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Full text of "Hunting trips of a ranchman : sketches of sport on the northern cattle plains"

G/C 




Theodore Roosevelt in Hunting Costume. 
Drawn by Henry Sandham. Engraved by E. Heinemann. 



PRESIDENTIAL EDITION 



HUNTING TRIPS OF 
A RANCHMAN 

SKETCHES OF SPORT ON THE NORTHERN 
CATTLE PLAINS 



BY 



THEODORE ROOSEVELT 

AUTHOR OF "HISTORY OF THE NAVAL WAR OF 1812," "THE WINNING OF 

THE WEST," " THE WILDERNESS HUNTER " 

"AMERICAN IDEALS," ETC. 



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

Ifcnfcfcerbocfter press 



COPYRIGHT BY 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

1885 



Vbe ftnicfecrbocfeer presi, Hew fiock 



TO THAT 
KEENEST OF SPORTSMEN 

AND 
TRUEST OF FRIENDS 

MY BROTHER 
ELLIOTT ROOSEVELT 



iii 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 



The seven heads of large game figured in this book 
are faithfully copied from the originals, shot by myself, 
and now in my possession ; the proportions have been 
verified with the camera. 

The other engravings and etchings are for the most 
part based on photographs of scenery, costumes, etc., 
taken by myself while in the West, and are accurate rep- 
resentations of Western landscapes, as also of ranch life 
and hunting on the plains. 

Most, although by no means all, of my hunting has 
been done on the Little Missouri River, in the neighbor- 
hood of my two ranches, the Elkhorn and Chimney 
Butte ; the nearest town being the little hamlet of 
Medora so named, I may mention for the benefit of 
the future local historian, in honor of the wife of the 
Marquis de Mores, one of the first stockmen to come 

to the place. 

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. 

CHIMNEY BUTTE RANCH, 
MEDORA, DAKOTA, 
May, 1885. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 
RANCHING IN THE BAD LANDS. 

The northern cattle plains Stock-raising Cowboys, their dress and character 
My ranches in the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri Indoor amusements 
Books Pack-rats Birds Ranch life The round-up Indians Ephemeral 
nature of ranch life Foes of the stockmen Wolves, their ravages Fighting 
with dogs Cougar My brother kills one One killed by blood-hounds The 
chase one of the chief pleasures of ranch life Hunters and cowboys 
Weapons Dress Hunting-horses Target-shooting and game-shooting . 1 

CHAPTER II. 
WATER-FOWL. 

Stalking wild geese with rifle Another goose killed in early morning Snow- 
goose shot with rifle from beaver meadow Description of plains beaver Its 
rapid extinction Ducks Not plenty on cattle plains Teal Duck-shooting 
in course of wagon trip to eastward Mallards and wild geese in cornfields 
Eagle and ducks Curlews Noisiness and curiosity Grass plover Skunks . 43 

CHAPTER III. 
THE GROUSE OF THE NORTHERN CATTLE PLAINS. 

Rifle and shot-gun Sharp-tailed prairie fowl Not of ten regularly pursued Killed 
for pot Booming in spring Their young A day after them with shot-gun in 
August At that time easy to kill Change of habits in fall Increased wari- 
ness Shooting in snow-storm from edge of canyon Killing them with rifle in 
early morning Trip after them made by my brother and myself Sage- 
fowl The grouse of the desert Habits Good food Shooting them Jack- 
rabbit An account of a trip made by my brother, in Texas, after wild 
turkey Shooting them from the roosts Coursing them with greyhounds . 66 

CHAPTER IV. 
THE DEER OF THE RIVER BOTTOMS. 

The White-tail deer best known of American large game The most difficult to 
exterminate A buck killed in light snow about Christmas-time The species 



viii Hunting Trips of a Ranchman. 

very canny Two "tame fawns" Habits of deer Pets Method of still- 
hunting the white-tail Habits contrasted with those of antelope Wagon 
trip to the westward Heavy cloud-burst Buck shot while hunting on horse- 
back Moonlight ride . . -. 102 

CHAPTER V. 
THE BLACK-TAIL DEER. 

The black-tail and white-tail deer compared Different zones where game are 
found Hunting on horseback and on foot Still-hunting Anecdotes 
Rapid extermination First buck shot Buck shot from hiding-place Differ- 
ent qualities required in hunting different kinds of game Still-hunting the 
black-tail a most noble form of sport Dress required Character of habitat 
Bad Lands Best time for shooting, at dusk Difficult aiming Large buck 
killed in late evening Fighting capacity of bucks Appearance of black-tail 
Difficult to see and to hit Indians poor shots Riding to hounds Track- 
ing Hunting in fall weather Three killed in a day's hunting on foot A hunt 
on horseback Pony turns a somersault Two bucks killed by one ball at very 
long range 126 

CHAPTER VI. 
A TRIP ON THE PRAIRIE. 

The prong-horn antelope Appearance, habits, and method of hunting Hunting 
on horseback Wariness, speed, curiosity, and incapacity to make high jumps 
Fawns as pets Eagles Horned frogs Rattlesnakes Trip on the prairie in 
June Sights and sounds Desolate plains Running antelope Night camp 
Prairie dogs Badgers Skylarks A long shot Clear weather Camping 
among Medicine Buttes Sunset on plateau .- 180 

CHAPTER VII. 
A TRIP AFTER MOUNTAIN SHEEP. 

Spell of bitter weather News brought of mountain sheep Start after them 
False alarm about bear Character of Bad Lands Description of mountain 
sheep or big-horn Its wariness Contrasted with other game Its haunts 
The hardest of all game to successfully hunt Our trip Cold weather and 
tiresome walking Very rough ground Slippery, ice-covered crags Ram 
killed 220 

CHAPTER VIII. 
THE LORDLY BUFFALO. 

Extinction of the vast herds Causes A veritable tragedy of the animal world- 
Sentimental and practical sides Traces left by buffalo Skulls and trails 
Merciless destruction by hunters and by cattle-men Development of mountain 
race of the buffalo Buffalo-hunting Noble sport Slight danger A man 
killed My brother charged Adventure of my cousin with a wounded buffalo 



Contents. 



IX 



Three of my men and wounded cow Buffalo and cattle Hunting them on 
foot Hunting on horseback My brother in Texas I take a trip in buffalo 
country Wounded bull escapes Miserable night camp Miss a cow in rain 
Bad luck Luck turns Kill a bull A wagon-trip 241 

CHAPTER IX. 
STILL-HUNTING ELK ON THE MOUNTAINS. 

Former range of elk Rapid destruction Habits Persecuted by hunters Other 
foes Lordly game Trip to Bighorn Mountains Managing pack-train See 
elk and go into camp Follow up band in moccasins Kill two Character of 
the deep woods Sights and sounds of the forest Blue grouse Snow Cold 
weather Trout Calling of bull elk Killing elk in burned timber Animals 
of the wilderness Kill great bull elk Kill another 271 

CHAPTER X. 
OLD EPHRAIM. 

Dangerous game, but much less dangerous than formerly Old-time hunters 
and weapons Grizzly and other ferocious wild beasts Only fights if wounded 
Anecdotes of their killing and wounding men Attacks stock Our hunting 
on the Bighorn Mountains Merrifield kills black bear Grizzly almost comes 
into camp Tracks of grizzly Watch for one at elk carcass Follow him up 
and kill him Merrifield kills one Five shot with seven bullets She and 
cub killed Return home . 297 

ADDENDUM 322 

INDEX 325 



HUNTING TRIPS 



OF A 



RANCHMAN 




CHAPTER I. 



RANCHING IN THE BAD LANDS. 




HE great middle plains of the 
United States, parts of which 
are still scantily peopled by men 
of Mexican parentage, while 
other parts have been but recently 
won from the warlike tribes of Horse 
Indians, now form a broad pastoral 
belt, stretching in a north and south line 
from British America to the Rio Grande. 
Throughout this great belt of grazing land almost the 
only industry is stock-raising, which is here engaged in on 
a really gigantic scale ; and it is already nearly covered 
with the ranches of the stockmen, except on those isolated 
tracts (often themselves of great extent) from which the 
red men look hopelessly and sullenly out upon their old 
hunting-grounds, now roamed over by the countless herds 
of long-horned cattle. The northern portion of this belt 
is that which has been most lately thrown open to the 
whites ; and it is with this part only that we have to do. 



2 Ranching in tke Bad Lands. 

The northern cattle plains occupy the basin of the 
Upper Missouri ; that is, they occupy all of the land 
drained by the tributaries of that river, and by the river 
itself, before it takes its long trend to the southeast. They 
stretch from the rich wheat farms of Central Dakota to 
the Rocky Mountains, and southward to the Black Hills 
and the Big Horn chain, thus including all of Montana, 
Northern Wyoming, and extreme Western Dakota. The 
character of this rolling, broken, plains country is every- 
where much the same. It is a high, nearly treeless region, 
of light rainfall, crossed by streams which are sometimes 
rapid torrents and sometimes merely strings of shallow 
pools. In places it stretches out into deserts of alkali and 
sage brush, or into nearly level prairies of short grass, 
extending for many miles without a break ; elsewhere 
there are rolling hills, sometimes of considerable height ; 
and in other places the ground is rent and broken into the 
most fantastic shapes, partly by volcanic action and partly 
by the action of water in a dry climate. These latter por- 
tions form the famous Bad Lands. Cotton-wood trees 
fringe the streams or stand in groves on the alluvial bot- 
toms of the rivers ; and some of the steep hills and can- 
yon sides are clad with pines or stunted cedars. In the 
early spring, when the young blades first sprout, the land 
looks green and bright ; but during the rest of the year 
there is no such appearance of freshness, for the short 
bunch grass is almost brown, and the gray-green sage bush, 
bitter and withered-looking, abounds everywhere, and 
gives a peculiarly barren aspect to the landscape. 

It is but little over half a dozen years since these lands 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 3 

were won from the Indians. They were their only remain- 
ing great hunting-grounds, and towards the end of the 
last decade all of the northern plains tribes went on the 
war-path in a final desperate effort to preserve them. 
After bloody fighting and protracted campaigns they were 
defeated, and the country thrown open to the whites, 
while the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad gave 
immigration an immense impetus. There were great 
quantities of game, especially buffalo, and the hunters 
who thronged in to pursue the huge herds of the latter 
were the rough forerunners of civilization. No longer 
dreading the Indians, and having the railway on which to 
transport the robes, they followed the buffalo in season 
and out, until in 1883 the herds were practically destroyed. 
But meanwhile the cattle-men formed the vanguard of the 
white settlers. Already the hardy southern stockmen had 
pressed up with their wild-looking herds to the very bor- 
der of the dangerous land, and even into it, trusting to 
luck and their own prowess for their safety ; and the in- 
stant the danger was even partially removed, their cattle 
swarmed northward along the streams. Some Eastern 
men, seeing the extent of the grazing country, brought 
stock out by the railroad, and the short-horned beasts 
became almost as plenty as the wilder-looking southern 
steers. At the present time, indeed, the cattle of these 
northern ranges show more short-horn than long-horn 
blood. 

Cattle-raising on the plains, as now carried on, 
started in Texas, where the Americans had learned it from 
the Mexicans .whom they dispossessed. It has only be- 



4 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

come a prominent feature of Western life during the last 
score of years. When the Civil War was raging, there 
were hundreds of thousands of bony, half wild steers and 
cows in Texas, whose value had hitherto been very slight ; 
but toward the middle of the struggle they became a most 
important source of food supply to both armies, and when 
the war had ended, the profits of the business were widely 
known and many men had gone into it. At first the stock- 
raising was all done in Texas, and the beef-steers, when 
ready for sale, were annually driven north along what be- 
came a regular cattle trail. Soon the men of Kansas and 
Colorado began to start ranches, and Texans who were 
getting crowded out moved their herds north into these 
lands, and afterward into Wyoming. Large herds of year- 
ling steers also were, and still are, driven from the breed- 
ing ranches of the south to some northern range, there to 
be fattened for three years before selling. The cattle trail 
led through great wastes, and the scores of armed cow- 
boys who, under one or two foremen, accompanied each 
herd, had often to do battle with bands of hostile Indians ; 
but this danger is now a thing of the past, as, indeed, will 
soon be the case with the cattle trail itself, for year by 
year the grangers press steadily westward into it, and 
when they have once settled in a place, will not permit 
the cattle to be driven across it 

In the northern country the ranches vary greatly in 
size ; on some there may be but a few hundred head, on 
others ten times as many thousand. The land is still in 
great part unsurveyed, and is hardly anywhere fenced in, 
the cattle roaming over it at will. The small ranches are 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 5 

often quite close to one another, say within a couple of 
miles ; but the home ranch of a big outfit will not have 
another building within ten or twenty miles of it, or, in- 
deed, if the country is dry, not within fifty. The ranch- 
house may be only a mud dugout, or a " shack " made of 
logs stuck upright into the ground ; more often it is a 
fair-sized, well-made building of hewn logs, divided into 
several rooms. Around it are grouped the other buildings 
log-stables, cow-sheds, and hay-ricks, an out-house in 
which to store things, and on large ranches another house 
in which the cowboys sleep. The strongly made, circular 
horse-corral, with a snubbing-post in the middle, stands 
close by ; the larger cow-corral, in which the stock is 
branded, may be some distance off. A small patch of 
ground is usually enclosed as a vegetable garden, and a 
very large one, with water in it, as a pasture to be used 
only in special cases. All the work is done on horseback, 
and the quantity of ponies is thus of necessity very great, 
some of the large outfits numbering them by hundreds ; on 
my own ranch there are eighty. Most of them are small, 
wiry beasts, not very speedy, but with good bottom, and 
able to pick up a living under the most adverse circum- 
stances. There are usually a few large, fine horses kept 
for the special use of the ranchman or foremen. The best 
are those from Oregon ; most of them come from Texas, 
and many are bought from the Indians. They are broken 
in a very rough manner, and many are in consequence 
vicious brutes, with the detestable habit of bucking. Of 
this habit I have a perfect dread, and, if I can help it, 
never get on a confirmed bucker. The horse puts his 



6 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

head down between his forefeet, arches his back, and 
with stiff legs gives a succession of jarring jumps, often 
"changing ends" as he does so. Even if a man can keep 
his seat, the performance gives him about as uncomfort- 
able a shaking up as can be imagined. 

The cattle rove free over the hills and prairies, pick- 
ing up their own living even in winter, all the animals of 
each herd having certain distinctive brands on them. But 
little attempt is made to keep them within definite 
bounds, and they wander whither they wish, except that 
the ranchmen generally combine to keep some of their 
cowboys riding lines to prevent them straying away alto- 
gether. The missing ones are generally recovered in the 
annual round-ups, when the calves are branded. These 
round-ups, in which many outfits join together, and which 
cover hundreds of miles of territory, are the busiest 
period of the year for the stockmen, who then, with their 
cowboys, work from morning till night. In winter little 
is done except a certain amount of line riding. 

The cowboys form a class by themselves, and are now 
quite as typical representatives of the wilder side of West- 
ern life, as were a few years ago the skin-clad hunters and 
trappers. They are mostly of native birth, and although 
there are among them wild spirits from every land, yet 
the latter soon become undistinguishable from their 
American companions, for these plainsmen are far from 
being so heterogeneous a people as is commonly sup- 
posed. On the contrary, all have a certain curious simi- 
larity to each other ; existence in the west seems to put the 
same stamp upon each and every one of them. Sinewy, 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 7 

hardy, self-reliant, their life forces them to be both daring 
and adventurous, and the passing over their heads of a few 
years leaves printed on their faces certain lines which tell 
of dangers quietly fronted and hardships uncomplainingly 
endured. They are far from being as lawless as they are 
described ; though they sometimes cut queer antics when, 
after many months of lonely life, they come into a frontier 
town in which drinking and gambling are the only recog- 
nized forms of amusement, and where pleasure and vice 
are considered synonymous terms. On the round-ups, or 
when a number get together, there is much boisterous, 
often foul-mouthed mirth ; but they are rather silent, self- 
contained men when with strangers, and are frank and 
hospitable to a degree. The Texans are perhaps the best 
at the actual cowboy work. They are absolutely fearless 
riders and understand well the habits of the half wild 
cattle, being unequalled in those most trying times 
when, for instance, the cattle are stampeded by a thunder- 
storm at night, while in the use of the rope they are only 
excelled by the Mexicans. On the other hand, they are 
prone to drink, and when drunk, to shoot. Many Kan- 
sans, and others from the northern States, have also taken 
up the life of late years, and though these scarcely reach, 
in point of skill and dash, the standard of the southerners, 
who may be said to be born in the saddle, yet they are to 
the full as resolute and even more trustworthy. My own 
foremen were originally eastern backwoodsmen. 

The cowboy's dress is both picturesque and serviceable, 
and, like many of the terms of his pursuit, is partly of 
Hispano-Mexican origin. It consists of a broad felt hat, a 



8 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

flannel shirt, with a bright silk handkerchief loosely knot- 
ted round the neck, trousers tucked into high-heeled 
boots, and a pair of leather "shaps " (chaperajos) or heavy 
riding overalls. Great spurs and a large-calibre revolver 
complete the costume. For horse gear there is a cruel 
curb bit, and a very strong, heavy saddle with high pom- 
mel and cantle. This saddle seems needlessly weighty, 
but the work is so rough as to make strength the first 
requisite. A small pack is usually carried behind it ; also 
saddle pockets, or small saddle-bags ; and there are leather 
strings wherewith to fasten the loops of the raw-hide 
lariat. The pommel has to be stout, as one end of the 
lariat is twisted round it when work is to be done, and 
the strain upon it is tremendous when a vigorous steer 
has been roped, or when, as is often the case, a wagon 
gets stuck and the team has to be helped out by one of 
the riders hauling from the saddle. A ranchman or fore- 
man dresses precisely like the cowboys, except that the 
materials are finer, the saddle leather being handsomely 
carved, the spurs, bit, and revolver silver-mounted, the 
shaps of seal-skin, etc. The revolver was formerly a 
necessity, to protect the owner from Indians and other 
human foes ; this is still the case in a few places, but, as a 
rule, it is now carried merely from habit, or to kill rat- 
tlesnakes, or on the chance of falling in with a wolf or 
coyote, while not unfrequently it is used to add game to 
the cowboy's not too varied bill of fare. 

A cowboy is always a good and bold rider, but his seat 
in the saddle is not at all like that of one of our eastern or 
southern fox-hunters. The stirrups are so long that the 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 9 

man stands almost erect in them, from his head to his feet 
being a nearly straight line. It is difficult to compare the 
horsemanship of a western plainsman with that of an 
eastern or southern cross-country rider. In following 
hounds over fences and high walls, on a spirited horse 
needing very careful humoring, the latter would certainly 
excel ; but he would find it hard work to sit a bucking 
horse like a cowboy, or to imitate the headlong dash with 
which one will cut out a cow marked with his own brand 
from a herd of several hundred others, or will follow 
at full speed the twistings and doublings of a refractory 
steer over ground where an eastern horse would hardly 
keep its feet walking. 

My own ranches, the Elkhorn and the Chimney Butte, 
lie along the eastern border of the cattle country, where the 
Little Missouri flows through the heart of the Bad Lands. 
This, like most other plains rivers, has a broad, shallow 
bed, through which in times of freshets runs a muddy tor- 
rent, that neither man nor beast can pass ; at other seasons 
of the year it is very shallow, spreading out into pools, be- 
tween which the trickling water may be but a few inches 
deep. Even then, however, it is not always easy to cross, 
for the bottom is filled with quicksands and mud-holes. 
The river flows in long sigmoid curves through an alluvial 
valley of no great width. The amount of this alluvial 
land enclosed by a single bend is called a bottom, which 
may be either covered with cotton-wood trees or else 
be simply a great grass meadow. From the edges of the 
valley the land rises abruptly in steep high buttes whose 
crests are sharp and jagged. This broken country ex- 



io Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

tends back from the river for many miles, and has been 
called always, by Indians, French voyageurs, and Ameri- 
can trappers alike, the " Bad Lands," partly from its 
dreary and forbidding aspect and partly from the difficulty 
experienced in travelling through it. Every few miles it 
is crossed by creeks which open into the Little Missouri, 
of which they are simply repetitions in miniature, except 
that during most of the year they are almost dry, some of 
them having in their beds here and there a never-failing 
spring or muddy alkaline-water hole. From these creeks 
run coulies, or narrow, winding valleys, through which 
water flows when the snow melts ; their bottoms contain 
patches of brush, and they lead back into the heart of the 
Bad Lands. Some of the buttes spread out into level 
plateaus, many miles in extent ; others form chains, or rise 
as steep isolated masses. Some are of volcanic origin, 
being composed of masses of scoria ; the others, of sand- 
stone or clay, are worn by water into the most fantastic 
shapes. In coloring they are as bizarre as in form. 
Among the level, parallel strata which make up the 
land are some of coal. When a coal vein gets on fire 
it makes what is called a burning mine, and the clay above 
it is turned into brick ; so that where water wears 
away the side of a hill sharp streaks of black and red 
are seen across it, mingled with the grays, purples, and 
browns. Some of the buttes are overgrown with 
gnarled, stunted cedars or small pines, and they are all 
cleft through and riven in every direction by deep narrow 
ravines, or by canyons with perpendicular sides. 

In spite of their look of savage desolation, the Bad 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. u 

Lands make a good cattle country, for there is plenty of 
nourishing grass and excellent shelter from the winter 
storms. The cattle keep close to them in the cold 
months, while in the summer time they wander out on the 
broad prairies stretching back of them, or come down to 
the river bottoms. 

My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. 
From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton- 
woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip 
of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs 
and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place 
in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along 
the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll 
back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not 
enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand though they do 
not often read the books, but rock gently to and fro, 
gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, 
until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the 
after-glow of the sunset. The story-high house of hewn 
logs is clean and neat, with many rooms, so that one can 
be alone if one wishes to. The nights in summer are cool 
and pleasant, and there are plenty of bear-skins and buffalo 
robes, trophies of our own skill, with which to bid defiance 
to the bitter cold of winter. In summer time we are not 
much within doors, for we rise before dawn and work 
hard enough to be willing to go to bed soon after night- 
fall. The long winter evenings are spent sitting round 
the hearthstone, while the pine logs roar and crackle, and 
the men play checkers or chess, in the fire light. The 
rifles stand in the corners of the room or rest across the 



12 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

elk antlers which jut out from over the fireplace. From 
the deer horns ranged along the walls and thrust into the 
beams and 1 rafters hang heavy overcoats of wolf-skin or 
coon-skin, and otter-fur or beaver-fur caps and gauntlets. 
Rough board shelves hold a number of books, without 
which some of the evenings would be long indeed. No 
ranchman who loves sport can afford to be without Van 
Dyke's "Still Hunter," Dodge's "Plains of the Great West," 
or Caton's " Deer and Antelope of America" ; and Coues' 
" Birds of the Northwest" will be valued if he cares at all 
for natural history. A western plainsman is reminded every 
day, by the names of the prominent landmarks among 
which he rides, that the country was known to men who 
spoke French long before any of his own kinsfolk came 
to it, and hence he reads with a double interest Parkman's 
histories of the early Canadians. As for Irving, Haw- 
thorne, Cooper, Lowell, and the other standbys, I sup- 
pose no man, east or west, would willingly be long with- 
out them ; while for lighter reading there are dreamy 
Ike Marvel, Burroughs' breezy pages, and the quaint, 
pathetic character-sketches of the Southern writers Cable, 
Cradock, Macon, Joel Chandler Harris, and sweet Sher- 
wood Bonner. And when one is in the Bad Lands he feels 
as if they somehow look just exactly as Poe's tales and 
poems sound. 

By the way, my books have some rather unexpected 
foes, in the shape of the pack rats. These are larger than our 
house rats, with soft gray fur, big eyes, and bushy tails, like 
a squirrel's ; they are rather pretty beasts and very tame, 
often coming into the shacks and log-cabins of the settlers. 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. *3 

Woodmen and plainsmen, in their limited vocabulary, make 
great use of the verb " pack," which means to carry, more 
properly to carry on one's back ; and these' rats were 
christened pack rats, on account of their curious and in- 
veterate habit of dragging off to their holes every object 
they can possibly move. From the hole of one, under- 
neath the wall of a hut, I saw taken a small revolver, a 
hunting-knife, two books, a fork, a small bag, and a tin 
cup. The little shack mice are much more common than 
the rats, and among them there is a wee pocket-mouse, 
with pouches on the outside of its little cheeks. 

In the spring, when the thickets are green, the hermit 
thrushes sing sweetly in them ; when it is moonlight, the 
voluble, cheery notes of the thrashers or brown thrushes 
can be heard all night long. One of our sweetest, loudest 
songsters is the meadow-lark ; this I could hardly get used 
to at first, for it looks exactly like the eastern meadow- 
lark, which utters nothing but a harsh, disagreeable chat- 
ter. But the plains air seems to give it a voice, and it will 
perch on the top of a bush or tree and sing for hours in 
rich, bubbling tones. Out on the prairie there are several 
kinds of plains sparrows which sing very brightly, one of 
them hovering in the air all the time, like a bobolink. 
Sometimes in the early morning, when crossing the open, 
grassy plateaus, I have heard the prince of them all, the 
Missouri skylark. The skylark sings on the wing, soaring 
over head and mounting in spiral curves until it can hardly 
be seen, while its bright, tender strains never cease for a 
moment. I have sat on my horse and listened to one sing- 
ing for a quarter of an hour at a time without stopping. 



1 4 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

There is another bird also which sings on the wing, though 
I have not seen the habit put down in the books. One 
bleak March day, when snow covered the ground and the 
shaggy ponies crowded about the empty corral, a flock 
of snow-buntings came familiarly round the cow-shed, 
clambering over the ridge-pole and roof. Every few mo- 
ments one of them would mount into the air, hovering 
about with quivering wings and warbling a loud, merry 
song with some very sweet notes. They were a most 
welcome little group of guests, and we were sorry when, 
after loitering around a day or two, they disappeared toward 
their breeding haunts. 

In the still fall nights, if we lie awake we can listen to 
the clanging cries of the water-fowl, as their flocks speed 
southward ; and in cold weather the coyotes occasionally 
come near enough for us to hear their uncanny wailing. 
The larger wolves, too, now and then join in, with a kind 
of deep, dismal howling ; but this melancholy sound is 
more often heard when out camping than from the ranch- 
house. 

The charm of ranch life comes in its freedom, and the 
vigorous, open-air existence it forces a man to lead. Ex- 
cept when hunting in bad ground, the whole time away 
from the house is spent in the saddle, and there are so 
many ponies that a fresh one can always be had. These 
ponies are of every size and disposition, and rejoice in 
names as different as their looks. Hackamore, Wire Fence, 
Steel-Trap, War Cloud, Pinto, Buckskin, Circus, and 
Standing Jimmie are among those that, as I write, are 
running frantically round the corral in the vain effort to 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 15 

avoid the rope, wielded by the dextrous and sinewy hand 
of a broad-hatted cowboy. 

A ranchman is kept busy most of the time, but 
his hardest work comes during the spring and fall 
round-ups, when the calves are branded or the beeves 
gathered for market. Our round-up district includes the 
Beaver and Little Beaver creeks (both of which always 
contain running water, and head up toward each other), 
and as much of the river, nearly two hundred miles in ex- 
tent, as lies between their mouths. All the ranches along 
the line of these two creeks and the river space between 
join in sending from one to three or four men to the round- 
up, each man taking eight ponies ; and for every six or seven 
men there will be a four-horse wagon to carry the blankets 
and mess kit. The whole, including perhaps forty or fifty 
cowboys, is under the head of one first-class foreman, 
styled the captain of the round-up. Beginning at one end 
of the line the round-up works along clear to the other. 
Starting at the head of one creek, the wagons and the 
herd of spare ponies go down it ten or twelve miles, while 
the cowboys, divided into small parties, scour the neigh- 
boring country, covering a great extent of territory, and 
in the evening come into the appointed place with all 
the cattle they have seen. This big herd, together with 
the pony herd, is guarded and watched all night, and 
driven during the day. At each home-ranch (where 
-there is always a large corral fitted for the purpose) all 
the cattle pf that brand are cut out from the rest of the 
herd, which is to continue its journey, and the cows and 
calves are driven into the corral, where the latter are 



1 6 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

roped, thrown, and branded. In throwing the rope from 
horseback, the loop, held in the right hand, is swung 
round and round the head by a motion of the wrist ; when 
on foot, the hand is usually held by the side, the loop 
dragging on the ground. It is a pretty sight to see a man 
who knows how, use the rope ; again and again an expert 
will catch fifty animals by the leg without making a mis- 
throw. But unless practice is begun very young it is hard 
to become really proficient. 

Cutting out cattle, next to managing a stampeded herd 
at night, is that part of the cowboy's work needing the 
boldest and most skilful horsemanship. A young heifer 
or steer is very loath to leave the herd, always tries to 
break back into it, can run like a deer, and can dodge like 
a rabbit ; but a thorough cattle pony enjoys the work as 
much as its rider, and follows a beast like a four-footed 
fate through every double and turn. The ponies for the 
cutting-out or afternoon work are small and quick ; those 
used for the circle-riding in the morning have need rather 
to be strong and rangey. 

The work on a round-up is very hard, but although 
the busiest it is also the pleasantest part of a cowboy's 
existence. His food is good, though coarse, and his sleep 
is sound indeed ; while the work is very exciting, and is 
done in company, under the stress of an intense rivalry 
between all the men, both as to their own skill, and as to 
the speed and training of their horses. Clumsiness, and 
still more the slightest approach to timidity, expose a man 
to the roughest and most merciless raillery ; and the unfit 
are weeded out by a very rapid process of natural selec- 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 1 7 

tion. When the work is over for the day the men gather 
round the fire for an hour or two to sing songs, talk, 
smoke, and tell stones ; and he who has a good voice, or, 
better still, can play a fiddle or banjo, is sure to receive 
his meed of most sincere homage. 

Though the ranchman is busiest during the round-up, 
yet he is far from idle at other times. He rides round 
among the cattle to see if any are sick, visits any outlying 
camp of his men, hunts up any band of ponies which may 
stray and they are always straying, superintends the 
haying, and, in fact, does not often find that he has too 
much leisure time on his hands. Even in winter he has 
work which must be done. His ranch supplies milk, 
butter, eggs, and potatoes, and his rifle keeps him, at least 
intermittently, in fresh meat ; but coffee, sugar, flour, and 
whatever else he may want, has to be hauled in, and this 
is generally done when the ice will bear. Then firewood 
must be chopped ; or, if there is a good coal vein, as on 
my ranch, the coal must be dug out and hauled in. 
Altogether, though the ranchman will have time enough 
to take shooting trips, he will be very far from having 
time to make shooting a business, as a stranger who comes 
for nothing else can afford to do. 

There are now no Indians left in my immediate neigh- 
borhood, though a small party of harmless Grosventres 
occasionally passes through ; yet it is but six years since 
the Sioux surprised and killed five men in a log station 
just south of me, where the Fort Keogh trail crosses the 
river ; and, two years ago, when I went down on the 
prairies toward the Black Hills, there was still danger 



1 8 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

from Indians. That summer the buffalo hunters had killed 
a couple of Crows, and while we were on the prairie a 
long-range skirmish occurred near us between some 
Cheyennes and a number of cowboys. In fact, we our- 
selves were one day scared by what we thought to be a 
party of Sioux ; but on riding toward them they proved 
to be half-breed Crees, who were more afraid of us than 
we were of them. 

During the past century a good deal of sentimental 
nonsense has been talked about our taking the Indians' 
land. Now, I do not mean to say for a moment that 
gross wrong has not been done the Indians, both by 
government and individuals, again and again. The govern- 
ment makes promises impossible to perform, and then fails 
to do even what it might toward their fulfilment ; and 
where brutal and reckless frontiersmen are brought into 
contact with a set of treacherous, revengeful, and fiendishly 
cruel savages a long series of outrages by both sides is 
sure to follow. But as regards taking the land, at least 
from the western Indians, the simple truth is that the latter 
never had any real ownership in it at all. Where the 
game was plenty, there they hunted ; they followed it 
when it moved away to new hunting-grounds, unless they 
were prevented by stronger rivals ; and to most of the land 
on which we found them they had no stronger claim than 
that of having a few years previously butchered the origi- 
nal occupants. When my cattle came to the Little Mis- 
souri the region was only inhabited by a score or so of 
white hunters ; their title to it was quite as good as that of 
most Indian tribes to the lands they claim; yet nobody 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 19 

dreamed of saying that these hunters owned the country. 
Each could eventually have kept his own claim of 160 
acres, and no more. The Indians should be treated in 
just the same way that we treat the white settlers. Give 
each his little claim; if, as would generally happen, he 
declined this, why then let him share the fate of the 
thousands of white hunters and trappers who have lived 
on the game that the settlement of the country has ex- 
terminated, arid let him, like these whites, who will not 
work, perish from the face of the earth which he cumbers. 

The doctrine seems merciless, and so it is ; but it is just 
and rational for all that. It does not do to be merciful to 
a few, at the cost of justice to the many. The cattle-men 
at least keep herds and build houses on the land ; yet I 
would not for a moment debar settlers from the right of 
entry to the cattle country, though their coming in means 
in the end the destruction of us and our industry. 

For we ourselves, and the life that we lead, will shortly 
pass away from the plains as completely as the red and 
white hunters who have vanished from before our herds. 
The free, open-air life of the ranchman, the pleasantest and 
healthiest life in America, is from its very nature ephemeral. 
The broad and boundless prairies have already been 
bounded and will soon be made narrow. It is scarcely a 
figure of speech to say that the tide of white settlement 
during the last few years has risen over the west like a 
flood ; and the cattle-men are but the spray from the crest 
of the wave, thrown far in advance, but soon to be over- 
taken. As the settlers throng into the lands and seize the 
good ground, especially that near the streams, the great 



20 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

fenceless ranches, where the cattle and their mounted 
herdsmen wandered unchecked over hundreds of thousands 
of acres, will be broken up and divided into corn land, 
or else into small grazing farms where a few hundred 
head of stock are closely watched and taken care of. Of 
course the most powerful ranches, owned by wealthy 
corporations or individuals, and already firmly rooted in 
the soil, will long resist this crowding; in places, where 
the ground is not suited to agriculture, or where, through 
the old Spanish land-grants, title has been acquired to a 
great tract of territory, cattle ranching will continue for a 
long time, though in a greatly modified form ; elsewhere I 
doubt if it outlasts the present century. Immense sums of 
money have been made at it in the past, and it is still 
fairly profitable ; but the good grounds (aside from those 
reserved for the Indians) are now almost all taken up, and 
it is too late for new men to start at it on their own 
account, unless in exceptional cases, or where an Indian 
reservation is thrown open. Those that are now in will 
continue to make money ; but most of those who hereafter 
take it up will lose. 

The profits of the business are great ; but the chances 
for loss are great also. A winter of unusual severity will 
work sad havoc among the young cattle, especially the 
heifers ; sometimes a disease like the Texas cattle fever 
will take off a whole herd ; and many animals stray and 
are not recovered. In fall, when the grass is like a 
mass of dry and brittle tinder, the fires do much damage, 
reducing the prairies to blackened deserts as far as the eye 
can see, and destroying feed which would keep many 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 21 

thousand head of stock during winter. Then we hold in 
about equal abhorrence the granger who may come in to 
till the land, and the sheep-owner who drives his flocks 
over it. The former will gradually fill up the country to 
our own exclusion, while the latter's sheep nibble the grass 
off so close to the ground as to starve out all other 
animals. 

Then we suffer some loss in certain regions very 
severe loss from wild beasts, such as cougars, wolves, 
and lynxes. The latter, generally called " bob-cats," 
merely make inroads on the hen-roosts (one of them 
destroyed half my poultry, coming night after night with 
most praiseworthy regularity), but the cougars and wolves 
destroy many cattle. 

The wolf is not very common with us ; nothing like 
as plentiful as the little coyote. A few years ago both 
wolves and coyotes were very numerous on the plains, and 
as Indians and hunters rarely molested them, they were 
then very unsuspicious. But all this is changed now. 
When the cattle-men came in they soon perceived in the 
wolves their natural foes, and followed them unrelent- 
ingly. They shot at and chased them on all occasions, 
and killed great numbers by poisoning ; and as a conse- 
quence the comparatively few that are left are as wary and 
cunning beasts as exist anywhere. They hardly ever 
stir abroad by day, and hence are rarely shot or indeed 
seen. During the last three years these brutes have killed 
nearly a score of my cattle, and in return we have poi- 
soned six or eight wolves and a couple of dozen coyotes ; 
yet in all our riding we have not seen so much as a single 



22 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

wolf, and only rarely a coyote. The coyotes kill sheep 
and occasionally very young calves, but never meddle with 
any thing larger. The stockman fears only the large 
wolves. 

According to my experience, the wolf is rather soli- 
tary. A single one or a pair will be found by themselves, 
or possibly with one or more well-grown young ones, and 
will then hunt over a large tract where no other wolves 
will be found ; and as they wander very far, and as their 
melancholy howlings have a most ventriloquial effect, they 
are often thought to be much more plentiful than they 
are. During the daytime they lie hid in caves or in some 
patch of bush, and will let a man pass right by them 
without betraying their presence. Occasionally some- 
body runs across them by accident. A neighboring ranch- 
man to me once stumbled, while riding an unshod pony, 
right into the midst of four wolves who were lying in 
some tall, rank grass, and shot one with his revolver and 
crippled another before they could get away. But such 
an accident as this is very rare ; and when, by any chance, 
the wolf is himself abroad in the daytime he keeps such 
a sharp look-out, and is so wary, that it is almost impos- 
sible to get near him, and he gives every human being a 
wide berth. At night it is different. The wolves then 
wander far and wide, often coming up round the out- 
buildings of the ranches ; I have seen in light Snow the 
tracks of two that had walked round the house within 
fifty feet of it. I have never heard of an instance where 
a man was attacked or threatened by them, but they will 
at times kill every kind of domestic animal. They are 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 2 3 

fond of trying to catch young foals, but do not often suc- 
ceed, for the mares and foals keep together in a kind of 
straggling band, and the foal is early able to run at good 
speed for a short distance. When attacked, the mare and 
foal dash off towards the rest of the band, which gathers 
together at once, the foals pressing into the middle and 
the mares remaining on the outside, not in a ring with 
their heels out, but moving in and out, and forming a solid 
mass into which the wolves do not venture. Full-grown 
horses are rarely molested, while a stallion becomes him- 
self the assailant. 

In early spring when the cows begin to calve the 
wolves sometimes wait upon the herds as they did of old 
on the buffalo, and snap up any calf that strays away from 
its mother. When hard pressed by hunger they will kill 
a steer or a heifer, choosing the bitterest and coldest 
night to make the attack. The prey is invariably seized 
by the haunch or flank, and its entrails afterwards torn 
out ; while a cougar, on the contrary, grasps the neck or 
throat. Wolves have very strong teeth and jaws and 
inflict a most severe bite. They will in winter come up 
to the yards and carry away a sheep, pig, or dog without 
much difficulty ; I have known one which had tried to 
seize a sheep and been prevented by the sheep dogs to 
canter off with one of the latter instead. But a spirited 
dog will always attack a wolf. On the ranch next below 
mine there was a plucky bull terrier, weighing about 
twenty-five pounds, who lost his life owing to his bravery. 
On one moonlight night three wolves came round the 
stable, and the terrier sallied out promptly. He made 



24 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

such a quick rush as to take his opponents by surprise, and 
seized one by the throat ; nor did he let go till the other 
two tore him almost asunder across the loins. Better luck 
attended a large mongrel called a sheep dog by his master, 
but whose blood was apparently about equally derived 
from collie, Newfoundland, and bulldog. He was a sullen, 
but very intelligent and determined brute, powerfully built 
and with strong jaws, and though neither as tall nor as 
heavy as a wolf he had yet killed two of these animals 
single-handed. One of them had come into the farm-yard 
at night, and had taken a young pig, whose squeals roused 
everybody. The wolf loped off with his booty, the dog 
running after and overtaking him in the darkness. The 
struggle was short, for the dog had seized the wolf by the 
throat and the latter could not shake him off, though he 
made the most desperate efforts, rising on his hind legs and 
pressing the dog down with his fore paws. This time the 
victor escaped scatheless, but in his second fight, when he 
strangled a still larger wolf, he was severely punished. 
The wolf had seized a sheep, when the dog, rushing on 
him, caused him to leave his quarry. Instead of running 
he turned to bay at once, taking off one of the assailant's 
ears with a rapid snap. The dog did not get a good hold, 
and the wolf scored him across the shoulders and flung 
him off. They then faced each other for a minute and at 
the next dash the dog made good his throat hold, and 
throttled the wolf, though the latter contrived to get 
his foe's foreleg into his jaws and broke it clear through. 
When I saw the dog he had completely recovered, 
although pretty well scarred. 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 25 

On another neighboring ranch there is a most ill- 
favored hybrid, whose mother was a Newfoundland and 
whose father was a large wolf. It is stoutly built, with 
erect ears, pointed muzzle, rather short head, short bushy 
tail, and of a brindled color ; funnily enough it looks more 
like a hyena than like either of its parents. It is familiar 
with people and a good cattle dog, but rather treach- 
erous ; it both barks and howls. The parent wolf carried 
on a long courtship with the Newfoundland. He came 
round the ranch, regularly and boldly, every night, and 
she would at once go out to him. In the daylight he 
would lie hid in the bushes at some little distance. Once 
or twice his hiding-place was discovered and then the men 
would amuse themselves by setting the Newfoundland 
on him. She would make at him with great apparent 
ferocity ; but when they were a good way from the 
men he would turn round and wait for her and they 
would go romping off together, not to be seen again for 
several hours. 

The cougar is hardly ever seen round my ranch ; but 
toward the mountains it is very destructive both to 
horses and horned cattle. The ranchmen know it by 
the name of mountain lion ; and it is the same beast 
that in the east is called panther or " painter." The 
cougar is the same size and build as the Old World 
leopard, and with very much the same habits. One will 
generally lie in wait for the heifers or young steers as 
they come down to water, and singling out an animal, 
reach it in a couple of bounds and fasten its fangs in 
the throat or neck. I have seen quite a large cow that 



26 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

had been killed by a cougar; and on another occasion, 
while out hunting over light snow, I came across a place 
where two bucks, while fighting, had been stalked up 
to by a cougar which pulled down one and tore him in 
pieces. The cougar's gait is silent and stealthy to an 
extraordinary degree ; the look of the animal when creep- 
ing up to his prey has been wonderfully caught by the 
sculptor, Kemeys, in his bronzes : " The Still Hunt " and 
"The Silent Footfall." 

I have never myself killed a cougar, though my 
brother shot one in Texas, while still-hunting some deer, 
which the cougar itself was after. It never attacks 
man, and even when hard pressed and wounded turns 
to bay with extreme reluctance, and at the first chance 
again seeks safety in flight. This was certainly not the 
case in old times, but the nature of the animal has been so 
changed by constant contact with rifle-bearing hunters, 
that timidity toward them has become a hereditary trait 
deeply engrained in its nature. When the continent was 
first settled, and for long afterward, the cougar was quite 
as dangerous an antagonist as the African or Indian 
leopard, and would even attack men unprovoked. An 
instance of this occurred in the annals of my mother's 
family. Early in the present century one of my ancestral 
relatives, a Georgian, moved down to the wild and almost 
unknown country bordering on Florida. His plantation 
was surrounded by jungles in which all kinds of wild 
beasts swarmed. One of his negroes had a sweetheart on 
another plantation, and in visiting her, instead of going by 
the road he took a short cut through the swamps, heed- 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 27 

less of the wild beasts, and armed only with a long knife 
for he was a man of colossal strength, and of fierce and 
determined temper. One night he started to return late, 
expecting to reach the plantation in time for his daily 
task on the morrow. But he never reached home, and it 
was thought he had run away. However, when search 
was made for him his body was found in the path through 
the swamp, all gashed and torn, and but a few steps from 
him the body of a cougar, stabbed and cut in many 
places. Certainly that must have been a grim fight, in 
the gloomy, lonely recesses of the swamp, with no one to 
watch the midnight death struggle between the powerful, 
naked man and the ferocious brute that was his almost 
unseen assailant. 

When hungry, a cougar will attack any thing it can 
master. I have known of their killing wolves and large 
dogs. A friend of mine, a ranchman in Wyoming, had 
two grizzly bear cubs in his possession at one time, and 
they were kept in a pen outside the ranch. One night 
two cougars came down, and after vain efforts to catch 
a dog which was on the place, leaped into the pen and 
carried off the two young bears ! 

Two or three powerful dogs, however, will give a 
cougar all he wants to do to defend himself. A relative 
of mine in one of the Southern States had a small pack of 
five blood-hounds, with which he used to hunt the cane- 
brakes for bear, wildcats, etc. On one occasion they ran 
across a cougar, and after a sharp chase treed him. As 
the hunters drew near he leaped from the tree and made 
off, but was overtaken by the hounds and torn to pieces 



28 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

after a sharp struggle in which one or two of the pack 
were badly scratched. 

Cougars are occasionally killed by poisoning, and they 
may be trapped much more easily than a wolf. I have 
never known them to be systematically hunted in the 
West, though now and then one is accidentally run across 
and killed with the rifle while the hunter is after some 
other game. 

As already said, ranchmen do not have much idle time 
on their hands, for their duties are manifold, and they 
need to be ever on the watch against their foes, both ani- 
mate and inanimate. Where a man has so much to do 
he cannot spare a great deal of his time for any amuse- 
ment ; but a good part of that which the ranchman can 
spare he is very apt to spend in hunting. His quarry will 
be one of the seven kinds of plains game bear, buffalo, 
elk, bighorn, antelope, blacktail or whitetail deer. 
Moose, caribou, and white goat never come down into the 
cattle country ; and it is only on the southern ranches near 
the Rio Grande and the Rio Colorado that the truculent 
peccary and the great spotted jaguar are found. 

Until recently all sporting on the plains was confined 
to army officers, or to men of leisure who made extensive 
trips for no other purpose ; leaving out of consideration 
the professional hunters, who trapped and shot for their 
livelihood. But with the incoming of the cattle-men, there 
grew up a class of residents, men with a stake in the 
welfare of the country, and with a regular business carried 
on in it, many of whom were keenly devoted to sport, a 
class whose members were in many respects closely akin 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 29 

to the old Southern planters. In this book I propose to 
give some description of the kind of sport that can be 
had by the average ranchman who is fond of the rifle. 
Of course no man with a regular business can have such 
opportunities as fall to the lot of some who pass their 
lives in hunting only ; and we cannot pretend to equal the 
achievements of such men, for with us it is merely a 
pleasure, to be eagerly sought after when we have the 
chance, but not to be allowed to interfere with our 
business. No ranchmen have time to make such extended 
trips as are made by some devotees of sport who are so 
fortunate as to have no every-day work to which to attend. 
Still, ranch life undoubtedly offers more chance to a man 
to get sport than is now the case with any other occupa- 
tion in America, and those who follow it are apt to be 
men of game spirit, fond of excitement and adventure, 
who perforce lead an open-air life, who must needs ride 
well, for they are often in the saddle from sunrise to sun- 
set, and who naturally take kindly to that noblest of weap- 
ons, the rifle. With such men hunting is one of the chief 
of pleasures ; and they follow it eagerly when their work 
will allow them. And with some of them it is at times 
more than a pleasure. On many of the ranches on my 
own, for instance the supply of fresh meat depends 
mainly on the skill of the riflemen, and so, both for 
pleasure and profit, most ranchmen do a certain amount 
of hunting each season. The buffalo are now gone for- 
ever, and the elk are rapidly sharing their fate ; but 
antelope and deer are still quite plenty, and will remain so 
for some years ; and these are the common game of the 



30 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

plainsman. Nor is it likely that the game will disappear 
much before ranch life itself is a thing of the past. It is 
a phase of American life as fascinating as it is evanescent, 
and one well deserving an historian. But in these pages I 
propose to dwell on only one of its many pleasant sides, 
and to give some idea of the game shooting which forms 
perhaps the chief of the cattle-man's pleasures, aside from 
those more strictly connected with his actual work. I 
have to tell of no unusual adventures, but merely of just 
such hunting as lies within reach of most of the sport- 
loving ranchmen whose cattle range along the waters of 
the Powder and the Bighorn, the Little Missouri and the 
Yellowstone. 

Of course I have never myself gone out hunting under 
the direction of a professional guide or professional hunter, 
unless it was to see one of the latter who was reputed 
a crack shot ; all of my trips have been made either by 
myself or else with one of my cowboys as a companion. 
Most of the so-called hunters are not worth much. There 
are plenty of men hanging round the frontier settlements 
who claim to be hunters, and who bedizen themselves in 
all the traditional finery of the craft, in the hope of getting 
a job at guiding some " tender-foot " ; and there are plenty 
of skin-hunters, or meat-hunters, who, after the Indians 
have been driven away and when means of communication 
have been established, mercilessly slaughter the game in 
season and out, being too lazy to work at any regular 
trade, and keeping on hunting until the animals become 
too scarce and shy to be taken without more skill than they 
possess ; but these are all mere temporary excrescences, 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 3 1 

and the true old Rocky Mountain hunter and trapper, 
the plainsman, or mountain-man, who, with all his faults, 
was a man of iron nerve and will, is now almost a thing of 
the past. In the place of these heroes of a bygone age, 
the men who were clad in buckskin and who carried long 
rifles, stands, or rather rides, the bronzed and sinewy cow- 
boy, as picturesque and self-reliant, as dashing and reso- 
lute as the saturnine Indian fighters whose place he has 
taken ; and, alas that it should be written ! he in his turn 
must at no distant time share the fate of the men he has 
displaced. The ground over which he so gallantly rides 
his small, wiry horse will soon know him no more, and in 
his stead there will be the plodding grangers and husband- 
men. I suppose it is right and for the best that the great 
cattle country, with its broad extent of fenceless land, over 
which the ranchman rides as free as the game that he follows 
or the horned herds that he guards, should be in the end 
broken up into small patches of fenced farm land and 
grazing land ; but I hope against hope that I myself shall 
not live to see this take place, for when it does one of 
the pleasantest and freest phases of western American life 
will have come to an end. 

The old hunters were a class by themselves. They 
penetrated, alone or in small parties, to the farthest and 
wildest haunts of the animals they followed, leading a soli- 
tary, lonely life, often never seeing a white face for months 
and even years together. They were skilful shots, and 
were cool, daring, and resolute to the verge of reckless- 
ness. On any thing like even terms they very greatly 
overmatched the Indians by whom they were surrounded. 



32 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

and with whom they waged constant and ferocious wai 
In the government expeditions against the plains tribes 
they were of absolutely invaluable assistance as scouts 
They rarely had regular wives or white children, and there 
are none to take their places, now that the greater part of 
them have gone. For the men who carry on hunting as a 
business where it is perfectly safe have all the vices of their 
prototypes, but, not having to face the dangers that beset the 
latter, so neither need nor possess the stern, rough virtues 
that were required in order to meet and overcome them. 
The ranks of the skin-hunters and meat-hunters contain 
some good men ; but as a rule they are a most unlovely 
race of beings, not excelling even in the pursuit which 
they follow because they are too shiftless to do any thing 
else ; and the sooner they vanish the better. 

A word as to weapons and hunting dress. When I 
first came to the plains I had a heavy Sharps rifle, 45-120, 
shooting an ounce and a quarter of lead, and a 5ocalibre, 
double-barrelled English express. Both of these, espe- 
cially the latter, had a vicious recoil ; the former was very 
clumsy ; and above all they were neither of them re- 
peaters ; for a repeater or magazine gun is as much superior 
to a single- or double-barrelled breech-loader as the latter 
is to a muzzle-loader. I threw them both aside : and have 
instead a 40-90 Sharps for very long range work ; a 
5o-n5 6-shot Bullard express, which has the velocity, 
shock, and low trajectory of the English gun ; and, better 
than either, a 45-75 half-magazine Winchester. The Win- 
chester, which is stocked and sighted to suit myself, is by 
all odds the best weapon I ever had, and I now use it 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 33 

almost exclusively, having killed every kind of game with 
it, from a grizzly bear to a big-horn. It is as handy to 
carry, whether on foot or on horseback, and comes up to 
the shoulder as readily as a shot-gun ; it is absolutely 
sure, and there is no recoil to jar and disturb the aim, 
while it carries accurately quite as far as a man can aim 
with any degree of certainty ; and the bullet, weighing 
three quarters of an ounce, is plenty large enough for any 
thing on this continent. For shooting the very large 
game (buffalo, elephants, etc.) of India and South Africa, 
much heavier rifles are undoubtedly necessary ; but the 
Winchester is the best gun for any game to be found in 
the United States, for it is as deadly, accurate, and handy 
as any, stands very rough usage, and is unapproachable 
for the rapidity of its fire and the facility with which it is 
loaded. 

Of course every ranchman carries a revolver, a long 
45 Colt or Smith & Wesson, by preference the former. 
When after game a hunting-knife is stuck in the girdle. 
This should be stout and sharp, but not too long, with a 
round handle. I have two double-barrelled shot-guns : a 
No. 10 choke-bore for ducks and geese, made by Thomas 
of Chicago ; and a No. 16 hammerless, built for me by Ken- 
nedy of St. Paul, for grouse and plover. On regular hunting 
trips I always carry the Winchester rifle ; but in riding 
round near home, where a man may see a deer and is sure to 
come across ducks and grouse, it is best to take the little 
ranch gun, a double-barrel No. 16, with a 40-70 rifle 
underneath the shot-gun barrels. 

As for clothing, when only off on a day's trip, the 



34 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

ordinary ranchman's dress is good enough : flannel shirt, 
and overalls tucked into alligator boots, the latter being of 
service against the brambles, cacti, and rattlesnakes. Such 
a costume is good in warm weather. When making a long 
hunting trip, where there will be much rough work, espe- 
cially in the dry cold of fall and winter, there is nothing better 
than a fringed buckskin tunic or hunting-shirt, (held in at the 
waist by the cartridge belt,) buckskin trowsers, and a fur cap, 
with heavy moccasins for use in the woods, and light alliga- 
tor-hide shoes if it is intended to cross rocks and open 
ground. Buckskin is most durable, keeps out wind and cold, 
and is the best possible color for the hunter no small point 
in approaching game. For wet it is not as good as flannel, 
and it is hot in warm weather. On very cold days, fur 
gloves and either a coon-skin overcoat or a short riding 
jacket of fisher's fur may be worn. In cold weather, if 
travelling light with only what can be packed behind the 
horse, I sleep in a big buffalo-robe, sewed up at the sides 
and one end into the form of a bag, and very warm. When, 
as is sometimes the case, the spirit in the thermometer sinks 
to 6o 65 Fahrenheit, it is necessary to have more 
wraps and bedding, and we use beaver-robes and bear- 
skins. An oilskin "slicker" or waterproof overcoat and 
a pair of shaps keep out the rain almost completely. 

Where most of the hunting is done on horseback the 
hunting-pony is a very important animal. Many people 
seem to think that any broken-down pony will do to hunt, 
but this seems to me a very great mistake. My own 
hunting-horse, Manitou, is the best and most valuable ani- 
mal on the ranch. He is stoutly built and strong, able to 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 35 

carry a good-sized buck behind his rider for miles at a 
lope without minding it in the least ; he is very enduring 
and very hardy, not only picking up a living but even 
growing fat when left to shift for himself under very hard 
conditions ; and he is perfectly surefooted and as fast as 
any horse on the river. Though both willing and spirited, 
he is very gentle, with an easy mouth, and will stay graz- 
ing in one spot when left, and will permit himself to be 
caught without difficulty. Add to these virtues the fact 
that he will let any dead beast or thing be packed on him, 
and will allow a man to shoot off his back or right by him 
without moving, and it is evident that he is as nearly 
perfect as can be the case with hunting-horseflesh. There 
is a little sorrel mare on the ranch, a perfect little pet, 
that is almost as good, but too small. We have some 
other horses we frequently use, but all have faults. Some 
of the quiet ones are slow, lazy, or tire easily ; others are 
gun shy ; while others plunge and buck if we try to pack 
any game on their backs. Others cannot be left standing 
untied, as they run away ; and I can imagine few forms of 
exercise so soul-harrowing as that of spending an hour or 
two in running, in shaps, top boots, and spurs over a 
broken prairie, with the thermometer at 90, after an 
escaped horse. Most of the hunting-horses used by my 
friends have one or more of these tricks, and it is rare to 
find one, like Manitou, who has none of them. Manitou 
is a treasure and I value him accordingly. Besides, he is 
a sociable old fellow, and a great companion when off 
alone, coming up to have his head rubbed or to get a 
crust of bread, of which he is very fond. 



36 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

To be remarkably successful in killing game a man 
must be a good shot ; but a good target shot may be a 
very poor hunter, and a fairly successful hunter may be 
only a moderate shot. Shooting well with the rifle is the 
highest kind of skill, for the rifle is the queen of weapons ; 
and it is a difficult art to learn. But many other qualities 
go to make up the first-class hunter. He must be perse- 
vering, watchful, hardy, and with good judgment ; and a 
little dash and energy at the proper time often help him 
immensely. I myself am not, and never will be, more 
than an ordinary shot ; for my eyes are bad and my hand 
not over-steady ; yet I have killed every kind of game to 
be found on the plains, partly because I have hunted very 
perseveringly, and partly because by practice I have 
learned to shoot about as well at a wild animal as at a 
target. I have killed rather more game than most of 
the ranchmen who are my neighbors, though at least 
half of them are better shots than I am. 

