the notice 



THE WAPITI. 193 

of any one going through the mountains. It 
is also found in the timber belts fringing the 
streams of the great plains, where it lives for 
a week at a time in a single tree or clump of 
trees, peeling the bark from the limbs. But 
it is the easiest of all animals to exterminate, 
and is now abundant only in deep mountain 
forests. It is very tame and stupid ; it goes 
on the ground, but its fastest pace is a clumsy 
waddle, and on trees, but is the poorest of 
tree-climbers, grasping the trunk like a small, 
slow bear. It can neither escape nor hide. 
It trusts to its quills for protection, as the 
skunk does to its odor ; but it is far less astute 
and more helpless than the skunk. It is 
readily made into a very unsuspicious and 
familiar, but uninteresting, pet. I have known 
it come into camp in the daytime, and forage 
round the fire by which I was sitting. Its 
coat protects it against most foes. Bears 
sometimes eat it when very hungry, as they 
will eat anything ; and I think that elk oc- 
casionally destroy it in sheer wantonness. 
One of its most resolute foes is the fisher, 
that big sable almost a wolverine which 
preys on everything, from a coon to a fawn, 
or even a small fox. 

The noisy, active little chickarees and chip- 
munks, however, are by far the most numerous 
and lively denizens of these deep forests. 
They are very abundant and very noisy; 
scolding the travellers exactly as they do the 
bears when the latter dig up the caches of 
ants. The chipmunks soon grow tame and 
visit camp to pick up the crusts. The chick- 
arees often ascend to the highest pine tops, 
13 



194 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

where they cut off the cones, dropping them 
to the ground with a noise which often for a 
moment puzzles the still-hunter. 

Two of the most striking and characteristic 
birds to be seen by him who hunts and camps 
among the pine-clad and spruce-clad slopes 
of the northern Rockies are a small crow and 
a rather large woodpecker. The former is 
called Clarke's crow, and the latter Lewis' 
woodpecker. Their names commemorate 
their discoverers, the explorers Lewis and 
Clarke, the first white men who crossed the 
United States to the Pacific, the pioneers of 
that great army of adventurers who since then 
have roamed and hunted over the Great Plains 
and among the Rocky Mountains. 

These birds are nearly of a size, being 
about as large as a flicker. The Clarke's 
crow, an ash-colored bird with black wings 
and white tail and forehead, is as common as 
it is characteristic, and is sure to attract 
attention. It is as knowing as the rest of its 
race, and very noisy and active. It flies some- 
times in a straight line, with regular wing- 
beats, sometimes in a succession of loops like 
a woodpecker, and often lights on rough bark 
or a dead stump in an attitude like the latter ; 
and it is very fond of scrambling and cling- 
ing, often head downwards, among the outer- 
most cones on the top of a pine, chattering 
loudly all the while. One of the noticeable 
features of its flight is the hollow, beating 
sound of the wings. It is restless and fond 
of company, going by preference in small 
parties. These little parties often indulge in 
regular plays, assembling in some tall tree-top 



THE WAPITI. 195 

and sailing round and round it, in noisy pur- 
suit of one another, lighting continually among 
the branches. 

The Lewis' woodpecker, a handsome, dark- 
green bird, with white breast and red belly, is 
much rarer, quite as shy, and generally less 
noisy and conspicuous. Its flight is usually 
strong and steady, like a jay's, and it perches 
upright among the twigs, or takes short flights 
after passing insects, as often as it scrambles 
over the twigs in the ordinary woodpecker 
fashion. Like its companion, the Clarke's 
crow, it is ordinarily a bird on the high tree- 
tops, and around these it indulges in curious 
aerial games, again like those of the little 
crow. It is fond of going in troops, and 
such a troop frequently choose some tall pine 
and soar round and above it in irregular 
spirals. 

The remarkable and almost amphibious 
little water wren, with its sweet song, its 
familiarity, and its very curious habit of run- 
ning on the bottom of the stream, several feet 
beneath the surface of the race of rapid water, 
is the most noticeable of the small birds of the 
Rocky Mountains. It sometimes sings loudly 
while floating with half spread wings on the 
surface of a little pool. Taken as a whole, 
small birds are far less numerous and notice- 
able in the wilderness, especially in the deep 
forests, than in the groves and farmland of 
the settled country. The hunter and trapper 
are less familiar with small-bird music than 
with the screaming of the eagle and the large 
hawks, the croaking bark of the raven, the 
loon's cry, the crane's guttural clangor, and 



196 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the unearthly yelling and hooting of the big 
owls. 

No bird is so common around camp, so 
familiar, so amusing on some occasions, and 
so annoying on others, as that drab-colored 
imp of iniquity, the whisky-jack also known 
as the moose bird and camp robber. The 
familiarity of these birds is astonishing, and 
the variety of their cries, generally harsh, 
but rarely musical extraordinary. They 
snatch scraps of food from the entrances of 
the tents, and from beside the camp fire ; and 
they shred the venison hung in the trees un- 
less closely watched. I have seen an irate 
cook of accurate aim knock one off an elk- 
haunch, with a club seized at random ; and I 
have known another to be killed with a switch, 
and yet another to be caught alive in the hand. 
When game is killed they are the first birds to 
come to the carcass. Following them come 
the big jays, of a uniform dark-blue color, 
who bully them, and are bullied in turn by the 
next arrivals, the magpies ; while when the 
big ravens come, they keep all the others in 
the back-ground, with the exception of an 
occasional wide-awake magpie. 

For a steady diet no meat tastes better 
or is more nourishing than elk venison ; more- 
over the different kinds of grouse give variety 
to the fare, and delicious trout swarm through- 
out the haunts of the elk in the Rockies. I 
have never seen them more numerous than in 
the wonderful and beautiful Yellowstone 
Canyon, a couple of miles below where the 
river pitches over the Great Falls, in wind- 
swayed cataracts of snowy foam. At this 



THE WAPITI. 197 

point it runs like a mill-race, in its narrow 
winding bed, between immense walls of 
queerly carved and colored rock which tower 
aloft in almost perpendicular cliffs. Late one 
afternoon in the fall of '90 Ferguson and I 
clambered down into the canyon, with a couple 
of rods, and in an hour caught all the fish we 
could carry. It then lacked much less than 
an hour o: nightfall, and we had a hard climb 
to get out of the canyon before darkness over- 
took us ; as there was not a vestige of a path, 
and as the climbing was exceedingly laborious 
and at one or two points not entirely without 
danger, the rocks being practicable in very 
few places, we could hardly have made much 
progress after it became too dark to see. 
Each of us carried the bag of trout in turn, 
and I personally was nearly done out when 
we reached the top ; and then had to trot 
three miles to the horses. 



198 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER X. 

AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 

IN September, 1891, with my ranch-partner, 
Ferguson, I made an elk-hunt in north- 
western Wyoming among the Shoshone Moun- 
tains, where they join the Hoodoo and Abso- 
raka ranges. There is no more beautiful 
game-country in the United States. It is a 
park land, where glades, meadows, and high 
mountain pastures break the evergreen forest ; 
a forest which is open compared to the tangled 
density of the woodland farther north. It is 
a high, cold region of many lakes and clear 
rushing streams. The steep mountains are 
generally of the rounded form so often seen 
in the ranges of the Cordilleras of the United 
States ; but the Koodoos, or Goblins, are 
carved in fantastic and extraordinary shapes ; 
while the Tetons, a group of isolated rock- 
peaks, show a striking boldness in their lofty 
outlines. 

This was one of the pleasantest hunts I 
ever made. As always in the mountains, save 
where the country is so rough and so densely 
wooded that one must go a-foot, we had a 
pack-train ; and we took a more complete 
outfit than we had ever before taken on such 
a hunt, and so travelled in much comfort. 
Usually when in the mountains I have merely 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 199 

had one companion, or at most a couple, and 
two or three pack-ponies ; each of us doing 
his share of the packing, cooking, fetching 
water, and pitching the small square of canvas 
which served as tent. In itself packing is 
both an art and a mystery, and a skilful pro- 
fessional packer, versed in the intricacies of 
the " diamond hitch/'' packs with a speed 
which no non-professional can hope to rival, 
and fixes the side packs and top packs with 
such scientific nicety, and adjusts the doubles 
and turns of the lash-rope so accurately, that 
everything stays in place under any but the 
most adverse conditions. Of course, like 
most hunters, I can myself in case of need 
throw the diamond hitch after a fashion, and 
pack on either the off or near side. Indeed, 
unless a man can pack it is not possible to 
make a really hard hunt in the mountains, if 
alone, or with only a single companion. The 
mere fair-weather hunter, who trusts entirely 
to the exertions of others, and does nothing 
more than ride or walk about under favorable 
circumstances, and shoot at what somebody 
else shows him, is a hunter in name only. 
Whoever would really deserve the title must 
be able at a pinch to shift for himself, to 
grapple with the difficulties and hardships of 
wilderness life unaided, and not only to hunt, 
but at times to travel for days, whether on 
foot or on horseback, alone. However, after 
one has passed one's novitiate, it is pleasant 
to be comfortable when the comfort does not 
interfere with the sport ; and although a man 
sometimes likes to hunt alone, yet often it is 
well to be with some old mountain hunter, a 



200 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

master of woodcraft, who is a first-rate hand 
at finding game, creeping upon it, and track- 
ing it when wounded. With such a compan- 
ion one gets much more game, and learns 
many things by observation instead of by 
painful experience. 

On this trip we had with us two hunters, 
Tazewell Woody and Elwood Hofer, a packer 
who acted as cook, and a boy to herd the 
horses. Of the latter, there were twenty ; six 
saddle-animals and fourteen for the packs 
two or three being spare horses, to be used 
later in carrying the elk-antlers, sheep-horns, 
and other trophies. Like most hunters' pack- 
animals, they were either half-broken, or else 
broken down ; tough, unkempt, jaded-looking 
beasts of every color sorrel, buckskin, pinto, 
white, bay, roan. After the day's work was 
over, they were turned loose to shift for them- 
selves ; and about once a week they strayed, 
and all hands had to spend the better part of 
the day hunting for them. The worst ones 
for straying, curiously enough, were three 
broken-down old " bear-baits," which went by 
themselves, as is generally the case with the 
cast-off horses of a herd. There were two 
sleeping tents, another for the provisions, 
in which we ate during bad weather, and a 
canvas tepee, which was put up with lodge- 
poles, Indian fashion, like a wigwam. A 
tepee is more difficult to put up than an ordi- 
nary tent ; but it is very convenient when 
there is rain or snow. A small fire kindled in 
the middle keeps it warm, the smoke escaping 
through the open top that is, when it escapes 
at all ; strings are passed from one pole to 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 201 

another, on which to hang wet clothes and 
shoes, and the beds are made around the 
edges. As an offset to the warmth and shel- 
ter, the smoke often renders it impossible 
even to sit upright. We had a very good 
camp-kit, including plenty of cooking- and 
eating-utensils ; and among our provisions 
were some canned goods and sweetmeats, 
to give a relish to our meals of meat and 
bread. We had fur coats and warm clothes, 
which are chiefly needed at night, and plenty 
of bedding, including water-proof canvas sheet- 
ing and a couple of caribou-hide sleeping-bags, 
procured from the survivors of a party of 
arctic explorers. Except on rainy days I used 
my buckskin hunting shirt or tunic ; in dry 
weather I deem it, because of its color, texture, 
and durability, the best possible garb for the 
still-hunter, especially in the woods. 

Starting a day's journey south of Heart 
Lake, we travelled and hunted on the eastern 
edge of the great basin, wooded and moun- 
tainous, wherein rise the head-waters of the 
mighty Snake River. There was not so much 
as a spotted line that series of blazes made 
with the axe, man's first highway through the 
hoary forest, but this we did not mind, as for 
most of the distance we followed the well- 
worn elk-trails. The train travelled in Indian 
file. At the head, to pick the path, rode tall, 
silent old Woody, a true type of the fast- 
vanishing race of game hunters and Indian 
fighters, a man who had been one of the Cali- 
fornia forty-niners, and who ever since had 
lived the restless, reckless life of the wilder- 
ness. Then came Ferguson and myself ; then 



202 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the pack-animals, strung out in line ; while 
from the rear rose the varied oaths of our 
three companions, whose miserable duty it 
was to urge forward the beasts of burden. 

It is heart-breaking work to drive a pack- 
train through thick timber and over mountains, 
where there is either a dim trail or none. 
The animals have a perverse faculty for choos- 
ing the wrong turn at critical moments ; and 
they are continually scraping under branches 
and squeezing between tree-trunks, to the 
jeopardy or destruction of their burdens. 
After having been laboriously driven up a 
very steep incline, at the cost of severe exer- 
tion both to them and to the men, the foolish 
creatures turn and run down to the bottom, so 
that all the work has to be done over again. 
Some travel too slow ; others travel too fast. 
Yet one cannot but admire the toughness of 
the animals, and the surefootedness with 
which they pick their way along the sheer 
mountain sides, or among boulders and over 
fallen logs. 

As our way was so rough, we found that we 
had to halt at least once every hour to fix the 
packs. Moreover, we at the head of the 
column were continually being appealed to 
for help by the unfortunates in the rear. 
First it would be " that wllite-eyed cayuse ; 
one side of its pack 's down ! " then we would 
be notified that the saddle-blanket of the 
" lop-eared Indian buckskin " had slipped 
back ; then a shout " Look out for the pinto ! " 
would be followed by that pleasing beast's 
appearance, bucking and squealing, smashing 
dead timber, and scattering its load to the 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 203 

four winds. It was no easy task to get the 
horses across some of the boggy places with- 
out miring ; or to force them through the 
denser portions of the forest, where there was 
much down timber. Riding with a pack- 
train, day in and day out, becomes both mo- 
notonous and irritating, unless one is upheld 
by the hope of a game-country ahead, or by 
the delight of exploration of the unknown. 
Yet when buoyed by such a hope, there is 
pleasure in taking a train across so beautiful 
and wild a country as that which lay on the 
threshold of our hunting grounds in the Sho- 
shones. We went over mountain passes, with 
ranges of scalped peaks on either hand ; we 
skirted the edges of lovely lakes, and of 
streams with boulder-strewn beds ; we plunged 
into depths of sombre woodland, broken by 
wet prairies. It was a picturesque sight to 
see the loaded pack-train stringing across one 
of these high mountain meadows, the motley 
colored line of ponies winding round the 
marshy spots through the bright green grass, 
while beyond rose the dark line of frowning 
forest, with lofty peaks towering in the back- 
ground. Some of the meadows were beau- 
tiful with many flowers goldenrod, purple 
aster, bluebells, white immortelles, and here 
and there masses of blood-red Indian pinks. 
In the park-country, on the edges of the ever- 
green forest, were groves of delicate quaking- 
aspen, the trees often growing to quite a 
height ; their tremulous leaves were already 
changing to bright green and yellow, occa- 
sionally with a reddish blush. In the Rocky 
Mountains the aspens are almost the only 



204 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

deciduous trees, their foliage offering a pleas- 
ant relief to the eye after the monotony of 
the unending pine and spruce woods, which 
afford so striking a contrast to the hardwood 
forest east of the Mississippi. 

