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

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Hunting Trips of a 
Ranchman 



50^ 



Sketches of Sport on the Northern 
Cattle Plains 



Theodore Roosevelt 

Author of " American Ideals," " The Wilderness Hunter,' 
" The Winning of the West," etc. 



• * * * i* ' »* *» **> 



G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 
1900 






s-\o 



Copyright, iSSs 



ii-^ 



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 



TO THAT 

KEENEST OF SPORTSMEN 

AND 

TRUEST OF FRIENDS 

MY BROTHER 
ELLIOTT ROOSEVELT 



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 Mis- 
souri — Indoor amusements — Books — Pack- 
rats — Birds — Ranch life— The round-up- 
Indians — Ephemeral nature of ranch life- 
Foes of the stockmen— Wolves, their rav- 
ages — 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 — Weap- 
ons— Dress— Hunting-horses— Target-shoot- 
ing and game shooting. . . , » 

CHAPTER II. 

WATE R-FO WL . 

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 

5 



6 CONTENTS 

eastward— Mallards and wild geese in corn- 
fields—Eagle and ducks— Curlews— Noisiness 
and curiosity — Grass plover — Skunks. . yS 

CHAPTER III. 

THE GROUSE OF THE NORTHERN CATTLE PLAINS. 

Rifle and shot-gun— Sharp-tailed prairie fowl — 
Not often 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 wariness— 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 ac- 
count of a trip made by my brother, in Texas, 
after wild turkey — Shooting them from the 
roosts — Coursing them with greyhounds . II2 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE DEER OF THE RIVER BOTTOMS. 

The White-tail deer best known of American 
large game — The most difficult to extermi- 
nate — A buck killed in light snow about 
Christmas-time — The species very canny — 
Two ** tame fawns" — Habits of deer — Pets — 
Method of still-hunting the white-tail — 
Habits contrasted with those of antelope — 



CONTENTS 7 

Wagon trip to the westward — Heavy cloud- 
burst — Buck shot while hunting on horse- 
back— Moonlight ride 171 

CHAPTFR 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 extermina- 
tion—First buck shot— Buck shot from 
hiding-place— Different qualities required in 
hunting different kinds of game— Still-hunt- 
ing 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 — Ap- 
pearance of black-tail— Difficult to see and 
to hit— Indians poor shots— Riding to hounds 
—Tracking— 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 . 210 



CHAPTER I 

RANCHING IN THE BAD 
LANDS 

THE 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 In- 
dians, 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 hope- 
lessly and sullenly out upon their old hunt- 
9 



lo HUNTING TRIPS 

ing-grounds, now roamed over by the count- 
less herds of long-horned cattle. The north- 
ern 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. 

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 south- 
ward to the Black Hills and the Big Horn 
chain, thus including all of Montana, North- 
ern Wyoming, and extreme Western Da- 
kota. The character of this rolling, broken, 
plains country is everywhere much the same. 
It is a high, nearly treeless region, of light 
rainfall, crossed by streams which are some- 
times 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 



OF A RANCHMAN ii 

break ; elsewhere there are rolling hills, some- 
times of considerable height; and in other 
places the ground is rent and broken into the 
most fantastic shapes, partly by volcanic ac- 
tion and partly by the action of water in a 
dry climate. These latter portions form the 
famous Bad Lands. Cotton-wood trees 
fringe the streams or stand in groves on the 
alluvial bottoms of the rivers ; and some of 
the steep hills and canyon 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 were won from the Indians. 
They were their only remaining great hunt- 
ing-grounds, and towards the end of the last 
decade all of the northern plains tribes went 



12 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 im- 
petus. 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 civiH- 
zation. 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 practi- 
cally destroyed. But meanwhile the cattle- 
men formed the vanguard of the white set- 
tlers. Already the hardy southern stockmen 
had pressed up with their wild-looking herds 
to the very border of the dangerous land, and 
even into it, trusting to luck and their own 
prowess for their safety ; and the instant the 
danger was even partially removed, their cat- 
tle swarmed northward along the streams. 
Some Eastern men, seeinof the extent of the 



OF A RANCHMAN 13 

grazing country, brought stock out by the 
railroad, and the short-horned beasts became 
almost as plenty as the wilder-looking south- 
ern 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 become a promi- 
nent 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 sup- 
ply 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 



14 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 yearling steers also were, 
and still are, driven from the breeding ranch- 
es 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 coimtry 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. 



OF A RANCHMAN 15 

The small ranches are 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, indeed, 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 dis- 
tance off. A small patch of ground is usu- 
ally 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, 



i6 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 cir- 
cumstances. 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 In- 
dians. They are broken in a very rough 
manner, and many are in consequence vi- 
cious 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 
head down between his forefeet, arches 
his back, and with stiff legs gives a 
succession of jarring jumps, often " chang- 
ing ends " as he does so. Even if a 
man can keep his seat, the performance gives 
him about as uncomfortable a shaking up as 
can be imagined. 

The cattle rove free over the hills and prai- 



OF A RANCHMAN 17 

ries, picking up their own living even in win- 
ter, all the animals of each herd having 
certain distinctive brands on them. But lit- 
tle attempt is made to keep them within 
definite bounds, and they wander whither 
they wish, except that the ranchmen gener- 
ally combine to keep some of their cowboys 
riding lines to prevent them straying away 
altogether. 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 Western 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 



i8 HUNTING TRIPS 

become undistinguishable from their Amer- 
ican companions, for these plainsmen are far 
from being so heterogeneous a people as is 
commonly supposed. On the contrary, all 
have a certain curious similarity to each 
other ; existence in the west seems to put the 
same stamp upon each and every one of them. 
Sinewy, 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 pleas- 
ure 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 si- 
lent, self-contained men when with strangers, 



OF A RANCHMAN 19 

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 Kansans, 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 trust- 
worthy. 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 
flannel shirt, with a bright silk handkerchief 



20 HUNTING TRIPS 

loosely knotted round the neck, trousers 
tucked into high-heeled boots, and a pair of 
leather '' shaps " (chaperajos) or heavy rid- 
ing 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 pommel 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 foreman dresses precisely like 
the cowboys, except that the materials are 
finer, the saddle leather being handsomely 



OF A RANCHMAN 21 

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 rattlesnakes, or on the chance of 
falling in with a wolf or coyote, while not 
unfrequently it is used to add game to tlje 
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-hunt- 
ers. The stirrups are so long that the 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 follow- 
ing hounds over fences and high walls, on a 
spirited horse needing very careful humor- 
ing, the latter would certainly excel ; but he 
would find it -hard work to sit a bucking 
horse like a cowboy, or to imitate the head- 



22 HUNTING TRIPS 

long 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 re- 
fractory 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 Mis- 
souri 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 torrent, that 
neither man nor beast can pass; at otlier 
seasons of the year it is very shallow, spread- 
ing out into pools, between which the trick- 
ling 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 allu- 
vial land enclosed by a single bend is called 
a bottom, which may be either covered with 



OF A RANCHMAN 23 

cotton-wood trees or else be simply a great 
grass meadow. From the edges of the val- 
ley the land rises abruptly in steep high 
buttes whose crests are sharp and jagged. 
This broken country extends back from the 
river for many miles, and has been called al- 
ways, by Indians, French voyageurs, and 
American 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 Lit- 
tle Missouri, of which they are simply repe- 
titions 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 nar- 
row, 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 spraad out into level plateaus, 
many miles in extent ; others form chains, or 



24 HUNTING TRIPS 

rise as steep isolated masses. Some are of 
volcanic origin, being composed of masses 
of scoria; the others, of sandstone 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 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 25 

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 tru-: \merican does not 
enjoy a rocking-chai-'), book in hand — 
though they do not tften read th? books, but 
rock gently to and ^-vv gai'n<r ^'"pily out 
at the weird-lookini tes o^ until 

their sharp outlines g indistinc t- 

ple in the after-glow or the sunset. Itc 
story-high house of hewn logs is clean r.nd 
neat, with many rooms, so that one can be 
alone if one wishes to. The nights in sum- 
mer are cool ^4 pleasant, and there are 
plenty of bear-skins and buffalo robes, 



26 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
nightfall. 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 elk antlers which jut out from over 
the fireplace. From the deer horns ranged . 
along the walls and thrust into the beams 
and 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 b.e 
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. 



OF A RANCHMAN 



27 



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, Hawthorne, Cooper, Lowell, and the 
other standbys, I suppose no man, east or 
west, would willingly be long without them ; 
while for lighter reading there are dreamy 
Ike Marvel, Burroughs' breezy pages, and 
the quaint, pathetic character-sketches of the 
Southern writers — Cable, Craddock, Macon, 
Joel Chandler Harris, and sweet Sherwood 
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 



28 HUNTING TRIPS 

and log-cabins of the settlers. 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, underne^h 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, dis- 



OF A RANCHMAN 



29 



agreeable chatter. 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 singing for a quarter of 
an hour at a time without stopping. 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, clamoring over the 
ridge-pole and roof. Every few moments 



30 HUNTING TRIPS 

one of them would mount into the air, hover- 
ing about with quivering wings and warbhng 
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 dis- 
appeared 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 un- 
canny 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 free- 
dom, and the vigorous, open-air existence it 
forces a man to lead. Except 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 al- 
ways be had. These ponies are of every size 



OF A RANCHMAN 31 

and disposition, and rejoice in names as dif- 
ferent as their looks. Hackamore, Wire 
Fence, Steel-Trap, War Cloud, Pinto, Buck- 
skin, Circus, and Standing Jimmie are 
among those that, as I write, are running 
frantically round the corral in the vain effort 
to avoid the rope, wielded by the dexterous 
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 sev^n men there will be a four- 
horse wagon to carry the blankets and mess 



32 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 neighboring 
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 ^nd 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 of 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 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; 



OF A RANCHMAN 



S3 



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 misthrow. 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 cir- 
cle-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 



34 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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- 
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 sto- 
ries ; and he who has a good voice, or, better 
still, can play a fiddle or banjo, is sure to re- 
ceive 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 35 

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 im- 
mediate neighborhood, 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 



36 HUNTING TRIPS 

toward the Black Hills, there was still dan- 
ger 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 ourselves 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 gov- 
ernment and individuals, again and again. 
The government 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, re- 
vengeful, and fiendishly cruel savages a long 
series of outrages by both sides is sure to 



OF A RANCHMAN 37 

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 pre- 
viously butchered the original occupants. 
When my cattle came to the Little Missouri 
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 dreamed 
of saying that these hunters owned the coun- 
try. 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 



i 



38 HUNTING TRIPS 

hunters and trappers who have Hved on the 
game that the settlement of the country has 
exterminated, and let him, like these whites, 
who will not work, perish from the face of 
the earth wliich 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 in- 
dustry. 