Time and again I have seen a man who had, as he 
deemed, practised sufficiently at a target, come out "to 
kill a deer," hot with enthusiasm ; and nine out of ten 
times he has gone back unsuccessful, even when deer were 
quite plenty. Usually he has been told by the friend who 
advised him to take the trip, or by the guide who inveigled 
him into it, that " the deer were so plenty you saw them all 
round you," and, this not proving quite true, he lacks per- 
severance to keep on ; or else he fails to see the deer at 
the right time ; or else if he does see it he misses it, mak- 
ing the discovery that to shoot at a gray object, not over- 
distinctly seen, at a distance merely guessed at, and with a 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 37 

background of other gray objects, is very different from 
firing into a target, brightly painted and a fixed number of 
yards off. A man must be able to hit a bull's-eye eight 
inches across every time to do good work with deer or 
other game ; for the spot around the shoulders that is 
fatal is not much bigger than this ; and a shot a little back 
of that merely makes a wound which may in the end prove 
mortal, but which will in all probability allow the animal to 
escape for the time being. It takes a good shot to hit a 
bull's-eye off-hand several times in succession at a hundred 
yards, and if the bull's-eye was painted the same color as the 
rest of the landscape, and was at an uncertain distance, and, 
moreover, was alive, and likely to take to its heels at any 
moment, the difficulty of making a good shot would be 
greatly enhanced. The man who can kill his buck right 
along at a hundred yards has a right to claim that he is a 
good shot. If he can shoot off-hand standing up, that is 
much the best way, but I myself always drop on one knee, 
if I have time, unless the animal is very close. It is 
curious to hear the nonsense that is talked and to 
see the nonsense that is written about the distances 
at which game is killed. Rifles now carry with deadly 
effect the distance of a mile, and most middle-range 
hunting-rifles would at least kill at half a mile ; and in war 
firing is often begun at these ranges. But in war there is 
very little accurate aiming, and the fact that there is a 
variation of thirty or forty feet in the flight of the ball 
makes no difference ; and, finally, a thousand bullets are 
fired for every man that is killed and usually many more 
than a thousand. How would that serve for a record on 



38 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

game ? The truth is that three hundred yards is a very long 
shot, and that even two hundred yards is a long shot. On 
looking over my game-book I find that the average distance 
at which I have killed game on the plains is less than a 
hundred and fifty yards. A few years ago, when the 
buffalo would stand still in great herds, half a mile from 
the hunter, the latter, using a long-range Sharp's rifle, 
would often, by firing a number of shots into the herd at 
that distance, knock over two or three buffalo ; but I have 
hardly ever known single animals to be killed six hundred 
yards off, even in antelope hunting, the kind in which 
most long-range shooting is done ; and at half that dis- 
tance a very good shot, with all the surroundings in his 
favor, is more apt to miss than to hit. Of course old 
hunters the most inveterate liars on the face of the 
earth are all the time telling of their wonderful shots at 
even longer distances, and they do occasionally, when 
shooting very often, make them, but their performances, 
when actually tested, dwindle amazingly. Others, ama- 
teurs, will brag of their rifles. I lately read in a magazine 
about killing antelopes at eight hundred yards with a 
Winchester express, a weapon which cannot be depended 
upon at over two hundred, and is wholly inaccurate at 
over three hundred, yards. 

The truth is that, in almost all cases the hunter merely 
guesses at the distance, and, often perfectly honestly, just 
about doubles it in his own mind. Once a man told me 
of an extraordinary shot by which he killed a deer at four 
hundred yards. A couple of days afterward we happened 
to pass the place, and I had the curiosity to step off the dis- 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 39 

tance, finding it a trifle over a hundred and ninety. I 
always make it a rule to pace off the distance after a 
successful shot, whenever practicable that is, when the 
animal has not run too far before dropping, and I was 
at first both amused and somewhat chagrined to see how 
rapidly what I had supposed to be remarkably long shots 
shrank under actual pacing. It is a good rule always to 
try to get as near the game as possible, and in most cases 
it is best to risk startling it in the effort to get closer 
rather than to risk missing it by a shot at long range. 
At the same time, I am a great believer in powder- 
burning, and if I cannot get near, will generally try a 
shot anyhow, if there is a chance of the rifle's carrying 
to it. In this way a man will now and then, in the 
midst of many misses, make a very good long shot, but 
he should not try to deceive himself into the belief that 
these occasional long shots are to be taken as samples of 
his ordinary skill. Yet it is curious to see how a really 
truthful man will forget his misses, and his hits at close 
quarters, and, by dint of constant repetition, will finally 
persuade himself that he is in the habit of killing his game 
at three or four hundred yards. Of course in different 
kinds of ground the average range for shooting varies. 
In the Bad Lands most shots will be obtained much closer 
than on the prairie, and in the timber they will be nearer 
still. 

Old hunters who are hardy, persevering, and well 
acquainted with the nature of the animals they pursue, 
will often kill a great deal of game without being particu- 
larly good marksmen ; besides, they are careful to get up 



40 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

close, and are not flurried at all, shooting as well at a deer 
as they do at a target They are, as a rule, fair shots 
that is, they shoot a great deal better than Indians or 
soldiers, or than the general run of Eastern amateur 
sportsmen ; but I have never been out with one who has 
not missed a great deal, and the " Leather-stocking " class 
of shooting stories are generally untrue, at least to the 
extent of suppressing part of the truth that is, the num- 
ber of misses. Beyond question our Western hunters 
are, as a body, to the full as good marksmen as, and 
probably much better than, any other body of men in the 
world, not even excepting the Dutch Boers or Tyrolese 
Jagers, and a certain number of them who shoot a great 
deal at game, and are able to squander cartridges very 
freely, undoubtedly become crack shots, and perform 
really wonderful feats. As an instance there is old 
"Vic," a former scout and Indian fighter, and concededly 
the best hunter on the Little Missouri ; probably there 
are not a dozen men in the West who are better shots 
or hunters than he is, and I have seen him do most 
skilful work. He can run the muzzle of his rifle through 
a board so as to hide the sights, and yet do quite good 
shooting at some little distance ; he will cut the head off 
a chicken at eighty or ninety yards, shoot a deer running 
through brush at that distance, kill grouse on the wing 
early in the season, and knock over antelopes when they 
are so far off that I should not dream of shooting. He 
firmly believes, and so do most men that speak of him, 
that he never misses. Yet I have known him make miss 
after miss at game, and some that were not such especially 



Ranching in the Bad Lands. 41 

difficult shots either. One secret of his success is his 
constant practice. He is firing all the time, at marks, 
small birds, etc., etc., and will average from fifty to a hun- 
dred cartridges a day ; he certainly uses nearly twenty 
thousand a year, while a man who only shoots for sport, 
and that occasionally, will, in practising at marks and 
every thing else, hardly get through with five hundred. 
Besides, he was cradled in the midst of wild life, and has 
handled a rifle and used it against both brute and human 
foes almost since his infancy ; his nerves and sinews are 
like iron, and his eye is naturally both quick and true. 

Vic is an exception. With practice an amateur will 
become nearly as good a shot as the average hunter ; and, 
as I said before, I do not myself believe in taking out a 
professional hunter as a shooting companion. If I do not 
go alone I generally go with one of my foremen, Merri- 
field, who himself came from the East but five years ago. 
He is a good-looking fellow, daring and self-reliant, a 
good rider and first-class shot, and a very keen sportsman. 
Of late years he has been my fidus Achates of the hunt- 
ing field. I can kill more game with him than I can 
alone ; and in hunting on the plains there are many 
occasions on which it is almost a necessity to have a 
companion along. 

It frequently happens that a solitary hunter finds him- 
self in an awkward predicament, from which he could be 
extricated easily enough if there were another man with 
him. His horse may fall into a wash-out, or may get 
stuck in a mud-hole or quicksand in such a manner that 
a man working by himself will have great difficulty in 



42 Ranching in the Bad Lands. 

getting it out ; and two heads often prove better than 
one in an emergency, especially if a man gets hurt in 
any way. The first thing that a western plainsman has 
to learn is the capacity for self-help, but at the same 
time he must not forget that occasions may arise when 
the help of others will be most grateful. 





CHAPTER II. 



WATERFOWL, 




NE cool afternoon in the 
early fall, while sitting on 
the veranda of the ranch^ 
house, we heard a long way 
off the ha-ha-honk, ha-honk, of a 
gang of wild geese ; and shortly 
afterward they came in sight, in 
a V-shaped line, flying low and 
write heavily toward the south, 

"i]i r n//j 

along the course of the stream. They went by within 
a hundred yards of the house, and we watched them 
for some minutes as they flew up the valley, for they 
were so low in the air that it seemed certain that 
they would soon alight ; and light they did when 
they were less than a mile past us. As the ground 
was flat and without much cover where they had set- 
tled, I took the rifle instead of a shot-gun and hurried 
after them on foot. W T ild geese are very watchful and 
wary, and as I came toward the place where I thought 

43 



44 Waterfowl* 

they were I crept along with as much caution as if 
the game had been a deer. At last, peering through 
a thick clump of bullberry bushes I saw them. They 
were clustered on a high sandbar in the middle of the 
river, which here ran in a very wide bed between low 
banks. The only way to get at them was to crawl along 
the river-bed, which was partly dry, using the patches 
of rushes and the sand hillocks and drift-wood to shield 
myself from their view. As it was already late and 
the sun was just sinking, I hastily retreated a few paces, 
dropped over the bank, and began to creep along on 
my hands and knees through the sand and gravel. Such 
work is always tiresome, and it is especially so when done 
against time. I kept in line with a great log washed up on 
the shore, which was some seventy-five yards from the 
geese. On reaching it and looking over I was annoyed 
to find that in the fading light I could not distin- 
guish the birds clearly enough to shoot, as the dark 
river bank was behind them. I crawled quickly back 
a few yards, and went off a good bit to the left into 
a hollow. Peeping over the edge I could now see the 
geese, gathered into a clump with their necks held 
straight out, sharply outlined against the horizon ; the 
sand flats stretching out on either side, while the sky 
above was barred with gray and faint crimson. I fired into 
the thickest of the bunch, and as the rest flew off, with 
discordant clamor, ran forward and picked up my victim, 
a fat young wild goose (or Canada goose), the body badly 
torn by the bullet 

On two other occasions I have killed geese with the 



Waterfowl. 45 

rifle. Once while out riding along the river bottoms, just 
at dawn, my attention was drawn to a splashing and low 
cackling in the stream, where the water deepened in a 
wide bend, which swept round a low bluff. Leaving my 
horse where he was, I walked off towards the edge of the 
stream, and lying on the brink of the bank looked over 
into the water of the bend. Only a faint streak of light 
was visible in the east, so that objects on the water could 
hardly be made out ; and the little wreaths of mist that 
rose from the river made the difficulty even greater. The 
birds were some distance above me, where the water made 
a long straight stretch through a sandy level. I could not 
see them, but could plainly hear their low murmuring and 
splashing, and once one of them, as I judged by the sound, 
stood up on end and flapped its wings vigorously. Pretty 
soon a light puff of wind blew the thin mist aside, and I 
caught a glimpse of them ; as I had supposed, they were 
wild geese, five of them, swimming slowly, or rather rest- 
ing on the water, and being drifted down with the current. 
The fog closed over them again, but it was growing light 
very rapidly, and in a short time I knew they would be in 
the still water of the bend just below me, so I rose on my 
elbows and held my rifle ready at the poise. In a few 
minutes, before the sun was above the horizon, but when 
there was plenty of light by which to shoot, another eddy 
in the wind blew away the vapor and showed the five 
geese in a cluster, some thirty yards off. I fired at once, 
and one of the geese, kicking and flapping frantically, fell 
over, its neck half cut from the body, while the others, 
with laborious effort, got under way. Before they could 



46 Waterfowl. 

get their heavy bodies fairly off the water and out of 
range, I had taken three more shots, but missed. Waiting 
till the dead goose drifted into shore, I picked it up and 
tied it on the saddle of my horse to carry home to the 
ranch. Being young and fat it was excellent eating. 

The third goose I killed with the rifle was of a differ- 
ent kind. I had been out after antelopes, starting before 
there was any light in the heavens, and pushing straight 
out towards the rolling prairie. After two or three hours, 
when the sun was well up, I neared where a creek ran in 
a broad, shallow valley. I had seen no game, and before 
coming up to the crest of the divide beyond which lay the 
creek bottom, I dismounted and crawled up to it, so as to 
see if any animal had come down to drink. Field glasses 
are almost always carried while hunting on the plains, as 
the distances at which one can see game are so enormous. 
On looking over the crest with the glasses the valley of 
the creek for about a mile was stretched before me. At 
my feet the low hills came closer together than in other 
places, and shelved abruptly down to the bed of the val- 
ley, where there was a small grove of box-alders and 
cotton-woods. The beavers had, in times gone by, built a 
large dam at this place across the creek, which must have 
produced a great back-flow and made a regular little lake 
in the times of freshets. But the dam was now broken, 
and the beavers, or most of them, gone, and in the place 
of the lake was a long green meadow. Glancing towards 
this my eye was at once caught by a row of white objects 
stretched straight across it, and another look showed me 
that they were snow-geese. They were feeding, and were 



Waterfowl. 47 

moving abreast of one another slowly down the length of 
the meadow towards the end nearest me, where the patch 
of small trees and brushwood lay. A goose is not as big 
game as an antelope ; still I had never shot a snow-goose, 
and we needed fresh meat, so I slipped back over the crest 
and ran down to the bed of the creek, round a turn of the 
hill, where the geese were out of sight. The creek was 
not an entirely dry one, but there was no depth of water 
in it except in certain deep holes ; elsewhere it was a 
muddy ditch with steep sides, difficult to cross on horse- 
back because of the quicksands. I walked up to the trees 
without any special care, as they screened me from view, 
and looked cautiously out from behind them. The geese 
were acting just as our tame geese act in feeding on a 
common, moving along with their necks stretched out be- 
fore them, nibbling and jerking at the grass as they tore it 
up by mouthfuls. They were very watchful, and one or 
the other of them had its head straight in the air looking 
sharply round all the time. Geese will not come near any 
cover in which foes may be lurking if they can help it, 
and so I feared that they would turn before coming near 
enough to the brush to give me a good shot. I therefore 
dropped into the bed of the creek, which wound tortu- 
ously along the side of the meadow, and crept on all 
fours along one of its banks until I came to where it made 
a loop out towards the middle of the bottom. Here there 
was a tuft of tall grass, which served as a good cover, and 
I stood upright, dropping my hat, and looking through 
between the blades. The geese, still in a row, with sev- 
eral yards' interval between each one and his neighbor, 



48 Waterfowl. 

were only sixty or seventy yards off, still feeding towards 
me. They came along quite slowly, and the ones nearest, 
with habitual suspicion, edged away from the scattered 
tufts of grass and weeds which marked the brink of the 
creek. I tried to get two in line, but could not. There 
was one gander much larger than any other bird in the 
lot, though not the closest to me; as he went by just 
opposite my hiding-place, he stopped still, broadside to 
me, and I aimed just at the root of the neck for he was 
near enough for any one firing a rifle from a rest to hit him 
about where he pleased. Away flew the others, and in a 
few minutes I was riding along with the white gander 
dangling behind my saddle. 

The beaver meadows spoken of above are not com- 
mon, but, until within the last two or three years, beavers 
themselves were very plentiful, and there are still a good 
many left. Although only settled for so short a period, 
the land has been known to hunters for half a century, and 
throughout that time it has at intervals been trapped over 
by whites or half-breeds. If fur was high and the Indians 
peaceful quite a number of trappers would come in, for 
the Little Missouri Bad Lands were always famous both 
for fur and game ; then if fur went down, or an Indian war 
broke out, or if the beaver got pretty well thinned out, the 
place would be forsaken and the animals would go un- 
molested for perhaps a dozen years, when the process 
would be repeated. But the incoming of the settlers and 
the driving out of the Indians have left the ground clear 
for the trappers to work over unintermittently, and the 
extinction of the beaver throughout the plains country is 



Waterfowl. 49 

a question of but a short time. Excepting an occasional 
otter or mink, or a few musk-rats, it is the only fur-bearing 
animal followed by the western plains trapper ; and its 
large size and the marked peculiarities of its habits, to- 
gether with the accessibility of its haunts on the plains, 
as compared with its haunts in the deep woods and moun- 
tains, render its pursuit and capture comparatively easy. 
We have trapped (or occasionally shot) on the ranch 
during the past three years several score beaver ; the fur 
is paler and less valuable than in the forest animal. Those 
that live in the river do not build dams all across it, but 
merely extending up some distance against the current, so 
as to make a deep pool or eddy, beside which are the 
burrows and houses. It would seem to be a simple feat 
to break into a beaver house, but in reality it needs no 
little toil with both spade and axe, for the house has very 
thick roof and walls, made of clay and tough branches, 
twisted together into a perfect mat, which, when frozen, 
can withstand any thing but the sharpest and best of tools. 
At evening beaver often come out to swim, and by wait- 
ing on the bank perfectly quietly for an hour or so a close 
shot can frequently be obtained. 

Beaver are often found in the creeks, not only in those 
which always contain running water, but also in the dry 
ones. Here they build dams clean across, making ponds 
which always contain water, even if the rest of the bed 
is almost dry ; and I have often been surprised to find 
fresh traces of beaver in a pond but a few feet across, 
a mile away from any other body of water. On one 
occasion I was deer-hunting in a rough, broken country, 



so Waterfowl. 

which was little more than a tangle of ravines and clefts, 
with very steep sides rising into sharp hills. The sides of 
the ravines were quite densely overgrown with underbrush 
and young trees, and through one or two of them ran, 
or rather trickled, small streams, but an inch or two in depth, 
and often less. Directly across one of these ravines, at 
its narrowest and steepest part, the beaver had built an 
immense, massive dam, completely stopping the course of 
a little brooklet. The dam was certainly eight feet high, 
and strong enough and broad enough to cross on horse- 
back ; and it had turned back the stream until a large 
pond, almost a little lake, had been formed by it. This 
was miles from any other body of water, but, judging 
from the traces of their work, it had once held a large 
colony of beavers ; when I saw it they had all been 
trapped out, and the pond had been deserted for a year 
and over. Though clumsy on dry ground, and fearing 
much to be caught upon it, yet beaver can make, if 
necessary, quite long overland journeys, and that at a 
speed with which it will give a man trouble to keep up. 

As there are few fish in the plains streams, otters are 
naturally not at all common, though occasionally we get 
one. Musk-rats are quite plenty in all the pools of water. 
Sometimes a little pool out on the prairie will show along 
its edges numerous traces of animal life ; for, though of 
small extent, and a long distance from other water, it may 
be the home of beavers and musk-rats, the breeding-place 
of different kinds of ducks, and the drinking-place for the 
denizens of the dry country roundabouts, such as wolves, 
antelopes, and badgers. 



Waterfowl. 5* 

Although the plains country is in most places very 
dry, yet there are here and there patches of prairie land 
where the reverse is true. One such is some thirty miles 
distant from my ranch. The ground is gently rolling, in 
some places almost level, and is crossed by two or three 
sluggish, winding creeks, with many branches, always hold- 
ing water, and swelling out into small pools and lakelets 
wherever there is a hollow. The prairie round about is 
wet, at times almost marshy, especially at the borders of 
the great reedy slews. These pools and slews are favorite 
breeding-places for water-fowl, especially for mallard, and 
a good bag can be made at them in the fall, both among 
the young flappers (as tender and delicious birds for the 
table as any I know), and among the flights of wild duck 
that make the region a stopping-place on their southern 
migration. In these small pools, with little cover round 
the edges, the poor flappers are at a great disadvantage ; 
we never shoot them unless we really need them for the 
table. But quite often, in August or September, if near 
the place, I have gone down to visit one or two of the 
pools, and have brought home half a dozen flappers, killed 
with the rifle if I had been out after large game, or with 
the revolver if I had merely been among the cattle, each 
duck, in the latter case, representing the expenditure of a 
vast number of cartridges. 

Later in the fall, when the young ducks are grown and 
the flocks are coming in from the north, fair shooting may 
be had by lying in the rushes on the edge of some large 
pond, and waiting for the evening flight of the birds ; or 
else by taking a station on some spot of low ground 



52 Waterfowl. 

across which the ducks fly in passing from one sheet of 
water to another. Frequently quite a bag of mallard, 
widgeon, and pintail can be made in this manner, although 
nowhere in the Bad Lands is there any such duck-shooting 
as is found farther east. Ducks are not very easy to kill, 
or even to hit, when they fly past. My duck-gun, the 
No. 10 choke-bore, is a very strong and close shooting 
piece, and such a one is needed when the strong-flying 
birds are at any distance ; but the very fact of its shooting 
so close makes it necessary that the aim should be very 
true ; and as a consequence my shooting at ducks has 
varied from bad to indifferent, and my bags have been 
always small. 

Once I made an unusually successful right and left, 
however. In late summer and early fall large flocks of 
both green-winged and blue-winged teal are often seen 
both on the ponds and on the river, flying up and down 
the latter. On one occasion while out with the wagon we 
halted for the mid-day meal on the bank of the river. 
Travelling across the plains in company with a wagon, es- 
pecially if making a long trip, as we were then doing, is 
both tiresome and monotonous. The scenery through the 
places where the wagon must go is everywhere much the 
same, and the pace is very slow. At lunch-time I was 
glad to get off the horse, which had been plodding along 
at a walk for hours, and stretch my muscles ; and, noticing 
a bunch of teal fly past and round a bend in the river, 
I seized the chance for a little diversion, and taking 
my double-barrel, followed them on foot. The banks 
were five or six feet high, edged with a thick growth of 



Waterfowl. 53 

cotton-wood saplings ; so the chance to creep up was very 
good. On getting round the bend I poked my head 
through the bushes, and saw that the little bunch I was 
after had joined a great flock of teal, which was on a sand 
bar in the middle of the stream. They were all huddled 
together, some standing on the bar, and others in the 
water right by it, and I aimed for the thickest part of the 
flock. At the report they sprang into the air, and I 
leaped to my feet to give them the second barrel, when, 
from under the bank right beneath me, two shoveller or 
spoon-bill ducks rose, with great quacking, and, as they 
were right in line, I took them instead, knocking both 
over. When I had fished out the two shovellers, I waded 
over to the sand bar and picked up eleven teal, making 
thirteen ducks with the two barrels. 

On one occasion my brother and myself made a short 
wagon trip in the level, fertile, farming country, whose 
western edge lies many miles to the east of the Bad Lands 
around my ranch. There the land was already partially 
settled by farmers, and we had one or two days' quite fair 
duck-shooting. It was a rolling country of mixed prairie 
land and rounded hills, with small groves of trees and 
numerous little lakes in the hollows. The surface of the 
natural prairie was broken in places by great wheat fields, 
and when we were there the grain was gathered in sheaves 
and stacks among the stubble. At night-time we either 
put up at the house of some settler, or, if there were none 
round, camped out. 

One night we had gone into camp among the dense 
timber fringing a small river, which wound through the 



54 Waterfowl. 

prairie in a deep narrow bed with steep banks. Until 
people have actually camped out themselves it is difficult 
for them to realize how much work there is in making or 
breaking camp. But it is very quickly done if every man 
has his duties assigned to him and starts about doing them 
at once. In choosing camp there are three essentials to 
be looked to wood, water, and grass. The last is found 
everywhere in the eastern prairie land, where we were on 
our duck-shooting trip, but in many places on the great 
dry plains farther west, it is either very scanty or altogether 
lacking ; and I have at times been forced to travel half 
a score miles farther than I wished to get feed for the 
horses. Water, again, is a commodity not by any means 
to be found everywhere on the plains. If the country is 
known and the journeys timed aright, water can easily be 
had, at least at the night camps, for on a pinch a wagon 
can be pushed along thirty miles or so at a stretch, giving 
the tough ponies merely a couple of hours' rest and feed 
at mid-day ; but in going through an unknown country it 
has been my misfortune on more than one occasion to 
make a dry camp that is, one without any water either 
for men or horses, and such camps are most uncomfort- 
able. The thirst seems to be most annoying just after 
sundown ; after one has gotten to sleep and the air has 
become cool, he is not troubled much by it again until 
within two or three hours of noon next day, when the 
chances are that he will have reached water, for of course 
by that time he will have made a desperate push to get to 
it-. When found, it is more than likely to be bad, being 
either from a bitter alkaline pool, or from a hole in a creek, 



Waterfowl. 55 

so muddy that it can only be called liquid by courtesy. 
On the great plains wood is even scarcer, and at least half 
the time the only material from which to make a fire will be 
buffalo chips and sage brush ; the long roots of the latter 
if dug up make a very hot blaze. Of course when wood 
is so scarce the fire is a small one, used merely to cook 
by, and is not kept up after the cooking is over. 

When a place with grass, wood, and water is found, 
the wagon is driven up to the windward side of where the 
beds are to be laid, and the horses are unhitched, watered, 
and turned out to graze freely until bedtime, when a cer- 
tain number of them are picketed or hobbled. If danger 
from white or red horse-thieves is feared, a guard is kept 
over them all night. The ground is cleared of stones and 
cacti where the beds are to be placed, and the blankets 
and robes spread. Generally we have no tent, and the 
wagon-cover is spread over all to keep out rain. Mean- 
while some one gathers the wood and starts a fire. The 
coffee-pot is set among the coals, and the frying-pan with 
bacon and whatever game has been shot is placed on 
top. Like Eastern backwoodsmen, all plainsmen fry about 
every thing they can get hold of to cook ; for my own 
use I always have a broiler carried along in the wagon. 
One evening in every three or four is employed in baking 
bread in the Dutch oven ; if there is no time for this, bis- 
cuits are made in the frying-pan. The food carried along 
is very simple, consisting of bacon, flour, coffee, sugar, 
baking-powder, and salt ; for all else we depend on our 
guns. On a long trip every old hand carries a water-proof 
canvas bag, containing his few spare clothes and neces- 



5 6 Waterfowl. 

saries ; on a short trip a little oilskin one, for the tooth- 
brush, soap, towel, etc., will do. 

On the evening in question our camping-ground was 
an excellent one ; we had no trouble about any thing, 
except that we had to bring water to the horses in pails, 
for the banks were too steep and rotten to get them down 
to the river. The beds were made under a great elm, and 
in a short time the fire was roaring in front of them, while 
the tender grouse were being roasted on pointed sticks. 
One of the pleasantest times of camping out is the period 
immediately after supper, when the hunters lie in the 
blaze of the firelight, talking over what they have done 
during the day and making their plans for the morrow. 
And how soundly a man who has worked hard sleeps in 
the open, none but he who has tried it knows. 

Before we had risen in the morning, when the black- 
ness of the night had barely changed to gray, we were 
roused by the whistle of wings, as a flock of ducks flew 
by along the course of the stream, and lit in the water 
just above the camp. Some kinds of ducks in lighting 
strike the water with their tails first, and skitter along the 
surface for a few feet before settling down. Lying in our 
blankets we could plainly hear all the motions : first of all, 
the whistle whistle of their wings; then a long-drawn 
splash-h-h plump ; and then a low, conversational quack- 
ing. It was too dark to shoot, but we got up and ready, 
and strolled down along the brink of the river opposite 
where we could hear them ; and as soon as we could see 
we gave them four barrels and picked up half a dozen 
scaup-ducks. Breakfast was not yet ready, and we took 



Waterfowl. 57 

a turn out on the prairie before coming back to the 
wagon. In a small pool, down in a hollow, were a couple 
of little dipper ducks or buffle-heads ; they rose slowly 
against the wind, and offered such fair marks that it was 
out of the question to miss them. 

The evening before we had lain among the reeds near 
a marshy lake and had killed quite a number of ducks, 
mostly widgeon and teal ; and this morning we intended 
to try shooting among the cornfields. By sunrise we 
were a good distance off, on a high ridge, across which we 
had noticed that the ducks flew in crossing from one set 
of lakes to another. The flight had already begun, and 
our arrival scared off the birds for the time being ; but in 
a little while, after we had hidden among the sheaves, 
stacking the straw up around us, the ducks began to come 
back, either flying over in their passage from the water, or 
else intending to light and feed. They were for the most 
part mallards, which are the commonest of the Western 
ducks, and the only species customarily killed in this 
kind of shooting. They are especially fond of the corn, 
of which there was a small patch in the grain field. To 
this flocks came again and again, and fast though they 
flew we got many before they left the place, scared by the 
shooting. Those that were merely passing from one 
point to another flew low, and among them we shot a 
couple of gadwall, and also knocked over a red-head from 
a little bunch that went by, their squat, chunky forms 
giving them a very different look from the longer, lighter- 
built mallard. The mallards that came to feed flew high 
in the air, wheeling round in gradually lowering circles 



58 Waterfowl. 

when they had reached the spot where they intended to 
light. In shooting in the grain fields there is usually 
plenty of time to aim, a snap shot being from the nature 
of the sport exceptional. Care must be taken to lie quiet 
until the ducks are near enough ; shots are most often lost 
through shooting too soon. Heavy guns with heavy 
loads are necessary, for the ducks are generally killed at 
long range ; and both from this circumstance as well as 
from the rapidity of their flight, it is imperative to hold 
well ahead of the bird fired at. It has one advantage 
over shooting in a marsh, and that is that a wounded bird 
which drops is of course hardly ever lost. Corn-fed 
mallards are most delicious eating ; they rank on a par 
with teal and red-head, and second only to the canvas- 
back a bird, by the way, of which I have never killed 
but one or two individuals in the West. 

In going out of this field we got a shot at a gang of 
wild geese. We saw them a long way off, coming 
straight toward us in a head and tail line. Down we 
dropped, flat on our faces, remaining perfectly still without 
even looking up (for wild geese are quick to catch the 
slightest motion) until the sound of the heavy wing 
strokes and the honking seemed directly overhead. Then 
we rose on our knees and fired all four barrels, into which 
we had slipped buckshot cartridges. They were away up 
in the air, much beyond an ordinary gunshot ; and we 
looked regretfully after them as they flew off. Pretty 
soon one lagged a little behind ; his wings beat slower ; 
suddenly his long neck dropped, and he came down like a 
stone, one of the buckshot having gone clean through his 
breast 



Waterfowl. 59 

We had a long distance to make that day, and after 
leaving the grain fields travelled pretty steadily, only get- 
ting out of the wagon once or twice after prairie chickens. 
At lunch time we halted near a group of small ponds and 
reedy sloughs. In these were quite a number of teal and 
wood-duck, which were lying singly, in pairs, or small 
bunches, on the edges of the reeds, or where there were 
thick clusters of lily pads ; and we had half an hour's 
good sport in "jumping" these little ducks, moving cau- 
tiously along the margin of the reeds, keeping as much as 
possible concealed from view, and shooting four teal and 
a wood-duck, as, frightened at our near approach, they 
sprang into the air and made off. Late in the evening, 
while we were passing over a narrow neck of land that 
divided two small lakes, with reedy shores, from each 
other, a large flock of the usually shy pintail duck passed 
over us at close range, and we killed two from the wagon, 
making in all a bag of twenty-one and a half couple of 
water-fowl during the day, two thirds falling to my broth- 
er's gun. Of course this is a very small bag indeed com- 
pared to those made in the Chesapeake, or in Wisconsin 
and the Mississippi valley ; but the day was so perfect, 
and there were so many varieties of shooting, that I ques- 
tion if any bag, no matter how large, ever gave much 
more pleasure to the successful sportsman than did our 
forty-three ducks to us. 

Though ducks fly so fast, and need such good shooting 
to kill them, yet their rate of speed, as compared to that 
of other birds, is not so great as is commonly supposed. 
Hawks, for instance, are faster. Once, on the prairie, I 



60 Waterfowl. 

saw a mallard singled out of a flock, fairly overtaken, and 
struck down, by a large, light-colored hawk, which I sup- 
posed to be a lanner, or at any rate one of the long- 
winged falcons ; and I saw a duck hawk, on the coast of 
Long Island, perform a similar feat with the swift-flying 
long-tailed duck the old squaw, or sou'-sou'-southerly, 
of the baymen. A more curious instance was related to 
me by a friend. He was out along a river, shooting ducks 
as they flew by him, and had noticed a bald eagle perched 
on the top of a dead tree some distance from him. While 
looking at it a little bunch of teal flew swiftly by, and to 
his astonishment the eagle made after them. The little 
ducks went along like bullets, their wings working so fast 
that they whistled ; flop, flop came the great eagle after 
them, with labored-looking flight ; and yet he actually 
gained so rapidly on his seemingly fleeter quarry that he 
was almost up to them when opposite my friend. Then 
the five teal went down headlong into the water, diving 
like so many shot. The eagle kept hovering over the 
spot, thrusting with its claws at each little duck as it came 
up ; but he was unsuccessful, all of the teal eventually 
getting into the reeds, where they were safe. In the East, 
by the way, I have seen the same trick of hovering over 
the water where a flock of ducks had disappeared, per- 
formed by a Cooper's hawk. He had stooped at some 
nearly grown flappers of the black duck ; they all went 
under water, and he remained just above, grasping at any 
one that appeared, and forcing them to go under without 
getting a chance to breathe. Soon he had singled out 
one, which kept down a shorter and shorter time at each 



IV at erf owl. 6l 

dive ; it soon grew exhausted, was a little too slow in 
taking a dive, and was grasped in the claws of its foe. 

In duck-shooting where there are reeds, grass and 
water-lilies the cripples should be killed at once, even at the 
cost of burning some additional powder, many kinds of 
waterfowl being very expert at diving. Others, as wid- 
geon, shoveller, and teal, do not dive, merely trying to hide 
in some hole in the bank ; and these are generally birds 
that fall to the touch of shot much more easily than is the 
case with their tougher relatives. 

There are two or three species of birds tolerably com- 
mon over the plains which we do not often regularly hunt, 
but which are occasionally shot for the table. These are 
the curlew, the upland or grass plover, and the golden 
plover. All three kinds belong to the family of what are 
called wading birds ; but with us it is rare to see any one 
of them near water. 

The curlew is the most conspicuous ; indeed its loud, 
incessant clamor, its erect carriage, and the intense 
curiosity which possesses it, and which makes it come 
up to circle around any strange object, all combine to 
make it in springtime one of the most conspicuous 
features of plains life. At that time curlews are seen 
in pairs or small parties, keeping to the prairies and 
grassy uplands. They are never silent, and their dis- 
cordant noise can be heard half a mile off. Whenever 
they discover a wagon or a man on horseback, they fly 
toward him, though usually taking good care to keep out 
of gunshot. They then fly over and round the object, 
calling all the time, and sometimes going off to. one 



62 Waterfowl. 

side, where they will light and run rapidly through the 
grass ; and in this manner they will sometimes accompany 
a hunter or traveller for miles, scaring off all game. By 
the end of July or August they have reared their young; 
they then go in small flocks, are comparatively silent, 
and are very good eating. I have never made a prac- 
tice of shooting them, though I have fired at them some- 
times with the rifle, and in this way have now and then 
killed one ; twice I have hit them on the wing with 
this weapon, while they were soaring slowly about above 
me, occasionally passing pretty near. 

The grass plover is found in the same places as 
the curlew, and like it breeds with us. Its flesh is just as 
good, and it has somewhat the same habits ; but is less 
wary, noisy, and inquisitive. The golden plover is only 
found during the migrations, when large flocks may some- 
times be seen. They are delicious eating ; the only ones 
I have ever shot have been killed with the little ranch 
gun, when riding round the ranch, or travelling from one 
point to another. 

Like the grouse, and other ground-nesting birds, 
the curlews and plovers during breeding-time have for 
their chief foes the coyotes, badgers, skunks, and other 
flesh-eating prowlers ; and as all these are greatly thinned 
off by the cattle-men, with their fire-arms and their infi- 
nitely more deadly poison, the partial and light settlement 
of the country that accompanies the cattle industry has 
had the effect of making all these birds more plentiful 
than before ; and most unlike the large game, game birds 
bid fair to increase in numbers during the next few years. 



Waterfowl. 6 3 

The skunks are a nuisance in more ways than one. 
They are stunid, familiar beasts, with a great predi- 
lection for visiting camps, and the shacks or huts of 
the settlers, to pick up any scraps of meat that may 
be lying round. I have time and again known a 
skunk to actually spend several hours of the night in 
perseveringly digging a hole underneath the logs of 
a hut, so as to get inside among the inmates. The 
animal then hunts about among them, and of course 
no one will willingly molest it ; and it has often been 
known to deliberately settle down upon and begin to eat 
one of the sleepers. The strange and terrible thing about 
these attacks is that in certain districts and at certain 
times the bite of the skunk is surely fatal, producing 
hydrophobia ; and many cowmen, soldiers, and hunters 
have annually died from this cause. There is no wild 
beast in the West, no matter what its size and ferocity, 
so dreaded by old plainsmen as this seemingly harmless 
little beast. 

I remember one rather ludicrous incident connected 
with a skunk. A number of us, among whom was a huge, 
happy-go-lucky Scotchman, who went by the name of 
Sandy, were sleeping in a hut, when a skunk burrowed 
under the logs and got in. Hearing it moving about 
among the tin pans Sandy struck a light, was much taken 
by the familiarity of the pretty black and white little 
animal, and, as it seemed in his eyes a curiosity, took 
a shot at it with his revolver. He missed ; the skunk, 
for a wonder, retired promptly without taking any notice 
of the attack ; and the rest of the alarmed sleepers, when 



64 Waterfowl. 

informed of the cause of the shot, cursed the Scotchman 
up hill and down dale for having so ne?rlv brought dire 
confusion on them all. The latter took the abuse very 
philosophically, merely remarking : " I 'm glad a did na 
kill him mysel' ; he seemed such a dacent wee beastie." 
The sequel proved that neither the skunk nor Sandy had 
learned any wisdom by the encounter, for half an hour 
later the " dacent wee beastie " came back, and this time 
Sandy fired at him with fatal effect. Of course the re- 
sult was a frantic rush of all hands from the hut, Sandy 
exclaiming with late but sincere repentance : " A did na 
ken 't wad cause such a tragadee." 

Besides curlew and plover there are at times, especially 
during the migrations, a number of species of other waders 
to be found along the streams and pools in the cattle 
region. Yellowlegs, yelper, willet, marlin, dough bird, 
stilt, and avocet are often common, but they do not begin 
to be as plentiful as they are in the more fertile lands to 
the eastward, and the ranchmen never shoot at them or 
follow them as game birds. 

A more curious bird than any of these is the plains 
plover, which avoids the water and seems to prefer the 
barren plateaus and almost desert-like reaches of sage-brush 
and alkali. Plains plovers are pretty birds, and not at all 
shy. In fall they are fat and good eating, but they are 
not plentiful enough to be worth going after. Sometimes 
they are to be seen in the most seemingly unlikely places 
for a wader to be. Last spring one pair nested in a bro- 
ken piece of Bad Lands near my ranch, where the ground 
is riven and twisted into abrupt, steep crests and deep 



Waterfowl. 6 5 

canyons. The soil is seemingly wholly unfitted to sup- 
port bird life, as it is almost bare of vegetation, being 
covered with fossil plants, shells, fishes, etc. all of which 
objects, by the way, the frontiersman, who is much given 
to broad generalization, groups together under the start- 
ling title of " stone clams." 




CHAPTER III. 

THE GROUSE OF THE NORTHERN CATTLE 

PLAINS. 




IO my mind there is no com- 
parison between sport with 
the rifle and sport with the 
shot-gun. The rifle is the 
freeman's weapon. The man 
who uses it well in the chase 
shows that he can at need use it also 
in war with human foes. I would no 
more compare the feat of one who bags his score of ducks 
or quail with that of him who fairly hunts down and slays 
a buck or bear, than I would compare the skill necessary 
to drive a buggy with that required to ride a horse across 
country ; or the dexterity acquired in handling a bill- 
iard cue with that shown by a skilful boxer or oarsman. 
The difference is not one of degree ; it is one of kind. 

I am far from decrying the shot-gun. It is always 
pleasant as a change from the rifle, and in the Eastern 
States it is almost the only fire-arm which we now have a 

66 



Grouse. 6 ~ 

chance to use. But out in the cattle country it is the rifle 
that is always carried by the ranchman who cares for sport. 
Large game is still that which is sought after, and most of 
the birds killed are either simply slaughtered for the pot, 
or else shot for the sake of variety, while really after deer 
or antelope ; though every now and then I have taken a 
day with the shot-gun after nothing else but prairie fowl. 

The sharp-tailed prairie fowl is much the most plenti- 
ful of the feathered game to be found on the northern 
cattle plains, where it replaces the common prairie chicken 
so abundant on the prairies to the east and southeast of 
the range of our birds. In habits it is much like the lat- 
ter, being one of the grouse which keep to the open, tree- 
less tracts, though it is far less averse to timber than is its 
nearest relative, and often is found among the cotton-wood 
trees and thick brush which fringe the streams. I have 
never noticed that its habits when pursued differ much 
from those of the common prairie chicken, though it is 
perhaps a little more shy, and is certainly much more apt 
to light on a tree like the ruffed grouse. It is, however, 
essentially a bird of the wilds, and it is a curious fact that 
it seems to retreat before civilization, continually moving 
westward as the wheat fields advance, while its place is 
taken by the common form, which seems to keep pace with 
the settlement of the country. Like the latter bird, and 
unlike the ruffed grouse and blue grouse, which have white 
meat, its flesh is dark, and it is very good eating from 
about the middle of August to the middle of November, 
after which it is a little tough. 

As already said, the ranchmen do not often make a 



68 Grouse. 

regular hunt after these grouse. This is partly because 
most of them look with something akin to contempt upon 
any fire-arm but the rifle or revolver, and partly because it 
is next to impossible to keep hunting-dogs very long on 
the plains. The only way to check in any degree the 
ravages of the wolves is by the most liberal use of strych- 
nine, and the offal of any game killed by a cattle-man is 
pretty sure to be poisoned before being left, while the 
" wolfer," or professional wolf-killer strews his bait every- 
where. It thus comes about that any dog who is in the 
habit of going any distance from the house is almost sure 
to run across and eat some of the poisoned meat, the effect 
of which is certain death. The only time I have ever shot 
sharp-tailed prairie fowl over dogs was during a trip to 
the eastward with my brother, which will be described 
further on. Out on the plains I have occasionally taken 
a morning with the shot-gun after them, but more often 
have either simply butchered them for the pot, when out 
of meat, or else have killed a few with the rifle when I 
happened to come across them while after deer or ante- 
lope. 

Occasions frequently arise, in living a more or less 
wild life, when a man has to show his skill in shifting for 
himself ; when, for instance, he has to go out and make a 
foray upon the grouse, neither for sport, nor yet for a change 
of diet, but actually for food. Under such circumstances 
he of course pays no regard to the rules of sport which 
would govern his conduct on other occasions. If a man's 
dinner for several consecutive days depends upon a single 
shot, he is a fool if he does not take every advantage he 



Grouse. 6 9 

can. I remember, for instance, one time when we were 
travelling along the valley of the Powder River, and got 
entirely out of fresh meat, owing to my making a succes- 
sion of ludicrously bad misses at deer. Having had my 
faith in my capacity to kill any thing whatever with the 
rifle a good deal shaken, I started off one morning on 
horseback with the shot-gun. Until nearly noon I saw 
nothing ; then, while riding through a barren-looking bot- 
tom, I happened to spy some prairie fowl squatting close 
to the ground underneath a sage-brush. It was some 
minutes before I could make out what they were, they 
kept so low and so quiet, and their color harmonized so 
well with their surroundings. Finally I was convinced 
that they were grouse, and rode my horse slowly by them. 
When opposite, I reined him in and fired, killing the 
whole bunch of five birds. Another time at the ranch our 
supply of fresh meat gave out entirely, and I sallied forth 
with the ranch gun, intent, not on sport, but on slaughter. 
It was late fall, and as I rode along in the dawn (for the 
sun was not up) a small pack of prairie fowl passed over 
my head and lit on a dead tree that stood out some little 
distance from a grove of cotton-woods. They paid little at- 
tention to me, but they are so shy at that season that I did 
not dare to try to approach them on foot, but let the horse 
jog on at the regular cow-pony gait a kind of single-foot 
pace, between a walk and a trot, and as I passed by fired 
into the tree and killed four birds. Now, of course I 
would not have dreamed of taking either of these shots had 
I been out purely for sport, and neither needed any more 
skill than would be shown in killing hens in a barn-yard ; 



7 Grouse. 

but, after all, when one is hunting for one's dinner he takes 
an interest in his success which he would otherwise lack, 
and on both occasions I felt a most unsportsman-like glee 
when I found how many I had potted. 

The habits of this prairie fowl vary greatly at differ- 
ent seasons of the year. It is found pretty much every- 
where within moderate distance of water, for it does not 
frequent the perfectly dry wastes where we find the great 
sage cock. But it is equally at home on the level prairie 
and among the steep hills of the Bad Lands. When on 
the ground it has rather a comical look, for it stands very 
high on its legs, carries its sharp little tail cocked up like 
a wren's, and when startled stretches its neck out straight ; 
altogether it gives one the impression of being a very an- 
gular bird. Of course it crouches, and moves about when 
feeding, like any other grouse. 

One of the strangest, and to me one of the most attrac- 
tive, sounds of the prairie is the hollow booming made by 
the cocks in spring. Before the snow has left the ground 
they begin, and at the break of morning their deep reso- 
nant calls sound from far and near, for in still weather they 
can be heard at an immense distance. I hardly know how 
to describe the call ; indeed it cannot be described in 
words. It has a hollow, vibrant sound like that of some 
wind instrument, and would hardly be recognized as a bird 
note at all. I have heard it at evening, but more often 
shortly after dawn ; and I have often stopped and listened 
to it for many minutes, for it is as strange and weird a 
form of natural music as any I know. At the time of the 
year when they utter these notes the cocks gather together 



Grouse. 7i 

in certain places and hold dancing rings, posturing and 
strutting about as they face and pass each other. 

The nest is generally placed in a tuft of grass or under a 
sage-brush in the open, but occasionally in the brush wood 
near a stream. The chicks are pretty little balls of mot- 
tled brown and yellow down. The mother takes great 
care of them, leading them generally into some patch of 
brushwood, but often keeping them out in the deep grass. 
Frequently when out among the cattle I have ridden my 
horse almost over a hen with a brood of chicks. The 
little chicks first attempt to run off in single file ; if dis- 
covered they scatter and squat down under clods of earth 
or tufts of grass. Holding one in my hand near my pocket 
it scuttled into it like a flash. The mother, when she sees 
her brood discovered, tumbles about through the grass as 
if wounded, in the effort to decoy the foe after her. If 
she is successful in this, she takes a series of short flights, 
keeping just out of reach of her pursuer, and when the 
latter has been lured far enough from the chicks the hen 
rises and flies off at a humming speed. 

By the middle of August the young are well enough 
grown to shoot, and are then most delicious eating. Dif- 
ferent coveys at this time vary greatly in their behavior 
if surprised feeding in the open. Sometimes they will not 
permit of a very close approach, and will fly off after one 
or two have been shot ; while again they will show per- 
fect indifference to the approach of man, and will allow 
the latter to knock off the heads of five or six with his 
rifle before the rest take the alarm and fly off. They now 
go more or less all over the open ground, but are especial- 



7* Grouse. 

ly fond of frequenting the long grass in the bottoms of the 
coulies and ravines and the dense brush along the edges 
of the creeks and in the valleys ; there they will invariably 
be found at mid-day, and will lie till they are almost trod- 
den on before rising. 

Late in the month of August one year we had been 
close-herding a small bunch of young cattle on a bottom 
about a mile square, walled in by bluffs, and with, as an 
inlet, a long, dry creek running back many miles into the 
Bad Lands, where it branched out into innumerable 
smaller creeks and coulies. We wished to get the cattle 
accustomed to the locality, for animals are more apt to 
stray when first brought on new ground than at any later 
period; so each night we "bedded" them on the level 
bottom that is, gathering them together on the plain, one 
of us would ride slowly and quietly round and round the 
herd, heading off and turning back into it all beasts that 
tried to stray off, but carefully avoiding disturbing them or 
making any unusual noise ; and by degrees they would all 
lie down, close together. This " bedding down " is always 
done when travelling with a large herd, when, of course, it 
needs several cowboys to do it ; and in such cases some 
of the cowboys keep guard all the time, walking their 
horses round the herd, and singing and calling to the 
cattle all night long. The cattle seem to like to hear the 
human voice, and it tends to keep them quiet and free 
from panic. Often when camping near some great cattle 
outfit I have lain awake at night for an hour or over 
listening to the wild, not unmusical, calls of the cowboys 
as they rode round the half-slumbering steers. In the 



Grouse. 73 

clear, still night air the calls can be heard for a mile and 
more, and I like to listen to them as they come through 
the darkness, half mellowed by the distance, for they are 
one of the characteristic sounds of plains life. Texan steers 
often give considerable trouble before they can be bedded, 
and are prone to stampede, especially in a thunder-storm. 
But with the little herd we were at this time guarding 
there was no difficulty whatever, the animals being grade 
short-horns of Eastern origin. After seeing them quiet we 
would leave them for the night, again riding out early in 
the morning. 

On every occasion when we thus rode out in the 
morning we saw great numbers of prairie fowl feeding in 
the open plain in small flocks, each evidently composed of 
a hen and her grown brood. They would often be right 
round the cattle, and went indifferently among the sage- 
brush or out on the short prairie grass. They flew into 
the bottom from some distance off about daybreak, fed 
for a couple of hours, and soon after sunrise again took 
wing and flew up along the course of the dry creek men- 
tioned above. While on the bottom they were generally 
quite shy, not permitting any thing like a close approach 
before taking wing. Their habit of crowing or clucking 
while flying off is very noticeable ; it is, by the way, a 
most strongly characteristic trait of this species. I have 
been especially struck by it when shooting in Minnesota, 
where both the sharp-tail and the common prairie fowl are 
found ; the contrast between the noisiness of one bird and 
the quiet of the other was very marked. If one of us ap- 
proached a covey on horseback the birds would, if they 



74 Grouse. 

thought they were unobserved, squat down close to the 
ground ; more often they would stand very erect, and 
walk off. If we came too close to one it would utter a 
loud kuk-kuk-kuk, and be off, at every few strokes of its 
wings repeating the sound a kind of crowing cluck. 
This is the note they utter when alarmed, or when calling 
to one another. When a flock are together and undis- 
turbed they keep up a sociable garrulous cackling. 

Every morning by the time the sun had been up a 
little while the grouse had all gone from the bottom, but 
later in the day while riding along the creek among the 
cattle we often stumbled upon little flocks. We fired at 
them with our revolvers whenever we were close enough, 
but the amount we got in this way was very limited, and 
as we were rather stinted for fresh meat, the cattle taking 
up so much of our time as to prevent our going after 
deer, I made up my mind to devote a morning to hunting 
up the creeks and coulies for grouse, with the shot-gun. 

Accordingly the next morning I started, just about 
the time the last of the flocks were flying away from theif 
feeding-ground on the bottom. I trudged along on foot, 
not wanting to be bothered by a horse. The. air was 
fresh and cool, though the cloudless sky boded a hot 
noon. As I walked by the cattle they stopped grazing 
and looked curiously at me, for they were unused to seeing 
any man not on horseback. But they did not offer to 
molest me ; Texan or even northern steers bred on the 
more remote ranges will often follow and threaten a foot- 
man for miles. While passing among the cattle it was 
amusing to see the actions of the little cow buntings. 



Grouse. 75 

They were very familiar little birds, lighting on the backs 
of the beasts, and keeping fluttering round their heads as 
they walked through the grass, hopping up into the air all 
the time. At first I could not make out what they were 
doing ; but on watching them closely saw that they were 
catching the grasshoppers and moths which flew into the 
air to avoid the cattle's hoofs. They are as tame with 
horsemen ; while riding through a patch of tall grass a 
flock of buntings will often keep circling within a couple 
of yards of the horse's head, seizing the insects as they fly 
up before him. 

The valley through which the creek ran was quite 
wide, bordered by low buttes. After a heavy rainfall the 
water rushes through the at other times dry bed in a foam- 
ing torrent, and it thus cuts it down into a canyon-like 
shape, making it a deep, winding, narrow ditch, with steep 
sides. Along the edges of this ditch were dense patches, 
often quite large, of rose-bushes, bullberry bushes, ash, 
and wild cherry, making almost impenetrable thickets, 
generally not over breast high. In the bottom of the 
valley, along the edges of the stream bed, the grass was 
long and coarse, entirely different from the short fine 
bunch grass a little farther back, the favorite food of the 
cattle. 

Almost as soon as I had entered the creek, in walking 
through a small patch of brush I put up an old cock, as 
strong a flyer as the general run of October birds. Off 
he went, with a whirr, clucking and crowing ; I held the 
little i6-bore fully two feet ahead of him, pulled the trig- 
ger, and down he came into the bushes. The sharp-tails 



76 Grouse. 

fly strongly and steadily, springing into the air when they 
rise, and then going off in a straight line, alternately 
sailing and giving a succession of rapid wing-beats. Some- 
times they will sail a long distance with set wings before 
alighting, and when they are passing overhead with their 
wings outstretched each of the separate wing feathers can 
be seen, rigid and distinct. 

Picking up and pocketing my bird I walked on, and 
on turning round a shoulder of the bluffs saw a pair of 
sharp-tails sitting sunning themselves on the top of a bull- 
berry bush. As soon as they saw me they flew off a short 
distance and lit in the bed of the creek. Rightly judging 
that there were more birds than those I had seen I began 
to beat with great care the patches of brush and long 
grass on both sides of the creek, and soon was rewarded by 
some very pretty shooting. The covey was a large one, 
composed of two or three broods of young prairie fowl, 
and I struck on the exact place, a slight hollow filled with 
low brush and tall grass, where they were lying. They 
lay very close, and my first notice of their presence was 
given by one that I almost trod on, which rose from fairly 
between my feet. A young grouse at this season offers an 
easy shot, and he was dropped without difficulty. At the 
report two others rose and I got one. When I had barely 
reloaded the rest began to get up, singly or two or three 
at a time, rising straight up to clear the edge of the hollow, 
and making beautiful marks ; when the last one had been 
put up I had down seven birds, of which I picked up six, not 
being able to find the other. A little farther on I put up 
and shot a single grouse, which fell into a patch of briars 



Grouse. 7? 

I could not penetrate. Then for some time I saw nothing, 
although beating carefully through every likely-looking 
place. One patch of grass, but a few feet across, I walked 
directly through without rousing any thing ; happening to 
look back when I had gone some fifty yards, I was sur- 
prised to see a dozen heads and necks stretched up, and 
eying me most inquisitively ; their owners were sharp-tails, 
a covey of which I had almost walked over without their 
making a sign. I strode back ; but at my first step they 
all stood up straight, with their absurd little tails held up 
in the air, and at the next step away they went, flying off 
a quarter of a mile and then scattering in the brushy hol- 
lows where a coulie headed up into the buttes. (Grouse 
at this season hardly ever light in a tree.) I marked them 
down carefully and tramped all through the place, yet I 
only succeeded in putting up two, of which I got one and 
missed the other with both barrels. After that I walked 
across the heads of the coulies, but saw nothing except in 
a small swale of high grass, where there was a little covey 
of five, of which I got two with a right and left. It was 
now very hot, and I made for a spring which I knew ran 
out of a cliff a mile or two off. There I stayed till long 
after the shadows began to lengthen, when I started home- 
ward. For some miles I saw nothing, but as the evening 
came on the grouse began to stir. A small party flew 
over my head, and though I missed them with both bar- 
rels, either because I miscalculated the distance or for 
some other reason, yet I marked them down very well, 
and when I put them up again got two. Three times 
afterward I came across coveys, either flying or walking 



78 Grouse. 

out from the edges of the brushes, and I got one bird out 
of each, reaching home just after sunset with fifteen sharp- 
tails strung over my back. Of course working after grouse 
on an August day in this manner, without a dog, is very 
tiring, and no great bag can be made without a pointer or 
setter. 

In September the sharp-tails begin to come out from 
the brushy coulies and creek bottoms, and to wander out 
among the short grass of the ravines and over the open 
prairie. They are at first not very shy, and in the early 
part of the month I have once or twice had good sport 
with them. Once I took a companion in the buck-board, 
and drove during the course of the day twenty or twenty- 
five miles along the edge of the rolling prairie, crossing 
the creeks, and skirting the wooded basins where the Bad 
Lands began. We came across quite a number of coveys, 
which in almost all cases waited for us to come up, and as 
the birds did not rise all together, I got three or four shots 
at each covey, and came home with ten and a half couple. 

A little later the birds become shy and acquire their 
full strength of wing. They now wander far out on the 
prairie, and hardly ever make any effort to squat down 
and conceal themselves in the marvellous way which they 
have earlier in the season, but, on the contrary, trust to 
their vigilance and their powers of flight for their safety. 
On bare ground it is now impossible to get anywhere 
near them, but if they are among sage-brush or in other 
low cover they afford fine sport to a good shot, with a 
close-shooting, strong-hitting gun. I remember one even- 
ing, while coming over with a wagon team from the head 



Grouse. 79 

waters of O'Fallon Creek, across the Big Sandy, when it 
became a matter of a good deal of interest for us to kill 
something, as otherwise we would have had very little to 
eat. We had camped near a succession of small pools, 
containing one or two teal, which I shot ; but a teal is a 
small bird when placed before three hungry men. Sharp- 
tails, however, were quite numerous, having come in from 
round about, as evening came on, to drink. They were in 
superb condition, stout and heavy, with clean, bright 
plumage, but very shy ; and they rose so far off and flew 
so strongly and swiftly that a good many cartridges were 
spent before four of the plump, white-bellied birds were 
brought back to the wagon in my pockets. 

Later than this they sometimes unite into great packs, 
containing hundreds of individuals, and then show a strong 
preference for the timbered ravines and the dense woods 
and underbrush of the river bottoms, the upper branches of 
the trees being their favorite resting-places. On very cold 
mornings, when they are feeling numb and chilled, a man 
can sometimes get very close up to them, but as a rule they 
are very wild, and the few I have killed at this season of 
the year have been shot with the rifle, either from a tree 
or when standing out on the bare hillsides, at a consid- 
erable distance. They offer very pretty marks for target 
practice with the rifle, and it needs a good shot to hit one 
at eighty or a hundred yards. 

