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Full text of "Hunting trips on the prairie and in the mountains;"

1 

HUNTING TRIPS ON 
THE PRAiRIE 



THEODORE ROOifcVELI 




Book ."K..G^_ 



\qoo «v. 



/ 




THE HOME OF THE ELK. 



Hunting Trips on the 

Prairie and in the 

Mountains 



By 

Theodore Roosevelt 

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



" Hunting Trips of a Ranchman " 
Part II. 



G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 

1900 



SKA/' 

. Kg 



1510 



0\ 



Copyright, 1885 

BY 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 



\ 



V>^ 



CONTENTS, 



CHAPTER I. 

A TRIP ON THE PRAIRIE. 

The prong-horn antelope — Appearance, hab- 
its, and method of hunting — Hunting on 
horseback — Wariness, speed, curiosity, and 
incapacity to make high jumps — Fawns as 
pets — Eagles — Horned frogs — Rattlesnakes 
— Trip on the prairie in June — Sights and 
sounds — Desolate plains — Running antelope 
— Night camp — Prairie dogs — Badgers — 
Skylarks — A long shot — Clear weather — 
Camping among Medicine Buttes — Sunset 
on plateau 9 

CHAPTER n. 

A TRIP AFTER MOUNTAIN SHEEP. 

Spell of bitter weather — News brought of 
mountain sheep — Start after them — False 
alarm about bear — Character of Bad Lands 
— Description of mountain sheep or big- 
horn — Its wariness — Contrasted with other 
game — Its haunts — The hardest of all game 
to successfully hunt — Our trip — Cold 

5 



6 CONTENTS 

weather and tiresome walking — Very rough 
ground — Slippery, ice-covered crags — Ram 
killed 73 

CHAPTER III. 

THE LORDLY BUFFALO, 

Extinction of the vast herds — Causes — A ver- 
itable tragedy of the animal world — Senti- 
mental and practical sides — Traces left by 
buffalo — Skulls and trails — Merciless de- 
struction by hunters and by cattle men — 
Development of mountain race of the buf- 
falo — Buffalo-hunting — Noble sport — Slight 
danger — A man killed — My brother charged 
— Adventure of my cousin with a wounded 
buffalo — Three of my men and wounded 
cow — Buffalo and cattle — Hunting them on 
foot — Hunting on horseback — My brother 
in Texas — I take a trip in buffalo country — 
Wounded bull escapes — Miserable night 
camp — Miss a cow in rain — Bad luck — 
Luck turns — Kill a bull — A wagon trip . io6 

CHAPTER IV. 

STILL-HUNTING ELK ON THE MOUNTAINS. 

Former range of elk — Rapid destruction — 
Habits — Persecuted by hunters — Other foes 
— Lordly game — Trip to Bighorn Moun- 
tains — Managing pack-train — See elk and 
go into camp — Follow up band in mocca- 



CONTENTS 7 

sins — ^Kili two — Character o£ the deep 
woods — Sights and sounds of the forest — 
Blue grouse — Snow — Cold weather — Trout 
— Calling of bull elk — Killing elk in burned 
timber — Animals of the wilderness — Kill 
great bull elk— Kill another . . . .155 

CHAPTER V. 

OLD EPHR AIM . 

Dangerous game, but much less dangerous 
than formerly — Old-time hunters and 
weapons — Grizzly and other ferocious wild 
beasts — Only fights if wounded — Anecdotes 
of their killing and wounding men — At- 
tacks stock — Our hunting on the Bighorn 
Mountains — Merrifield kills black bear — 
Grizzly almost comes into camp — Tracks of 
grizzly — Watch for one at elk carcass — 
^>Follow him up and kill him — Merrifield 
kills one — Five shot with seven bullets — 
She and cub killed — Return home . . . 197 

ADDENDUM 2Z^ 



PART II 

CHAPTER I 

A TRIP ON THE PRAIRIE 

NO antelope are found, except rarely, im- 
mediately round my ranch-house, 
where the ground is much too broken to suit 
them; but on the great prairies, ten or fif- 
teen miles off, they are plentiful, though far 
from as abundant as they were a few years 
ago when the cattle were first driven into the 
land. By plainsmen they are called either 
prong-horn or antelope, but are most often 
kuown by the latter and much less descrip- 
tive title. Where they are found they are 
always very conspicuous figures in the land- 
scape; for, far from attempting to conceal 
itself, an antelope really seems anxious to 
take up a prominent position, caring only 
to be able to itself see its foes. It is the 
smallest in size of the plains game, even 
9 



lo HUNTING TRIPS 

smaller than a white-tail deer; and its hide 
is valueless, being thin and porous, and mak- 
ing very poor buckskin. In its whole ap- 
pearance and structure it is a most singular 
creature. Unlike all other hollow-horned an- 
imals, it sheds its horns annually, exactly as 
the deer shed their solid antlers; but the 
shedding process in the prong-horn occupies 
but a very few days, so short a time, indeed, 
that many hunters stoutly deny that it takes 
place at all. The hair is of remarkable tex- 
ture, very long, coarse, and brittle; in the 
spring it comes off in handfuls. In strong 
contrast to the reddish yellow of the other 
parts of the body, the rump is pure white, 
and when alarmed or irritated every hair 
in the white patch bristles up on end, greatly 
increasing the apparent area of the color. 
The flesh, unlike that of any other plains ani- 
mal, is equally good all through the year. 
In the fall it is hardly so juicy as deer veni- 
son, but in the spring, when no other kind 
of game is worth eating, it is perfectly good ; 
and at that time of the year, if we have to 



ON THE PRAIRIE n 

get fresh meat, we would rather kill ante- 
lope than any thing else; and as the bucks 
are always to be instantly distinguished from 
the does by their large horns, we confine our- 
selves to them, and so work no harm to the 
species. 