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 nar- 



OF A RANCHMAN 39 

row. 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 overtaken. As the 
settlers throng into the lands and seize the 
good ground, especially that near the 
streams, the great fenceless ranches, where 
the cattle and their mounted herdsmen wan- 
dered 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 ac- 
quired to a great tract of territory, cattle 
ranching will continue for a long time, 
though in a greatly modified form ; elsewhere 



40 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 re- 
served 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 reser- 
vation 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 win- 
ter 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 thousand head of 
stock during winter. Then we hold in about 



OF A RANCHMAN 41 

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 ex- 
clusion, 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 re- 
gions 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 regu- 
larity), 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 



42 HUNTING TRIPS 

their natural foes, and followed them unre- 
lentingly. They shot at and chased them on 
all occasions, and killed great numbers by 
poisoning; and as a consequence the com- 
paratively 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 wolf, and only 
rarely a coyote. The coyotes kill sheep and 
occasionally very young calves, but never 
meddle with any thing larger. The stock- 
man fears only the large wolves. 

According to my experience, the wolf is 
rather solitary. 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



43 



bowlings have a most ventriloquial effect, 
they are often thought to be much more 
plentiful than they are. During the day- 
time they lie hid in caves or in some patch 
of bush, and will let a man pass right by 
them without betraying their presence. Oc- 
casionally somebody runs across them by ac- 
cident. A neighboring ranchman 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 gpt 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 impossible 
to get near him, and he gives every human 
being a w^ide berth. At night it is differ- 
ent. 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 



44 



HUNTING TRIPS 



heard of an instance where a man was at- 
tacked or threatened by them, but they will 
at times kill every kind of domestic animal. 
They are fond of trying to catch young foals, 
but do not often succeed, 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 at- 
tacked, 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 himself 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 bit- 
terest and coldest night to make the attack. 



OF A RANCHMAN 



45 



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 difliculty; I have known one which 
had tried to seize a sheep and been pre- 
vented 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 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 



46 HUNTING TRIPS 

equally derived from collie, Newfoundland, 
and bulldog. He was a sullen, but very in- 
telligent 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 run- 
ning after and overtaking him in the dark- 
ness. The struggle was short, for the dog 
had seized the wolf by the throat and the lat- 
ter 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 



OF. A RANCHMAN 47 

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 re- 
covered, although pretty well scarred. 

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^ 
treacherous; it both barks and howls. jTfhe 
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 



4-8 HUNTING TRIPS 

some little distance. Once or twice his hid- 
ing-place was discovered and then the men 
would amuse themselves by setting the New- 
foundland 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 cat- 
tle. 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 
ks farigs in the throat or neck. I have seen 
quite a large cow that had been killed by a 
cougar; and on another occasion, while o»t 



OF A RANCHMAN 49 

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 cou- 
gar's gait is silent and stealthy to an extraor- 
dinary degree ; the look of the animal when 
creeping up to his prey has been wonder- 
fully 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 it- 
self 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 he- 
reditary trait deeply engrained in its nature. 
When the continent was first settled, and for 
long afterward, the cougar was quite as dan- 



50 HUNTING TRIPS 

geroiis an antagonist as the African or In-' 
dian 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 border- 
ing on Florida. His plantation was sur- 
rounded 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- 
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 tem- 
per. 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 RANCHMAN 51 

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 canebrakes for bear, wildcats, etc. 
On one occasion they ran across a cougar, 



52 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

Cougars are occasionally killed by poison- 
ing, 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 acci- 
dentally 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 amusement; 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, an- 



OF A RANCHMAN 53 

telope, 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 incom- 
ing of the cattle-men, there grew up a class 
of residents, men with a stake in the wel- 
fare of the country, and with a regular busi- 
ness carried on in it, many of whom were 
keenly devoted to sport, — a class whose mem- 
bers were in many respects closely akin 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 



54 HUNTING TRIPS 

some who pass their hves in hunting only; 
and we cannot pretend to equal the achieve- 
ments 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 ranch- 
men 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 
occupation in America, and those vv'ho fol- 
low 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 sunset, and who naturally take 
kindly to that noblest of weapons 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 55 

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 plains- 
man. Nor is it likely that the game will dis- 
appear 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- 



5^ HUNTING TRIPS 

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 hunt- 
ers are not worth much. There are plenty 
of men hanging round the frontier settle- 
ments 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 57 

they possess ; but these are all mere tempo- 
rary excrescences, 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 al^ 
most 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 cowboy, as picturesque and self-reli- 
ant, as dashing and resolute 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 
husbandmen. 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 



58 HUNTING TRIPS 

small patches of fenced farm land and graz- 
ing 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 ani- 
mals they followed, leading a solitary, lonely 
life, often never seeing a white face for 
months and even years together. They were 
skilful shots, and were cool, daring, and reso- 
lute to the verge of recklessness. On any 
thing like even terms they very greatly over- 
matched the Indians by whom they were sur- 
rounded, and with whom they waged con- 
stant and ferocious war. In the govern- 
ment 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 hunt- 



OF A RANCHMAN 59 

ing 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 un- 
lovely race of beings, not excelling even in 
the pursuit which they follow because they 
are too shiftless to do anything 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 50-calibre, double- 
barrelled English express. Both of these, 
especially the latter, had a vicious recoil ; the 
former was very clumsy; and above all they 
were neither of them repeaters; for a re- 
peater 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 



6o HUNTING TRIPS 

Sharps for very long range work; a 50 — 115 
6-shot Bullard express, which has the veloc- 
ity, shock, and low trajectory of the English 
gun ; and, better than either, a 45 — 75 half- 
magazine Winchester. The Winchester, 
which is stocked and sighted to suit myself, 
is by all odds the best weapon I ever had, and 
I now use it 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 ac- 
curately 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 6i 

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 re- 
volver, 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. lo choke-bore 
for ducks and geese, made by Thomas of 
Chicago; and a No. i6 hammerless, built 
for me by Kennedy of St. Paul, for grouse 
and plover. On regular hunting trips I al- 
ways carry the Winchester rifle; but in rid- 
ing 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. i6, with a 40 — 70 rifle 
underneath the shot-gun barrels. 

As for clothing, when only off on a day's 
trip, the ordinary ranchman's dress is good 
enough: flannel shirt, and overalls tucked 
into alligator boots, the latter being of serv- 



62 HUNTING TRIPS 

ice against the brambles, cacti, and rattle- 
snakes. 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 buck- 
skin tunic or hunting-shirt, (held in at the 
waist by the cartridge belt,) buckskin 
trousers, and a fur cap, with heavy moc- 
casins for use in the woods, and light alli- 
gator-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 rid- 
ing 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 63 

case, the spirit in the thermometer sinks to 
— 60° — 65° Fahrenheit, it is necessary to 
have more wraps and bedding, and we use 
beaver-robes and bear-skins. An oilskin 
'* sHcker " or waterproof overcoat and a pair 
of shaps keep out the rain almost completly. 
Where most of the hunting is done on 
horseback the hunting-pony is a very im- 
portant 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 animal on the ranch. He 
is stoutly built and strong, able to 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 pick- 
ing 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 
grazing in one spot when left, and will per- 



64 HUNTING TRIPS 

mit 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 per- 
fect 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 un- 
tied, as they run away; and I can imagine 
few forms of exercise so soul-harrowing 
as that of spending an hour or two in run- 
ning, 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. 



OF A RANCHMAN 65 

Manitou is a treasure and I value him ac- 
cordingly. Besides, he is a sociable old fel- 
low, 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. 

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 persevering, 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 prac- 



66 HUNTING TRIPS 

tice 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 ranch- 
men 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 perseverance 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, 
making the discovery that to shoot at a gray 
object, not over-distinctly seen, at a dis- 
tance merely guessed at, and with a back- 
ground of other gray objects, is very dif- 
ferent from firing into a target, brightly 
painted and a fixed number of yards off. 



OF A RANCHMAN 67 

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 Httle back of that 
merely makes a wound which may in the end 
prove mortal, but which will in all probabil- 
ity allow the animal to escape for the time be- 
ing. 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 en- 
hanced. 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 non- 
sense that is talked and to see the nonsense 



6S HUNTING TRIPS 

that is written about the distances at which 
game is killed. Rifles now carry with deadly- 
effect the distance of a mile, and most mid- 
dle-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 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 buf- 
falo 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 buf- 



OF A RANCHMAN 69 

falo; 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 distance 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 won- 
derful shots at even longer distances, and 
they do occasionally, when shooting yery 
often, make them, but their performances, 
when actually tested, dwindle amazingly. 
Others, amateurs, will brag of their rifles. 
I lately read in a magazine about killing an- 
telopes at eight hundred yards with a Win- 
chester 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 



70 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 distance, finding it a trifle over a hundred 
and ninety. I always make it a rule to pace 
off the distance after a successful shot, when- 
ever 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 al- 
ways to try to get as near the game as pos- 
sible, 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 be- 
liever 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 71 

deceive himself into the belief that these oc- 
casional long shots are to be taken as sam- 
ples 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 fi- 
nally 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 va- 
ries. 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 particularly good 
marksmen; besides, they are careful to get 
up 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 



72 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 number of misses. Be- 
yond 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 con- 
cededly the best hunter on the Little Mis- 
souri ; 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 skil- 
ful 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



73 



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 shoot- 
ing. 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 
difficult shots either. One secret of his suc- 
cess is his constant practice. He is firing 
all the time, at marks, small birds, etc., etc., 
and will average from fifty to a hundred 
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. 