But though the shot-gun is generally of no use late in 
the season, yet last December I had a good afternoon's 
sport with it. There was a light snow falling, and having 
been in the house all the morning, I determined to take a 



8o Grouse. 

stroll out in the afternoon with the shot-gun. A couple 
of miles from the house was a cedar canyon ; that is, a 
canyon one of whose sides was densely wooded with 
gnarled, stunted evergreens. This had been a favorite 
resort for the sharp-tails for some time, and it was espe- 
cially likely that they would go to it during a storm, as it 
afforded fine shelter, and also food. The buttes bound- 
ing it on the side where the trees were, rose to a sharp 
crest, which extended along with occasional interruptions 
for over a mile, and by walking along near this and occa- 
sionally looking out over it, I judged I would get up close 
to the grouse, while the falling snow and the wind would 
deaden the report of the gun, and not let it scare all the 
prairie fowl out of the canyon at the first fire. It came 
out as I had planned and expected. I clambered up to 
the crest near the mouth of the gorge, braced myself 
firmly, and looked over the top. At once a dozen sharp- 
tails, who had perched in the cedar tops almost at my 
feet, took wing, crossed over the canyon, and as they 
rose all in a bunch to clear the opposite wall I fired both 
barrels into the brown, and two of the birds dropped down 
to the bottom of the ravine. They fell on the snow- 
covered open ground where I could easily find them again, 
and as it would have been a great and useless labor to 
have gone down for them, I left them where they were 
and walked on along the crest. Before I had gone a 
hundred yards I had put up another sharp-tail from a 
cedar and killed him in fine style as he sailed off below 
me. The snow and bad weather seemed to make the 
prairie fowl disinclined to move. There must have been 



Grouse. 8 1 

a good many score of them scattered in bunches among 
the cedars, and as I walked along I put up a covey or a 
single bird every two or three hundred yards. They were 
always started when I was close up to them, and the 
nature of the place made them offer excellent shots as they 
went off, while when killed they dropped down on the 
snow-covered canyon bottom where they could be easily 
recovered on my walk home. When the sharp-tails had 
once left the canyon they scattered among the broken 
buttes. I tried to creep up to one or two, but they were 
fully as wild and watchful as deer, and would not let me 
come within a hundred yards of them ; so I turned back, 
climbed down into the canyon, and walked homeward 
through it, picking up nine birds on the way, the result of 
a little over an hour's shooting. Most of them were dead 
outright ; and the two or three who had been only 
wounded were easily followed by the tracks they made in 
the tell-tale snow. 

Most of the prairie fowl I have killed, however, have 
not been obtained in the course of a day or an afternoon 
regularly spent after them for the sake of the sport, but 
have simply been shot with whatever weapon came handy, 
because we actually needed them for immediate use. On 
more than one occasion I would have gone supperless or 
dinnerless had it not been for some of these grouse ; and 
one such instance I will give. 

One November, about the middle of the month, we 
had driven in a beef herd (which we wished to ship to the 
cattle yards), round the old cantonment building, in which 
a few years ago troops had been stationed to guard 



82 Grouse. 

against Indian outbreaks. Having taken care of the beef 
herd, I determined to visit a little bunch of cattle which 
was some thirty-five miles down the river, under the care of 
one of my men a grizzled old fellow, born in Maine, 
whose career had been varied to an extent only possible in 
America, he having successively followed the occupations 
of seaman, druggist, clerk, buffalo hunter, and cowboy. 

I intended to start about noon, but there was so much 
business to settle that it was an hour and a half afterwards 
before I put spurs to the smart little cow-pony and loped 
briskly down the valley. It was a sharp day, the mercury 
well down towards zero ; and the pony, fresh and untired, 
and impatient of standing in the cold, went along at a 
good rate ; but darkness sets in so early at this season 
that I had not gone many miles before I began to 
fear that I would not reach the shack by nightfall. The 
well-beaten trail followed along the bottoms for some 
distance and then branched out into the Bad Lands, 
leading up and down through the ravines and over the 
ridge crests of some very rough and broken country, 
and crossing a great level plateau, over which the wind 
blew savagely, sweeping the powdery snow clean off of 
the bent blades of short, brown grass. After making a 
wide circle of some twelve miles the trail again came back 
to the Little Missouri, and led along the bottoms between 
the rows of high bluffs, continually crossing and recrossing 
the river. These crossings were difficult and disagreeable 
for the horse, as they always are when the ice is not quite 
heavy enough to bear. The water had not frozen until 
two or three days before, and the cold snap had not yet 



Grouse. 8 3 

lasted long enough to make the ice solid, besides which it 
was covered with about half an inch of light snow that 
had fallen, concealing all bad-looking places. The ice 
after bearing the cautiously stepping pony for a few 
yards would suddenly break and let him down to the 
bottom, and he would then have to plunge and paw his 
way through to the opposite shore. Often it is almost im- 
possible to make a pony attempt the crossing under such 
circumstances ; and I have seen ponies which had to be 
knocked down and pulled across glare ice on their sides. 
If the horse slips and falls it is a serious matter to the 
rider ; for a wetting in such cold weather, with a long 
horseback journey to make, is no joke. 

I was still several miles from the hut I was striving to 
reach when the sun set ; and for some time previous the 
valley had been in partial darkness, though the tops of 
the sombre bluffs around were still lit up. The pony 
loped steadily on along the trail, which could be dimly 
made out by the starlight. I hurried the willing little 
fellow all I could without distressing him, for though I 
knew the road pretty well, yet I doubted if I could find it 
easily in perfect darkness ; and the clouds were gathering 
overhead with a rapidity which showed that the starlight 
would last but a short while. The light snow rendered 
the hoof beats of my horse mufHed and indistinct ; and 
almost the only sound that broke the silence was the long- 
drawn, melancholy howling of a wolf, a quarter of a mile 
off. When we came to the last crossing the pony was 
stopped and watered ; and we splashed through over a 
rapid where the ice had formed only a thin crust. On the 



84 Grouse. 

opposite side was a large patch of cotton-woods thickly 
grown up with underbrush, the whole about half a mile 
square. In this was the cowboy's shack, but as it was now 
pitch dark I was unable to find it until I rode clean through 
to the cow-corral, which was out in the open on the other 
side. Here I dismounted, groped around till I found the 
path, and then easily followed it to the shack. 

Rather to my annoyance the cowboy was away, having 
run out of provisions, as I afterwards learned ; and of 
course he had left nothing to eat behind him. The tough 
little pony was, according to custom, turned loose to shift 
for himself ; and I went into the low, windowless hut, 
which was less than twelve feet square. In one end was 
a great chimney-place, and it took but a short time to 
start a roaring fire, which speedily made the hut warm 
and comfortable. Then I went down to the river with an 
axe and a pail, and got some water ; I had carried a paper 
of tea in my pocket, and the tea-kettle was soon simmer- 
ing away. I should have liked something to eat, but as I 
did not have it, the hot tea did not prove such a bad 
substitute for a cold and tired man. 

Next morning I sallied out at break of day with the 
rifle, for I was pretty hungry. As soon as I stepped from 
the hut I could hear the prairie fowl crowing and calling 
to one another from the tall trees. There were many 
score many hundreds would perhaps be more accurate 
scattered through the wood. Evidently they had been 
attracted by the good cover and by the thick growth of 
choke-cherries and wild plums. As the dawn brightened 
the sharp-tails kept up incessantly their hoarse clucking, 



Grouse. 85 

and small parties began to fly down from their roosts to 
the berry bushes. While perched up among the bare 
limbs of the trees, sharply outlined against the sky, they 
were very conspicuous. Generally they crouched close 
down, with the head drawn in to the body and the 
feathers ruffled, but when alarmed or restless they stood up 
straight with their necks stretched out, looking very awk- 
ward. Later in the day they would have been wild and hard 
to approach, but I kept out of their sight, and sometimes 
got two or three shots at the same bird before it flew off. 
They offered beautiful marks, and I could generally get a 
rest for my rifle, while in the gray morning, before sun- 
rise, I was not very conspicuous myself, and could get up 
close beneath where they were ; so I did not have much 
trouble in killing five, almost all of them shot very nearly 
where the neck joins the body, one having the head fairly 
cut off. Salt, like tea, I had carried with me, and it was 
not long before two of the birds, plucked and cleaned, 
were split open and roasting before the fire. And to me 
they seemed most delicious food, although even in Novem- 
ber the sharp-tails, while keeping their game flavor, have 
begun to be dry and tough, most unlike the tender and 
juicy young of August and September. 

The best day's work I ever did after sharp-tails was in 
the course of the wagon trip, already mentioned, which 
my brother and I made through the fertile farming coun- 
try to the eastward. We had stopped over night with a 
Norwegian settler who had taken and adapted to a farm- 
house an old log trading-post of one of the fur compa- 
nies, lying in the timber which fringed a river, and so 



86 Grouse. 

stoutly built as to have successfully withstood the assaults 
of time. We were travelling in a light covered wagon, in 
which we could drive anywhere over the prairie. Our 
dogs would have made an Eastern sportsman blush, for 
when roughing it' in the West we have to put up with any 
kind of mongrel makeshift, and the best dog gets pretty 
well battered after a season or two. I never had a better 
duck retriever than a little yellow cur, with hardly a trace 
of hunting blood in his veins. On this occasion we had a 
stiff-jointed old pointer with a stub tail, and a wild young 
setter pup, tireless and ranging very free (a Western dog 
on the prairies should cover five times the ground neces- 
sary for an Eastern one to get over), but very imperfectly 
trained. 

Half of the secret of success on a shooting trip lies in 
getting up early and working all day ; and this at least we 
had learned, for we we were off" as soon as there was light 
enough by which to drive. The ground, of course, was 
absolutely fenceless, houses being many miles apart. 
Through the prairie, with its tall grass, in which the sharp- 
tails lay at night and during the day, were scattered great 
grain fields, their feeding-grounds in the morning and 
evening. Our plan was to drive from one field to another, 
getting out at each and letting the dogs hunt it over. 
The birds were in small coveys and lay fairly well to the 
dogs, though they rose much farther off from us in the 
grain fields than they did later in the day when we flushed 
them from the tall grass of the prairie (I call it tall grass 
in contradistinction to the short bunch grass of the cattle 
plains to the westward). Old stub-tail, though slow, was 



Grouse. 87 

very staunch and careful, never flushing a bird, while the 
puppy, from pure heedlessness, and with the best inten- 
tions, would sometimes bounce into the midst of a covey 
before he knew of their presence. On the other hand, he 
covered twice the ground that the pointer did. The 
actual killing the birds was a good deal like quail shoot- 
ing in the East, except that it was easier, the marks being 
so much larger. When we came to a field we would beat 
through it a hundred yards apart, the dogs ranging in 
long diagonals. When either the setter or the pointer 
came to a stand, the other generally backed him. If the 
covey was near enough, both of us, otherwise, whichever 
was closest, walked cautiously up. The grouse generally 
flushed before we came up to the dog, rising all together, 
so as to give only a right and left. 

When the morning was well advanced the grouse left 
the stubble fields and flew into the adjoining prairie. We 
marked down several coveys into one spot, where the 
ground was rolling and there were here and there a few 
bushes in the hollows. Carefully hunting over this, we 
found two or three coveys and had excellent sport out 
of each. The sharp-tails in these places lay very close, 
and we had to walk them up, when they rose one at 
a time, and thus allowed us shot after shot ; whereas, 
as already said, earlier in the day we merely got 
a quick right and left at each covey. At least half 
the time we were shooting in our rubber overcoats, as 
the weather was cloudy and there were frequent flurries 
of rain. 

We rested a couple of hours at noon for lunch, and 



88 Grouse. 

the afternoon's sport was simply a repetition of the morn- 
ing's, except that we had but one dog to work with ; 
for shortly after mid-day the stub-tail pointer, for his sins, 
encountered a skunk, with which he waged prompt and 
valiant battle thereby rendering himself, for the balance 
of the time, wholly useless as a servant and highly 
offensive as a companion. 

The setter pup did well, ranging very* freely, but 
naturally got tired and careless, flushing his birds half the 
time ; and we had to stop when we still had a good hour 
of daylight left. Nevertheless we had in our wagon, 
when we came in at night, a hundred and five grouse, 
of which sixty-two had fallen to my brother's gun, and 
forty-three to mine. We would have done much better 
with more serviceable dogs ; besides, I was suffering 
all day long from a most acute colic, which was any 
thing but a help to good shooting. 

Besides the sharp-tail there is but one kind of grouse 
found in the northern cattle plains. This is the sage 
cock, a bird the size of a young turkey, and, next to 
the Old World capercailzie or cock of the woods, the 
largest of the grouse family. It is a handsome bird 
with a long pointed tail and black belly, and is a very 
characteristic form of the regions which it inhabits. 

It is peculiarly a desert grouse, for though sometimes 
found in the grassy prairies and on the open river 
bottoms, it seems really to prefer the dry arid wastes 
where the withered-looking sage-brush and the spiney 
cactus are almost the only plants to be found, and where 
the few pools of water are so bitterly alkaline as to be 



Grouse. 89 

nearly undrinkable. It is pre-eminently the grouse of the 
plains, and, unlike all of its relatives, is never found near 
trees ; indeed no trees grow in its haunts. 

As is the case with the two species of prairie fowl the 
cocks of this great bird become very noisy in the early 
spring. If a man happens at that season to be out in the 
dry plains which are frequented by the sage fowl he will 
hear in the* morning, before sunrise, the deep, sonorous 
booming of the cocks, as they challenge one another or 
call to their mates. This call is uttered in a hollow, bass 
tone, and can be heard a long distance in still weather ; it 
is difficult to follow up, for it has a very ventriloquial 
effect. 

Unlike the sharp-tail the habits and haunts of the 
sage fowl are throughout the year the same, except 
that it grows shyer as the season advances, and occa- 
sionally wanders a little farther than formerly from its 
birthplace. It is only found where the tough, scraggly 
wild sage abounds, and it feeds for most of the year solely 
on sage leaves, varying this diet in August and September 
by quantities of grasshoppers. Curiously enough it does 
not possess any gizzard, such as most gallinaceous birds 
have, but has in its place a membranous stomach, suited 
to the digestion of its peculiar food. 

The little chicks follow their mother as soon as 
hatched, and she generally keeps them in the midst of 
some patch of sage-brush so dense as to be almost im- 
penetrable to man or beast. The little fellows skulk and 
dodge through the crooked stems so cleverly that it is 
almost impossible to catch them. Early in August, when 



90 Grouse. 

the brood is well grown, the mother leads them out, and 
during the next two months they are more often found 
out on the grassy prairies than is the case at any other 
season. They do not form into packs like the prairie 
fowl as winter comes on, two broods at the outside 
occasionally coming together ; and they then again retire 
to the more waste parts of the plains, living purely on 
sage leaves, and keeping closely to the best-sheltered hol- 
lows until the spring-time. 

In the early part of the season the young, and indeed 
their parents also, are tame and unsuspicious to the very 
verge of stupidity, and at this time are often known by 
the name of "fool-hens" among the frontiers-men. They 
grow shyer as the season advances, and after the first of 
October are difficult to approach, but even then are rarely 
as wild as the sharp-tails. 

It is commonly believed that the flesh of the sage 
fowl is uneatable, but this is very far from being the truth, 
and, on the contrary, it is excellent eating in August and 
September, when grasshoppers constitute their chief food, 
and, if the birds are drawn as soon as shot, is generally 
perfectly palatable at other seasons of the year. The 
first time I happened to find this out was on the course 
of a trip taken with one of my foremen as a companion 
through the arid plains to the westward of the Little Mis- 
souri. We had been gone for two or three days and 
camped by a mud hole, which was almost dry, what 
water it still held being almost as thick as treacle. Our 
luxuries being limited, I bethought me of a sage cock 
which I had shot during the day and had hung to the 



Grouse. 91 

saddle. I had drawn it as soon as it was picked up, and 
I made up my mind to try how it tasted. A good deal 
to our surprise, the meat, though dark and coarse-grained, 
proved perfectly well flavored, and was quite as good as 
wild-goose, which it much resembled. Some young sage 
fowl, shot shortly afterward, proved tender and juicy, and 
tasted quite as well as sharp-tails. All of these birds had 
their crops crammed with grasshoppers, and doubtless 
the nature of their food had much to do with their prov- 
ing so good for the table. An old bird, which had fed on 
nothing but sage, and was not drawn when shot, would, 
beyond question, be very poor eating. Like the spruce 
grouse and the two kinds of prairie fowl, but unlike the 
ruffed grouse and blue grouse, the sage fowl has dark 
meat. 

In walking and running on the ground, sage fowl act 
much like common hens, and can skulk through the sage- 
brush so fast that it is often difficult to make them take 
wing. When surprised they will sometimes squat flat 
down with their heads on the ground, when it is very 
difficult to make them out, as their upper parts har- 
monize curiously in color with the surroundings. I have 
never known of their being shot over a dog, and, indeed, 
the country where they are found is so dry and difficult 
that no dog would be able to do any work in it. 

When flushed, they rise with a loud whirring, laboring 
heavily, often clucking hoarsely ; when they get fairly 
under way they move along in a strong, steady flight, 
sailing most of the time, but giving, every now and then, 
a succession of powerful wing-beats, and their course is 



92 Grouse. 

usually sustained for a mile or over before they light. 
They are very easy marks, but require hard hitting to 
bring them down, for they are very tenacious of life. On 
one occasion I came upon a flock and shot an old cock 
through the body with the rifle. He fell over, fluttering 
and kicking, and I shot a young one before the rest of the 
flock rose. To my astonishment the old cock recovered 
himself and made off after them, actually flying for half a 
mile before he dropped. When I found him he was quite 
dead, the ball having gone clean through him. It was a 
good deal as if a man had run a mile with a large grape- 
shot through his body. 

Most of the sage fowl I have killed have been shot 
with the rifle when I happened to run across a covey 
while out riding, and wished to take two or three of them 
back for dinner. Only once did I ever make a trip with 
the shot-gun for the sole purpose of a day's sport with 
these birds. 

This was after having observed that there were several 
small flocks of sage fowl at home on a great plateau or 
high plain, crossed by several dry creeks, which was about 
eight miles from the cow-camp where I was staying ; and 
I concluded that I would devote a day to their pur- 
suit. Accordingly, one morning I started out on horse- 
back with my double-barrel lobore and a supply of 
cartridges loaded with No. 4 shot ; one of my cowboys 
went with me carrying a rifle so as to be ready if we 
ran across any antelope. Our horses were fresh, and 
the only way to find the birds was to cover as much 
ground as possible ; so as soon as we reached the plateau 



Grouse. 93 

we loped across it in parallel lines till we struck one of the 
creeks, when we went up it, one on each side, at a good 
gait, and then crossed over to another, where we repeated 
the operation. It was nearly noon when, while going 
up the third creek, we ran into a covey of about fifteen 
sage fowl a much larger covey than ordinary. They 
were down in the bottom of the creek, which here ex- 
hibited a formation very common on the plains. Although 
now perfectly dry, every series of heavy rainfalls changed 
it into a foaming torrent, which flowed down the valley 
in sharp curves, eating away the land into perpendicular 
banks on the outside of each curve. Thus a series of 
small bottoms was formed, each fronted by a semicircular 
bluff, highest in the middle, and rising perfectly sheer 
and straight. At the foot of these bluffs, which varied 
from six to thirty feet in height, was the bed of the 
stream. In many of these creeks there will be a growth 
of small trees by the stream bed, where it runs under 
the bluffs, and perhaps pools of water will be found in 
such places even in times of drought. But on the creek 
where we found the sage fowl there were neither trees 
nor water, and the little bottoms were only covered 
with stunted sage-brush. Dismounting and leaving my 
horse with the cowboy I walked down to the edge of 
the bottom, which was not more than thirty or forty 
yards across. The covey retreated into the brush, some 
of the birds crouching flat down, while the others walked 
or ran off among the bushes. They were pretty tame, 
and rose one at a time as I walked on. They had to 
rise over the low, semicircular bluff in front of them, 



94 Grouse. 

and, it being still early in the season, they labored heavily 
as they left the ground. I fired just as they topped 
the bluff, and as they were so close and large, and were 
going so slowly, I was able to knock over eight birds, 
hardly moving from my place during the entire time. 
On our way back we ran into another covey, a much 
smaller one, on the side of another creek ; of these I 
got a couple ; and I got another out of still a third covey, 
which we found out in the open, but of which the birds 
all rose and made off together. We carrried eleven 
birds back, most of them young and tender, and all of 
them good eating. 

In shooting grouse we sometimes run across rabbits. 
There are two kinds of these. One is the little cotton- 
tail, almost precisely similar in appearance to the com- 
mon gray rabbit of the Eastern woods. It abounds in 
all the patches of dense cover along the river bottoms 
and in the larger creeks, and can be quite easily shot 
at all times, but especially when there is any snow on 
the ground. It is eatable but hardly ever killed except 
to poison and throw out as bait for the wolves. 

The other kind is the great jack rabbit. This is a 
characteristic animal of the plains ; quite as much so as 
the antelope or prairie dog. It is not very abundant, 
but is found everywhere over the open ground, both 
on the prairie or those river bottoms which are not 
wooded, and in the more open valleys and along the 
gentle slopes of the Bad Lands. Sometimes it keeps 
to the patches of sage-brush, and in such cases will lie 
close to the ground when approached ; but more often 



Grouse. 95 

it is found in the short grass where there is no cover 
at all to speak of, and relies upon its speed for its safety. 
It is a comical-looking beast with its huge ears and 
long legs, and runs very fast, with a curious lop-sided 
gait, as if it was off its balance. After running a couple 
of hundred yards it will generally stop and sit up erect 
on its haunches to look round and see if it is pursued. 
In winter it turns snow-white except that the tips of the 
ears remain black. The flesh is dry, and I have never 
eaten it unless I could get nothing else. 

Jack-rabbits are not plentiful enough nor valuable 
enough to warrant a man's making a hunting trip 
solely for their sakes ; and the few that I have shot have 
been killed with the rifle while out after other game. 
They offer beautiful marks for target practice when they 
sit upon their haunches. But though hardly worth 
powder they afford excellent sport when coursed with 
greyhounds, being very fleet, and when closely pressed 
able to double so quickly that the dogs shoot by them. 
For reasons already given, however, it is difficult to keep 
sporting dogs on the plains, though doubtless in the 
future coursing with greyhounds will become a recognized 
Western sport. 

This finishes the account of the small game of the 
northern cattle country. The wild turkey is not found 
with us ; but it is an abundant bird farther south, and 
eagerly followed by the ranchmen in whose neighborhood 
it exists. And as it is easily the king of all game 
birds, and as its pursuit is a peculiarly American form 
of sport, some account of how it is hunted in the southern 



9 6 Wild Turkey. 

plains country may be worth reading. The following 
is an extract from a letter written to me by my brother, 
in December, 1875, while he was in Texas, containing an 
account of some of his turkey-hunting experience in that 
State. The portion relating how the birds are coursed 
with greyhounds is especially markworthy ; it reminds 
one of the method of killing the great bustard with gaze- 
hounds, as described in English sporting books of two 
centuries back. 

" Here, some hundred miles south and west of Fort 
McKavett, are the largest turkey roosts in the world. 
This beautiful fertile valley, through which the deep, 
silent stream of the Llano flows, is densely wooded 
with grand old pecan trees along its banks ; as are 
those of its minor tributaries which come boiling down 
from off the immense upland water-shed of the staked 
plains, cutting the sides of the ' divide ' into narrow 
canyons. The journey to this sportsman's paradise was 
over the long-rolling plains of Western Texas. Hour 
after hour through the day's travel we would drop 
into the trough of some great plains-wave only to toil 
on up to the crest of the next, and be met by an endless 
vista of boundless, billowy-looking prairie. We were fol- 
lowing the old Fort Terret trail, its ruts cut so deep 
in the prairie soil by the heavy supply wagons that these 
ten years have not healed the scars in the earth's face. 
At last, after journeying for leagues through the stunted 
live oaks, we saw from the top of one of the larger divides 
a dark bluish line against the horizon, the color of 
distant leafless trees, and knew that it meant we should 



Wild Turkey. 97 

soon open out the valley. Another hour brought us 
over the last divide, and then our hunting grounds lay be- 
fore and below us. All along through the unbroken nat- 
ural fields the black-tail and prong-horn abound, and feast 
to their hearts' content all the winter through on the 
white, luscious, and nutritious mesquite grass. Through 
the valley with its flashing silver stream ran the dark 
line of the famous pecan-tree forests the nightly rest- 
ing-place of that king of game birds, the wild turkey. 
It would sound like romancing to tell of the endless 
number and variety of the waterfowl upon the river; 
while the multitude of game fish inhabiting the waters 
make the days spent on the river with the rod rival in 
excitement and good sport the nights passed gun in hand 
among the trees in the roosts. Of course, as we are 
purely out on a turkey shoot, during the day no 
louder sport is permitted than whipping the stream, or 
taking the greyhounds well back on the plains away from 
the river to course antelope, jack-rabbit, or maybe even 
some fine old gobbler himself. 

"When, after our journey, we reached the brink of 
the canyon, to drop down into the valley, pass over 
the lowlands, and settle ourselves comfortably in camp 
under the shadow of the old stockade fort by the 
river, was a matter of but a few hours. There we 
waited for the afternoon shadows to lengthen and the 
evening to come, when off we went up the stream for 
five or six miles to a spot where some mighty forest 
monarchs with huge, bare, spreading limbs had caught the 
eye of one of our sporting scouts in the afternoon. Leav- 



98 Wild Turkey. 

ing our horses half a mile from the place, we walked 
silently along the river bank through the jungle to the 
roosting trees, where we scattered, and each man secreted 
himself as best he could in the underbrush, or in a hol- 
low stump, or in the reeds of the river itself. The 
sun was setting, and over the hills and from the low- 
lands came the echoes of the familiar gobble, gobble, 
gobble, as each strutting, foolishly proud cock headed his 
admiring family for the roost, after their day's feeding 
on the uplands. Soon, as I lay close and hushed in 
my hiding-place, sounds like the clinking of silver, fol- 
lowed by what seemed like a breath of the wind rushing 
through the trees, struck my ears. I hardly dared 
breathe, for the sounds were made by the snapping of 
a gobbler's quills and his rustling feathers ; and imme- 
diately a magnificent old bird, swelling and clucking, 
bullying his wives and abusing his weaker children 
to the last, trod majestically down to the water's edge, 
and, after taking his evening drink, winged his way to 
his favorite bough above, where he was joined, one 
by one, by his family and relations and friends, who came 
by tens and dozens from the surrounding country. 
Soon in the rapidly darkening twilight the superb old 
pecan trees looked as if they were bending under a heavy 
crop of the most odd-shaped and lively kind of fruit. 
The air was filled with the peevish pi-ou ! pi-ou ! of the 
sleepy birds. Gradually the noisy fluttering subsided, 
and the last faint unsettled peep even was hushed. Dead 
silence reigned, and we waited and watched. The moon 
climbed up, and in an another hour, as we looked through 



Wild Turkey. 99 

the tree-tops, we could make out against the light back- 
ground of the sky, almost as clearly as by day, the sleep- 
ing victims of our guns and rifles. A low soft whistle 
was passed along from man to man ; and the signal given, 
how different the scene became ! A deafening report 
suddenly rang out into the silent night, a flash of light 
belched from the gun muzzle, and a heavy thud followed 
as twenty pounds of turkey struck the ground. In our 
silent moccasins we flitted about under the roost, and report 
after report on all sides told how good the sport was and 
how excellent the chance that the boys at McKavett 
would have plenty of turkeys at their Christmas dinner. 
The turkeys were so surprised by the sudden noise, so 
entirely unprepared for the visit of the sportsman to 
their secluded retreat, that they did not know what to 
make of it, often remaining stupidly on their branch 
after a companion five feet off had been shot down. 
With the last bird shot or flown away ended our even- 
ing's sport. All the dead birds were gathered together 
and strapped in bunches by our saddles and on the 
pack-mules. It does not take many pecan- and grass- 
fed turkeys to make a load, and back we trotted to camp, 
the steel hoofs striking into the prairie soil with a merry 
ring of triumph over the night's work. The hour was 
nearly midnight when we sat down to the delicately 
browned turkey steaks in the mess tent, and realized that 
we had enjoyed the delights of one of the best sports in 
Texas turkey-shooting in the roosts. 

" Early in the afternoon following the night's sport 
we left the fort mounted on fine three-quarter Kentucky 



300 Wild Turkey. 

thorough-breds, and taking the eleven greyhounds, struck 
off six or eight miles into the plains. Then spreading 
into line we alternated dogs and horses, and keeping a 
general direction, beat up the small oak clumps, grass 
clusters, or mesquite jungles as we went along. Soon, 
with a loud whirr of wings, three or four turkeys rose 
out of the grass ahead, started up by one of the grey- 
hounds ; the rest of the party closed in from all sides ; 
dogs and men choosing each the bird they marked as 
theirs. The turkey, after towering a bit, with wings set 
struck off at a pace like a bullet, and with eyes fixed up- 
wards the hounds coursed after him. It was whip and 
spur for a mile as hard as horse, man, and hound could 
make the pace. The turkey at last came down nearer and 
nearer the ground, its small wings refusing to bear the 
weight of the heavy body. Finally, down he came and 
began running ; then the hounds closed in on him and 
forced him up again as is always the case. The second 
flight was not a strong one, and soon he was skimming 
ten or even a less number of feet from the ground. Now 
came the sport of it all ; the hounds were bunched and 
running like a pack behind him. Suddenly old ' Grim- 
beard,' in the heart of the pack, thought it was time for 
the supreme effort ; with a rush he went to the front, and 
as a mighty spring carried him up in the air, he snaped 
his clean, cruel fangs under the brave old gobbler, who 
by a great effort rose just out of reach. One after another 
in the next twenty-five yards each hound made his trial and 
failed. At last the old hound again made his rush,sprang 
up a wonderful height into the air, and cut the bird down 
as with a knife. 



Wild Turkey. 101 

" The first flight of a turkey when being coursed is 
rarely more than a mile, and the second about half as long. 
After that, if it gets up at all again, it is for very short 
flights so near the ground that it is soon cut down by 
any hound. The astonishing springs a greyhound who is 
an old hand at turkey coursing will make are a constant 
source of surprise and wonder to those fond of the sport. 
A turkey, after coming down from his first flight, will 
really perform the feat which fable attributes to the 
ostrich ; that is, will run its head into a clump of bushes 
and stand motionless as if, since it cannot see its foes, it 
were itself equally invisible. During the day turkeys are 
scattered all over the plains, and it is no unusual thing 
to get in one afternoon's ride eight or ten of them." 




CHAPTER IV. 



THE DEER OF THE RIVER BOTTOMS. 




F all the large game of the 
United States, the white-tail 
deer is the best known and 
the most widely distributed. 
Taking the Union as a whole, 
fully ten men will be found who 
have killed white-tail for one who has 
killed any other kind of large game. 
And it is the only ruminant animal which 
is able to live on in the land even when it has been pretty 
thickly settled. There is hardly a State wherein it does 
not still exist, at least in some out-of-the-way corner ; and 
long after the elk and the buffalo have passed away, and 
when the big-horn and prong-horn have become rare 
indeed, the white-tail deer will still be common in certain 
parts of the country. 

When, less than five years ago, cattle were first driven 
on to the northern plains, the white-tail were the least 
plentiful and the least sought after of all the large game ; 



102 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 103 

but they have held their own as none of the others have 
begun to do, and are already in certain localities more 
common than any other kind, and indeed in many places 
are more common than all other kinds put together. The 
ranchmen along the Powder River, for instance, now have 
to content themselves with white-tail venison unless they 
make long trips back among the hills. The same is rap- 
idly getting to be true of the Little Missouri. This is 
partly because the skin and meat hunters find the chase 
of this deer to be the most tedious and least remunera- 
tive species of hunting, and therefore only turn their at- 
tention to it when there is nothing else left to hunt, and 
partly because the sheep and cattle and the herdsmen who 
follow them are less likely to trespass on their grounds 
than on the grounds of other game. The white-tail is the 
deer of the river bottoms and of the large creeks, whose 
beds contain plenty of brush and timber running down 
into them. It prefers the densest cover, in which it lies 
hid all day, and it is especially fond of wet, swampy 
places, where a horse runs the risk of being engulfed. 
Thus it is very rarely jumped by accident, and when the 
cattle stray into its haunts, which is but seldom, the cow- 
boys are not apt to follow them. Besides, unlike most other 
game, it has no aversion to the presence of cattle, and in 
the morning and evening will come out and feed freely 
among them. 

This last habit was the cause of our getting 1 a fine 
buck a few days before last Christmas. The weather was 
bitterly cold, the spirit in the thermometer sometimes 
going down at night to 50 below zero and never for over 



104 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

a fortnight getting above 10 (Fahrenheit). Snow cov- 
ered the ground, to the depth, however, of but a few 
inches, for in the cattle country the snowfall is always 
light. When the cold is so great it is far from pleasant 
to be out-of-doors. Still a certain amount of riding 
about among the cattle and ponies had to be done, and 
almost every day was spent by at least one of us in 
the saddle. We wore the heaviest kind of all-wool under- 
clothing, with flannels, lined boots, and great fur coats, 
caps, and gauntlets or mittens, but yet after each ride 
one or the other of us would be almost sure to come in 
with a touch of the frost somewhere about him. On one 
ride I froze my nose and one cheek, and each of the men 
froze his ears, fingers, or toes at least once during the 
fortnight. This generally happened while riding over a 
plain or plateau with a strong wind blowing in our faces. 
When the wind was on our backs it was not bad fun to 
gallop along through the white weather, but when we had 
to face it, it cut through us like a keen knife. The ponies 
did not seem to mind the cold much, but the cattle were very 
uncomfortable, standing humped up in the bushes except 
for an hour or two at mid-day when they ventured out to 
feed ; some of the young stock which were wintering on 
the range for the first time died from the exposure. A 
very weak animal we would bring into the cow-shed and 
feed with hay ; but this was only done in cases of the 
direst necessity, as such an animal has then to be fed for 
the rest of the winter, and the quantity of hay is limited. 
In the Bad Lands proper, cattle do not wander far, the 
deep ravines affording them a refuge from the bitter icy 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 105 

blasts of the winter gales ; but if by any accident caught 
out on the open prairie in a blizzard, a herd will drift 
before it for maybe more than a hundred miles, until it 
finds a shelter capable of holding it. For this reason 
it is best to keep more or less of a look-out over all the 
bunches of beasts, riding about among them every few 
days, and turning back any herd that begins to straggle 
toward the open plains ; though in winter, when weak 
and emaciated, the cattle must be disturbed and driven as 
little as possible, or the loss among them will be fearful. 
One afternoon, while most of us were away from the 
ranch-house, one of the cowboys, riding in from his day's 
outing over the range, brought word that he had seen two 
white-tail deer, a buck and a doe, feeding with some cattle 
on the side of a hill across the river, and not much more 
than half a mile from the house. There was about an 
hour of daylight left, and one of the foremen, a tall, fine- 
looking fellow named Ferris, the best rider on the ranch 
but not an unusually good shot, started out at once after 
the deer ; for in the late fall and early winter we generally 
kill a good deal of game, as it then keeps well and serves 
as a food supply throughout the cold months ; after Janu- 
ary we hunt as little as possible. Ferris found the deer 
easily enough, but they started before he could get a 
standing shot at them, and when he fired as they ran, he 
only broke one of the buck's hind legs, just above the 
ankle. He followed it in the snow for several miles, 
across the river, and down near the house to the end of the 
bottom, and then back toward the house. The buck was 
a cunning old beast, keeping in the densest cover, and 



io6 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

often doubling back on his trail and sneaking off to one 
side as his pursuer passed by. Finally it grew too dark 
to see the tracks any longer, and Ferris came home. 

Next morning early we went out to where he had left 
the trail, feeling very sure from his description of the place 
(which was less than a mile from the house) that we 
would get the buck ; for when he had abandoned the pur- 
suit the deer was in a copse of bushes and young trees 
some hundreds of yards across, and in this it had doubt- 
less spent the night, for it was extremely unlikely that, 
wounded and tired as it was, it would go any distance 
after finding that it was no longer pursued. 

When we got to the thicket we first made a circuit 
round it to see if the wounded animal had broken cover, 
but though there were fresh deer tracks leading both in 
and out of it, none of them were made by a cripple ; 
so we knew he was still within. It would seem to be 
a very easy task to track up and kill a broken-legged 
buck in light snow ; but we had to go very cautiously, 
for though with only three legs he could still run a good 
deal faster than either of us on two, and we were anxious 
not to alarm him and give him a good start. Then 
there were several well-beaten cattle trails through the 
thicket, and in addition to that one or two other deer 
had been walking to and fro within it ; so that it was 
hard work to follow the tracks. After working some 
little time we hit on the right trail, finding where the 
buck had turned into the thickest growth. While Ferris 
followed carefully in on the tracks, I stationed myself 
farther on toward the outside, knowing that the buck 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 107 

would in all likelihood start up wind. In a minute or 
two Ferris came on the bed where he had passed the 
night, and which he had evidently just left ; a shout 
informed me that the game was on foot, and immedi- 
ately afterward the crackling and snapping of the branches 
were heard as the deer rushed through them. I ran as 
rapidly and quietly as possible toward the place where 
the sounds seemed to indicate that he would break 
cover, stopping under a small tree. A minute after- 
ward he appeared, some thirty yards off on the edge of 
the thicket, and halted for a second to look round 
before going into the open. Only his head and antlers 
were visible above the bushes which hid from view the 
rest of his body. He turned his head sharply toward 
me as I raised the rifle, and the bullet went fairly into 
his throat, just under the jaw, breaking his neck, and 
bringing him down in his tracks with hardly a kick. 
He was a fine buck of eight points, unusually fat, con- 
sidering that the rutting season was just over. We 
dressed it at once, and, as the house was so near, de- 
termined we would drag it there over the snow our- 
selves, without going back for a horse. Each took an 
antler, and the body slipped along very easily ; but so 
intense was the cold that we had to keep shifting sides 
all the time, the hand which grasped the horn becoming 
numb almost immediately. 

White-tail are very canny, and know perfectly well 
what threatens danger and what does not. Their larger, 
and to my mind nobler, relation, the black-tail, is if 
any thing easier to approach and kill, and yet is by no 



io8 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

means so apt to stay in the immediate neighborhood of 
a ranch, where there is always more or less noise and 
confusion. The bottom on which my ranch-house 
stands is a couple of miles in length, and well wooded ; 
all through last summer it was the home of a number 
of white-tails, and most of them are on it to this mo- 
ment. Two fawns in especial were really amusingly 
tame, at one time spending their days hid in an almost 
impenetrable tangle of bullberry bushes, whose hither 
edge was barely a hundred yards from the ranch- 
house ; and in the evening they could frequently be 
seen from the door, as they came out to feed. In 
walking out after sunset, or in riding home when night 
had fallen, we would often run across them when it was 
too dark to make out any thing but their flaunting 
white tails as they cantered out of the way. Yet for 
all their seeming familiarity they took good care not to 
expose themselves to danger. We were reluctant to 
molest them, but one day, having performed our usual 
weekly or fortnightly feat of eating up about every 
thing there was in the house, it was determined that 
the two deer (for it was late in autumn and they were 
then well grown) should be sacrificed. Accordingly one 
of us sallied put, but found that the sacrifice was not 
to be consummated so easily, for the should-be victims 
appeared to distinguish perfectly well between a mere 
passer-by, whom they regarded with absolute indiffer- 
ence, and any one who harbored sinister designs. They 
kept such a sharp look-out, and made off so rapidly if 
any one tried to approach them, that on two evenings 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 109 

the appointed hunter returned empty-handed, and by the 
third some one else had brought in a couple of black- 
tail. After that no necessity arose for molesting the 
two " tame deer," for whose sound common-sense we 
had all acquired a greatly increased respect. 

When not much molested white-tail feed in the 
evening or late afternoon ; but if often shot at and 
chased they only come out at night. They are very 
partial to the water, and in the warm summer nights 
will come down into the prairie ponds and stand knee- 
deep in them, eating the succulent marsh plants. Most 
of the plains rivers flow through sandy or muddy beds 
with no vegetable growth, and to these, of course, the 
deer merely come down to drink or refresh themselves 
by bathing, as they contain nothing to eat. 

Throughout the day the white-tails keep in the 
densest thickets, choosing if possible those of considera- 
ble extent. For this reason they are confined to the 
bottoms of the rivers and the mouths of the largest 
creeks, the cover elsewhere being too scanty to suit them. 
It is very difficult to make them leave one of their 
haunts during the daytime. They lie very close, per- 
mitting a man to pass right by them ; and the twigs 
and branches surrounding them are so thick and inter- 
laced that they can hear the approach of any one from 
a long distance off, and hence are rarely surprised. If 
they think there is danger that the intruder will discover 
them, they arise and skulk silently off through the thickest 
part of the brush. If followed, they keep well ahead, 
moving perfectly noiselessly through the thicket, often 



no Deer of the River Bottoms. 

going round in a circle and not breaking cover until 
hard pressed ; yet all the time stepping with such sharp- 
eyed caution that the pursuing hunter will never get a 
glimpse of the quarry, though the patch of brush may 
not be fifty rods across. 

At times the white-tail will lie so close that it may 
almost be trodden on. One June morning I was riding 
down along the river, and came to a long bottom, 
crowded with rose-bushes, all in bloom. It was crossed 
in every direction by cattle paths, and a drove of long- 
horned Texans were scattered over it. A cow-pony gets 
accustomed to travelling at speed along the cattle trails, 
and the one I bestrode threaded its way among the 
twisted narrow paths with perfect ease, loping rapidly 
onward through a sea of low rose-bushes, covered with 
the sweet, pink flowers. They gave a bright color to 
the whole plain, while the air was filled with the rich, 
full songs of the yellow-breasted meadow larks, as they 
perched on the topmost sprays of the little trees. Sud- 
denly a white-tail doe sprang up almost from under the 
horse's feet, and scudded off with her white flag flaunting. 
There was no reason for harming her, and she made a 
pretty picture as she bounded lightly off among the 
rose-red flowers, passing without heed through the ranks 
of the long-horned and savage-looking steers. 

Doubtless she had a little spotted fawn not far away. 
These wee fellows soon after birth grow very cunning and 
able to take care of themselves, keeping in the densest 
part of the brush, through which they run and dodge 
like a rabbit. If taken young they grow very tame and 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 1 1 1 

are most dainty pets. One which we had round the 
house answered well to its name. It was at first fed 
with milk, which it lapped eagerly from a saucer, sharing 
the meal with the two cats, who rather resented its 
presence and cuffed it heartily when they thought it was 
greedy and was taking more than its share. As it grew 
older it would eat bread or potatoes from our hands, 
and was perfectly fearless. At night it was let go or 
put in the cow-shed, whichever was handiest, but it was 
generally round in time for breakfast next morning. A 
blue ribbon with a bell attached was hung round its 
neck, so as to prevent its being shot ; but in the end it 
shared the fate of all pets, for one night it went off 
and never came back again. Perhaps it strayed away 
of its own accord, but more probably some raw hand at 
hunting saw it, and slaughtered it without noticing the 
bell hanging from its neck. 

The best way to kill white-tail is to still-hunt carefully 
through their haunts at dusk, when the deer leave the 
deep recesses in which their day-beds lie, and come out to 
feed in the more open parts. For this kind of hunting, 
no dress is so good as a buckskin suit and moccasins. 
The moccasins enable one to tread softly and noislessly, 
while the buckskin suit is of a most inconspicuous color, 
and makes less rustling than any other material when 
passing among projecting twigs. Care must be taken to 
always hunt up wind, and to advance without any sudden 
motions, walking close in to the edge of the thickets, and 
keeping a sharp look-out, as it is of the first importance to 
see the game before the game sees you. The feeding- 



U2 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

grounds of the deer may vary. If they are on a bottom 
studded with dense copses, they move out on the open 
between them ; if they are in a dense wood, they feed 
along its edges ; but, by preference, they keep in the 
little glades and among the bushes underneath the trees. 
Wherever they may be found, they are rarely far from 
thick cover, and are always on the alert, lifting up their 
heads every few bites they take to see if any danger 
threatens them. But, unlike the antelope, they seem to 
rely for safety even more upon escaping observation than 
upon discovering danger while it is still far off, and so are 
usually in sheltered places where they cannot be seen at 
any distance. Hence, shots at them are generally ob- 
tained, if obtained at all, at very much closer range 
than at any other kind of game ; the average distance 
would be nearer fifty than a hundred yards. On the 
other hand, more of the shots obtained are running 
ones than is the case with the same number taken at 
antelope or black-tail. 

If the deer is standing just out of a fair-sized wood, it 
can often be obtained by creeping up along the edge ; if 
seen among the large trees, it is even more easily still- 
hunted, as a tree trunk can be readily kept in line with the 
quarry, and thus prevent its suspecting any approach. But 
only a few white-tail are killed by regular and careful stalk- 
ing ; in much the greater number of instances the hunter 
simply beats patiently and noiselessly from the leeward, 
carefully through the clumps of trees and bushes, always 
prepared to see his game, and with his rifle at the 
ready. Sooner or later, as he steals round a corner, 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 113 

he either sees the motionless form of a deer, not a 
great distance off, regarding him intently for a moment 
before taking flight ; or else he hears a sudden crash, 
and catches a glimpse of the animal as it lopes into the 
bushes. In either case, he must shoot quick ; but the shot 
is a close one. 

If he is heard or seen a long way off, the deer is very 
apt, instead of running away at full speed, to skulk off 
quietly through the bushes. But when suddenly startled, 
the white-tail makes off at a great rate, at a rolling gallop, 
the long, broad tail, pure white, held up in the air. In 
the dark or in thick woods, often all that can be seen is the 
flash of white from the tail. The head is carried low and 
well forward in running ; a buck, when passing swiftly 
through thick underbrush, usually throws his horns back 
almost on his shoulders, with his nose held straight in 
front. White-tail venison is, in season, most delicious 
eating, only inferior to the mutton of the mountain 
sheep. 

Among the places which are most certain to con- 
tain white-tails may be mentioned the tracts of swampy 
ground covered with willows and the like, which are to be 
found in a few (and but a few) localities through the 
plains country ; there are, for example, several such 
along the Powder River, just below where the Little 
Powder empties into it. Here there is a dense growth 
of slim-stemmed young trees, sometimes almost impene- 
trable, and in other places opening out into what seem 
like arched passage-ways, through which a man must at 
times go almost on all fours. The ground may be cov- 



n4 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

ered with rank shrubbery, or it may be bare mud with 
patches of tall reeds. Here and there, scattered through 
these swamps, are pools of water, and sluggish ditches 
occasionally cut their way deep below the surface of the 
muddy soil. Game trails are abundant all through them, 
and now and then there is a large path beaten out by 
the cattle ; while at intervals there are glades and open- 
ings. A horse must be very careful in going through 
such a swamp or he will certainly get mired, and even 
a man must be cautious about his footing. In the 
morning or late afternoon a man stands a good chance 
of killing deer in such a place, if he hunts care- 
fully through it. It is comparatively easy to make but 
little noise in the mud and among the wet, yielding 
swamp plants ; and by moving cautiously along the trails 
and through the openings, one can see some little dis- 
tance ahead ; and toward evening the pools should be 
visited, and the borders as far back as possible carefully 
examined, for any deer that come to drink, and the 
glades should be searched through for any that may be 
feeding. In the soft mud, too, a fresh track can be 
followed as readily as if in snow, and without exposing 
the hunter to such probability of detection. If a shot 
is obtained at all, it is at such close quarters as to more 
than counterbalance the dimness of the light, and to 
render the chance of a miss very unlikely. Such hunt- 
ing is for a change very pleasant, the perfect stillness of 
the place, the quiet with which one has to move, and 
the constant expectation of seeing game keeping one's 
nerves always on the stretch ; but after a while it grows 



Deer of the River Bottoms. us 

tedious, and it makes a man feel cramped to be always 
ducking and crawling through such places. It is not to 
be compared, in cool weather, with still-hunting on the 
open hills ; nevertheless, in the furious heat of the sum- 
mer sun it has its advantages, for it is not often so 
oppressingly hot in the swamp as it is on the open 
prairie or in the dry thickets. 

The white-tail is the only kind of large game for which 
the shot-gun can occasionally be used. At times in the 
dense brush it is seen, if seen at all, at such short dis- 
tances, and the shots have to be taken so hurriedly, that 
the shot-gun is really the best weapon wherewith to 
attempt its death. One method of taking it is to 
have trained dogs hunt through a valley and drive the 
deer to guns stationed at the opposite end. With a 
single slow hound, given to baying, a hunter can often 
follow the deer on foot in the method adapted in most 
of the Eastern States for the capture of both the gray 
and the red fox. If the dog is slow and noisy the deer 
will play round in circles and can be cut off and shot 
from a stand. Any dog will soon put a deer out of a 
thicket, or drive it down a valley ; but without a dog it 
is often difficult to drive deer toward the runaway or 
place at which the guns are stationed, for the white-tail 
will often skulk round and round a thicket instead of 
putting out of it when a man enters ; and even when 
started it may break back past the driver instead of going 
toward the guns. 

In all these habits white-tail are the very reverse of 
such game as antelope. Antelope care nothing at all 



n6 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

about being seen, and indeed rather court observation, 
while the chief anxiety of a white-tail is to go unob- 
served. In passing through a country where there are 
antelope, it is almost impossible not to see them ; while 
where there are an equal number of white-tail, the odds are 
manifold against travellers catching a glimpse of a single 
individual. The prong-horn is perfectly indifferent as to 
whether the pursuer sees him, so long as in his turn he 
is able to see the pursuer ; and he relies entirely upon 
his speed and wariness for his safety ; he never trusts 
for a moment to eluding observation. White-tail on the 
contrary rely almost exclusively either upon lying per- 
fectly still and letting the danger pass by, or else upon 
skulking off so slyly as to be unobserved ; it is only 
when hard pressed or suddenly startled that they bound 
boldly and freely away. 

In many of the dense jungles without any opening 
the brush is higher than a man's head, and one has 
then practically no chance at all of getting a shot on 
foot when crossing through such places. But I have 
known instances where a man had himself driven in a 
tall light wagon through a place like this, and got 
several snap shots at the deer, as he caught momentary 
glimpses of them stealing off through the underbrush ; 
and another method of pursuit in these jungles is occa- 
sionally followed by one of my foremen, who, mounted 
on a quiet horse, which will stand fire, pushes through 
the bushes and now and then gets a quick shot at a 
deer from horseback. I have tried this method myself, 
but without success, for though my hunting-horse, old 



Deer of the River Bottoms. l *1 

Manitou, stands as steady as a rock, yet I find it im- 
possible to shoot the rifle with any degree of accuracy 
from the saddle. 

Except on such occasions as those just mentioned, 
the white-tail is rarely killed while hunting on horse- 
back. This last term, by-the-way, must not be under- 
stood in the sense in which it would be taken by the 
fox-hunter of the South, or by the Calif ornian and Texan 
horsemen who course hare, antelope, and wild turkey 
with their fleet greyhounds. With us hunting on horse- 
back simply means that the horse is ridden not only to 
the hunting grounds, but also through them, until the 
game is discovered ; then the hunter immediately dis- 
mounts, shooting at once if the animal is near enough 
and has seen him, or stalking up to it on foot if 
it is a good distance off and he is still unobserved. 
Where great stretches of country have to be covered, 
as in antelope shooting, hunting on horseback is almost 
the only way followed ; but the haunts and habits of 
the white-tail deer render it nearly useless to try to kill 
them in this way, as the horse would be sure to alarm 
them by making a noise, and even if he did not there 
would hardly be time to dismount and take a snap shot. 
Only once have I ever killed a white-tail buck while hunt- 
ing on horseback ; and at that time I had been expect- 
ing to fall in with black-tail. 

This was while we had been making a wagon trip to 
the westward, following the old Keogh trail, which was 
made by the heavy army wagons that journeyed to Fort 
Keogh in the old days when the soldiers were, except a 



n 8 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

few daring trappers, the only white men to be seen on the 
last great hunting-ground of the Indians. It was aban- 
doned as a military route several years ago, and is now 
only rarely travelled over, either by the canvas-topped 
ranch-wagon of some wandering cattle-men like our- 
selves, or else by a small party of emigrants, in two 
or three prairie schooners, which contain all their house- 
hold goods. Nevertheless, it is still as plain and distinct 
as ever. The two deep parallel ruts, cut into the sod by 
the wheels of the heavy wagon, stretch for scores of 
miles in a straight line across the level prairie, and 
take great turns and doublings to avoid the impassable 
portions of the Bad Lands. The track is always per- 
fectly plain, for in the dry climate of the western plains 
the action of the weather tends to preserve rather than to 
obliterate it ; where it leads downhill, the snow water has 
cut and widened the ruts into deep gullies, so that a 
wagon has at those places to travel alongside the road. 
From any little rising in the prairie the road can be 
seen, a long way off, as a dark line, which, when near, re- 
solves itself into two sharply defined parallel cuts. Such 
a road is a great convenience as a landmark. When 
travelling along it, or one like it, the hunters can sep- 
arate in all directions, and no matter how long or how far 
they hunt, there is never the least difficulty about finding 
camp. For the general direction in which the road lies, 
is, of course, kept in mind, and it can be reached whether 
the sun is down or not ; then a glance tells if the 
wagon has passed, and all that remains to be done is to 
gallop along the trail until camp is found 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 119 

On the trip in question we had at first very bad 
weather. Leaving the ranch in the morning, two of us, 
who were mounted, pushed on ahead to hunt, the wagon 
following slowly, with a couple of spare saddle ponies lead- 
ing behind it. Early in the afternoon, while riding ovef 
the crest of a great divide, which separates the drainage 
basins of two important creeks, we saw that a tremendous 
storm was brewing with that marvellous rapidity which is 
so marked a characteristic of weather changes on the 
plains. A towering mass of clouds gathered in the 
northwest, turning that whole quarter of the sky to an 
inky blackness. From there the storm rolled down 
toward us at a furious speed, obscuring by degrees the 
light of the sun, and extending its wings toward each 
side, as if to overlap any that tried to avoid its path. 
Against the dark background of the mass could be seen 
pillars and clouds of gray mist, whirled hither and thither 
by the wind, and sheets of level rain driven before it. 
The edges of the wings tossed to and fro, and the wind 
shrieked and moaned as it swept over the prairie. It 
was a storm of unusual intensity ; the prairie fowl rose 
in flocks from before it, scudding with spread wings 
toward the thickest cover, and the herds of antelope ran 
across the plain like race-horses to gather in the hollows 
and behind the low ridges. 

We spurred hard to get out of the open, riding with 
loose reins for the creek. The centre of the storm 
swept by behind us, fairly across our track, and we 
only got a wipe from the tail of it. Yet this itself 
we could not have faced in the open. The first gust 



120 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

caught us a few hundred yards from the creek, almost 
taking us from the saddle, and driving the rain and 
hail in stinging level sheets against us. We galloped 
to the edge of a deep wash-out, scrambled into it at the 
risk of our necks, and huddled up with our horses under- 
neath the windward bank. Here we remained pretty 
well sheltered until the storm was over. Although it was 
August, the air became very cold. The wagon was fairly 
caught, and would have been blown over if the top had 
been on ; the driver and horses escaped without injury, 
pressing under the leeward side, the storm coming so 
level that they did not need a roof to protect them from 
the hail. Where the centre of the whirlwind struck it 
did great damage, sheets of hailstones as large as pigeons' 
eggs striking the earth with the velocity of bullets ; next 
day the hailstones could have been gathered up by the 
bushel from the heaps that lay in the bottom of the 
gullies and ravines. One of my cowboys was out in the 
storm, during whose continuance he crouched under his 
horse's belly ; coming home he came across some ante- 
lope so numb and stiffened that they could barely limp 
out of the way. 

Near my ranch the hail killed quite a number of lambs. 
These were the miserable remnants of a flock of twelve 
thousand sheep driven into the Bad Lands a year before, 
four fifths of whom had died during the first winter, to 
the delight of all the neighboring cattle-men. Cattle-men 
hate sheep, because they eat the grass so close that cattle 
cannot live on the same ground The sheep-herders are 
a morose, melancholy set of men, generally afoot, and 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 121 

with no companionship except that of the bleating idiots 
they are hired to guard. No man can associate with sheep 
and retain his self-respect. Intellectually a sheep is about 
on the lowest level of the brute creation ; why the early 
Christians admired it, whether young or old, is to a good 
cattle-man always a profound mystery. 

The wagon came on to the creek, along whose banks 
we had taken shelter, and we then went into camp. It 
rained all night, and there was a thick mist, with con- 
tinual sharp showers, all the next day and night. The 
wheeling was, in consequence, very heavy, and after 
striking the Keogh trail we were able to go along it 
but a few miles before the fagged-out look of the team 
and the approach of evening warned us that we should 
have to go into camp while still a dozen miles from any 
pool or spring. Accordingly we made what would have 
been a dry camp had it not been for the incessant down- 
pour of rain, which we gathered in the canvas wagon- 
sheet and in our oilskin overcoats in sufficient quantity 
to make coffee, having with infinite difficulty started a 
smouldering fire just to leeward of the wagon. The 
horses, feeding on the soaked grass, did not need water. 
An antelope, with the bold and heedless curiosity some- 
times shown by its tribe, came up within two hundred 
yards of us as we were building the fire ; but though one 
of us took a shot at him, it missed. Our shaps and oil- 
skins had kept us perfectly dry, and as soon as our frugal 
supper was over, we coiled up among the boxes and 
bundles inside the wagon and slept soundly till day- 
break. 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 

When the sun rose next day, the third we were out, 
the sky was clear, and we two horsemen at once pre- 
pared to make a hunt. Some three miles off to the south 
of where we were camped, the plateau on which we were 
sloped off into a great expanse of broken ground, with 
chains upon chains of steep hills, separated by deep val- 
leys, winding and branching in every direction, their bot- 
toms filled with trees and brushwood. Toward this place 
we rode, intending to go into it some little distance, and 
then to hunt along through it near the edge. As soon as 
we got down near the brushy ravine we rode along with- 
out talking, guiding the horses as far as possible on 
earthy places, where they would neither stumble nor 
strike their feet against stones, and not letting our rifle- 
barrels or spurs clink against any thing. Keeping out- 
side of the brush, a little up the side of the hill, one of us 
would ride along each side of the ravine, examining 
intently with our eyes every clump of trees or brushwood. 
For some time we saw nothing, but, finally, as we were 
riding both together round the jutting spur of a steep 
hill, my companion suddenly brought his horse to a halt, 
and pointing across the shelving bend to a patch of trees 
well up on the opposite side of a broad ravine, asked me 
if I did not see a deer in it. I was off the horse in a 
second, throwing the reins over his head. We were in 
the shadow of the cliff-shoulder, and with the wind in our 
favor ; so we were unlikely to be observed by the game. 
I looked long and eagerly toward the spot indicated, 
which was about a hundred and twenty-five yards from 
us, but at first could see nothing. By this time, however, 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 

the experienced plainsman who was with me was satisfied 
that he was right in his supposition, and he told me to 
try again and look for a patch of red. I saw the patch at 
once, just glimmering through the bushes, but should 
certainly never have dreamed it was a deer if left to my- 
self. Watching it attentively I soon saw it move enough 
to satisfy me where the head lay ; kneeling on one knee 
and (as it was a little beyond point-blank range) holding 
at the top of the portion visible, I pulled trigger, and the 
bright-colored patch disappeared from among the bushes. 
The aim was a good one, for, on riding up to the brink 
of the ravine, we saw a fine white-tail buck lying below 
us, shot through just behind the shoulder ; he was still in 
the red coat, with his antlers in the velvet. 