The antelope is a queer-looking rather than 
a beautiful animal. The curious pronged 
horns, great bulging eyes, and strange bridle- 
like marks and bands on die face and throat 
are more striking, but less handsome, than 
the dehcate head and branching antlers of a 
deer; and it entirely lacks the latter animal's 
grace of movement. In its form and look, 
when standing still, it is rather angular and 
goat-like, and its movements merely have the 
charm that comes from lightness, speed, and 
agility. Its gait is singularly regular and 
even, without any of the bounding, rolling 
movement of a deer ; and it is, consequently, 
very easy to hit running, compared with 
other kinds of game. 

Antelope possess a most morbid curiosity. 
The appearance of any thing out of the way. 



12 HUNTING TRIPS 

or to which they are not accustomed, often 
seems to drive them nearly beside themselves 
with mingled fright and desire to know what 
it is, a combination of feelings that throws 
them into a perfect panic, during whose con- 
tinuance they will at times seem utterly un- 
able to take care of themselves. In very 
remote, wild places, to which no white man 
often penetrates, the appearance of a white- 
topped wagon will be enough to excite this 
feeling in the prong-horn, and in such cases 
it is not unusual for a herd to come up and 
circle round the strange object heedless of 
rifle-shots. This curiosity is particularly 
strong in the bucks during rutting-time, and 
one method of hunting them is to take ad- 
vantage of it, and '' flag " them up to the 
hunters by waving a red handkerchief or 
some other object to and fro in the air. In 
very wild places they can sometimes be 
flagged up, even after they have seen the 
man; but, elsewhere, the latter must keep 
himself carefully concealed behind a ridge 
or hillock, or in tall grass, and keep cau- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 13 

tiously waving the handkerchief overhead. 
The antelope will look fixedly at it, stamp, 
snort, start away, come nearer by fits and 
starts, and run from one side to the other, the 
better to see it. Sometimes a wary old buck 
will keep this up for half an hour, and at 
the end make off ; but, again, the attraction 
may prove too strong, and the antelope 
comes slowly on until within rifle-shot. This 
method of hunting, however, is not so much 
practised now as formerly, as the antelope 
are getting continually shyer and more dif- 
ficult to flag. I have never myself shot one 
in this manner, though I have often seen 
the feat performed, and have several times 
tried it myself, but always with the result 
that after I had made my arm really weak 
with waving the handkerchief to and fro, the 
antelope, which had been shifting about just 
out of range, suddenly took to its heels and 
made off. 

No other kind of plains game, except the 
big-horn, is as shy and sharp-sighted as the 
antelope ; and both its own habits and the 



14 HUNTING TRIPS 

open nature of the ground on which it is 
found render it peculiarly difficult to stalk. 
There is no cover, and if a man is once seen 
by the game the latter will not let him get 
out of sight again, unless it decides to go 
off at a gait that soon puts half a dozen miles 
between them. It shifts its position, so as 
to keep the hunter continually in sight. 
Thus, if it is standing on a ridge, and the 
hunter disappear into a ravine up which he 
intends to crawl, the antelope promptly gal- 
lops off to some other place of observation 
from which its foe is again visible; and this 
is repeated until the animal at last makes up 
its mind to start for good. It keeps up an 
incessant watch, being ever on the look-out 
for danger, far or near; and as it can see 
an immense distance, and has its home on 
ground so level that a horseman can be 
made out a mile off, its attention is apt to 
be attracted when still four or five rifle-shots 
beyond range, and after it has once caught a 
glimpse of the foe, the latter might as well 
give up all hopes of getting the game. 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



15 



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

The prong-horn is pre-eminently a grega- 
rious animal. It is found in bands almost 
all the year through. During the two or 
three days after he has shed his horns and 
while the new ones are growing the buck re- 
tires to some out-of-the-way spot, and while 
bringing forth her fawns the doe stays by 
herself. But as soon as possible each again 
rejoins the band; and the fawns become 
members of it at a remarkably early age. 
In the late fall, when the bitter cold has be- 
gun, a large number of these bands collect 
together, and immense herds are formed 
which last throughout the winter. Thus at 



i6 HUNTING TRIPS 

this season a man may travel for days 
through regions where antelope are most 
plentiful during the hot months and never 
see one ; but if he does come across any they 
will be apt to be in great numbers, most prob- 
ably along the edge of the Bad Lands, where 
the ground is rolling rather than broken, but 
where there is some shelter from the furious 
winter gales. Often they will even come 
down to the river bottom or find their way 
up to some plateau. They now always hang 
closely about the places they have chosen for 
their winter haunts, and seem very reluctant 
to leave them. They go in dense herds, and 
when starved and weak with cold are less 
shy ; and can often be killed in great numbers 
by any one who has found out where they 
are — though a true sportsman will not mo- 
lest them at this season. 

Sometimes a small number of individuals 
will at this time get separated from the main 
herd and take up their abode in some place 
by themselves; and when they have once 
done so it is almost impossible to drive 



ON THE PRAIRIE 17 

them away. Last winter a solitary prong- 
horn strayed into the river bottom at the 
mouth of a wide creek-valley, half a mile 
from my ranch, and stayed there for three 
months, keeping with the cattle, and always 
being found within a mile of the same spot. 
A little band at the same time established it- 
self on a large plateau, about five miles long 
by two miles wide, some distance up the river 
above me, and afforded fine sport to a couple 
of ranchmen who lived not far from its base. 
The antelope, twenty or thirty in number, 
would not leave the plateau, which lies in the 
midst of broken ground ; for it is a pecul- 
iarity of these animals, which will be spoken 
of further on, that they will try to keep in 
the open ground at any cost or hazard. The 
two ranchmen agreed never to shoot at the 
antelope on foot, but only to try to kill them 
from horseback, either with their revolvers or 
their Winchesters. They thus hunted them 
for the sake of the sport purely ; and certainly 
they got plenty of fun out of them. Very 
few horses indeed are as fast as a prong- 