74 



HUNTING TRIPS 



Vic is an exception. With practice an 
amateur will become nearly as good a shot 
as the average hunter; and, as I said be- 
fore, 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, Merrifield, 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 Mus Achates of the huntinjgf 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 himself in an awkward predica- 
ment, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 75 

in 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. 



o 



CHAPTER II 
WATERFOWL 

NE cool afternoon in the early fall, 5 
while sitting on the veranda of the 
ranchhouse, 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 
heavily toward the south, along the course 
of the stream. They went by within a hun- 
dred 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 settled, 
I took the rifle instead of a shot-gun and 
hurried after them on foot. Wild geese are 
76 



OF A RANCHMAN 77 

very watchful and wary, and as I came 
toward the place where I thought 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 buUberry 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 my- 
self from their view. As it was already late 
and the sun was just sinking, I hastily re- 
treated 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 distinguish the birds clearly 



78 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 crim- 
son. I fired into the thickest of the bunch, 
and as the rest flew off, with discordant 
clamor, ran forward and picked up my vic- 
tim, 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 rifle. Once while out riding along 
the river bottoms, just at dawn, my atten- 
tion was drawn to a splashing and low cack- 
ling 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 79 

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 vigor- 
ously. 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 resting on the water, and 
being drifted down with the current. The 
fog closed over them again, but it was grow- 
ing 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, Jbefore the sun was above the 
horizon, but vv^hen there was plenty of light 



8o HUNTING TRIPS 

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. Be- 
fore they could 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 different 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, shal- 
low valley. I had seen no game, and before 
coming up to the crest of the divide beyond 
which lay the creek bottom, I dismounted 



OF A RANCHMAN 8i 

and crawled up to it, so as to see if any ani- 
mal 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 valley, 
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 pro- 
duced 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 
toward 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 moving abreast of one another 



83 HUNTING TRIPS 

slowly down the length of the meadow to- 
wards 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 horseback because of the quick- 
sands. 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 before 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 



OF A RANCHMAN Z^ 

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 there- 
fore dropped into the bed of the creek, 
which wound tortuously 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 apright, 
dropping my hat, and looking through be- 
tween the blades. The geese, still in a row, 
with several yards' interval between each 
one and his neighbor, 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 



84 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 common, 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 hunt- 
ers 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 Mis- 
souri 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- 



OF A RANCHMAN 85 

molested for perhaps a dozen years, when 
the process would be repeated. But the in- 
coming 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 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, together 
with the accessibility of its haunts on the 
plains, as compared with its haunts in the 
deep woods and mountains, render its pur- 
suit 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 valua- 
ble 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 



86 HUNTING TRIPS 

and houses. It would seem to be a simple 
feat to break into a beaver house, but in re- 
ality 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 
waiting on the plank 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 oc- 
casion I was deer-hunting in a rough, 
broken country, which was little more than 



OF A RANCHMAN 87 

a tangle of ravines and clefts, with very 
steep sides rising into sharp hills. The sides 
of the ravines were quite densely over- 
grown 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 narrow- 
est and steepest part, the beaver had built 
an immense, massive dam, completely stop- 
ping 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 



88 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 deni- 
zens of the dry country roundabouts, such 
as wolves, antelopes, and badgers. 

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 dis- 
tant from my ranch. The ground is gently 
rolling, in some places almost level, and is 
crossed by two or three sluggish, winding 



OF A RANCHMAN 89 

creeks, with many branches, always holding 
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 dehcious 
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 mi- 
gration. In these small pools, with Httle 
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 rrierely been among 



90 HUNTING TRIPS 

the cattle, — each duck, in the latter case, 
representing the expenditure of a vast num- 
ber 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 ly- 
ing 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 across which the ducks 
fly in passing from one sheet of water to 
another. Frequently quite a bag of mal- 
lard, 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. lo 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 91 

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, espec- 
ially 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 diver- 
sion, and taking my double-barrel, followed 
them on foot. The banks were five or six 
feet high, edged with a thick growth of 



92 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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 Httle 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 stand- 
ing 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 thir- 
teen 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 al- 



OF A RANCHMAN 93 

ready partially settled by farmers, and we 
had one or two days' quite fair duck-shoot- 
ing. 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 prairie in a deep narrow 
bed with steep banks. Until people have ac- 
tually 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 as- 
signed 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 



94 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
uncomfortable. 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, 



OF A RANCHMAN 95 

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, 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 wind- 
ward 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 certain 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 



96 HUNTING TRIPS 

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. 
Meanwhile 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 plains- 
men 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, biscuits are made in the 
fryingpan. 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 ev- 
ery old hand carries a water-proof canvas 
bag, containing his few spare clothes and 
necessaries ; on a short trip a little oilskin one, 
for the tooth-brush, soap, towel, etc., will 
do. 



OF A RANCHMAN 97 

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 camp- 
ing out is the period immediately after sup- 
per, 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 blackness 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 



98 HUNTING TRIPS 

first, and skitter along the surface for a few 
feet before settling down. Lying in our 
blankets we could plainly hear all the mo- 
tions: first of all, the whistle — whistle of 
their wings; then a long-drawn splash-h-h 
— plump; and then a low, conversational 
quacking. 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 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 ques- 
tion 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 sun- 



OF A RANCHMAN 



99 



rise 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 gad- 
wall, and also knocked over a red-head from 
a little bunch that went by, their squat, 
chunky forms giving them a very different 
L.cfC. 



loo HUNTING TRIPS 

look from the longer, lighter-built mallard. 
The mallards that came to feed flew high in 
the air, wheeling round in gradually lower- 
ing circles 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 na- 
ture 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 gener- 
ally 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. 



OF A RANCHMAN loi 

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 regret- 
fully 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. 

We had a long distance to make that day, 
and after leaving the grain fields travelled 
pretty steadily, only getting out of the wagon 
once or twice ^after prairie chickens. At 
lunch time we halted near a group of small 



102 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 " jump- 
ing " these little ducks, moving cautiously 
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 ofif. Late in the 
evening, while we were passing over a nar- 
row 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 brother's gun. Of course, this is a very 
small bag indeed compared to those made 
in the Chesapeake, or in Wisconsin and the 
Mississippi valley; but the day was so per- 



OF A RANCHMAN 103 

feet, and there were so many varieties of 
shooting, that I question 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 saw a mallard singled out of a flock, 
fairly overtaken, and struck down, by a 
large, light-colored hawk, which I supposed 
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 



I04 



HUNTING TRIPS 



teal flew swiftly by, and to his astonishment 
the eagle made after them. The little ducks 
went along like bullets, their wings work- 
ing so fast that they whistled; flop, flop 
came the great eagle after them, with la- 
bored-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 lit- 
tle duck as it came up; but he was unsuc- 
cessful, 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, performed 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 get- 
ting a chance to breathe. Soon he had 



OF A RANCHMAN 105 

singled out one, when kept down a shorter 
and shorter time at each 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 wa- 
terfowl being very expert at diving. Others, 
as widgeon, 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 common 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. 



io6 HUNTING TRIPS 

The curlew is the most conspicuous; in- 
deed its loud, incessant clamor, its erect car- 
riage, and the intense curiosity which pos- 
sesses it, and which makes it come up to 
circle around any strange object, all com- 
bine to make it in springtime one of the most 
conspicuous features of plains life. At that 
time curlews are seen in pairs or small par- 
ties, keeping to the prairies and grassy up- 
lands. They are never silent, and their dis- 
cordant noise can be heard half a mile off. 
Whenever they discover a wagon of a man 
on horseback, they fly toward him, though 
usually taking good care to keep out of gun- 
shot. They then fly over and round the ob- 
ject, calling all the time, and sometimes go- 
ing off to one 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 107 

practice of shooting them, though I have 
fired at them sometimes 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 sometimes 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-nest- 
ing 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 



id8 HUNTING TRIPS 

fire-arms and their infinitely more deadly 
poison, the partial and light settlement of 
the country that accompanies the cattle in- 
dustry has had the efifiect 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. 

The skunks are a nuisance in more ways 
than one. They are stupid, familiar beasts, 
with a great predilection 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 under- 
neath 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 at- 
tacks is that in certain districts and at cer- 



OF A RANCHMAN 109 

tain times the bite of the skunk is surely 
fatal, producing hydrophobia; and many 
cowmen, soldiers, and hunters have annu- 
ally 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. Hear- 
ing 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 informed of the cause of the shot, 
cursed the Scotchman up hill and down dale 
for having so nearly brought dire confusion 



no HUNTING TRIPS 

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 result 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. 



OF A RANCHMAN iii 

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 goini/ 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 broken piece of Bad Lands 
near my ranch^ where the ground is riven 
and twisted into abrupt, steep crests and 
deep canyons. The soil is seemingly wholly 
unfitted to support bird life, as it is almost 
bare of vegetation, being covered with fossil 
plants, shells, fishes, etc. — all of which ob- 
jects, by the way, the frontiersman, who is 
much given to broad generalization, groups 
together under the startling title of " stone 
clams." 



CHAPTER III 

THE GROUSE OF THE 

NORTHERN CATTLE 

PLAINS 

TO my mind there is no comparison be- 
tween sport with the rifle and sport 
with the shot-gun. The rifle is the free- 
man'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 ac- 
quired in handling a billiard cue with that 
shown by a skilful boxer or oarsman. The 
difference is not one of degree; it is one of 
kind. 

112 



OF A RANCHMAN 113 

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 chance 
to use. But out in the cattle country it is 
the rifle that is always carried by the ranch- 
man who cares for sport. Large game is 
still that which is sought after, and most 
of the birds killed are either simply slaugh- 
tered 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 plentiful 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 latter, 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 



114 HUNTING TRIPS 

is found among the cotton-wood trees and 
thick brush which fringe the streams. I 
have never noticed that its habits when pur- 
sued 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 re- 
treat 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 settle- 
ment 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 No- 
vember, after which it is a little tough. 