For two days our journey was uneventful, 
save that we came on the camp of a squaw- 
man one Beaver Dick, an old mountain 
hunter, living in a skin tetee, where dwelt his 
comely Indian wife and half-breed children. 
He had quite a herd of horses, many of them 
mares and colts ; they had evidently been 
well treated, and came up to us fearlessly. 

The morning of the third day of our journey 
was gray and lowering. Gusts of rain blew in 
my face as I rode at the head of the train. 
It still lacked an hour of noon, as we were 
plodding up a valley beside a rapid brook 
running through narrow willow-flats, the dark 
forest crowding down on either hand from the 
low foot-hills of the mountains. Suddenly 
the call of a bull elk came echoing down 
through the wet woodland en our right, be- 
yond the brook, seemingly less than half a 
mile off ; and was answered by a faint, far-off 
call from a rival on the mountain beyond. 
Instantly halting the train, Woody and I 
slipped off our horses, crossed the brook, and 
started to still-hunt the first bull. 

In this place the forest was composed of 
. the western tamarack ; the large, tall trees 
stood well apart, and there was much down 
timber, but the ground was covered with 
deep wet moss, over which we trod silently. 
The elk was travelling up-wind, but slowly, 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 205 

stopping continually to paw the ground and 
thresh the bushes with his antlers. He was 
very noisy, challenging every minute or two, 
being doubtless much excited by the neigh- 
borhood of his rival on the mountain. We 
followed, Woody leading, guided by the in- 
cessant calling. 

It was very exciting as we crept toward the 
great bull, and the challenge sounded nearer 
and nearer. While we were still at some dis- 
tance the pealing notes were like those of a 
bugle, delivered in two bars, first rising, then 
abruptly falling ; as we drew nearer they 
took on a harsh squealing sound. Each call 
made our veins thrill ; it sounded like the 
cry of some huge beast of prey. At last 
we heard the roar of the challenge not 
eighty yards off. Stealing forward three or 
four yards, I saw the tips of the horns 
through a mass of dead timber and young 
growth, and I slipped to one side to get a 
clean shot. Seeing us but not making out 
what we were, and full of fierce and insolent 
excitement, the wapiti bull stepped boldly to- 
ward us with a stately swinging gait. Then 
he stood motionless, facing us, barely fifty 
yards away, his handsome twelve-tined ant- 
lers tossed aloft, as he held his head with the 
lordly grace of his kind. I fired into his 
chest, and as he turned I raced forward and 
shot him in the flank ; but the second bullet 
was not needed, for the first wound was 
mortal, and he fell before going fifty yards. 

The dead elk lay among the young ever- 
greens. The huge, shapely body was set on 



206 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

legs that were as strong as steel rods, and 
yet slender, clean, and smooth ; they were in 
color a beautiful dark brown, contrasting well 
with the yellowish of the body. The neck 
and throat were garnished with a mane of 
long hair ; the symmetry of the great horns 
set off the fine, delicate lines of the noble 
head. He had been wallowing, as elk are 
fond of doing, and the dried mud clung in 
patches to his flank; a stab in the haunch 
showed that he had been overcome in battle 
by some master bull who had turned him out 
of the herd. 

We cut off the head, and bore it down to the 
train. The horses crowded together, snort- 
ing, with their ears pricked forward, as they 
smelt the blood. We also took the loins with 
us, as we were out of meat, though bull elk 
in the rutting season is not very good. The 
rain had changed to a steady downpour when 
we again got under way. Two or three miles 
farther we pitched camp, in a clump of pines 
on a hillock in the bottom of the valley, start- 
ing hot fires of pitchy stumps before the tents, 
to dry our wet things. 

Next day opened with fog and cold rain. 
The drenched pack-animals, when driven into 
camp, stood mopingly, with drooping heads 
and arched backs ; they groaned and grunted 
as the loads were placed on their backs and 
the cinches tightened, the packers bracing one 
foot against the pack to get a purchase as 
they hauled in on the lash-rope. A stormy 
morning is a trial to temper ; the packs are 
wet and heavy, and the cold makes the work 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN-PASS. 207 

even more than usually hard on the hands. 
By ten we broke camp. It needs between 
two and three hours to break camp and get 
such a train properly packed ; once started, 
our day's journey was six to eight hours, 
making no halt. We started up a steep, 
pine-clad mountain side, broken by cliffs. 
My hunting-shoes, though comfortable, were 
old and thin, and let the water through like a 
sieve. On the top of the first plateau, where 
black spruce groves were strewn across the 
grassy surface, we saw a band of elk, cows 
and calves, trotting off through the rain. 
Then we plunged down into a deep valley, 
and, crossing it, a hard climb took us to the 
top of a great bare table-land, bleak and 
wind-swept. We passed little alpine lakes, 
fringed with scattering dwarf evergreens. 
Snow lay in drifts on the north sides of the 
gullies ; a cutting wind blew the icy rain in 
our faces. For two or three hours we trav- 
elled toward the farther edge of the table- 
land. In one place a spike bull elk stood 
half a mile off, in the open ; he travelled to 
and fro, watching us. 

As we neared the edge the storm lulled, 
and pale, watery sunshine gleamed through 
the rifts in the low-scudding clouds. At last 
our horses stood on the brink of a bold cliff. 
Deep down beneath our feet lay the wild and 
lonely valley of Two-Ocean Pass, walled in 
on either hand by rugged mountain chains, 
their flanks scarred and gashed by precipice 
and chasm. Beyond, in a wilderness of 
jagged and barren peaks, stretched the Sho- 
shones. At the middle point of the pass, 



2o3 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

two streams welled down from either side. 
At first each flowed in but one bed, but soon 
divided into two ; each of the twin branches 
then joined the like branch of the brook op- 
posite, and swept one to the east and one to 
the west, on their long journey to the two 
great oceans. They ran as rapid brooks, 
through wet meadows and willow-flats, the 
eastern to the Yellowstone, the western to 
the Snake. The dark pine forests swept 
down from the flanks and lower ridges of the 
mountains to the edges of the marshy valley. 
Above them jutted gray rock peaks, snow- 
drifts lying in the rents that seamed their 
northern faces. Far below us, from a great 
basin at the foot of the cliff, filled with the 
pine forest, rose the musical challenge of a 
bull elk ; and we saw a band of cows and 
calves looking like mice as they ran among 
the trees. 

It was getting late, and after some search 
we failed to find any trail leading down ; so 
at last we plunged over the brink at a vent- 
ure. It was very rough scrambling, dropping 
from bench to bench, and in places it was not 
only difficult but dangerous for the loaded 
pack-animals. Here and there we were 
helped by well-beaten elk-trails, which we 
could follow for several hundred yards at a 
time. On one narrow pine-clad ledge, we 
met a spike bull face to face ; and in scram- 
bling down a very steep, bare, rock-strewn 
shoulder the loose stones started by the 
horses' hoofs, bounding in great leaps to the 
forest below, dislodged two cows. 

As evening fell, we reached the bottom, and 



AN ELK-P1UNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 



209 



pitched camp in a beautiful point of open pine 
forest, thrust out into the meadow. There 
was good shelter, and plenty of wood, water, 
and grass ; we built a huge fire and put up 
our tents, scattering them in likely places 
among the pines, which grew far apart and 
without undergrowth. We dried our steaming 
clothes, and ate a hearty supper of elk-meat ; 
then we turned into our beds, warm and dry, 
and slept soundly under the canvas, while all 
night long the storm roared without. Next 
morning it still stormed fitfully ; the high 
peaks and ridges round about were all capped 
with snow. Woody and I started on foot for 
an all-day tramp ; the amount of game seen 
the day before showed that we were in a good 
elk-country, where the elk had been so little 
disturbed that they were travelling, feeding, 
and whistling in daylight. For three hours 
we walked across the forest-clad spurs of the 
foot-hills. We roused a small band of elk in 
thick timber ; but they rushed off before we 
saw them, with much smashing of dead 
branches. Then we climbed to the summit of 
the range. The wind was light and baffling ; 
it blew from all points, veering every few min- 
utes. There were occasional rain-squalls ; 
our feet and legs were well soaked ; and we 
became chilled through whenever we sat down 
to listen. We caught a glimpse of a big bull 
feeding up-hill, and followed him ; it needed 
smart running to overtake him, for an elk, 
even while feeding, has a ground-covering 
gait. Finally we got within a hundred and 
twenty-five yards, but in very thick timber, 
and all I could see plainly was the hip and the 
14 



210 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

after-part of the flank. I waited for a chance 
at the shoulder, but the bull got my wind and 
was off before I could pull trigger. It was just 
one of those occasions when there are two 
courses to pursue, neither very good, and 
when one is apt to regret whichever decision 
is made. 

At noon we came to the edge of a deep and 
wide gorge, and sat down shivering to await 
what might turn up, our fingers numb, and 
our wet feet icy. Suddenly the love-challenge 
of an elk came pealing across the gorge, 
through the fine, cold rain, from the heart of 
the forest opposite. An hour's stiff climb, 
down and up, brought us nearly to him ; but 
the wind forced us to advance from below 
through a series of open glades. He was 
lying on a point of the cliff-shoulder, sur- 
rounded by his cows ; and he saw us and made 
off. An hour afterward, as we were trudging 
up a steep hill-side dotted with groves of fir 
and spruce, a young bull of ten points, roused 
from his day-bed by our approach, galloped 
across us some sixty yards off. We were in 
need of better venison than can be furnished 
by an old rutting bull ; so I instantly took a 
shot at the fat and tender young ten-pointer. 
I aimed well ahead and pulled trigger just as 
he came to a small gully ; and he fell into it 
in a heap with a resounding crash. This was 
on the birthday of my eldest small son ; so I 
took him home the horns, "for his very own. " 
On the way back that afternoon I shot off the 
heads of two blue grouse, as they perched in 
the pines. 

That evening the storm broke, and the 



AN ELK-HUNT A T TWO-OCEAN PASS. 2 1 1 

weather became clear and very cold, so that 
the snow made the frosty mountains gleam 
like silver. The moon was full, and in the 
flood of light the wild scenery round our camp 
was very beautiful. As always where we 
camped for several days, we had fixed long 
tables and settles, and were most comfortable ; 
and when we came in at nightfall, or some- 
times long afterward, cold, tired, and hungry, 
it was sheer physical delight to get warm 
before the roaring fire of pitchy stumps, and 
then to feast ravenously on bread and beans, 
on stewed or roasted elk venison, on grouse 
and sometimes trout, and flapjacks with maple 
syrup. 

Next morning dawned clear and cold, the 
sky a glorious blue. Woody and I started to 
hunt over the great table-land, and led our 
stout horses up the mountain-side, by elk- 
trails so bad that they had to climb like goats. 
All these elk-trails have one striking peculi- 
arity. They lead through thick timber, but 
every now and then send off short, well-worn 
branches to some cliff-edge or jutting crag, 
commanding a view far and wide over the 
country beneath. Elk love to stand on these 
lookout points, and scan the valleys and mount- 
ains round about. 

Blue grouse rose from beside our path; 
Clarke's crows flew, past us, with a hollow, 
flapping sound, or lit in the pine-tops, calling 
and flirting their tails ; the gray-clad whisky- 
jacks, with multitudinous cries, hopped and 
fluttered near us. Snow-shoe rabbits scuttled 
away, the big furry feet which give them their 
name already turning white. At last we came 



212 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

out on the great plateau, seamed with deep, 
narrow ravines. Reaches of pasture alternated 
with groves and open forests of varying size. 
Almost immediately we heard the bugle of a 
bull elk, and saw a big band of cows and 
calves on the other side of a valley. There 
were three bulls with them, one very large,, 
and we tried to creep up on them ; but the 
wind was baffling and spoiled our stalk. So 
we returned to our horses, mounted them, and 
rode a mile farther, toward a large open wood 
on a hill-side. When within two hundred 
yards we heard directly ahead the bugle of a 
bull, and pulled up short. In a moment I 
saw him walking through an open glade ; he 
had not seen us. The slight breeze brought 
us down his scent. Elk have a strong char- 
acteristic smell ; it is usually sweet, like that 
of a herd of Alderney cows ; but in old bulls, 
while rutting, it is rank, pungent, and lasting. 
We stood motionless till the bull was out of 
sight, then stole to the wood, tied our horses, 
and trotted after him. He was travelling fast, 
occasionally calling; whereupon others in the 
neighborhood would answer. Evidently he 
had been driven out of some herd by the 
master bull. 

He went faster than we did, and while we 
were vainly trying to overtake him we heard 
another very loud and sonorous challenge to 
our left. It came from a ridge-crest at the 
edge of the woods, among some scattered 
clumps of the northern nut-pine or pinyon a 
queer conifer, growing very high on the mount- 
ains, its multiforked trunk and wide-spread- 
ing branches giving it the rounded top, and, 



AN ELK-HUN'I AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 213 

at a distance, the general look of an oak 
rather than a pine. We at once walked 
toward the ridge, up-wind. In a minute or 
two, to our chagrin, we stumbled on an out- 
lying spike bull, evidently kept on the out- 
skirts of the herd by the master bull. I 
thought he would alarm all the rest ; but, as 
we stood motionless, he could not see clearly 
what we were. He stood, ran, stood again, 
gazed at us, and trotted slowly off. We hur- 
ried forward as fast as we clared, and with too 
little care ; for we suddenly came in view of 
two cows. As they raised their heads to 
look, Woody squatted down where he was, to 
keep their attention fixed, while I cautiously 
tried to slip off to one side unobserved. Fa- 
vored by the neutral tint of my buckskin hunt- 
ing-shirt, with which my shoes, leggins, and 
soft hat matched, I succeeded. As soon as I 
was out of sight I ran hard and came up to a 
hillock crested with pinyons, behind which I 
judged I should find the herd. As I ap- 
proached the crest, their strong, sweet smell 
smote my nostrils. In another moment I saw 
the tips of a pair of mighty antlers, and I 
peered over the crest with my rifle at the 
ready. Thirty yards off, behind a clump of 
pinyons, stood a huge bull, his head thrown 
back as he rubbed his shoulders with his 
horns. There were several cows around him, 
and one saw me immediately, and took alarm. 
I fired into the bull's shoulder, inflicting a 
mortal wound ; but he went off, and I raced 
after him at top speed, firing twice into his 
flank ; then he stopped, very sick, and I broke 
his neck with a fourth bullet. An elk often 



214 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

hesitates in the first moments of surprise and 
fright, and does not get really under way for 
two or three hundred yards ; but, when once 
fairly started, he may go several miles, even 
though mortally wounded ; therefore, the 
hunter, after his first shot, should run forward 
as fast as he can, and shoot again and again 
until the quarry drops. In this way many 
animals that would otherwise be lost are 
obtained, especially by the man who has a 
repeating-rifle. Nevertheless the hunter 
should beware of being led astray by the ease 
with which he can fire half a dozen shots from 
his repeater ; and he should aim as carefully 
with each shot as if it were his last. No pos- 
sible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual 
carelessness of aim with the first shot. 