1 8 HUNTING TRIPS 

horn; and these few did not include any 
owned by either of my two friends. But 
the antelope were always being obliged to 
break back from the edge of the plateau, and 
so were forced constantly to offer opportu- 
nities for cutting them off; and these op- 
portunities were still further increased by the 
two hunters separating. One of them would 
go to the upper end of the plateau and start 
the band, riding after them at full speed. 
They would distance him, but would be 
checked in their career by coming to the 
brink of the cliff; then they would turn at 
an angle and give their pursuer a chance to 
cut them oft'; and if they kept straight up 
the middle the other hunter would head them. 
When a favorable moment came the hunters 
would dash in as close as possible and empty 
their revolvers or repeaters into the herd; 
but it is astonishing how hard it is, when 
rjding a horse at full speed, to hit any ob- 
ject, unless it is directly under the muzzle 
of the weapon. The number of cartridges 
spent compared to the number of prong-horn 



ON THE PRAIRIE 19 

killed was enormous ; but the fun and excite- 
ment of the chase were the main objects with 
my friends, to whom the actual killing of the 
game was of entirely secondary importance. 
They went out after them about a dozen 
times during the winter, and killed in all ten 
or fifteen prong-horns. 

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

Antelope have the greatest objection to go- 
ing on any thing but open ground, and seem 
to be absolutely unable to make a high jump. 
If a band is caught feeding in the bottom 
of a valley leading into a plain they invari- 



20 HUNTING TRIPS 

ably make a rush straight to the mouth, even 
if the foe is stationed there, and will run 
heedlessly by him, no matter how narrow 
the mouth is^ rather than not try to reach the 
open country. It is almost impossible to 
force them into even a small patch of brush, 
and they will face almost certain death rather 
than try to leap a really very trifling obsta- 
cle. If caught in a glade surrounded by a 
slight growth of brushwood, they make no 
effort whatever to get through or over this 
growth, but dash frantically out through the 
way by which they got in. Often the deer, 
especially the black-tail, will wander out on 
the edge of the plain frequented by antelope ; 
and it is curious to see the two animals sep- 
arate the second there is an alarm, 
the deer making for the broken coun- 
try, while the antelope scud for the level 
plains. Once two of my men nearly caught 
a couple of antelope in their hands. They 
were out driving in the buck-board, and saw 
two antelope, a long distance ahead, enter 
the mouth of a wash-out (a canyon in 



ON THE PRAIRIE 21 

petto) ; they had strayed away from the 
prairie to the river bottom, and were evi- 
dently feeling lost. My two men did not 
think much of the matter but when opposite 
the mouth of the wash-out, which was only 
thirty feet or so wide, they saw the two an- 
telopes starting to come out, having found 
that it was a blind passage, with no outlet 
at the other end. Both men jumped out of 
the buck-board and ran to the entrance; the 
two antelope dashed frantically to and fro 
inside the wash-out. The sides were steep, 
but a deer would have scaled them at once ; 
yet the antelope seemed utterly unable to do 
this, and finally broke out past the two men 
and got away. They came so close that the 
men were able to touch each of them, but 
their movements were too quick to permit of 
their being caught. 

However, though unable to leap any 
height, an antelope can skim across a level 
jump like a bird, and will go over water- 
courses and wash-outs that very few horses 
indeed will face. A mountain-sheep, on the 



22 HUNTING TRIPS 

other hand, is a marvellous vertical leaper; 
the black-tail deer comes next ; the white-tail 
is pretty good, and the elk is at any rate bet- 
ter than the antelope; but when it comes to 
horizontal jumping the latter can beat them 
all. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 23 

they soon got used to us and moved awk- 
wardly round, but at any sudden noise or 
motion they would immediately squat flat 
down again. But at a very early age the 
fawns learn how to shift for themselves, and 
can then run almost as fast as their parents, 
even when no larger than a jack-rabbit. 
Once, while we were haying, a couple of 
my cow-boys spent half an hour in trying to 
run down and capture a little fawn, but they 
were unable to catch it, it ran so fast and 
ducked about so quickly. Antelope fawns 
are very easily tamed and make most amus- 
ing pets. We have had two or three, but 
have never succeeded in rearing any of them ; 
but some of the adjoining ranchmen have 
been more fortunate. They are not nearly 
so pretty as deer fawns, having long, gang- 
ling legs and angular bodies, but they 
are much more familiar and interesting. 
One of my neighbors has three live prong- 
horns, as well as two little spotted white-tail 
deer. The deer fawns are always skulking 
about, and are by no means such bold in- 



24 



HUNTING TRIPS 



quisitive little creatures as the small antelope 
are. The latter have a nurse in the shape 
of a fat old ewe ; and it is funny to see her, 
when alarmed, running off at a waddling 
gait, while her ungainly little foster-children 
skip round and round her, cutting the most 
extraordinary antics. There are a couple of 
very large dogs, mastiffs, on the place, whose 
natural solemnity is completely disconcerted 
by the importunities and fearlessness of th.e 
little antelope fawns. Where one goes the 
other two always follow, and so one of the 
mastiffs, while solemnly blinking in the sun, 
will suddenly find himself charged at full 
speed by the three queer little creatures, who 
will often fairly butt up against him. The 
uneasy look of the dog, and his efforts to get 
out of the way without compromising his 
dignity, are really very comical. 

Young fawns seem to give out no scent, 
and thus many of them escape from the nu- 
merous carnivorous beasts that are ever 
prowling about at night over the prairie, and 
which, during the spring months, are al- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



25 



ways fat from feeding on the bodies of the 
innocents they have murdered. If discov- 
ered by a fox or coyote during its first few 
days of existence a Httle fawn has no chance 
of Hfe, although the mother, if present, will 
fight desperately for it; but after it has ac- 
quired the use of its legs it has no more to 
fear than have any of the older ones. 