A deer is far from being such an easy animal to see as 
the novice is apt to suppose. Until the middle of Septem- 
ber he is in the red coat ; after that time he is in the gray ; 
but it is curious how each one harmonizes in tint with 
certain of the surroundings. A red doe lying down is, at a 
little distance, undistinguishable from the soil on which 
she is ; while a buck in the gray can hardly be made out in 
dead timber. While feeding quietly or standing still, they 
rarely show the proud, free port we are accustomed to as- 
sociate with the idea of a buck, and look rather ordinary, 
humble-seeming animals, not at all conspicuous or likely 
to attract the hunter's attention ; but once let them be 
frightened, and as they stand facing the danger, or bound 
away from it, their graceful movements and lordly bear- 
ing leave nothing to be desired. The black-tail is a still 
nobler-looking animal ; while an antelope, on the con- 



124 Deer of the River Bottoms. 

trary, though as light and quick on its feet as is possible 
for any animal not possessing wings to be, yet has an 
angular, goat-like look, and by no means conveys to the 
beholder the same idea of grace that a deer does. 

In coming home, on this wagon trip, we made a long 
moonlight ride, passing over between sunset and sunrise 
what had taken us three days' journey on the outward 
march. Of our riding horses, two were still in good con- 
dition and well able to stand a twenty-four hours' jaunt, in 
spite of hard work and rough usage ; the spare ones, as 
well as the team, were pretty well done up and could get 
along but slowly. All day long we had been riding beside 
the wagon over barren sage-brush plains, following the 
dusty trails made by the beef-herds that had been driven 
toward one of the Montana shipping towns. 

When we halted for the evening meal we came near 
learning by practical experience how easy it is to start a 
prairie fire. We were camped by a dry creek on a broad 
bottom covered with thick, short grass, as dry as so much 
tinder. We wished to burn a good circle clear for the 
camp fire ; lighting it, we stood round with branches to 
keep it under. While thus standing a puff of wind struck 
us ; the fire roared like a wild beast as it darted up ; and 
our hair and eyelashes were well singed before we had 
beaten it out. At one time it seemed as if, though but a 
very few feet in extent, it would actually get away from us ; 
in which case the whole bottom would have been a blazing 
furnace within five minutes. 

After supper, looking at the worn-out condition of the 
team, we realized that it would take three more days 



Deer of the River Bottoms. 125 

travelling at the rate we had been going to bring us in, and 
as the country was monotonous, without much game, we 
concluded we would leave the wagon with the driver, and 
taking advantage of the full moon, push through the whole 
distance before breakfast next morning. Accordingly, we 
at nine o'clock again saddled the tough little ponies we 
had ridden all day and loped off out of the circle of fire- 
light. For nine hours we rode steadily, generally at a 
quick lope, across the moon-lit prairie. The hoof-beats 
of our horses rang out in steady rhythm through the 
silence of the night, otherwise unbroken save now and 
then by the wailing cry of a coyote. The rolling plains 
stretched out on all sides of us, shimmering in the clear 
moonlight ; and occasionally a band of spectral-looking 
antelope swept silently away from before our path. Once 
we went by a drove of Texan cattle, who stared wildly at 
the intruders ; as we passed they charged down by us, the 
ground rumbling beneath their tread, while their long 
horns knocked against each other with a sound like the 
clattering of a multitude of castanets. We could see 
clearly enough to keep our general course over the track- 
less plain, steering by the stars where the prairie was per- 
fectly level and without landmarks ; and our ride was timed 
well, for as we galloped down into the valley of the Little 
Missouri the sky above the line of level bluffs in our front 
was crimson with the glow of the unrisen sun. 



CHAPTER V. 



THE BLACK-TAIL DEER. 




AR different from the low- 
scudding, brush-loving 
white-tail, is the black-tail 
deer, the deer of the ra- 
vines and the rocky up- 
lands. In general shape 
and form, both are much 
alike ; but the black-tail is 
the larger of the two, with heavier antlers, of which the 
prongs start from one another, as if each of the tines of 
a two-pronged pitchfork had bifurcated ; and in some 
cases it looks as if the process had been again re- 
peated. The tail, instead of being broad and bushy 
as a squirrel's, spreading from the base, and pure white 
to the tip, is round and close haired, with the end black, 
though the rest is white. If an ordinary deer is run- 
ning, its flaunting flag is almost its most conspicuous 
part ; but no one would notice the tail of a black-tail 
deer. 

126 



The Black-Tail Deer. 127 

All deer vary greatly in size ; and a small black-tail 
buck will be surpassed in bulk by many white-tails ; but 
the latter never reaches the weight and height some- 
times attained by the former. The same holds true of 
the antlers borne by the two animals ; on the average 
those of the black-tail are the heavier, and exceptionally 
large antlers of this species are larger than any of the 
white-tail. Bucks of both kinds very often have, when 
full-grown, more than the normal number of ten points; 
sometimes these many-pronged antlers will be merely 
deformities, while in other instances the points are more 
symmetrical, and add greatly to the beauty and grandeur 
of the head. The venison of the black-tail is said to 
be inferior in quality to that of the white-tail ; but I 
have never been able to detect much difference, though, 
perhaps, on the whole, the latter is slightly better. 

The gaits of the two animals are widely different. 
The white-tail runs at a rolling gallop, striking the 
ground with the forward feet first, the head held for- 
ward. The black-tail, on the contrary, holds its head 
higher up, and progresses by a series of prodigious 
bounds, striking the earth with all four feet at once, 
the legs held nearly stiff. It seems like an extraordinary 
method of running; and the violent exertion tires the 
deer sooner than does the more easy and natural gait 
of the white-tail ; but for a mile or so these rapidly 
succeeding bounds enable the black-tail to get over the 
ground at remarkable speed. Over rough ground, along 
precipitous slopes, and among the boulders of rocky 
cliffs, it will go with surprising rapidity and surefooted- 



128 The Black-Tail Deer. 

ness, only surpassed by the feats of the big-horn in 
similar localities, and not equalled by-trvu^ of any other 
plains game. 

One of the noticeable things in western plains hunting 
is the different zones or bands of territory inhabited by 
different kinds of game. Along the alluvial land of the 
rivers and large creeks is found the white-tail. Back of 
these alluvial lands generally comes a broad tract of 
broken, hilly country, scantily clad with brush in some 
places; this is the abode of the black-tail deer. And 
where these hills rise highest, and where the ground is 
most rugged and barren, there the big-horn is found. 
After this hilly country is passed, in travelling away 
from the river, we come to the broad, level plains, the 
domain of the antelope. Of course the habitats of the 
different species overlap at the edges; and this over- 
lapping is most extended in the cases of the big-horn 
and the black-tail. 

The Bad Lands are the favorite haunts of the black- 
tail. Here the hills are steep and rugged, cut up and 
crossed in every direction by canyon-like ravines and val- 
leys, which branch out and subdivide in the most intri- 
cate and perplexing manner. Here and there are small 
springs, or pools, marked by the greener vegetation 
growing round them. Along the bottoms and sides of 
the ravines there are patches of scrubby undergrowth, 
and in many of the pockets or glens in the sides of the 
hills the trees grow to some little height. High buttes 
rise here and there, naked to the top, or else covered with 
stunted pines and cedars, which also grow in the deep 



The Black-Tail Deer. 129 

ravines and on the edges of the sheer canyons. Such 
lands, where the ground is roughest, and where there is 
some cover, even though scattered and scanty, are the 
best places to find the black-tail. Naturally their pursuit 
needs very different qualities in the hunter from those 
required in the chase of the white-tail. In the latter case 
stealth and caution are the prime requisites ; while the 
man who would hunt and kill the deer of the uplands has 
more especial need of energy, activity, and endurance, of 
good judgment and of skill with the rifle. Hunting the 
black-tail is beyond all comparison the nobler sport. In- 
deed, there is no kind of plains hunting, except only the 
chase of the big-horn, more fitted to bring out the best 
and hardiest of the many qualities which go to make up a 
good hunter. 

It is still a moot question whether it is better to hunt 
on horseback or on foot ; but the course of events is rap- 
idly deciding it in favor of the latter method. Undoubt- 
edly it is easier and pleasanter to hunt on horseback ; 
ind it has the advantage of covering a great deal of 
ground. But it is impossible to advance with such cau- 
tion, and it is difficult to shoot as quickly, as when on 
foot ; and where the deer are shy and not very plenty, 
the most enthusiastic must, slowly and reluctantly but 
surely, come to the conclusion that a large bag can only 
be made by the still-hunter who goes on foot. Of 
course, in the plains country it is not as in mountainous 
or thickly wooded regions, and the horse should almost 
always be taken as a means of conveyance to the hunting- 
grounds and from one point to another ; but the places 



130 Tke Black-Tail Deer. 

where game is expected should, as a rule, be hunted over 
on foot. This rule is by no means a general one, how- 
ever. There are still many localities where the advan- 
tage of covering a great deal of ground more than 
counterbalances the disadvantage of being on horseback. 
About one third of my hunts are still made on horse- 
back ; and in almost all the others I take old Manitou to 
carry me to and from the grounds and to pack out any 
game that may be killed. A hunting-horse is of no use 
whatever unless he will permit a man to jump from his 
back and fire with the greatest rapidity ; and nowhere 
does practice have more to do with success than in the 
case of jumping off a horse to shoot at game which has 
just been seen. The various movements take a novice a 
good deal of time ; while an old hand will be off and 
firing with the most instantaneous quickness. Manitou 
can be left anywhere at a moment's warning^ while his 
rider leaps off, shoots at a deer from almost under his 
head, and perhaps chases the wounded animal a mile or 
over ; and on his return the good old fellow will be graz- 
ing away, perfectly happy and contented, and not making 
a movement to run off or evade being caught. 

One method of killing deer on horseback is very excit- 
ing. Many of the valleys or ravines extend with continual 
abrupt turns and windings for several miles, the brush 
and young trees stretching with constant breaks down the 
middle of the bottom, and leaving a space on each side 
along which a surefooted horse can gallop at speed. 
Two men, on swift, hardy horses, can hunt down such a 
ravine very successfully at evening, by each taking a side 



The Black-Tail Deer. 131 

and galloping at a good speed the whole length against 
the wind. The patter of the unshod hoofs over the turf 
makes but little noise ; and the turns are so numerous and 
abrupt, and the horses go so swiftly, that the hunters 
come on the deer almost before the latter are aware of their 
presence. If it is so late in the day that the deer have 
begun to move they will find the horses close up before 
they have a suspicion of danger, while if they are still 
lying in the cover the suddenness of the appearance of 
their foe is apt to so startle them as to make them break 
out and show themselves instead of keeping hid, as they 
would probably do if they perceived the approach from 
afar. One thus gets a close running shot, or if he waits 
a minute he will generally get a standing shot at some 
little distance, owing to a very characteristic habit of the 
black-tail. This is its custom of turning round, apparently 
actuated simply by curiosity, to look at the object which 
startled it, after it has run off a hundred and fifty yards or 
so. It then stands motionless for a few seconds, and offers 
a chance for a steady shot. If the chance is not improved, 
no other will offer, for as soon as the deer has ended its 
scrutiny it is off again, and this time will not halt till well 
out of danger. Owing to its singular gait, a succession of 
buck jumps, the black-tail is a peculiarly difficult animal to 
hit while on the run ; and it is best to wait until it stops 
and turns before taking the shot, as if fired at, the report 
will generally so alarm it as to make it continue its course 
without halting to look back. Some of the finest antlers 
in my possession come from bucks killed by this method 
of hunting ; and it is a most exhilarating form of sport, 



is 2 The Black-Tail Deer. 

the horse galloping rapidly over what is often very broken 
ground, and the senses being continually on the alert for 
any sign of game. The rush and motion of the horse, 
and the care necessary to guide it and at the same time 
be in constant readiness for a shot, prevent the chase having 
any of the monotony that is at times inseparable from 
still-hunting proper. 

Nevertheless, it is by still-hunting that most deer are 
killed, and the highest form of hunting craft is shown in 
the science of the skilful still-hunter. With sufficient 
practice any man who possesses common-sense and is both 
hardy and persevering can become, to a certain extent, a 
still-hunter. But the really good still-hunter is born rather 
than made ; though of course in addition to possessing the 
gifts naturally he must also have developed them, by con- 
stant practice, to the highest point possible. One of the 
foremen on my ranch is a really remarkably good hunter 
and game shot, and another does almost as well ; but the 
rest of us are not, and never will be, any thing very much 
out of the common. By dint of practice we have learned 
to shoot as well at game as at a target ; and those of us 
who are fond of the sport hunt continually and so get a 
good deal of game at one time or another. Hunting 
through good localities, up wind, quietly and persever- 
ingly, we come upon quite a number of animals ; and we 
can kill a standing shot at a fair distance and a running 
shot close up, and by good luck every now and then kill 
far off; but to much more than is implied in the description 
of such modest feats we cannot pretend. 

After the disappearance of the buffalo and the thin- 



The Black-Tail Deer. 

ning out of the elk, the black-tail was, and in most places 
it still is, the game most sought after by the hunters ; I 
have myself shot as many of them as of all other kinds of 
plains game put together. But for this very reason it is 
fast disappearing ; and bids fair to be the next animal, 
after the buffalo and elk, to vanish from the places that 
formerly knew it. The big-horn and the prong-horn are 
more difficult to stalk and kill, partly from their greater 
natural wariness, and partly from the kind of ground on 
which they are found. But it seems at first sight strange 
that the black-tail should be exterminated or driven away 
so much more quickly than the white-tail, when it has 
sharper ears and nose, is more tenacious of life, and is 
more wary. The main reason is to be found in the differ- 
ence in the character of the haunts of the two creatures. 
The black-tail is found on much more open ground, where 
the animals can be seen farther off, where it is much easier 
to take advantage of the direction of the wind and to get 
along without noise, and where far more country can be 
traversed in a given time ; and though the average length 
of the shots taken is in one case two or three times as 
great as in the other, yet this is more than counterbal- 
anced by the fact that they are more often standing ones, 
and that there is usually much more time for aiming. 
Moreover, one kind of sport can be followed on horseback, 
while the other must be followed on foot ; and then the 
chase of the white-tail, in addition, is by far the more 
tedious and patience-trying. And the black-tail are much 
the more easily scared or driven out of a locality by perse- 
cution or by the encroaching settlements. All these quali- 



134 The Black-Tail Deer, 

ties combine to make it less able to hold its own against 
mankind than its smaller rival. It is the favorite game of the 
skin hunters and meat hunters, and has, in consequence, 
already disappeared from many places, while in others its 
extermination is going on at a frightfully rapid rate, ow- 
ing to its being followed in season and out of season 
without mercy. Besides, the cattle are very fond of just 
the places to which it most often resorts ; and wherever 
cattle go the cowboys ride about after them, with their 
ready six-shooters at their hips. They blaze away at 
any deer they see, of course, and in addition to now and 
then killing or wounding one, continually harry and dis- 
turb the poor animals. In the more remote and inacces- 
sible districts the black-tail will long hold its own, to be 
one of the animals whose successful pursuit will redound 
most to the glory of the still-hunter ; but in a very few 
years it will have ceased entirely to be one of the com- 
mon game animals of the plains. 

Its great curiosity is one of the disadvantages under 
which it labors in the fierce struggle for existence, com- 
pared to the white-tail. The latter, when startled, does 
not often stop to look round ; but, as already said, the 
former will generally do so after having gone a few hun- 
dred feet. The first black-tail I ever killed unfortunately 
killed, for the body was not found until spoiled was ob- 
tained owing solely to this peculiarity. I had been riding 
up along the side of a brushy coulie, when a fine buck 
started out some thirty yards ahead. Although so close, 
my first shot, a running one, was a miss ; when a couple 
of hundred yards off, on the very crest of the spur up 



The Black-Tail Deer. 135 

which he had run, he stopped and turned partially round. 
Firing again from a rest, the bullet broke his hind leg far 
up and went into his body. Off he went on three legs, 
and I after him as fast as the horse could gallop. He 
went over the spur and down into the valley of the creek 
from which the coulie branched up, in very bad ground. 
My pony was neither fast nor surefooted, but of course 
in half a mile overhauled the three-legged deer, which 
turned short off and over the side of the hill flanking the 
valley. Instead of running right up on it I foolishly dis- 
mounted and began firing ; after the first shot a miss 
it got behind a boulder hitherto unseen, and thence over 
the crest. The pony meanwhile had slipped its hind leg 
into the rein ; when, after some time, I got it out and gal- 
loped up to the ridge, the most careful scrutiny of which 
my unpractised eyes were capable failed to discover a 
track on the dry ground, hard as granite. A day or two 
afterwards the place where the carcass lay was made 
known by the vultures, gathered together from all parts 
to feed upon it. 

When fired at from a place of hiding, deer which 
have not been accustomed to the report of a gun will 
often appear confused and uncertain what to do. On 
one occasion, while hunting in the mountains, I saw an 
old buck with remarkably large horns, of curious and 
beautiful shape, more symmetrical than in most instances 
where the normal form is departed from. The deer was 
feeding in a wide, gently sloping valley, containing no 
cover from behind which to approach him. We were 
in no need of meat, but the antlers were so fine that I 



136 The Black-Tail Deer. 

felt they justified the death of their bearer. After a 
little patient waiting, the buck walked out of the valley, 
and over the ridge on the other side, moving up wind ; 
I raced after him, and crept up behind a thick growth 
of stunted cedars, which had started up from among some 
boulders. The deer was about a hundred yards off, 
down in the valley. Out of breath, and over-confident, 
I fired hastily, overshooting him. The wind blew the 
smoke back away from the ridge, so that he saw nothing, 
while the echo prevented his placing the sound. He 
took a couple of jumps nearer, when he stood still and 
was again overshot. Again he took a few jumps, and 
the third shot went below him ; and the fourth just 
behind him. This was too much, and away he went. 
In despair I knelt down (I had been firing off-hand), 
took a steady aim well-forward on his body, and 
fired, bringing him down, but with small credit to the 
shot, for the bullet had gone into his hip, paralyzing 
his hind-quarters. The antlers are the finest pair I ever 
got, and form a magnificent ornament for the hall ; but 
the shooting is hardly to be recalled with pleasure. 
Still, though certainly very bad, it was not quite as 
discreditable as the mere target shot would think. I 
have seen many a crack marksman at the target do 
quite as bad missing when out in the field, and that 
not once, but again and again. 

Of course, in those parts of the wilderness where 
the black-tail are entirely unused to man, they are as 
easy to approach (from the leeward side) as is any and 
every other kind of game under like conditions. In 



The Black-Tail Deer. 137 

f 

lonely spots, to which hunters rarely or never penetrate, 
deer of this species will stand and look at a hunter 
without offering to run away till he is within fifty yards 
of them, if he will advance quietly. In a far-off moun- 
tain forest I have more than once shot a young buck 
at less than that distance as he stood motionless, gazing 
at me, although but little caution had been used in 
approaching him. 

But a short experience of danger on the part of the 
black-tail changes all this ; and where hunters are often 
afoot, he becomes as wild and wary as may be. Then 
the successful still-hunter shows that he is indeed well 
up in the higher forms of hunting craft. For the man 
who can, not once by accident, but again and again, as 
a regular thing, single-handed, find and kill his black- 
tail, has shown that he is no mere novice in his art; 
still-hunting the black-tail is a sport that only the skilful 
can follow with good results, and one which implies 
in the successful sportsman the presence of most of the 
still-hunter's rarest attributes. All of the qualities which 
a still-hunter should possess are of service in the pur- 
suit of any kind of game ; but different ones will be 
called into especial play in hunting different kinds of 
animals. Thus, to be a successful hunter after any thing, 
a man should be patient, resolute, hardy, and with good 
judgment ; he should have good lungs and stout muscles ; 
he should be able to move with noiseless stealth ; and 
he should be keen-eyed, and a first-rate marksman with 
the rifle. But in different kinds of shooting, the relative 
importance of these qualities varies greatly. In hunting 



138 The Black-Tail Deer. 

white-tail deer, the two prime requisites are stealth and 
patience. If the quarry is a big-horn, a man needs 
especially to be sound in wind and limbs, and to be 
both hardy and resolute. Skill in the use of the long- 
range rifle counts for more in antelope hunting than in 
any other form of sport ; and it is in this kind of hunt- 
ing alone that good marksmanship is more important 
than any thing else. With dangerous game, cool and 
steady nerves are of the first consequence ; all else 
comes after. Then, again, in the use of the rifle, the 
kind of skill not merely the degree of skill required 
to hunt different animals may vary greatly. In shooting 
white-tail, it is especially necessary to be a good snap 
shot at running game ; when the distance is close, quick- 
ness is an essential. But at antelope there is plenty of 
time, and what is necessary is ability to judge distance, 
and capacity to hit a small stationary object at long 
range. 

The different degrees of estimation in which the chase 
of the various kinds of plains game is held depend less 
upon the difficulty of capture than upon the nature of the 
qualities in the hunter which each particular form of 
hunting calls into play. A man who is hardy, resolute, 
and a good shot, has come nearer to realizing the ideal of 
a bold and free hunter than is the case with one who is 
merely stealthy and patient ; and so, though to kill a 
white-tail is rather more difficult than to kill a black-tail, 
yet the chase of the latter is certainly the nobler form of 
sport, for it calls into play, and either develops or im- 
plies the presence of, much more manly qualities than 



The Black-Tail Deer. J 39 

does the other. Most hunters would find it nearly as 
difficult to watch in silence by a salt-lick throughout the 
night, and then to butcher with a shot-gun a white-tail, as 
it would be to walk on foot through rough ground from 
morning till evening, and to fairly approach and kill a 
black-tail ; yet there is no comparison between the degree 
of credit to be attached to one feat and that to be at- 
tached to the other. Indeed, if difficulty in killing is to 
be taken as a criterion, a mink or even a weasel would 
have to stand as high up in the scale as a deer, were the 
animals equally plenty. 

Ranged in the order of the difficulty with which they 
are approached and slain, plains game stand as follows : 
big-horn, antelope, white-tail, black-tail, elk, and buffalo. 
But, as regards the amount of manly sport furnished by 
the chase of each, the white-tail should stand at the bot- 
tom of the list, and the elk and black-tail abreast of the 
antelope. 

Other things being equal, the length of an animal's 
stay in the land, when the arch foe of all lower forms of 
animal life has made his appearance therein, depends 
upon the difficulty with which he is hunted and slain. 
But other influences have to be taken into account. The 
big-horn is shy and retiring ; very few, compared to the 
whole number, will be killed ; and yet the others vanish 
completely. Apparently they will not remain where they 
are hunted and disturbed. With antelope and white-tail 
this does not hold ; they will cling to a place far more 
tenaciously, even if often harassed. The former being 
the more conspicuous, and living in such open ground, is 



140 The Black-Tail Deer. 

apt to be more persecuted ; while the white-tail, longer 
than any other animal, keeps its place in the land in spite 
of the swinish game butchers, who hunt for hides and not 
for sport or actual food, and who murder the gravid doe 
and the spotted fawn with as little hesitation as they 
would kill a buck of ten points. No one who is not him- 
self a sportsman and lover of nature can realize the intense 
indignation with which a true hunter sees these butchers 
at their brutal work of slaughtering the game, in season 
and out, for the sake of the few dollars they are too lazy 
to earn in any other and more honest way. 

All game animals rely upon both eyes, ears, and nose 
to warn them of the approach of danger ; but the amount 
of reliance placed on each sense varies greatly in different 
species. Those found out on the plains pay very little 
attention to what they hear ; indeed, in the open they 
can hardly be approached near enough to make of much 
account any ordinary amount of noise caused by the 
stalker, especially as the latter is walking over little but 
grass and soft earth. The buffalo, whose shaggy frontlet 
of hair falls over his eyes and prevents his seeing at any 
great distance, depends mainly upon his exquisite sense 
of smell. The antelope, on the other hand, depends 
almost entirely on his great, bulging eyes, and very little 
on his nose. His sight is many times as good as that of 
deer, both species of which, as well as elk, rely both upon 
sight and hearing, but most of all upon their sense of 
smell, for their safety. The big-horn has almost as keen 
eyesight as an antelope, while his ears and nose are as 
sensitive to sound and scent as are those of an elk. 



The Black-Tail Deer. 14* 

Black-tail, like other members of the deer family, do 
not pay much attention to an object which is not moving. 
A hunter who is standing motionless or squatting down 
is not likely to receive attention, while a big-horn or 
prong-horn would probably see him and take the alarm at 
once ; and if the black-tail is frightened and running he 
will run almost over a man standing in plain sight, without 
paying any heed to him, if the latter does not move. But 
the very slightest movement at once attracts a deer's 
attention, and deer are not subject to the panics that at 
times overtake other kinds of game. The black-tail has 
much curiosity, which often proves fatal to it ; but which 
with it is after all by no means the ungovernable passion 
that it is with antelope. The white-tail and the big-horn 
are neither over-afflicted with morbid curiosity, nor subject 
to panics or fits of stupidity ; and both these animals, as 
well as the black-tail, seem to care very little for the death 
of the leader of the band, going their own ways with small 
regard for the fate of the chief, while elk will huddle 
together in a confused group, and remain almost motion- 
less when their leader is struck down. Antelope and 
more especially elk are subject to perfect panics of unrea- 
soning terror, during which they will often put themselves 
completely in the power of the hunter ; while buffalo will 
frequently show a downright stupidity almost unequalled. 

The black-tail suffers from no such peculiarities. His 
eyes are good ; his nose and ears excellent. He is ever 
alert and wary; his only failing is his occasional over- 
curiosity ; and his pursuit taxes to the utmost the skill and 
resources of the still-hunter. 



H2 The Black-Tail Deer. 

By all means the best coverings for the feet when still- 
hunting are moccasins, as with them a man can go noise- 
lessly through ground where hobnailed boots would clatter 
like the hoofs of a horse ; but in hunting in winter over 
the icy buttes and cliffs it is best to have stout shoes, with 
nails in the soles, and if the main work is done on horse- 
back it is best to wear high boots, as they keep the 
trousers down. Indeed in the Bad Lands boots have other 
advantages, for rattlesnakes abound, and against these 
they afford perfect protection unless a man should happen 
to stumble on a snake while crawling along on all fours. 
But moccasins are beyond all comparison the best foot- 
gear for hunting. In very cold weather a fur cap which 
can be pulled down over the ears is a necessity ; but at other 
times a brimmed felt hat offers better protection against 
both sun and rain. The clothes should be of some neutral 
tint buckskin is on this account excellent and very 
strong. 

The still-hunter should be well acquainted with, at any 
rate, certain of the habits of his quarry. There are seasons 
when the black-tail is found in bands ; such is apt to be 
the case when the rutting time is over. At this period, 
too, the deer wander far and wide, making what may 
almost be called a migration ; and in rutting time the bucks 
follow the does at speed for miles at a stretch. But except 
at these seasons each individual black-tail has a certain 
limited tract of country to which he confines himself unless 
disturbed or driven away, not, of course, keeping in the 
same spot all the time, but working round among a par- 
ticular set of ravines and coulies, where the feed is good, 



The Black-Tail Deer. H3 

and where water can be obtained without going too far 
out of the immediate neighborhood. 

Throughout the plains country the black-tail lives in 
the broken ground, seldom coming down to the alluvial 
bottoms or out on the open prairies and plateaus. But 
he is found all through this broken ground. Sometimes 
it is rolling in character with rounded hills and gentle val- 
leys, dotted here and there with groves of trees ; or the 
hills may rise into high chains, covered with an open pine 
forest, sending off long spurs and divided by deep valleys 
and basins. Such places are favorite resorts of this deer ; 
but it is as plentiful in the Bad Lands proper. There are 
tracts of these which are in part or wholly of volcanic 
origin ; then the hills are called scoria buttes. They are 
high and very steep, but with rounded tops and edges, and 
are covered, as is the ground round about, with scoriae 
boulders. Bushes, and sometimes a few cedar, grow 
among them, and though they would seem to be most un- 
likely places for deer, yet black-tail are very fond of them, 
and are very apt to be found among them. Often in the 
cold fall mornings they will lie out among the boulders, on 
the steep side of such a scoria butte, sunning themselves, far 
from any cover except a growth of brushwood in the bottom 
of the dry creeks or coulies. The grass on top of and 
between these scoria buttes is often very nutritious, and 
cattle are also fond of it. The higher buttes are choice 
haunts of the mountain sheep. 

Nineteen twentieths of the Bad Lands, however, owe 
their origin not to volcanic action but to erosion and to 
the peculiar weathering forces always at work in the 



144 The Black-Tail Deer. 

dry climate of the plains. Geologically the land is for 
the most part composed of a set of parallel, perfectly 
horizontal strata, of clay, marl, or sandstone, which, being 
of different degrees of hardness, offer some more and some 
less resistance to the action of the weather. The table- 
lands, peaks, cliffs, and jagged ridges are caused solely by 
the rains and torrents cutting away the land into channels, 
which at first are merely wash-outs, and at last grow into 
deep canyons, winding valleys, and narrow ravines or 
basins. The sides of these cuts are at first perpendicular, 
exposing to view the various bands of soil, perhaps of a 
dozen different colors ; the hardest bands resist the action 
of the weather best and form narrow ledges stretching 
along the face of the cliff. Peaks of the most fantastic 
shape are formed in this manner ; and where a ridge is 
worn away on each side its crest may be as sharp as a knife 
blade, but all notched and jagged. The peaks and. ridges 
vary in height from a few feet to several hundred ; the 
sides of the buttes are generally worn down in places so as 
to be steeply sloping instead of perpendicular. The long 
wash-outs and the canyons and canyon-like valleys stretch 
and branch out in every direction ; the dryness of the 
atmosphere, the extremes of intense heat and bitter cold, 
and the occasional furious rain-storms keep the edges and 
angles sharp and jagged, and pile up boulders and masses 
of loose detritus at the foot of the cliffs and great lonely 
crags. Sometimes the valleys are quite broad, with steep 
sides and with numerous pockets, separated by spurs jutting 
out into the bottom from the lateral ridges. Other ravines 
or clefts taper down to a ditch, a foot or so wide, from 



The Black-Tail Deer. 145 

which the banks rise at an angle of sixty degrees to the 
tops of the enclosing ridges. 

The faces of the terraced cliffs and sheer crags are bare 
of all but the scantiest vegetation, and where the Bad Lands 
are most rugged and broken the big-horn is the only game 
found. But in most places the tops of the buttes, the sides 
of the slopes, and the bottoms of the valleys are more or 
less thickly covered with the nutritious grass which is the 
favorite food of the black-tail. 

Of course, the Bad Lands grade all the way from those 
that are almost rolling in character to those that are so 
fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to 
seem hardly properly to belong to this earth. If the 
weathering forces have not been very active, the ground 
will look, from a little distance, almost like a level plain, 
but on approaching nearer, it will be seen to be crossed by 
straight-sided gullies and canyons, miles in length, cutting 
across the land in every direction and rendering it almost 
impassable for horsemen or wagon-teams. If the forces at 
work have been more intense, the walls between the dif- 
ferent gullies have been .cut down to thin edges, or broken 
through, leaving isolated peaks of strange shape, while 
the hollows have been channelled out deeper and deeper ; 
such places show the extreme and most characteristic Bad 
Lands formation. When the weathering has gone on 
further, the angles are rounded off, grass begins to 
grow, bushes and patches of small trees sprout up, 
water is found in places, and the still very rugged 
country becomes the favorite abode of the black-tail. 

During the daytime, these deer lie quietly in their 



146 The Black-Tail Deer. 

beds, which are sometimes in the brush and among the 
matted bushes in the bottoms of the small branching 
coulies, or heads of the crooked ravines. More often 
they will be found in the thickets of stunted cedars 
clothing the brinks of the canyons or the precipitous 
slopes of the great chasms into which the ground is cleft 
and rent ; or else among the groves of gnarled pines on 
the sides of the buttes, and in the basins and pockets be- 
tween the spurs. If the country is not much hunted over, 
a buck or old doe will often take its mid-day rest out in the 
open, lying down among the long grass or shrubbery on 
one of the bare benches at the head of a ravine, at the 
edge of the dense brush with which its bottom and sides 
are covered. In such a case, a position is always chosen 
from which a look-out can be kept all around ; and the 
moment any suspicious object is seen, the deer slips off 
into the thicket below him. Perhaps the favorite resting- 
places are the rounded edges of the gorges, just before 
the sides of the latter break sheer off. Here the deer 
lies, usually among a few straggling pines or cedars, on the 
very edge of the straight side-wall of the canyon, with a 
steep-shelving slope above him, so that he cannot be seen 
from the summit ; and in such places it is next to impos- 
sible to get at him. If lying on a cedar-grown spur or 
ridge-point, the still-hunter has a better chance, for the 
evergreen needles with which the ground is covered enable 
a man to walk noiselessly, and, by stooping or going on 
all fours, he can keep under the branches. But it is at all 
times hard and unsatisfactory work to find and success- 
fully still-hunt a deer that is enjoying its day rest. Gen- 



The Black-Tail Deer. H7 

erally, the only result is to find the warm, fresh bed from 
which the deer has just sneaked off, the blades of grass 
still slowly rising, after the hasty departure of the weight 
that has flattened them down ; or else, if in dense cover, 
the hunter suddenly hears a scramble, a couple of crashing 
bounds through the twigs and dead limbs, and gets a 
momentary glimpse of a dark outline vanishing into the 
thicket as the sole reward of his labor. Almost the only 
way to successfully still-hunt a deer in the middle of the 
day, is to find its trail and follow it up to the resting- 
places, and such a feat needs an expert tracker and a 
noiseless and most skilful stalker. 

The black-tail prefers to live in the neighborhood of 
water, where he can get it every twenty-four hours ; but 
he is perfectly willing to drink only every other day, if, as 
is often the case, he happens to be in a very dry locality. 
Nor does he stay long in the water or near it, like the 
white-tail, but moves off as soon as he is no longer thirsty. 
On moonlight nights he feeds a good deal of the time, 
and before dawn he is always on foot for his breakfast ; 
the hours around daybreak are those in which most of his 
grazing is done. By the time the sun has been up an 
hour he is on his way homeward, grazing as he goes ; and 
he will often stay for some little time longer, if there has 
been no disturbance from man or other foes, feeding 
among the scattered scrub cedars skirting the thicket in 
which he intends to make his bed for the day. Having 
once made his bed he crouches very close in it, and is 
difficult to put up during the heat of the day ; but as the 
afternoon wears on he becomes more restless, and will 



148 The Black-Tail Deer. 

break from his bed and bound off at much smaller provo- 
cation, while if the place is lonely he will wander out into 
the open hours before sunset. If, however, he is in 
much danger of being molested, he will keep close to his 
hiding-place until nearly nightfall, when he ventures out 
to feed. Owing to the lateness of his evening appearance 
in localities where there is much hunting, it is a safer plan 
to follow him in the early morning, being on the ground 
and ready to start out by the time the first streak of dawn 
appears. Often I have lost deer when riding home in the 
evening, because the dusk had deepened so that it was im- 
possible to distinguish clearly enough to shoot. 

One day one of my cowboys and myself were return- 
ing from an unsuccessful hunt, about nightfall, and were 
still several miles from the river, when a couple of yearling 
black-tails jumped up in the bed of the dry creek down 
which we were riding. Our horses though stout and swift 
were not well trained ; and the instant we were off their 
backs they trotted off. No sooner were we on the ground 
and trying to sight the deer, one of which was cantering 
slowly off among the bushes, than we found we could not 
catch the bead sights of our rifles, the outlines of the animals 
seeming vague, and shadowy, and confounding themselves 
with the banks and dull green sage bushes behind them. 
Certainly six or eight shots were fired, we doing our best 
to aim, but without any effect ; and when we gave it up 
and turned to look for our horses we were annoyed to see 
the latter trotting off down the valley half a mile away. 
We went after at a round pace ; but darkness closed in 
before we had gained at all on them. There was nothing 



The Black-Tail Deer. 149 

left to do but to walk on down the valley to the bottoms, 
and then to wade the river ; as the latter was quite high, 
we had to take off our clothes, and it is very uncomfortable 
to feel one's way across a river at night, in bare feet, with 
the gun and the bundle of clothes held high over head. 
However, when across the river and half a mile from 
home, we ran into our horses a piece of good luck, as 
otherwise we should have had to spend the next day in 
looking for them. 

Almost the only way in which it is possible to aim 
after dark is to get the object against the horizon, toward 
the light. One of the finest bucks I ever killed was shot 
in this way. It was some little time after the sun had set, 
and I was hurrying home, riding down along a winding 
creek at a gallop. The middle of the bottom was covered 
with brush, while the steep, grassy, rounded hills on each 
side sent off spurs into the valley, the part between every 
two spurs making a deep pocket. The horse's feet were 
unshod and he made very little noise, coming down against 
the wind. While passing a deep pocket I heard from within 
it a snort and stamping of feet, the well-known sounds made 
by a startled deer. Pulling up short I jumped off the horse 
it was Manitou, who instantly began feeding with per- 
fect indifference to what he probably regarded as an irra- 
tional freak of his master ; and, aiming as well as I could in 
the gathering dusk, held the rifle well ahead of a shadowy 
gray object which was scudding along the base of the hill 
towards the mouth of the pocket. The ball struck in 
front of and turned the deer, which then started obliquely 
up the hill. A second shot missed it ; and I then (here 



150 The Black-Tail Deer. 

comes in the good of having a repeater) knelt down and 
pointed the rifle against the sky line, at the place where 
the deer seemed likely to top the bluff. Immediately after- 
wards the buck appeared, making the last jump with a 
great effort which landed him square on the edge, as 
sharply outlined as a silhouette against the fading western 
light. My rifle bead was just above him ; pulling it down 
I fired, as the buck paused for a second to recover him- 
self from his last great bound, and with a crash the mighty 
antlered beast came rolling down the hill, the bullet having 
broken his back behind the shoulders, afterwards going 
out through his chest. 

At times a little caution must be used in approaching 
a wounded buck, for if it is not disabled it may be a rather 
formidable antagonist. In my own experience I have 
never known a wounded buck to do more than make a pass 
with his horns, or, in plunging when the knife enters his 
throat, to strike with his forefeet. But one of my men 
was regularly charged by a great buck, which he had 
wounded, and which was brought to bay on the ice by a 
dog. It seemed to realize that the dog was not the main 
antagonist, and knocking him over charged straight past 
him at the man, and as the latter had in his haste not re- 
loaded his rifle, he might have been seriously injured had 
it not been for the dog, a very strong and plucky one, 
which caught the buck by the hock and threw him. The 
buck got up and again came straight at his foe, uttering a 
kind of grunting bleat, and it was not till after quite a 
scuffle that the man, by the help of the dog, got him down 
and thrust the knife in his throat. Twice I have known 



The Black-Tail Deer. J 5i 

hounds to be killed by bucks which they had brought to 
bay in the rutting season. One of these bucks was a 
savage old fellow with great thick neck and sharp-pointed 
antlers. He came to bay in a stream, under a bank thickly 
matted with willows which grew down into the water, 
guarding his rear and flanks, while there was a small pool 
in his front across which the hounds had to swim. Back- 
ing in among the willows he rushed out at every dog that 
came near, striking it under water with his forefeet, and 
then again retreating to his fortress. In this way he kept 
the whole pack off, and so injured one hound that he had 
to be killed. Indeed, a full-grown buck with antlers 
would be a match for a wolf, unless surprised, and could 
not improbably beat off a cougar if he received the latter's 
spring fairly on his prong points. 

Bucks fight fiercely among themselves during the rut- 
ting season. At that time the black-tail, unlike the white- 
tail, is found in bands, somewhat like those of the elk, 
but much smaller, and the bucks of each band keep up an 
incessant warfare. A weak buck promptly gets out of the 
way if charged by a large one ; but when two of equal 
strength come together the battle is well fought. In- 
stances occasionally occur, of a pair of these duellists getting 
their horns firmly interlocked and thus perishing ; but these 
instances are much rarer, owing to the shape of the antlers, 
than with the white-tail, of which species I have in my own 
experience come across two or three sets of skulls held to- 
gether by their interlacing antlers, the bearers of which 
had doubtless died owing to their inability to break away 
from each other. 



152 The Black-Tail Deer. 

A black-tail buck is one of the most noble-looking of 
all deer. His branching and symmetrically curved antlers 
are set on a small head, carried with beautiful poise by the 
proud, massive neck. The body seems almost too heavy 
for the slender legs, and yet the latter bear it as if they 
were rods of springing steel. Every movement is full of 
alert, fiery life and grace, and he steps as lightly as though 
he hardly trod the earth. The large, sensitive ears are 
thrown forward to catch the slightest sound ; and in the 
buck they are not too conspicuous, though they are the 
only parts of his frame which to any eye can be said to 
take away from his beauty. They give the doe a some- 
what mulish look ; at a distance, the head of a doe peering 
out from among twigs looks like a great black V. To 
me, however, even in the case of the doe, they seem to 
set off and strengthen by contrast the delicate, finely- 
moulded look of the head. Owing to these ears the 
species is called in the books the Mule Deer, and every 
now and then a plainsman will speak of it by this title. 
But all plainsmen know it generally, and ninety-nine out 
of a hundred know it only, as the Black-tail Deer ; and as 
this is the title by which it is known among all who hunt 
it or live near it, it should certainly be called by the same 
name in the books. 

But though so grand and striking an object when 
startled, or when excited, whether by curiosity or fear, 
love or hate, a black-tail is nevertheless often very hard to 
make out when standing motionless among the trees and 
brushwood, or when lying down among the boulders. A 
raw hand at hunting has no idea how hard it is to see a 



The Black-Tail Deer. J 53 

deer when at rest. The color of the hair is gray, almost 
the same tint as that of the leafless branches and tree 
trunks ; for of course the hunting season is at its height 
only when the leaves have fallen. A deer standing motion- 
less looks black or gray, according as the sunlight strikes 
it ; but always looks exactly the same color as the trees 
around it. It generally stands or lies near some tree 
trunks ; and the eye may pass over it once or twice with- 
out recognizing its real nature. In the brush it is still 
more difficult, and there a deer's form is often absolutely 
indistinguishable from the surroundings, as one peers 
through the mass of interlacing limbs and twigs. Once 
an old hunter and myself in walking along the ridge of a 
scoria butte passed by without seeing them, three black- 
tail lying among the scattered boulders of volcanic rock on 
the hillside, not fifty yards from us. After a little practical 
experience a would-be hunter learns not to expect deer 
always, or even generally, to appear as they do when near 
by or suddenly startled ; but on the contrary to keep a 
sharp look-out on every dull-looking red or yellow patch 
he sees in a thicket, and to closely examine any grayish- 
looking object observed on the hillsides, for it is just such 
small patches or obscure-looking objects which are apt, if 
incautiously approached, to suddenly take to themselves 
legs, and go bounding off at a rate which takes them out 
of danger before the astonished tyro has really waked up 
to the fact that they are deer. The first lesson to be 
learned in still-hunting is the knowledge of how to tell 
what objects are and what are not deer ; and to learn it is 
by no means as easy a task as those who have never tried 
it would think. 



154 The Black-Tail Deer. 

When he has learned to see a deer, the novice then 
has to learn to hit it, and this again is not the easy feat it 
seems. That he can do well with a shot-gun proves very 
little as to a man's skill with the rifle, for the latter carries 
but one bullet, and can therefore hit in but one place, while 
with a shot-gun, if you hold a foot off your mark you will 
be nearly as apt to hit as if you held plumb centre. Nor 
does mere practice at a mark avail, though excellent in its 
way ; for a deer is never seen at a fixed and ascertained 
distance, nor is its outline often clearly and sharply defined 
as with a target. Even if a man keeps cool and for the 
first shot or two he will probably be flurried he may miss 
an absurdly easy shot by not taking pains. I remember 
on one occasion missing two shots in succession where 
it seemed really impossible for a man to help hitting. I 
was out hunting on horseback with one of my men, and 
on loping round the corner of a brushy valley came sud- 
denly in sight of a buck with certainly more than a dozen 
points on his great spreading antlers. I jumped off my 
horse instantly, and fired as he stood facing me not over 
forty yards off; fired, as I supposed, perfectly coolly, 
though without dropping on my knee as I should have 
done. The shot must have gone high, for the buck 
bounded away unharmed, heedless of a second ball ; and 
immediately his place was taken by another, somewhat 
smaller, who sprang out of a thicket into almost the iden- 
tical place where the big buck had stood. Again I fired 
and missed ; again the buck ran off, and was shot at and 
missed while running all four shots being taken within 
fifty yards. I clambered on to the horse without looking 



The Black-Tail Deer. J 55 

at my companion, but too conscious of his smothered dis- 
favor ; after riding a few hundred yards, he said with 
forced politeness and a vague desire to offer some cheap 
consolation, that he supposed I had done my best ; to 
which I responded with asperity that I 'd be damned if I 
had; and we finished our journey homeward in silence. 
A man is likely to overshoot at any distance ; but at from 
twenty-five to seventy-five yards he is certain to do so if 
he is at all careless. 

Moreover, besides not missing, a man must learn to hit 
his deer in the right place ; the first two or three times he 
shoots he will probably see the whole deer in the rifle 
sights, instead of just the particular spot he wishes to 
strike ; that is, he will aim in a general way at the deer's 
whole body which will probably result in a wound not 
disabling the animal in the least for the time, although 
ensuring its finally dying a lingering and painful death. 
The most instantaneously fatal places are the brain and 
any part of the spinal column ; but these offer such small 
marks that it is usually only by accident they are hit. 
The mark at any part of which one can fire with safety is 
a patch about eight inches or a foot square, including the 
shoulder-blades, lungs, and heart. A kidney-shot is very 
fatal ; but a black-tail will go all day with a bullet through 
its entrails, and in cold weather I have known one to run 
several miles with a portion of its entrails sticking out of a 
wound and frozen solid. To break both shoulders by a 
shot as the deer stands sideways to the hunter, brings the 
buck down in its tracks ; but perhaps the best place at 
which to aim is the point in the body right behind the 



is 6 The Black-Tail Deer. 

shoulder-blade. On receiving a bullet in this spot the 
deer will plunge forward for a jump or two, and then go 
some fifty yards in a labored gallop ; will then stop, sway 
unsteadily on its legs for a second, and pitch forward on 
its side. When the hunter comes up he will find his 
quarry stone dead. If the deer stands facing the hunter 
it offers only a narrow mark, but either a throat or chest 
shot will be fatal. 

Good shooting is especially necessary after black-tail, 
because it is so very tenacious of life ; much more so 
than the white-tail, or, in proportion to its bulk, than the 
elk. For this reason it is of the utmost importance to 
give an immediately fatal or disabling wound, or the 
game will almost certainly be lost. It is wonderful to see 
how far and how fast a seemingly crippled deer will go. 
Of course, a properly trained dog would be of the great- 
est use in tracking and bringing to bay wounded black- 
tail ; but, unless properly trained to come in to heel, a 
dog is worse than useless ; and, anyhow, it will be hard to 
keep one, as long as the wolf-hunters strew the ground so 
plentifully with poisoned bait. We have had several 
hunting dogs on our ranch at different times ; generally 
wirehaired deer-hounds, fox-hounds, or greyhounds, by no 
means absolutely pure in blood; but they all, sooner or 
later, succumbed to the effects of eating poisoned meat. 
Some of them were quite good hunting dogs, the rough 
deer-hounds being perhaps the best at following and 
tackling a wounded buck. They were all very eager for 
the sport, and when in the morning we started out on a 
hunt the dogs were apparently more interested than the 



The Black-Tail Deer. 157 

men ; but their judgment did not equal their zeal, and 
lack of training made them on the whole more bother 
than advantage. 

But much more than good shooting is necessary 
before a man can be called a good hunter. Indians, for 
example, get a great deal of game, but they are in most 
cases very bad shots. Once, while going up the Clear 
Fork of the Powder, in Northern Wyoming, one of my 
men, an excellent hunter, and myself rode into a large 
camp of Cheyennes ; and after a while started a shooting- 
match with some of them. We had several trials of skill 
with the rifle, and, a good deal to my astonishment, I 
found that most of the Indians (quite successful hunters, 
to judge by the quantity of smoked venison lying round) 
were very bad shots indeed. None of them came any- 
where near the hunter who was with me ; nor, indeed, to 
myself. An Indian gets his game by his patience, his 
stealth, and his tireless perseverance ; and a white to be 
really successful in still-hunting must learn to copy some 
of the Indian's traits. 

While the game butchers, the skin hunters, and their 
like, work such brutal slaughter among the plains animals 
that these will soon be either totally extinct or so thinned 
out as to cease being prominent features of plains life 
yet, on the other hand, the nature of the country debar? 
them from following certain murderous and unsportsman 
like forms of hunting much in vogue in other quarters of 
our land. There is no deep water into which a deer can 
be driven by hounds, and then shot at arm's-length from 
a boat, as is the fashion with some of the city sportsmen 



158 The Black-Tail Deer. 

who infest the Adirondack forests during the hunting 
season ; nor is the winter snow ever deep enough to form 
a crust over which a man can go on snow-shoes, and after 
running down a deer, which plunges as if in a quagmire, 
knock the poor, worn-out brute on the head with an axe. 
Fire-hunting is never tried in the cattle country ; it would 
be far more likely to result in the death of a steer or 
pony than in the death of a deer, if attempted on foot 
with a torch, as is done in some of the Southern States ; 
while the streams are not suited to the floating or jacking 
with a lantern in the bow of the canoe, as practised in the 
Adirondacks. Floating and fire-hunting, though by no 
means to be classed among the nobler kinds of sport, yet 
have a certain fascination of their own, not so much for 
the sake of the actual hunting, as for the novelty of being 
out in the wilderness at night ; and the noiselessness 
absolutely necessary to insure success often enables the 
sportsman to catch curious glimpses of the night life of 
the different kinds of wild animals. 

If it were not for the wolf poison, the plains country 
would be peculiarly fitted for hunting with hounds ; and, 
if properly carried on, there is no manlier form of sport. 
It does not imply in the man who follows it the skill that 
distinguishes the successful still-hunter, but it has a dash 
and excitement all its own, if the hunter follows the 
hounds on horseback. But, as carried on in the Adi- 
rondacks and in the Eastern and Southern mountains 
generally, hounding deer is not worthy of much regard. 
There the hunter is stationed at a runaway over which 
deer will probably pass, and has nothing to do but sit still 



The Black-Tail Deer. J 59 

for a number of weary hours and perhaps put a charge of 
buckshot into a deer running by but a few yards off. If 
a rifle instead of a shot-gun is used, a certain amount of 
skill is necessary, for then it is hard to hit a deer running, 
no matter how close up ; but even with this weapon all the 
sportsman has to do is to shoot well ; he need not show 
knowledge of a single detail of hunting craft, nor need he 
have any trait of mind or body such as he must possess 
to follow most other kinds of the chase. 

Deer-hunting on horseback is something widely dif- 
ferent. Even if the hunters carry rifles and themselves 
kill the deer, using the dogs merely to drive it out of the 
brush, they must be bold and skilful horsemen, and must 
show good judgment in riding to cut off the quarry, so as to 
be able to get a shot at it. This is the common Ameri- 
can method of hunting the deer in those places where it 
is followed with horse and hound ; but it is also coursed 
with greyhounds in certain spots where the lay of the 
land permits this form of sport, and in many districts, 
even where ordinary hounds are used, the riders go un- 
armed and merely follow the pack till the deer is bayed 
and pulled down. All kinds of hunting on horseback 
and most hunting on horseback is done with hounds 
tend to bring out the best and manliest qualities in the 
men who follow them, and they should be encouraged in 
every way. Long after the rifleman, as well as the game 
he hunts, shall have vanished from the plains, the cattle 
country will afford fine sport in coursing hares ; and both 
wolves and deer could be followed and killed with packs 
of properly-trained hounds, and such sport would be even 



160 The Black-Tail Deer. 

more exciting than still-hunting with the rifle. It is on 
the great plains lying west of the Missouri that riding to 
hounds will in the end receive its fullest development as a 
national pastime. 

But at present, for the reasons already stated, it is al- 
most unknown in the cattle country ; and the ranchman 
who loves sport must try still-hunting and by still-hunt- 
ing is meant pretty much every kind of chase where a 
single man, unaided by a dog, and almost always on foot, 
outgenerals a deer and kills it with the rifle. To do this 
successfully, unless deer are very plenty and tame, implies 
a certain knowledge of the country, and a good knowl- 
edge of the habits of the game. The hunter must keep a 
sharp look-out for deer sign ; for, though a man soon gets 
to have a general knowledge of the kind of places in which 
deer are likely to be, yet he will also find that they are 
either very capricious, or else that no man has more than 
a partial understanding of their tastes and likings ; for many 
spots apparently just suited to them will be almost unin- 
habited, while in others they will be found where it would 
hardly occur to any one to suspect their presence. Any 
cause may temporarily drive deer out of a given locality. 
Still-hunting, especially, is sure to send many away, while 
rendering the others extremely wild and shy, and where 
deer have become used to being pursued in only one 
way, it is often an excellent plan to try some entirely 
different method. 

A certain knowledge of how to track deer is very use- 
ful. To become a really skilful tracker is most difficult ; 
and there are some kinds of ground, where, for instance, it 



The Black-Tail Deer. 161 

is very hard and dry, or frozen solid, on which almost any 
man will be at fault. But any one with a little practice 
can learn to do a certain amount of tracking. On snow, 
of course, it is very easy ; but on the other hand it is also 
peculiarly difficult to avoid being seen by the deer when 
the ground is white. After deer have been frightened 
once or twice, or have even merely been disturbed by 
man, they get the habit of keeping a watch back on their 
trail ; and when snow has fallen, a man is such a con- 
spicuous object deer see him a long way off, and even the 
tamest become wild. A deer will often, before lying 
down, take a half circle back to one side and make its bed 
a few yards from its trail, where it can, itself unseen, 
watch any person tracing it up. A man tracking in snow 
needs to pay very little heed to the footprints, which can 
be followed without effort, but requires to keep up the 
closest scrutiny over the ground ahead of him, and on 
either side of the trail. 

In the early morning when there is a heavy dew the 
footprints will be as plain as possible in the grass, and can 
then be followed readily ; and in any place where the 
ground is at all damp they will usually be plain enough to 
be made out without difficulty. When the ground is hard 
or dry the work is very much less easy, and soon becomes 
so difficult as not to be worth while following up. Indeed, 
at all times, even in the snow, tracks are chiefly of use to 
show the probable locality in which a deer may be found ; 
and the still-hunter instead of laboriously walking along 
a trail will do far better to merely follow it until, from its 
freshness and direction, he feels confident that the deer is 



162 The Black-Tail Deer. 

in some particular space of ground, and then hunt through 
it, guiding himself by his knowledge of the deer's habits 
and by the character of the land. Tracks are of most use 
in showing whether deer are plenty or scarce, whether 
they have been in the place recently or not. Generally, 
signs of deer are infinitely more plentiful than the animals 
themselves although in regions where tracking is espe- 
cially difficult deer are often jumped without any sign 
having been seen at all. Usually, however, the rule is the 
reverse, and as deer are likely to make any quantity of 
tracks the beginner is apt, judging purely from the sign, 
greatly to over-estimate their number. Another mistake 
of the beginner is to look for the deer during the daytime 
in the places where their tracks were made in the morning, 
when their day beds will probably be a long distance off. 
In the night-time deer will lie down almost anywhere, 
but during the day they go some distance from their 
feeding- or watering-places, as already explained. 

If deer are at all plenty and if scarce only a master 
in the art can succeed at still-hunting it is best not to try 
to follow the tracks at all, but merely to hunt carefully 
through any ground which from its looks seems likely 
to contain the animals. Of course the hunting must be 
done either against or across the wind, and the greatest 
care must be taken to avoid making a noise. Moccasins 
should be worn, and not a twig should be trodden on, nor 
should the dress be allowed to catch in a brush. Especial 
caution should be used in going over a ridge or crest ; no 
man should ever let his whole body appear at once, but 
should first carefully peep over, not letting his rifle barrel 



The Black-Tail Deer. 163 

come into view, and closely inspect every place in sight 
in which a deer could possibly stand or lie, always re- 
membering that a deer is when still a most difficult animal 
to see, and that it will be completely hidden in cover 
which would apparently hardly hold a rabbit. The rifle 
should be carried habitually so that the sun will not glance 
upon it. Advantage must be taken, in walking, of all 
cover, so that the hunter will not be a conspicuous object 
at any distance. The heads of a series of brushy ravines 
should always be crossed ; and a narrow, winding valley, 
with patches of bushes and young trees down through the 
middle, is always a likely place. Caution should never 
for a moment be forgotten, especially in the morning or 
evening, the times when a hunter will get nine tenths of his 
shots ; for it is just then, when moving and feeding, that 
deer are most watchful. One will never browse for more 
than a minute or two without raising its head and peering 
about for any possible foe, the great, sensitive ears thrown 
forward to catch the slightest sound. But while using 
such caution it is also well to remember that as much 
ground should be crossed as possible ; other things being 
equal, the number of shots obtained will correspond to the 
amount of country covered. And of course a man should 
be on the hunting ground not starting for the hunting 
ground by the time there is enough light by which to 
shoot. 