The elk I thus slew was a giant. His body 
was the size of a steer's, and his antlers, 
though not unusually long, were very massive 
and heavy. He lay in a glade, on the edge 
of a great cliff. Standing on its brink we 
overlooked a most beautiful country, the 
home of all homes for the elk : a wilderness 
of mountains, the immense evergreen forest 
broken by park and glade, by meadow and 
pasture, by bare hill-side and barren table- 
land. Some five miles off lay the sheet of 
water known to the old hunters as Spotted 
Lake ; two or three shallow, sedgy places, 
and spots of geyser formation, made pale 
green blotches on its wind-rippled surface. 
Far to the southwest, in daring beauty and 
majesty, the grand domes and lofty spires of 
the Tetons shot into the blue sky. Too sheer 
for the snow to rest on their sides, it yet filled 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 215 

the rents in their rough flanks, and lay deep 
between the towering pinnacles of dark rock. 

That night, as on more than one night 
afterward, a bull elk came down whistling to 
within two or three hundred yards of the tents, 
and tried to join the horse herd. The moon 
had set, so I could not go after it. Elk are 
very restless and active throughout the night 
in the rutting season ; but where undisturbed 
they feed freely in the daytime, resting for 
two or three hours about noon. 

Next day, which was rainy, we spent in 
getting in the antlers and meat of the two 
dead elk ; and I shot off the heads of two or 
three blue grouse on the way home. The 
following day I killed another bull elk, follow- 
ing him by the strong, not unpleasing, smell, 
and hitting him twice as he ran, at about 
eighty yards. So far I had had good luck, 
killing everything I had shot at ; but now the 
luck changed, through no fault of mine, as 
far as I could see, and Ferguson had his inn- 
ings. The day after I killed this bull he shot 
two fine mountain rams ; and during the re- 
mainder of our hunt he killed five elk, one 
cow, for meat, and four good bulls. The two 
rams were with three others, all old and with 
fine horns ; Ferguson peeped over a lofty 
precipice and saw them coming up it only 
fifty yards below him. His two first and 
finest bulls were obtained by hard running 
and good shooting ; the herds were on the 
move at the time, and only his speed of foot 
and soundness of wind enabled him to get 
near enough for a shot. One herd started 
before he got close, and he killed the master 



216 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER, 

bull by a shot right through the heart, as it 
trotted past, a hundred and fifty yards distant. 
As for me, during the next ten days I killed 
nothing save one cow for meat ; and this 
though I hunted hard every clay from morn- 
ing till night, no matter what the weather. It 
was stormy, with hail and snow almost every 
day; and after working hard from dawn until 
nightfall, laboriously climbing the slippery 
mountain-sides, walking through the wet 
woods, and struggling across the bare plateaus 
and cliff-shoulders, while the violent blasts 
of wind drove the frozen rain in our faces, 
we would come in after dusk wet through and 
chilled to the marrow. Even when it rained in 
the valleys it snowed on the mountain-tops, 
and there was no use trying to keep our feet 
dry. I got three shots at bull elk, two being 
very hurried snap-shots at animals running in 
thick timber, the other a running-shot in the 
open, at over two hundred yards ; and I missed 
all three. On most days I saw no bull worth 
shooting ; the two or three I did see or hear 
we failed to stalk, the light, shifty wind baf- 
fling us, or else an outlying cow which we had 
not seen giving the alarm. There were many 
blue and a few ruffed grouse in the woods, 
and I occasionally shot off the heads of a 
couple on my way homeward in the evening. 
In racing after one elk, I leaped across a gully 
and so bruised and twisted my heel on a rock 
that, for the remainder of my stay in the 
mountains, I had to walk on the fore part of 
that foot. This did not interfere much with 
my walking, however, except in going down- 
hill. 



AN ELK-HUNT A T TWO-OCEAN PASS. 217 

Our ill success was in part due to sheer bad 
luck; but the chief element therein was the 
presence of a great hunting-party of Shoshone 
Indians. Split into bands of eight or ten each, 
they scoured the whole country on their tough, 
sure-footed ponies. They always hunted on 
horseback, and followed the elk at full speed 
wherever they went. Their method of hunting 
was to organize great drives, the riders strung 
in lines far apart ; they signalled to one 
another by means of willow whistles, with 
which they also imitated the calling of the 
bull elk, thus tolling the animals to them, or 
making them betray their whereabouts. As 
they slew whatever they could, but by pref- 
erence cows and calves, and as they were 
very persevering, but also very excitable and 
generally poor shots, so that they wasted 
much powder, they not only wrought havoc 
among the elk, but also scared the survivors 
out of all the country over which they 
hunted. 

Day in and day out we plodded on. In a 
hunting trip the days of long monotony in 
getting to the ground, and the days of unre- 
quited toil after it has been reached, always 
far outnumber the red-letter days of success. 
But it is just these times of failure that really 
test the hunter. In the long run, common- 
sense and dogged perseverance avail him 
more than any other qualities. The man 
who does not give up, but hunts steadily and 
resolutely through the spells of bad luck until 
the luck turns, is the man who wins success 
in the end. 

After a week at Two-Ocean Pass, we 



2l8 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

gathered our pack-animals one frosty morning, 
and again set off across the mountains. A 
two-days' jaunt took us to the summit of 
Wolverine Pass, near Pinyon Peak, beside a 
little mountain tarn ; each morning we found 
its surface skimmed with black ice, for the 
nights were cold. After three or four days, we 
shifted camp to the mouth of Wolverine Creek, 
to get off the hunting grounds of the Indians. 
We had used up our last elk-meat that morn- 
ing, and when we were within a couple of 
hours' journey of our intended halting-place, 
Woody and I struck off on foot for a hunt. 
Just before sunset we came on three or four 
elk ; a spike bull stood for a moment behind 
some thick evergreens a hundred yards off. 
Guessing at his shoulder, I fired, and he fell 
dead after running a few rods. I had broken 
the luck, after ten days of ill success. 

Next morning Woody and I, with the 
packer, rode to where this elk lay. We loaded 
the meat on a pack-horse, and let the packer 
take both the loaded animal and our own sad- 
dle-horses back to camp, while we made a 
hunt on foot. We went up the steep, forest- 
clad mountain-side, and before we had walked 
an hour heard two elk whistling ahead of us. 
The woods were open, and quite free from 
undergrowth, and we were able to advance 
noiselessly ; there was no wind, for the 
weather was still, clear, and cold. Both of 
the elk were evidently very much excited, an- 
swering each other continually ; they had 
probably been master bulls, but had become 
so exhausted that their rivals had driven them 
from the herds, forcing them to remain in se- 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 219 

elusion until they regained their lost strength. 
As we crept stealthily forward, the calling 
grew louder and louder, until we could hear 
the grunting sounds with which the challenge 
of the nearest ended. He was in a large 
wallow, which was also a lick. When we 
were still sixty yards off, he heard us, and 
rushed out, but wheeled and stood a moment 
to gaze, puzzled by my buckskin suit. I fired 
into his throat, breaking his neck, and down 
he went in a heap. Rushing in and turning, 
I called to Woody, " He's a twelve-pointer, 
but the horns are small ! " As I spoke I 
heard the roar of the challenge of the other 
bull not two hundred yards ahead, as if in 
defiant answer to my shot. 

Running quietly forward, I speedily caught 
a glimpse of his body. He was behind some 
fir-trees about seventy yards off, and I could 
not see which way he was standing, and so 
fired into the patch of flank which was visible, 
aiming high, to break the back. My aim was 
true, and the huge beast crashed down-hill 
through the evergreens, pulling himself on his 
fore legs for fifteen or twenty rods, his hind 
quarters trailing. Racing forward, I broke 
his neck. His antlers were the finest I ever 
got. A couple of whisky-jacks appeared at 
the first crack of the rifle with their customary 
astonishing familiarity and heedlessness of 
the hunter ; they followed the wounded bull 
as he dragged his great carcass down the hill, 
and pounced with ghoulish bloodthirstiness on 
the gouts of blood that were sprinkled over 
the green herbage. 

These two bulls lay only a couple of hun- 



220 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

dred yards apart, on a broad game-trail, which 
was as well beaten as a good bridle-path. 
We began to skin out the heads ; and as we 
were finishing we heard another bull challeng- 
ing far up the mountain. He came nearer 
and nearer, and as soon as we had ended our 
work we grasped our rifles and trotted toward 
him along the game-trail. He was very noisy, 
uttering his loud, singing challenge every 
minute or two. The trail was so broad and 
firm that we walked in perfect silence. After 
going only five or six hundred yards, we got 
very close indeed, and stole forward on tip- 
toe, listening to the roaring music. The 
sound came from a steep, narrow ravine, to 
one side of the trail, and I walked toward it 
with my rifle at the ready. A slight puff gave 
the elk my wind, and he dashed out of the 
ravine like a deer ; but he was only thirty 
yards off, and my bullet went into his shoulder 
as he passed behind a clump of young spruce. 
I plunged into the ravine, scrambled out of 
it, and raced after him. In a minute I saw 
him standing with drooping head, and two 
more shots finished him. He also bore fine 
antlers. It was a great piece of luck to get 
three such fine bulls at the cost of half a day's 
light work ; but we had fairly earned them, 
having worked hard for ten days, through 
rain, cold, hunger, and fatig'ue, to no purpose. 
That evening my home-coming to camp, with 
three elk-tongues and a brace of ruffed grouse 
hung at my belt, was most happy. 

Next day it snowed, but we brought a pack- 
pony to where the three great bulls lay, and 
took their heads to camp ; the flesh was far too 



AN ELK-HUNT A T TWO-OCEAN PASS. 221 

strong to be worth taking, for it was just the 
height of the rut. 

This was the end of my hunt ; and a day 
later Hofer and I, with two pack-ponies, made 
a rapid push for the Upper Geyser Basin. 
We travelled fast. The first day was gray 
and overcast, a cold wind blowing strong in 
our faces. Toward evening we came on a 
bull elk in a willow thicket ; he was on his 
knees in a hollow, thrashing and beating the 
willows with his antlers. At dusk we halted 
and went into camp, by some small pools on the 
summit of the pass north of Red Mountain. 
The elk were calling all around us. We 
pitched our cozy tent, dragged great stumps 
for the fire, cut evergreen boughs for our 
beds, watered the horses, tethered them to 
improvised picket-pins in a grassy glade, and 
then set about getting supper ready. The 
wind had gone down, and snow was falling 
thick in large, soft flakes ; we were evidently 
at the beginning of a heavy snowstorm. All 
night we slept soundly in our snug tent. 
When we arose at dawn there was a foot and 
a half of snow on the ground, and the flakes 
were falling as fast as ever. There is no 
more tedious work than striking camp in bad 
weather ; and it was over two hours from the 
time we rose to the time we started. It is 
sheer misery to untangle picket-lines and to 
pack animals when the ropes are frozen ; and 
by the time we had loaded the two shivering, 
wincing pack-ponies, and had bridled and 
saddled our own riding-animals, our hands 
and feet were numb and stiff with cold, though 
we were really hampered by our warm cloth- 



222 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

ing. My horse was a wild, nervous roan, and 
as I swung carelessly into the saddle, he sud- 
denly began to buck before I got my right leg 
over, and threw me off. My thumb was put 
out of joint. I pulled it in again, and speed- 
ily caught my horse in the dead timber. Then 
I treated him as what the cowboys call a 
" mean horse," and mounted him carefully, so 
as not to let him either buck or go over back- 
ward. However, his preliminary success had 
inspirited him, and a dozen times that day he 
began to buck, usually choosing a down grade, 
where the snow was deep, and there was much 
fallen timber. 

All day long we pushed steadily through 
the cold, blinding snowstorm. Neither squir- 
rels nor rabbits were abroad ; and a few 
Clarke's crows, whisky-jacks, and chickadees 
were the only living things we saw. At night- 
fall, chilled through, we reached the Upper 
Geyser Basin. Here I met a party of railroad 
surveyors and engineers, coming in from their 
summer's field-work. One of them lent me a 
saddle-horse and a pack-pony, and we went 
on together, breaking our way through the 
snow-choked roads to the Mammoth Hot 
Springs, while Hofer took my own horses back 
to Ferguson. 

I have described this hunt at length be- 
cause, though I enjoyed it particularly on ac- 
count of the comfort in which we travelled and 
the beauty of the land, yet, in point of success 
in finding and killing game, in value of tro- 
phies procured, and in its alternations of good 
and bad luck, it may fairly stand as the type 
of a dozen such hunts I have made. Twice I 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 223 

have been much more successful; the differ- 
ence being due to sheer luck, as I hunted 
equally hard in all three instances. Thus on 
this trip I killed and saw nothing but elk; 
yet the other members of the party either saw, 
or saw fresh signs of, not only blacktail deer, 
but sheep, bear, bison, moose, cougar, and 
wolf. Now in 1889 I hunted over almost 
precisely similar country, only farther to the 
northwest, on the boundary between Idaho 
and Montana, and, with the exception of sheep, 
I stumbled on all the animals mentioned, and 
white goat in addition, so that my bag of 
twelve head actually included eight species 
much the best bag I ever made, and the only 
one that could really be called out of the 
common. In 1884, on a trip to the Bighorn 
Mountains, I killed three bear, six elk and six 
deer. In laying in the winter stock of meat 
for my ranch I often far excelled these figures 
as far as mere numbers went ; but on no 
other regular hunting trip, where the quality 
and not the quantity of the game was the 
prime consideration, have I ever equalled 
them ; and on several where I worked hardest 
I hardly averaged a head a week. The occa- 
sional days or weeks of phenomenal luck, are 
more than earned by the many others where 
no luck whatever follows the very hardest 
work. Yet, if a man hunts with steady resolu- 
tion he is apt to strike enough lucky days 
amply to repay him. 