Sometimes the fawns fall victims to the 
great Golden Eagle. This grand bird, the 
War Eagle of the Sioux, is not very common 
in the Bad Lands, but is sometimes still seen 
with us; and, as everywhere else, its mere 
presence adds a certain grandeur to its lonely 
haunts. Two or three years ago a nest was 
found by one of my men on the face of an 
almost inaccessible cliff, and a young bird 
was taken out from it and reared in a 
roughly extemporized cage. Wherever the 
eagle exists it holds undisputed sway over 
every thing whose size does not protect it 
from the great bird's beak and talons; not 
only does it feed on hares, grouse, and ducks, 
but it will also attack the young fawns of the 



26 HUNTING TRIPS 

deer and antelope. Still, the eagle is but 
an occasional foe, and aside from man, the 
only formidable enemies the antelope has to 
fear are the wolves and coyotes. These are 
very destructive to the young, and are al- 
ways lounging about the band to pick up 
any wounded straggler ; in winter, when the 
ground is slippery and the antelope numbed 
and weak, they will often commit great havoc 
even among those that are grown up. 

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

The prong-horn cannot go without water 
any longer than a deer can, and will go great 
distances to get it ; for space is nothing to a 
traveller with such speed and such last. No 
matter how dry and barren may be the desert 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



27 



in which antelope are found, it may be taken 
for granted that they are always within 
reaching distance of some spring or pool of 
water, and that they visit it once a day. Once 
or twice I have camped out by some pool, 
which was the only one for miles around, 
and in every such case have been surprised at 
night by the visits of the antelope, who, on 
finding that their drinking-place was ten- 
anted, would hover round at a short distance, 
returning again and again and continually 
uttering the barking " kau, kau," until they 
became convinced that there was no hope 
of their getting in, when they would set off 
at a run for some other place. 

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



28 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

Rattlesnakes are only too plentiful every- 
where; along the river bottoms, in the 
broken, hilly ground, and on the prairies 
and the great desert wastes alike. Every 
cow-boy kills dozens each season. To a man 
wearing top-boots there is little or no dan- 
ger while he is merely walking about, for 
the fangs cannot get through the leather, 
and the snake does not strike as high as 
the knee. Indeed the rattlesnake is not 
nearly as dangerous as are most poisonous 
serpents, for it always gives fair warning 
before striking, and is both sluggish and 
timid. If it can it will get out of the way, 
and only coils up in its attitude of defence 
when it believes that it is actually menaced. 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



29 



It is, of course, however, both a dangerous 
and a disagreeable neighbor, and one of its 
annoying traits is the fondness it displays 
for crawling into a hut or taking refuge 
among the blankets left out on the ground. 
Except in such cases men are rarely in dan- 
ger from it, unless they happen to be 
stooping over, as was the case with one of 
my cow-boys who had leaned over to pick 
up a log, and was almost bitten by a snake 
which was underneath it; or unless the 
snake is encountered while stalking an ani- 
mal. Once I was creeping up to an ante- 
lope under cover of some very low sage- 
brush — so low that I had to lie flat on my 
face and push myself along with my hands 
and feet. While cautiously moving on in 
this way I was electrified by hearing almost 
by my ears the well-known, ominous 
" whir-r-r " of a rattlesnake, and on hastily 
glancing up there was the reptile, not ten 
feet away from me, all coiled up and wait- 
ing. I backed off and crawled to one side, 
the rattler turning its head round to keep 



30 



HUNTING TRIPS 



watch over my movements; when the stalk 
was over (the antelope took alarm and ran 
off before I was within rifle-shot) I came 
back, hunted up the snake, and killed it. 
Although I have known of several men 
being bitten, I Imow of but one case where 
the bite caused the death of a human being. 
This was a girl who had been out milk- 
ing, and was returning, in bare feet; the 
snake struck her just above the ankle, and 
in her fright she fell and was struck again 
in the neck. The double wound was too 
much for her, and the poison killed her in 
the course of a couple of hours. 

Occasionally one meets a rattlesnake 
whose rattle has been lost or injured; and 
such a one is always dangerous, because 
it strikes without warning. I once nearly 
lost a horse by the bite of one of these 
snakes without rattles. I was riding along 
a path when my horse gave a tremendous 
start and jump; looking back I saw that it 
had been struck at by a rattlesnake with 
an injured tail, which had been lying hid 



ON THE PRAIRIE 31 

in a bunch of grass, directly beside the path. 
Luckily it had merely hit the hard hoof, 
breaking one of its fangs. 

Horses differ very much in their conduct 
toward snakes. Some show great fright 
at sight of them or on hearing their rat- 
tles, plunging and rearing and refusing to 
go anywhere near the spot; while others 
have no fear of them at all, being really per- 
fectly stupid about them. Manitou does 
not lose his wits at all over them, but at 
the same time takes very good care not to 
come within striking distance. 

Ranchmen often suffer some loss among 
their stock owing to snake-bites; both 
homed cattle and horses, in grazing, fre- 
quently coming on snakes and having their 
noses or cheeks bitten. Generally, these 
wounds are not fatal, though very uncom- 
fortable; it is not uncommon to see a woe- 
begone looking mule with its head double 
the natural size, in consequence of having 
incautiously browsed over a snake. A 
neighbor lost a weak pony in this way; and 



32 



HUNTING TRIPS 



one of our best steers also perished from 
the same cause. But in the latter case, the an- 
imal, like the poor girl spoken of above, had 
received two wounds with the poison fangs ; 
apparently it had, while grazing with its head 
down, been first struck in the nose, and been 
again struck in the foreleg as it started 
away. 

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

Ordinary hounds are rarely, or never, 
used to chase this game ; but coursing it with 



ON THE PRAIRIE 33 

greyhounds is as manly and exhilarating a 
form of sport as can be imagined, — a much 
better way of hunting it than is shooting it 
with the rifle, which latter, though needing 
more skill in the actual use of the weapon, 
is in every other respect greatly inferior as 
a sport to still-hunting the black-tail or big- 
horn. 