As already said, the ranchmen do not 
often make a 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 115 

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 strychnine, 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 everywhere. 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 antelope. 
Occasions frequently arise, in living a 



ii6 HUNTING TRIPS 

more or less wild life, when a man has to 
show his skill in shifting for himself ; when, 
for instance, he lias 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 ad- 
vantage he 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 
succession 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 bottom, I hap- 
pened to spy some prairie fowl squatting 



OF A RANCHMAN 117 

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 con- 
vinced that they were grouse, and rode my 
horse slowly by them. When opposite, I 
reigned 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 dis- 
tance from a grove of cotton-woods. They 
paid little attention 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 



ii8 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

The habits of this prairie fowl vary 
greatly at different seasons of the year. It 
is found pretty much everywhere 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; al- 



OF A RANCHMAN 119 

together it gives one the impression of being 
a very angular bird. Of course it crouches, 
and moves about when feeding, Hke any 
other grouse. 

One of the strangest, and to me one of the 
most attractive, 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 resonant 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 de- 
scribed 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 cocl^s gather together in certain 



I20 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
mottled brown and yellow down. The 
mother takes great care of them, leading 
them generally into some patch of brush 
wood, but often keeping them out in the deep 
grass. Frequently when out among the cat- 
tle 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 ef- 
fort 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 121 

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. Different 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 perfect 
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 especially fond of frequenting the long 
grass in the bottoms of the coulies and ra- 
vines 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 trodden on before 
rising. 

Late in the month of August one year 



122 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



23 



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 lis- 
tening to the wild, not unmusical, calls of 
the cowboys as they rode round the half- 
slumbering steers. In the 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 stam- 
pede, 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 shorthorns of East- 
ern 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 



124 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
mentioned 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 thought they were unob- 



OF A RANCHMAN 125 

served, 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 undisturbed 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 tak- 
ing 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, 



126 HUNTING TRIPS 

just about the time the last of the flocks were 
flying away from their 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 cat- 
tle they stopped grazing and looked curi- 
ously at me, for they were unused to seeing 
any man not on horseback. But they did 
not offer to molest me ; Texan or even north- 
ern steers bred on tlie more remote ranges 
will often follow and threaten a footman for 
miles. While passing among the cattle it 
was amusing to see the actions of the little 
cow buntings. They were very familiar lit- 
tle 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 rid- 



OF A RANCHMAN 127 

ing 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, wind- 
ing, 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, 



128 HUNTING TRIPS 

with a whirr, clucking and crowing; I held 
the little i6-bore fully two feet ahead of him, 
pulled the trigger, and down he came into 
the bushes. The sharp-tails 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. Sometimes they will sail 
a long distance with set wings before alight- 
ing, 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 bullberry 
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 



OF 'A RANCHMAN 129 

shooting. The covey was a large one, com- 
posed of two or three broods of young prai- 
rie 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 pres- 
ence 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 I could not pene- 
trate. 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 



I30 



HUNTING TRIPS 



without rousing any thing; happening to 
look back when I had gone some fifty 
yards, I was surprised 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 scat- 
tering in the brushy hollows 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 131 

a mile or two off. There I stayed till long 
after the shadows began to lengthen, when 
I started homeward. 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 barrels, either because I miscal- 
culated the distance or for some other rea- 
son, 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 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 bot- 
toms, and to wander out among the short 
grass of the , ravines and over the open 
prairie. They are at first not very shy, and 



132 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
roUing prairie, crossing the creeks, and skirt- 
ing 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 ac- 
quire 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 con- 
trary, trust to their vigilance and their pow- 
ers 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 133 

a good shot, with a close-shooting-, strong- 
hitting gun. I remember one evening, while 
coming over with a wagon team from the 
head waters of O'Fallon Creek, across the 
Big Sandy, when it became a matter of a 
good deal of interest for us to kill some- 
thing, as otherwise we would have had very- 
little to eat. We had camped near a succes- 
sion 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 be- 
fore 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 ccuitaining hundreds of individ- 
uals, and then show a strong preference for 



134 



HUNTING TRIPS 



the timbered ravines and the dense woods 
and underbrush of the river bottoms, the up- 
per 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 hill- 
sides, at a considerable 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 de- 
termined to take a 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. 



OF A RANCHMAN 135 

This had been a favorite resort for the sharp- 
tails for some time, and it was especially 
likely that they would go to it during a storm, 
as it afforded fine shelter, and also food. 
The buttes bounding it on the side where the 
trees were, rose to a sharp crest, which ex- 
tended along with occasional interruptions 
for over a mile, and by walking along near 
this and occasionally 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 



136 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
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-cov- 
ered 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 137 

let me come within a hundred yards of them ; 
so I turned back, cHmbed down into the can- 
yon, and walked homeward through it, pick- 
ing 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 sup- 
perless or dinnerless had it not been for 
some of these grouse; and one such in- 
stance 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 



138 HUNTING TRIPS 

which a few years ago troops had been 
stationed to guard against Indian out- 
breaks. Having taken care of the beef 
herd, I determined to visit a Httle 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 im- 
patient 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 
^ot reach the shack by nightfall. The well- 



OF A RANCHMAN 139 

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 coun- 
try, 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 ma- 
king a wide circle of some twelve miles the 
trail again came back to the Little Mis- 
souri, and led along the bottoms between 
the rows of high bluffs, continually cross- 
ing and recrossing the river. These cross- 
ings 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 be- 
fore, and the cold snap had not yet lasted 
long enough to make the ice solid, besides 
which it was covered with about half an 
inch of light snow that had fallen, conceal- 
ing all bad-looking places. The ice after 
bearing the cautiously stepping pony for a 



I40 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
impossible 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 star- 
light. 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 141 

with a rapidity which showed that the star- 
light would last but a short while. The 
light snow rendered the hoof beats of my 
horse muffled and indistinct ; and almost the. 
only sound that broke the silence was the« 
longdrawn, 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 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 



142 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 simmering 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 143 

plums. As the dawn brightened the sharp- 
tails kept up incessantly their hoarse cluck- 
ing, 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 ruf- 
fled, but when alarmed or restless they 
stood up straight with their necks stretched 
out, looking very awkward. 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 sunrise, 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. 



144 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 November 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 
country to the eastward. We had stopped 
over night with a Norwegian settler who 
had taken and adapted to a farmhouse an 
old log trading-post of one of the fur com- 
panies, lying in the timber which fringed 
a river, and so 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



145 



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 rang- 
ing very free (a Western dog on the 
prairies should cover five times the ground 
necessary for an Eastern one to get over), 
but very imperfectly trained. 

'Half of the secret of success on a shoot- 
ing trip lies in getting up early and work- 
ing all day; and this at least we had 
learned, for 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 feed- 
ing-grounds in the morning and evening. 



146 HUNTING TRIPS 

Our plan was to drive from one field to an- 
other, 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 very 
staunch and careful, never flushing a bird, 
while the puppy, from pure heedlessness, 
and with the best intentions, would some- 
times bounce into the midst of a covey be- 
fore 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 shooting 
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 



OF A RANCHMAN 147 

long diagonals. When either the setter or 
the pointer came to a stand, the other gen- 
erally 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 hol- 
lows. Carefully hunting over this, we 
found two or three coveys and had ex- 
cellent 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 



148 HUNTING TRIPS 

shooting in our rubber overcoats, as the 
weather was cloudy and there were fre- 
quent flurries of rain. 

We rested a couple of hours at noon for 
lunch, and the afternoon's sport was simply 
a repetition of the morning'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 bal- 
ance 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 149 

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 char- 
acterisic form of the regions which it in- 
habits. 

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 with- 
ered-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 nearly un- 
drinkable. 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. 



I50 HUNTING TRIPS 

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, be- 
fore 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 occasionally 
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 Sep- 
tember by quantities of grasshoppers. Cur- 
iously enough it does not possess any giz- 



OF A RANCHMAN 151 

zard, 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 impene- 
irable to man or beast. The little fellows 
skulk and dodge through the crooked 
stems so cleverly that it is almost im- 
possible to catch them. Early in August, 
when 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 com- 
ing 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 hollows until the 
spring-time. . 

In the early part of the season the young, 



152 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 ad- 
vances, 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 con- 
trary, it is excellent eating in August 
and September, when grasshoppers con- 
stitute their chief food, and^ if the birds are 
drawn as soon as shot, is generally per- 
fectly 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 
Missouri. 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



153 



luxuries being limited, I bethought me of 
a sage cock which I had shot during the 
day and had hung to the 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 proving 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 ppor 
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 



154 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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 harmonize 
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 usually sus- 
tained 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, 



OF A RANCHMAN 



^SS 



fluttering and kicking, and I shot a young 
one before the rest of the flock rose. To my 
astonishment the old cock recovered him- 
self 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 grapeshot 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 pursuit. Accordingly, 
one morning I started out on horseback 



156 HUNTING TRIPS 

with my double-barrel lo-bore 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 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 opera- 
tion. 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 157 

was formed, each fronted by a semicircular 
bluff, highest in the middle, and rising per- 
fectly 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 bot~ 
toms 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 re- 
treated 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, 
and, it being still early in the season, they 



158 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 carried 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 cottontail, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 159 

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 
;f'Ound 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 ap- 
proached ; but more often 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 



i6o HUNTING TRIPS 

ears remain black. The flesh is dry, and I 
have never eaten it unless I could get noth- 
ing 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 prac- 
tice when they sit upon their haunches. But 
though hardly worth powder they afford 
excellent sport when coursed with grey- 
hounds, 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 diflicult to keep sport- 
ing 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 neigh- 



OF A RANCHMAN i6i 

borhood 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 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 gazehounds, as de- 
scribed 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 tribu- 
taries which come boiling down from off 



i62 HUNTING TRIPS 

the immense upland water-shed of the 
staked plains, cutting the sides of the 
' divide ' into narrow canyons. The jour- 
ney 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 following 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 hori- 
zon, — the color of distant leafless trees, — 
and knew that it meant we should soon 
open out the valley. Another hour brought 
us over the last divide, and then our hunt- 
ing grounds lay before and below us. All 
along through the unbroken natural fields 