Deer are in season for hunting from August first to 
January first. August is really too early to get full 
enjoyment out of the sport. The bucks, though fat and 
good eating, are still in the velvet ; and neither does nor 



164 The Black-Tail Deer. 

fawns should be killed, as many of the latter are in the 
spotted coat. Besides it is very hot in the middle of the 
day, though pleasant walking in the early morning and 
late evening, and with cool nights. December is apt to 
be too cold, although with many fine days. The true 
time for the chase of the black-tail is in the three fall 
months. Then the air is fresh and bracing, and a man 
feels as if he could walk or ride all day long without 
tiring. In the bright fall weather the country no longer 
keeps its ordinary look of parched desolation, and the 
landscape loses its sameness at the touch of the frost. 
Where every thing before had been gray or dull green 
there are now patches of russet red and bright yellow. 
The clumps of ash, wild plum-trees, and rose-bushes 
in the heads and bottoms of the sloping valleys become 
spots of color that glow among the stretches of brown and 
withered grass ; the young cotton-woods, growing on the 
points of land round which flow the rivers and streams, 
change to a delicate green or yellow, on which the eye 
rests with pleasure after having so long seen only the 
dull drab of the prairies. Often there will be days of 
bitter cold, when a man who sleeps out in the open feels 
the need of warm furs ; but still more often there will be 
days and days of sunny weather, not cold enough to 
bring discomfort, but yet so cool that the blood leaps 
briskly through a man's veins and makes him feel that to 
be out and walking over the hills is a pleasure in itself, 
even were he not in hopes of any moment seeing the sun 
glint on the horns and hide of some mighty buck, as 
it rises to face the intruder. On days such as these, 



The Black-Tail Deer. 165 

mere life is enjoyment ; and on days such as these, the 
life of a hunter is at its pleasantest and best. 

Many black-tail are sometimes killed in a day. I have 
never made big bags myself, for I rarely hunt except for a 
fine head or when we need meat, and if it can be avoided 
do not shoot at fawns or does ; so the greatest number I 
have ever killed in a day was three. This was late one 
November, on an occasion when our larder was running 
low. My foreman and I, upon discovering this fact, de- 
termined to make a trip next day back in the broken 
country, away from the river, where black-tail were almost 
sure to be found. 

We breakfasted hours before sunrise, and then mounted 
our horses and rode up the river bottom. The bright 
prairie moon was at the full, and was sunk in the west till it 
hung like a globe of white fire over the long row of jagged 
bluffs that rose from across the river, while its beams 
brought into fantastic relief the peaks and crests of the 
buttes upon our left. The valley of the river itself was in 
partial darkness, and the stiff, twisted branches of the sage- 
brush seemed to take on uncanny shapes as they stood in 
the hollows. The cold was stinging, and we let our willing 
horses gallop with loose reins, their hoofs ringing on the 
frozen ground. After going up a mile or two along the 
course of the river we turned off to follow the bed of a 
large dry creek. At its mouth was a great space of 
ground much cut up by the hoofs of the cattle, which was 
in summer overflowed and almost a morass ; but now the 
frost-bound earth was like wrinkled iron beneath the 
horses' feet. Behind us the westering moon sank down 



166 T'he Black-Tail Deer. 

out of sight ; and with no light but that of the stars, we 
let our horses thread their own way up the creek bottom. 
When we had gone a couple of miles from the river the 
sky in front of our faces took on a faint grayish tinge, the 
forerunner of dawn. Every now and then we passed by 
bunches of cattle, lying down or standing huddled together 
in the patches of brush or under the lee of some shelving 
bank or other wind-break ; and as the eastern heavens grew 
brighter, a dark form suddenly appeared against the sky- 
line, on the crest of a bluff directly ahead of us. Another 
and another came up beside it. A glance told us that it 
was a troop of ponies, which stood motionless, like so many 
silhouettes, their outstretched necks and long tails vividly 
outlined against the light behind them. All in the valley 
was yet dark when we reached the place where the creek 
began to split up and branch out into the various arms 
and ravines from which it headed. We galloped smartly 
over the divide into a set of coulies and valleys which ran 
into a different creek, and selected a grassy place where 
there was good feed to leave the horses. My companion 
picketed his ; Manitou needed no picketing. 

The tops of the hills were growing rosy, but the sun was 
not yet above the horizon when we started off, with our 
rifles on our shoulders, walking in cautious silence, for we 
were in good ground and might at any moment see a deer. 
Above us was a plateau of some size, breaking off sharply 
at the rim into a surrounding stretch of very rough and 
rugged country. It sent off low spurs with notched crests 
into the valleys round about, and its edges were indented 
with steep ravines and half-circular basins, their sides cov- 



The Black-Tail Deer. 167 

ered with clusters of gnarled and wind-beaten cedars, often 
gathered into groves of some size. The ground was so 
broken as to give excellent cover under which a man could 
approach game unseen ; there were plenty of fresh signs of 
deer; and we were confident we should soon get a shot. 
Keeping at the bottom of the gullies, so as to be ourselves 
inconspicuous, we walked noiselessly on, cautiously examin- 
ing every pocket or turn before we rounded the corner, 
and looking with special care along the edges of the 
patches of brush. 

At last, just as the sun had risen, we came out by 
the mouth of a deep ravine or hollow, cut in the flank of 
the plateau, with steep, cedar-clad sides ; and on the crest 
of a jutting spur, not more than thirty yards from where 
I stood, was a black-tail doe, half facing me. I was in 
the shadow, and for a moment she could not make me 
out, and stood motionless with her head turned toward 
me and her great ears thrown forward. Dropping on 
my knee, I held the rifle a little back of her shoulder 
too far back, as it proved, as she stood quartering and 
not broadside to me. No fairer chance could ever fall 
to the lot of a hunter ; but, to my intense chagrin, she 
bounded off at the report as if unhurt, disappearing 
instantly. My companion had now come up, and we ran 
up a rise of ground, and crouched down beside a great 
block of sandstone, in a position from which we over- 
looked the whole ravine or hollow. After some minutes 
of quiet watchfulness, we heard a twig snap the air was 
so still we could hear any thing some rods up the 
ravine, but below us ; and immediately afterward a buck 



1 68 The Black-Tail Deer. 

stole out of the cedars. Both of us fired at once, and 
with a convulsive spring he rolled over backward, one 
bullet having gone through his neck, and the other 
probably mine having broken a hind leg. Immediately 
afterward, another buck broke from the upper edge of 
the cover, near the top of the plateau, and, though I 
took a hurried shot at him, bounded over the crest, and 
was lost to sight. 

We now determined to go down into the ravine 
and look for the doe, and as there was a good deal of 
snow in the bottom and under the trees, we knew we 
could soon tell if she were wounded. After a little 
search we found her track, and walking along it a few 
yards, came upon some drops and then a splash of blood. 
There being no need to hurry, we first dressed the dead 
buck a fine, fat fellow, but with small, misshapen horns, 
and then took up the trail of the wounded doe. Here, 
however, I again committed an error, and paid too much 
heed to the trail and too little to the country round 
about ; and while following it with my eyes down on the 
ground in a place where it was faint, the doe got up some 
distance ahead and to one side of me, and bounded off 
round a corner of the ravine. The bed where she had 
lain was not very bloody, but from the fact of her having 
stopped so soon, I was sure she was badly wounded. 
However, after she got out of the snow the ground was as 
hard as flint, and it was impossible to track her; the 
valley soon took a turn, and branched into a tangle of 
coulies and ravines. I deemed it probable that she would 
not go up hill, but would run down the course of the main 



The Black-Tail Deer. 169 

valley ; but as it was so uncertain, we thought it would 
pay us best to look for a new deer. 

Our luck, however, seemed very deservedly to have 
ended. We tramped on, as swiftly as was compatible 
with quiet, for hour after hour ; beating through the 
valleys against the wind, and crossing the brushy heads 
of the ravines, sometimes close together, and sometimes 
keeping about a hundred yards apart, according to the 
nature of the ground. When we had searched all through 
the country round the head of the creek, into which we 
had come down, we walked over to the next, and went 
over it with equal care and patience. The morning 
was now well advanced, and we had to change our 
method of hunting. It was no longer likely that we 
should find the deer feeding or in the open, and instead 
we looked for places where they might be expected to 
bed, following any trails that led into thick patches of 
brush or young trees, one of us then hunting through 
the patch while the other kept watch without. Doubtless 
we must have passed close to more than one deer, and 
doubtless others heard us and skulked off through the 
thick cover ; but, although we saw plenty of signs, we 
saw neither hoof nor hair of living thing. It is under 
such circumstances that a still-hunter needs to show reso- 
lution, and to persevere until his luck turns this being a 
euphemistic way of saying, until he ceases to commit the 
various blunders which alarm the deer and make them 
get out of the way. Plenty of good shots become dis- 
gusted if they do not see a deer early in the morning, 
and go home ; still more, if they do not see one in two or 



i ;o The Black-Tail Deer. 

three days. Others will go on hunting, but become care- 
less, stumble and step on dried sticks, and let their eyes 
fall to the ground. It is a good test of a man's resolution 
to see if, at the end of a long and unsuccessful tramp 
after deer, he moves just as carefully, and keeps just 
as sharp a look-out as he did at the beginning. If he 
does this, and exercises a little common-sense in still- 
hunting, as in every thing else, common-sense is the most 
necessary of qualities, he may be sure that his reward 
will come some day ; and when it does come, he feels 
a gratification that only his fellow-sportsmen can under- 
stand. 

We lunched at the foot of a great clay butte, where 
there was a bed of snow. Fall or winter hunting in 
the Bad Lands has one great advantage : the hunter is 
not annoyed by thirst as he is almost sure to be if walking 
for long hours under the blazing summer sun. If he 
gets very thirsty, a mouthful or two of snow from some 
hollow will moisten his lips and throat ; and anyhow 
thirstiness is largely a mere matter of habit. For lunch, 
the best thing a hunter can carry is dried or smoked veni- 
son, with not too much salt in it. It is much better than 
bread, and not nearly so dry ; and it is easier to carry, 
as a couple of pieces can be thrust into the bosom of 
the hunting-shirt or the pocket, or in fact anywhere ; and 
for keeping up a man's strength there is nothing that 
comes up to it. 

After lunch we hunted until the shadows began to 
lengthen out, when we went back to our horses. The 
buck was packed behind good old Manitou, who can carry 



The Black-Tail Deer. 17* 

'any amount of weight at a smart pace, and does not care 
at all if a strap breaks and he finds his load dangling 
about his feet, an event that reduces most horses to a state 
of frantic terror. As soon as loaded we rode down the 
valley into which the doe had disappeared in the morning, 
one taking each side and looking into every possible lurk- 
ing place. The odds were all against our finding any 
trace of her ; but a hunter soon learns that he must take 
advantage of every chance, however slight. This time we 
were rewarded for our care ; for after riding about a mile 
our attention was attracted by a white patch in a clump of 
low briars. On getting off and looking in it proved to be 
the white rump of the doe, which lay stretched out inside, 
stark and stiff. The ball had gone in too far aft and had 
come out on the opposite side near her hip, making a 
mortal wound, but one which allowed her to run over a 
mile before dying. It was little more than an accident 
that we in the end got her ; and my so nearly missing at 
such short range was due purely to carelessness and bad 
judgment. I had killed too many deer to be at all nervous 
over them, and was as cool with a buck as with a rabbit ; 
but as she was so close I made the common mistake of 
being too much in a hurry, and did not wait to see that 
she was standing quartering to me and that consequently 
I should aim at the point of the shoulder. As a result the 
deer was nearly lost. 

Neither of my shots had so far done me much credit ; 
but at any rate I had learned where the error lay, and this 
is going a long way toward correcting it. I kept wishing 
that I could get another chance to see if I had not profited 



172 The Black-Tail Deer. 

by my lessons ; and before we reached home my wish was 
gratified. We were loping down a grassy valley, dotted 
with clumps of brush, the wind blowing strong in our 
faces, and deadening the noise made by the hoofs on 
the grass. As we passed by a piece of broken ground a 
yearling black-tail buck jumped into view and cantered 
away. I was off Manitou's back in an instant. The buck was 
moving slowly, and was evidently soon going to stop and 
look round, so I dropped on one knee, with my rifle half 
raised, and waited. When about sixty yards off he halted 
and turned sideways to me, offering a beautiful broadside 
shot. I aimed at the spot just behind the shoulder and 
felt I had him. At the report he went off, but with 
short, weak bounds, and I knew he would not go far ; nor 
did he, but stopped short, swayed unsteadily about, and 
went over on his side, dead, the bullet clean through his 
body. 

Each of us already had a deer behind his saddle, so we 
could not take the last buck along with us. Accordingly 
we dressed him, and hung him up by the heels to a branch 
of a tree, piling the brush around as if building a slight 
pen or trap, to keep off the coyotes ; who, anyhow, are not 
apt to harm game that is hanging up, their caution seem- 
ing to make them fear that it will not be safe to do so. 
In such cold weather a deer hung up in this way will keep 
an indefinite length of time ; and the carcass was all right 
when a week or two afterwards we sent out the buck-board 
to bring it back. 

A stout buck-board is very useful on a ranch, where 
men are continually taking short trips on which they do 



The Black-Tail Deer. 173 

not wish to be encumbered by the heavy ranch wagon. 
Pack ponies are always a nuisance, though of course an 
inevitable one in making journeys through mountains or 
forests. But on the plains a buck-board is far more handy. 
The blankets and provisions can be loaded upon it, and it can 
then be given a definite course to travel or point to reach ; 
and meanwhile the hunters, without having their horses 
tired by carrying heavy packs, can strike off and hunt 
wherever they wish. There is little or no difficulty in going 
over the prairie ; but it needs a skilful plainsman, as well 
as a good teamster, to take a wagon through the Bad 
Lands. There are but two courses to follow. One is to 
go along the bottoms of the valleys ; the other is to go 
along the tops of the divides. The latter is generally the 
best ; for each valley usually has at its bottom a deep 
winding ditch with perpendicular banks, which wanders first 
to one side and then to the other, and has to be crossed 
again and again, while a little way from it begin the gullies 
and gulches which come down from the side hills. It is no 
easy matter to tell which is the main divide, as it curves 
and twists about, and is all the time splitting up into lesser 
ones, which merely separate two branches of the same 
creek. If the teamster does not know the lay of the land 
he will be likely to find himself in a. cul-de-sac, from which he 
can only escape by going back a mile or two and striking 
out afresh. In very difficult country the horsemen must 
be on hand to help the team pull up the steep places. Many 
horses that will not pull a pound in harness will haul for 
all there is in them from the saddle ; Manitou is a case in 
point. Often obstacles will be encountered across which 



174 The Black-Tail Deer. 

it is simply impossible for any team to drag a loaded or 
even an empty wagon. Such are steep canyons, or muddy- 
bottomed streams with sheer banks, especially if the latter 
have rotten edges. The horses must then be crossed first 
and the wagon dragged over afterward by the aid of long 
ropes. Often it may be needful to build a kind of rude bridge 
or causeway on which to get the animals over ; and if the 
canyon is very deep the wagon may have to be taken in 
pieces, let down one side, and hauled up the other. An 
immense amount of labor may be required to get over a 
very trifling distance. Pack animals, however, can go 
almost anywhere that a man can. 

Although still-hunting on foot, as described above, is 
on the whole the best way to get deer, yet there are many 
places where from the nature of the land the sport can be 
followed quite as well on horseback, than which there is 
no more pleasant kind of hunting. The best shot I ever 
made in my life a shot into which, however, I am afraid 
the element of chance entered much more largely than the 
element of skill was made while hunting black-tail on 
horseback. 

We were at that time making quite a long trip with 
the wagon, and were going up the fork of a plains river 
in Western Montana. As we were out of food, those 
two of our number who usually undertook to keep the 
camp supplied with game determined to make a hunt off 
back of the river after black-tail ; for though there were 
some white-tail in the more densely timbered river bottoms, 
we had been unable to get any. It was arranged that the 
wagon should go on a few miles, and then halt for the 



The Black-Tail Deer. 175 

night, as it was already the middle of the afternoon when 
we started out. The country resembled in character 
other parts of the cattle plains, but it was absolutely 
bare of trees except along the bed of the river. The 
rolling hills sloped steeply off into long valleys and deep 
ravines. They were sparsely covered with coarse grass, 
and also with an irregular growth of tall sage-brush, 
which in some places gathered into dense thickets. A 
beginner would have thought the country entirely too 
barren of cover to hold deer, but a very little experi- 
ence teaches one that deer will be found in thickets of 
such short and sparse growth that it seems as if they 
could hide nothing ; and, what is more, that they will 
often skulk round in such thickets without being discov- 
ered. And a black-tail is a bold, free animal, liking to 
go out in comparatively open country, where he must 
trust to his own powers, and not to any concealment, to 
protect him from danger. 

Where the hilly country joined the alluvial river 
bottom, it broke short off into steep bluffs, up which 
none but a Western pony could have climbed. It is 
really wonderful to see what places a pony can get over, 
and the indifference with which it regards tumbles. In 
getting up from the bottom we went into a wash-out, 
and then led our ponies along a clay ledge, from which 
we turned off and went straight up a very steep sandy 
bluff. My companion was ahead ; just as he turned off the 
ledge, and as I was right underneath him, his horse, in 
plunging to try to get up the sand bluff, overbalanced 
itself, and, after standing erect on its hind legs for a 



176 The Black-Tail Deer. 

second, came over backward. The second's pause while it 
stood bolt upright, gave me time to make a frantic leap out 
of the way with my pony, which scrambled after me, and we 
both clung with hands and hoofs to the side of the bank, 
while the other horse took two as complete somersaults 
as I ever saw, and landed with a crash at the bottom 
of the wash-out, feet uppermost. I thought it was done 
for, but not a bit. After a moment or two it struggled 
to its legs, shook itself, and looked round in rather a 
shamefaced way, apparently not in the least the worse 
for the fall. We now got my pony up to the top by 
vigorous pulling, and then went down for the other, 
which at first strongly objected to making another trial, 
but, after much coaxing and a good deal of abuse, took 
a start and went up without trouble. 

For some time after reaching the top of the bluffs we 
rode along without seeing any thing. When it was possible, 
we kept one on each side of a creek, avoiding the tops of 
the ridges, because while on them a horseman can be seen 
at a very long distance, and going with particular caution 
whenever we went round a spur or came up over a crest. 
The country stretched away like an endless, billowy sea of 
dull-brown soil and barren sage-brush, the valleys making 
long parallel furrows, and every thing having a look of 
dreary sameness. At length, as we came out on a rounded 
ridge, three black-tail bucks started up from a lot of sage- 
brush some two hundred yards away and below us, and 
made off down hill. It was a very long shot, especially to 
try running, but, as game seemed scarce and cartridges 
were plenty, I leaped off the horse, and, kneeling, fired. 



The Black-Tail Deer. *77 

The bullet went low, striking in line at the feet of the 
hindmost. I held very high next time, making a wild shot 
above and ahead of them, which had the effect of turning 
them, and they went off round a shoulder of a bluff, being 
by this time down in the valley. Having plenty of time I 
elevated the sights (a thing I hardly ever do) to four 
hundred yards and waited for their reappearance. Mean- 
while they had evidently gotten over their fright, for pretty 
soon one walked out from the other side of the bluff, and 
came to a standstill, broadside toward me. He was too 
far off for me to see his horns. As I was raising the rifle 
another stepped out and began to walk towards the first. 
I thought I might as well have as much of a target as 
possible to shoot at, and waited for the second buck to 
come out farther, which he did immediately and stood 
still just alongside of the first. I aimed above his 
shoulders and pulled the trigger. Over went the two 
bucks ! And when I rushed down to where they lay I 
found I had pulled a little to one side, and the bullet had 
broken the backs of both. While my companion was 
dressing them I went back and paced off the distance. It 
was just four hundred and thirty-one long paces ; over 
four hundred yards. Both were large bucks and very fat, 
with the velvet hanging in shreds from their antlers, for it 
was late in August. The day was waning and we had a 
long ride back to the wagon, each with a buck behind his 
saddle. When we came back to the river valley it was 
pitch dark, and it was rather ticklish work for our heavily 
laden horses to pick their way down the steep bluffs and 
over the rapid stream ; nor were we sorry when we saw 



178 The Black-Tail Deer. 

ahead under a bluff the gleam of the camp fire, as it was 
reflected back from the canvas-topped prairie schooner, 
that for the time being represented home to us. 

This was much the best shot I ever made ; and it is just 
such a shot as any one will occasionally make if he takes 
a good many chances and fires often at ranges where the 
odds are greatly against his hitting. I suppose I had 
fired a dozen times at animals four or five hundred yards 
off, and now, by the doctrine of chances, I happened to 
hit ; but I would have been very foolish if I had thought 
for a moment that I had learned how to hit at over four 
hundred yards. I have yet to see the hunter who can hit 
with any regularity at that distance, when he has to judge 
it for himself ; though I have seen plenty who could make 
such a long range hit now and then. And I have noticed 
that such a hunter, in talking over his experience, was 
certain soon to forget the numerous misses he made, and 
to say, and even to actually think, that his occasional hits 
represented his average shooting. 

One of the finest black-tail bucks I ever shot was 
killed while lying out in a rather unusual place. I was 
hunting mountain-sheep, in a stretch of very high and 
broken country, and about mid-day, crept cautiously up 
to the edge of a great gorge, whose sheer walls went 
straight down several hundred feet. Peeping over the 
brink of the chasm I saw a buck, lying out on a ledge 
so narrow as to barely hold him, right on the face of 
the cliff wall opposite, some distance below, and about 
seventy yards diagonally across from me. He lay with 
his legs half stretched out, and his head turned so as 



The Black-Tail Deer. 



179 



to give me an exact centre-shot at his forehead ; the 
bullet going in between his eyes, so that his legs hardly 
so much as twitched when he received it. It was toil- 
some and almost dangerous work climbing out to where 
he lay ; I have never known any other individual, even 
of this bold and adventurous species of deer, to take its 
noonday siesta in a place so barren of all cover and so dif- 
ficult of access even to the most sure-footed climber. This 
buck was as fat as a prize sheep, and heavier than any 
other I have ever killed ; while his antlers also were, with 
two exceptions, the best I ever got. 




CHAPTER VI. 



A TRIP ON THE PRAIRIE. 




O antelope are found, except 
rarely, immediately round 
my ranch-house, where the 
ground is much too broken 
to suit them ; but on the 
great prairies, ten or fifteen 
miles ofT, they are plen- 
tiful, though far from as abun- 
dant as they were a few years ago when the cattle 
were first driven into the land. By plainsmen they 
are called either prong-horn or antelope, but are most 
often known by the latter and much less descriptive 
title. Where they are found they are always very 
conspicuous figures in the landscape ; for, far from at- 
tempting to conceal itself, an antelope really seems 
anxious to take up a prominent position, caring only 
to be able to itself see its foes. It is the smallest in size of 
the plains game, even smaller than a white-tail deer ; and its 
hide is valueless, being thin and porous, and making very 

180 



A Trip on the Prairie. 181 

poor buckskin. In its whole appearance and structure it 
is a most singular creature. Unlike all other hollow- 
horned animals, it sheds it horns annually, exactly as the 
deer shed their solid antlers ; but the shedding process in 
the prong-horn occupies but a very few days, so short a 
a time, indeed, that many hunters stoutly deny that it 
takes place at all. The hair is of remarkable texture, 
very long, coarse, and brittle ; in the spring it comes off 
in handfuls. In strong contrast to the reddish yellow of 
the other parts of the body, the rump is pure white, and 
when alarmed or irritated every hair in the white patch 
bristles up on end, greatly increasing the apparent area of 
the color. The flesh, unlike that of any other plains animal, 
is equally good all through the year, In the fall it is 
hardly so juicy as deer venison, but in the spring, when 
no other kind of game is worth eating, it is perfectly 
good ; and at that time of the year, if we have to get 
fresh meat, we would rather kill antelope than any thing 
else ; and as the bucks are always to be instantly distin- 
tinguished from the does by their large horns, we confine 
ourselves to them, and so work no harm to the species. 

The antelope is a queer-looking rather than a beauti- 
ful animal. The curious pronged horns, great bulging 
eyes, and strange bridle-like marks and bands on the face 
and throat are more striking, but less handsome, than the 
delicate head and branching antlers of a deer ; and it en- 
tirely lacks the latter animal's grace of movement. In its 
form and look, when standing still, it is rather angular 
and goat-like, and its movements merely have the charm 
that comes from lightness, speed, and agility. Its gait is 



182 A Trip on the Prairie. 

singularly regular and even, without any of the bounding, 
rolling movement of a deer ; and it is, consequently, very 
easy to hit running, compared with other kinds of game. 

Antelope possess a most morbid curiosity. The 
appearance of any thing out of the way, or to which 
they are not accustomed, often seems to drive them 
nearly beside themselves with mingled fright and desire 
to know what it is, a combination of feelings that throws 
them into a perfect panic, during whose continuance they 
will at times seem utterly unable to take care of them- 
selves. In very remote, wild places, to which no white 
man often penetrates, the appearance of a white-topped 
wagon will be enough to excite this feeling in the prong- 
horn, and in such cases it is not unusual for a herd to 
come up and circle round the strange object heedless 
of rifle-shots. This curiosity is particularly strong in the 
bucks during rutting-time, and one method of hunting 
them is to take advantage of it, and "flag" them up to 
the hunters by waving a red handkerchief or some other 
object to and fro in the air. In very wild places they can 
sometimes be flagged up, even after they have seen the 
man ; but, elsewhere, the latter must keep himself care- 
fully concealed behind a ridge or hillock, or in tall grass, 
and keep cautiously waving the handkerchief overhead. 
The antelope will look fixedly at it, stamp, snort, start 
away, come nearer by fits and starts, and run from one 
side to the other, the better to see it. Sometimes a wary 
old buck will keep this up for half an hour, and at the 
end make off; but, again, the attraction may prove too 
strong, and the antelope comes slowly on until within 



A Trip on the Prairie. 183 

rifle-shot. This method of hunting, however, is not so 
much practised now as formerly, as the antelope are 
getting continually shyer and more difficult to flag. I 
have never myself shot one in this manner, though I have 
often seen the feat performed, and have several times 
tried it myself, but always with the result that after I had 
made my arm really weak with waving the handkerchief 
to and fro, the antelope, which had been shifting about 
just out of range, suddenly took to its heels and made off. 
No other kind of plains game, except the big-horn, is 
as shy and sharp-sighted as the antelope ; and both its 
own habits and the open nature of the ground on which 
it is found render it peculiarly difficult to stalk. There is 
no cover, and if a man is once seen by the game the 
latter will not let him get out of sight again, unless it 
decides to go off at a gait that soon puts half a dozen 
miles between them. It shifts its position, so as to keep 
the hunter continually in sight, Thus, if it is standing 
on a ridge, and the hunter disappear into a ravine up 
which he intends to crawl, the antelope promptly gallops 
off to some other place of observation from which its foe 
is again visible ; and this is repeated until the animal 
at last makes up its mind to start for good. It keeps 
up an incessant watch, being ever on the look-out for 
danger, far or near ; and as it can see an immense dis- 
tance, and has its home on ground so level that a horse- 
man can be made out a mile off, its attention is apt to be 
attracted when still four or five rifle-shots beyond range, 
and after it has once caught a glimpse of the foe, the 
latter might as well give up all hopes of getting the 
game. 



184 A Trip on the Prairie. 

But while so much more wary than deer, it is also 
at times much more foolish, and has certain habits 
some of which, such as its inordinate curiosity and 
liability to panic, have already been alluded to that tend 
to its destruction. Ordinarily, it is a far more difficult 
feat to kill an antelope than it is to kill a deer, but there 
are times when the former can be slaughtered in such 
numbers that it becomes mere butchery. 

The prong-horn is pre-eminently a gregarious animal. 
It is found in bands almost all the year through. During 
the two or three days after he has shed his horns and 
while the new ones are growing the buck retires to some 
out-of-the-way spot, and while bringing forth her fawns the 
doe stays by herself. But as soon as possible each again 
rejoins the band ; and the fawns become members of it at 
a remarkably early age. In the late fall, when the bitter 
cold has begun, a large number of these bands collect 
together, and immense herds are formed which last through- 
out the winter. Thus at this season a man may travel for. 
days through regions where antelope are most plentiful 
during the hot months and never see one ; but if he does 
come across any they will be apt to be in great num- 
bers, most probably along the edge of the Bad Lands, 
where the ground is rolling rather than broken, but where 
there is some shelter from the furious winter gales. Often 
they will even come down to the river bottom or find their 
way up to some plateau. They now always hang closely 
about the places they have chosen for their winter haunts, 
and seem very reluctant to leave them. They go in dense 
herds, and when starved and weak with cold are less shy ; 



A Trip on the Prairie. 

and can often be killed in great numbers by any one 
who has found out where they are though a true sports- 
man will not molest them at this season. 

Sometimes a small number of individuals will at this 
time get separated from the main herd and take up 
their abode in some place by themselves ; and when 
they have once done so it is almost impossible to drive 
them away. Last winter a solitary prong-horn strayed 
into the river bottom at the mouth of a wide creek- 
valley, half a mile from my ranch, and stayed there for 
three months, keeping with the cattle, and always being 
found within a mile of the same spot. A little band 
at the same time established itself on a large plateau, 
about five miles long by two miles wide, some distance up 
the river above me, and afforded fine sport to a couple of 
ranchmen who lived not far from its base. The antelope, 
twenty or thirty in number, would not leave the plateau, 
which lies in the midst of broken ground ; for it is a peculi- 
arity of these animals, which will be spoken of further on, 
that they will try to keep in the open ground at any cost 
or hazard. The two ranchmen agreed never to shoot at 
the antelope on foot, but only to try to kill them from 
horseback, either with their revolvers or their Winchesters. 
They thus hunted them for the sake of the sport purely ; 
and certainly they got plenty of fun out of them. Very 
few horses indeed are as fast as a prong-horn ; and 
these few did not include any owned by either of 
my two friends. But the antelope were always being 
obliged to break back from the edge of the plateau, 
and so were forced constantly to offer opportunities 



/86 A Trip on the Prairie. 

for cutting them off; and these opportunities were still 
further increased by the two hunters separating. One 
of them would go to the upper end of the plateau 
and start the band, riding after them at full speed. 
They would distance him, but would be checked in their 
career by coming to the brink of the cliff; then they 
would turn at an angle and give their pursuer a chance to 
cut them off; and if they kept straight up the middle the 
other hunter would head them. When a favorable moment 
came the hunters would dash in as close as possible and 
empty their revolvers or repeaters into the herd ; but it is 
astonishing how hard it is, when riding a horse at full 
speed, to hit any object, unless it is directly under the 
muzzle of the weapon. The number of cartridges spent 
compared to the number of prong-horn killed was enor- 
mous ; but the fun and excitement of the chase were the 
main objects with my friends, to whom the actual killing 
of the game was of entirely secondary importance. They 
went out after them about a dozen times during the winter, 
and killed in all ten or fifteen prong-horns. 

A prong-horn is by far the fleetest animal on the 
plains ; one can outrun and outlast a deer with the greatest 
ease. Very swift greyhounds can overtake them, if hunted 
in leashes or couples ; but only a remarkably good dog 
can run one down single-handed. Besides prong-horn 
are most plucky little creatures, and will make a most reso- 
lute fight against a dog or wolf, striking with their fore- 
feet and punching with their not very formidable horns, 
and are so quick and wiry as to be really rather hard to 
master. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 187 

Antelope have the greatest objection to going on any 
thing but open ground, and seem to be absolutely unable 
to make a high jump. If a band is caught feeding in the 
bottom of a valley leading into a plain they invariably 
make a rush straight to the mouth, even if the foe is 
stationed there, and will run heedlessly by him, no matter 
how narrow the mouth is, rather than not try to reach the 
open country. It is almost impossible to force them into 
even a small patch of brush, and they will face almost 
certain death rather than try to leap a really very trifling 
obstacle. If caught in a glade surrounded by a slight 
growth of brushwood, they make no effort whatever to get 
through or over this growth, but dash frantically out 
through the way by which they got in. Often the deer, 
especially the black-tail, will wander out on the edge of 
the plain frequented by antelope ; and it is curious to see 
the two animals separate the second there is an alarm, 
the deer making for the broken country, while the ante- 
lope scud for the level plains. Once two of my men 
nearly caught a couple of antelope in their hands. They 
were out driving in the buck-board, and saw two antelope, 
a long distance ahead, enter the mouth of a wash-out (a 
canyon in petto) ; they had strayed away from the prairie 
to the river bottom, and were evidently feeling lost. My 
two men did not think much of the matter but when oppo- 
site the mouth of the wash-out, which was only thirty feet 
or so wide, they saw the two antelope starting to come out 
having found that it was a blind passage, with no outlet 
at the other end. Both men jumped out of the buck-board 
and ran to the entrance ; the two antelope dashed franti- 



1 88 A Trip on the Prairie. 

cally to and fro inside the wash-out. The sides were steep, 
but a deer would have scaled them at once ; yet the ante- 
lope seemed utterly unable to do this, and finally broke out 
past the two men and got away. They came so close that 
the men were able to touch each of them, but their move- 
ments were too quick to permit of their being caught. 

However, though unable to leap any height, an ante- 
lope can skim across a level jump like a bird, and will go 
over water-courses and wash-outs that very few horses 
indeed will face. A mountain-sheep, on the other hand, 
is a marvellous vertical leaper ; the black-tail deer comes 
next ; the white-tail is pretty good, and the elk is at any 
rate better than the antelope ; but when it comes to hori- 
zontal jumping the latter can beat them all. 

In May or early June the doe brings forth her fawns, 
usually two in number, for she is very prolific. She makes 
her bed in some valley or hollow, and keeps with the rest 
of the band, only returning to the fawns to feed them. 
They lie out in the grass or under some slight bush, but 
are marvellously hard to find. By instinct they at once 
know how to crouch down so as to be as inconspicuous as 
possible. Once we scared away a female prong-horn from 
an apparently perfectly level hill-side ; and in riding along 
passed over the spot she had left and came upon two lit- 
tle fawns that could have been but a few hours old. They 
lay flat in the grass, with their legs doubled under them 
and their necks and heads stretched out on the ground. 
When we took them up and handled them, they soon got 
used to us and moved awkwardly round, but at any sud- 
den noise or motion they would immediately squat flat 



A Trip on the Prairie. 189 

down again. But at a very early age the fawns learn how 
to shift for themselves, and can then run almost as fast as 
their parents, even when no larger than a jack-rabbit. 
Once, while we were haying, a couple of my cow-boys 
spent half an hour in trying to run down and capture a 
little fawn, but they were unable to catch it, it ran so fast 
and ducked about so quickly. Antelope fawns are very 
easily tamed and make most amusing pets. We have had 
two or three, but have never succeeded in rearing any of 
them ; but some of the adjoining ranchmen have been 
more fortunate. They are not nearly so pretty as deer 
fawns, having long, gangling legs and angular bodies, but 
they are much more familiar and interesting. One of my 
neighbors has three live prong-horns, as well as two little 
spotted white-tail deer. The deer fawns are always skulk- 
ing about, and are by no means such bold inquisitive little 
creatures as the small antelope are. The latter have a 
nurse in the shape of a fat old ewe ; and it is funny to 
see her, when alarmed, running off at a waddling gait, 
while her ungainly little foster-children skip round and 
round her, cutting the most extraordinary antics. There 
are a couple of very large dogs, mastiffs, on the place, 
whose natural solemnity is completely disconcerted by the 
importunities and fearlessness of the little antelope fawns. 
Where one goes the other two always follow ; and so one 
of the mastiffs, while solemnly blinking in the sun, will 
suddenly find himself charged at full speed by the three 
queer little creatures, who will often fairly butt up against 
him. The uneasy look of the dog, and his efforts to get 
out of the way without compromising his dignity, are 
really very comical. 



190 A Trip on the Prairie. 

Young fawns seem to give out no scent, and thus many 
of them escape from the numerous carnivorous beasts that 
are ever prowling about at night over the prairie, and 
which, during the spring months, are always fat from feed- 
ing on the bodies of the innocents they have murdered. 
If discovered by a fox or coyote during its first few days 
of existence a little fawn has no chance of life, although 
the mother, if present, will fight desperately for it ; but 
after it has acquired the use of its legs it has no more to 
fear than have any of the older ones. 

Sometimes the fawns fall victims to the great Golden 
Eagle. This grand bird, the War Eagle of the Sioux, 
is not very common in the Bad Lands, but is sometimes 
still seen with us ; and, as everywhere else, its mere 
presence adds a certain grandeur to its lonely haunts. 
Two or three years ago a nest was found by one of my 
men on the face of an almost inaccessible cliff, and a 
young bird was taken out from it and reared in a roughly 
extemporized cage. Wherever the eagle exists it holds 
undisputed sway over every thing whose size does not 
protect it from the great bird's beak and talons ; not only 
does it feed on hares, grouse, and ducks, but it will also 
attack the young fawns of the deer and antelope. Still, 
the eagle is but an occasional foe, and aside from man, the 
only formidable enemies the antelope has to fear are the 
wolves and coyotes. These are very destructive to the 
young, and are always lounging about the band to pick up 
any wounded straggler ; in winter, when the ground is 
slippery and the antelope numbed and weak, they will 
often commit great havoc even among those that are 
grown up. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 

The voice of the antelope is not at all like that of the 
deer. Insteadiof bleating it utters a quick, harsh noise, a 
kind of bark ; a little like the sound " kau," sharply and 
clearly repeated. It can be heard a long distance off; and 
is usually uttered when the animal is a little startled or 
surprised by the presence of something it does not under- 
stand. 

The prong-horn cannot go without water any longer 
than a deer can, and will go great distances to get it ; for 
space is nothing to a traveller with such speed and such 
last. No matter how dry and barren may be the desert in 
which antelope are found, it may be taken for granted that 
they are always within reaching distance of some spring or 
pool of water, and that they visit it once a day. Once or 
twice I have camped out by some pool, which was the only 
one for miles around, and in every such case have been 
surprised at night by the visits of the antelope, who, on 
finding that their drinking-place was tenanted, would 
hover round at a short distance, returning again and again 
and continually uttering the barking "kau, kau," until 
they became convinced that there was no hope of their 
getting in, when they would set off at a run for some 
other place. 

Prong-horn perhaps prefer the rolling prairies of short 
grass as their home, but seem to do almost equally well on 
the desolate and monotonous wastes where the sage-brush 
and prickly pear and a few blades of coarse grass are the 
only signs of plant life to be seen. In such places, the 
prong-horn, the sage cock, the rattlesnake, and the horned 
frog alone are able to make out a livelihood. 



i9 2 A Trip on the Prairie. 

The horned frog is not a frog at all, but a lizard, 
a queer, stumpy little fellow with sp'v* r^ all over the 
top of its head and back, and given to moving in the 
most leisurely manner imaginable. Nothing will make it 
hurry. If taken home it becomes a very tame and quaint 
but also very uninteresting little pet. 

Rattlesnakes are only too plentiful everywhere ; along 
the river bottoms, in the broken, hilly ground, and on 
the prairies and the great desert wastes alike. Every 
cow-boy kills dozens each season. To a man wearing 
top-boots there is little or no danger while he is merely 
walking about, for the fangs cannot get through the 
leather, and the snake does not strike as high as the 
knee. Indeed the rattlesnake is not nearly as danger- 
ous as are most poisonous serpents, for it always gives 
fair warning before striking, and is both sluggish and 
timid. If it can it will get out of the way, and only 
coils up in its attitude of defence when it believes that 
it is actually menaced. It is, of course, however, both 
a dangerous and a disagreeable neighbor, and one of 
its annoying traits is the fondness it displays for crawl- 
ing into a hut or taking refuge among the blankets 
left out on the ground. Except in such cases men 
are rarely in danger from it, unless they happen to 
be stooping over, as was the case with one of my cow- 
boys who had leaned over to pick up a log, and was 
almost bitten by a snake which was underneath it ; or 
unless the snake is encountered while stalking an animal. 
Once I was creeping up to an antelope under cover of some 
very low sage-brush so low that I had to lie flat on my 



A Trip on the Prairie. J 93 

face and push myself along with my hands and feet. 
While cautiously moving on in this way I was electrified 
by hearing almost by my ears the well-known, ominous 
" whir-r-r " of a rattlesnake, and on hastily glancing up 
there was the reptile, not ten feet away from me, all 
coiled up and waiting. I backed off and crawled to one 
side, the rattler turning its head round to keep watch over 
my movements ; when the stalk was over (the antelope 
took alarm and ran off before I was within rifle-shot) I 
came back, hunted up the snake, and killed it. Although 
I have known of several men being bitten, I know of but 
one case where the bite caused the death of a human 
being. This was a girl who had been out milking, and 
was returning, in bare feet ; the snake struck her just 
above the ankle, and in her fright she fell and was struck 
again in the neck. The double wound was too much for 
her, and the poison killed her in the course of a couple of 
hours. 

Occasionally one meets a rattlesnake whose rattle has 
been lost or injured ; and such a one is always dangerous, 
because it strikes without warning. I once nearly lost a 
horse by the bite of one of these snakes without rattles. 
I was riding along a path when my horse gave a tre- 
mendous start and jump ; looking back I saw that it had 
been struck at by a rattlesnake with an injured tail, which 
had been lying hid in a bunch of grass, directly beside the 
path. Luckily it had merely hit the hard hoof, breaking 
one of its fangs. 

Horses differ very much in their conduct toward 
snakes. Some show great fright at sight of them or on 



194 A Trip on the Prairie. 

hearing their rattles, plunging and rearing and refusing to 
go anywhere near the spot ; while others have no fear 
of them at all, being really perfectly stupid about them. 
Manitou does not lose his wits at all over them, but at 
the same time takes very good care not to come within 
striking distance. 

Ranchmen often suffer some loss among their stock 
owing to snake-bites ; both horned cattle and horses, in 
grazing, frequently coming on snakes and having their 
noses or cheeks bitten. Generally, these wounds are not 
fatal, though very uncomfortable ; it is not uncommon to 
see a woe-begone looking mule with its head double the 
natural size, in consequence of having incautiously browsed 
over a snake. A neighbor lost a weak pony in this way ; 
and one of our best steers also perished from the same 
cause. But in the latter case, the animal, like the poor 
girl spoken of above, had received two wounds with the 
poison fangs ; apparently it had, while grazing with its 
head down, been first struck in the nose, and been again 
struck in the foreleg as it started away. 

Of all kinds of hunting, the chase of the antelope is 
pre-eminently that requiring skill in the use of the rifle at 
long range. The distance at which shots have to be taken 
in antelope hunting is at least double the ordinary dis- 
tance at which deer are fired at. In pursuing most other 
kinds of game, a hunter who is not a good shot may still 
do excellent work; but in prong-horn hunting, no man 
can make even a fairly good record unless he is a skilful 
marksman. I have myself done but little hunting after 
antelopes, and have not, as a rule, been very successful in 
the pursuit. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 195 

Ordinary hounds are rarely, or never, used to 
chase this game ; but coursing it with greyhounds is 
as manly and exhilarating a form of sport as can be 
imagined, a much better way of hunting it than is 
shooting it with the rifle, which latter, though needing 
more skill in the actual use of the weapon, is in every 
other respect greatly inferior as a sport to still-hunting 
the black-tail or big-horn. 

I never but once took a trip of any length with ante 
lope hunting for its chief object. This was one June, 
when all the men were away on the round-up. As is usual 
during the busy half of the ranchman's year, the spring 
and summer, when men have no time to hunt and game 
is out of condition, we had been living on salt pork, 
beans, potatoes, and bread ; and I had hardly had a 
rifle in my hand for months ; so, finding I had a few 
days to spare, I thought I should take a short trip on the 
prairie, in the beautiful June weather, and get a little 
sport and a little fresh meat out of the bands of prong- 
horn bucks, which I was sure to encounter. Intending to 
be gone but a couple of days, it was not necessary to take 
many articles. Behind my saddle I carried a blanket for 
bedding, and an oil-skin coat to ward off the wet ; a large 
metal cup with the handle riveted, not soldered, on, so 
that water could be boiled in it ; a little tea and salt, and 
some biscuits ; and a small water-proof bag containing my 
half dozen personal necessaries not forgetting a book. 
The whole formed a small, light pack, very little encum- 
brance to stout old Manitou. In June, fair weather can 
generally be counted on in the dry plains country. 



i9 6 A Trip on the Prairie. 

I started in the very earliest morning, when the in- 
tense brilliancy of the stars had just begun to pale before 
the first streak of dawn. By the time I left the river 
bottom and struck off up the valley of a winding creek, 
which led through the Bad Lands, the eastern sky was 
growing rosy ; and soon the buttes and cliffs were lit up 
by the level rays of the cloudless summer sun. The air 
was fresh and sweet, and odorous with the sweet scents of 
the spring-time that was but barely passed ; the dew lay 
heavy, in glittering drops, on the leaves and the blades 
of grass, whose vivid green, at this season, for a short 
time brightens the desolate and sterile-looking wastes of 
the lonely western plains. The rose-bushes were all in 
bloom, and their pink blossoms clustered in every point 
and bend of the stream ; and the sweet, sad songs of the 
hermit thrushes rose from the thickets, while the meadow 
larks perched boldly in sight as they uttered their louder 
and more cheerful music. The round-up had passed by 
our ranch, and all the cattle with our brands, the maltese 
cross and cut dewlap, or the elk-horn and triangle, had 
been turned loose ; they had not yet worked away from 
the river, and I rode by long strings of them, walking in 
single file off to the hills, or standing in groups to look at 
me as I passed. 

Leaving the creek I struck off among a region of 
scoria buttes, the ground rising into rounded hills through 
whose grassy covering the red volcanic rock showed in 
places, while boulder-like fragments of it were scattered 
all through the valleys between. There were a few clumps 
of bushes here and there, and near one of them were two 



A Trip on the Prairie. 1 97 

magpies, who lit on an old buffalo skull, bleached white 
by sun and snow. Magpies are birds that catch the eye 
at once from their bold black and white plumage and long 
tails ; and they are very saucy and at the same time very 
cunning and shy. In spring we do not often see them ; 
but in the late fall and winter they will come close round 
the huts and out-buildings on the look-out for any thing to 
eat. If a deer is hung up and they can get at it they will 
pick it to pieces with their sharp bills ; and their car- 
nivorous tastes and their habit of coming round hunters' 
camps after the game that is left out, call to mind their 
kinsman, the whiskey-jack or moose-bird of the northern 
forests. 

After passing the last line of low, rounded scoria 
buttes, the horse stepped out on the border of the great, 
seemingly endless stretches of rolling or nearly level 
prairie, over which I had planned to travel and hunt for 
the next two or three days. At intervals of ten or a dozen 
miles this prairie was crossed by dry creeks, with, in places 
in their beds, pools or springs of water, and alongside a 
spindling growth of trees and bushes ; and my intention was 
to hunt across these creeks, and camp by some water-hole 
in one of them at night. 

I rode over the land in a general southerly course, 
bending to the right or left according to the nature of the 
ground and the likelihood of finding game. Most of the 
time the horse kept on a steady single-foot, but this was 
varied by a sharp lope every now and then, to ease the 
muscles of both steed and rider. The sun was well up, 
and its beams beat fiercely down on our heads from out of 



A Trip on the Prairie. 

the cloudless sky ; for at this season, though the nights and 
the early morning and late evening are cool and pleasant, 
the hours around noon are very hot. My glass was slung 
alongside the saddle, and from every one of the scattered 
hillocks the country was scanned carefully far and near ; and 
the greatest caution was used in riding up over any divide, 
to be sure that no game on the opposite side was scared 
by the sudden appearance of my horse or myself. 

Nowhere, not even at sea, does a man feel more lonely 
than when riding over the far-reaching, seemingly never- 
ending plains ; and, after a man has lived a little while on 
or near them, their very vastness and loneliness and their 
melancholy monotony have a strong fascination for him. 
The landscape seems always the same, and after the 
traveller has plodded on for miles and miles he gets to 
feel as if the distance was indeed boundless. As far as the 
eye can see there is no break ; either the prairie stretches 
out into perfectly level flats, or else there are gentle, 
rolling slopes, whose crests mark the divides between the 
drainage systems of the different creeks ; and when one of 
these is ascended, immediately another precisely like it 
takes its place in the distance, and so roll succeeds roll in 
a succession as interminable as that of the waves of the 
ocean. Nowhere else does one seem so far off from all 
mankind ; the plains stretch out in death-like and measure- 
less expanse, and as he journeys over them they will for 
many miles be lacking in all signs of life. Although he 
can see so far, yet all objects on the outermost verge of 
the horizon, even though within the ken of his vision, 
look unreal and strange; for there is no shade to take 



A Trip on the Prairie. 199 

away from the bright glare, and at a little distance things 
seem to shimmer and dance in the hot rays of the sun. 
The ground is scorched to a dull brown, and against its 
monotonous expanse any objects stand out with a prom- 
inence that makes it difficult to judge of the distance 
at which they are. A mile off one can see, through the 
strange shimmering haze, the shadowy white outlines of 
something which looms vaguely up till it looks as large as 
the canvas-top of a prairie wagon ; but as the horseman 
comes nearer it shrinks and dwindles and takes clearer 
form, until at last it changes into the ghastly staring skull 
of some mighty buffalo, long dead and gone to join the 
rest of his vanished race. 

When the grassy prairies are left and the traveller enters 
a region of alkali desert and sage-brush, the look of the 
country becomes even more grim and forbidding. I n places 
the alkali forms a white frost on the ground that glances in 
the sunlight like the surface of a frozen lake ; the dusty little 
sage-brush, stunted and dried up, sprawls over the parched 
ground, from which it can hardly extract the small amount 
of nourishment necessary for even its weazened life ; the 
spiny cactus alone seems to be really in its true home. 
Yet even in such places antelope will be found, as alert 
and as abounding with vivacious life as elsewhere. Owing 
to the magnifying and distorting power of the clear, dry 
plains air, every object, no matter what its shape or color 
or apparent distance, needs the closest examination. A 
magpie sitting on a white skull, or a couple of ravens, will 
look, a quarter of a mile off, like some curious beast ; and 
time and again a raw hunter will try to stalk a lump of 



200 A Trip on the Prairie. 

clay or a burnt stick ; and after being once or twice disap- 
pointed he is apt to rush to the other extreme, and conclude 
too hastily that a given object is not an antelope, when it 
very possibly is. 

During the morning I came in sight of several small 
bands or pairs of antelope. Most of them saw me as soon 
as or before I saw them, and after watching me with in- 
tense curiosity as long as I was in sight and at a distance, 
made off at once as soon as I went into a hollow or 
appeared to be approaching too near. Twice, in scanning 
the country narrowly with the glasses, from behind a shel- 
tering divide, bands of prong-horn were seen that had 
not discovered me. In each case the horse was at once 
left to graze, while I started off after the game, nearly 
a mile distant. For the first half mile I could walk up- 
right or go along half stooping ; then, as the distance 
grew closer, I had to crawl on all fours and keep behind 
any little broken bank, or take advantage of a small, dry 
watercourse ; and toward the end work my way flat on 
my face, wriggling like a serpent, using every stunted sage- 
brush or patch of cactus as a cover, bare-headed under the 
blazing sun. In each case, after nearly an hour's irksome, 
thirsty work, the stalk failed. One band simply ran off 
without a second's warning, alarmed at some awkward 
movement on my part, and without giving a chance for a 
shot. In the other instance, while still at very long and un- 
certain range, I heard the sharp barking alarm-note of one 
of the prong-horn ; the whole band instantly raising their 
heads and gazing intently at their would-be destroyer. They 
were a very long way off; but, seeing it was hopeless to try 



A Trip on the Prairie. 201 

to get nearer I rested my rifle over a little mound of earth 
and fired. The dust came up in a puff to one side of 
the nearest antelope ; the whole band took a few jumps 
and turned again ; the second shot struck at their feet, and 
they went off like so many race-horses, being missed again 
as they ran. I sat up by a sage-brush thinking they would 
of course not come back, when to my surprise I saw them 
wheel round with the precision of a cavalry squadron, all 
in line and fronting me, the white and brown markings 
on their heads and throats showing like the facings on 
soldiers' uniforms ; and then back they came charging up 
till again within long range, when they wheeled their line 
as if on a pivot and once more made off, this time for 
good, not heeding an ineffectual fusillade from the Win- 
chester. Antelope often go through a series of regular 
evolutions, like so many trained horsemen, wheeling, turn- 
ing, halting, and running as if under command ; and their 
coming back to again run the (as it proved very harmless) 
gauntlet of my fire was due either to curiosity or to one of 
those panicky freaks which occasionally seize those ordi- 
narily wary animals, and cause them to run into danger 
easily avoided by creatures commonly much more readily 
approached than they are. I had fired half a dozen shots 
without effect ; but while no one ever gets over his feeling 
of self-indignation at missing an easy shot at close quarters, 
any one who hunts antelope and is not of a disposition so 
timid as never to take chances, soon learns that he has to 
expect to expend a good deal of powder and lead before 
bagging his game. 

By mid-day we reached a dry creek and followed up its 



202 A Trip on the Prairie. 

course for a mile or so, till a small spot of green in the side 
of a bank showed the presence of water, a little pool 
of which lay underneath. The ground was so rotten that 
it was with difficulty I could get Manitou down where he 
could drink ; but at last both of us satisfied our thirst, and 
he was turned loose to graze, with his saddle off, so as to 
cool his back, and I, after eating a biscuit, lay on my face 
on the ground there was no shade of any sort near and 
dozed until a couple of hours' rest and feed had put the 
horse in good trim for the afternoon ride. When it came 
to crossing over the dry creek on whose bank we had 
rested, we almost went down in a quicksand, and it was 
only by frantic struggles and flounderings that we man- 
aged to get over. 

On account of these quicksands and mud-holes, cross- 
ing the creeks on the prairie is often very disagreeable 
work. Even when apparently perfectly dry the bottom 
may have merely a thin crust of hard mud and underneath a 
fathomless bed of slime. If the grass appears wet and with 
here and there a few tussocks of taller blades in it, it is 
well to avoid it. Often a man may have to go along a 
creek nearly a mile before he can find a safe crossing, 
or else run the risk of seeing his horse mired hard and 
fast. When a horse is once in a mud-hole it will perhaps 
so exhaust itself by its first desperate and fruitless 
struggle that it is almost impossible to get it out. Its 
bridle and saddle have to be taken off; if another horse is 
along the lariat is drawn from the pommel of the latter's 
saddle to the neck of the one that is in, and it is hauled 
out by main force. Otherwise a man may have to work 



A Trip on the Prairie. 

half a day, fixing the horse's legs in the right position and 
then taking it by the forelock and endeavoring to get 
it to make a plunge ; each plunge bringing it perhaps 
a few inches nearer the firm ground. Quicksands are even 
more dangerous than these mud-holes, as, if at all deep, a 
creature that cannot get out immediately is sure to be 
speedily engulfed. Many parts of the Little Missouri are 
impassable on account of these quicksands. Always in 
crossing unknown ground that looks dangerous it is best 
to feel your way very cautiously along, and, if possible, to 
find out some cattle trail or even game trail which can be 
followed. 

For some time after leaving the creek nothing was 
seen ; until, on coming over the crest of the next great 
divide, I came in sight of a band of six or eight prong-horn 
about a quarter of a mile off to my right hand. There 
was a slight breeze from the southeast, which blew 
diagonally across my path towards the antelopes. The 
latter, after staring at me a minute, as I rode slowly on, 
suddenly started at full speed to run directly up wind, and 
therefore in a direction that would cut the line of my 
course less than half a mile ahead of where I was. Know- 
ing that when antelope begin running in a straight line 
they are very hard to turn, and seeing that they would 
have to run a longer distance than my horse would to 
intercept them, I clapped spurs into Manitou, and the 
game old fellow, a very fleet runner, stretched himself 
down to the ground and seemed to go almost as fast as 
the quarry. As I had expected, the latter, when they saw 
me running, merely straightened themselves out and went 



204 A Trip on the Prairie. 

on, possibly even faster than before, without changing the 
line of their flight, keeping right up wind. Both horse and 
antelope fairly flew over the ground, their courses being at 
an angle that would certainly bring them together. Two 
of the antelope led, by some fifty yards or so, the others, 
who were all bunched together. Nearer and nearer we 
came, Manitou, in spite of carrying myself and the pack 
behind the saddle, gamely holding his own, while the 
antelope, with outstretched necks, went at an even, regu- 
lar gait that offered a strong contrast to the springing 
bounds with which a deer runs. At last the two leading 
animals crossed the line of my flight ahead of me ; when 
I pulled short up, leaped from Manitou's back, and blazed 
into the band as they went by not forty yards off, aiming 
well ahead of a fine buck who was on the side nearest me. 
An antelope's gait is so even that it offers a good running 
mark ; and as the smoke blew off I saw the buck roll over 
like a rabbit, with both shoulders broken. I then emptied 
the Winchester at the rest of the band, breaking one hind 
leg of a young buck. Hastily cutting the throat of, and 
opening, the dead buck, I again mounted and started off 
after the wounded one. But, though only on three legs, 
it went astonishingly fast, having had a good start ; and 
after following it over a mile I gave up the pursuit, though 
I had gained a good deal ; for the heat was very great, 
and I did not deem it well to tire the horse at the be- 
ginning of the trip. Returning to the carcass, I cut off 
the hams and strung them beside the saddle ; an antelope 
is so spare that there is very little more meat on the 
body. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 205 

This trick of running in a straight line is another of 
the antelope's peculiar characteristics which frequently 
lead it into danger. Although with so much sharper eyes 
than a deer, antelope are in many ways far stupider ani- 
mals, more like sheep, and they especially resemble the 
latter in their habit of following a leader, and in their 
foolish obstinacy in keeping to a course they have once 
adopted. If a horseman starts to head off a deer the 
latter will always turn long before he has come within 
range, but quite often an antelope will merely increase his 
speed and try to pass ahead of his foe. Almost always, 
however, one if alone will keep out of gunshot, owing to 
the speed at which he goes, but if there are several in a 
band which is well strung out, the leader only cares for his 
own safety and passes well ahead himself. The others 
follow like sheep, without turning in the least from the 
line the first followed, and thus may pass within close 
range. If the leader bounds into the air, those following 
will often go through exactly the same motions ; and if he 
turns, the others are very apt to each in succession run up 
and turn in the same place, unless the whole band are 
manoeuvring together, like a squadron of cavalry under 
orders, as has already been spoken of. 