I never but once took a trip of any length 
with antelope hunting for its chief object. 
This was one June, when all the men were 
away on the round-up. As is usual during 
the busy half of the ranchman's year, the 
spring and summer, when men have no time 
to hunt and game is out of condition, we 
had been living on salt pork, beans, potatoes, 
and bread ; and I had hardly had a rifle in 
my hand for months ; so, finding I had a 
few days to spare, I thought I should take 
a short trip on the prairie, in the beautiful 
June weather, and get a little sport and a 
little fresh meat out of the bands of prong- 
horn bucks, which I was sure to encounter: 
Intending to be gone but a couple of days. 



34 HUNTING TRIPS 

it was not necessary to take many articles. 
Behind my saddle I carried a blanket for 
bedding, and an oil-skin coat to ward off the 
wet; a large metal cup with the han- 
dle riveted, not soldered on, so that 
water could be boiled in it; a lit- 
tle tea and salt, and some biscuits; and a 
small water-proof bag containing my half 
dozen personal necessaries — not forgetting a 
book. The whole formed a small, light pack, 
very little encumbrance to stout old Manitou. 
In June, fair weather can generally be 
counted on in the dry plains country. 

I started in the very earliest morning, 
when the intense brilliancy of the stars had 
just begun to pale before tHe first streak of 
dawn. By the time I left the river bot- 
tom and struck off up the valley of a wind- 
ing creek, which led through the Bad Lands, 
the ea9rf:ern sky was growing rosy; and soon 
the buttes and cliffs were lit up by the level 
rays of the cloudless summer sun. The air 
was fresh and sweet, and odorous with the 
sweet scents of the spring-time that was but 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



35 



barely passed; the dew lay heavy, in glit- 
tering drops, on the leaves and the blades of 
grass, whose vivid green, at this season, for 
a short time brightens the desolate and 
sterile-looking wastes of the lonely western 
plains. The rose-bushes were all in bloom, 
and their pink blossoms clustered in every 
point and bend of the stream ; and the sweet, 
sad songs of the hermit thrushes rose from 
the thickets, while the meadow larks perched 
boldly in sight as they uttered their louder 
and more cheerful music. The round-up 
had passed by our ranch, and all the cattle 
with our brands, the maltese cross and cut 
dewlap, or the elk-horn and triangle, had 
been turned loose; they had not yet worked 
away from the river, and I rode by long 
strings of them, walking in single file oif to 
the hills, or standing in groups to look at 
me as I passed. 

Leaving the creek I struck off among a 
region of scoria buttes, the ground rising into 
rounded hills through whose grassy cover- 
ing the red volcanic rock showed in places, 



36 HUNTING TRIPS 

while boulder-like fragments of it were scat- 
tered all through the valleys between. 
There were a few clumps of bushes here and 
there, and near one of them were two mag- 
pies, who lit on an old buffalo skull, bleached 
white by sun and snow. Magpies are birds 
that catch the eye at once from their bold 
black and white plumage and long tails ; and 
they are very saucy and at the same time 
very cunning and shy. In spring we do not 
often see them ; but in the late fall and win- 
ter they will come close round the huts and 
out-buildings on the look-out for any thing 
to eat. If a deer is hung up and they can 
get at it they will pick it to pieces with their 
sharp bills ; and their carnivorous tastes and 
their habit of coming round hunters' camps 
after the game that is left out, call to mind 
their kinsman, the whiskey- jack or moose- 
bird of the northern forests. 

After passing the last line of low, rounded 
scoria buttes, the horse stepped out on the 
border of the great, seemingly endless 
stretches of rolling or nearly level prairie. 



ON THE PRAIRIE 37 

over which I had planned to travel and hunt 
for the next two or three days. At inter- 
vals of ten or a dozen miles this prairie 
was crossed by dry creeks, with, in places 
in their beds, pools or springs of water, and 
alongside a spindling growth of trees and 
bushes ; and my intention was to hunt across 
these creeks, and camp by some water-hole 
in one of them at night. 

I rode over the land in a general southerly 
course, bending to the right or left according 
to the nature of the ground and the likeli- 
hood of finding game. Most of the time 
the horse kept on a steady single-foot, but 
this was varied by a sharp lope every now 
and then, to ease the muscles of both steed 
and rider. .The sun was well up, and its 
beams beat fiercely down on our heads from 
out of the cloudless sky; for at this season, 
though the nights and the early morning and 
late evening are cool and pleasant, the hours 
around noon are very hot. My glass was 
slung alongside the saddle, and from every 
one of the scattered hillocks the country 



38 HUNTING TRIPS 

was scanned carefully far and near ; and the 
greatest caution was used in riding up over 
any divide, to be sure that no game on the 
opposite side was scared by the sudden ap- 
pearance of my horse or myself. 

Nowhere, not even at sea, does a man feel 
more lonely than when riding over the far- 
reaching, seemingly never-ending plains; 
and after a man has lived a little while on or 
near them, their very vastness and loneliness 
and their melancholy monotony have a 
strong fascination for him. The landscape 
seems always the same, and after the trav- 
eller has plodded on for miles and miles he 
gets to feel as if the distance was indeed 
boundless. As far as the eye can see there is 
no break; either the prairie stretches out 
into perfectly level fiats, or else there are 
gentle, rolling slopes, whose crests mark the 
divides between the drainage systems of the 
different creeks; and when one of these is 
ascended, immediately another precisely like 
it takes its place in the distance, and so roll 
succeeds roll in a succession as intermin- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



39 



able as that of the waves of the ocean. No- 
where else does one seem so far off from 
all mankind ; the plains stretch out in death- 
like and measureless expanse, and as he 
journeys over them they will for many miles 
be lacking in all signs of life. Although 
he can see so far, yet all objects on the outer- 
most verge of the horizon, even though 
within the ken of his vision, look unreal and 
strange; for there is no shade to take away 
from the bright glare, and at a Httle dis- 
tance things seem to shimmer and dance in 
the hot rays of the sun. The ground is 
scorched to a dull brown, and against its 
monotonous expanse any objects stand out 
with a prominence that makes it difficult to 
judge of the distance at which they are. A 
mile off one can see, through the strange 
shimmering haze, the shadowy white out- 
lines of something which looms vaguely up 
till it looks as large as the canvas-top of a 
prairie wagon; but as the horseman comes 
nearer it shrinks and dwindles and takes 
clearer form, until at last it changes into the 



40 HUNTING TRIPS 

ghastly staring skull of some mighty buffalo, 
long dead and gone to join the rest of his 
vanished race. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 41 

curious beast; and time and again a raw 
hunter will try to stalk a lump of clay or a 
burnt stick; and after being once or twice 
disappointed he is apt to rush to the other 
extreme, and conclude too hastily that a 
given object is not an antelope, when it very 
possibly is. 