OF A RANCHMAN 163 

che black-tail and prong-horn abound, and 
feast to their heart's content all the winter 
through on the white, luscious, and nutri- 
tious mesquite grass. Through the valley 
with its flashing silver stream ran the dark 
line of the famous pecan-tree forests — the 
nightly resting-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 whip- 
ping 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 



i64 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 Vs^ith huge, bare, spreading limbs 
had caught the eye of one of our sporting 
scouts in the afternoon. Leaving our 
horses half a mile from the place, we walked 
silently along the river bank through the 
jungle to the roosting trees, where we scat- 
tered, and each man secreted himself as best 
he could in the underbrush, or in a hollow 
stump, or in the reeds of the river itself. 
The sun was setting, and over the hills and 
from the lowlands 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, 
soimds like the chnking of silver, followed 



OF A RANCHMAN 165 

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 immediately 
a magnificent old bird, swelling and cluck- 
ing, bullying his wives and abusing his 
weaker children to the last, trod majes- 
tically 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 re- 
lations 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 another 



i66 HUNTING TRIPS 

hour, as we looked through the tree-tops, 
we could make out against the light back- 
ground of the sky, almost as clearly as by 
day, the sleeping 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 deafen- 
ing 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 



OF. A RANCHMAN 167 

evening'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 deli- 
cately 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 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 direc- 
tion, beat up the small oak clumps, grass 
clusters, or mesquite jungles as we went 
along. Soon, jvith a loud whirr of wings, 
three or four turkeys rose out of the grass 



i68 HUNTING TRIPS 

ahead, started up by one of the greyhounds ; 
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 
upwards 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 ' Grimbeard,' 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 169 

him up in the air, he snapped 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. 

" 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 per- 
form 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 



170 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 

OF 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 com- 
mon in certain parts of the country. 
171 



172 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 ; 
but they have held, their own as none of 
the others have begun to do, and are al- 
ready 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 veni- 
son unless they make long trips back among 
the hills. The same is rapidly 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 remunerative species of hunting, 
and therefore only turn their attention 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 173 

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 cowboys 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 a fine buck a few days before 
last Christmas. The weather was bitterly 
cold, the spirit in the thermometer some- 
times going down at night to 50° below 
zero and never for over a fortnight get- 
ting 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 



174 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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 un- 
der-clothing, with flannels, lined boots, and 
great fur coats, caps, and gauntlets or mit- 
tens, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 175 

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 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 to- 
ward the open plains; though in winter, 



176 HUNTING TRIPS 

when weak and emaciated, the cattle must 
be disturbed and driven as Httle 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 January 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 177 

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 
often doubling back on his trail and sneak- 
ing 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 pursuit the deer was in a 
copse of bushes and young trees some hun- 
dreds of yards across, and in this it had 
doubtless spent the night, for it was ex- 
tremely unlikely that, wounded and tired as 
it was, it would go any distance after find- 
ing that it was no longer pursued. 

When we g^ot to the thicket we first made 
a circuit round it to see if the wounded 



178 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 crip- 
ple; 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 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



79 



he had evidently just left; a shout informed 
me that the game was on foot, and imme- 
diately afterward the crackling and snap- 
ping 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 afterward 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, consid- 
ering that the rutting season was just over. 
We dressed it at once, and, as the house 
was so near, determined we would drag it 
there over the snow ourselves, without go- 



i8o HUNTING TRIPS 

ing back for a horse. Each took an antler, 
and the body sHpped 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 per- 
fectly 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 means so apt to stay in the imme- 
diate 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 moment. 
Two fawns in especial were really amusing- 
ly tame, at one time spending their days hid 
in an almost impenetrable tangle of bull- 
berry bushes, whose hither edge was barely 
a hundred yards from the ranch-house ; and 



OF A RANCHMAN i8i 

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 deter- 
mined that the two deer (for it was late in 
autumn and they were then well grown) 
should be sacrificed. Accordingly one of 
us sallied out, but found that the sacrifice 
was not to be consummated so easily, for 
the should-be victims appeared to distin- 
guish perfectly well between a mere passer- 
by, whom they regarded with absolute in- 
difference, and any one who harbored sin- 
ister designs. -They kept such a sharp 
look-out, and made off so rapidly if any 



1 82 HUNTING TRIPS 

one tried to approach them, that on two 
evenings 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 com- 
mon-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 re- 
fresh themselves by bathing, as they con- 
tain nothing to eat. 

Throughout the day the white-tails keep 
in the densest thickets, choosing if possible 
those of considerable extent. For this rea- 



OF A RANCHMAN 183 

son 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 day- 
time. They lie very close, permitting a man 
to pass right by them; and the twigs and 
branches surrounding them are so thick and 
interlaced 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 dis- 
cover them, they arise and skulk silently off 
through the thickest part of the brush. If 
followed, they keep well ahead, moving per- 
fectly noiselessly through the thicket, often 
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 ths white-tail will lie so close 
that it may almost be trodden on. One 



1 84 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 accus- 
tomed to travelling at speed along the cat- 
tle 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. Suddenly 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, pass- 
ing without heed through the ranks of the 
long-horned and savage-looking steers. 



OF A RANCHMAN 185 

Doubtless she had a Httle 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 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 po- 
tatoes 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. Per- 



, 1 86 HUNTING TRIPS 

haps 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 buck- 
skin suit and moccasins. The moccasins 
enable one to tread softly and noiselessly, 
while the buckskin suit is of a most incon- 
spicuous 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 with- 
out 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-grounds of the deer may vary. If 
they are on a bottom studded with dense 
copses, they move out on the open between 



OF A RANCHMAN 187 

them; if they are in a dense wood, they 
feed along its edges ; but, by preference, 
they keep in the Httle 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 obser- 
vation than upon discovering danger while 
it is still far off, and so are usually in shel- 
tered places where they cannot be seen at 
any distance. Hence, shots at them arc 
generally obtained, 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 



1 88 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 pre- 
vent its suspecting any approach. But only 
a few white-tail are killed by regular and 
careful stalking ; in much the greater num- 
ber of instances the hunter simply beats pa- 
tiently 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, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 189 

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 cer- 
tain to contain 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 im- 
penetrable, and in other places opening out 
into what seem like arched passage-ways, 



I90 HUNTING TRIPS 

through which a man must at times go al- 
most on all fours. The ground may be 
covered 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 oc- 
casionally 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 openings. 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 carefully 
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 lit- 
tle distance ahead ; and toward evening the 



OF A RANCHMAN 191 

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 hunting 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 tedi- 
ous, 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 
summer sun it* has its advantages, for it is 
not often so oppressingly hot in the swamp 



192 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 occasion- 
ally 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 bay- 
ing, 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 with- 
out 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 



193 



often skulk round and round a thicket in- 
stead of putting out of it when a man en- 
ters; and even when started it may break 
back past the driver instead of going to- 
ward the guns. 

In all these habits white-tail are the very 
reverse of such game as antelope. Ante- 
lope care nothing at all about being seen, 
and indeed rather court observation, while 
the chief anxiety of a white-tail is to go un- 
observed. In passing through a country 
where there are antelope, it is almost impos- 
sible 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 con- 
trary rely almost exclusively either upon 
lying perfectly still and letting the danger 



194 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 cross- 
ing 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 tUem 
stealing off through the underbrush; and 
another method of pursuit in these jungles 
is occasionally followed by one of my fore- 
men, 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 Manitou, 
stands as steady as a rock, yet I find it im- 



OF A RANCHMAN 195 

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 horseback. This last 
term, by-the-way, must not be understood 
in the sense in which it would be taken by 
the fox-hunter of the South, or by the Cali- 
fornian and Texan horsemen who course 
hare, antelope, and wild turkey with their 
fleet greyhounds. With us hunting on 
horseback simply means that the horse is 
ridden not only to the hunting grounds, but 
also through them, until the game is dis- 
covered; 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 great 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 



196 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
hunting on horseback; and at that time I 
had been expecting 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 few daring trappers, the only 
white men to be seen on the last great hunt- 
ing-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 ourselves, — or 
else by a small party of emigrants, in two 
or three prairie schooners, which contain all 
their household goods. Nevertheless, it is 



OF A RANCHMAN 



197 



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 
perfectly 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 gul- 
lies, 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 
i near, resolves itself into two sharply defined 
parallel cuts. Such a road is a great con- 
venience 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, 



198 HUNTING TRIPS 

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. 

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 follow- 
ing slowly, with a couple of spare saddle 
ponies leading behind it. Early in the af- 
ternoon, while riding over 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 gath- 
ered 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 199 

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 in- 
tensity; 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 caught us a few hundred yards from 
the creek, almost taking us from the sad- 
dle, and driving the rain and hail in sting- 
ing level sheets against us. We galloped 



800 HUNTING TRIPS 

to the edge of a deep wash-out, scrambled 
into it at the risk of our necks, and huddled 
up with our horses underneath the wind- 
ward 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 continu- 
ance he crouched under his horse's belly; 
coming home he came across some antelope 
so numb and stiffened that they could barely 
limp out of the way. 



OF A RANCHMAN 201 

Near my ranch the hail killed quite a 
number of lambs. These were the miser- 
able remnants of a flock of twelve thousand 
sheep driven into the Bad Lands a year be- 
fore, 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, melan- 
choly set of men, generally afoot, and with 
no companionship except that of the bleat- 
ing 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 continual sharp 
showers, all the next day and night. The 



202 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 ap- 
proach of evening warned us that we should 
have to go into camp while still a dozen 
miles from any pool or spring. Accord- 
ingly 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 build- 
ing 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 



OF. A RANCHMAN 203 

among the boxes and bundles inside the 
wagon and slept soundly till daybreak. 