On this Shoshone trip I fired fifty-eight shots. 
In preference to using the knife I generally 
break the neck of an elk which is still strug- 
gling ; and I fire at one as long as it can stand, 



224 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

preferring to waste a few extra bullets, rather 
than see an occasional head of game escape. 
In consequence of these two traits the nine elk 
I got (two running at sixty and eighty yards, 
the others standing, at from thirty to a hundred) 
cost me twenty-three bullets ; and I missed, 
three shots all three, it is but fair to say, 
difficult ones. I also cut off the heads of 
seventeen grouse, with twenty-two shots ; and 
killed two ducks with ten shots fifty-eight in 
all. On the Bighorn trip I used a hundred 
and two cartridges. On no other trip did I use 
fifty. 

To me still-hunting elk in the mountains, 
when they are calling, is one of the most 
attractive of sports, not only because of the 
size and stately beauty of the quarry and the 
grand nature of the trophy, but because of the 
magnificence of the scenery, and the stirring, 
manly, exciting the nature of the chase itself. 
It yields more vigorous enjoyment than does 
lurking stealthily through the grand but gloomy 
monotony of the marshy woodland where 
dwells the moose. The climbing among the 
steep forest-clad and glade-strewn mountains 
is just difficult enough thoroughly to test sound- 
ness in wind and limb, while without the 
heart-breaking fatigue of white-goat hunting. 
The actual grapple with an angry grisly is of 
course far more full of strong, eager pleasure ; 
but bear hunting is the most uncertain, and 
usually the least productive, of sports. 

As regards strenuous, vigorous work, and 
pleasurable excitement the chase of the big- 
horn alone stands higher. But the bighorn, 
grand beast of the chase though he be, is sur- 



AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS. 225 

passed in size, both of body and of horns, by 
certain of the giant sheep of Central Asia; 
whereas the wapiti is not only the most stately 
and beautiful of American game far more so 
than the bison and moose, his only rivals in 
size but is also the noblest of the stag kind 
throughout the world. Whoever kills him has 
killed the chief of his race ; for he stands far 
above his brethren of Asia and Europe. 
15 



226 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE MOOSE ; THE BEAST OF THE WOODLAND. 

THE moose is the giant of all deer ; and 
many hunters esteem it the noblest of 
American game. Beyond question there are 
few trophies more prized than the huge shovel 
horns of this strange dweller in the cold north- 
land forests. 

I shot my first moose after making several 
fruitless hunting trips with this special game 
in view. The season I finally succeeded it 
was only after having hunted two or three 
weeks in vain, among the Bitter Root Moun- 
tains, and the ranges lying southeast of them. 

I began about the first of September by 
making a trial with my old hunting friend 
Willis. We speedily found a country where 
there were -moose, but of the animals them- 
selves we never caught a glimpse. We tried 
to kill them by hunting in the same manner 
that we hunted elk ; that is, by choosing a 
place where there was sign, and going care- 
fully through it against or across the wind. 
However, this plan failed ; though at that 
very time we succeeded in killing elk in this 
way, devoting one or two days to their pursuit. 
There were both elk and moose in the coun- 
try, but they were usually found in different 
kinds of ground, though often close alongside 



THE MOOSE. 227 

one another. The former went in herds, the 
cows, calves, and yearlings by themselves, and 
they roamed through the higher and more 
open forests, well up towards timber line. 
The moose, on the contrary, were found singly 
or in small parties composed at the outside 
of a bull, a cow, and her young of two years ; 
for the moose is practically monogamous, in 
strong contrast to the highly polygamous 
wapiti and caribou. 

The moose did not seem to care much 
whether they lived among the summits of the 
mountains or not, so long as they got the right 
kind of country ; for they were much more 
local in their distribution, and at this season 
less given to wandering than their kin with 
round horns. What they wished was a cool, 
swampy region of very dense growth ; in the 
main chains of the northern Rockies even the 
valleys are high enough to be cold. Of 
course many of the moose lived on the wooded 
summits of the lower ranges ; and most of 
them came down lower in winter than in sum- 
mer, following about a fortnight after the elk ; 
but if in a large tract of woods the cover was 
dense and the ground marshy, though it was 
in a valley no higher than the herds of the 
ranchmen grazed, or perchance even in the 
immediate neighborhood of a small frontier 
hamlet, then it might be chosen by some old 
bull who wished to lie in seclusion till his 
horns were grown, or by some cow with a calf 
to raise. Before settlers came to this high 
mountain region of Western Montana, a moose 
would often thus live in an isolated marshy 
tract surrounded by open country. They 



228 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

grazed throughout the summer on marsh 
plants, notably lily stems, and nibbled at the 
tops of the very tall natural hay of the mead- 
ows. The legs of the beast are too long and 
the neck too short to allow it to graze habit- 
ually on short grass ; yet in the early spring 
when greedy for the tender blades of young, 
green marsh grass, the moose will often shuffle 
down on its knees to get at them, and it will 
occasionally perform the same feat to get a 
mouthful or two of snow in winter. 

The moose which lived in isolated, exposed 
localities were speedily killed or driven away 
after the incoming of settlers ; and at the 
time that we hunted we found no sign of them 
until we reached the region of continuous 
forest. Here, in a fortnight's hunting, we 
found as much sign as we wished, and plenty 
of it fresh ; but the animals themselves we 
not only never saw but we never so much as 
heard. Often after hours of careful still- 
hunting or cautious tracking, we found the 
footprints deep in the soft earth, showing 
where our quarry had winded or heard us, 
and had noiselessly slipped away from the 
danger. It is astonishing how quietly a moose 
can steal through the woods if it wishes : and 
it has what is to the hunter a very provoking 
habit of making a half or three quarters circle 
before lying down, and then crouching with 
its head so turned that it can surely perceive 
any pursuer who may follow its trail. We 
tried every method to outwit the beasts. 
We attempted to track them ; we beat through 
likely spots ; sometimes we merely " sat on a 
log " and awaited events, by a drinking hole, 



THE MOOSE. 229 

meadow, mud wallow or other such place (a 
course of procedure which often works well 
in still-hunting) ; but all in vain. 

Our main difficulty lay in the character of 
the woods which the moose haunted. They 
were choked and tangled to the last degree, 
consisting of a mass of thick-growing conifers, 
with dead timber strewn in every direction, 
and young growth filling the spaces between 
the trunks. We could not see twenty yards 
ahead of us, and it was almost impossible to 
walk without making a noise. Elk were oc- 
casionally found in these same places ; but 
usually they frequented more open timber, 
where the hunting was beyond comparison 
easier. Perhaps more experienced hunters 
would have killed their game ; though in such 
cover the best tracker and still-hunter alive 
cannot always reckon on success with really 
wary animals. But, be this as it may, we, at 
any rate, were completely baffled, and I began 
to think that this moose-hunt, like all my 
former ones, was doomed to end in failure. 

However, a few days later I met a crabbed 
old trapper named Hank Griffin, who was 
going after beaver in the mountains, and who 
told me that if I would come with him he 
would show me moose. I jumped at the 
chance, and he proved as good as his word ; 
though for the first two trials my ill luck did 
not change. 

At the time that it finally did change we 
had at last reached a place where the moose 
were on favorable ground. A high, marshy 
valley stretched for several miles between 
two rows of stony mountains, clad with a 



230 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

forest of rather small fir-trees. This valley 
was covered with reeds, alders, and rank 
grass, and studded with little willow-bordered 
ponds and island-like clumps of spruce and 
graceful tamaracks. 

Having surveyed the ground and found 
moose sign the preceding afternoon, we were 
up betimes in the cool morning to begin our 
hunt. Before sunrise we were posted on a 
rocky spur of the foot-hills, behind a mask of 
evergreens ; ourselves unseen we overlooked 
all the valley, and we knew we could see any 
animal which might be either feeding away 
from cover or on its journey homeward from 
its feeding ground to its day-bed. 

As it grew lighter we scanned the valley 
with increasing care and eagerness. The sun 
rose behind us ; and almost as soon as it was 
up we made out some large beast moving 
among the dwarf willows beside a little lake 
half a mile in our front. In a few minutes 
the thing walked out where the bushes were 
thinner, and we saw that it was a young bull 
moose browsing on the willow tops. He had 
evidently nearly finished his breakfast, and he 
stood idly for some moments, now and then 
lazily cropping a mouthful of twig tips. Then 
he walked off with great strides in a straight 
line across the marsh, splashing among the 
wet water-plants, and ploughing through bog- 
gy spaces with the indifference begotten of 
vast strength and legs longer than those of 
any other animal on this continent. At times 
he entered beds of reeds which hid him from 
view, though their surging and bending showed 
the wake of his passage ; at other times he 



THE MOOSE. 231 

walked through meadows of tall grass, the 
withered yellow stalks rising to his flanks, 
while his body loomed above them, glistening 
black and wet in the level sunbeams. Once 
he stopped for a few moments on a rise of 
dry ground, seemingly to enjoy the heat of the 
young sun; he stood motionless, save that his 
ears were continually pricked, and his head 
sometimes slightly turned, showing that even 
in this remote land he was on the alert. Once, 
with a somewhat awkward motion, he reached 
his hind leg forward to scratch his neck. 
Then he walked forward again into the marsh ; 
where the water was quite deep he broke into 
the long, stretching, springy trot, which forms 
the characteristic gait of his kind, churning 
the marsh water into foam. He held his 
head straight forwards, the antlers resting on 
his shoulders. 

After awhile he reached a spruce island, 
through which he walked to and fro ; but 
evidently could find therein no resting-place 
quite to his mind, for he soon left and went 
on to another. Here after a little wandering 
he chose a point where there was some thick 
young growth, which hid him from view when 
he lay down, though not when he stood. 
After some turning he settled himself in his 
bed just as a steer would. 

He could not have chosen a spot better 
suited for us. He was nearly at the edge of 
the morass, the open space between the spruce 
clump where he was lying and the rocky foot- 
hills being comparatively dry and not much 
over a couple of hundred yards broad ; while 
some sixty yards from it, and between it and 



232 THE WILDERNESS HUNETR. 

the hills, was a little hummock, tufted with 
firs, so as to afford us just the cover we needed. 
Keeping back from the edge of the morass 
we were able to walk upright through the for- 
est, until we got the point where he was lying 
in a line with this little hummock. We then 
dropped on our hands and knees, and crept 
over the soft, wet sward, where there was 
nothing to make a noise. Wherever the 
ground rose at all we crawled flat on our 
bellies. The air was still, for it was a very 
calm morning. 

At last we reached the hummock, and I got 
into position for a shot, taking a final look at 
my faithful 45-90 Winchester to see that all 
was in order. Peering cautiously through the 
shielding evergreens, I at first could not make 
out where the moose was lying, until my eye was 
caught by the motion of his big ears, as he 
occasionally flapped them lazily forward. 
Even then I could not see his outline ; but I 
knew where he was, and having pushed my 
rifle forward on the moss, I snapped a dry 
twig to make him rise. My veins were thrill- 
ing and my heart beating with that eager, 
fierce excitement, known only to the hunter 
of big game, and forming one of the keenest 
and strongest of the many pleasures which with 
him go to make up "the wild joy of living." 

As the sound of the snapping twig smote 
his ears the moose rose nimbly to his feet, 
with a lightness on which one would not have 
reckoned in a beast so heavy of body. He 
stood broadside to me for a moment, his un- 
gainly head slightly turned, while his ears 
twitched and his nostrils snuffed the air. 



THE MOOSE. 233 

Drawing a fine bead against his black hide, 
behind his shoulder and two thirds of his 
body's depth below his shaggy withers, I 
pressed the trigger. He neither flinched nor 
reeled, but started with his regular ground- 
covering trot through the spruces ; yet I knew 
he was mine, for the light blood sprang from 
both of his nostrils, and he fell dying on his 
side before he had gone thirty rods. 

Later in the fall I was again hunting among 
the lofty ranges which continue towards the 
southeast the chain of the Bitter Root, be- 
tween Idaho and Montana. There were but 
two of us, and we were travelling very light, 
each having but one pack-pony and the sad- 
dle animal he bestrode. We- were high among 
the mountains, and followed no regular trail. 
Hence our course was often one of extreme 
difficulty. Occasionally, we took our animals 
through the forest near timber line, where the 
slopes were not too steep ; again we threaded 
our way through a line of glades, or skirted the 
foot-hills, in an open, park country ; and now 
and then we had to cross stretches of tangled 
mountain forest, making but a few miles a day, 
at the cost of incredible toil, and accomplish- 
ing even this solely by virtue of the wonder- 
ful docility and sure-footedness of the ponies, 
and of my companion's skill with the axe and 
thorough knowledge of woodcraft. 

Late one cold afternoon we came out in a 
high alpine valley in which there was no sign of 
any man's having ever been before us. Down 
its middle ran a clear brook. On each side 
was a belt of thick spruce forest, covering the 
lower flanks of the mountains. The trees 



234 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

came down in points and isolated clumps to 
the brook, the banks of which were thus bor- 
dered with open glades, rendering the travel- 
ling easy and rapid. 

Soon after starting up this valley we entered 
a beaver meadow of considerable size. It 
was covered with lush, rank grass, and the 
stream wound through it rather sluggishly in 
long curves, which were fringed by a thick 
growth of dwarfed willows. In one or two 
places it broadened into small ponds, bearing 
a few lily-pads. This meadow had been all 
tramped up by moose. Trails led hither and 
thither through the grass, the willow twigs 
were cropped off, and the muddy banks of the 
little black ponds were indented by hoof- 
marks. Evidently most of the lilies had been 
plucked. The footprints were unmistakable ; 
a moose's foot is longer and slimmer than a 
caribou's, while on the other hand it is much 
larger than an elk's, and a longer oval in 
shape. 

Most of the sign was old, this high alpine 
meadow, surrounded by snow mountains, hav- 
ing clearly been a favorite resort for moose 
in the summer ; but some enormous, fresh 
tracks told that one or more old bulls were 
still frequenting the place. 

The light was already fading, and, of course, 
we did not wish to camp where we were, be- 
cause we would then certainly scare the moose. 
Accordingly we pushed up the valley for 
another mile, through an open forest, the 
ground being quite free from underbrush and 
dead timber, and covered with a carpet of 
thick moss, in which the feet sank noise- 



THE MOOSE. 235 

lessly. Then we came to another beaver- 
meadow, which offered fine feed for the ponies. 
On its edge we hastily pitched camp, just at 
dusk. We tossed down the packs in a dry 
grove, close to the brook, and turned the 
tired ponies loose in the meadow, hobbling 
the little mare that carried the bell. The 
ground was smooth. We threw a cross-pole 
from one to the other of two young spruces, 
which happened to stand handily, and from it 
stretched and pegged out a piece of canvas, 
which we were using as a shelter tent. Be- 
neath this we spread our bedding, laying under 
it the canvas sheets in which it had been 
wrapped. There was still bread left over 
from yesterday's baking, and in a few mo- 
ments the kettle was boiling and the frying- 
pan sizzling, while one of us skinned and 
cut into suitable pieces two grouse we had 
knocked over on our march. For fear of 
frightening the moose we built but a small 
fire, and went to bed soon after supper, being 
both tired and cold. Fortunately, what little 
breeze there was blew up the valley. 