After securing the buck's hams and head (the latter 
for the sake of the horns, which were unusually long and 
fine), I pushed rapidly on without stopping to hunt, to 
reach some large creek which should contain both wood 
and water, for even in summer a fire adds greatly to the 
comfort and cosiness of a night camp. When the sun 
had nearly set we went over a divide and came in sight of a 



206 A Trip on the Prairie. 

creek fulfilling the required conditions. It wound its way 
through a valley of rich bottom land, cotton-wood trees of 
no great height or size growing in thick groves along its 
banks, while its bed contained many deep pools of water, 
some of it fresh and good. I rode into a great bend, with 
a grove of trees on its right and containing excellent 
feed. Manitou was loosed, with the lariat round his neck, 
to feed where he wished until I went to bed, when he was 
to be taken to a place where the grass was thick and suc- 
culent, and tethered out for the night. There was any 
amount of wood with which a fire was started for cheer- 
fulness, and some of the coals were soon raked off apart 
to cook over. The horse blanket was spread on the 
ground, with the oil-skin over it as a bed, underneath a 
spreading cotton-wood tree, while the regular blanket 
served as covering. The metal cup was soon filled with 
water and simmering over the coals to make tea, while an 
antelope steak was roasting on a forked stick. It is wonder- 
ful how cosy a camp, in clear weather, becomes if there is 
a good fire and enough to eat, and how sound the sleep is 
afterwards in the cool air, with the brilliant stars glimmer- 
ing through the branches overhead. In the country 
where I was there was absolutely no danger from Indian 
horse-thieves, and practically none from white ones, for I 
felt pretty sure no one was anywhere within a good many 
miles of me, and none could have seen me come into the 
valley. Besides, in the cattle country stealing horses is a 
hazardous profession, as any man who is found engaged in 
it is at once, and very properly, strung up to the nearest 
tree, or shot if no trees are handy ; so very few people fol- 



A Trip on the Prairie. 207 

low it, at least for any length of time, and a man's horses 
are generally safe. 

Near where we had halted for the night camp was a 
large prairie-dog town. Prairie-dogs are abundant all 
over the cattle country ; they are in shape like little wood- 
chucks, and are the most noisy and inquisitive animals 
imaginable. They are never found singly, but always in 
towns of several hundred inhabitants ; and these towns are 
found in all kinds of places where the country is flat and 
treeless. Sometimes they will be placed on the bottoms of 
the creeks or rivers, and again far out on the prairie or 
among the Bad Lands, a long distance from any water. 
Indeed, so dry are some of the localities in which they 
exist, that it is a marvel how they can live at all ; yet they 
seem invariably plump and in good condition. They are 
exceedingly destructive to grass, eating away every thing 
round their burrows, and thus each town is always extend- 
ing at the borders, while the holes in the middle are de- 
serted ; in many districts they have become a perfect bane 
to the cattle-men, for the incoming of man has been the 
means of causing a great falling off in the ranks of their 
four-footed foes, and this main check to their increase being 
gone, they multiply at a rate that threatens to make them 
a serious pest in the future. They are among the few 
plains animals who are benefited instead of being injured 
by the presence of man ; and it is most difficult to exter- 
minate them or to keep their number in any way under, 
as they are prolific to a most extraordinary degree ; and 
the quantity of good feed they destroy is very great, and 
as they eat up the roots of the grass it is a long time, 



208 A Trip on the Prairie. 

before it grows again. Already in many districts the 
stockmen are seriously considering the best way in which 
to take steps against them. Prairie-dogs wherever they 
exist are sure to attract attention, all the more so because, 
unlike most other rodents, they are diurnal and not noc- 
turnal, offering therein a curious case of parallelism to 
their fellow denizen of the dry plains, the antelope, which 
is also a creature loving to be up and stirring in the 
bright daylight, unlike its relatives, the dusk-loving deer. 
They are very noisy, their shrill yelping resounding 
on all sides whenever a man rides through a town. 
None go far from their homes, always keeping close 
enough to be able to skulk into them at once ; and as 
soon as a foe appears they take refuge on the hillocks 
beside their burrows, yelping continuously, and accom- 
panying each yelp by a spasmodic jerking of the tail and 
body. When the man comes a little nearer they disap- 
pear inside and then thrust their heads out, for they are 
most inquisitive. Their burrows form one of the chief 
dangers to riding at full speed over the plains country ; 
hardly any man can do much riding on the prairie for 
more than a year or two without coming to grief on more 
than one occasion by his horse putting its foot in a prairie- 
dog hole. A badger hole is even worse. When a horse 
gets his foot in such a hole, while going at full speed, he 
turns a complete somersault, and is lucky if he escape 
without a broken leg, while I have time and again known 
the rider to be severely injured. There are other smaller 
animals whose burrows sometimes cause a horseman to 
receive a sharp tumble. These are the pocket-gophers, 



A Trip on the Prairie. 209 

queer creatures, shaped like moles and having the same 
subterranean habits, but with teeth like a rat's, and great 
pouches on the outside of their jaws, whose long, rambling 
tunnels cover the ground in certain places, though the 
animals themselves are very rarely seen ; and the little 
striped gophers and gray gophers, entirely different ani- 
mals, more like ground squirrels. But the prairie-dog is 
always the main source of danger to the horseman, as well 
as of mischief to the cattle-herder. 

Around the prairie-dog towns it is always well to keep 
a look-out for the smaller carnivora, especially coyotes 
and badgers, as they are very fond of such neighborhoods, 
and almost always it is also a favorite resort for the larger 
kinds of hawks, which are so numerous throughout the 
cattle country. Rattlesnakes are quite plenty, living in 
the deserted holes, and the latter are also the homes of the 
little burrowing owls, which will often be seen standing at 
the opening, ready to run in as quick as any of the prairie- 
dogs if danger threatens. They have a funny habit of 
gravely bowing or posturing at the passer-by, and stand 
up very erect on their legs. With the exception of this 
species, owls are rare in the cattle country. 

A prairie-dog is rather a difficult animal to get, as it 
stands so close to its burrow that a spasmodic kick, even 
if at the last gasp, sends the body inside, where it cannot 
be recovered. The cowboys are always practising at them 
with their revolvers, and as they are pretty good shots, 
mortally wound a good many, but unless the force of the 
blow fairly knocks the prairie-dog away from the mouth of 
the burrow, it almost always manages to escape inside. 



2io A Trip on the Prairie. 

But a good shot with the rifle can kill any number by 
lying down quietly and waiting a few minutes until the 
dogs get a little distance from the mouths of their homes. 

Badgers are more commonly found round prairie-dog 
towns than anywhere else ; and they get their chief food 
by digging up the prairie-dogs and gophers with their 
strong forearms and long, stout claws. They are not of- 
ten found wandering away from their homes in the day- 
time, but if so caught are easily run down and killed. A 
badger is a most desperate fighter, and an overmatch for a 
coyote, his hide being very thick and his form so squat 
and strong that it is hard to break his back or legs, while 
his sharp teeth grip like a steel trap. A very few seconds 
allow him to dig a hole in the ground, into which he can 
back all except his head ; and when placed thus, with his 
rear and flanks protected, he can beat off a dog many 
times his own size. A young badger one night came up 
round the ranch-house, and began gnawing at some bones 
that had been left near the door. Hearing the noise one 
of my men took a lantern and went outside. The glare 
of the light seemed to make the badger stupid, for after 
looking at the lantern a few moments, it coolly turned and 
went on eating the scraps of flesh on the bones, and was 
knocked on the head without attempting to escape. 

To come back to my trip. Early in the morning I 
was awakened by the shrill yelping of the prairie-dogs 
whose town was near me. The sun had not yet risen, and 
the air had the peculiar chill it always takes on toward 
morning, while little wreaths of light mist rose from the 
pools. Getting up and loosing Manitou to let him feed 



A Trip on the Prairie. 211 

round where he wished and slake his thirst, I took the 
rifle, strolled up the creek valley a short distance, and 
turned off out on the prairie. Nothing was in sight in the 
way of game ; but overhead a skylark was singing, soar- 
ing up above me so high that I could not make out his 
form in the gray morning light. I listened for some 
time, and the music never ceased for a moment, com- 
ing down clear, sweet, and tender from the air above. 
Soon the strains of another answered from a little distance 
off, and the two kept soaring and singing as long as I 
stayed to listen ; and when I walked away I could still 
hear their notes behind me. In some ways the skylark is 
the sweetest singer we have ; only certain of the thrushes 
rival it, but though the songs of the latter have perhaps 
even more melody, they are far from being as uninterrupted 
and well sustained, being rather a succession of broken 
bursts of music. 

The sun was just appearing when I walked back to the 
creek bottom. Coming slowly out of a patch of brush- 
wood, was a doe, going down to drink ; her great, sensi- 
tive ears thrown forward as she peered anxiously and 
timidly round. She was very watchful, lifting her head 
and gazing about between every few mouthfuls. When 
she had drunk her fill she snatched a hasty mouthful or 
two of the wet grass, and then cantered back to the edge 
of the brush, when a little spotted fawn came out and 
joined her. The two stood together for a few moments, 
and then walked off into the cover. The little pond at 
which they had drunk was within fifty yards of my night 
bed ; and it had other tenants in the shape of a mallard 



212 A Trip on the Prairie. 

duck, with a brood of little ducklings, balls of fuzzy yellow 
down, that bobbed off into the reeds like little corks as I 
walked by. 

Breaking camp is a simple operation for one man ; and 
but a few minutes after breakfast Manitou and I were off ; 
the embers of the fire having been extinguished with the 
care that comes to be almost second nature with the cattle- 
man, one of whose chief dreads is the prairie fire, that 
sometimes robs his stock of such an immense amount of 
feed. Very little game was seen during the morning, as I 
rode in an almost straight line over the hot, parched plains, 
the ground cracked and seamed by the heat, and the dull 
brown blades bending over as if the sun was too much 
even for them. The sweat drenched the horse even when 
we were walking ; and long before noon we halted for 
rest by a bitter alkaline pool with border so steep and rot- 
ten that I had to bring water up to the horse in my hat ; 
having taken some along in a canteen for my own use. 
But there was a steep bank near, overgrown with young 
trees, and thus giving good shade ; and it was this that 
induced me to stop. When leaving this halting-place, I 
spied three figures in the distance, loping towards me ; 
they turned out to be cowboys, who had been out a couple 
of days looking up a band of strayed ponies, and as they had 
exhausted their supply of food, I gave them the antelope 
hams, trusting to shoot another for my own use. 

Nor was I disappointed. After leaving the cowboys 
I headed the horse towards the more rolling country 
where the prairies begin to break off into the edges of the 
Bad Lands. Several bands of antelope, were seen, and I 



A Trip on the Prairie. 213 

tried one unsuccessful stalk, not being able to come within 
rifle range ; but towards evening, when only about a mile 
from a wooded creek on whose banks I intended to sleep, 
I came across a solitary buck, just as I was topping the 
ridge of the last divide. As I was keeping a sharp look- 
out at the time, I reined in the horse the instant the head 
of the antelope came in sight, and jumping off crept up till 
I could see his whole body, when I dropped on my knee 
and took steady aim. He was a long way off (three hun- 
dred yards by actual pacing), and not having made out 
exactly what we were he stood still, looking intently in 
our direction and broadside to us. I held well over 
his shoulder, and at the report he dropped like a shot, 
the ball having broken his neck. It was a very good shot ; 
the best I ever made at antelope, of which game, as already 
said, I have killed but very few individuals. Taking the 
hams and saddle I rode on down to the creek and again 
went into camp among timber. Thus on this trip I was 
never successful in outwitting antelope on the several 
occasions when I pitted my craft and skill against their 
wariness and keen senses, always either failing to get 
within range or else missing them ; but nevertheless I got 
two by taking advantage of the stupidity and curiosity 
which they occasionally show. 

The middle part of the days having proved so very hot, 
and as my store of biscuits was nearly gone, and as I knew, 
moreover, that the antelope meat would not keep over 
twenty-four hours, I decided to push back home next day ; 
and accordingly I broke camp at the first streak of dawn, 
and took Manitou back to the ranch at a smart lope. 



214 A Trip on the Prairie. 

A solitary trip such as this was, through a compara- 
tively wild region in which game is still plentiful, always 
has great attraction for any man who cares for sport and 
for nature, and who is able to be his own companion, but 
the pleasure after all depends a good deal on the weather. 
To be sure, after a little experience in roughing it, the 
hardships seem a good deal less formidable than they for- 
merly did, and a man becomes able to roll up in a wet 
blanket and sleep all night in a pelting rain without hurt' 
ing himself though he will shiver a good deal, and feel 
pretty numb and stiff in those chill and dreary hours just 
before dawn. But when a man's clothes and bedding and 
rifle are all wet, no matter how philosophically he may 
bear it, it may be taken for granted that he does not enjoy 
it. So fair weather is a very vital and important element 
among those that go to make up the pleasure and success 
of such a trip. Luckily fair weather can be counted on 
with a good deal of certainty in late spring and through- 
out most of the summer and fall on the northern cattle 
plains. The storms that do take place, though very vio- 
lent, do not last long. 

Every now and then, however, there will be in the fall 
a three-days' storm in which it is almost impossible to 
travel, and then the best thing to be done is to lie up 
under any shelter that is at hand until it blows over. I 
remember one such camp which was made in the midst of 
the most singular and picturesque surroundings. It was 
toward the end of a long *.vagon trip that we had been 
taking, and all of the horses were tired by incessant work. 
We had come through country which was entirely new 



A Trip on the Prairie. 215 

to us, passing nearly all day in a long flat prairie through 
which flowed a stream that we supposed to be either the 
Box Alder or the Little Beaver. In leaving this we 
had struck some heavy sand-hills, and while pulling the 
loaded wagon up them one of the team played out com- 
pletely, and we had to take her out and put in one of the 
spare saddle-ponies, a tough little fellow. Night came on 
fast, and the sun was just setting when we crossed the 
final ridge and came in sight of as singular a bit of coun- 
try as I have ever seen. The cowboys, as we afterward 
found, had christened the place " Medicine Buttes." In 
plains dialect, I may explain, " Medicine" has been adopted 
from the Indians, among whom it means any thing super- 
natural or very unusual. It is used in the sense of 
" magic," or " out of the common." 

Over an irregular tract of gently rolling sandy hills, 
perhaps about three quarters of a mile square, were scat- 
tered several hundred detached and isolated buttes or 
cliffs of sandstone, each butte from fifteen to fifty feet 
high, and from thirty to a couple of hundred feet across. 
Some of them rose as sharp peaks or ridges, or as con- 
nected chains, but much the greater number had flat tops 
like little table-lands. The sides were perfectly perpen- 
dicular, and were cut and channelled by the weather into 
the most extraordinary forms ; caves, columns, battle- 
ments, spires, and flying buttresses were mingled in the 
strangest confusion. Many of the caves were worn clear 
through the buttes, and they were at every height in the 
sides, while ledges ran across the faces, and shoulders and 
columns jutted out from the corners. On the tops and 



216 A Trip on the Prairie. 

at the bases of most of the cliffs grew pine trees, some of 
considerable height, and the sand gave every thing a clean, 
white look. 

Altogether it was as fantastically beautiful a place as I 
have ever seen : it seemed impossible that the hand of man 
should not have had something to do with its formation. 
There was a spring of clear cold water a few hundred yards 
off, with good feed for the horses round it ; and we made 
our camp at the foot of one of the largest buttes, building 
a roaring pine-log fire in an angle in the face of the cliff, 
while our beds were under the pine trees. It was the time 
of the full moon, and the early part of the night was clear. 
The flame of the fire leaped up the side of the cliff, the red 
light bringing out into lurid and ghastly relief the bold 
corners and strange-looking escarpments of the rock, while 
against it the stiff limbs of the pines stood out like rigid 
bars of iron. Walking off out of sight of the circle of fire- 
light, among the tall crags, the place seemed almost as 
unreal as if we had been in fairy-land. The flood of clear 
moonlight turned the white faces of the cliffs and the 
grounds between them into shining silver, against which 
the pines showed dark and sombre, while the intensely 
black shadows of the buttes took on forms that were 
grimly fantastic. Every cave or cranny in the crags 
looked so black that it seemed almost to be thrown out 
from the surface, and when the branches of the trees 
moved, the bright moonlight danced on the ground as if 
it were a sheet of molten metal. Neither in shape nor in 
color did our surroundings seem to belong to the dull 
gray world through which we had been travelling all day. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 217 

But by next morning every thing had changed. A 
furious gale of wind was blowing, and we were shrouded 
in a dense, drizzling mist, through which at times the rain 
drove in level sheets. Now and then the fog would blow 
away, and then would come on thicker than ever ; and 
when it began to clear off a steady rain took its place, and 
the wind increased to a regular hurricane. With its can- 
vas top on, the wagon would certainly have been blown 
over if on open ground, and it was impossible to start or 
keep a fire except under the sheltered lee of the cliff. More- 
over, the wind kept shifting, and we had to shift too, as fast 
as ever it started to blow from a new quarter ; and thus in 
the course of the twenty-four hours we made a complete 
circle of the cliff at whose base we were. Our blankets 
got wet during the night ; and they got no drier during the 
day ; and the second night, as we slept on them they got 
steadily damper. Our provisions were pretty nearly out, 
and so, with little to eat and less to do, wet and uncom- 
fortable, we cowered over the sputtering fire, and whiled 
the long day away as best we might with our own 
thoughts ; fortunately we had all learned that no matter 
how bad things are, grumbling and bad temper can always 
be depended upon to make them worse, and so bore our 
ill-fortune, if not with stoical indifference, at least in perfect 
quiet. Next day the storm still continued, but the fog 
was gone and the wind somewhat easier ; and we spent 
the whole day looking up the horses, which had drifted a 
long distance before the storm ; nor was it till the morning 
of the third day that we left our beautiful but, as events 
had made it, uncomfortable camping-ground. 



218 A Trip on the Prairie. 

In midsummer the storms are rarely of long duration, 
but are very severe while they last. I remember well 
one day when I was caught in such a storm. I had gone 
some twenty-five miles from the ranch to see the round-up, 
which had reached what is known as the Oxbow of the 
Little Missouri, where the river makes a great loop round 
a flat grassy bottom, on which the cattle herd was 
gathered. I stayed, seeing the cattle cut out and the 
calves branded, until after dinner ; for it was at the time 
of the year when the days were longest. 

At last the work was ended, and I started home in the 
twilight. The horse splashed across the shallow ford, and 
then spent half an hour in climbing up through the 
rugged side hills, till we reached the top of the first great 
plateau that had to be crossed. As soon as I got on it I 
put in the spurs and started off at a gallop. In the dusk 
the brown level land stretched out in formless expanse 
ahead of me, unrelieved, except by the bleached white of 
a buffalo's skull, whose outlines glimmered indistinctly to 
one side of the course I was riding. On my left the sun 
had set behind a row of jagged buttes, that loomed up in 
sharp relief against the western sky ; above them it had 
left a bar of yellow light, which only made more intense 
the darkness of the surrounding heavens. In the quarter 
towards which I was heading there had gathered a lower- 
ing mass of black storm-clouds, lit up by the incessant 
play of the lightning. The wind had totally died away, 
and the death-like stillness was only broken by the con- 
tinuous, measured beat of the horse's hoofs as he galloped 
over the plain, and at times by the muttered roll of the 
distant thunder. 



A Trip on the Prairie. 219 

Without slacking pace I crossed the plateau, and as I 
came to the other edge the storm burst in sheets and 
torrents of water. In five minutes I was drenched through, 
and to guide myself had to take advantage of the con- 
tinual flashes of lightning ; and I was right glad, half an 
hour afterward, to stop and take shelter in the log hut of 
a couple of cowboys, where I could get dry and warm. 





CHAPTER VII. 



A TRIP AFTER MOUNTAIN SHEEP. 




ATE one fall a spell of bitter 
weather set in, and lasted on 
through the early part of the 
winter. For many days to- 
gether the cold was fierce in 
its intensity ; and the wheels 
of the ranch-wagon, when 
we drove out for a load 
of fire-wood, creaked and 
sang as they ground through the powdery snow that 
lay light on the ground. At night in the clear sky 
the stars seemed to snap and glitter ; and for weeks 
of cloudless white weather the sun shone down on a land 
from which his beams glanced and glistened as if it had 
been the surface of a mirror, till the glare hurt the eyes 
that looked upon it. In the still nights we could hear the 
trees crack and jar from the strain of the biting frost ; and 
in its winding bed the river lay fixed like a huge bent bar 
of blue steel. 



220 



Mountain Sheep. 



221 



We had been told that a small band of big-horn was 
hanging around some very steep and broken country about 
twenty-five miles from the ranch-house. I had been out 
after them once alone, but had failed to find even their 
tracks, and had made up my mind that in order to hunt 
them it would be necessary to make a three- or four-days' 
trip, taking along the buck-board with our bedding and 
eatables. The trip had been delayed owing to two of my 
men, who had been sent out to buy ponies, coming in with 
a bunch of fifty, for the most part hardly broken. Some 
of them were meant for the use of the lower ranch, and 
the men from the latter had come up to get them. At 
night the ponies were let loose, and each day were gathered 
into the horse corral and broken as well as we could break 
them in such weather. It was my intention not to start 
on the hunt until the ponies were separated into the two 
bands, and the men from the lower ranch (the Elkhorn) 
had gone off with theirs. Then one of the cowboys was 
to take the buck-board up to a deserted hunter's hut, which 
lay on a great bend of the river near by the ground over 
which the big-horn were said to wander, while my foreman, 
Merrifield, and myself would take saddle-horses, and each 
day ride to the country through which we intended to 
hunt, returning at night to the buck-board and hut. But 
we started a little sooner than we had intended, owing to 
a funny mistake made by one of the cowboys. 

The sun did not rise until nearly eight, but each morn- 
ing we breakfasted at five, and the men were then sent 
out on the horses which had been kept in overnight, to 
find and drive home the pony band ; of course they started 



222 



Mountain Sheep. 



in perfect darkness, except for the starlight. On the last 
day of our proposed stay the men had come in with the 
ponies before sunrise ; and, leaving the latter in the cor- 
ral, they entered the house and crowded round the fire, 
stamping and beating their numbed hands together. In 
the midst of the confusion word was brought by one of 
the cowboys, that while hunting for the horses he had 
seen two bears go down into a wash-out ; and he told us 
that he could bring us right to the place where he had 
seen them, for as soon as he left it he had come in at 
speed on his swift, iron-gray horse a vicious, clean-limbed 
devil, with muscles like bundles of tense wire ; the cold 
had made the brute savage, and it had been punished with 
the cruel curb bit until long, bloody icicles hung from 
its lips. 

At once Merrifield and I mounted in hot haste, and 
rode off with the bringer of good tidings, leaving hasty in- 
structions where we were to be joined by the buck-board. 
The sun was still just below the horizon as we started, 
wrapped warmly in our fur coats and with our caps drawn 
down over our ears to keep out the cold. The cattle were 
standing in the thickets and sheltered ravines, huddled 
together with their heads down, the frost lying on their 
backs and the icicles hanging from their muzzles ; they 
stared at us as we rode along, but were too cold to move 
a hand's breadth out of our way ; indeed it is a marvel how 
they survive the winter at all. Our course at first lay up 
a long valley, cut up by cattle trails ; then we came out, 
just as the sun had risen, upon the rounded, gently-sloping 
highlands, thickly clad with the short, nutritious grass, 



Mountain Sheep. 223 

which curls on the stalk into good hay, and on which the 
cattle feed during winter. We galloped rapidly over the 
hills, our blood gradually warming up from the motion ; 
and soon came to the long wash-out, cutting down like a 
miniature canyon for a space of two or three miles through 
the bottom of a valley, into which the cowboy said he had 
seen the bears go. One of us took one side and one the 
other, and we rode along up wind, but neither the bears 
nor any traces of them could we see ; at last, half a mile 
ahead of us, two dark objects suddenly emerged from the 
wash-out, and came out on the plain. For a second we 
thought they were the quarry ; then we saw that they were 
merely a couple of dark-colored ponies. The cowboy's 
chapfallen face was a study ; he had seen, in the dim light, 
the two ponies going down with their heads held near the 
ground, and had mistaken them for bears (by no means 
the unnatural mistake that it seems ; I have known an ex- 
perienced hunter fire twice at a black calf in the late even- 
ing, thinking it was a bear). He knew only too well the 
merciless chaff to which he would be henceforth exposed ; 
and a foretaste of which he at once received from my com- 
panion. The ponies had strayed from the main herd, and 
the cowboy was sent back to drive them to the home 
corral, while Merrifield and myself continued our hunt. 

We had all day before us, and but twenty miles or so 
to cover before reaching the hut where the buck-board was 
to meet us ; but the course we intended to take was through 
country so rough that no Eastern horse could cross it, and 
even the hardy Western hunting-ponies, who climb like 
goats, would have difficulty in keeping their feet. Our 



224 Mountain Sheep. 

route lay through the heart of the Bad Lands, but of 
course the country was not equally rough in all parts. 
There were tracts of varying size, each covered with a 
.tangled mass of chains and peaks, the buttes in places 
reaching a height that would in the East entitle them to be 
called mountains. Every such tract was riven in all direc- 
tions by deep chasms and narrow ravines, whose sides 
sometimes rolled off in gentle slopes, but far more often 
rose as sheer cliffs, with narrow ledges along their fronts. 
A sparse growth of grass covered certain portions of these 
lands, and on some of the steep hillsides, or in the canyons, 
were scanty groves of coniferous evergreens, so stunted by 
the thin soil and bleak weather that many of them were 
bushes rather than trees. Most of the peaks and ridges, 
and many of the valleys, were entirely bare of vegetation, 
and these had been cut by wind and water into the 
strangest and most fantastic shapes. Indeed it is difficult, 
in looking at such formations, to get rid of the feeling that 
their curiously twisted and contorted forms are due to 
some vast volcanic upheavals or other subterranean forces ; 
yet they are merely caused by the action of the various 
weathering forces of the dry climate on the different strata 
of sandstones, clays, and marls. Isolated columns shoot 
up into the air, bearing on their summits flat rocks like 
tables ; square buttes tower high above surrounding de- 
pressions, which are so cut up by twisting gullies and low 
ridges as to be almost impassable ; shelving masses of sand- 
stone jut out over the sides of the cliffs ; some of the 
ridges, with perfectly perpendicular sides, are so worn 
away that they stand up like gigantic knife blades ; and 



Mountain Sheep. 225 

gulches, wash-outs, and canyons dig out the sides of each 
butte, while between them are thrust out long spurs, with 
sharp ragged tops. All such patches of barren, broken 
ground, where the feed seems too scant to support any 
large animal, are the favorite haunts of the big-horn, 
though it also wanders far into the somewhat gentler and 
more fertile, but still very rugged, domain of the black- 
lail deer. 

Between all such masses of rough country lay wide, 
grassy plateaus or long stretches of bare plain, covered with 
pebbly shingle. We loped across all these open places ; 
and when we came to a reach of broken country would 
leave our horses and hunt through it on foot. Except 
where the wind had blown it off, there was a thin coat 
of snow over every thing, and the icy edges and sides 
of the cliffs gave only slippery and uncertain foothold, 
so as to render the climbing doubly toilsome. Hunting 
the big-horn is at all times the hardest and most difficult 
kind of sport, and is equally trying to both wind and 
muscle ; and for that very reason the bigh-horn ranks 
highest among all the species of game that are killed by 
still-hunting, and its chase constitutes the noblest form 
of sport with the rifle, always excepting, of course, those 
kinds of hunting where the quarry is itself dangerous 
to attack. Climbing kept us warm in spite of the bitter 
weather ; we only wore our fur coats and shaps while on 
horseback, leaving them where we left the horses, and 
doing our still-hunting in buckskin shirts, fur caps, and 
stout shoes. 

Big-horn, more commonly known as mountain sheep, 



226 Mountain Sheet. 

are extremely wary and cautious animals, and are plentiful 
in but few places. This is rather surprising, for they seem 
to be fairly prolific (although not as much so as deer and 
antelope), and comparatively few are killed by the hunters ; 
indeed, much fewer are shot than of any other kind of 
western game in proportion to their numbers. They hold 
out in a place long after the elk and buffalo have been 
exterminated, and for many years after both of these 
have become things of the past the big-horn will still 
exist to afford sport to the man who is a hardy moun- 
taineer and skilful with the rifle. For it is the only kind 
of game on whose haunts cattle do not trespass. Good 
buffalo or elk pasture is sure to be also good pasture 
for steers and cows ; and in summer the herds of the 
ranchman wander far into the prairies of the antelope, 
while in winter their chosen and favorite resorts are 
those of which the black-tail is equally fond. Thus, 
the cattle-men are almost as much foes of these kinds 
of game as are the hunters, but neither cattle nor cow- 
boys penetrate into the sterile and rocky wastes where 
the big-horn is found. And it is too wary game, and the 
labor of following it is too great, for it ever to be much 
persecuted by the skin or market hunters. 

In size the big-horn comes next to buffalo and elk, 
averaging larger than the black-tail deer, while an old ram 
will sometimes be almost as heavy as a small cow elk. In 
his movements he is not light and graceful like the prong- 
horn and other antelopes, his marvellous agility seem- 
ing rather to proceed from sturdy strength and wonderful 
command over iron sinews and muscles. The huge horns 



Mountain Sheep. 227 

are carried proudly erect by the massive neck ; every 
motion of the body is made with perfect poise ; and there 
seems to be no ground so difficult that the big-horn 
cannot cross it. There is probably no animal in the 
world his superior in climbing ; and his only equals are 
the other species of mountain sheep and the ibexes. No 
matter how sheer the cliff, if there are ever so tiny cracks 
or breaks in the surface, the big-horn will bound up or 
down it with wonderful ease and seeming absence of 
effort. The perpendicular bounds it can make are 
truly startling in strong contrast with its distant rela- 
tive the prong-horn which can leap almost any level 
jump but seems unable to clear the smallest height. In 
descending a sheer wall of rock the big-horn holds all four 
feet together and goes down in long jumps, bounding 
off the surface almost like a rubber ball every time he 
strikes it. The way that one will vanish over the rough- 
est and most broken ground is a perpetual surprise to any 
one that has hunted them ; and the ewes are quite as skil- 
ful as the rams, while even the very young lambs seem 
almost as well able to climb, and certainly follow wher- 
ever their elders lead. Time and again one will rush 
over a cliff to what appears certain death, and will gallop 
away from the bottom unharmed. Their perfect self-con- 
fidence seems to be justified, however, for they never 
slip or make a misstep, even on the narrowest ledges 
when covered with ice and snow. And all their marvel- 
lous jumping and climbing is done with an apparent 
ease that renders it the more wonderful. Rapid though 
the movements of one are they are made without any 



Mountain Sheep. 

of the nervous hurry so characteristic of the antelopes 
and smaller deer ; the on-looker is really as much im- 
pressed with the animal's sinewy power and self-command 
as with his agility. His strength and his self-reliance 
seem to fit him above all other kinds of game to battle 
with the elements and with his brute foes ; he does 
not care to have the rough ways of his life made smooth ; 
were his choice free his abode would still be the vast 
and lonely wilderness in which he is found. To him 
the barren wastes of the Bad Lands offer a most at- 
tractive home ; yet to other living creatures they are 
at all times as grimly desolate and forbidding as any 
spot on earth can be ; at all seasons they seem hostile to 
every form of life. In the raging heat of summer the dry 
earth cracks and crumbles, and the sultry, lifeless air 
sways and trembles as if above a furnace. Through the 
high, clear atmosphere, the intense sunlight casts un- 
naturally deep shadows; and where there are no shadows, 
brings out in glaring relief the weird, fantastic shapes 
and bizarre coloring of the buttes. In winter snow and 
ice coat the thin crests and sharp sides of the cliffs, and 
increase their look of savage wildness ; the cold turns the 
ground into ringing iron ; and the icy blasts sweep 
through the clefts and over the ridges with an angry 
fury even more terrible than is the intense, death-like, 
silent heat of midsummer. But the mountain ram is alike 
proudly indifferent to the hottest summer sun and to 
the wildest winter storm. 

The lambs are brought forth late in May or early in 
June. Like the antelope, the dam soon leads her kids to 



Mountain Sheep. 22 9 

join the herd, which may range in size from a dozen to 
four or five times as many individuals, generally approach- 
ing nearer the former number. The ewes, lambs, and 
yearling or two-year-old rams go together. The young 
but full-grown rams keep in small parties of three or four, 
while the old fellows, with monstrous heads, keep by them- 
selves, except when they join the ewes in the rutting sea- 
son. At this time they wage savage war with each other. 
The horns of the old rams are always battered and scarred 
from these butting contests which appearance, by the 
way, has given rise to the ridiculous idea that they were 
in the habit of jumping over precipices and landing on 
their heads. 

Occasionally the big-horn come down into the valleys 
or along the grassy slopes to feed, but this is not often, and 
in such cases every member of the band is always keeping 
the sharpest look-out, and at the slightest alarm they beat 
a retreat to their broken fastnesses. At night-time or 
in the early morning they come down to drink at the 
small pools or springs, but move off the instant they have 
satisfied their thirst. As a rule, they spend their time 
among the rocks and rough ground, and it is in these 
places that they must be hunted. They cover a good 
deal of ground when feeding, for the feed is scanty in 
their haunts, and they walk quite rapidly along the ledges 
or peaks, by preference high up, as they graze or browse. 
When through feeding they always choose as a resting- 
place some point from which they can command a view 
over all the surrounding territory. An old ram is 
peculiarly wary. The crest of a ridge or the top of a 



230 Mountain Sheep. 

peak is a favorite resting-bed ; but even more often they 
choose some ledge, high up, but just below the crest, or 
lie on a shelf of rock that juts out from where a ridge ends, 
and thus enables them to view the country on three sides 
of them. In color they harmonize curiously with the 
grayish or yellowish brown of the ground on which they 
are found, and it is often very difficult to make them out 
when lying motionless on a ledge of rock. Time and 
again they will be mistaken for boulders, and, on the 
other hand, I have more than once stalked up to masses 
of sandstone that I have mistaken for sheep. 

When lying down the big-horn can thus scan every 
thing below it ; and both while feeding and resting it in- 
variably keeps the sharpest possible look-out for all danger 
from beneath, and this trait makes it needful for the hun- 
ter to always keep on the highest ground and try to come 
on it from above. For protection against danger it relies 
on ears, eyes, and nose alike. The slightest sound star- 
tles it and puts it on its guard, while if it sees or smells 
any thing which it deems may bode danger it is off like a 
flash. It is as wary and quick-sighted as the antelope, 
and its senses are as keen as are those of the elk, while it 
is not afflicted by the occasional stupidity nor heedless 
recklessness of these two animals, nor by the intense curi- 
osity of the black-tail, and it has all the white-tail's sound 
common-sense, coupled with a much shyer nature and 
much sharper faculties, so that it is more difficult to kill 
than are any of these creatures. And the climbing is 
rendered all the more tiresome by the traits above spoken 
of, which make it necessary for the hunter to keep above 



Mountain Sheep. 231 

it. The first thing to do is to clamber up to the top of 
a ridge, and after that to keep on the highest crests. 

At all times, and with all game, the still-hunter should 
be quiet, and should observe caution, but when after 
mountain sheep he must be absolutely noiseless and must 
not neglect a single chance. He must be careful not to 
step on a loose stone or to start any crumbling earth ; he 
must always hunt up or across wind, and he must take ad- 
vantage of every crag or boulder to shelter himself from 
the gaze of his watchful quarry. While keeping up as 
high as possible, he should not go on the very summit, as 
that brings him out in too sharp relief against the sky. 
And all the while he will be crossing land where he will 
need to pay good heed to his own footing or else run the 
risk of breaking his neck. 

As far as lay in us, on our first day's hunt we paid 
proper heed to all the rules of hunting-craft ; but without 
success. Up the slippery, ice-covered buttes we clam- 
bered, clinging to the rocks, and slowly working our way 
across the faces of the cliffs, or cautiously creeping along 
the narrow ledges, peering over every crest long and care- 
fully, and from the peaks scanning the ground all about 
with the field-glasses. But we saw no sheep, and but 
little sign of them. Still we did see some sign, and lost a 
shot, either through bad luck or bad management. This 
was while going through a cluster of broken buttes, whose 
peaks rose up like sharp cones. On reaching the top of 
one at the leeward end, we worked cautiously up the side, 
seeing nothing, to the other end, and then down along 
the middle. When about half-way back we came across 



232 Mountain Sheep. 

the fresh footprints of a ewe or yearling ram in a little 
patch of snow. On tracing them back we found that it 
had been lying down on the other side of a small bluff, 
within a hundred yards of where we had passed, and must 
have either got our wind, or else have heard us make 
some noise. At any rate it had gone off, and though we 
followed its tracks a little in the snow, they soon got on 
the bare, frozen ground and we lost them. 

After that we saw nothing. The cold, as the day wore 
on, seemed gradually to chill us through and through ; 
our hands and feet became numb, and our ears tingled 
under our fur caps. We hunted carefully through two or 
three masses of jagged buttes which seemed most likely 
places for the game we were after, taking a couple of 
hours to each place ; and then, as the afternoon was 
beginning to wane, mounted our shivering horses for 
good, and pushed toward the bend of the river where we 
were to meet the buck-board. Our course lay across a 
succession of bleak, wind-swept plateaus, broken by deep 
and narrow pine-clad gorges. We galloped swiftly over 
the plateaus, where the footing was good and the going 
easy, for the gales had driven the feathery snow off the 
withered brown grass ; but getting on and off these table- 
lands was often a real labor, their sides were so sheer. 
The horses plunged and scrambled after us as we led 
them up ; while in descending they would sit back on their 
haunches and half-walk, half-slide, down the steep inclines. 
Indeed, one or two of the latter were so very straight that 
the horses would not face them, and we had to turn them 
round and back them over the edge, and then all go 



Mountain Sheep. 2 33 

down with a rush. At any rate it warmed our blood 
to keep out of the way of the hoofs. On one of the 
plateaus I got a very long shot at a black-tail, which I 
missed. 

Finally we struck the head of a long, winding valley 
with a smooth bottom, and after cantering down it four or 
five miles, came to the river, just after the cold, pale-red 
sun had sunk behind the line of hills ahead of us. Our 
horses were sharp shod, and crossed the ice without diffi- 
culty; and in a grove of leafless cotton-woods, on the 
opposite side, we found the hut for which we had been 
making, the cowboy already inside with the fire started. 
Throughout the night the temperature sank lower and 
lower, and it was impossible to keep the crazy old hut any- 
where near freezing-point ; the wind whistled through the 
chinks and crannies of the logs, and, after a short and by 
no means elaborate supper, we were glad to cower down 
with our great fur coats still on, under the pile of buffalo 
robes and bear skins. My sleeping-bag came in very 
handily, and kept me as warm as possible, in spite of the 
bitter frost. 

We were up and had taken breakfast next morning by 
the time the first streak of dawn had dimmed the brilliancy 
of the stars, and immediately afterwards strode off on 
foot, as we had been hampered by the horses on the day 
before. We walked briskly across the plain until, by the 
time it was light enough to see to shoot, we came to the 
foot of a great hill, known as Middle Butte, a huge, 
isolated mass of rock, several miles in length, and with 
high sides, very steep towards the nearly level summit ; it 



234 Mountain Sheep. 

would be deemed a mountain of no inconsiderable size in 
the East. We hunted carefully through the outlying foot- 
hills and projecting spurs around its base, without result, 
finding but a few tracks, and those very old ones, and 
then toiled up to the top, which, though narrow in parts, 
in others widened out into plateaus half a mile square. 
Having made a complete circuit of the top, peering over 
the edge and closely examining the flanks of the butte 
with the field-glass, without having seen any thing, we 
slid down the other side and took off through a streak of 
very rugged but low country. This day, though the 
weather had grown even colder, we did not feel it, for we 
walked all the while with a quick pace, and the climbing 
was very hard work. The shoulders and ledges of the 
cliffs had become round and slippery with the ice, and it 
was no easy task to move up and along them, clutching 
the gun in one hand, and grasping each little projection 
with the other. Climbing through the Bad Lands is just 
like any other kind of mountaineering, except that the 
precipices and chasms are much lower ; but this really 
makes very little difference when the ground is frozen as 
solid as iron, for it would be almost as unpleasant to fall 
fifty feet as to fall two hundred, and the result to the 
person who tried it would be very much the same in each 
case. 

Hunting for a day or two without finding game where 
the work is severe and toilsome, is a good test of the 
sportsman's staying qualities ; the man who at the end of 
the time is proceeding with as much caution and deter- 
mination as at the beginning, has got the right stuff in 



Mountain Sheep. 235 

him. On this day I got rather tired, and committed one of 
the blunders of which no hunter ought ever to be guilty ; 
that is, I fired at small game while on ground where 
I might expect large. We had seen two or three jack- 
rabbits scudding off like noiseless white shadows, and 
finally came upon some sharp-tail prairie fowl in a hollow. 
One was quite near me, perched on a bush, and with its 
neck stretched up offered a beautiful mark ; I could not 
resist it, so knelt and fired. At the report of the rifle (it 
was a miss, by the by) a head suddenly appeared over a 
ridge some six hundred yards in front too far off for us to 
make out what kind of animal it belonged to, looked 
fixedly at us, and then disappeared. We feared it might 
be a mountain sheep, and that my unlucky shot had de- 
prived us of the chance of a try at it ; but on hurrying 
up to the place where it had been we were relieved to find 
that the tracks were only those of a black-tail. After this 
lesson we proceeded in silence, making a long circle 
through the roughest kind of country. When on the way 
back to camp, where the buttes rose highest and steepest, 
we came upon fresh tracks, but as it was then late in the 
afternoon, did not try to follow them that day. When 
near the hut I killed a sharp-tail for supper, making rather 
a neat shot, the bird being eighty yards off. The night 
was even colder than the preceding one, and all signs told 
us that we would soon have a change for the worse in the 
weather, which made me doubly anxious to get a sheep 
before the storm struck us. We determined that next 
morning we would take the horses and make a quick push 
for the chain of high buttes where we had seen the fresh 
tracks, and hunt them through with thorough care. 



236 Mountain Sheep. 

We started in the cold gray of the next morning and 
pricked rapidly off over the frozen plain, columns of white 
steam rising from the nostrils of the galloping horses. 
When we reached the foot of the hills where we intended 
to hunt, and had tethered the horses, the sun had already 
risen, but it was evident that the clear weather of a fort- 
night past was over. The air was thick and hazy, and 
away off in the northwest a towering mass of grayish 
white clouds looked like a weather-breeder ; every thing 
boded a storm at no distant date. The country over 
which we now hunted was wilder and more mountainous 
than any we had yet struck. High, sharp peaks and 
ridges broke off abruptly into narrow gorges and deep 
ravines ; they were bare of all but the scantiest vegeta- 
tion, save on some of the sheltered sides where grew 
groves of dark pines, now laden down with feathery 
snow. The climbing was as hard as ever. At first we 
went straight up the side of the tallest peak, and then 
along the knife-like ridge which joined it with the next. 
The ice made the footing very slippery as we stepped 
along the ledges or crawled round the jutting shoulders, 
and we had to look carefully for our footholds ; while in 
the cold, thin air every quick burst we made up a steep 
hill caused us to pant for breath. We had gone but a 
little way before we saw fresh signs of the animals we 
were after, but it was some time before we came upon the 
quarry itself. 

We left the high ground and descending into a narrow 
chasm walked along its bottom, which was but a couple of 
feet wide, while the sides rose up from it at an acute 



Mountain Sheep. 2 37 

angle. After following this for a few hundred yards, we 
turned a sharp corner, and shortly afterward our eyes 
were caught by some grains of fresh earth lying on the 
snow in front of our feet. On the sides, some feet above 
our heads, were marks in the snow which a moment's 
glance showed us had been made by a couple of mountain 
sheep that had come down one side of the gorge and had 
leaped across to the other, their sharp toes going through 
the thin snow and displacing the earth that had fallen to the 
bottom. The tracks had evidently been made just before 
we rounded the corner, and as we had been advancing 
noiselessly on the snow with the wind in our favor, we 
knew that the animals could have no suspicion of our 
presence. They had gone up the cliff on our right, but as 
that on our left was much lower, and running for some 
distance parallel to the other, we concluded that by running 
along its top we would be most certain to get a good shot. 
Clambering instantly up the steep side, digging my hands 
and feet into the loose snow, and grasping at every little 
rock or frozen projection, I reached the top ; and then ran 
forward along the ridge a few paces, crouching behind the 
masses of queerly-shaped sandstone ; and saw, about 
ninety yards off across the ravine, a couple of mountain 
rams. The one with the largest horns was broadside 
toward me, his sturdy, massive form outlined clearly 
against the sky, as he stood on the crest of the ridge. I 
dropped on my knee, raising the rifle as I did so ; for a 
second he did not quite make me out, turning his head 
half round to look. I held the sight fairly on the point 
just behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger. At the 



238 Mountain Sheep. 

report he staggered and pitched forward, but recovered 
himself and crossed over the ridge out of sight. We 
jumped and slid down into the ravine again, and clam- 
bered up the opposite side as fast as our lungs and the 
slippery ice would let us ; then taking the trail of the 
wounded ram we trotted along it. We had not far to 
go ; for, as I expected, we found him lying on his side a 
couple of hundred yards beyond the ridge, his eyes already 
glazed in death. The bullet had gone in behind the 
shoulder and ranged clean through his body crosswise, 
going a little forward ; no animal less tough than a moun- 
tain ram could have gone any distance at all with such a 
wound. He had most obligingly run round to a part of 
the hill where we could bring up one of the horses with- 
out very much difficulty. Accordingly I brought up old 
Manitou, who can carry any thing and has no fear, and the 
big-horn was soon strapped across his back. It was a fine 
ram, with perfectly-shaped but not very large horns. 

The other ram, two years old, with small horns, had 
bounded over the ridge before I could get a shot at him ; 
we followed his trail for half a mile, but as he showed 
no signs of halting, and we were anxious to get home, 
we then gave up the pursuit. 

It was still early in the day, and we made up our 
minds to push back for the home ranch, as we did not 
wish to be caught out in a long storm. The lowering 
sky was already overcast by a mass of leaden-gray clouds ; 
and it was evident that we had no time to lose. In 
a little over an hour we were back at the log camp, 
where the ram was shifted from Manitou's back to the 



Mountain Sheep. 2 39 

buck-board. A very few minutes sufficed to pack up 
our bedding and provisions, and we started home. 
Merrifield and I rode on ahead, not sparing the horses ; 
but before we got home the storm had burst, and a 
furious blizzard blew in our teeth as we galloped along 
the last mile of the river bottom, before coming to the 
home ranch house ; and as we warmed our stiffened 
limbs before the log fire, I congratulated myself upon 
the successful outcome of what I knew would be the 
last hunting trip I should take during that season. 

The death of this ram was accomplished without 
calling for any very good shooting on our part. He 
was standing still, less than a hundred yards off, when 
the shot was fired; and we came across him so close 
merely by accident. Still, we fairly deserved our luck, 
for we had hunted with the most patient and pains- 
taking care from dawn till nightfall for the better part 
of three days, spending most of the time in climbing 
at a smart rate of speed up sheer cliffs and over rough 
and slippery ground. Still-hunting the big-horn is always 
a toilsome and laborious task, and the very bitter 
weather during which we had been out had not lessened 
the difficulty of the work, though in the cold it was 
much less exhausting than it would have been to have 
hunted across the same ground in summer. No other 
kind of hunting does as much to bring out the good 
qualities, both moral and physical, of the sportsmen 
who follow it. If a man keeps at it, it is bound to make 
him both hardy and resolute ; to strengthen his muscles 
and fill out his lungs. 



240 



Mountain Sheep. 



Mountain mutton is in the fall the most delicious 
eating furnished by any game animal. Nothing else 
compares with it for juiciness, tenderness, and flavor ; 
but at all other times of the year it is tough, stringy, 
and worthless. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

THE LORDLY BUFFALO. 




ONE forever are the mighty herds 
of the lordly buffalo. A few 
solitary individuals and small 
bands are still to be found scat- 
tered here and there in the 
wilder parts of the plains ; and 
though most of these will be 
very soon destroyed, others will 
for some years fight off their doom and 
lead a precarious existence either in remote and almost 
desert portions of the country near the Mexican frontier, 
or else in the wildest and most inaccessible fastnesses of 
the Rocky Mountains ; but the great herds, that for the 
first three quarters of this century formed the distinguish- 
ing and characteristic feature of the Western plains, have 
vanished forever. 

It is only about a hundred years ago that the white man, 

in his march westward, first encroached upon the lands of 

241 



242 The Lordly Buffalo. 

the buffalo, for these animals had never penetrated in any 
number to the Appalachian chain of mountains. Indeed, 
it was after the beginning of the century before the inroads 
of the whites upon them grew at all serious. Then, though 
constantly driven westward, the diminution in their terri- 
tory, if sure, was at least slow, although growing progres- 
sively more rapid. Less than a score of years ago the 
great herds, containing many millions of individuals, 
ranged over a vast expanse of country that stretched in 
an unbroken line from near Mexico to far into British 
America ; in fact, over almost all the plains that are now 
known as the cattle region. But since that time their 
destruction has gone on with appalling rapidity and 
thoroughness ; and the main factors in bringing it about 
have been the railroads, which carried hordes of hunters 
into the land and gave them means to transport their 
spoils to market. Not quite twenty years since, the range 
was broken in two, and the buffalo herds in the middle 
slaughtered or thrust aside ; and thus there resulted two 
ranges, the northern and the southern. The latter was 
the larger, but being more open to the hunters, was the 
sooner to be depopulated ; and the last of the great 
southern herds was destroyed in 1878, though scattered 
bands escaped and wandered into the desolate wastes to 
the southwest. Meanwhile equally savage war was waged 
on the northern herds, and five years later the last of 
these was also destroyed or broken up. The bulk of this 
slaughter was done in the dozen years from 1872 to 1883 I 
never before in all history were so many large wild animals 
of one species slain in so short a space of time. 



The Lordly Buffalo. 2 43 

The extermination of the buffalo has been a veritable 
tragedy of the animal world. Other races of animals have 
been destroyed within historic times, but these have been 
species of small size, local distribution, and limited num- 
bers, usually found in some particular island or group of 
islands ; while the huge buffalo, in countless myriads, 
ranged over the greater part of a continent. Its nearest 
relative, the Old World aurochs, formerly found all through 
the forests of Europe, is almost as near the verge of 
extinction, but with the latter the process has been slow, 
and has extended over a period of a thousand years, 
instead of being compressed into a dozen. The destruc- 
tion of the various larger species of South African game is 
much more local, and is proceeding at a much slower rate. 
It may truthfully be said that the sudden and complete 
extermination of the vast herds of the buffalo is without a 
parallel in historic times. 

No sight is more common on the plains than that of a 
bleached buffalo skull ; and their countless numbers attest 
the abundance of the animal at a time not so very long 
past. On those portions where the herds made their last 
stand, the carcasses, dried in the clear, high air, or the 
mouldering skeletons, abound. Last year, in crossing the 
country around the heads of the Big Sandy, O'Fallon 
Creek, Little Beaver, and Box Alder, these skeletons or 
dried carcasses were in sight from every hillock, often 
lying over the ground so thickly that several score could 
be seen at once. A ranchman who at the same time had 
made a journey of a thousand miles across Northern 
Montana, along the Milk River, told me that, to use his 



244 The Lordly Buffalo. 

own expression, during the whole distance he was never 
out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live 
one. 

Thus, though gone, the traces of the buffalo are still 
thick over the land. Their dried dung is found every- 
where, and is in many places the only fuel afforded by the 
plains ; their skulls, which last longer than any other part 
of the animal, are among the most familiar of objects to the 
plainsman ; their bones are in many districts so plentiful 
that it has become a regular industry, followed by hundreds 
of men (christened " bone hunters " by the frontiersmen), 
to go out with wagons and collect them in great numbers 
for the sake of the phosphates they yield ; and Bad Lands, 
plateaus, and prairies alike, are cut up in all directions 
by the deep ruts which were formerly buffalo trails. 

These buffalo trails were made by the herds travelling 
strung out in single file, and invariably taking the same 
route each time they passed over the same piece of ground. 
As a consequence, many of the ruts are worn so deeply 
into the ground that a horseman riding along one strikes 
his stirrups on the earth. In moving through very broken 
country they are often good guides ; for though buffalo 
can go easily over the roughest places, they prefer to travel 
where it is smooth, and have a remarkable knack at 
finding out the best passage down a steep ravine, over 
a broken cliff, or along a divide. In a pass, or, as it is 
called in the West, " draw," between two feeding grounds, 
through which the buffalo were fond of going, fifteen or 
twenty deep trails may be seen ; and often, where the great 
beasts have travelled in parallel files, two ruts will run side 



The Lordly Buffalo. 245 

by side over the prairie for a mile's length. These old 
trails are frequently used by the cattle herds at the present 
time, or are even turned into pony paths by the ranch- 
men. For many long years after the buffalo die put from 
a place, their white skulls and well-worn roads remain as 
melancholy monuments of their former existence. 

The rapid and complete extermination of the buffalo 
affords an excellent instance of how a race, that has thriven 
and multiplied for ages under conditions of life to which it 
has slowly fitted itself by a process of natural selection 
continued for countless generations, may succumb at once 
when these surrounding conditions are varied by the intro- 
duction of one or more new elements, immediately becoming 
the chief forces with which it has to contend in the struggle 
for life. The most striking characteristics of the buffalo, 
and those which had been found most useful in maintain- 
ing the species until the white man entered upon the 
scene, were its phenomenal gregariousness surpassed by 
no other four-footed beast, and only equalled, if equalled 
at all, by one or two kinds of South African antelope, its 
massive bulk, and unwieldy strength. The fact that it 
was a plains and not a forest or mountain animal was at 
that time also greatly in its favor. Its toughness and 
hardy endurance fitted it to contend with purely natural 
forces : to resist cold and the winter blasts, or the heat of 
a thirsty summer, to wander away to new pastures when 
the feed on the old was exhausted, to plunge over broken 
ground, and to plough its way through snow-drifts or quag- 
mires. But one beast of prey existed sufficiently powerful to 
conquer it when full grown and in health ; and this, the 



246 Tlie Lordly Biiffalo. 

grizzly bear, could only be considered an occasional foe. 
The Indians were its most dangerous enemies, but they 
were without horses, and their weapons, bows and arrows, 
were only available at close range ; so that a slight degree 
of speed enabled buffalo to get out of the way of their 
human foes when discovered, and on the open plains a 
moderate development of the senses was sufficient to warn 
them of the approach of the latter before they had come 
up to the very close distance required for their primitive 
weapons to take effect. Thus the strength, size, and gre- 
garious habits of the brute were sufficient for a protection 
against most foes ; and a slight degree of speed and 
moderate development of the senses served as adequate 
guards against the grizzlies and bow-bearing foot Indians. 
Concealment and the habit of seeking lonely and remote 
places for a dwelling would have been of no service. 

But the introduction of the horse, and shortly after- 
wards the incoming of white hunters carrying long-range 
rifles, changed all this. The buffaloes' gregarious habits 
simply rendered them certain to be seen, and made it a 
matter of perfect ease to follow them up ; their keeping to 
the open plains heightened their conspicuousness, while 
their senses were too dull to discover their foes at such a 
distance as to nullify the effects of the long rifles ; their 
speed was not such as to enable them to flee from a horse- 
man ; and their size and strength merely made them too 
clumsy either to escape from or to contend with their foes. 
Add to this the fact that their hides and flesh were 
valuable, and it is small wonder that under the new order 
of things they should have vanished with such rapidity. 



The Lordly Buffalo. 247 

The incoming of the cattle-men was another cause of 
the completeness of their destruction. Wherever there is 
good feed for a buffalo, there is good feed for a steer or 
cow ; and so the latter have penetrated into all the pas- 
tures of the former ; and of course the cowboys follow. 
A cowboy is not able to kill a deer or antelope unless in 
exceptional cases, for they are too fleet, too shy, or keep 
themselves too well hidden. But a buffalo neither tries 
nor is able to do much in the way of hiding itself ; its 
senses are too dull to give it warning in time ; and it is 
not so swift as a horse, so that a cowboy, riding round in 
the places where cattle, and therefore buffalo, are likely to 
be, is pretty sure to see any of the latter that may be 
about, and then can easily approach near enough to be 
able to overtake them when they begin running. The 
size and value of the animal makes the chase after it very 
keen. Hunters will follow the trail of a band for days, 
when they would not follow that of deer or antelope for a 
half hour. 

Events have developed a race of this species, known 
either as the wood or mountain buffalo, which is acquiring, 
and has already largely acquired, habits widely different 
from those of the others of its kind. It is found in the 
wooded and most precipitous portions of the mountains, 
instead of on the level and open plains ; it goes singly or 
in small parties, instead of in huge herds ; and it is more 
agile and infinitely more wary than is its prairie cousin. 
The formation of this race is due solely to the extremely 
severe process of natural selection that has been going on 
among the buffalo herds for the last sixty or seventy years ; 



248 The Lordly Buffalo. 

the vast majority of the individuals were utterly unable 
to accommcdate themselves to the sudden and complete 
change in the surrounding forces with which they had to 
cope, and therefore died out ; while a very few of the 
more active and wary, and of those most given to wander- 
ing off into mountainous and out-of-the-way places, in each 
generation survived, and among these the wariness con- 
tinually increased, partly by personal experience, and still 
more by inheriting an increasingly suspicious nature from 
their ancestors. The sense of smell always was excellent 
in the buffalo ; the sense of hearing becomes much quicker 
in any woods animal than it is in one found on the plains ; 
while in beasts of the forest the eyesight does not have to 
be as keen as is necessary for their protection in open 
country. On the mountains the hair grows longer and 
denser, and the form rather more thickset. As a result, a 
new race has been built up ; and we have an animal far 
better fitted to " harmonize with the environment," to use 
the scientific cant of the day. Unfortunately this race 
has developed too late. With the settlement of the coun- 
try it will also disappear, unless very stringent laws are 
made for its protection ; but at least its existence will for 
some years prevent the total extermination of the species 
as a whole. It must be kept in mind that even this shyer 
kind of buffalo has not got the keen senses of other large 
game, such as moose ; and it is more easily followed and 
much more keenly and eagerly sought after than would be 
any other animal smaller and less valuable to the hunter 
than itself. 