When the sun rose next day, the third 
we were out, the sky was clear, and we two 
horsemen at once prepared 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 valleys, wind- 
ing and branching in every direction, their 
bottoms 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 without talking, guiding the 
horses as far as possible on earthy places, 
where they would neither stumble nor 
strike their feet against stones, and not let- 
ting our rifle-barrels or spurs clink against 
any thing. Keeping outside of the brush, 
a little up the side of the hill, one of us 



204 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 ra- 
vine, 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, the experienced plains- 
man 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 205 

never have dreamed it was a deer if left to 
myself. 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) hold- 
ing at the top of the portion visible, I pulled 
trigger, and the bright-colored patch disap- 
peared 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 September 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 feed- 
ing quietly or standing still, they rarefy 



2o6 HUNTING TRIPS 

show the proud, free port we are accus- 
tomed to associate 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 contrary, 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 condition and well able to stand 
a twenty- four hours' jaunt, in spite of hard 
work and rough usage; the spare ones, as 



OF A RANCHMAN 207 

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 bot- 
tom covered with thick, short grass, as dry 
as so much tinder. We wished to burn a 
good circle clear for the camp fire; light- 
ing 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 whok bottom would have been 
a blazing furnace within five minutes. 



2o8 HUNTING TRIPS 

After supper, looking at the worn-out 
condition of the team, we reaHzed that it 
would take three more days travelling at 
the rate we had been going to bring us in, 
and as the country was monotonous, with- 
out 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 
at firelight. For nine hours we rode 
steadily, generally at a quick lope, across the 
moon-lit prairie. The hoof-beats of oui* 
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 spec- 
tral-looking antelope swept silently away 
from before our path. Once we went by a 
drove of Texan cattle, who stared wildly at 



OF A RANCHMAN 209 

the intruders; as we passed they charged 
down by us, the ground rumbUng 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 trackless plain, steering by 
the stars where the prairie was perfectly 
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 blufifs in our 
front was crimson with the glow of the un- 
risen sun. 



CHAPTER V 
THE BLACK-TAIL DEER 

FAR different from the low-scudding, 
brush-loving white-tail, is the black- 
tail deer, the deer of the ravines and the 
rocky uplands. 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 
running, its flaunting flag is almost its 
most conspicuous part; but no one would 
notice the tail of a black-tail deer. 

210 



OF A RANCHMAN 211 

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 sometimes at- 
tained 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 de- 
formities, 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 for- 



212 HUNTING TRIPS 

ward feet first, the head held forward. 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 sur- 
prising rapidity and surefootedness, only 
surpassed by the feats of the big-horn in 
similar localities, and not equalled by those 
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 



OF A RANCHMAN 213 

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 overlapping is most ex- 
tended 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 di- 
rection by canyon-like ravines and valleys, 
which branch out and subdivide in the most 
intricate 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 aye patches of scrubby under- 
growth, and in many of the pockets or glens 



214 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 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 dif- 
ferent qualities in the hunter from those re- 
quired 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 endur- 
ance, of good judgment and of skill with the 
rifle. Hunting the black-tail is beyond all 
comparison the nobler sport. Indeed, 
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. 



OF A RANCHMAN 215 

It is still a moot question whether it is 
better to hunt on horseback or on foot ; but 
the course of events is rapidly deciding it 
in favor of the latter method. Undoubtedly 
it is easier and pleasanter to hunt on horse- 
back; and it has the advantage of covering 
a great deal of ground. But it is impossible 
to advance with such caution, and it is diffi- 
cult 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 con- 
clusion 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 
mo.untainous 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 where game is expected should, 
as a rule, be hunted over on foot. This rule 
is by no means a general one, however. 
There are still many localities where tTie 
advantage of covering a great deal of 



2i6 HUNTING TRIPS 

ground more than counterbalances the dis- 
advantage of being on horseback. About 
one third of my hunts are still made on 
horseback; 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 prac- 
tice 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 vari- 
ous movements take a novice a good deal 
of time; while an old hand will be off and 
firing with the most instantaneous quick- 
ness. 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 grazing away, perfectly happy 
and contented, and not making a movement 
to run off or evade being caught. 



OF A RANCHMAN 217 

One method of killing deer on horseback 
is very exciting. 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 dovv^i 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 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 ap- 
pearance of theii* foe is apt to so startle them 
as to make them break out and show them- 



2i8 HUNTING TRIPS 

selves 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, ow- 
ing to a very characteristic habit of the 
black-tail. This is its custom of turning 
round, apparently actuated simply by curi- 
osity, 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 dan- 
ger. Owing to its singular gait a succes- 
sion of buck jumps, the black- tail is a pecul- 
iarly 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 re- 
port will generally so alarm it as to make it 
continue its course without halting to look 
back. Some of the finest antlers in my 



OF A RANCHMAN 219 

possession come from bucks killed by this 
method of hunting ; and it is a most exhilar- 
ating form of sport, 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 neces- 
sary 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 addi- 
tion to possessing the gifts naturally he must 
also have developed them, by constant prac- 
tice, to the highest point possible. One of 
the foremen on my ranch is a really remark- 



220 HUNTING TRIPS 

ably good hunter and game shot, and an- 
other 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 prac- 
tice 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 perseveringly, we come upon 
quite a number of animals ; and we can kill 
a standing shot at a fair distance and a run- 
ning 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 thinning 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 disappear- 
ing; and bids fair to be the next animal, 



OF A RANCHMAN 221 

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 nat- 
ural 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 difference 
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 counterbalanced by the fact that 
they are more often standing ones, and that 



222 HUNTING TRIPS 

there is usually much more time for aiming. 
Moreover, one kind of sport can be followed 
on horseback, while the other must be fol- 
lowed 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 persecution or by 
the encroaching settlements. All these 
qualities 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 extermina- 
tion is going on at a frightfully rapid rate, 
owing to its being followed in season and 
out of season without mercy. Besides, the cat- 
tle 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 223 

wounding one, continually harry and dis- 
turb the poor animals. In the more re- 
mote and inaccessible districts the black-tail 
will long hold its own, to be one of the ani- 
mals 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 common game animals of 
the plains. 

Its great curiosity is one of the disadvan- 
tages under which it labors in the fierce 
struggle for existence, compared 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 hundred feet. The first black- 
tail I ever killed — unfortunately killed, for 
the body was not found until spoiled — was 
obtained 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 



224 HUNTING TRIPS 

crest of the spur up which he had run, 
he stopped and turned partially round. Fir- 
ing 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 hith- 
erto 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 galloped 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 
of two afterwards the place where the car- 



OF A RANCHMAN 225 

cass 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 occa- 
sion, while hunting in the mountains, I saw 
an old buck with remarkably large horns, of 
curious and beautiful shape, more sym- 
metrical than in most instances where the 
normal form is departed from. The deer 
was feeding in a wide, gently sloping val- 
ley, containing no cover from behind which 
to approach him. We were in no need of 
meat, but the antlers were so fine that I 
felt they justified the death of their bearer. 
After a little patient waitng, 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 amon^ some boulders. The deer 
was about a hundred vards off, down in the 



226 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 pre- 
vented 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 des- 
pair 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 bul- 
let had gone into his hip, paralyzing his 
hind-quarters. The antlers are the finest 
pair I ever got, and form a magnificent or- 
nament 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 227 

missing when out in the field, and that not 
once, but again and again. 

Of course, in those parts of the wilder- 
ness where the black-tail are entirely un- 
used 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 lonely spots, to which hunters rarely or 
never penetrate, deer of this species will 
stand and look at a hunter without ofiFer- 
ing to run away till he is within fifty yards 
of them, if he will advance quietly. In a 
far-off mountain 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 m.ay be. Then the suc- 
cessful still-hunter shows that he is indeed 
well up in the higher forms of hunting craft. 



228 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 suc- 
cessful sportsman the presence of most of 
the still-lumter's rarest attributes. All of 
the qualities which a still-hunter should pos- 
sess are of service in the pursuit 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 m.ove 
with noiseless stealth ; and he should be 
keen-eyed, and a first-rate marksman with 
the rifle. But in different kinds of shoot- 
ing, the relative importance of these quali- 
ties varies greatly. In hunting white-tail 
deer, the two prime requisites are stealth 



OF A RANCHMAN 229 

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 reso- 
lute. 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 hunting alone that good marksman- 
ship 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 de- 
gree 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, quickness is an essential. 
But at antelope there is plenty of time, and 
what is necessary is ability to judge dis- 
tance, and capacity to hit a small station- 
ary 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 



230 HUNTING TRIPS 

difficulty of capture than upon the nature 
of the quaHties in the hunter which each par- 
ticular 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 pa- 
tient; 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 implies the 
presence of, much more manly qualities 
than 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 de- 
gree of credit to be attached to one feat 
and that to be attached to the other. Indeed, 
if difficulty in killing is to be taken as a cri- 



OF A RANCHMAN 231 

terion, 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 fur- 
nished by the chase of each, the white-tail 
should stand at the bottom of the list, and 
the elk and black-tail abreast of the ante- 
lope. 

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 re- 
tiring; 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 dis- 
turbed. With antelope and white-tail this 



232 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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 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 himself 
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 am.ount of reliance 
placed on each sense varies greatly in dif- 
ferent species. Those found out on the 



OF A RANCHMAN 233 

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 lat- 
ter is walking over little but grass and soft 
earth. The buffalo, whose shaggy front- 
let 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 al- 
most 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 ante- 
lope, while his ears and nose are ^s sensitive 
to sound and scent as are those of an elk. 

Black-tail, like other members of the deer 
family, do not pay much attention to an ob- 
ject which is. not moving. A hunter who 
is standing motionless or squatting down is 



fi34 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 rmming 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 move- 
ment 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 to- 
gether in a confused group, and remain al- 
most motionless when their leader is struck 
down. Antelope and more especially elk 



OF A RANCHMAN 235 

are subject to perfect panics of unreasoning 
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 pe- 
culiarities. His eyes are good ; his nose and 
ears excellent. He is ever alert and wary; 
his only failing is his occasional over-curi- 
osity; and his pursuit taxes to the utmost 
the skill and resources of the still-hunter. 