At dawn I was awake, and crawled out of 
my buffalo bag, shivering and yawning. My 
companion still slumbered heavily. White 
frost covered whatever had been left outside. 
The cold was sharp, and I hurriedly slipped 
a pair of stout moccasins on my feet, drew on 
my gloves and cap, and started through the 
ghostly woods for the meadow where we had 
seen the moose sign. The tufts of grass were 
stiff with frost ; black ice skimmed the edges 
and quiet places of the little brook. 

I walked slowly, it being difficult not to 



236 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

make a noise by cracking sticks or brushing 
against trees, in the gloom ; but the forest was 
so open that it favored me. When I reached 
the edge of the beaver-meadow it was light 
enough to shoot, though the front sight still 
glimmered indistinctly. Streaks of cold red 
showed that the sun would soon rise. 

Before leaving the shelter of the last spruces 
I halted to listen ; and almost immediately 
heard a curious splashing sound from the 
middle of the meadow, where the brook 
broadened into small willow-bordered pools. 
I knew at once that a moose was in one of 
these pools, wading about and pulling up the 
water-lilies by seizing their slippery stems in 
his lips, plunging his head deep under water 
to do so. The moose love to feed in this 
way in the hot months, when they spend all 
the time they can in the water, feeding or 
lying down; nor do they altogether abandon 
the habit even when the weather is so cold 
that icicles form in their shaggy coats. 

Crouching, I stole noiselessly along the 
edge of the willow-thicket. The stream 
twisted through it from side to side in zigzags, 
so that every few rods I got a glimpse down a 
lane of black water. In a minute I heard a 
slight splashing near me ; and on passing the 
next point of bushes, I saw the shadowy out- 
line of the moose's hindquarters, standing in 
a bend of the water. In a moment he walked 
onwards, disappearing. I ran forward a 
couple of rods, and then turned in among the 
willows, to reach the brook where it again 
bent back towards me. The splashing in the 
water, and the rustling of the moose's body 



THE MOOSE. 237 

against the frozen twigs, drowned the little 
noise made by my moccasined feet. 

I strode out on the bank at the lower end 
of a long narrow pool of water, dark and half 
frozen. In this pool, half way down and fac- 
ing me, but a score of yards off, stood the 
mighty marsh beast, strange and uncouth in 
look as some monster surviving over from the 
Pliocene. His vast bulk loomed black and 
vague in the dim gray dawn ; his huge antlers 
stood out sharply ; columns of steam rose 
from his nostrils. For several seconds he 
fronted me motionless ; then he began to turn, 
slowly, and as if he had a stiff neck. When 
quarter way round I fired into his shoulder ; 
whereat he reared and bounded on the bank 
with great leap, vanishing in the willows. 
Through these I heard him crash like a whirl- 
wind for a dozen rods ; then down he fell, and 
when I reached the spot he had ceased to strug- 
gle. The ball had gone through his heart. 

When a moose is thus surprised at close 
quarters, it will often stand at gaze for a 
moment or two, and then turn stiffly around 
until headed in the right direction ; once thus 
headed aright it starts off with extraordinary 
speed. 

The flesh of the moose is very good ; though 
some deem it coarse. Old hunters, who always 
like rich, greasy food, rank a moose's nose 
with a beaver's tail, as the chief of backwood 
delicacies; personally I never liked either. 
The hide of the moose, like the hide of the 
elk, is of very poor quality, much inferior to 
ordinary buckskin ; caribou hide is the best 



238 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

of all, especially when used as webbing for 
snow-shoes. 

The moose is very fond of frequenting 
swampy woods throughout the summer, and 
indeed late into the fall. These swampy 
woods are not necessarily in the lower valleys, 
some being found very high among the 
mountains. By preference it haunts those 
containing lakes, where it can find the long 
lily-roots of which it is so fond, and where it 
can escape the torment of the mosquitoes and 
deer-flies by lying completely submerged save 
for its nostrils. It is a bold and good swim- 
mer, readily crossing lakes of large size ; but 
it is of course easily slain if discovered by 
canoe-men while in the water. It travels 
well through bogs, but not as well as the 
caribou ; and it will not venture on ice at all 
if it can possibly avoid it. 

After the rut begins the animals roam 
everywhere through the woods ; and where 
there are hardwood forests the winter-yard is 
usually made among them, on high ground, 
away from the swamps. In the mountains 
the deep snows drive the moose, like all 
other game, down to the lower valleys, in 
hard winters. In the summer it occasionally 
climbs to the very summits of the wooded 
ranges, to escape the flies ; and it is said that 
in certain places where wolves are plenty the 
cows retire to the tops of the mountains to 
calve. More often, however, they select 
some patch of very dense cover, in a swamp 
or by a lake, for this purpose. Their ways of 
life of course vary with the nature of the 
country they frequent. In the towering 



THE MOOSE. 239 

chains of the Rockies, clad in sombre and 
unbroken evergreen forests, their habits, in 
regard to winter and summer-homes, and 
choice of v places of seclusion for cows with 
young calves and bulls growing their antlers, 
differ from those of their kind which haunt the 
comparatively low, hilly, lake-studded country 
of Maine and Nova Scotia, where the forests 
are of birch, beech, and maple, mixed with 
the pine, spruce, and hemlock. 

The moose being usually monogamous is 
never found in great herds like the wapiti and 
caribou. Occasionally a troop of fifteen or 
twenty individuals may be seen, but this is 
rare ; more often it is found singly, in pairs, 
or in family parties, composed of a bull, a 
cow, and two or more calves and yearlings. 
In yarding, two or more such families may 
unite to spend the winter together in an un- 
usually attractive locality ; and during the rut 
many bulls are sometimes found together, per- 
haps following the trail of a cow in single file. 

In the fall, winter, and early spring, and in 
certain places during summer, the moose 
feeds principally by browsing, though always 
willing to vary its diet by mosses, lichens, 
fungi, and ferns. In the eastern forests, with 
their abundance of hardwood, the birch, 
maple, and moose-wood form its favorite food. 
In the Rocky Mountains, where the forests 
are almost purely evergreen, it feeds on such 
willows, alders, and aspens as it can find, and 
also, when pressed by necessity, on balsam, 
fir, spruce, and very young pine. It peels 
the bark between its hard palate and sharp 
lower teeth, to a height of seven or eight 



240 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

feet ; these " peelings " form conspicuous 
moose signs. It crops the juicy, budding 
twigs and stem tops to the same height ; and 
if the tree is too tall it " rides " it, that is, 
straddles the slender trunk with its fore legs, 
pushing it over and walking up it until the 
desired branches are within reach. No beast 
is more destructive to the young growth of a 
forest than the moose. Where much perse- 
cuted it feeds in the late evening, early morn- 
ing, and by moonlight. Where rarely dis- 
turbed it passes the day much as cattle do, 
alternately resting and feeding for two or 
three hours at a time. 

Young moose, when caught, are easily 
tamed, and are very playful, delighting to 
gallop to and fro, kicking, striking, butting, 
and occasionally making grotesque faces. As 
they grow old they are apt to become danger- 
ous, and even their play takes the form of a 
mock fight. Some lumbermen I knew on the 
Aroostook, in Maine, once captured a young 
moose, and put it in a pen of logs. A few 
days later they captured another, somewhat 
smaller, and put it in the same pen, thinking 
the first would be grateful at having a com- 
panion. But if it was it dissembled its feel- 
ings, for it promptly fell on the unfortunate 
new-comer and killed it before it could be 
rescued. 

During the rut the bulls r,ee r . the cows far 
and wide, uttering continually throughout the 
night a short, loud roar, which can be heard at 
a distance of four or five miles ; the cows now 
and then respond with low, plaintive bellows. 
The bulls also thrash the tree trunks with 



THE MOOSE. 241 

their horns, and paw big holes in soft ground ; 
and when two rivals come together at this 
season they fight with the most desperate fury. 
It is chiefly in these battles with one another 
that the huge antlers are used ; in contending 
with other foes they strike terrible blows with 
their fore hoofs and also sometimes lash out 
behind like a horse. The bear occasionally 
makes a prey of the moose ; the cougar is a 
more dangerous enemy in the few districts 
where both animals are found at all plentifully ; 
but next to man its most dreaded foe is the 
big timber wolf, that veritable scourge of all 
animals of the deer kind. Against all of 
these the moose defends itself valiantly ; a 
cow with a calf and a rutting bull being es- 
pecially dangerous opponents. In deep snows 
through which the great deer flounders while 
its adversary runs lightly on the crust, a single 
wolf may overcome and slaughter a big bull 
moose ; but with a fair chance no one or two 
wolves would be a match for it. Desperate 
combats take place before a small pack of 
wolves can master the shovel-horned quarry, 
unless it is taken at a hopeless disadvantage ; 
and in these battles the prowess of the moose 
is shown by the fact that it is no unusual thing 
for it to kill one or more of the ravenous 
throng; generally by a terrific blow of the 
foreleg, smashing a wolf's skull or breaking 
its back. I have known of several instances 
of wolves being found dead, having perished 
in this manner. Still the battle usually ends 
the other way, the wolves being careful to 
make the attack with the odds in their favor ; 
and even a small pack of the ferocious brutes 
16 



242 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

will in a single winter often drive the moose 
completely out of a given district. Both 
cougar and bear generally reckon on taking 
the moose unawares, when they jump on it. 
In one case that came to my knowledge a 
black bear was killed by a cow moose whose 
calf he had attacked. 

In the northeast a favorite method of hunt- 
ing the moose is by " calling" the bulls in the 
rutting season, at dawn or nightfall ; the 
caller imitating their cries through a birch- 
bark trumpet. If the animals are at all wary, 
this kind of sport can only be carried on in 
still weather, as the approaching bull always 
tries to get the wind of the caller. It is also 
sometimes slain by fire-hunting, from a canoe, 
as the deer are killed in the Adirondacks. 
This, however, is but an ignoble sport ; and 
to kill the animal while it is swimming in a 
lake is worse. However, there is sometimes 
a spice of excitement even in these unworthy 
methods of the chase ; for a truculent moose 
will do its best, with hoofs and horns, to up- 
set the boat. 

The true way to kill the noble beast, how- 
ever, is by fair still-hunting. There is no 
grander sport than still-hunting the moose, 
whether in the vast pine and birch forests of 
the northeast, or among the stupendous moun- 
tain masses of the Rockies. The moose has 
wonderfully keen nose and ears, though its 
eyesight is not remarkable. Most hunters 
assert that he is the wariest of all game, and 
the most difficult to kill. I have never been 
quite satisfied that this was so ; it seems to 
me that the nature of the ground wherein it 



THE MOOSE. 243 

dwells helps it even more than do its own 
sharp senses. It is true that I made many 
trips in vain before killing my first moose ; 
but then I had to hunt through tangled timber, 
where I could hardly move a step without 
noise, and could never see thirty yards ahead. 
If moose were found in open park-like forests 
like those where I first killed elk, on the 
Bighorn Mountains, or among brushy coulies 
and bare hills, like the Little Missouri Bad 
Lands, where I first killed blacktail deer, I 
doubt whether they would prove especially 
difficult animals to bag. My own experience 
is much too limited to allow me to speak with 
any certainty on the point ; but it is borne out 
by what more skilled hunters have told me. 
In the Big Hole Basin, in southwest Montana, 
moose were quite plentiful in the late 'seven- 
ties. Two or three of the old settlers, whom 
I know as veteran hunters and trustworthy 
men, have told me that in those times the 
moose were often found in very accessible 
localities ; and that when such was the case 
they were quite as easily killed as elk. In 
fact, when run across by accident they fre- 
quently showed a certain clumsy slowness 
of apprehension which amounted to down- 
right stupidity. One of the most successful 
moose-hunters I know is Col. Cecil Clay, of 
the Department of Law, in Washington ; he 
it was who killed the moose composing the 
fine group mounted by Mr. Hornaday, in the 
National Museum. Col. Clay lost his right 
arm in the Civil War; but is an expert rifle 
shot nevertheless, using a short, light forty- 
four calibre old style Winchester carbine. 



244 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

With this weapon he has killed over a score 
of moose, by fair still-hunting ; and he tells 
me that on similar ground he considers it if 
anything rather less easy to still-hunt and 
kill a whitetail deer than it is to kill a 
moose. 

My friend CoL James Jones killed two 
moose in a day in northwestern Wyoming, not 
far from the Tetons ; he was alone when he 
shot them and did not find them especially 
wary. Ordinarily, moose are shot at fairly 
close range ; but another friend of mine, Mr. 
E. P. Rogers, once dropped one with a single 
bullet, at a distance of nearly three hundred 
yards. This happened by Bridger's Lake, 
near Two-Ocean Pass. 

The moose has a fast walk, and its ordinary 
gait when going at any speed is a slashing 
trot. Its long legs give it a wonderful stride, 
enabling it to clear down-timber and high 
obstacles of all sorts without altering its pace. 
It also leaps well. If much pressed or startled 
it breaks into an awkward gallop, which is 
quite fast for a few hundred yards, but which 
speedily tires it out. After being disturbed 
by the hunter a moose usually trots a long 
distance before halting. 

One thing which renders the chase of the 
moose particularly interesting is the fact that 
there is in it on rare occasions a spice of peril. 
Under certain circumstances it may be called 
dangerous quarry, being, properly speaking, 
the only animal of the deer kind which ever 
fairly deserves the title. In a hand to hand 
grapple an elk or caribou, or even under ex- 
ceptional circumstances a blacktailora white- 



THE MOOSE. 245 

tail, may show itself an ugly antagonist ; and 
indeed a maddened elk may for a moment 
take the offensive ; but the moos"e is the only 
one of the tribe with which this attitude is at 
all Common. In bodily strength and capacity 
to do harm it surpasses the elk ; and in 
temper it is far more savage and more apt to 
show fight when assailed by man ; exactly as 
the elk in these respects surpasses the com- 
mon deer. Two hunters with whom I was 
well acquainted once wintered between the 
Wind River Mountains and the Three Tetons, 
many years ago, in the days of the buffalo. 
They lived on game, killing it on snowshoes; 
for the most part wapiti and deer, but also 
bison, and one moose, though they saw others. 
The wapiti bulls kept their antlers two months 
longer than the moose ; nevertheless, when 
chased they rarely made an effort to use them, 
while the hornless moose displayed far more 
pugnacity, and also ran better through the 
deep snow. The winter was very severe, the 
snows were heavy and the crusts hard ; so 
that the hunters had little trouble in overtak- 
ing their game, although being old mountain- 
men, and not hide-hunters they killed only 
what was needed. Of course in such hunting 
they came very close to the harried game, 
usually after a chase of from twenty minutes 
to three hours. They found that the ordinary 
deer would scarcely charge under any circum- 
stances ; that among the wapiti it was only 
now and then that individuals would turn 
upon their pursuers though they sometimes 
charged boldly ; but that both the bison and 
especially the moose when worried and ap- 



246 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

preached too near, would often turn to bay 
and make charge after charge in the most 
resolute manner, so that they had to be 
approached with some caution. 