During the morning I came in sight of 
several small bands or pairs of antelope. 
Most of them saw me as soon as or before 
I saw them, and after watching me with in- 
tense curiosity as long as I was in sight and 
at a distance, made off at once as soon as I 
went into a hollow or appeared to be ap- 
proaching too near. Twice, in scanning the 
country narrowly with the glasses, from be- 
hind a sheltering divide, bands of prong-horn 
were seen that had not discovered me. In 
each case the horse was at once left to graze, 
while I started off after the game, nearly a 
mile distant. For the first half mile I could 
w^alk upright or go along half stooping ; then, 
as the distance grew closer, I had to crav/1 
on all fours and keep behind any little broken 



42 HUNTING TRIPS 

bank, or take advantage of a small, dry 
watercourse; and toward the end work my 
way flat on my face, wriggling like a ser- 
pent, using every stunted sagebrush or patch 
of cactus as a cover, bare-headed under the 
blazing sun. In each case, after nearly an 
hour's irksome, thirsty work, the stalk failed. 
One band simply ran off without a second's 
warning, alarmed at some awkward move- 
ment on my part, and without giving a 
chance for a shot. In the other instance, 
while still at very long and uncertain range, I 
heard the sharp barking alarm-note of one 
of the prong-horn ; the whole band instantly 
raising their heads and gazing intently at 
their would-be destroyer. They were a very 
long way off; but, seeing it was hopeless to 
try to get nearer I rested my rifle over a little 
mound of earth and fired. The dust came 
up in a puff to one side of the nearest ante- 
lope ; the whole band took a few jumps and 
turned again; the second shot struck at 
their feet, and they went off like so many 
race-horses, being missed again as they ran. 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



43 



I sat up by a sage-brush thinking they would 
of course not come back, when to my sur- 
prise I saw them wheel round with the pre- 
cision of a cavalry squadron, all in line and 
fronting me, the white and brown markings 
on their heads and throats showing like the 
facings on soldiers' uniforms ; and then back 
they came charging up till again within long 
range, when they wheeled their line as if on 
a pivot and once more made off, this time for 
good, not heeding an ineffectual fusillade 
from the Winchester. Antelope often go 
through a series of regular evolutions, like 
so many trained horsemen, wheeUng, turn- 
ing, halting, and running as if under com- 
mand; and their coming back to again run 
the (as it proved very harmless) gauntlet of 
my fire was due either to curiosity or to one 
of those panicky freaks which occasionally 
seize those ordinarily wary animals, and 
cause them to run into danger easily avoided 
by creatures commonly much more readily 
approached than they are. I had fired half 
a dozen shots without effect: but while no 



44 HUNTING TRIPS 

one ever gets over his feeling of self-indig- 
nation at missing an easy shot at close quar- 
ters, any one who hunts antelope and is not 
of a disposition so timid as never to take 
chances, soon learns that he has to expect to 
expend a good deal of powder and lead be- 
fore bagging his game. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 45 

was only by frantic struggles and flounder- 
ings that we managed to get over. 

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



46 HUNTING TRIPS 

taking it by the forelock and endeavoring to 
get it to make a plunge ; each plunge bring- 
ing it perhaps a few inches nearer the firm 
ground. Quicksands are even more danger- 
ous than these mud-holes, as, if at all deep, 
a creature that cannot get out immediately is 
sure to be speedily engulfed. Many parts 
of the Little Missouri are impassable on ac- 
count of these quicksands. Always in cross- 
ing unknown ground that looks dangerous 
it is best to feel your way very cautiously 
along and, if possible, to find out some cattle 
trail or even game trail which can be fol- 
lowed. 

For some time after leaving the creek 
nothing was seen ; until, on coming over the 
crest of the next great divide, I came in sight 
of a band of six or eight prong-horn about a 
quarter of a mile off to my right hand. There 
was a slight breeze from the southeast, which 
blew diagonal^ across my path towards the 
antelopes. The latter, after staring at m.e 
a minute, as I rode slowly on, suddenly 
started at full speed to run directly up wind, 



ON THE PRAIRIE 47 

and therefore in a direction that would cut 
the Hne of my course less than half a mile 
ahead of where I was. Knowing that when 
antelope begin running in a straight line they 
are very hard to turn, and seeing that they 
would have to run a longer distance than 
my horse would to intercept them, I clapped 
spurs into Manitou, and the game old fel- 
low, a very fleet runner, stretched himself 
down to the ground and seemed to go almost 
as fast as the quarry. As I had expected, 
the latter, when they saw me running, merely 
straightened themselves out and went on, 
possibly even faster than before, without 
changing the line of their flight, keeping 
right up wind. Both horse and antelope 
fairly flew over the ground, their courses 
being at an angle that would certainly bring 
them together. Two of the antelope led, by 
some fifty yards or so, the others, who were 
all bunched together. Nearer and nearer we 
came, Manitou, in spite of carrying myself 
and the pack behind the saddle, gamely hold- 
ing his own, while the antelope, with out- 



48 HUNTING TRIPS 

stretched necks, went at an even, regular gait 
that offered a strong contrast to the spring- 
ing bounds with which a deer runs. At last 
the two leading animals crossed the line of 
my flight ahead of me; when I pulled short 
up, leaped from Manitou's back, and blazed 
into the band as they went by not forty yards 
off, aiming well ahead of a fine buck who 
was on the side nearest me. An antelope's 
gait is so even that it offers a good running 
mark; and as the smoke blew off I saw the 
buck roll over like a rabbit, with both shoul- 
ders broken. I then emptied the Winchester 
at the rest of the band, breaking one hind 
leg of a young buck. Hastily cutting the 
throat of, and opening, the dead buck, I 
again mounted and started off after the 
wounded one. But, though only on three 
legs, it went astonishingly fast, having had 
a good start; and after following it over a 
mile I gave up the pursuit, though I had 
gained a good deal; for the heat was very 
great, and I did not deem it well to tire 
the horse at the beginning of the trip. Re- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



49 



turning to the carcass, I cut off the hams 
and strung them beside the saddle; an ante- 
lope is so spare that there is very little more 
meat on the body. 