By all means the best coverings for the, 
feet when still-hunting are moccasins, as 
with them a man can go noiselessly 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 horseback 
it is best to wear high boots, as they keep 
the trousers down. Indeed in the Bad 
Lands boots have other advantages, for rat- 
tlesnakes abound, and against these they af- 
ford perfect protection — unless a man 



236 HUNTING TRIPS 

should happen to stumble on a snake while 
crawling along on all fours. But moccasins 
are beyond all comparison the best footgear 
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 ac- 
count 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 migra- 1 
tion ; 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 coun- 
try to which he confines himself unless dis- 
turbed or driven away, not, of course, keep- 
ing in the same spot all the time, but work- 



OF A RANCHMAN 237 

ing round among a particular set of ravines 
and coulies, where the feed is good, 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 com- 
ing 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 valleys, 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, 



238 HUNTING TRIPS 

and thronged 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 morn- 
ings they will lie out among the boulders, 
on the steep side of such a scoria butte, 
sunning themselves, far from any cover ex- 
cept 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 
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 dif- 
ferent degrees of hardness, offer some more 
and some less resistance to the action of the 
weather. The table-lands, peaks, cliffs, and 



OF A RANCHMAN 239 

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 per- 
pendicular. 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 furi- 



240 HUNTING TRIPS 

bus 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 
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 vege- 
tation, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 241 

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 can- 
yons, 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 in- 
tense, the walls between the different gullies 
have been cut down to thin edges, or broken 
through, leaving isolated peaks of strange 
shape, while the hollows have been chan- 
nelled out deeper and deeper; such places 
show the extreme and most characteristic 
Bad Lands formation. When the weather- 
ing 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 



242 HUNTING TRIPS 

in their 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 between the spurs. If the coun- 
try 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 tlie 
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 al- 
ways chosen from which a look-out can be 
kept all around; and the moment any sus- 
picious object is seen, the deer slips off into 
the thicket below him. Perhaps the favor- 
ite resting-places are the rounded edges of 
the gorges, just before the sides of the lat- 



OF A RANCHMAN 243 

ter 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 impossible 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 successfully still-hunt a deer that 
is enjoying its day rest. Generally, 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 scram- 
ble, a couple of crashing bounds through 
the twigs and dead limbs, and gets a mo- 



244 HUNTING TRIPS 

mentary glimpse of a dark outline vanish- 
ing into the thicket as the sole reward of 
his labor. Almost the only way to success- 
fully 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 neigh- 
borhood of water, where he can get it every 
twenty- four hours ; but he is perfectly will- 
ing 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 home- 
ward, grazing as he goes ; and he will often 
stay for some little time longer, if there has 



OF A RANCHMAN 245 

been no disturbance from man or other 
foes, feeding among the scattered scrub 
cedars skirting the thicket in which he in- 
tends 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 break 
from his bed and bound off at much smaller 
provocation, 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, be- 
ing 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* impossible to distinguish 
clearly enough to shoot. 



246 HUNTING TRIPS 

One day one of my cowboys and myself 
were returning 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 an- 
noyed 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 247 

nothing 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 un- 
comfortable 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 possi- 
ble to aim after dark is to get the object 
a:gainst 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, rid- 
ing 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 



248 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 oi 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 perfect 
indifference to what he probably regarded 
as an irrational 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 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. Imme- 
diately afterwards the buck appeared, mak- 
ing the last jump with a great effort which 
landed him square on the edge, as sharply 
outlined as a silhouette against the fading 



OF A RANCHMAN 249 

western light. My rifle bead was just above 
him; pulHng it down I fired, as the buck 
paused for a second to recover himself 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 an- 
tagonist. 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 Imd in his haste not reloaded 
his rifle, he might have been seriously in- 



250 



HUNTING TRIPS 



jured 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 hounds to be killed by bucks 
which they had brought to bay in the rut- 
ting season. One of these bucks was a sav- 
age 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. Backing 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 251 

buck with antlers would be a match for a 
wolf, unless surprised, and could not im- 
probably beat oif a cougar if he received the 
latter's spring fairly on his prong points. 

Bucks fight fiercely among themselves 
during the rutting 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 in- 
terlocked and thus perishing; but these in- 
stances 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 
together by their interlacing antlers, the 
bearers of which had doubtless died owing 
to their inability to break away from each 
other. 



252 



HUNTING TRIPS 



A black-tail buck is one of the most no- 
ble-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, how- 
ever, 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 



OF 'A RANCHMAN 



253 



and then a plainsman will speak of it by 
this title. But all plainsmen know it gen- 
erally, 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 ob- 
ject 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 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 motionless 
looks black or gray, according as the sun- 
light strikes itj but always looks exactly 
the same color as the trees around it. It 



254 HUNTING TRIPS 

generally stands or lies near some tree 
trunks; and the eye may pass over it once 
or twice without recognizing its real na- 
ture. 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 prac- 
tical experience a would-be hunter learns 
not to expect deer always, or even gener- 
ally, 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 ob- 
ject observed on the hillsides, for it is just 
such small patches or obscure-looking ob- 
jects which are apt, if incautiously ap- 
proached, to suddenly take to themselves 



OF. A RANCHMAN 255 

legs, and go bounding off at a rate which 
takes them out of danger before the aston- 
ished 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. 

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 prac- 
tice 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 



256 HUNTING TRIPS 

shot or two he will probably be flurried — 
he may miss an absurdly easy, shot by 
not taking pains. I remember on one occa- 
sion missing two shots in succession where 
it seemed really impossible for a man to 
help hitting. I was out hunting on horse- 
back with one of my men, and on loping 
round the corner of a brushy valley came 
suddenly 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 sup- 
posed, 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 
>vas taken by another, somewhat smaller, 
who sprang out of a thicket into almost the 
identical place where the big buck had 
stood. Again I fired and missed; again 
the buck ran off, and was shot at and missed 
>vhile running — all four shots being taken 



OF A RANCHMAN 257 

within fifty yards. I clambered on to the 
horse without looking 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 jour- 
ney homeward in silence. A man is likely 
to overshoot at any distance; but at from 
twenty-five to seventy-five yards he is cer- 
tain 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 insuring its finally dying a 
lingering and painful death. The most in- 



258 HUNTING TRIPS 

stantaneously 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 his 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 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 259 

quarry stone dead. If the deer stands fac- 
ing 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 tena- 
cious 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 im- 
portance to give an immediately fatal or dis- 
abling wound, or the game will almost cer- 
tainly 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 greatest 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 plenti- 
fully with poisoned bait. We have had 
several hunting dogs on our ranch at dif- 
ferent times; 'generally wirehaired deer- 
hounds, fox-hounds, or greyhounds, by no 



26o HUNTING TRIPS 

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 fol- 
lowing 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 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 good 
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 



OF A RANCHMAN 261 

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 anywhere near 
the hunter who was with me; nor, indeed, 
to myself. An Indian gets his game by his 
patience, his stealth, and his tireless perse- 
verance; and a white to be really success- 
ful in still-hunting must learn to copy some 
of the Indian's traits. 

While the game butchers, the skin hunt- 
ers, and their like, work such brutal slaugh- 
ter 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 na- 
ture of the country debars them from fol- 
lowing certain murderous and unsports- 
manlike 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, ag is the fashion with some of 
the city sportsmen who infest the Adiron- 



262 HUNTING TRIPS 

dack 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 lan- 
tern in the bow of the canoe, as practised in 
the Adirondacks. Floating and fire-hunt- 
ing, 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 wilder- 
ness at night; and the noiselessness abso- 
lutely necessary to insure success often en- 
ables the sportsman to catch curious 



OF A RANCHMAN 263 

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 car- 
ried on, there is no manlier form of sport. 
It does not imply in the man who follows 
it the skill that distinguishes the success- 
ful still-hunter, but it has a dash and excite- 
ment all its own, if the hunter follows the 
hounds on horseback. But, as carried on 
in the Adirondacks 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 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 neces- 
sary, for then it is hard to hit a deer run- 
ning, no matter how close up; but even 
with this weapon all the sportsman has to 



264 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 different. 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 American 
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 per- 
mits this form of sport, and in many dis- 
tricts, even where ordinary hounds are 
used, the -riders go unarmed 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 265 

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 van- 
ished 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 more: 
exciting than still-hunting with the rifle. It 
is on the great plains lying west of the Mis- 
souri 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 almost unknown in the cattle 
country; and the ranchman who loves 
sport must try still-hunting — and by still- 
hunting is meant pretty much every kind 
of chase where a single man, unaided by a 
dog, and almost always on foot, outgen- 
erals a deer and kills it with the rifle. To 
do this successfully, unless deer are very 
plenty and tame, implies a certain knowl-* 



266 HUNTING TRIPS 

edge 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 gen- 
eral 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 uninhabited, 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 en- 
tirely different method. 

A certain knowledge of how to track deer 
is very useful. To become a really skilful 



OF A RANCHMAN 267 

tracker is most difficult ; and there are some 
kinds of ground, where, for instance, it is 
very hard and dry, or frozen soHd, 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 



2.68 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 read- 
ily; 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 con- 
fident that the deer is 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 269 

they have been in the place recently or not. 
Generally, signs of deer are infinitely more 
plentiful than the animals themselves — al- 
though in regions where tracking is es- 
pecially difficult deer are often jumped with- 
out any sign having been seen at all. Usu- 
ally, 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 morn- 
ing, 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 ex- 
plained. 

If deer are at all plenty — and if scarce only 
a master in the art can succeed at still-hunt- 
ing — it is best not to try to follow the tracks 
at all, but mei-ely to hunt carefully through 
any ground which from its looks seems likely 



270 



HUNTING TRIPS 



to contain the animals. Of course the hunt- 
ing 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 come into view, and closely 
inspect every place in sight in which a deer 
could possibly stand or lie, always remem- 
bering that a deer is when still a most dif- 
ficult animal to see, and that it will be com- 
pletely hidden in cover which would appar- 
ently 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 dis- 
tance. The heads of a series of brushy ra- 
vines should always be crossed; and a nar- 
row, winding valley, with patches of bushes 



OF A RANCHMAN 271 

ana 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 feed- 
ing, 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 Au- 
gust first to January first. August is really 
too early to get full enjoyment out of the 
sport. The bucks, though fat and good eat- 



272 



HUNTING TRIPS 



ing, are still in the velvet; and neither does 
nor 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. Decem- 
ber 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 everything 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 cot- 
ton-woods, growing on the points of land 
round which flow the rivers and streams. 