Under ordinary conditions, however, there 
is very little danger, indeed, of a moose charg- 
ing. A charge does not take place once in a 
hundred times when the moose is killed by 
fair still-hunting; and it is altogether excep- 
tional for those who assail them from boats or 
canoes to be put in jeopardy. Even a cow 
moose, with her calf, will run if she has the 
chance ; and a rutting bull will do the same. 
Such a bull when wounded may walk slowly 
forward, grunting savagely, stamping with his 
forefeet, and slashing the bushes with his 
antlers ; but, if his antagonist is any distance 
off, he rarely actually runs at him. Yet there 
are now and then found moose prone to attack 
on slight provocation ; for these great deer 
differ as widely as men in courage and ferocity. 
Occasionally a hunter is charged in the fall 
when he has lured the game to him by calling, 
or when he has wounded it after a stalk. In 
one well-authenticated instance which was 
brought to my attention, a settler on the left 
bank of the St. Johns, in New Brunswick, was 
tramped to death by a bull moose which he 
had called to him and wounded. A New 
Yorker of my acquaintance, Dr. Merrill, was 
charged under rather peculiar circumstances. 
He stalked and mortally wounded a bull 
which promptly ran towards him. Between 
them was a gully in which it disappeared. 
Immediately afterwards, as he thought, it 
reappeared on his side of the gully, and with 



THE MOOSE. 247 

a second shot he dropped it. Walking for- 
ward he found to his astonishment that with 
his second bullet he had killed a cow moose ; 
the bull lay dying in the gully, out of which 
h^had scared the cow by his last rush. 

However, speaking broadly, the danger to 
the still-hunter engaged in one of the legiti- 
mate methods of the chase is so small that it 
may be disregarded ; for he usually kiMs his 
game at some little distance, while the moose, 
as a rule, only attacks if it has been greatly 
worried and angered, and if its pursuer is 
close at hand. When a moose is surprised 
and shot at by a hunter some way off, its one 
thought is of flight. Hence, the hunters who 
are charged by moose are generally those who 
follow them during the late winter and early 
spring, when the animals have yarded and 
can be killed on snow-shoes by " crusting," 
as it is termed, a very destructive, and often 
a very unsportsman-like species of chase. 

If the snow-fall is very light, moose do not 
yard at all ; but in a hard winter they begin 
to make their yards in Decenlber. A " yard " 
is not, as some people seem to suppose, a 
trampled-down space, with definite bound- 
aries ; the term merely denotes the spot 
which a moose has chosen for its winter 
home, choosing it because it contains plenty 
of browse in the shape of young trees and 
saplings, and perhaps also because it is shel- 
tered to some extent from the fiercest winds 
and heaviest snowdrifts. The animal travels 
to and fro across this space in straight lines 
and irregular circles after food, treading in its 
own footsteps, where practicable. As the 



248 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

snow steadily deepens, these lines of travel 
become beaten paths. There results finally 
a space half a mile square sometimes more, 
sometimes very much less, according to the 
lay of the land, and the number of moose 
yarding together where the deep snow is 
seamed in every direction by a network of 
narrow paths along which a moose can travel 
at speed, its back level with the snow round 
about. Sometimes, when moose are very 
plenty, many of these yards lie so close 
together that the beasts can readily make 
their way from one to another. When such 
is the case, the most expert snow-shoer, under 
the most favorable conditions, cannot, over- 
take them, for they can then travel very fast 
through the paths, keeping their gait all day. 
In the early decades of the present century, 
the first settlers in Aroostook County, Maine, 
while moose-hunting in winter, were frequently 
baffled in this manner. 

When hunters approach an isolated yard 
the moose immediately leave it and run off 
through the snow. If there is no crust, and 
if their long legs can reach the ground, the 
snow itself impedes them but little, because 
of their vast strength and endurance. Snow- 
drifts which render an ordinary deer abso- 
lutely helpless, and bring even an elk to a 
standstill, offer no impediment whatever to a 
moose. If, as happens very rarely, the loose 
snow is of such depth that even the stilt-like 
legs of the moose cannot touch solid earth, it 
flounders and struggles forward for a little 
time, and then sinks exhausted ; for a caribou 
is the only large animal which can travel 



THE MOOSE. 249 

under such conditions. If there be a crust, 
even though the snow is not remarkably deep, 
the labor of the moose is vastly increased, as 
it breaks through at every step, cutting its 
legs and exhausting itself. A caribou, on the 
other hand, will go across a crust as well as a 
man on snow-shoes, and can never be caught 
by the latter, save under altogether excep- 
tional conditions of snowfall and thaw. 

" Crusting," or following game on snow- 
shoes, is, as the name implies, almost always 
practised after the middle of February, when 
thaws begin, and the snow crusts on top. 
The conditions for success in crusting moose 
and deer are very different. A crust through 
which a moose would break at every stride 
may carry a running deer without mishap ; 
while the former animal would trot at ease 
through drifts in which the latter would be 
caught as if in a quicksand. 

Hunting moose on snow, therefore, may be, 
and very often is, mere butchery; and be- 
cause of this possibility or probability, and 
also because of the fact that it is by far the 
most destructive kind of hunting, and is car- 
ried on at a season when the bulls are horn- 
less and the cows heavy with calf, it is rigidly 
and properly forbidden wherever there are 
good game-laws. Yet this kind of hunting 
may also be carried on under circumstances 
which render it if not a legitimate, yet a most 
exciting and manly sport, only to be followed 
by men of tried courage, hardihood, and skill. 
This is not because it ever necessitates any 
skill whatever in the use of the rifle, or any 
particular knowledge of hunting-craft ; but 



250 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

because under the conditions spoken of the 
hunter must show great endurance and resolu- 
tion, and must be an adept in the use of snow- 
shoes. 

It all depends upon the depth of the snow 
and the state of the crust. If when the snow 
is very deep there comes a thaw, and if it then 
freezes hard, the moose are overtaken and 
killed with ease ; for the crust cuts their legs, 
they sink to their bellies at every plunge, and 
speedily become so worn out that they can no 
longer keep ahead of any man who is even 
moderately skilful in the use of snow-shoes ; 
though they do not, as deer so often do, sink 
exhausted after going a few rods from their 
yard. Under such circumstances a few hardy 
hunters or settlers, who are perfectly reckless 
in slaughtering game, may readily kill all the 
moose in a district. It is a kind of hunting 
which just suits the ordinary settler, who is 
hardy and enduring, but knows little of hunt- 
ing-craft proper. 

If the snow is less deep, or the crust not so 
heavy, the moose may travel for scores of 
miles before it is overtaken ; and this even 
though the crust be strong enough to bear a 
man wearing snow-shoes without breaking. 
The chase then involves the most exhausting 
fatigue. Moreover, it can be carried on only 
by those who are very skilful in the use of 
snow-shoes. These snow-shoes are of two 
kinds. In the northeast, and in the most 
tangled forests of the northwest, the webbed 
snow-shoes are used ; on the bare mountain- 
sides, and in the open forests of the Rockies, 
the long narrow wooden skees, or Norwegian 



THE MOOSE. 251 

snow-skates are preferred, as upon them men 
can travel much faster, though they are less 
handy in thick timber. Having donned his 
snow-shoes and struck the trail of a moose, 
the hunter may have to follow it three days if 
the snow is of only ordinary depth, with a 
moderate crust. He shuffles across the snow 
without halt while daylight lasts, and lies 
down wherever he happens to be when night 
strikes him, probably with a little frozen bread 
as his only food. The hunter thus goes 
through inordinate labor, and suffers from ex- 
posure ; not infrequently his feet are terribly 
cut by the thongs of the snow-shoes, and be- 
come sore and swollen, causing great pain. 
When overtaken after such a severe chase, 
the moose is usually so exhausted as to be 
unable to make any resistance ; in all likeli- 
hood it has run itself to a standstill. Accord- 
ingly, the quality of the fire-arms makes but 
little difference in this kind of hunting. Many 
of the most famous old moose-hunters of 
Maine, in the long past days, before the Civil 
War, when moose were plenty there, used 
what were known as "three dollar" guns; 
light, single-barrelled smooth-bores. One 
whom I knew used a flint-lock musket, a relic 
of the War of 1812. Another in the course of 
an exhausting three days' chase lost the lock 
off his cheap, percussion-cap gun ; and when 
he overtook the moose he had to explode the 
cap by hammering it with a stone. 

It is in "crusting/' when the chase has 
lasted but a comparatively short time, that 
moose most frequently show fight ; for they 
are not cast into a state of wild panic by a 



252 rHE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

sudden and unlooked-for attack by a man 
who is a long distance from them, but on the 
contrary, after being worried and irritated, are 
approached very near by foes from whom they 
have been fleeing for hours. Nevertheless, in 
the majority of cases even crusted moose 
make not the slightest attempt at retalia- 
tion. If the chase has been very long, or 
if the depth of the snow and character of 
the crust are exceptionally disadvantageous 
to them, they are so utterly done out, when 
overtaken, that they cannot make a struggle, 
and may even be killed with an axe. I know 
of at least five men who have thus killed 
crusted moose with an axe ; one in the Rocky 
Mountains, one in Minnesota, three in 
Maine. 

But in ordinary snow a man who should 
thus attempt to kill a moose would merely 
jeopardize his own life ; and it is not an un- 
common thing for chased moose, when closely 
approached by their pursuers, even when the 
latter carry guns and are expert snow-shoers, 
to charge them with such ferocity as to put 
them in much peril. A brother of one of my 
cow-hands, a man from Maine, was once nearly 
killed by a cow moose. She had been in a 
yard with her last year's calf when started. 
After two or three hours' chase he overtook 
them. They were travelling in single file, the 
cow breaking her path through the snow, while 
the calf followed close behind, and in his 
nervousness sometimes literally ran up on her. 
The man trotted close alongside ; but, before 
he could fire, the old cow spun round and 
charged him, her mane bristling and her green 



THE MOOSE. 253 

eyes snapping with rage. It happened that 
just there the snow became shallow, and the 
moose gained so rapidly that the man, to 
save his life, sprang up a tree. As he did so 
the cow reared and struck at him, one fore- 
foot catching in his snow-shoe and tearing it 
clear off, giving his ankle a bad wrench. 
After watching him a minute or two she 
turned and continued her flight ; whereupon 
he climbed down the tree,, patched up his 
torn snow-shoe and limped after the moose, 
which he finally killed. 

An old hunter named Purvis told me of an 
adventure of the kind, which terminated 
fatally. He was hunting near the Cceur 
d'Alene Mountains with a mining prospector 
named Pingree ; both were originally from 
New Hampshire. Late in November there 
came a heavy fall of snow, deep enough to 
soon bring a deer to a standstill, although not 
so deep as to hamper a moose's movement. 
The men bound on their skees and started to 
the borders of a lake, to kill some blacktail. 
In a thicket close to the lake's brink they 
suddenly came across a bull moose ; a lean 
old fellow, still savage from the rut. Pingree, 
who was nearest, fired at and wounded him ; 
whereupon he rushed straight at the man, 
knocked him down before he could turn round 
on his skees, and began to pound him with 
his terrible forefeet. Summoned by his com- 
rade's despairing cries, Purvis rushed round 
the thickets, and shot the squealing, trampling 
monster through the body, and immediately 
after had to swing himself up a small tree to 
avoid its furious rush. The moose did not 



254 



THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 



turn after this charge, but kept straight on, 
and was not seen again. The wounded man 
was past all help, for his chest was beaten in, 
and he died in a couple of hours. 



HUNTING LORE. 255 



CHAPTER XII. 

HUNTING LORE. 

TT has been my good-luck to kill every kind 
-*- of game properly belonging to the United 
States : though one beast which I never had 
a chance to slay, the jaguar, from the torrid 
South, sometimes comes just across the Rio 
Grande ; nor have I ever hunted the musk-ox 
and polar bear in the boreal wastes where they 
dwell, surrounded by the frozen desolation of 
the uttermost North. 

I have never sought to make large bags, for 
a hunter should not be a game butcher. It is 
always lawful to kill dangerous or noxious ani- 
mals, like the bear, cougar, and wolf ; but 
other game should only be shot when there is 
need of the meat, or for the sake of an unusu- 
ally fine trophy. Killing a reasonable number 
of bulls, bucks, or rams does no harm what- 
ever to the species ; to slay half the males of 
any kind of game would not stop the natural 
increase, and they yield the best sport ? and 
are the legitimate objects of the chase. Cows, 
does, and ewes, on the contrary, should only 
be killed (unless barren) in case of necessity ; 
during my last five years' hunting I have killed 



256 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

but five one by a mischance, and the other 
four for the table. 

From its very nature, the life of the hunter 
is in most places evanescent ; and when it 
has vanished there can be no real substitute 
in old settled countries. Shooting in a private 
game preserve is but a dismal parody ; the 
manliest and healthiest features of the sport 
are lost with the change of conditions. We 
need, in the interest of the community at 
large, a rigid system of game laws rigidly en- 
forced, and it is not only admissible, but one 
may almost say necessary, to establish, under 
the control of the State, great national forest 
reserves, which shall also be breeding grounds 
and nurseries for wild game ; but I should 
much regret to see grow up in this country a 
system of large private game preserves, kept 
for the enjoyment of the very rich. One of 
the chief attractions of the life of the wilder- 
ness is its rugged and stalwart democracy ; 
there every man stands for what he actually 
is, and can show himself to be. 

There are, in different parts of our country, 
chances to try so many various kinds of hunt- 
ing, with rifle or with horse and hound, that 
it is nearly impossible for one man to have 
experience of them all. There are many 
hunts I long hoped to take, but never did and 
never shall ; they must be left for men with 
more time, or for those whose homes are 
nearer to the hunting grounds. I have never 
seen a grisly roped by the riders of the plains, 
nor a black bear killed with the knife and 



HUNTING LORE. 257 

hounds in the southern canebrakes ; though 
at one time I had for many years a standing 
invitation to witness this last feat on a planta- 
tion in Arkansas. The friend who gave it, 
an old backwoods planter, at one time lost 
almost all his hogs by the numerous bears 
who infested his neighborhood. He took a 
grimly humorous revenge each fall by doing 
his winter killing among the bears instead 
of among the hogs they had slain ; for as the 
cold weather approached he regularly proceed- 
ed to lay in a stock of bear-bacon, scouring 
the canebrakes in a series of systematic hunts, 
bringing the quarry to bay with the help of 
a big pack of hard-fighting mongrels, and then 
killing it with his long, broad-bladed bowie. 