This trick of running in a straight line is 
another of the antelope's peculiar character- 
istics which frequently lead it into danger. 
Although with so much sharper e3^es than a 
deer, antelope are in many ways far stupider 
animals, more like sheep, and they especially 
resemble the latter in their habit of following 
a leader, and in their foolish obstinacy in 
keeping to a course they have once adopted. 
If a horseman starts to head off a deer the 
latter will always turn long before he has 
come within range, but quite often an ante- 
lope will merely increase his speed and try 
to pass ahead of his foe. Almost always, 
however, one if alone will keep out of gun- 
shot, owing to the speed at Vv^hich he goes, 
but if there are several in a band which is 
well strung out, the leader only cares for 
his own safety and passes well ahead him- 
self. The others follow like sheep, without 



so 



HUNTING TRIPS 



turning in the least from the Hne the first 
followed, and thus may pass within close 
range. If the leader bounds into the air, 
those following will often go through exactly 
the same motions ; and if he turns, the others 
are very apt to each in succession run up 
and turn in the same place, unless the whole 
band are manoeuvring together, like a squad- 
ron of cavalry under orders, as has already 
been spoken of. 

After securing the buck's hams and head 
(the latter for the sake of the horns, which 
were unusually long and fine), I pushed 
rapidly on without stopping to hunt, to reach 
some large creek which should contain both 
wood and water, for even in summer a fire 
adds greatly to the comfort and cosiness of 
a night camp. When the sun had nearly set 
we went over a divide and came in sight of 
a creek fulfilling the required conditions. It 
wound its way through a valley of rich bot- 
tom land, cotton-wood trees of no great 
height or size growing in thick groves along 
its banks, while its bed contained many deep 



ON THE PRAIRIE 51 

pools of water, some of it fresh and good. 
I rode into a great bend, witli a grove of 
trees on its right and containing excellent 
feed. Manitou was loosed, with the lariat 
round his neck, to feed where he wished un- 
til I went to bed, when he was to be taken 
to a place where the grass was thick and 
succulent, and tethered out for the night. 
There was any amount of wood with which 
a fire was started for cheerfulness, and some 
of the coals were soon raked off apart to 
cook over. The horse blanket was spread on 
the ground, with the oil-skin over it as a 
bed, underneath a spreading cotton-wood 
tree, while the regular blanket served as cov- 
ering. The metal cup was soon filled with 
water and simmering over the coals to make 
tea, while an antelope steak was roasting on 
a forked stick. It is wonderful how cosy a 
camp, in clear weather, becomes if there is a 
good fire and enough to eat, and how sound 
the sleep is afterwardj in the cool air, with 
the brilliant stars glimmering through the 
branches overhead. In the country where I 



52 HUNTING TRIPS 

was there was absolutely no danger from In- 
dian horse-thieves, and practically none from 
white ones, for I felt pretty sure no one was 
anywhere within a good many miles of me, 
and none could have seen me come into the 
valley. Besides, in the cattle country steal- 
ing horses is a hazardous profession, as any 
man who is found engaged in it is at once, 
and very properly, strung up to the nearest 
tree, or shot if no trees are handy ; so very 
few people follow it, at least for any length 
of time, and a man's horses are generally 
safe. 

Near where we had halted for the night 
camp was a large prairie-dog town. Prairie- 
dogs are abundant all over the cattle coun- 
try; they are in shape like little woodchucks, 
and are the most noisy and inquisitive ani- 
mals imaginable. They are never found sin- 
gly, but always in towns of several hundred 
inhabitants ; and these towns are found in all 
kinds of places where the country is flat and 
treeless. Sometimes they will be placed on 
the bottoms of the creeks or rivers, and again 



ON THE PRAIRIE 53 

far out on the prairie or among the Bad 
Lands, a long distance from any water. In- 
deed, so dry are som.e of the localities in 
which they exist, that it is a marvel how they 
can live at all; yet they seem invariably 
plump and in good condition. They are ex- 
ceedingly destructive to grass, eating away 
every thing round their burrows, and thus 
each town is always extending at the bor- 
ders, while the holes in the middle are de- 
serted; in many districts they have become 
a perfect bane to the cattle-men, for the in- 
coming of man has been the means of caus- 
ing a great falling off in the ranks of their 
four-footed foes, and this main check to their 
increase being gone, they multiply at a rate 
that threatens to make them a serious pest in 
the future. They are among the few plains 
animals who are benefited instead of being 
injured by the presence of man; and it is 
most difficult to exterminate them or to keep 
their number in any way under, as they are 
prolific to a most extraordinary degree; and 
the quantity of good feed they destroy is 



54 



HUNTING TRIPS 



very great, and as they eat up the roots of 
the grass it is a long time before it grows 
again. Already in many districts the stock- 
men are seriously considering the best way in 
v/hich to take steps against them. Prairie- 
dogs wherever they exist are sure to attract 
attention, all the more so because, unlike 
most other rodents, they are diurnal and not 
nocturnal, offering therein a curious case of 
parallelism to their fellow denizen of the 
dry plains, the antelope, which is also a creat- 
ure loving to be up and stirring in the bright 
daylight, unlike its relatives, the dusk-loving 
deer. They are very noisy, their shrill yelp- 
ing resounding on all sides whenever a man 
rides through a town. None go far from 
their homes, always keeping close enough to 
be able to skulk into them at once; and as 
soon as a foe appears they take refuge on 
the hillocks beside their burrows, yelping 
continuously, and accompanying each yelp 
by a spasmodic jerking of the tail and body. 
When the man comes a little nearer they dis- 
appear inside and then thrust their heads out, 