OF A RANCHMAN 273 

change to a delicate green or yellow, on 
which the eye rests with pleasure after hav- 
ing so long seen only the dull drab of the 
prairies. Often there will be days of bit- 
ter 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 dis- 
comfort, 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, 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. 



274 HUNTING TRIPS 

This was late one November, on an occa- 
sion when our larder was running low. My 
foreman and I, upon discovering this fact, 
determined 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 fan- 
tastic relief the peaks and crests of the buttes 
upon our left. The valley of the river it- 
self 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 275 

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 sum- 
mer 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 out of sight ; 
and with no light but that of the stars, we 
let our horses thread tlieir 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 east- 
ern heavens grew brighter, a dark form sud- 
denly appeared against the sky-line, on the 
crest of a bluff directly ahead of us. An- 
other and another came up beside it. A 
glance told us that it was a troop of ponies, 
which stood motionless, like so many sil- 
houettes, their outstretched necks and long 



276 HUNTING TRIPS 

tails vividly outlined against the light be- 
hind 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 di- 
vide 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 mo- 
ment 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 ra- 
vines and half-circular basins, their sides cov- 
ered with clusters of gnarled and wind- 



OF A RANCHMAN 277 

beaten cedars, often gathered into groves of 
some size. The ground was so broken as to 
give excellent cover under which a man coul(l 
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 gulfies, so as to be ourselves 
inconspicuous, we walked noiselessly on, 
cautiously examining 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 hol- 
low, 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 for- 
ward. Dropping on my knee, I held the rifle 
a little back of her shoulder — too far back, 



278 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 re- 
port 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 blockiof sandstone, in a posi- 
tion from which we overlooked 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 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 279 

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 



28o HUNTING TRIPS 

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 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 deserv- 
edly — 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 to- 
gether, and sometimes Seeping about a hun- 
dred yards aparit, 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 ad- 
vanced, 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 281 

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 resolution, and to per- 
severe 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 disgusted 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 three days. Others will go 
on hunting, but become careless, 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 



282 HUNTING TRIPS 

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, com- 
mon-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 understand. 

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 walk- 
ing for long hours under the blazing sum- 
mer sun. If he gets very thirsty, a mouth- 
ful 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 venison, 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 



OF 'A RANCHMAN 283 

into the bosom of the hunting-shirt or the 
pocket, or in fact anywhere; and for keep- 
ing up a man's strength there is nothing that 
comes up to it. 

After hmch 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 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 fran- 
tic 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 lurking 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 



284 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 judg- 
ment. 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 by my lessons; and before we 



OF A RANCHMAN 285 

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 year- 
ling 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 broad- 
side 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 un- 
steadily 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 oould not take the last buck 
along with us. Accordingly we dressed him. 



286 HUNTING TRIPS 

and hung him up by the heels to a branch 
of a tree, piHng the brush around as if build- 
ing a slight pen or trap, to keep off the coy- 
otes; 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 not wish to be 
encumbered by the heavy ranch wagon. 
Pack ponies are always a nuisance, though 
of course an inevitable one in making jour- 
neys 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 mean- 
while the hunters, without having their horses 
tired by carrying heavy packs, can strike off 



OF A RANCHMAN 287 

and hunt wherever they wish. There is Httle 
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 val- 
leys ; 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 team- 
ster 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 



288 HUNTING TRIPS 

be on hand to help the team pull up the steep 
places. Many horses tliat 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 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 dis- 
tance. Pack animals, however, can go al- 
most anywhere that a man can. 

Although still-hunting on foot, as de- 
scribed above, is on the whole the best way 
to get deer, yet there are many places where 



OF A RANCHMAN 389 

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 ar- 
ranged that the wagon should go on a few 
miles, and then halt for the night, as it was 
already the middle of the afternoon when we 
started out. The country resembled in char- 
acter other parts of the cattle plains, but it 
was absolutely bare of trees except along the 



290 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 
experience 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 discovered. 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 allu- 
vial river bottom, it broke off short 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 tum- 



OF A RANCHMAN 291 

bles. 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 
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 mo- 
ment or two it struggled to its legs, shook 
itself, and looked round in rather a shame- 
faced 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 



292 HUNTING TRIPS 

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 horse- 
man 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, es- 
pecially to try running, but, as game seemed 
scarce and cartridges were plenty, I leaped 



OF A RANCHMAN 293 

off the horse, and, kneeling, fired. The bul- 
let went low, striking in line at the feet of 
the hindmost. I was 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. Hav- 
ing plenty of time I elevated the sights (a 
thing I hardly ever do) to four hundred 
yards and waited for their reappearance. 
Meanwhile 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 along- 
side of the first. I aimed above his shoulders 
and pulled the trigger. Over went the two 
bucks! And when I rushed down to where 



294 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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 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 



OF A RANCHMAN 295 

odds are greatly against his hitting. I sup- 
pose 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 
n^isses he made, and to say, and even to 
actually think, that his occasional hits repre- 
sented 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 hi a great gorge, v/hose sheer 
walls w^ent straitrht down several hundred 



296 HUNTING TRIPS 

feet. Peeping over the brink of the chasm 
I saw a buck, lying out on a ledge so nar- 
row as to barely hold him, right on the face 
of the cliff wall opposite, some distance be- 
low, and about seventy yards diagonally 
across from me. He lay with his legs half 
stretched out, and his head turned so as 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 toilsome and almost dan- 
gerous 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 difficult of ac- 
cess 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 excep- 
tions, the best I ever got. 

END OF PART ONE. 



stories of College %itc 

THE UNIVERSITY SERIES 

I. Harvard Stories.— Sketches of the Undergradu- 
ate. ByW. K. Post. Fifteenth edition. i2*, paper, 
50 cts. ; cloth $T.oo 

" Mr. Post's manner of telling these tales is in its way inimi- 
table. The atmosphere of the book in its relation to the localities 
where the scenes are laid is well-nigh perfect. The different 
types of undergraduates are clearly drawn, and there is a dramatic 
element in most of the stories that is very welcome. It goes 
without saying that Harvard men will find keen pleasure in this 
volume, while for those who desire a faithful picture of certain 
phases of American student life it offers a noteworthy fund of 
instruction and entertainment." — Literary News. 

II. Yale Yarns.— By J. S. Wood. Fifth edition. 
Illustrated. 12° $1.00 

" This delightful little book will be read with intense interest 
by all Yale men." — New Haven Eve. Leader. 

" The Yale atmosphere is wonderfully reproduced in some 
of the sketches, and very realistic pictures are drawn, particularly 
of the old 'fence' and the 'old brick row.'" — Boston Times. 

"College days are regarded by most educated men as the 
cream of their lives, sweet with excellent flavor. They are 
not dull and tame even, to the most devoted student, and this is a 
volume filled with the pure cream of such existence, and many 'a 
college joke to cure the dumps ' is given. It is a bright, realistic 
picture of college life, told in an easy conversational, or descrip- 
tive style, and cannot fail to genuinely interest the reader who has 
the slightest appreciation of humor. The volume is illustrated 
and is just the book for an idle or a lonely hour." — Los Angeles 
Times. 

The Babe, B.A. The Uneventful History of a 
Young Gentleman in Cambridge University. By 
Edward F. Benson, author of " Dodo." etc. 
Illustrated. 12° $1.00 

" The story tells of the every-day life of a young man called 
the Babe. . . . Cleverly written and one of the best this 
author has written."— Z^a^^r, New Haven. 

A Princetonian. A Story of Undergraduate Life at 

the College of New Jersey. By James Barnes. 

Illustrated. 12° $1.25 

" Mr, Barnes is a loyal son of the College of New Jersey, with 
the cleverness and zeal to write this story of undergraduate lii^ in 
the college, following his successful use of the pen in earlier books, 
For King and Country^ Midshiptnan Farraguty etc. . . . 
There is enough of fiction in the story to give true liveliness to 
Its fact. . . . Mr. Barnes's literary style is humorous and 
-yiyid."— Boston Transcript. 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 



f~-5^ 



DETECTIVE STORIES 

By Anna Katharine Green 
THE LEAVENWORTH CASE 

A Lawyer's Story, looth thousand. Hudson Library, 
No. 44. 12°; paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.25. 
" She has proved herself as well able to write an interesting story 
of mysterious crime as any man living.'^— London. Academy. 

THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR 

38th thousand, Hudson Library, No. 17. 12°; paper, 

50 cents; cloth, $1.00. 
" The success of ' That Affair Next Door,' Anna Katharine 
Green's latest novel, is something almost unprecedented. Of all 
the tales since ' The Leavenworth Case,' this has had the greatest 
vogue which is saying considerable, for Mrs. Rohlfs enjoys the 
distinction of being one of the most widely read authors in this 
country, 'That Affair Next Door,' with its startling ingenuity, 
its sustained interest and its wonderful plot, shows that the 
author's hand has not lost its cunning, but has gained as the 
years go by." — Buffalo Inquirer. 

LOST MAN'S LANE 

24th thousand. Hudson Library, No. 2q. 12°; paper, 

50 cents; cloth, $1.00. 
" Miss Green works up a cause celebre with a fertility of device 
and ingenuity of treatment hardly second to Wilkie Collins or 
Edgar All an Poe."— 7^Ag Outlook. 

AGATHA WEBB 

28th thousand. 12°; cloth only, $1.25. 
"This is a cleverly concocted detective story, and sustains the 
well-earned reputation of the writer. . . . The curiosity of 
the reader is excited and sustained to the close." — Brooklyn 
Citizen. 

Other detective stories by this author, issued in paper at 50 
cents; in cloth at $1.00, are: 

A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 

THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES 

HAND AND RING 

THE MILL MYSTERY 

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS 

CYNTHIA WAKEHAM'S MONEY 

MARKED "PERSONAL" 

MISS HURD 
DR. IZARD 

Q. P. Putnam's Sons ll^^l^"""^ 

LBJe21