Again, I should like to make a trial at kill- 
ing peccaries with the spear, whether on foot 
or on horseback, and with or without dogs. 
I should like much to repeat the experience 
of a friend who cruised northward through 
Bering Sea, shooting walrus and polar bear ; 
and that of two other friends who travelled 
with dog-sleds to the Barren Grounds, in 
chase of the caribou, and of that last survivor 
of the Ice Age, the strange musk-ox. Once 
in a while it must be good sport to shoot al- 
ligators by torchlight in the everglades of 
Florida or the bayous of Louisiana. 

If the big-game hunter, the lover of the 
rifle, has a taste for kindred field sports with 
rod and shotgun, many are his chances for 
pleasure, though perhaps of a less intense 
kind. The wild turkey really deserves a place 
17 



258 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

beside the deer ; to kill a wary old gobbler 
with the small-bore rifle, by fair still-hunting, 
is a triumph for the best sportsman. Swans, 
geese, and sandhill cranes likewise may some- 
times be killed with the rifle ; but more often 
all three, save perhaps the swan, must be shot 
over decoys. Then there is prairie-chicken 
shooting on the fertile grain prairies of the 
middle West, from Minnesota to Texas ; and 
killing canvas-backs from behind blinds, with 
the help of that fearless swimmer, the Chesa- 
peake Bay dog. In Californian mountains 
and valleys live the beautiful plumed quails, 
and who does not know their cousin bob-white, 
the bird of the farm, with his cheery voice 
and friendly ways ? For pure fun, nothing 
can surpass a night scramble through the 
woods after coon and possum. 

The salmon, whether near Puget Sound or 
the St. Lawrence, is the royal fish ; his only 
rival is the giant of the warm Gulf waters, the 
silver-mailed tarpon ; while along the Atlantic 
coast the great striped bass likewise yields 
fine sport to the men of rod and reel. Every 
hunter of the mountains and the northern 
woods knows the many kinds of spotted trout ; 
for the black bass he cares less ; and least of 
all for the sluggish pickerel, and his big 
brother of the Great Lakes, the muscallonge. 

Yet the sport yielded by rod and smooth- 
bore is really less closely kin to the strong 
pleasures so beloved by the hunter who trusts 
in horse and rifle than are certain other out- 
door pastimes, of the rougher and hardier kind. 



HUNTING LORE. 259 

Such a pastime is snow-shoeing, whether with 
webbed rackets, in the vast northern forests, or 
with skees, on the bare slopes of the Rockies. 
Such is mountaineering, especially when joined 
with bold exploration of the unknown. Most 
of our mountains are of rounded shape, and 
though climbing them is often hard work, it is 
rarely difficult or dangerous, save in bad 
weather, or after a snowfall. But there are 
many of which this is not true ; the Tetons, for 
instance, and various glacier-bearing peaks 
in the Northwest ; while the lofty, snow-clad 
ranges of British Columbia and Alaska offer 
one of the finest fields in the world for the 
daring cragsman. Mountaineering is among 
the manliest of sports ; and it is to be hoped 
that some of our young men with a taste for 
hard work and adventure among the high hills 
will attempt the conquest of these great un- 
trodden mountains of their own continent. As 
with all pioneer work, there would be far more 
discomfort and danger, far more need to dis- 
play resolution, hardihood, and wisdom in such 
an attempt than in any expedition on well 
known and historic ground like the Swiss 
Alps ; but the victory would be a hundred- 
fold better worth winning. 

The dweller or sojourner in the wilderness 
who most keenly loves and appreciates his 
wild surroundings, and all their sights and 
sounds, is the man who also loves and appre- 
ciates the books which tell of them. 

Foremost of all American writers on out- 
door life is John Burroughs ; and I can 



260 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

scarcely suppose that any man who cares for 
existence outside the cities would willingly be 
without anything that he has ever written. 
To the naturalist, to the observer and lover 
of nature, he is of course worth many times 
more than any closet systematist ; and though 
he has not been very much in really wild re- 
gions, his pages so thrill with the sights and 
sounds of outdoor life that nothing by any 
writer who is a mere professional scientist or 
a mere professional hunter can take their place, 
or do more than supplement them for scien- 
tist and hunter alike would do well to remem- 
ber that before a book can take the highest 
rank in any particular line it must also rank 
high in literature proper. Of course, for us 
Americans, Burroughs has a peculiar charm 
that he cannot have for others, no matter how 
much they, too, may like him ; for what he 
writes of is our own, and he calls to our minds 
memories and associations that are very dear. 
His books make us homesick when we read 
them in foreign lands ; for they spring from 
our soil as truly as Snowbound or The Biglow 
Papers? 

1 1 am under many obligations to the writings of Mr. Burroughs 
(though there are one or two of his theories from which I should 
dissent); and there is a piece of indebtedness in this very volume 
of which I have only just become aware. In my chapter on the 
prong-buck there is a paragrapli which will at once suggest to any 
lover of Burroughs some sentences in his essay on " Birds and 
Poets." I did not notice the resemblance until happening to reread 
the essay after my own chapter was written, and at the time I had 
no idea that I was borrowing from anybody, the more so as I was 
thinking purely of western wilderness life and western wilderness 
game, with which I knew Mr. Burroughs had never been familiar. 
I have concluded to leave the paragraph in with this acknowledg- 
ment. 



HUNTING LORE. 261 

As a woodland writer, Thoreau comes 
second only to Burroughs. 

For natural history in the narrower sense 
there are still no better books than Audubon 
and Bachman's Mammals and Audubon's 
Birds. There are also good works by men 
like Coues and Bendire ; and if Hart Mer- 
riam, of the Smithsonian, will only do for the 
mammals of the United States what he has 
already done for those of the Adirondacks, 
we shall have the best book of its kind in ex- 
istence. Nor, among less technical writings, 
should one overlook such essays as those of 
Maurice Thompson and Olive Thorne Miller. 

There have been many American hunting- 
books ; but too often they have been very 
worthless, even when the writers possessed 
the necessary first hand knowledge, and the 
rare capacity of seeing the truth. Few of 
the old-time hunters ever tried to write of what 
they had seen and done ; and of those who 
made the effort fewer still succeeded. In- 
nate refinement and the literary faculty that 
is, the faculty of writing a thoroughly interest- 
ing and readable book, full of valuable infor- 
mation may exist in uneducated people ; 
but if they do not, no amount of experience in 
the field can supply their lack. However, we 
have had some good works on the chase and 
habits of big game, such as Caton's Deer and 
Antelope of America, Van Dyke's Still-Hunter, 
Elliott's Carolina Sports, and Dodge's Hunt- 
ing Grounds of the Great West, besides the 
Century Company's Sport with Rod and Gun. 



262 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

Then there is Catlin's book, and the journals 
of the explorers from Lewis and Clarke down ; 
and occasional volumes on outdoor life, such 
as Theodore Winthrop's Canoe and Saddle, and 
Clarence King's Mountaineering in the Sierra 
Nevada. 

Two or three of the great writers of Ameri- 
can literature, notably Parkman in his Oregon 
Trail and, with less interest, Irving in his 
Trip on the Prairies have written with power 
and charm of life in the American wilderness ; 
but no one has arisen to do for the far west- 
ern plainsman and Rocky Mountain trappers 
quite what Hermann Melville did for the South 
Sea whaling folk in Omoo and Moby Dick. 
The best description of these old-time dwell- 
ers among the mountains and on the plains 
is to be found in a couple of good volumes by 
the Englishman Ruxton. However, the back- 
woodsmen proper, both in their forest homes 
and when they first began to venture out on 
the prairie, have been portrayed by a master 
hand. In a succession of wonderfully drawn 
characters, ranging from " Aaron Thousand- 
acres " to " Ishmael Bush," Fenimore Cooper 
has preserved for always the likenesses of these 
stark pioneer settlers and backwoods hunters ; 
uncouth, narrow, hard, suspicious, but with all 
the virile virtues of a young and masterful 
race, a race of mighty breeders, mighty 
fighters, mighty commonwealth builders. As 
for Leatherstocking, he is one of the undying 
men of story ; grand, simple, kindly, pure- 



HUNTING LORE. 263 

minded, staunchly loyal, the type of the steel- 
thewed and iron-willed hunter-warrior. 

Turning from the men of fiction to the men 
of real life, it is worth noting how many of 
the leaders among our statesmen and soldiers 
have sought strength and pleasure in the 
chase, or in kindred vigorous pastimes. Of 
course field sports, or at least the wilder kinds, 
which entail the exercise of daring, and the 
endurance of toil and hardship, and which 
lead men afar into the forests and mountains, 
stand above athletic exercises ; exactly as 
among the latter, rugged outdoor games, like 
football and lacrosse, are much superior to 
mere gymnastics and calisthenics. 

With a few exceptions the men among us 
who have stood foremost in political leader- 
ship, like their fellows who have led our 
armies, have been of stalwart frame and 
sound bodily health. When they sprang from 
the frontier folk, as did Lincoln and Andrew 
Jackson, they usually hunted much in their 
youth, if only as an incident in the prolonged 
warfare waged by themselves andtheir kinsmen 
against the wild forces of nature. Old Israel 
Putnam's famous wolf-killing feat comes 
strictly under this head. Doubtless he greatly 
enjoyed the excitement of the adventure ; but 
he went into it as a matter of business, not of 
sport. The wolf, the last of its kind in his 
neighborhood, had taken heavy toll of the 
flocks of himself and his friends ; when they 
found the deep cave in which it had made its 
den it readily beat off the dogs sent in to as- 



264 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

sail it ; and so Putnam crept in himself, with 
his torch and his flint-lock musket, and shot 
the beast where it lay. 

When such men lived in long settled and 
thickly peopled regions, they needs had to 
accommodate themselves to the conditions 
and put up with humbler forms of sport. 
Webster, like his great rival for Whig leader- 
ship, Henry Clay, cared much for horses, dogs, 
and guns ; but though an outdoor man he 
had no chance to develop a love for big-game 
hunting. He was, however, very fond of the 
rod and shotgun. Mr. Cabot Lodge recently 
handed me a letter written to his grandfather 
by Webster, and describing a day's trout fish- 
ing. It may be worth giving for the sake of 
the writer, and because of the fine heartiness 
and zest in enjoyment which it shows : 

SANDWICH, June 4, 
Saturday mor'g 
6 o'clock 
DEAR Sir: 

I send you eight or nine trout, which I took yester- 
day, in that chief of all brooks, Mashpee. I made a 
long day of it, and with good success, for me. John 
was with me, full of good advice, but did not fish nor 
carry a rod. 

I took 26 trouts, all weighing 17 Ib. 12 oz. 
The largest (you have him) 

weighed at Crokers. . 2 " 4 " 

The 5 largest . . . . 3 " 5 " 
The eight largest . . . 1 1 " 8 " 
I got these by following your advice ; that is, by 
careful 6 thorough fishing of the difficult places, which 
others do not fish. The brook is fished, nearly every 
day. I entered it, not so high up as we sometimes do, 
between 7 & 8 o'clock, & at 12 was hardly more than half 
way down to the meeting house path. You see I did 



HUNTING LORE. 265 

not hurry. The day did not hold out to fish the whole 
brook properly. The largest trout I took at 3 P. M. 
(you see I am precise) below the meeting house, under 
a bush on the right bank, two or three rods below the 
large beeches. It is singular, that in the whole day, I 
did not take two trouts out of the same hole. I found 
both ends, or parts of the Brook about equally produc- 
tive. Small fish not plenty, in either. So many hooks 
get everything which is not hid away in the manner 
large trouts take care of themselves. I hooked one, 
which I suppose to be larger than any which I took, 
as he broke my line, by fair pulling, after I had pulled 
him out of his den, & was playing him in fair open 
water. 

Of what I send you, I pray you keep what you wish 
yourself, send three to Mr. Ticknor, & three to Dr. 
Warren ; or two of the larger ones, to each will perhaps 
be enough if there be any left, there is Mr. Callen- 
der & Mr. Blake, & Mr. Davis, either of them not 
" averse to fish." Pray let Mr. Davis see them espe- 
cially the large one. As he promised to come, & fell 
back, I desire to excite his regrets. I hope you will 
have the large one on your own table. 

The day was fine not another hook in the Brook. 
John steady as a judge and everything else exactly 
right. I never, on the whole, had so agreeable a day's 
fishing tho' the result, in pounds or numbers, is not 
great ; nor ever expect such another. 

Please preserve this letter ; but rehearse not these 
particulars to the uninitiated. 

I think the Limerick not the best hook. Whether it 
pricks too soon, or for what other reason, I found or 
thought I found the fish more likely to let go his hold, 
from this, than from the old-fashioned hook. 

YRS. 
H. CABOT, Esq. D. WEBSTER. 

The greatest of Americans, Washington, 
was very fond of hunting, both with rifle or 
fowling-piece, and especially with horse, horn 
and hound. Essentially the representative of 
all that is best in our national life standing 
high as a general, high as a statesman, and 



266 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

highest of all as a man, he could never have 
been what he was had he not taken delight in 
feats of hardihood, of daring, and of bodily 
prowess. He was strongly drawn to those 
field sports which demand in their follower 
the exercise of the manly virtues courage, 
endurance, physical address. As a young man, 
clad in the distinctive garb of the backwoods- 
man, the fringed and tasselled hunting-shirt, 
he led the life of a frontier surveyor ; and like 
his fellow adventurers in wilderness explora- 
tion and Indian campaigning, he was often 
forced to trust to the long rifle for keeping his 
party in food. When at his home, at Mount 
Vernon, he hunted from simple delight in the 
sport. 

His manuscript diaries, preserved in the 
State Department at Washington, are full of 
entries concerning his feats in the chase ; 
almost all of them naturally falling in the 
years between the ending of the French war 
and the opening of the Revolutionary struggle 
against the British, or else in the period sep- 
arating his service as Commander-in-chief of 
the Continental armies from his term of office 
as President of the Republic. These entries 
are scattered through others dealing with his 
daily duties in overseeing his farm and mill, 
his attendance at the Virginia House of 
Burgesses, his journeys, the drill of the local 
militia, and all the various interests of his 
many-sided life. Fond though he was of 
hunting, he was wholly incapable of the career 
of inanity led by those who make sport, not a 



HUNTING LORE. 267 

manly pastime, but the one serious business 
of their lives. 