While the slaughter of the buffalo has been in places 



The Lordly Buffalo. 249 

needless and brutal, and while it is to be greatly re- 
gretted that the species is likely to become extinct, and 
while, moreover, from a purely selfish standpoint many, 
including myself, would rather see it continue to exist 
as the chief feature in the unchanged life of the Western 
wilderness ; yet, on the other hand, it must be remem- 
bered that its continued existence in any numbers was 
absolutely incompatible with any thing but a very sparse 
settlement of the country ; and that its destruction was the 
condition precedent upon the advance of white civiliza- 
tion in the West, and was a positive boon to the more 
thrifty and industrious frontiersmen. Where the buffalo 
were plenty, they ate up all the grass that could have 
supported cattle. The country over which the huge 
herds grazed during the last year or two of their ex- 
istence was cropped bare, and the grass did not grow 
to its normal height and become able to support cattle 
for, in some cases two, in others three, seasons. Every 
buffalo needed as much food as an ox or cow ; and if 
the former abounded, the latter perforce would have to 
be scarce. Above all, the extermination of the buffalo 
was the only way of solving the Indian question. As 
long as this large animal of the chase existed, the Indians 
simply could not be kept on reservations, and always had 
an ample supply of meat on hand to support them in the 
event of a war ; and its disappearance was the only method 
of forcing them to at least partially abandon their savage 
mode of life. From the standpoint of humanity at large, 
the extermination of the buffalo has been a blessing. 
The many have been benefited by it ; and I suppose 



250 The Lordly Buffalo. 

the comparatively few of us who would have preferred 
the continuance of the old order of things, merely for 
the sake of our own selfish enjoyment, have no right 
to complain. 

The buffalo is easier killed than is any other kind of 
plains game ; but its chase is very far from being the 
tame amusement it has been lately represented. It is 
genuine sport ; it needs skill, marksmanship, and hardi- 
hood in the man who follows it, and if he hunts on horse- 
back, it needs also pluck and good riding. It is in no 
way akin to various forms of so-called sport in vogue 
in parts of the East, such as killing deer in a lake or 
by fire hunting, or even by watching at a runaway. No 
man who is not of an adventurous temper, and able to 
stand rough food and living, will penetrate to the haunts 
of the buffalo. The animal is so tough and tenacious 
of life that it must be hit in the right spot ; and care 
must be used in approaching it, for its nose is very keen, 
and though its sight is dull, yet, on the other hand, the 
plains it frequents are singularly bare of cover; while, 
finally, there is just a faint spice of danger in the pursuit, 
for the bison, though the least dangerous of all bovine 
animals, will, on occasions, turn upon the hunter, and 
though its attack is, as a rule, easily avoided, yet in rare 
cases it manages to charge home. A ranchman of my 
acquaintance once, many years ago, went out buffalo 
hunting on horseback, together with a friend who was 
unused to the sport, and who was mounted on a large, un- 
trained, nervous horse. While chasing a bull, the friend's 
horse became unmanageable, and when the bull turned, 



The Lordly Buffalo. 2 5i 

proved too clumsy to get out of the way, and was 
caught on the horns, one of which entered its flank, 
while the other inflicted a huge, bruised gash across 
the man's thigh, tearing the muscles all out. Both 
horse and rider were flung to the ground with tremen- 
dous violence. The horse had to be killed, and the man 
died in a few hours from the shock, loss of blood, and 
internal injuries. Such an accident, however, is very 
exceptional. 

My brother was in at the death of the great southern 
herds in 1877, and had a good deal of experience in buffalo 
hunting ; and once or twice was charged by old bulls, but 
never had any difficulty in either evading the charge or else 
killing the brute as it came on. My cousin, John Roose- 
velt, also had one adventure with a buffalo, in which he 
received rather a fright. He had been out on foot with 
a dog and had severely wounded a buffalo bull, which 
nevertheless, with the wonderful tenacity of life and 
ability to go over apparently inaccessible places that 
this species shows, managed to clamber up a steep, 
almost perpendicular, cliff. My cousin climbed up after 
it, with some difficulty ; on reaching the top he got 
his elbows over and drew himself up on them only to 
find the buffalo fronting him with lowered head not a 
dozen feet off. Immediately upon seeing him it cocked 
up its tail and came forward. He was clinging with 
both hands to the edge and could not use his rifle; so, 
not relishing what was literally a tete-a-tete, he promptly 
let go and slid or rather rolled head over heels to the foot 
of the cliff, not hurting himself much in the sand, though 



252 The Lordly Buffalo. 

of course a good deal jarred by the fall. The buffalo 
came on till its hoofs crumbled the earth at the brink, 
when the dog luckily got up and distracted its attention ; 
meanwhile, my cousin, having bounced down to the bottom, 
picked himself up, shook himself, and finding that nothing 
was broken, promptly scrambled up the bluff at another 
place a few yards off and shot his antagonist. 

When my cattle first came on the Little Missouri three 
of my men took a small bunch of them some fifty miles to 
the south and there wintered with them, on what were 
then the outskirts of the buffalo range, the herds having 
been pressed up northwards. In the intervals of tending 
the cattle work which was then entirely new to them 
they occupied themselves in hunting buffalo, killing during 
the winter sixty or seventy, some of them on horseback, 
but mostly by still-hunting them on foot. Once or twice 
the bulls when wounded turned to bay ; and a couple of 
them on one occasion charged one of the men and forced 
him to take refuge upon a steep isolated butte. At 
another time the three of them wounded a cow so badly 
that she broke down and would run no farther, turning to 
bay in a small clump of thick trees. As this would have 
been a very bad place in which to skin the body, they 
wished to get her out and tried to tease her into charging ; 
but she seemed too weak to make the effort. Emboldened 
by her apathy one of the men came up close to her behind, 
while another was standing facing her; and the former 
finally entered the grove of trees and poked her with a 
long stick. This waked her up most effectually, and 
instead of turning on her assailant she went headlong at 



The Lordly Buffalo. 2 53 

the man in front. He leaped to one side just in time, one 
of her horns grazing him, ripping away his clothes and 
knocking him over ; as he lay she tried to jump on him 
with her forefeet, but he rolled to one side, and as she 
went past she kicked at him like a vicious mule. The 
effort exhausted her, however, and she fell before going a 
dozen yards farther. The man who was charged had 
rather a close shave ; thanks to the rashness and contempt 
of the game's prowess which they all felt for all three are 
very quiet men and not afraid of any thing. It is always a 
good rule to be cautious in dealing with an apparently 
dead or dying buffalo. About the time the above inci- 
dent occurred a party of hunters near my ranch killed a 
buffalo, as they thought, and tied a pony to its foreleg, to 
turn it over, as its position was a very bad one for skinning. 
Barely had the pony been tied when the buffalo came to 
with a jump, killed the unfortunate pony, and needed a 
dozen more balls before he fell for good. 

At that time the buffalo would occasionally be scat- 
tered among the cattle, but, as a rule, avoided the latter 
and seemed to be afraid of them ; while the cattle, on the 
contrary, had no apparent dread of the buffalo, unless it 
happened that on some occasion they got caught by a 
herd of the latter that had stampeded. A settler or small 
ranchman, not far from my place, was driving in a team of 
oxen in a wagon one day three years since, when, in cross- 
ing a valley, he encountered a little herd of stampeded 
buffalo, who, in their blind and heedless terror, ran into 
him and knocked over the wagon and oxen. The oxen 
never got over the fright the rough handling caused them, 



254 The Lordly B^lff : alo. 

and ever afterward became unmanageable and tore off at 
sight or smell of a buffalo. It is said that the few buffalo 
left in the country through which the head waters of the 
Belle Fourche flow, have practically joined themselves to 
the great herds of cattle now found all over that region. 

Buffalo are very easily tamed. On a neighboring 
ranch there are four which were taken when very young 
calves. They wander about with the cattle, and are quite 
as familiar as any of them, and do not stray any farther 
away. One of them was captured when a yearling, by the 
help of a large yellow hound. The cowboy had been 
chasing it some time and, finally, fearing it might escape, 
hied on the hound, which dashed in, caught the buffalo by 
the ear, and finally brought it down to its knees, when 
the cowboy, by means of his lariat secured it, and, with the 
help of a companion, managed to get it back to the ranch. 
Buffalo can be trained to draw a wagon, and are valuable 
for their great strength ; but they are very headstrong and 
stupid. If thirsty, for instance, and they smell or see 
water, it is absolutely impossible to prevent their going to 
it, no matter if it is in such a place that they have to 
upset the wagon to get down to it, nor how deep the mud 
is. When tamed they do not seem to be as ferocious as 
ordinary cattle that are allowed to go free ; but they are 
such strong, blundering brutes that very few fences will 
hold them. 

My men, in hunting buffalo, which was with them an 
occasional occupation and not a regular pursuit, used light 
Winchesters ; but the professional buffalo hunters carried 
either 40-90 or 45-120 Sharps, than which there are in the 



The Lordly Biijfalo. 2 55 

world no rifles more accurate or powerful ; with the larger- 
calibred ones (45 or 50) a man could easily kill an ele- 
phant. These weapons are excellent for very long range 
work, being good for half a mile and over ; and sometimes 
the hunters were able to kill very many buffalo at a time, 
owing to their curious liability to fits of stupid, panic 
terror. Sometimes when these panics seize them they 
stampede and run off in headlong, heedless flight, going 
over any thing in their way. Once, in mid-winter, one of 
my men was lying out in the open, under a heavy roll of 
furs, the wagon sheet over all. During the night a small 
herd of stampeded buffalo passed by, and one of them 
jumped on the bed, almost trampling on the sleeper, and 
then bounded off, as the latter rose with a yell. The 
others of the herd passed almost within arm's length on 
each side. 

Occasionally these panic fits have the opposite effect 
and make them run together and stand still in a stupid, 
frightened manner. This is now and then the result when 
a hunter fires at a herd while keeping himself concealed ; 
and on rare occasions (for buffalo act very differently at 
different times, according to their moods) it occurs even 
when he is in full sight. When they are made to act 
thus it is called in hunters' parlance getting a " stand " on 
them ; and often thirty or forty have been killed in one 
such stand, the hunter hardly shifting his position the 
whole time. Often, with their long-range heavy rifles, 
the hunters would fire a number of shots into a herd half a 
mile off, and on approaching would find that they had 
bagged several for the Sharps rifle has a very long 



256 The Lordly Buffalo. 

range, and the narrow, heavy conical bullets will penetrate 
almost any thing. Once while coming in over the plains 
with an ox wagon two of my cowboys surprised a band of 
buffaloes, which on being fired at ran clear round them 
and then made a stand in nearly their former position ; and 
there they stood until the men had fired away most of 
their ammunition, but only half a dozen or so were 
killed, the Winchesters being too light for such a distance. 
Hunting on foot is much the most destructive way of 
pursuing buffaloes ; but it lacks the excitement of chasing 
them with horses. 

When in Texas my brother had several chances to 
hunt them on horseback, while making a trip as guest of a 
captain of United States cavalry. The country through 
which they hunted was rolling and well watered, the buf- 
falo being scattered over it in bands of no great size. 
While riding out to look for the game they were mounted 
on large horses ; when a band was spied they would dis- 
mount and get on the smaller buffalo ponies which the 
orderlies had been leading behind them. Then they 
would carefully approach from the leeward side, if possible 
keeping behind some hill or divide. When this was no 
longer possible they trotted gently towards the game, 
which usually gathered together and stood for a moment 
looking at them. The instant the buffalo turned, the 
spurs were put in and the ponies raced forward for all 
there was in them, it being an important point to close as 
soon as possible, as buffalo, though not swift, are very 
enduring. Usually a half a mile took the hunters up to 
the game, when each singled out his animal, rode along- 



The Lordly Buffalo. 2 57 

side on its left flank, so close as almost to be able to touch 
it with the hand, and fired the heavy revolver into the 
loins or small of the back, the bullet ranging forward. At 
the instant of firing, the trained pony swerved off to the 
left, almost at right angles to its former course, so as to 
avoid the lunging charge sometimes made by the wounded 
brute. If the animal kept on, the hunter, having made a 
half circle, again closed up and repeated the shot ; very 
soon the buffalo came to a halt, then its head dropped, it 
straddled widely with its forelegs, swayed to and fro, and 
pitched heavily forward on its side. The secret of success 
in this sort of hunting is to go right up by the side of the 
buffalo ; if a man stays off at a distance of fifteen or 
twenty feet he may fire a score of shots and not kill or 
cripple his game. 

While hunting this, the largest of American animals, 
on horseback is doubtless the most exciting way in which 
its chase can be carried on, we must beware of crying 
down its pursuit on foot. To be sure, in the latter case, 
the actual stalking and shooting the buffalo does not need 
on the part of the hunter as much skill and as good 
marksmanship as is the case in hunting most other kinds 
of large game, and is but a trifle more risky ; yet, on the 
other hand, the fatigue of following the game is much 
greater, and the country is usually so wild as to call for 
some hardihood and ability to stand rough work on the 
part of the man who penetrates it. 

One September I determined to take a short trip 
after bison. At that time I was staying in a cow-camp 
a good many miles up the river from my ranch ; there 



The Lordly Buffalo. 

were then no cattle south of me, where there are now 
very many thousand head, and the buffalo had been 
plentiful in the country for a couple of winters past, but 
the last of the herds had been destroyed or driven out six 
months before, and there were only a few stragglers left. 
It was one of my first hunting trips ; previously I had 
shot with the rifle very little, and that only at deer or 
antelope. I took as a companion one of my best men, 
named Ferris (a brother of the Ferris already mentioned) ; 
we rode a couple of ponies, not very good ones, and each 
carried his roll of blankets and a very small store of food 
in a pack behind the saddle. 

Leaving the cow-camp early in the morning, we 
crossed the Little Missouri and for the first ten miles 
threaded our way through the narrow defiles and along the 
tortuous divides of a great tract of Bad Lands. Although it 
was fall and the nights were cool the sun was very hot in 
the middle of the day, and we jogged along at a slow 
pace, so as not to tire our ponies. Two or three black- 
tail deer were seen, some distance off, and when we were 
a couple of hours on our journey, we came across the 
fresh track of a bull buffalo. Buffalo wander a great dis- 
tance, for, though they do not go fast, yet they may keep 
travelling, as they graze, all day long ; and though this one 
had evidently passed but a few hours before, we were not 
sure we would see him. His tracks were easily followed 
as long as he had kept to the soft creek bottom, crossing 
and recrossing the narrow wet ditch which wound its way 
through it ; but when he left this and turned up a wind- 
ing coulie that branched out in every direction, his hoofs 



The Lordly Buffalo. 2 59 

scarcely made any marks in the hard ground. We rode up 
the ravine, carefully examining the soil for nearly half an 
hour, however ; finally, as we passed the mouth of a little 
side coulie, there was a plunge and crackle through the 
bushes at its head, and a shabby-looking old bull bison 
galloped out of it and, without an instant's hesitation, 
plunged over a steep bank into a patch of rotten, broken 
ground which led around the base of a high butte. So 
quickly did he disappear that we had not time to dis- 
mount and fire. Spurring our horses we galloped up to 
the brink of the cliff down which he had plunged ; it was 
remarkable that he should have gone down it unhurt. 
From where we stood we could see nothing ; so, getting 
our horses over the broken ground as fast as possible, we 
ran to the butte and rode round it, only to see the buffalo 
come out of the broken land and climb up the side of 
another butte over a quarter of a mile off. In spite of 
his great weight and cumbersome, heavy-looking gait, he 
climbed up the steep bluff with ease and even agility, and 
when he had reached the ridge stood and looked back at 
us for a moment ; while so doing he held his head high 
up, and at that distance his great shaggy mane and huge 
fore-quarter made him look like a lion. In another 
second he again turned away and made off; and, being 
evidently very shy and accustomed to being harassed by 
hunters, must have travelled a long distance before stop- 
ping, for we followed his trail for some miles until it got 
on such hard, dry ground that his hoofs did not leave a 
scrape in the soil, and yet did not again catch so much as 
a glimpse of him. 



260 The Lordly Buffalo. 

Soon after leaving his trail we came out on the great, 
broken prairies that lie far back from the river. These 
are by no means everywhere level. A flat space of a 
mile or two will be bounded by a low cliff or a row of 
small round-topped buttes ; or will be interrupted by a 
long, gently sloping ridge, the divide between two creeks ; 
or by a narrow canyon, perhaps thirty feet deep and not a 
dozen wide, stretching for miles before there is a crossing 
place. The smaller creeks were dried up, and were merely 
sinuous hollows in the prairie ; but one or two of the 
larger ones held water here and there, and cut down 
through the land in bold, semicircular sweeps, the outside 
of each curve being often bounded by a steep bluff with 
trees at its bottom, and occasionally holding a miry pool. 
At one of these pools we halted, about ten o'clock in 
the morning, and lunched ; the banks were so steep and 
rotten that we had to bring water to the more clumsy of 
the two ponies in a hat. 

Then we remounted and fared on our way, scanning 
the country far and near from ever}' divide, but seeing no 
trace of game. The air was hot and still, and the brown, 
barren land stretched out on every side for leagues of 
dreary sameness. Once we came to a canyon which ran 
across our path, and followed along its brink for a mile to 
find a place where we could get into it ; when we finally 
found such a place, we had to back the horses down to the 
bottom and then lead them along it for some hundred 
yards before finding a break through which we could climb 
out 

It was late in the afternoon before we saw any game ; 



The Lordly Buffalo. 261 

then we made out in the middle of a large plain three 
black specks, which proved to be buffalo old bulls. Our 
horses had come a good distance, under a hot sun, and 
as they had had no water except from the mud-hole in 
the morning they were in no condition for running. 
They were not very fast anyhow ; so, though the ground 
was unfavorable, we made up our minds to try to creep 
up to the buffalo. We left the ponies in a hollow half a 
mile from the game, and started off on our hands and knees, 
taking advantage of every sage-brush as cover. After a 
while we had to lie flat on our bodies and wriggle like 
snakes ; and while doing this I blundered into a bed of 
cactus, and filled my hands with the spines. After taking 
advantage of every hollow, hillock, or sage-brush, we got 
within about a hundred and twenty-five or fifty yards of 
where the three bulls were unconsciously feeding, and as 
all between was bare ground I drew up and fired. It was 
the first time I ever shot at buffalo, and, confused by the 
bulk and shaggy hair of the beast, I aimed too far back at 
one that was standing nearly broadside on towards me. 
The bullet told on his body with a loud crack, the dust 
flying up from his hide ; but it did not work him any im- 
mediate harm, or in the least hinder him from making off; 
and away went all three, with their tails up, disappearing 
over a slight rise in the ground. 

Much disgusted, we trotted back to where the horses 
were picketed, jumped on them, a good deal out of 
breath, and rode after the flying game. We thought 
that the wounded one might turn out and leave the 
others ; and so followed them, though they had over a 



262 The Lordly Buffalo. 

mile's start. For seven or eight miles we loped our jaded 
horses along at a brisk pace, occasionally seeing the buf- 
falo far ahead ; and finally, when the sun had just set, we 
saw that all three had come to a stand in a gentle hollow. 
There was no cover anywhere near them ; and, as a last 
desperate resort, we concluded to try to run them on our 
worn-out ponies. 

As we cantered toward them they faced us for a 
second and then turned round and made off, while with 
spurs and quirts we made the ponies put on a burst that 
enabled us to close in with the wounded one just about 
the time that the lessening twilight had almost vanished ; 
while the rim of the full moon rose above the horizon. 
The pony I was on could barely hold its own, after 
getting up within sixty or seventy yards of the wounded 
bull ; my companion, better mounted, forged ahead, a 
little to one side. The bull saw him coming and swerved 
from his course, and by cutting across I was able to get 
nearly up to him. The ground over which we were run- 
ning was fearful, being broken into holes and ditches, 
separated by hillocks ; in the dull light, and at the speed 
we were going, no attempt could be made to guide the 
horses, and the latter, fagged out by their exertions, 
floundered and pitched forward at every stride, hardly 
keeping their legs. When up within twenty feet I fired 
my rifle, but the darkness, and especially the violent, 
labored motion of my pony, made me miss ; I tried to 
get in closer, when suddenly up went the bull's tail, and 
wheeling, he charged me with lowered horns. My pony, 
frightened into momentary activity, spun round and tossed 



The Lordly Buffalo. 26 3 

up his head ; I was holding the rifle in both hands, and 
the pony's head, striking it, knocked it violently against 
my forehead, cutting quite a gash, from which, heated as 
I was, the blood poured into my eyes. Meanwhile the 
buffalo, passing me, charged my companion, and followed 
him as he made off, and, as the ground was very bad, for 
some little distance his lowered head was unpleasantly 
near the tired pony's tail. I tried to run in on him again, 
but my pony stopped short, dead beat ; and by no spur- 
ring could I force him out of a slow trot. My companion 
jumped off and took a couple of shots at the buffalo, 
which missed in the dim moonlight ; and to our unutter- 
able chagrin the wounded bull labored off and vanished in 
the darkness. I made after him on foot, in hopeless and 
helpless wrath, until he got out of sight. 

Our horses were completely done out ; we did not 
mount them again, but led them slowly along, trembling, 
foaming, and sweating. The ground was moist in places, 
and after an hour's search we found in a reedy hollow a 
little mud-pool, with water so slimy that it was almost 
gelatinous. Thirsty though we were, for we had not 
drunk for twelve hours, neither man nor horse could 
swallow more than a mouthful or two of this water. We 
unsaddled the horses, and made our beds by the hollow, 
each eating a biscuit ; there was not a twig with which to 
make a fire, nor any thing to which we might fasten the 
horses. Spreading the saddle-blankets under us, and our 
own over us, we lay down, with the saddles as pillows, to 
which we had been obliged to lariat our steeds. 

The ponies stood about almost too tired to eat ; but in 



264 The Lordly Buffalo. 

spite of their fatigue they were very watchful and restless, 
continually snorting or standing with their ears forward, 
peering out into the night ; wild beasts, or some such 
things, were about. The day before we had had a false 
alarm from supposed hostile Indians, who turned out to 
be merely half-breed Crees ; and, as we were in a perfectly 
lonely part of the wilderness, we knew we were in the 
domain of both white and red horse-thieves, and that the 
latter might in addition to our horses try to take our 
scalps. It was some time before we dozed off; waking 
up with a start whenever we heard the horses stop 
grazing and stand motionless with heads raised, looking 
out into the darkness. But at last, tired out, we fell 
sound asleep. 

About midnight we were rudely wakened by having 
our pillows whipped out from under our heads ; and as 
we started from the bed we saw, in the bright moonlight, 
the horses galloping madly off with the saddles, tied to 
the lariats whose other ends were round their necks, 
bounding and trailing after them. Our first thought was 
that they had been stampeded by horse-thieves, and we 
rolled over and crouched down in the grass with our 
rifles ; but nothing could be seen, except a shadowy four- 
footed form in the hollow, and in the end we found that 
the horses must have taken alarm at a wolf or wolves that 
had come up to the edge of the bank and looked over at 
us, not being able at first to make out what we were. 

We did not expect to find the horses again that night, 
but nevertheless took up the broad trail made by the 
saddles as they dragged through the dewy grass, and fol- 



The Lordly Buffalo. 265 

lowed it well in the moonlight. Our task proved easier 
than we had feared ; for they had not run much over half 
a mile, and we found them standing close together and 
looking intently round when we came up. Leading them 
back we again went to sleep ; but the weather was rapidly 
changing, and by three o'clock a fine rain began to come 
steadily down, and we cowered and shivered under our 
wet blankets till morning. At the first streak of dawn, 
having again eaten a couple of biscuits, we were off, glad 
to bid good-bye to the inhospitable pool, in whose neigh- 
borhood we had spent such a comfortless night. A fine, 
drizzling mist shrouded us and hid from sight all distant 
objects ; and at times there were heavy downpours of 
rain. Before we had gone any distance we became what 
is termed by backwoodsmen or plainsmen, " turned round," 
and the creeks suddenly seemed to be running the wrong 
way ; after which we travelled purely by the compass. 

For some hours we kept a nearly straight course over 
the formless, shapeless plain, drenched through, and 
thoroughly uncomfortable ; then as we rose over a low 
divide the fog lifted for a few minutes, and we saw several 
black objects slowly crossing some rolling country ahead 
of us, and a glance satisfied us they were buffalo. The 
horses were picketed at once, and we ran up as near the 
game as we dared, and then began to stalk them, creeping 
forward on our hands and knees through the soft, muddy 
prairie soil, while a smart shower of rain blew in our faces, 
as we advanced up wind. The country was favorable, 
and we got within less than a hundred yards of the near- 
est, a large cow, though we had to creep along so slowly 



266 The Lordly Buffalo. 

that we were chilled through, and our teeth chattered be- 
hind our blue lips. To crown my misfortunes, I now 
made one of those misses which a man to his dying day 
always looks back upon with wonder and regret. The 
rain was beating in my eyes, and the drops stood out in 
the sights of the rifle so that I could hardly draw a bead ; 
and I either overshot or else at the last moment must have 
given a nervous jerk and pulled the rifle clear off the mark. 
At any rate I missed clean, and the whole band plunged 
down into a hollow and were off before, with my stiffened 
and numbed fingers, I could get another shot ; and in wet, 
sullen misery we plodded back to the ponies. 

All that day the rain continued, and we passed another 
wretched night. Next morning, however, it had cleared 
off, and as the sun rose brightly we forgot our hunger and 
sleepiness, and rode cheerily off up a large dry creek, in 
whose bottom pools of rain-water still stood. During the 
morning, however, our ill-luck continued. My com- 
panion's horse almost trod on a rattlesnake, and narrowly 
escaped being bitten. While riding along the face of a 
steeply-inclined bluff the sandy soil broke away under the 
ponies' hoofs, and we slid and rolled down to the bottom, 
where we came to in a heap, horses and men. Then 
while galloping through a brush-covered bottom my pony 
put both forefeet in a hole made by the falling and uproot- 
ing of a tree, and turned a complete somersault, pitching 
me a good ten feet beyond his head. And finally, while 
crossing what looked like the hard bed of a dry creek, the 
earth gave way under my horse as if he had stepped on a 
trap-door, and let him down to his withers in soft, sticky 



The Lordly Buffalo. 26 7 

mud. I was off at once and floundered to the bank, 
loosening the lariat from the saddle-bow ; and both of us 
turning to with a will, and bringing the other pony in to 
our aid, hauled him out by the rope, pretty nearly stran- 
gling him in so doing ; and he looked rather a melancholy 
object as he stood up, trembling and shaking, and plas- 
tered with mire from head to tail. 

So far the trip had certainly not been a success, al- 
though sufficiently varied as regards its incidents ; we had 
been confined to moist biscuits for three days as our food ; 
had been wet and cold at night, and sunburned till our 
faces peeled in the day ; were hungry and tired, and had 
met with bad weather, and all kinds of accidents ; in ad- 
dition to which I had shot badly. But a man who is fond 
of sport, and yet is not naturally a good hunter, soon 
learns that if he wishes any success at all he must both 
keep in memory and put in practice Anthony Trollope's 
famous precept : " It 's dogged as does it." And if he 
keeps doggedly on in his course the odds are heavy that 
in the end the longest lane will prove to have a turning. 
Such was the case on this occasion. 

Shortly after mid-day we left the creek bottom, and 
skirted a ridge of broken buttes, cut up by gullies and 
winding ravines, in whose bottoms grew bunch grass. 
While passing near the mouth, and to leeward of one 
of these ravines, both ponies threw up their heads, and 
snuffed the air, turning their muzzles towards the head 
of the gully. Feeling sure that they had smelt some 
wild beast, either a bear or a buffalo, I slipped off my 
pony, and ran quickly but cautiously up along the valley. 



268 The Lordly Buffalo. 

Before I had gone a hundred yards, I noticed in the 
soft soil at the bottom the round prints of a bison's 
hoofs ; and immediately afterwards got a glimpse of 
the animal himself, as he fed slowly up the course of 
the ravine, some distance ahead of me. The wind was 
just right, and no ground could have been better for 
stalking. Hardly needing to bend down, I walked up 
behind a small sharp-crested hillock, and peeping over, 
there below me, not fifty yards off, was a great bison bull. 
He was walking along, grazing as he walked. His glossy 
fall coat was in fine trim, and shone in the rays of the 
sun ; while his pride of bearing showed him to be in 
the lusty vigor of his prime. As I rose above the crest 
of the hill, he held up his head and cocked his tail in 
the air. Before he could go off, I put the bullet in be- 
hind his shoulder. The wound was an almost immedi- 
ately fatal one, yet with surprising agility for so large 
and heavy an animal, he bounded up the opposite side 
of the ravine, heedless of two more balls, both of which 
went into his flank and ranged forwards, and disappeared 
over the ridge at a lumbering gallop, the blood pouring 
from his mouth and nostrils. We knew he could not 
go far, and trotted leisurely along on his bloody trail ; 
and in the next gully we found him stark dead, lying 
almost on his back, having pitched over the side when 
he tried to go down it. His head was a remarkably 
fine one, even for a fall buffalo. He was lying in a very 
bad position, and it was most tedious and tiresome work 
to cut it off and pack it out. The flesh of a cow or 
calf is better eating than is that of a bull ; but the so- 



The Lordly Buffalo. 26 9 

called hump meat that is, the strip of steak on each 
side of the backbone is excellent, and tender and juicy. 
Buffalo meat is with difficulty to be distinguished from 
ordinary beef. At any rate, the flesh of this bull tasted 
uncommonly good to us, for we had been without fresh 
meat for a week ; and until a healthy, active man has 
been without it for some little time, he does not know 
how positively and almost painfully hungry for flesh he 
becomes, no matter how much farinaceous food he may 
have. And the very toil I had been obliged to go 
through, in order to procure the head, made me feel 
all the prouder of it when it was at last in my posses- 
sion. 

A year later I made another trip, this time with a 
wagon, through what had once been a famous buffalo 
range, the divide between the Little Missouri and the 
Powder, at its northern end, where some of the creeks 
flowing into the Yellowstone also head up ; but though in 
most places throughout the range the grass had not yet 
grown from the time a few months before when it had 
been cropped off down close to the roots by the grazing 
herds, and though the ground was cut up in all directions 
by buffalo trails, and covered by their innumerable skulls 
and skeletons, not a living one did we see, and only one 
moderately fresh track, which we followed until we lost 
it. Some of the sharper ridges were of soft, crumbling 
sand-stone, and when a buffalo trail crossed such a one, 
it generally made a curious, heart-shaped cut, the feet 
of the animals sinking the narrow path continually deeper 
and deeper, while their bodies brushed out the sides. 



The Lordly Buffalo. 

The profile of a ridge across which several trails led 
had rather a curious look when seen against the sky. 

Game was scarce on this broken plains country, where 
the water supply was very scanty, and where the dull 
brown grass that grew on the parched, sun-cracked ground 
had been already cropped close ; still we found enough to 
keep us in fresh meat ; and though no buffalo were seen, 
the trip was a pleasant one. There was a certain charm 
in the very vastness and the lonely, melancholy desolation 
of the land over which every day we galloped far and 
wide from dawn till nightfall ; while the heavy canvas- 
covered wagon lumbered slowly along to the appointed 
halting-place. On such a trip one soon gets to feel that 
the wagon is home ; and after a tiresome day it is pleasant 
just to lie still in the twilight by the side of the smoulder- 
ing fire and watch the men as they busy themselves 
cooking or arranging the beds, while the solemn old 
ponies graze around or stand quietly by the great white- 
topped prairie schooner. 

The blankets and rubbers being arranged in a carefully 
chosen spot to leeward of the wagon, we were not often 
bothered at night, even by quite heavy rainfalls ; but once 
or twice, when in peculiarly exposed places, we were 
struck by such furious gusts of wind and rain that we 
were forced to gather up our bedding and hastily scramble 
into the wagon, where we would at least be dry, even 
though in pretty cramped quarters. 




CHAPTER IX. 



STILL-HUNTING ELK ON THE MOUNTAINS. 




FTER the buffalo the elk are 
the first animals to disappear 
from a country when it is 
settled. This arises from their 
size and consequent conspicuous- 
ness, and the eagerness with 
which they are followed by hunt- 
ers ; and also because of their 
gregariousness and their occa- 
sional fits of stupid panic during whose continuance 
hunters can now and then work great slaughter in a 
herd. Five years ago elk were abundant in the val- 
ley of the Little Missouri, and in fall were found 
wandering in great bands of over a hundred individuals 
each. But they have now vanished completely, ex- 
cept that one or two may still lurk in some of the most 
remote and broken places, where there are deep, wooded 
ravines. 

Formerly the elk were plentiful all over the plains, 

271 



2 72 Still-Hunting Elk. 

coming down into them in great bands during the fall 
months and traversing their entire extent. But the in- 
coming of hunters and cattle-men has driven them off the 
ground as completely as the buffalo ; unlike the latter, 
however, they are still very common in the dense woods 
that cover the Rocky Mountains and the other great 
western chains. In the old days running elk on horse- 
back was a highly esteemed form of plains sport ; but 
now that it has become a beast of the timber and the 
craggy ground, instead of a beast of the open, level 
prairie, it is followed almost solely on foot and with the 
rifle. Its sense of smell is very acute, and it has good 
eyes and quick ears ; and its wariness makes it under 
ordinary circumstances very difficult to approach. But it 
is subject to fits of panic folly, and during their continu- 
ance great numbers can be destroyed. A band places 
almost as much reliance upon the leaders as does a flock 
of sheep ; and if the leaders are shot down, the others 
will huddle together in a terrified mass, seemingly unable 
to make up their minds in which direction to flee. When 
one, more bold than the rest, does at last step out, the 
hidden hunter's at once shooting it down will produce a 
fresh panic ; I have known of twenty elk (or wapiti, as 
they are occasionally called) being thus procured out of 
one band. And at times they show a curious indifference 
to danger, running up on a hunter who is in plain sight, 
or standing still for a few fatal seconds to gaze at one 
that unexpectedly appears. 

In spite of its size and strength and great branching 
antlers, the elk is but little more dangerous to the hunter 



Still-Hunting Elk. 

than is an ordinary buck. Once, in coming up to a 
wounded one, I had it strike at me with its forefeet, 
bristling up the hair on the neck, and making a harsh, 
grating noise with its teeth ; as its back was broken it 
could not get at me, but the savage glare in its eyes left 
me no doubt as to its intentions. Only in a single in- 
stance have I ever known of a hunter being regularly 
charged by one of these great deer. He had struck a 
band of elk and wounded an old bull, which, after going 
a couple of miles, received another ball and then sepa- 
rated from the rest of the herd and took refuge in a dense 
patch of small timber. The hunter went in on its trail 
and came upon it lying down ; it jumped to its feet and, 
with hair all bristling, made a regular charge upon its 
pursuer, who leaped out of the way behind a tree just in 
time to avoid it. It crashed past through the under- 
growth without turning, and he killed it with a third and 
last shot. But this was a very exceptional case, and in 
most instances the elk submits to death with hardly an 
effort at resistance ; it is by no means as dangerous an 
antagonist as is a bull moose. 

The elk is unfortunately one of those animals seem- 
ingly doomed to total destruction at no distant date. Al- 
ready its range has shrunk to far less than one half its 
former size. Originally it was found as far as the Atlan- 
tic sea-board ; I have myself known of several sets of 
antlers preserved in the house of a Long Island gentle- 
man, whose ancestors had killed the bearers shortly after 
the first settlement of New York. Even so late as the 
first years of this century elk were found in many moun- 



274 Still-Hunting Elk. 

tainous and densely wooded places east of the Mississippi -, 
in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennes- 
see, and all of what were then the Northwestern States 
and Territories. The last individual of the race was 
killed in the Adirondacks in 1834 ; in Pennsylvania not 
till nearly thirty years later ; while a very few are still to 
be found in Northern Michigan. Elsewhere they must 
now be sought far to the west of the Mississippi ; and 
even there they are almost gone from the great plains, 
and are only numerous in the deep mountain forests. 
Wherever it exists the skin hunters and meat butchers 
wage the most relentless and unceasing war upon it for 
the sake of its hide and flesh, and their unremitting perse- 
cution is thinning out the herds with terrible rapidity. 

The gradual extermination of this, the most stately 
and beautiful animal of the chase to be found in America, 
can be looked upon only with unmixed regret by every 
sportsman and lover of nature. Excepting the moose, it 
is the largest and, without exception, it is the noblest of 
the deer tribe. No other species of true deer, in either 
the Old or the New World, comes up to it in size and in 
the shape, length, and weight of its mighty antlers ; while 
the grand, proud carriage and lordly bearing of an old 
bull make it perhaps the most majestic-looking of all the 
animal creation. The open plains have already lost one 
of their great attractions, now that we no more see the 
long lines of elk trotting across them ; and it will be a 
sad day when the lordly, antlered beasts are no longer 
found in the wild rocky glens and among the lonely 
woods of towering pines that cover the great western 
mountain chains. 



Still-Hunting Elk. 275 

The elk has other foes besides man. The grizzly will 
always make a meal of one if he gets a chance ; and 
against his ponderous weight and savage prowess hoofs 
and antlers avail but little. Still he is too clumsy and 
easily avoided ever to do very much damage in the 
herds. Cougars, where they exist, work more havoc. A 
bull elk in rutting season, if on his guard, would with ease 
beat off a cougar ; but the sly, cunning cat takes its 
quarry unawares, and once the cruel fangs are fastened in 
the game's throat or neck, no plunging or struggling can 
shake it off. The gray timber wolves also join in twos 
and threes to hunt down and hamstring the elk, if other 
game is scarce. But these great deer can hold their own 
and make head against all their brute foes ; it is only 
when pitted against Man the Destroyer, that they suc- 
cumb in the struggle for life. 

I have never shot any elk in the immediate neighbor- 
hood of where my cattle range ; but I have had very 
good sport with them in a still wilder and more western 
region ; and this I will now describe. 

During last summer we found it necessary to leave my 
ranch on the Little Missouri and take quite a long trip 
through the cattle country of Southeastern Montana and 
Northern Wyoming ; and, having come to the foot of the 
Bighorn Mountains, we took a fortnight's hunt through 
them after elk and bear. 

We went into the mountains with a pack train, leaving 
the ranch wagon at the place where we began to go up the 
first steep rise. There were two others, besides myself, in 
the party ; one of them, the teamster, a weather-beaten 



276 Still-Hunting Elk. 

old plainsman, who possessed a most extraordinary stock 
of miscellaneous misinformation upon every conceivable 
subject, and the other my ranch foreman, Merrifield. None 
of us had ever been within two hundred miles of the Big- 
horn range before ; so that our hunting trip had the added 
zest of being also an exploring expedition. 

Each of us rode one pony, and the packs were carried 
on four others. We were not burdened by much baggage. 
Having no tent we took the canvas wagon sheet instead ; 
our bedding, plenty of spare cartridges, some flour, bacon, 
coffee, sugar and salt, and a few very primitive cooking 
utensils, completed the outfit. 

The Bighorn range is a chain of bare, rocky peaks 
stretching lengthwise along the middle of a table-land 
which is about thirty miles wide. At its edges this table- 
land falls sheer off into the rolling plains country. From 
the rocky peaks flow rapid brooks of clear, icy water, 
which take their way through deep gorges that they have 
channelled out in the surface of the plateau ; a few miles 
from the heads of the streams these gorges become regular 
canyons, with sides so steep as to be almost perpendicu- 
lar ; in travelling, therefore, the trail has to keep well up 
toward timber line, as lower down horses find it difficult 
or impossible to get across the valleys. In strong contrast 
to the treeless cattle plains extending to its foot, the sides 
of the table-land are densely wooded with tall pines. Its 
top forms what is called a park country ; that is, it is 
covered with alternating groves of trees and open glades, 
each grove or glade varying in size from half a dozen to 
many hundred acres. 



Still-Hunting Elk. 2 77 

We went in with the pack train two days' journey 
before pitching camp in what we intended to be our 
hunting grounds, following an old Indian trail. No one 
who has not tried it can understand the work and worry that 
it is to drive a pack train over rough ground and through 
timber. We were none of us very skilful at packing, and 
the loads were all the time slipping ; sometimes the ponies 
would stampede with the pack half tied, or they would 
get caught among the fallen logs, or in a ticklish place 
would suddenly decline to follow the trail, or would com- 
mit some one of the thousand other tricks which seem to 
be all a pack-pony knows. Then at night they were a 
bother ; if picketed out they fed badly and got thin, and 
if they were not picketed they sometimes strayed away. 
The most valuable one of the lot was also the hardest to 
catch. Accordingly we used to let him loose with a long 
lariat tied round his neck, and one night this lariat twisted 
up in a sage-brush, and in struggling to free himself the 
pony got a half hitch round h;s hind leg, threw himself, 
and fell over a bank into a creek on a large stone. We 
found him in the morning very much the worse for wear, 
and his hind legs swelled up so that his chief method of 
progression was by a series of awkward hops. Of course 
no load could be put upon him, but he managed to limp 
along behind the other horses, and actually in the end 
reached the ranch on the Little Missouri three hundred 
miles off. No sooner had he got there and been turned 
loose to rest than he fell down a big wash-out and broke 
his neck. Another time one of the mares a homely beast 
with a head like a camel's managed to flounder into the 



278 Still-Hunting Elk. 

very centre of a mud-hole, and we spent the better part of 
a morning in fishing her out. 

It was on the second day of our journey into the 
mountains, while leading the pack-ponies down the precipi- 
tous side of a steep valley, that I obtained my first sight 
of elk. The trail wound through a forest of tall, slender 
pines, standing very close together, and with dead trees 
lying in every direction. The narrow trunks or overhang- 
ing limbs threatened to scrape off the packs at every 
moment, as the ponies hopped and scrambled over the 
fallen trunks ; and it was difficult work, and most trying 
to the temper, to keep them going along straight and 
prevent them from wandering off to one side or the other. 
At last we got out into a succession of small, open glades, 
with boggy spots in them ; the lowest glade was of some 
size, and as we reached it we saw a small band of cow elk 
disappearing into the woods on its other edge. I was 
riding a restive horse, and when I tried to jump off to 
shoot, it reared and turned round, before I could get my 
left foot out of the stirrup ; when I at last got free I 
could get a glimpse of but one elk, vanishing behind a 
dead trunk, and my hasty shot missed. I was a good 
deal annoyed at this, my opening experience with mountain 
game, feeling that it was an omen of misfortune ; but 
it did not prove so, for during the rest of my two weeks' 
stay, I with one exception got every animal I fired at. 

A beautiful, clear mountain brook ran through the 
bottom of the valley, and in an open space by its side 
we pitched camp. We were entirely out of fresh meat, 
and after lunch all three of us separated to hunt, each for 



Still-Hunting Elk. 279 

his own hand. The teamster went up stream, Merrifield 
went down, while I followed the tracks of the band of 
cows and calves that we had started in the morning ; their 
trail led along the wooded hill-crests parallel to the stream, 
and therefore to Merrifield's course. The crests of the 
hills formed a wavy-topped but continuous ridge between 
two canyon-like valleys, and the sides fell off steeper and 
steeper the farther down stream I went, until at last they 
were broken in places by sheer precipices and cliffs ; the 
groves of trees too, though with here and there open 
glades, formed a continuous forest of tall pines. There 
was a small growth of young spruce and other ever- 
green, thick enough to give cover, but not to interfere 
with seeing and shooting to some distance. The pine 
trunks rose like straight columns, standing quite close 
together ; and at their bases the ground was carpeted 
with the sweet-scented needles, over which, in my 
moccasined feet, I trod without any noise. It was 
but a little past noon, and the sun in the open was 
very hot ; yet underneath the great archways of the 
pine woods the air though still was cool, and the 
sunbeams that struggled down here and there through the 
interlacing branches, and glinted on the rough trunks, only 
made bright spots in what was elsewhere the uniform, 
grayish half-light of the mountain forest. Game trails 
threaded the woods in all directions, made for the most part 
by the elk. These animals, when not disturbed, travel 
strung out in single file, each one stepping very nearly in 
the tracks of the one before it ; they are great wanderers, 
going over an immense amount of country during the 



280 Still-Hunting Elk. 

course of a day, and so they soon wear regular, well- 
beaten paths in any place where they are at all plentiful. 

The band I was following had, as is their custom, all 
run together into a wedge-shaped mass when I fired, and 
crashed off through the woods in a bunch during the first 
moments of alarm. The footprints in the soil showed 
that they had in the beginning taken a plunging gallop, 
but after a few strides had settled into the swinging, 
ground-covering trot that is the elk's most natural and 
characteristic gait. A band of elk when alarmed is likely 
to go twenty miles without halting ; but these had prob- 
ably been very little molested, and there was a chance 
that they would not go far without stopping. After 
getting through the first grove, the huddled herd had 
straightened itself out into single file, and trotted off in a 
nearly straight line. A mile or two of ground having 
been passed over in this way, the animals had slackened 
their pace into a walk, evidently making up their minds 
that they were out of danger. Soon afterwards they had 
begun to go slower, and to scatter out on each side, 
browsing or grazing. 

It was not difficult work to follow up the band at 
first. While trotting, their sharp hoofs came down with 
sufficient force to leave very distinct footprints, and, 
moreover, the trail was the more readily made out as 
all the animals trod nearly in each other's steps. But 
when the band spread out the tracking was much 
harder, as each single one, walking slowly along, 
merely made here and there a slight scrape in the 
soil or a faint indentation in the bed of pine needles. 



Still-Hunting Elk. 281 

Besides, I had to advance with the greatest caution, 
keeping the sharpest look-out in front and on all sides 
of me. Even as it was, though I got very close up to 
my game, they were on foot before I saw them, and I 
did not get a standing shot. While carefully looking to 
my footsteps I paid too little heed to the rifle which I 
held in my right hand, and let the barrel tap smartly on a 
tree trunk. Instantly there was a stamp and movement 
among the bushes ahead and to one side of me ; the elk 
had heard but had neither seen nor smelt me ; and a 
second afterward I saw the indistinct, shadowy outlines of 
the band as they trotted down hill, from where their beds 
had been made on the very summit of the crest, taking a 
course diagonal to mine. I raced forward and also down 
hill, behind some large mossy boulders, and cut them 
fairly off, the band passing directly ahead of me and not 
twenty yards away, at a slashing trot, which a few of them 
changed for a wild gallop, as I opened fire. I was so 
hemmed in by the thick tree trunks, and it was so difficult 
to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of each animal, 
that though I fired four shots I only brought down one 
elk, a full-grown cow, with a broken neck, dead in its 
tracks ; but I also broke the hind leg of a bull calf. Elk 
offer easy marks when in motion, much easier than deer, 
because of their trotting gait, and their regular, deliberate 
movements. They look very handsome as they trot 
through a wood, stepping lightly and easily over the dead 
trunks and crashing through the underbrush, with the 
head held up and nose pointing forward. In galloping, 
however, the neck is thrust straight out in front, and the 



282 Still-Hunting Elk. 

animal moves with labored bounds, which carry it along 
rapidly but soon tire it out. 

After thrusting the hunting-knife into the throat of the 
cow, I followed the trail of the band; and in an open 
glade, filled with tall sage-brush, came across and finished 
the wounded calf. Meanwhile the others ran directly 
across Merrifield's path, and he shot two. This gave us 
much more meat than we wished ; nor would we have shot 
as many, but neither of us could reckon upon the other's 
getting as much game, and flesh was a necessity. Leav- 
ing Merrifield to skin and cut up the dead animals, I 
walked back to camp where I found the teamster, who 
had brought in the hams and tongues of two deer he had 
shot, and sent him back with a pack-pony for the hides 
and meat of the elk. Elk tongues are most delicious 
eating, being juicy, tender, and well flavored ; they are 
excellent to take out as a lunch on a long hunting trip. 

We now had more than enough meat in camp, and 
did not shoot at another cow or calf elk while on the 
mountains, though we saw quite a number ; the last day 
of my stay I was within fifty yards of two that were walk- 
ing quietly through a very dense, swampy wood. But it 
took me some time longer before I got any fine heads. 

The day after killing the cow and calf I went out in 
the morning by myself and hunted through the woods up 
toward the rocky peaks, going above timber line, and not 
reaching camp until after nightfall. In hunting through 
a wild and unknown country a man must always take 
great care not to get lost. In the first place he should 
never, under any conceivable circumstances, stir fifty 



Still-Hunting Elk. 283 

yards from camp without a compass, plenty of matches, 
and his rifle ; then he need never feel nervous, even if he 
is lost, for he can keep himself from cold and hunger, and 
can steer a straight course until he reaches some settle- 
ment. But he should not get lost at all. Old plainsmen 
or backwoodsmen get to have almost an instinct for find- 
ing their way, and are able to tell where they are and the 
way home in almost any place ; probably they keep in 
their heads an accurate idea of their course and of the 
general lay of the land. But most men cannot do this. 
In hunting through a new country a man should, if possi- 
ble, choose some prominent landmarks, and then should 
learn how they look from different sides for they will 
with difficulty be recognized as the same objects, if seen 
from different points of view. If he gets out of sight of 
these, he should choose another to work back to, as a 
kind of half-way point ; and so on. He should keep 
looking back ; it is wonderful how different a country 
looks when following back on one's trail. If possible, he 
should locate his camp, in his mind, with reference to a 
Hne, and not a point ; he should take a river or a long 
ridge, for example. Then at any time he can strike back 
to this line and follow it up or down till he gets home. 

If possible, I always spend the first day, when on new 
ground, in hunting up-stream. Then, so long as I am sure 
I do not wander off into the valleys or creeks of another 
water-course, I am safe, for, no matter on what remote 
branch, all I have to do is to follow down-stream until I 
reach camp ; while if I was below camp, it would be diffi- 
cult to tell which fork to follow up every time the stream 



284 Still-Hunting Elk. 

branched. A man should always notice the position of 
the sun, the direction from which the wind blows, the 
slope of the water-courses, prominent features in the land- 
scape, and so forth, and should keep in mind his own 
general course ; and he had better err on the side of cau- 
tion rather than on that of boldness. Getting lost is very 
uncomfortable, both for the man himself and for those who 
have to break up their work and hunt for him. Deep 
woods or perfectly flat, open country are almost equally 
easy places in which to get lost ; while if the country is 
moderately open and level, with only here and there a 
prominent and easily recognized hill or butte, a man can 
safely go where he wishes, hardly paying any heed to his 
course. But even here he should know his general direc- 
tion from camp, so as to be able to steer for it with a 
compass if a fog comes up. And if he leaves his horse 
hidden in a gully or pocket while he goes off to hunt on 
foot, he must recollect to keep the place well in his mind ; 
on one occasion, when I feared that somebody might 
meddle with my horse, I hid him so successfully that I 
spent the better part of a day in finding him. 

Keeping in mind the above given rules, when I left 
camp the morning after the breaking up of the band 
of cows and calves, I hunted up-stream, and across and 
through the wooded spurs dividing the little brooks that 
formed its head waters. No game was encountered, 
except some blue grouse, which I saw when near camp 
on my return, and shot for the pot. These blue grouse 
are the largest species found in America, except the sage 
fowl. They are exclusively birds of the deep mountain 



Still-Hunting Elk. 

forests, and in their manners remind one of the spruce 
grouse of the Northeastern woods, being almost 
equally tame. When alarmed, they fly at once into a 
tree, and several can often be shot before the remainder 
take fright and are off. On this trip we killed a good 
many, shooting off their heads with our rifles. They 
formed a most welcome addition to our bill of fare, the 
meat being white and excellent. A curious peculiarity 
in their flesh is that the breast meat has in it a layer 
of much darker color. They are very handsome birds, 
and furnish dainty food to men wearied of venison ; but, 
unless their heads are knocked off with a rifle, they do 
not furnish much sport, as they will not fly off when 
flushed, but simply rise into a fairly tall tree, and there 
sit, motionless, except that the head is twisted and 
bobbed round to observe the acts of the foe. 

All of the sights and sounds in these pine woods 
that clothed the Bighorn Mountains reminded me of 
the similar ones seen and heard in the great, sombre 
forests of Maine and the Adirondacks. The animals and 
birds were much the same. As in the East, there were 
red squirrels, chipmunks, red hares, and woodchucks, all 
of them differing but slightly from our common kinds ; 
woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and whiskey jacks 
came about camp ; ravens and eagles flew over the rocky 
cliffs. There were some new forms, however. The nut- 
cracker, a large, noisy, crow-like bird, with many of the 
habits of a woodpecker, was common, and in the rocks 
above timber line, we came upon the Little Chief hare, 
a wee animal, with a shrill, timorous squeak. 



286 Still-Hunting Elk. 

During our stay upon the mountains the weather 
was generally clear, but always cold, thin ice covering 
the dark waters of the small mountain tarns, and there 
were slight snow-falls every two or three days ; but we 
were only kept in camp one day, when it sleeted, snowed, 
and rained from dawn till nightfall. We passed this day 
very comfortably, however. I had far too much fore- 
thought to go into the woods without a small supply 
of books for just such occasions. We had rigged the 
canvas wagon sheet into a tent, at the bottom of the 
ravine, near the willow-covered brink of the brook that 
ran through it. The steep hill-sides bounding the valley, 
which a little below us became sheer cliffs, were partly 
covered with great pines and spruces, and partly open 
ground grown up with tall grass and sage-brush. We 
were thus well sheltered from the wind ; and when one 
morning we looked out and saw the wet snow lying on 
the ground, and with its weight bending down the willow 
bushes and loading the tall evergreens, while the freezing 
sleet rattled against the canvas, we simply started a roaring 
fire of pine logs in front of the tent, and passed a cosy 
day inside, cleaning guns, reading, and playing cards. 
Blue grouse, elk hams, and deer saddles hung from the 
trees around, so we had no fear of starvation. Still, 
towards evening we got a little tired, and I could not 
resist taking a couple of hours' brisk ride in the mist, 
through a chain of open glades that sloped off from our 
camp. 

Later on we made a camp at the head of a great 
natural meadow, where two streams joined together, 



Still-Hunting Elk. 28 7 

and in times long gone by had been dammed by the 
beaver. This had at first choked up the passage and 
made a small lake ; then dams were built higher and 
higher up, making chains of little ponds. By degrees 
these filled up, and the whole valley became a broad 
marshy meadow, through which the brook wound between 
rows of willows and alders. These beaver meadows are 
very common ; but are not usually of such large size. 
Around this camp there was very little game ; but we got a 
fine mess of spotted trout by taking a long and most toil- 
some walk up to a little lake lying very near timber line. 
Our rods and lines were most primitive, consisting of two 
clumsy dead cedars (the only trees within reach), about 
six feet of string tied to one and a piece of catgut to the 
other, with preposterous hooks ; yet the trout were so 
ravenous that we caught them at the rate of about one a 
minute ; and they formed another welcome change in our 
camp fare. This lake lay in a valley whose sides were so 
steep and boulder-covered as to need hard climbing to get 
into and out of it. Every day in the cold, clear weather 
we tramped miles and miles through the woods and 
mountains, which, after a snow-storm took on a really 
wintry look ; while in the moonlight the snow-laden for- 
ests shone and sparkled like crystal. The dweller in cities 
has but a faint idea of the way we ate and slept. 

One day Merrifield and I went out together and had a 
rather exciting chase after some bull elk. The previous 
evening, toward sunset, I had seen three bulls trotting off 
across an open glade toward a great stretch of forest and 
broken ground, up near the foot of the rocky peaks. 



288 Still-Hunting Elk. 

Next morning early we started off to hunt through this 
country. The walking was hard work, especially up and 
down the steep cliffs, covered with slippery pine needles ; 
or among the windfalls, where the rows of dead trees lay 
piled up across one another in the wildest confusion. 
We saw nothing until we came to a large patch of burnt 
ground, where we at once found the soft, black soil 
marked up by elk hoofs ; nor had we penetrated into it 
more than a few hundred yards before we came to tracks 
made but a few minutes before, and almost instantly after- 
ward saw three bull elk, probably those I had seen on the 
preceding day. We had been running briskly up-hill 
through the soft, heavy loam, in which our feet made no 
noise but slipped and sank deeply ; as a consequence, I 
was all out of breath and my hand so unsteady that I 
missed my first shot. Elk, however, do not vanish with 
the instantaneous rapidity of frightened deer, and these 
three trotted off in a direction quartering to us. I doubt 
if I ever went through more violent exertion than in the 
next ten minutes. We raced after them at full speed, 
opening fire ; I wounded all three, but none of the 
wounds were immediately disabling. They trotted on 
and we panted afterwards, slipping on the wet earth, 
pitching headlong over charred stumps, leaping on dead 
logs that broke beneath our weight, more than once 
measuring our full-length on the ground, halting and fir- 
ing whenever we got a chance. At last one bull fell ; we 
passed him by after the others which were still running 
up-hill. The sweat streamed into my eyes and made fur- 
rows in the sooty mud that covered my face, from having 



Still-Hunting Elk. 289 

fallen full length down on the burnt earth ; I sobbed for 
breath as I toiled at a shambling trot after them, as nearly 
done out as could well be. At this moment they turned 
down-hill. It was a great relief ; a man who is too done 
up to go a step up-hill can still run fast enough down ; 
with a last spurt I closed in near enough to fire again ; 
one elk fell ; the other went off at a walk. We passed 
the second elk and I kept on alone after the third, not 
able to go at more than a slow trot myself, and too much 
winded to dare risk a shot at any distance. He got out 
of the burnt patch, going into some thick timber in a 
deep ravine ; I closed pretty well, and rushed after him 
into a thicket of young evergreens. Hardly was I in 
when there was a scramble and bounce among them and 
I caught a glimpse of a yellow body moving out to one 
side ; I ran out toward the edge and fired through the 
twigs at the moving beast. Down it went, but when I 
ran up, to my disgust I found that I had jumped and 
killed, in my haste, a black-tail deer, which must have 
been already roused by the passage of the wounded elk. 
I at once took up the trail of the latter again, but after a 
little while the blood grew less, and ceased, and I lost the 
track ; nor could I find it, hunt as hard as I might. The 
poor beast could not have gone five hundred yards ; yet 
we never found the carcass. 