The entries in the diaries are short, and are 
couched in the homely vigorous English, so 
familiar to the readers of Washington's journals 
and private letters. Sometimes they are brief 
jottings in reference to shooting trips ; such 
as : " Rid out with my gun " ; " went pheasant 
hunting " ; " went ducking," and " went a 
gunning up the Creek." But far more often 
they are : " Rid out with my hounds," " went 
a fox hunting," or "went a hunting." In 
their perfect simplicity and good faith they 
are strongly characteristic of the man. He 
enters his blank days and failures as con- 
scientiously as his red-letter days of success ; 
recording with equal care on one day, " Fox 
hunting with Captain Posey catch a Fox," 
and another, " Went a hunting with Lord 
Fairfax . . . catched nothing." 

Occasionally he began as early as August 
and continued until April ; and while he 
sometimes made but eight or ten hunts in a 
season, at others he made as many in a month. 
Often he hunted from Mt. Vernon, going out 
once or twice a week, either alone or with 
a party of his friends and neighbors ; and 
again he would meet with these same neigh- 
bors at one of their houses, and devote several 
days solely to the chase. The country was 
still very wild, and now and then game was 
encountered with which the fox-hounds proved 
unable to cope ; as witness entries like : 
" found both a Bear and a Fox, but got 



268 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

neither " ; " went a hunting . . . started a 
Deer & then a Fox but got neither " ; and 
" Went a hunting and after trailing a fox a 
good while the Dogs Raized a Deer & ran 
out of the Neck with it & did not some of 
them at least come home till the next day." 
If it was a small animal, however, it was soon 
accounted for. " Went a Hunting . . . 
catched a Rakoon but never found a Fox," 

The woods were so dense and continuous 
that it was often impossible for the riders to 
keep close to the hounds throughout the run ; 
though in one or two of the best covers, as the 
journal records, Washington " directed paths 
to be cut for Fox Hunting." This thickness 
of the timber made it difficult to keep the 
hounds always under control ; and there are 
frequent allusions to their going off on their 
own account, as " Joined some dogs that were 
self hunting." Sometimes the hounds got so 
far away that it was impossible to tell whether 
they had killed or not, the journal remarking 
" catched nothing that we know of," or 
" found a fox at the head of the blind Pocoson 
which we suppose was killed in an hour but 
could not find it." 

Another result of this density and contin- 
uity of cover was the frequent recurrence of 
days of ill success. There are many such 
entries as : " Went Fox hunting, but started 
nothing " ; " Went a hunting, but catched 
nothing " ; " found nothing " ; " found a Fox 
and lost it." Often failure followed long and 
hard runs : " Started a Fox, run him four 



HUNTING LORE. 269 

hours, took the Hounds off at night " ; 
" found a Fox and run it 6 hours and then 
lost " ; " Went a hunting above Darrells . . . 
found a fox by two Dogs but lost it upon join- 
ing the Pack." In the season of 1772-73 
Washington hunted eighteen days and killed 
nine foxes ; and though there were seasons 
when he was out much more often, this pro- 
portion of kills to runs was if anything above 
the average. At the beginning of 1768 he 
met with a series of blank days which might 
well have daunted a less patient and persever- 
ing hunter. In January and the early part of 
February he was out nine times without get- 
ting a thing ; but his diary does not contain 
a word of disappointment or surprise, each 
successive piece of ill-luck being entered with- 
out comment, even when one day he met 
some more fortunate friends " who had just 
catched 2 foxes." At last, on February i2th, 
he himself " catched two foxes " ; the six or 
eight gentlemen of the neighborhood who 
made up the field all went home with him 
to Mt. Vernon, to dine and pass the night, and 
in the hunt of the following day they repeated 
the feat of a double score. In the next seven 
days' hunting he killed four times. 

The runs of course varied greatly in length ; 
on one day he " found a bitch fox at Piney 
Branch and killed it in an hour " ; on another 
he " killed a Dog fox after having him on 
foot three hours & hard running an hour and a 
qr." ; and on yet another he " catched a fox with 
a bobd Tail & cut ears after 7 hours chase in 



270 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

which most of the Dogs were worsted." 
Sometimes he caught his fox in thirty-five 
minutes, and again he might run it nearly the 
whole day in vain ; the average run seems to 
have been from an hour and a half to three 
hours. Sometimes the entry records merely 
the barren fact of the run ; at others a few 
particulars are given, with homespun, telling 
directness, as : " Went a hunting with Jacky 
Custis and catched a Bitch Fox after three 
hours chase founded it on ye. ck. by I. 
Soals " ; or went a Fox hunting with Lund 
Washington took the drag of a fox by Isaac 
Gates & carrd. it tolerably well to the old 
Glebe then touched now and then upon a cold 
scent till we came into Col. Fairfaxes Neck 
where we found about half after three upon 
the Hills just above Accotinck Creek after 
running till quite Dark took off the Dogs and 
came home." 

The foxes were doubtless mostly of the 
gray kind, and besides going to holes they 
treed readily. In January, 1770, he was out 
seven days, killing four foxes ; and two of the 
entries in the journal relate to foxes which 
treed; one, on the loth, being, "I went a 
hunting in the Neck and visited the plantn. 
there found and killed a bitch fox after tree- 
ing it 3 t. chasg. it abt. 3 hrs.," and the other 
on the 23d : " Went a hunting after breakfast 
& found a Fox at muddy hole & killed her 
(it being a bitch) after a chase of better than 
two hours and after treeing her twice the last 
of which times she fell dead out of the Tree 



HUNTING LORE. 271 

after being therein sevl. minutes apparently." 
In April, 1769, he hunted four days, and on 
every occasion the fox treed. April 7th, " Dog 
fox killed, ran an hour & treed twice." April 
nth, "Went a fox hunting and took a fox 
alive after running him to a Tree brot him 
home." April i2th, " Chased the above fox 
an hour & 45 minutes when he treed again 
after which we lost him." April i3th, 
" Killed a dog fox after treeing him in 35 
minutes." 

Washington continued his fox-hunting until, 
in the spring of 17 75, the guns of the min- 
utemen in Massachusetts called him to 
the command of the Revolutionary soldiery. 
When the eight weary years of campaigning 
were over, he said good-by to the war-worn 
veterans whom he had led through defeat and 
disaster to ultimate triumph, and became 
once more a Virginia country gentleman. 
Then he took up his fox-hunting with as 
much zest as ever. The entries in his journal 
are now rather longer, and go more into de- 
tail than formerly. Thus, on December 1 2th, 
1785, he writes that after an early breakfast 
he went on a hunt and found a fox at half 
after ten, " being first plagued with the dogs 
running hogs," followed on his drag for some 
time, then ran him hard for an hour, when 
there came a fault ; but when four dogs 
which had been thrown out rejoined the pack 
they put the fox up afresh, and after fifty 
minutes' run killed him in an open field, 
u every Rider & every Dog being present at 



272 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

the Death." With his usual alternations 
between days like this, and days of ill-luck, 
he hunted steadily every season until his term 
of private life again drew to a close and he 
was called to the headship of the nation he 
had so largely helped to found. 

In a certain kind of fox-hunting lore there 
is much reference to a Warwickshire squire 
who, when the Parliamentary and Royalist 
armies were forming for the battle at Edge- 
hill, was discovered between the hostile lines, 
unmovedly drawing the covers for a fox. 
Now, this placid sportsman should by rights 
have been slain offhand by the first trooper 
who reached him, whether Cavalier or Round- 
head. He had mistaken means for ends, 
he had confounded the healthful play which 
should fit a man for needful work with the 
work itself ; and mistakes of this kind are 
sometimes criminal. Hardy sports of the 
field offer the best possible training for war ; 
but they become contemptible when indulged 
in while the nation is at death-grips with her 
enemies. 

It was not in Washington's strong nature 
to make such an error. Nor yet, on the other 
hand, was he likely to undervalue either the 
pleasure, or the real worth of outdoor sports. 
The qualities of heart, mind, and body, which 
made him delight in the hunting-field, and 
which he there exercised and developed, stood 
him in good stead in many a long campaign 
and on many a stricken field ; they helped to 
build that stern capacity for leadership in war 



HUNTING LORE. ^ 273 

which he showed alike through the bitter woe 
of the winter at Valley Forge, on the night 
when he ferried his men across the half-frozen 
Delaware to the overthrow of the German 
mercenaries at Trenton, and in the brilliant 
feat of arms whei eof the outcome was the de- 
cisive victory of Yorktown. 



APPENDIX. 

IN this volume I have avoided repeating what 
was contained in either of my former 
books, the Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and 
Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. For many 
details of life and work in the cattle country I 
must refer the reader to these two volumes ; 
and also for more full accounts of the habits 
and methods of hunting such game as deer 
and antelope. As far as I know, the descrip- 
tion in my Rinch Life of the habits and the 
chase of the mountain sheep is the only 
moderately complete account thereof that has 
ever been published. The five game-heads 
figured in this volume are copied exactly from 
the originals, now in my home ; the animals 
were, of course, shot by myself. 

There have been many changes, both in my 
old hunting-grounds and my old hunting- 
friends, since I first followed the chase in the 
far western country. Where the buffalo and 
the Indian ranged, along the Little Missouri, 
the branded herds of the ranchmen now graze ; 
the scene of my elk-hunt at Two Ocean Pass 
is now part of the National Forest Reserve ; 
settlers and miners have invaded the ground 
where I killed bear and moose ; and steamers 
ply on the lonely waters of Kootenai Lake. 

275 



276 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

Of my hunting companions some are alive; 
others among them my staunch and valued 
friend, Will Dow, and crabbed, surly old 
Hank Griffen are dead ; while yet others 
have drifted away, and I know not what has 
become of them. 

I have made no effort to indicate the best 
kind of camp kit for hunting, for the excellent 
reason that it depends so much upon the kind 
of trip taken, and upon the circumstances of 
the person taking it. The hunting trip may 
be made with a pack-train, or with a wagon, 
or with a canoe, or on foot ; and the hunter 
may have half a dozen attendants, or he may 
go absolutely alone. I have myself made trips 
under all of these circumstances. At times I 
have gone with two or three men, several tents 
and an elaborate apparatus for cooking, caser 
of canned goods, and the like. On the othes 
hand, I have made trips on horseback, with 
nothing whatsoever beyond what I had on, 
save my oil-skin slicker, a metal cup, and 
some hardtack, tea, and salt in the saddle 
pockets ; and I have gone for a week or two's 
journey on foot, carrying on my shoulders my 
blanket, a frying-pan, some salt, a little flour, 
a small chunk of bacon, and a hatchet. So it 
is with dress. The clothes should be stout, of 
a neutral tint ; the hat should be soft, without 
too large a brim ; the shoes heavy, and the 
soles studded with small nails, save when 
moccasins orerubber-soled shoes are worn; 
but within these limits there is room for plenty 
of variation. Avoid, however, the so-called 



APPENDIX. 277 

deer-stalker's|cap, which is an abomination ; its 
peaked brim giving no protection whatsoever 
to the eyes when facing the sun quartering, a 
position in which many shots must be taken. 
In very cold regions, fur coats, caps, and mit- 
tens, and all-wool underclothing are necessary. 
I dislike rubber boots when they can possibly 
be avoided. In hunting in snow in the winter 
I use the so-called German socks and felt over- 
shoes where possible. One winter I had an 
ermine cap made. It was very good for peep- 
ing over the snowy ridge crests when game 
was on the other side ; but, except when the 
entire landscape was snow-covered, it was an 
unmitigated nuisance. In winter, webbed 
snow-shoes are used in the thick woods, and 
skees in the open country. 

There is an endless variety of opinion about 
rifles, and all that can be said with certainty is 
that any good modern rifle will do. It is the 
man behind the rifle that counts, after the 
weapon has reached a certain stage of per- 
fection. One of my friends invariably uses 
an old Government Springfield, a 45-calibre, 
with an ounce bullet. Another cares for 
nothing but the 40-90 Sharps', a weapon 
for which I myself have much partiality. 
Another uses always the old 45-calibre Sharps', 
and yet another the 45-calibre Reming- 
ton. Two of :he best bear and elk hunters I 
know prefer che 32 and 38-calibre Marlin's, 
with long cartridges, weapons with which I 
myself would not undertake to produce any 
good results. Yet others prefer pieces of very 



278 THE WILDERNESS HUNTER. 

large calibre. The amount of it is that each 
one of these guns possesses some excellence 
which the others lack, but which is in most 
cases atoned for by some corresponding defect. 
Simplicity of mechanism is very important, but 
so is rapidity of fire ; and it is hard to get 
both of them developed to the highest degree 
in the same piece. In the same way, flatness 
of trajectory, penetration, range, shock, and 
accuracy are all qualities which must be at- 
tained ; but to get one in perfection usually 
means the sacrifice of some of the rest. For 
instance, other things being equal, the smallest 
calibre has the greatest penetration, but gives 
the least shock ; while a very flat trajectory, if 
acquired by heavy charges of powder, means 
the sacrifice of accuracy. Similarly, solid and 
hollow pointed bullets have, respectively, their 
merits and demerits. There is no use of dog- 
matizing about weapons. Some which prove 
excellent for particular countries and kinds of 
hunting are useless in others. 

There seems to be no doubt, judging from 
the testimony of sportsmen in South Africa 
and in India, that very heavy calibre double- 
barrelled rifles are best for use in the dense 
jungles and against the thick-hided, game of 
those regions ; but they are of very little value 
with us. In 1882 one of the buffalo hunters 
on the Little Missouri obtained from some 
Englishman a double-barrelled ten-bore rifle 
of the kind used against rhinoceros, buffalo, 
and elephant in the Old World ; but it proved 
very inferior to the 40- and 45 -calibre Sharps' 



APPENDIX. 279 

buffalo guns when used under the conditions 
of \merican buffalo hunting, the tremendous 
shock given by the bullet not compensating 
for the gun's great relative deficiency in range 
and accuracy, while even the penetration was 
inferior at ordinary distances. It is largely 
also a matter of individual taste. At one time 
I possessed a very expensive double-barrelled 
500 Express, by one of the crack English 
makers ; but I never liked the gun, and could 
not do as well with it as with my repeater, 
which cost barely a sixth as much. So one 
day I handed it to a Scotch friend, who was 
manifestly ill at ease with a Winchester exactly 
like my own. He took to the double-barrel 
as naturally as I did to the repeater, and did 
excellent work with it. Personally, I have al- 
ways preferred the Winchester. I now use a 
45-90, with my old buffalo gun, a 40-90 
Sharps' as spare rifle. Both, of course, have 
specially tested barrels, and are stocked and 
sighted to suit myself. 



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