Then I walked slowly back past the deer I had slain 
by so curious a mischance, to the elk. The first one 
shot down was already dead. The second was only 
wounded, though it could not rise. When it saw us 
coming it sought to hide from us by laying its neck flat 



290 Still-Hunting Elk. 

on the ground, but when we came up close it raised its 
head and looked proudly at us, the heavy mane bristling 
up on the neck, while its eyes glared and its teeth grated 
together. I felt really sorry to kill it. Though these were 
both well-grown elks, their antlers, of ten points, were 
small, twisted, and ill-shaped ; in fact hardly worth pre- 
serving, except to call to mind a chase in which during a 
few minutes I did as much downright hard work as it 
has often fallen to my lot to do. The burnt earth had 
blackened our faces and hands till we looked like negroes. 
The bull elk had at this time begun calling, and several 
times they were heard right round camp at night, challen- 
ging one another or calling to the cows. Their calling is 
known to hunters as "whistling"; but this is a most 
inappropriate name for it. It is a most singular and 
beautiful sound, and is very much the most musical cry 
uttered by any four-footed beast. When heard for the 
first time it is almost impossible to believe that it is the call 
of an animal ; it sounds far more as if made by an ^olian 
harp or some strange wind instrument. It consists of 
quite a series of notes uttered continuously, in a most 
soft, musical, vibrant tone, so clearly that they can be 
heard half a mile off. Heard in the clear, frosty moon- 
light from the depths of the rugged and forest-clad 
mountains the effect is most beautiful ; for its charm is 
heightened by the wild and desolate surroundings. It has 
the sustained, varied melody of some bird songs, with, of 
course, a hundred-fold greater power. Now and then, 
however, the performance is marred by the elk's apparently 
getting out of breath towards the close, and winding up 



Still-Hunting Elk. 291 

with two or three gasping notes which have an unpleas- 
antly mule-like sound. 

The great pine-clad mountains, their forests studded 
with open glades, were the best of places for the still- 
hunter's craft. Going noiselessly through them in our 
dull-colored buckskin and noiseless moccasins, we kept 
getting glimpses, as it were, of the inner life of the 
mountains. Each animal that we saw had its own indi- 
viduality. Aside from the thrill and tingle that a hunter 
experiences at the sight of his game, I by degrees grew to 
feel as if I had a personal interest in the different traits and 
habits of the wild creatures. The characters of the animals 
differed widely, and the differences were typified by their 
actions ; and it was pleasant to watch them in their own 
homes, myself unseen, when after stealthy, silent progress 
through the sombre and soundless depths of the woods I 
came upon them going about the ordinary business of their 
lives. The lumbering, self-confident gait of the bears, 
their burly strength, and their half-humorous, half-fero- 
cious look, gave me a real insight into their character ; 
and I never was more impressed by the exhibition of vast, 
physical power, than when watching from an ambush a 
grizzly burying or covering up an elk carcass. His 
motions looked awkward, but it was marvellous to see the 
ease and absence of effort with which he would scoop out 
great holes in the earth, or twitch the heavy carcass from 
side to side. And the proud, graceful, half-timid, half- 
defiant bearing of the elk was in its own way quite as 
noteworthy ; they seemed to glory in their own power and 
beauty, and yet to be ever on the watch for foes against 



292 Still-Hunting Elk. 

whom they knew they might not dare to contend. The 
true still-hunter should be a lover of nature as well as of 
sport, or he will miss half the pleasure of being in the 
woods. 

The finest bull, with the best head that I got, was 
killed in the midst of very beautiful and grand surround- 
ings. We had been hunting through a great pine wood 
which ran up to the edge of a broad canyon-like valley, 
bounded by sheer walls of rock. There were fresh tracks 
of elk about, and we had been advancing up wind with 
even more than our usual caution when, on stepping out 
into a patch of open ground, near the edge of the cliff, we 
came upon a great bull, beating and thrashing his antlers 
against a young tree, about eighty yards off. He stopped 
and faced us for a second, his mighty antlers thrown in 
the air, as he held his head aloft. Behind him towered 
the tall and sombre pines, while at his feet the jutting 
crags overhung the deep chasm below, that stretched off 
between high walls of barren and snow-streaked rocks, the 
evergreens clinging to their sides, while along the bottom 
the rapid torrent gathered in places into black and sullen 
mountain lakes. As the bull turned to run I struck him 
just behind the shoulder ; he reeled to the death-blow, 
but staggered gamely on a few rods into the forest before 
sinking to the ground, with my second bullet through his 
lungs. 

Two or three days later than this I killed another 
bull, nearly as large, in the same patch of woods in which 
I had slain the first. A bear had been feeding on the 
carcass of the latter, and, after a vain effort to find his 



Still-Hunting Elk. 2 93 

den, we determined to beat through the woods and try to 
start him up. Accordingly Merrifield, the teamster, and 
myself took parallel courses some three hundred yards 
apart, and started at one end to walk through to the 
other. I doubt if the teamster much wished to meet a 
bear alone (while nothing would have given Merrifield 
more hearty and unaffected enjoyment than to have en- 
countered an entire family), and he gradually edged in 
pretty close to me. Where the woods became pretty open 
I saw him suddenly lift his rifle and fire, and immediately 
afterwards a splendid bull elk trotted past in front of me, 
evidently untouched, the teamster having missed. The 
elk ran to the other side of two trees that stood close 
together some seventy yards off, and stopped for a moment 
to look round. Kneeling down I fired at the only part of 
his body I could see between the two trees, and sent a 
bullet into his flank. Away he went, and I after, running 
in my moccasins over the moss and pine needles for all 
there was in me. If a wounded elk gets fairly started he 
will go at a measured trot for many hours, and even if 
mortally hurt may run twenty miles before falling ; while 
at the same time he does not start off at full speed, and 
will often give an active hunter a chance for another shot 
as he turns and changes his course preparatory to taking a 
straight line. So I raced along after the elk at my very 
best speed for a few hundred feet, and then got another 
shot as he went across a little glade, injuring his hip some- 
what. This made it all right for me, and another hundred 
yards' burst took me up to where I was able to put a ball 
in a fatal spot, and the grand old fellow sank down and 
fell over on his side. 



294 Still-Hunting Elk. 

No sportsman can ever feel much keener pleasure and 
self-satisfaction than when, after a successful stalk and 
good shot, he walks up to a grand elk lying dead in the 
cool shade of the great evergreens, and looks at the 
massive and yet finely moulded form, and at the mighty 
antlers which are to serve in the future as the trophy 
and proof of his successful skill. Still-hunting the elk on 
the mountains is as noble a kind of sport as can well be 
imagined ; there is nothing more pleasant and enjoyable, 
and at the same time it demands that the hunter shall 
bring into play many manly qualities. There have been 
few days of my hunting life that were so full of unalloyed 
happiness as were those spent on the Bighorn range. 
From morning till night I was on foot, in cool, bracing 
air, now moving silently through the vast, melancholy pine 
forests, now treading the brink of high, rocky precipices, 
always amid the most grand and beautiful scenery ; and 
always after as noble and lordly game as is to be found in 
the Western world. 

Since writing the above I killed an elk near my 
ranch ; probably the last of his race that will ever be 
found in our neighborhood. It was just before the fall 
round-up. An old hunter, who was under some obliga- 
tion to me, told me that he had shot a cow elk and 
had seen the tracks of one or two others not more 
than twenty-five miles off, in a place where the cattle 
rarely wandered. Such a chance was not to be neglected ; 
and, on the first free day, one of my Elk-horn foremen, 
Will Dow by name, and myself, took our hunting horses 
and started off, accompanied by the ranch wagon, in the 



Still-Hunting Elk. 2 95 

direction of the probable haunts of the doomed deer. 
Towards nightfall we struck a deep spring pool, near 
by the remains of an old Indian encampment. It was 
at the head of a great basin, several miles across, in 
which we believed the game to lie. The wagon was 
halted and we pitched camp ; there was plenty of dead 
wood, and soon the venison steaks were broiling over 
the coals raked from beneath the crackling cottonwood 
logs, while in the narrow valley the ponies grazed almost 
within the circle of the flickering fire-light. It was in 
the cool and pleasant month of September ; and long 
after going to bed we lay awake under the blankets 
watching the stars that on clear nights always shine 
with such intense brightness over the lonely Western 
plains. 

We were up and off by the gray of the morning. It 
was a beautiful hunting day ; the sundogs hung in the 
red dawn ; the wind hardly stirred over the crisp grass ; 
and though the sky was cloudless yet the weather had 
that queer, smoky, hazy look that it is most apt to take 
on during the time of the Indian summer. From a high 
spur of the table-land we looked out far and wide over 
a great stretch of broken country, the brown of whose 
hills and valleys was varied everywhere by patches of 
dull red and vivid yellow, tokens that the trees were 
already putting on the dress with which they greet the 
mortal ripening of the year. The deep and narrow but 
smooth ravines running up towards the edges of the 
plateaus were heavily wooded, the bright green tree-tops 
rising to a height they rarely reach in the barren plains- 



296 Still-Hunting Elk. 

country ; and the rocky sides of the sheer gorges were 
clad with a thick growth of dwarfed cedars, while here 
and there the trailing Virginia creepers burned crimson 
among their sombre masses. 

We hunted stealthily up-wind, across the line of the 
heavily timbered coulies. We soon saw traces of our 
quarry ; old tracks at first, and then the fresh footprints 
of a single elk a bull, judging by the size which had 
come down to drink at a mirey alkali pool, its feet slip- 
ping so as to leave the marks of the false hoofs in the soft 
soil. We hunted with painstaking and noiseless care 
for many hours ; at last as I led old Manitou up to 
look over the edge of a narrow ravine, there was a 
crash and movement in the timber below me, and im- 
mediately afterwards I caught a glimps of a great bull 
elk trotting up through the young trees as he gallantly 
breasted the steep hill-side opposite. When clear of 
the woods, and directly across the valley from mej he 
stopped and turned half round, throwing his head in 
the air to gaze for a moment at the intruder. My 
bullet struck too far back, but, nevertheless, made a 
deadly wound, and the elk went over the crest of the 
hill at a wild, plunging gallop. We followed the bloody 
trail for a quarter of a mile, and found him dead in a 
thicket. Though of large size, he yet had but small 
antlers, with few points. 



CHAPTER X. 



OLD EPHRAIM 




UT few bears are found in the 
immediate neighborhood of my 
ranch ; and though I have once 
or twice seen their tracks in the 
Bad Lands, I have never had 
any experience with the animals 
themselves except during the elk- 
hunting trip on the Bighorn 
Mountains, described in the pre- 
ceding chapter. 

The grizzly bear undoubtedly comes in the category 
of dangerous game, and is, perhaps, the only animal in 
the United States that can be fairly so placed, unless 
we count the few jaguars found north of the Rio Grande. 
But the danger of hunting the grizzly has been greatly 
exaggerated, and the sport is certainly very much safer 
than it was at the .beginning of this century. The first 

hunters who came into contact with this great bear 

297 



298 Old Rphraim. 

were men belonging to that hardy and adventurous 
class of backwoodsmen which had filled the wild country 
between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi. 
These men carried but one weapon : the long-barrelled, 
small-bored pea-rifle, whose bullets ran seventy to the 
pound, the amount of powder and lead being a little less 
than that contained in the cartridge of a thirty-two calibre 
Winchester. In the Eastern States almost all the hunt- 
ing was done in the woodland ; the shots were mostly 
obtained at short distance, and deer and black bear were 
the largest game ; moreover, the pea-rifles were marvel- 
lously accurate for close range, and their owners were 
famed the world over for their skill as marksmen. Thus 
these rifles had so far proved plenty good enough for the 
work they had to do, and indeed had done excellent service 
as military weapons in the ferocious wars that the men of 
the border carried on with their Indian neighbors, and 
even in conflict with more civilized foes, as at the battles 
of King's Mountain and New Orleans. But when the 
restless frontiersmen pressed out over the Western plains, 
they encountered in the grizzly a beast of far greater 
bulk and more savage temper than any of those found 
in the Eastern woods, and their small-bore rifles were 
utterly inadequate weapons with which to cope with him. 
It is small wonder that he was considered by them to be 
almost invulnerable, and extraordinarily tenacious of life. 
He would be a most unpleasant antagonist now to a man 
armed only with a thirty-two calibre rifle, that carried but 
a single shot and was loaded at the muzzle. A rifle, to 
be of use in this sport, should carry a ball weighing from 



Old Rphraim. 299 

half an ounce to an ounce. With the old pea-rifles the 
shot had to be in the eye or heart ; and accidents to the 
hunter were very common. But the introduction of 
heavy breech-loading repeaters has greatly lessened the 
danger, even in the very few and far-off places where 
the grizzlies are as ferocious as formerly. For nowadays 
these great bears are undoubtedly much better aware of 
the death-dealing power of men, and, as a consequence, 
much less fierce, than was the case with their forefathers, 
who so unhesitatingly attacked the early Western trav- 
ellers and explorers. Constant contact with rifle-carrying 
hunters, for a period extending over many generations of 
bear-life, has taught the grizzly by bitter experience that 
man is his undoubted overlord, as far as fighting goes ; 
and this knowledge has become an hereditary character- 
istic. No grizzly will assail a man now unprovoked, and 
one will almost always rather run than fight ; though 
if he is wounded or thinks himself cornered he will attack 
his foes with a headlong, reckless fury that renders him 
one of the most dangerous of wild beasts. The ferocity 
of all wild animals depends largely upon the amount of 
resistance they are accustomed to meet with, and the 
quantity of molestation to which they are subjected. 

The change in the grizzly's character during the last 
half century has been precisely paralleled by the change 
in the characters of his northern cousin, the polar bear, 
and of the South African lion. When the Dutch and 
Scandinavian sailors first penetrated the Arctic seas, they 
were kept in constant dread of the white bear, who re- 
garded a man as simply an erect variety of seal, quite 



3 Old Rphraim. 

as good eating as the common kind. The records of 
these early explorers are filled with examples of the 
ferocious and man-eating propensities of the polar bears ; 
but in the accounts of most of the later Arctic expeditions 
they are portrayed as having learned wisdom, and being 
now most anxious to keep out of the way of the hunters. 
A number of my sporting friends have killed white bears, 
and none of them were ever even charged. And in 
South Africa the English sportsmen and Dutch boers 
have taught the lion to be a very different creature from 
what it was when the first white man reached that con- 
tinent. If the Indian tiger had been a native of the 
United States, it would now be one of the most shy 
of beasts. Of late years our estimate of the grizzly's 
ferocity has been lowered ; and we no longer accept 
the tales of uneducated hunters as being proper au- 
thority by which to judge it. But we should make a 
parallel reduction in the cases of many foreign animals 
and their describers. Take, for example, that purely 
melodramatic beast, the North African lion, as portrayed 
by Jules Gerard, who bombastically describes himself as 
" le tueur des lions." Gerard's accounts are self-evidently 
in large part fictitious, while if true they would prove less 
for the bravery of the lion than for the phenomenal cow- 
ardice, incapacity, and bad marksmanship of the Algerian 
Arabs. Doubtless Gerard was a great hunter ; but so is 
many a Western plainsman, whose account of the grizzlies 
he has killed would be wholly untrustworthy. Take for 
instance the following from page 223 of "La Chasse au 
Lion " : " The inhabitants had assembled one day to the 



Old Ephraim. 3i 

number of two or three hundred with the object of killing 
(the lion) or driving it out of the country. The attack 
took place at sunrise ; at mid-day five hundred cartridges 
had been expended ; the Arabs carried off one of their 
number dead and six wounded, and the lion remained 
master of the field of battle." Now if three hundred men 
could fire five hundred shots at a lion without hurting him, 
it merely shows that they were wholly incapable of hurting 
any thing, or else that M. Gerard was more expert with 
the long-bow than with^the rifle. Gerard's whole book is 
filled with equally preposterous nonsense ; yet a great 
many people seriously accept this same book as trust- 
worthy authority for the manners and ferocity of the 
North African lion. It would be quite as sensible to 
accept M. Jules Verne's stories as being valuable contri- 
butions to science. A good deal of the lion's reputation 
is built upon just such stuff. 

How the prowess of the grizzly compares with that 
of the lion or tiger would be hard to say ; I have never 
shot either of the latter myself, and my brother, who 
has killed tigers in India, has never had a chance at a 
grizzly. Any one of the big bears we killed on the 
mountains would, I should think, have been able to make 
short work of either a lion or a tiger ; for the grizzly 
is greatly superior in bulk and muscular power to either 
of the great cats, and its teeth are as large as theirs, while 
its claws, though blunter, are much longer ; nevertheless, 
I believe that a lion or a tiger would be fully as dangerous 
to a hunter or other human being, on account of the 
superior speed of its charge, the lightning-like rapidity of 



302 Old Ephraim. 

its movements, and its apparently sharper senses. Still, 
after all is said, the man should have a thoroughly trust- 
worthy weapon and a fairly cool head, who would follow 
into his own haunts and slay grim Old Ephraim. 

A grizzly will only fight if wounded or cornered, or, 
at least, if he thinks himself cornered. If a man by 
accident stumbles on to one close up, he is almost certain 
to be attacked really more from fear than from any other 
motive ; exactly the same reason that makes a rattle- 
snake strike at a passer-by. I have personally known 
of but one instance of a grizzly turning on a hunter 
before being wounded. This happened to a friend of 
mine, a Californian ranchman, who, with two or three 
of his men, was following a bear that had carried off 
one of his sheep. They got the bear into a cleft in 
the mountain from which there was no escape, and he 
suddenly charged back through the line of his pursuers, 
struck down one of the horsemen, seized the arm of the 
man in his jaws and broke it as if it had been a pipe- 
stem, and was only killed after a most lively fight, in 
which, by repeated charges, he at one time drove every 
one of his assailants off the field. 

But two instances have come to my personal knowl- 
edge where a man has been killed by a grizzly. One was 
that of a hunter at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains 
who had chased a large bear and finally wounded him. 
The animal turned at once and came straight at the man, 
whose second shot missed. The bear then closed and 
passed on, after striking only a single blow ; yet that one 
blow, given with all the power of its thick, immensely 



Old Rphraim. 303 

muscular forearm, armed with nails as strong as so many 
hooked steel spikes, tore out the man's collar-bone and 
snapped through three or four ribs. He never recovered 
from the shock, and died that night. 

The other instance occurred to a neighbor of mine 
who has a small ranch on the Little Missouri two or 
three years ago. He was out on a mining trip, and was 
prospecting with two other men near the head-water of 
the Little Missouri, In the Black Hills country. They 
were walking down along the river, and came to a point 
of land, thrust out into it, which was densely covered with 
brush and fallen timber. Two of the party walked round 
by the edge of the stream ; but the third, a German, and 
a very powerful fellow, followed a well-beaten game trail, 
leading through the bushy point. When they were some 
forty yards apart the two men heard an agonized shout 
from the German, and at the same time the loud cough- 
ing growl, or roar, of a bear. They turned just in time 
to see their companion struck a terrible blow on the head 
by a grizzly, which must have been roused from its lair by 
his almost stepping on it ; so close was it that he had no 
time to fire his rifle, but merely held it up over his head 
as a guard. Of course it was struck down, the claws of 
the great brute at the same time shattering his skull like 
an egg-shell. Yet the man staggered on some ten feet 
before he fell ; but when he did he never spoke or moved 
again. The two others killed the bear after a short, 
brisk struggle, as he was in the midst of a most deter- 
mined charge. 

In 1872, near Fort Wingate, New Mexico, two sol- 



304 Old Ephraim. 

diers of a cavalry regiment came to their death at the 
claws of a grizzly bear. The army surgeon who at- 
tended them told me the particulars, as far as they were 
known. The men were mail carriers, and one day did not 
come in at the appointed time. Next day, a relief party 
was sent out to look for them, and after some search 
found the bodies of both, as well as that of one of the 
horses. One of the men still showed signs of life ; he 
came to his senses before dying, and told the story. 
They had seen a grizzly and pursued it on horseback, 
with their Spencer rifles. On coming close, one had fired 
into its side, when it turned with marvellous quickness 
for so large and unwieldy an animal, and struck down the 
horse, at the same time inflicting a ghastly wound on the 
rider. The other man dismounted and came up to the 
rescue of his companion. The bear then left the latter 
and attacked the other. Although hit by the bullet, it 
charged home and threw the man down, and then lay on 
him and deliberately bit him to death, while his groans 
and cries were frightful to hear. Afterward it walked 
off into the bushes without again offering to molest the 
already mortally wounded victim of its first assault. 

At certain times the grizzly works a good deal of havoc 
among the herds of the stockmen. A friend of mine, a 
ranchman in Montana, told me that one fall bears became 
very plenty around his ranches, and caused him severe 
loss, killing with ease even full-grown beef-steers. But 
one of them once found his intended quarry too much for 
him. My friend had a stocky, rather vicious range stallion, 
which had been grazing one day near a small thicket of 



Old Rphraim. 305 

bushes, and, towards evening, came galloping in with three 
or four gashes in his haunch, that looked as if they had 
been cut with a dull axe. The cowboys knew at once 
that he had been assailed by a bear, and rode off to the 
thicket near which he had been feeding. Sure enough a 
bear, evidently in a very bad temper, sallied out as soon as 
the thicket was surrounded, and, after a spirited fight and 
a succession of charges, was killed. On examination, it 
was found that his under jaw was broken, and part of his 
face smashed in, evidently by the stallion's hoofs. The 
horse had been feeding when the bear leaped out at him 
but failed to kill at the first stroke ; then the horse lashed 
out behind, and not only freed himself, but also severely 
damaged his opponent. 

Doubtless, the grizzly could be hunted to advantage 
with dogs, which would not, of course, be expected to 
seize him, but simply to find and bay him, and distract his 
attention by barking and nipping. Occasionally a bear 
can be caught in the open and killed with the aid of horses. 
But nine times out of ten the only way to get one is to 
put on moccasins and still-hunt it in its own haunts, shoot- 
ing it at close quarters. Either its tracks should be 
followed until the bed wherein it lies during the day is 
found, or a given locality in which it is known to exist 
should be carefully beaten through, or else a bait should 
be left out and a watch kept on it to catch the bear when 
he has come to visit it. 

For some days after our arrival on the Bighorn range 
we did not come across any grizzly. 



306 Old Rphraim. 

Although it was still early in September, the weather 
was cool and pleasant, the nights being frosty ; and every 
two or three days there was a flurry of light snow, which 
rendered the labor of tracking much more easy. Indeed, 
throughout our stay on the mountains, the peaks were 
snow-capped almost all the time. Our fare was excellent, 
consisting of elk venison, mountain grouse, and small 
trout ; the last caught in one of the beautiful little lakes 
that lay almost up by timber line. To us, who had for 
weeks been accustomed to make small fires from dried 
brush, or from sage-bush roots, which we dug out of the 
ground, it was a treat to sit at night before the roaring 
and crackling pine logs ; as the old teamster quaintly put 
it, we had at last come to a land "where the wood grew 
on trees." There were plenty of black-tail deer in the 
woods, and we came across a number of bands of cow and 
calf elk, or of young bulls ; but after several days' hunting, 
we were still without any head worth taking home, and 
had seen no sign of grizzly, which was the game we were 
especially anxious to kill ; for neither Merrifield nor I had 
ever seen a wild bear alive. 

Sometimes we hunted in company ; sometimes each of 
us went out alone ; the teamster, of course, remaining in 
to guard camp and cook. One day we had separated ; I 
reached camp early in the afternoon, and waited a couple 
of hours before Merrifield put in an appearance. 

At last I heard a shout the familiar long-drawn Ei- 
koh-h-h of the cattle-men, and he came in sight galloping 
at speed down an open glade, and waving his hat, evi- 
dently having had good luck ; and when he reined in his 



Old Rphraim. 307 

small, wiry, cow-pony, we saw that he had packed behind 
his saddle the fine, glossy pelt of a black bear. Better 
still, he announced that he had been off about ten miles to 
a perfect tangle of ravines and valleys where bear sign was 
very thick ; and not of black bear either but of grizzly. 
The black bear (the only one we got on the mountains) 
he had run across by accident, while riding up a valley in 
which there was a patch of dead timber grown up with 
berry bushes. He noticed a black object which he first 
took to be a stump ; for during the past few days we had 
each of us made one or two clever stalks up to charred 
logs which our imagination converted into bears. On 
coming near, however, the object suddenly took to its 
heels ; he followed over frightful ground at the pony's 
best pace, until it stumbled and fell down. By this time 
he was close on the bear, which had just reached the edge 
of the wood. Picking himself up, he rushed after it, 
hearing it growling ahead of him ; after running some 
fifty yards the sounds stopped, and he stood still listening. 
He saw and heard nothing, until he happened to cast his 
eyes upwards, and there was the bear, almost overhead, 
and about twenty-five feet up a tree ; and in as many 
seconds afterwards it came down to the ground with a 
bounce, stone dead. It was a young bear, in its second 
year, and had probably never before seen a man, which 
accounted for the ease with which it was treed and taken. 
One minor result of the encounter was to convince Merri- 
field the list of whose faults did not include lack of self- 
confidence that he could run down any bear ; in conse- 
quence of which idea we on more than one subsequent 
occasion went through a good deal of violent exertion. 



so8 Old Rphraim. 

Merrifield's tale made me decide to shift camp at once, 
and go over to the spot where the bear-tracks were so 
plenty. Next morning we were off, and by noon pitched 
camp by a clear brook, in a valley with steep, wooded 
sides, but with good feed for the horses in the open bot- 
tom. We rigged the canvas wagon sheet into a small 
tent, sheltered by the trees from the wind, and piled great 
pine logs near by where we wished to place the fire ; for a 
night camp in the sharp fall weather is cold and dreary 
unless there is a roaring blaze of flame in front of the tent. 

That afternoon we again went out, and I shot a fine 
bull elk. I came home alone toward nightfall, walking 
through a reach of burnt forest, where there was nothing 
but charred tree-trunks and black mould. When nearly 
through it I came across the huge, half-human footprints 
of a great grizzly, which must have passed by within a few 
minutes. It gave me rather an eerie feeling in the silent, 
lonely woods, to see for the first time the unmistakable 
proofs that I was in the home of the mighty lord of the 
wilderness. I followed the tracks in the fading twilight 
until it became too dark to see them any longer, and then 
shouldered my rifle and walked back to camp. 

That evening we almost had a visit from one of the ani- 
mals we were after. Several times we had heard at night 
the musical calling of the bull elk a sound to which no 
writer has as yet done justice. This particular night, when 
we were in bed and the fire was smouldering, we were roused 
by a ruder noise a kind of grunting or roaring whine, 
answered by the frightened snorts of the ponies. It was 
a bear which had evidently not seen the fire, as it came 



Old Ephraim. 309 

from behind the bank, and had probably been attracted 
by the smell of the horses. After it made out what we 
were it stayed round a short while, again uttered its 
peculiar roaring grunt, and went off; we had seized our 
rifles and had run out into the woods, but in the darkness 
could see nothing ; indeed it was rather lucky we did not 
stumble across the bear, as he could have made short 
work of us when we were at such a disadvantage. 

Next day we went off on a long tramp through the 
woods and along the sides of the canyons. There were 
plenty of berry bushes growing in clusters ; and all around 
these there were fresh tracks of bear. But the grizzly is 
also a flesh-eater, and has a great liking for carrion. On 
visiting the place where Merrifield had killed the black 
bear, we found that the grizzlies had been there before us, 
and had utterly devoured the carcass, with cannibal relish. 
Hardly a scrap was left, and we turned our steps toward 
where lay the bull elk I had killed. It was quite late in 
the afternoon when we reached the place. A grizzly had 
evidently been at the carcass during the preceding night, 
for his great footprints were in the ground all around it, 
and the carcass itself was gnawed and torn, and partially 
covered with earth and leaves for the grizzly has a curi- 
ous habit of burying all of his prey that he does not at 
the moment need. A great many ravens had been feed- 
ing on the body, and they wheeled about over the tree 
tops above us, uttering their barking croaks. 

The forest was composed mainly of what are called 
ridge-pole pines, which grow close together, and do not 
branch out until the stems are thirty or forty feet from 



310 Old Ephraim. 

the ground. Beneath these trees we walked over a carpet 
of pine needles, upon which our moccasined feet made no 
sound. The woods seemed vast and lonely, and their 
silence was broken now and then by the strange noises 
always to be heard in the great forests, and which seem 
to mark the sad and everlasting unrest of the wilderness. 
We climbed up along the trunk of a dead tree which had 
toppled over until its upper branches struck in the limb 
crotch of another, that thus supported it at an angle half- 
way in its fall. When above the ground far enough to 
prevent the bear's smelling us, we sat still to wait for his 
approach ; until, in the gathering gloom, we could no 
longer see the sights of our rifles, and could but dimly 
make out the carcass of the great elk. It was useless to 
wait longer ; and we clambered down and stole out to the 
edge of the woods. The forest here covered one side of 
a steep, almost canyon-like ravine, whose other side was 
bare except of rock and sage-brush. Once out from 
under the trees there was still plenty of light, although 
the sun had set, and we crossed over some fifty yards to 
the opposite hill-side, and crouched down under a bush to 
see if perchance some animal might not also leave the 
cover. To our right the ravine sloped downward toward 
the valley of the Bighorn River, and far on its other side 
we could catch a glimpse of the great main chain of the 
Rockies, their snow peaks glinting crimson in the light of 
the set sun. Again we waited quietly in the growing 
dusk until the pine trees in our front blended into one 
dark, frowning mass. We saw nothing ; but the wild 
creatures of the forest had begun to stir abroad. The 



Old Ephraim. 3" 

owls hooted dismally from the tops of the tall trees, and 
two or three times a harsh wailing cry, probably the voice 
of some lynx or wolverine, arose from the depths of the 
woods. At last, as we were rising to leave, we heard the 
sound of the breaking of a dead stick, from the spot 
where we knew the carcass lay. It was a sharp, sudden 
noise, perfectly distinct from the natural creaking and 
snapping of the branches ; just such a sound as would be 
made by the tread of some heavy creature. " Old Ephra- 
im " had come back to the carcass. A minute afterward, 
listening with strained ears, we heard him brush by some 
dry twigs. It was entirely too dark to go in after him ; 
but we made up our minds that on the morrow he should 
be ours. 

Early next morning we were over at the elk carcass, 
and, as we expected, found that the bear had eaten his fill 
at it during the night. His tracks showed him to be an 
immense fellow, and were so fresh that we doubted if he 
had left long before we arrived ; and we made up our 
minds to follow him up and try to find his lair. The 
bears that lived on these mountains had evidently been 
little disturbed ; indeed, the Indians and most of the 
white hunters are rather chary of meddling with " Old 
Ephraim," as the mountain men style the grizzly, unless 
they get him at a disadvantage ; for the sport is fraught 
with some danger and but small profit. The bears thus 
seemed to have very little fear of harm, and we thought 
it likely that the bed of the one who had fed on the elk 
would not be far away. 

My companion was a skilful tracker, and we took up 



3 '2 Old Ephraim. 

the trail at once. For some distance it led over the soft, 
yielding carpet of moss and pine needles, and the foot- 
prints were quite easily made out, although we could fol- 
low them but slowly ; for we had, of course, to keep a 
sharp look-out ahead and around us as we walked noise- 
lessly on in the sombre half-light always prevailing under 
the great pine trees, through whose thickly interlacing 
branches stray but few beams of light, no matter how 
bright the sun may be outside. We made no sound our- 
selves, and every little sudden noise sent a thrill through 
me as I peered about with each sense on the alert. Two 
or three of the ravens that we had scared from the car- 
cass flew overhead, croaking hoarsely ; and the pine tops 
moaned and sighed in the slight breeze for pine trees 
seem to be ever in motion, no matter how light the wind. 
After going a few hundred yards the tracks turned off 
on a well-beaten path made by the elk ; the woods were 
in many places cut up by these game trails, which had 
often become as distinct as ordinary foot-paths. The 
beast's footprints were perfectly plain in the dust, and he 
had lumbered along up the path until near the middle of 
the hill-side, where the ground broke away and there were 
hollows and boulders. Here there had been a windfall, 
and the dead trees lay among the living, piled across one 
another in all directions ; while between and around them 
sprouted up a thick growth of young spruces and other 
evergreens. The trail turned off into the tangled thicket, 
within which it was almost certain we would find our quarry. 
We could still follow the tracks, by the slight scrapes of 
the claws on the bark, or by the bent and broken twigs ; 



Old Rphraim. 

and we advanced with noiseless caution, slowly climbing 
over the dead tree trunks and upturned stumps, and not 
letting a branch rustle or catch on our clothes. When in 
the middle of the thicket we crossed what was almost a 
breastwork of fallen logs, and Merrifield, who was leading, 
passed by the upright stem of a great pine. As soon as 
he was by it he sank suddenly on one knee, turning half 
round, his face fairly aflame with excitement ; and as I 
strode past him, with my rifle at the ready, there, not ten 
steps off, was the great bear, slowly rising from his bed 
among the young spruces. He had heard us, but appar- 
ently hardly knew exactly where or what we were, for he 
reared up on his haunches sideways to us. Then he saw 
us and dropped down again on all fours, the shaggy hair 
on his neck and shoulders seeming to bristle as he turned 
toward us. As he sank down on his forefeet I had raised 
the rifle ; his head was bent slightly down, and when I 
saw the top of the white bead fairly between his small, 
glittering, evil eyes, I pulled trigger. Half-rising up, the 
huge beast fell over on his side in the death throes, the 
ball having gone into his brain, striking as fairly between 
the eyes as if the distance had been measured by a car- 
penter's rule. 

The whole thing was over in twenty seconds from the 
time I caught sight of the game ; indeed, it was over so 
quickly that the grizzly did not have time to show fight at 
all or come a step toward us. It was the first I had ever 
seen, and I felt not a little proud, as I stood over the 
great brindled bulk, which lay stretched out at length in 
the cool shade of the evergreens. He was a monstrous 



3H Old Ephraim. 

fellow, much larger than any I have seen since, whether 
alive or brought in dead by the hunters. As near as we 
could estimate (for of course we had nothing with which 
to weigh more than very small portions) he must have 
weighed about twelve hundred pounds, and though this is 
not as large as some of his kind are said to grow in Cali- 
fornia, it is yet a very unusual size for a bear. He was a 
good deal heavier than any of our horses ; and it was with 
the greatest difficulty that we were able to skin him. He 
must have been very old, his teeth and claws being all 
worn down and blunted ; but nevertheless he had been 
living in plenty, for he was as fat as a prize hog, the 
layers on his back being a finger's length in thickness. 
He was still in the summer coat, his hair being short, and 
in color a curious brindled brown, somewhat like that of 
certain bull-dogs ; while all the bears we shot afterward 
had the long thick winter fur, cinnamon or yellowish 
brown. By the way, the name of this bear has reference 
to its character and not to its color, and should, I sup- 
pose, be properly spelt grisly in the sense of horrible, 
exactly as we speak of a " grisly spectre " and not griz- 
zly ; but perhaps the latter way of spelling it is too well 
established to be now changed. 

In killing dangerous game steadiness is more needed 
than good shooting. No game is dangerous unless a man 
is close up, for nowadays hardly any wild beast will charge 
from a distance of a hundred yards, but will rather try to 
run off ; and if a man is close it is easy enough for him 
to shoot straight if he does not lose his head. A bear's 
brain is about the size of a pint bottle ; and any one can 



Old Ephraim. 315 

hit a pint bottle off-hand at thirty or forty feet. I have 
had two shots at bears at close quarters, and each time I 
fired into the brain, the bullet in one case striking fairly 
between the eyes, as told above, and in the other going in 
between the eye and ear. A novice at this kind of sport 
will find it best and safest to keep in mind the old Norse 
viking's advice in reference to a long sword : "If you go 
in close enough your sword will be long enough." If a 
poor shot goes in close enough he will find that he shoots 
straight enough. 

I was very proud over my first bear ; but Merrifield's 
chief feeling seemed to be disappointment that the animal 
had not had time to show fight. He was rather a reckless 
fellow, and very confident in his own skill with the rifle ; 
and he really did not seem to have any more fear of the 
grizzlies than if they had been so many jack-rabbits. I did 
not at all share his feelings, having a hearty respect for my 
foes' prowess, and in following and attacking them always 
took all possible care to get the chances on my side. 
Merrifield was sincerely sorry that we never had to stand 
a regular charge ; while on this trip we killed five grizzlies 
with seven bullets, and except in the case of the she and cub, 
spoken of further on, each was shot about as quickly as it.got 
sight of us. The last one we got was an old male, which 
was feeding on an elk carcass. We crept up to within 
about sixty feet, and as Merrifield had not yet killed a 
grizzly purely to his own gun, and I had killed three, I 
told him to take the shot. He at once whispered glee- 
fully : " I '11 break his leg, and we '11 see what he '11 do ! " 
Having no ambition to be a participator in the antics of a 



3 l6 Old Rphraim. 

three-legged bear, I hastily interposed a most emphatic 
veto ; and with a rather injured air he fired, the bullet going 
through the neck just back of the head. The bear fell to 
the shot, and could not get up from the ground, dying in 
a few minutes ; but first he seized his left wrist in his 
teeth and bit clean through it, completely separating the 
bones of the paw and arm. Although a smaller bear than 
the big one I first shot, he would probably have proved a 
much more ugly foe, for he was less unwieldy, and had 
much longer and sharper teeth and claws. I think that if 
my companion had merely broken the beast's leg he would 
have had his curiosity as to its probable conduct more 
than gratified. 

We tried eating the grizzly's flesh but it was not good, 
being coarse and not well flavored ; and besides, we could 
not get over the feeling that it had belonged to a carrion 
feeder. The flesh of the little black bear, on the other 
hand, was excellent ; it tasted like that of a young pig. 
Doubtless, if a young grizzly, which had fed merely upon 
fruits, berries, and acorns, was killed, its flesh would prove 
good eating ; but even then, it would probably not be 
equal to a black bear. 

A day or two after the death of the big bear, we went 
out one afternoon on horseback, intending merely to ride 
down to see a great canyon lying some six miles west of 
our camp ; indeed, we went more to look at the scenery 
than for any other reason, though, of course, neither of us 
ever stirred out of camp without his rifle. We rode down 
the valley in which we had camped, through alternate pine 
groves and open glades, until we reached the canyon, and 



Old Ephraim.. 317 

then skirted its brink for a mile or so. It was a great 
chasm, many miles in length, as if the table-land had been 
rent asunder by some terrible and unknown force ; its 
sides were sheer walls of rock, rising three or four hundred 
feet straight up in the air, and worn by the weather till 
they looked like the towers and battlements of some vast 
fortress. Between them at the bottom was a space, in 
some places nearly a quarter of a mile wide, in others very 
narrow, through whose middle foamed a deep, rapid torrent 
of which the sources lay far back among the snow-topped 
mountains around Cloud Peak. In this valley, dark-green, 
sombre pines stood in groups, stiff and erect ; and here 
and there among them were groves of poplar and cotton- 
wood, with slender branches and trembling leaves, their 
bright green already changing to yellow in the sharp fall 
weather. We went down to where the mouth of the 
canyon opened out, and rode our horses to the end of a 
great jutting promontory of rock, thrust out into the plain ; 
and in the cold, clear air we looked far over the broad 
valley of the Bighorn as it lay at our very feet, walled in 
on the other side by the distant chain of the Rocky 
Mountains. 

Turning our horses, we rode back along the edge of 
another canyon-like valley, with a brook flowing down its 
centre, and its rocky sides covered with an uninterrupted 
pine forest the place of all others in whose inaccessible 
wildness and ruggedness a bear would find a safe 
retreat. After some time we came to where other valleys, 
with steep, grass-grown sides, covered with sage-brush, 
branched out from it, and we followed one of these out 



318 Old Ephraim. 

There was plenty of elk sign about, and we saw several 
black-tail deer. These last were very common on the 
mountains, but we had not hunted them at all, as we were 
in no need of meat. But this afternoon we came across a 
buck with remarkably fine antlers, and accordingly I shot 
it, and we stopped to cut off and skin out the horns, 
throwing the reins over the heads of the horses and leav- 
ing them to graze by themselves. The body lay near the 
crest of one side of a deep valley, or ravine, which headed 
up on the plateau a mile to our left. Except for scattered 
trees and bushes the valley was bare ; but there was heavy 
timber along the crests of the hills on its opposite side. 
It took some time to fix the head properly, and we 
were just ending when Merrifield sprang to his feet and 
exclaimed : " Look at the bears ! " pointing down into the 
valley below us. Sure enough there were two bears 
(which afterwards proved to be an old she and a nearly 
full-grown cub) travelling up the bottom of the valley, 
much too far off for us to shoot. Grasping our rifles and 
throwing off our hats we started off as hard as we could 
run, diagonally down the hill-side, so as to cut them off. 
It was some little time before they saw us, when they 
made off at a lumbering gallop up the valley. It would 
seem impossible to run into two grizzlies in the open, but 
they were going up hill and we down, and moreover the 
old one kept stopping. The cub would forge ahead and 
could probably have escaped us, but the mother now and 
then stopped to sit up on her haunches and look round at 
us, when the cub would run back to her. The upshot was 
that we got ahead of them, when they turned and went 



Old Ephraim. 319 

straight up one hill-side as we ran straight down the other 
behind them. JBy this time I was pretty nearly done out, 
for running along the steep ground through the sage-brush 
was most exhausting work ; and Merrifield kept gaining 
on me and was well in front. Just as he disappeared over 
a bank, almost at the bottom of the valley, I tripped over 
a bush and fell full-length. When I got up I knew I 
could never make up the ground I had lost, and besides, 
could hardly run any longer ; Merrifield was out of sight 
below, and the bears were laboring up the steep hill-side 
directly opposite and about three hundred yards off, so I 
sat down and began to shoot over Merrifield's head, aiming 
at the big bear. She was going very steadily and in a 
straight line, and each bullet sent up a puff of dust where 
it struck the dry soil, so that I could keep correcting my 
aim ; and the fourth ball crashed into the old bear's flank. 
She lurched heavily forward, but recovered herself and 
reached the timber, while Merrifield, who had put on a 
spurt, was not far behind. 

I toiled up the hill at a sort of trot, fairly gasping 
and sobbing for breath ; but before I got to the top I 
heard a couple of shots and a shout. The old bear had 
turned as soon as she was in the timber, and came towards 
Merrifield, but he gave her the death wound by firing into 
her chest, and then shot at the young one, knocking it 
over. When I came up he was just walking towards the 
latter to finish it with the revolver, but it suddenly jumped 
up as lively as ever and made off at a great pace for it 
was nearly full-grown. It was impossible to fire where 
the tree trunks were so thick, but there was a small open- 



320 Old Rphraim. 

ing across which it would have to pass, and collecting all 
my energies I made a last run, got into notion, and cov- 
ered the opening with my rifle. The instant the bear 
appeared I fired, and it turned a dozen somersaults down- 
hill, rolling over and over ; the ball had struck it near the 
tail and had ranged forward through the hollow of- the 
body. Each of us had thus given the fatal wound to the 
bear into which the other had fired the first bullet. The 
run, though short, had been very sharp, and over such 
awful country that we were completely fagged out, and 
could hardly speak for lack of breath. The sun had 
already set, and it was too late to skin the animals ; so we 
merely dressed them, caught the ponies with some 
trouble, for they were frightened at the smell of the bear's 
blood on our hands, and rode home through the darken- 
ing woods. Next day we brought the teamster and two 
of the steadiest pack-horses to the carcasses, and took the 
skins into camp. 

The feed for the horses was excellent in the valley in 
which we were camped, and the rest after their long 
journey across the plains did them good. They had 
picked up wonderfully in condition during our stay on the 
mountains ; but they were apt to wander very far during 
the night, for there were so many bears and other wild 
beasts around that they kept getting frightened and run- 
ning off. We were very loath to leave our hunting grounds, 
but time was pressing, and we had already many more 
trophies than we could carry ; so one cool morning, when 
the branches of the evergreens were laden with the 
feathery snow that had fallen overnight, we struck camp 



Old Rpkraim. 321 

and started out of the mountains, each of us taking his 
own bedding behind his saddle, while the pack-ponies 
were loaded down with bearskins, elk and deer antlers, 
and the hides and furs of other game. In single file we 
moved through the woods, and across the canyons to the 
edge of the great table-land, and then slowly down the 
steep slope to its foot, where we found our canvas-topped 
wagon ; and next day saw us setting out on our long 
journey homewards, across the three hundred weary miles 
of treeless and barren-looking plains country. 

Last spring, since the above was written, a bear 
killed a man not very far from my ranch. It was at 
the time of the floods. Two hunters came down the 
river, by our ranch, on a raft, stopping to take dinner. A 
score or so of miles below, as we afterwards heard from the 
survivor, they landed, and found a bear in a small patch of 
brushwood. After waiting in vain for it to come out, one 
of the men rashly attempted to enter the thicket, and 
was instantly struck down by the beast, before he could so 
much as fire his rifle. It broke in his skull with a 
blow of its great paw, and then seized his arm in its 
jaws, biting it through and through in three places, but 
leaving the body and retreating into the bushes as soon 
as the unfortunate man's companion approached. We 
did not hear of the accident until too late to go after 
the bear, as we were just about starting to join the 
spring round-up. 




ADDENDUM. 



IN speaking of the trust antelope place in their eye- 
sight as a guard against danger, I do not mean to imply 
that their noses are not also very acute ; it is as import- 
ant with them as with all other game to prevent their 
getting the hunter's wind. So with deer ; while their 
eyes are not as sharp as those of big-horn and prong-horn, 
they are yet quite keen enough to make it necessary 
for the still hunter to take every precaution to avoid 
being seen. 

Although with us antelope display the most rooted 
objection to entering broken or wooded ground, yet a 
friend of mine, whose experience in the hunting-field is 
many times as great as my own, tells me that in certain 
parts of the country they seem by preference to go 
among the steepest and roughest places (of course, in so 
doing, being obliged to make vertical as well as hori- 
zontal leaps), and even penetrate into thick woods. 
Indeed, no other species seems to show such peculiar 
" freakiness " of character, both individually and locally. 



323 



INDEX. 



Antelope, iboetseq.; shed horns annually, 
181 ; as food, 181 ; appearance of, 181 ; 
curiosity of, 182 ; flagging, 182 ; shyness 
of, 183 ; habits of, 184, 201, 203-205 ; 
fleetnessof, 186 ; cannot jump high, 187 ; 
broad jumpers, 188 ; tame fawns, 189 ; 
killed by war-eagle, 190 ; voice of, 191 ; 
haunts of, 191 ; need water, 191 ; hints 
for hunting, 194 ; author hunts, 195- 
204, 210-213 ; author kills, 204, 213 ; 
follow the leader, 205 ; trust in eyesight 
of, 322 

Aurochs, 243 

Avocet, 64 



jer, hole, 208 ; foe to prairie-dog, 
209, 2IO 

Bad Lands, appearance of, 2, 228 ; geo- 
logical formation of, 143, 144 

Bear, black, 307 

Bear, grizzly, 297 et seq.; less dangerous 
than of old, 297-299 ; compared with 
other big game, 300-302 ; men killed 
by, 302, 303, 321 ; attack of a, 302 ; 
horse beats off a, 305 ; method of hunt- 
ing. 305 I author hunts, 305-314, 316- 
320 ; whining of, 308 ; author kills, 
313, 320 ; weight of, 314 ; name of, 
how derived, 314 ; as food, 316 

Beaver, 48 ; meadow, 49 ; dam, 50 

" Bedding down," 72 

Big-horn, see Mountain sheep. 

Bighorn Mountains, 275 ; resemblance of, 
to Adirondacks, 285 

Bone-hunters, 244 



Books, suggestions for a ranchman's 
library, 12 

Buckboard, 172 

Bucking horses, 5, 6 

Buffalo, extermination of, 3, 242-245 ; 
remains of dead, 243, 244 ; trails, 244 ; 
gregariousness of, 245, 246 ; mountain 
species of, developed by hunting, 247 ; 
natural reasons for extermination of, 
249 ; dangers of hunting, 250 ; man 
killed by, 250, 251 ; adventure of John 
Roosevelt with, 251 ; tenaciousness of 
life of a, 253 ; easily tamed, 254 ; best 
rifle for shooting, 254, 255 ; author 
hunts, 257-263, 267-269 ; charged by a, 
262 ; kills, 268 

Buffalo, mountain, see Buffalo, wood. 

Buffalo, wood, 247, 248 

Buffle-head, see Ducks, dipper. 

Camp, how made, 55 et seq. 

Cattle plains, the northern, 2 

Cattle raising, progress of, 3 et seq.; un. 
profitable for new men, 20 

Chimney Butte ranch, 9 

Cougar, haunts of, 25 ; method of killing 
steers, 25 ; bronzes of, 26 ; negro killed 
by, 26, 27 ; easily trapped, 28 ; foe to 
elk, 275 

Coulies, 10 

Cowboys, 6 ; characteristics of, 7 ; Texans 
most expert, 7 ; dress of, 7, 8 ; horse- 
gear, 8 ; seat in saddle of, 8 ; work of, 
15, 16 ; pleasures of, 16, 17 ; call of, 
306 



325 



326 



Index. 



Cow-buntings, 74 

Coyote, extermination of, 2i ; kills sheep, 
22 ; wail of, 125 ; will not harm game 
hanging up, 172 ; kills antelope fawns, 
190 ; found near prairie-dog towns, 209 

Curlew, 6 1 

" Cutting out," manner of, 16 

Deer, black-tail, 126 et seq.; appearance 
of, 126, 152 ; gait in running of, 127 ; 
haunts of, 128, 143 ; hunting on horse- 
back, 129-131 ; still-hunting, 132 ; most 
desired game, 133 ; extermination of, 
rapid, 134 ; curiosity of, 134 ; author 
hunts, 134, 135, 165-172, 174-177, 178, 
179 ; author kills, 135, 150, 168, 172, 
J 77 X 79 I habits of, when hunted, 135- 
137, 142 ; dress for hunting, 142 ; habits 
of, 144-148 ; hunting in darkness, 149 ; 
formidable when wounded, 150 ; hints 
for hunting, 153-157, 160; where to 
hit a, 155; killed by mistake, 289 

Deer, mule, see Deer, black-tail. 

Deer of the river bottoms, see Deer, white- 
tail. 

Deer, white-tail, 102 et seq. ; haunts of, 
103 ; author hunts, 105-107, 122, 123 ; 
author kills, 107, 123 ; sagacity of two 
fawns, 108 ; habits of, 109, no ; fawns 
as pets, no; hints for hunting, ni- 
117 ; difficulty in seeing, 123 ; change 
of coat of, 123 ; gait in running of, 127 

Dogs, combats of, with wolves, 24 ; match 
for cougar, 27 ; little used on plains, 
68, 95 ; in danger of poison, 68, 156 ; 
shooting grouse over, 86 et seq.; " stub- 
tail," 86 ; coursing jack-rabbits with, 
95 ; coursing wild turkey with, 100 ; 
hunting white-tail deer with, 115 ; in 
deer hunting, 156 ; riding after hounds 
a manly sport, 158 ; coursing antelope 
with, 186, 195 ; desirable in hunting 
grizzlies, 305 

Dough-bird, 64 

Dow, Will, 294 

Duck, shoveller, 53, 61 

Duck, spoon-bill, 53 

Ducks : mallard, 51, 52, 57, delicious eat- 
ing, 58 ; gun for duck-shooting, 52, 58 ; 



pintail, 53, 59 ; scaup, 56 ; red-head, 
57 ; dipper, 57 ; canvasback, 58 ; wood, 
59 ; overtaken by a hawk, 60 

Eagle, bald, hunting teal, 60 

Eagle, golden, 190 

Eagle, war, see Eagle, golden. 

Elk, disappearance of, 271, 273-275; 
where found, 272, 275 ; mild nature of, 
272 ; herd's trust in leaders, 272 ; foes 
of, 275 ; travel in single files, 279 ; 
author tracks, 280, 281 ; gait in running 
of, 281 ; author kills, 281, 288, 292, 
293, 296, 308 ; tongues of, delicious, 
282 ; whistling of bull, 290 

Elkhorn ranch, 9, 221 

Ferris, deer hunt of, 105-107 
Fort McKavett, 96, 99 
Fort Terret trail, 96 

Game butchers, 138 

Game-zones, 128 

Geese, 43 ; shooting with rifle, 44, 45, 48 j 

with buckshot, 58 
Gerard, Jules, 300 
Goose : Canada, 43 ; snow, 46, 48 
Greyhounds, 95, 100, 158, 186, 195 
Grouse, 66 et seq.; blue, 67, 284 

Hail kills lambs, 120 

Hare, Little Chief, 285 

Hawk : lanner, 60 ; Cooper's, 60 

Horned frog, 192 

Hunters, professional, 30 ; so-called, 30 ; 

old-time, 31 ; requisite for good, 137, 

142, 157 
Hunting season for deer, 163 

Indians, driven from Bad Lands, 3 ; have 
no claim to lands seized by govern- 
ment, 18 ; plan for treatment of, in re- 
gard to lands, 19; poor shots, 157; 
patient hunters, 157 ; enemies to buffalo, 
246 

Little Missouri River, 9 
Lost, how not to get, 283 
Lynx, 21, 311 

Magpie, 197 



Index. 



327 



Manitou, valuable horse, 34, 35, 117, 130, 
149, 170, 172, 173, 195, 206, 210, 213; 
hunting antelope with, 203, 204 

Marksmanship, at targets and wild ani- 
mals, 36-41 ; exaggerated stories of, 
39 ; of old hunters, 40 

Marlin, 64 

Mastiff disconcerted by fawns, 189 

Meadow lark, 13 

Medicine Buttes, 215 

Merrifield, 41, 221-223, 276, 279, 287, 
2 93 308, 309, 313 ; shoots elk, 282 ; 
kills black bear, 306, 307 ; kills grizzly 
bear, 315, 316 ; wounds grizzly bear, 

319 

Middle Butte, 233 

Middle plains of the United States, the 
great, i, 2 

Mountain sheep, 220 et seq. ; appearance 
of, 226 ; agility of, 227 ; haunts of, 
224-226 ; habits and characteristics of, 
228, 229 ; hints for hunting, 231 ; ad- 
ventures of author in hunting, 231- 
238 ; killed by author, 237, 238 ; hunt- 
ing, toilsome, 239 ; as food, 240 

Mud holes, 202 ; horse falls into, 266 

Musk-rat, 50 

Nutcracker, 285 

Old Ephraim, see Bear, grizzly. 

Otter, 50 

Owl, burrowing, 209 

Pack rats, foes to books, 12 ; origin of 

name, 13 

Plains sparrows, 13 
Plover : grass, 62 ; golden, 62 ; plains, 

64 

Pocket-gopher, 208 

Pocket-mouse, 13 

Pot-shooting, 68, 85 

Powder River, 103, 115 

Prairie, description of, 198, 199 

Prairie-dog, 207, 208 

Prairie-fowl, sharp-tailed, 67, 84 ; when 
to eat, 67 ; rarely shot over dogs, 68 ; 
pot-hunting, 69 ; author shoots, 69, 
75-77. 79. 80, 85 ; habits of, 70, 71, 
73, 74. 78, 79; "booming" of, 70; 



nest and chicks of, 71 ; habits of, 
when flushed, 76 ; shooting with dogs, 
86-88 
Prong-horn, see Antelope. 

Quarry of ranchmen, 28 
Quicksand, 202, 203 

Rabbits : cotton-tail, 94 ; jack-, 94 

Ranches, 4 

Ranch-house, description of, 5 ; author's, 
II 

Ranch life, charm of, 14 ; work of, 15 ; 
decadence of, 20 ; offers chance for 
sport, 29 

Ranchman, 8 ; dress, 8, 34 

Rattlesnake, 192-194 ; girl killed by, 
193 ; cattle struck by, 194 ; in prairie- 
dog holes, 209 

Revolver, 33, 68, 186 

Rifle : Bullard, 32, 33 ; Sharp's, 32, 38 ; 
Winchester, 32, 185 ; ranch-gun, 33 ; 
Winchester Express, 38 ; and shot- 
gun compared, 66; Sharp's, for buffalo, 
2 54, 2 55 Winchester, for buffalo, 254, 
256 ; pea, 298, 299 ; Winchester, for 
grizzly, 298 ; Spencer, 304 

Roosevelt, Elliott, brother of the author, 
kills a cougar, 26 ; shoots grouse, 85, 
88 ; letter from, 96 ; shoots turkey, 99 ; 
charged by buffalo, 251 ; hunts buffalo, 
256 

Roosevelt, John, adventure with a buf- 
falo, 251 

Rope, manner of throwing the, 16 

Round-up, description of a, 15, 16 

Sage-fowl, 88 ; haunts of, 88 ; call of, 
89 ; habits of, 89, 91 ; as food, 90, 
91 ; vitality of a, 92 ; a day's sport 
with, 92-94 

Sandy, 63 

Shack mice, 13 

" Shaps," 8 

Sheep hated by cowboys, 120 

Shot-gun, choke-bore, 33 ; hammerless, 
33 ; useful for white-tail deer, 115 

Skunk, 63 ; bite sometimes deadly, 63 ; 
Sandy shoots a, 63, 64 

Skylark, 211 



328 



Index. 



Skylark: Missouri, 13 
Slews, 51 

Snow-bunting sings on wing, 14 
Stilt, 64 

Storm, in the Bad Lands, 119 ; at Medi- 
cine Buttes, 217, 218 

Teal, 52, 6 1 ; killed swimming by eagle, 
60 

Teal, blue-winged, 52 

Teal, green-winged, 52 

Thrush : hermit, 13 ; brown, 13 

Tracking, 161 

Trout, 287 

Turkey, wild, 95 ; shooting in the roosts 
in Texas, 96-99 ; coursing with grey- 
hounds, 100 



" Vic," 42 

Wapiti, see Elk. 

Water, scarcity of, 54 

Waterfowl, 43 et sey. 

Widgeon, 52, 57, 61 

Willet, 64 

Wolf, extermination of, 21 ; habits of, 
22 ; attacks horses, 23 ; defeated by 
dogs, 24 ; courtship of wolf and New- 
foundland, 25 ; killed by poison., 68 ; 
stampedes horses, 264 

Wolverine, 311 

Yellowlegs, 64 
Yelper, 64 




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