ON THE PRAIRIE 55 

for they are most inquisitive- Their bur- 
rows form one of the chief dangers to riding 
at full speed over the plains country ; hardly 
any man can do much riding on the prairie 
for more than a year or two without coming 
to grief on more than one occasion by his 
horse putting its foot in a prairie-dog hole. 
A badger hole is even worse. When a horse 
gets his foot in such a hole, while going at 
full speed, he turns a complete somersault, 
and is lucky if he escape without a broken 
leg, while I have time and again known the 
rider to be severely injured. There are other 
smaller animals whose burrows sometimes 
cause a horseman to receive a sharp tumble. 
These are the pocket-gophers, queer creat- 
ures, shaped like moles and having the same 
subterranean habits, but with teeth like a 
rat's, and great pouches on the outside of 
their jaws, whose long, rambling tunnels 
cover the ground in certain places, though 
the animals themselves are very rarely seen ; 
and the little striped gophers and gray go- 
phers, entirely different animals, more like 



56 HUNTING TRIPS 

ground squirrels. But the prairie-dog is al- 
ways the main source of danger to the horse- 
man, as well as of mischief to the cattle- 
herder. 

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

A prairie-dog is rather a difficult animal 
to get, as it stands so close to its burrow that 
a spasmodic kick, even if at the last gasp, 



ON THE PRAIRIE 57 

sends the body inside, where it cannot be re- 
covered. The cowboys are always practis- 
ing at them with their revolvers, and as they 
are pretty good shots, mortally wound a 
good many, but unless the force of the blow 
fairly knocks the prairie-dog away from the 
mouth of the burrow, it almost always man- 
ages to escape inside. But a good shot with 
the rifle can kill any number by lying down 
quietly and waiting a few minutes until the 
dogs get a little distance from the mouths of 
their homes. 

Badgers are more commonly found round 
prairie-dog towns than anywhere else; and 
they get their chief food by digging up the 
prairie-dogs and gophers vnth their strong 
forearms and long, stout claws. They are 
not often found wandering away from their 
homes in the daytime, but if so caught are 
easily run down and killed. A badger is a 
most desperate fighter, and an overmatch for 
a coyote, his hide being very thick and his 
form so squat and strong that it is hard to 
break his back or legs, while his sharp teeth 



58 HUNTING TRIPS 

grip like a steel trap. A very few seconds 
allow him to dig a hole in the ground, intb 
which he can back all except his head; and 
when placed thus, with his rear and flanks 
protected, he can beat off a dog many times 
his own size. A young badger one night 
came up round the ranch-house, and began 
gnawing at some bones that had been left 
near the door. Hearing the noise one of my 
men took a lantern and went outside. The 
glare of the light seemed to make the badger 
stupid, for after looking at the lantern a few 
moments, it coolly turned and went on eat- 
ing the scraps of flesh on the bones, and was 
knocked on the head without attempting to 
escape. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 59 

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

The sun was just appearing when 1 
walked back to the creek bottom. Coming 
slowly out of a patch of brush-wood, was 



6o HUNTING TRIPS 

a doe, going down to drink ; her great, sensi- 
tive ears thrown forward as she peered 
anxiously and timidly round. She was very 
watchful, lifting her headland gazing about 
between every few mouthfuls. When she 
had drunk her fill she snatched a hasty 
mouthful or two of the wet grass, and then 
cantered back to the edge of the brush, when 
a little spotted fawn came out and joined her. 
The two stood together for a few moments, 
and then walked off into the cover. The 
little pond at which they had drunk was 
within fifty yards of my night bed ; and it 
had other tenants in the shape of a mallard 
duck, with a brood of little ducklings, balls 
of fuzzy yellow down, that bobbed off into 
the reeds like little corks as I walked by. 

Breaking camp is a simple operation for 
one man ; and but a few minutes after break- 
fast Manitou and I were off; the embers of 
the fire having been extinguished with the 
care that comes to be almost second nature 
with the cattle-man, one of whose chief 
dreads is the prairie fire, that sometimes robs 



ON THE PRAIRIE 6i 

his stock of such an immense amount of feed. 
Very Httle game was seen during the morn- 
ing, as I rode in an almost straight Hne over 
the hot, parched plains, the ground cracked 
and seamed by the heat, and the dull brown 
blades bending over as if the sun was too 
much even for them. The sweat drenched 
the horse even when we were walking; and 
long before noon we halted for rest by a bit- 
ter alkaline pool with border so steep and 
rotten that I had to bring water up to the 
horse in my hat; having taken some along 
in a canteen for my own use. But there was 
a steep bank near^ overgrown with young 
trees, and thus giving good shade ; and it was 
this that induced me to stop. When leaving 
this halting-place, I spied three figures in the 
distance, loping towards me; they turned 
out to be cowboys, who had been out a couple 
of days looking up a band of strayed ponies, 
and as they had exhausted their supply of 
food, I gave them the antelope hams, trust- 
ing to shoot another for my own use. 

Nor was I disappointed. After leaving 



62 HUNTING TRIPS 

the cowboys I headed the horse towards the 
more roUing country where the prairies be- 
gin to break off into the edges of the Bad 
Lands. Several bands of antelope were seen, 
and I tried one unsuccessful stalk, not be- 
ing able to come within rifle range; but to- 
wards evening, when only about a mile from 
a wooded creek on whose banks I intended to 
sleep, I came across a solitary buck, just as 
I was topping the ridge of the last divide. 
As I was keeping a sharp lookout at the time, 
I reined in the horse the instant the head of 
the antelope came in sight, and jumping off 
crept up till I could see his whole body, 
when I dropped on my knee and took steady 
aim. He was a long way off (three hundred 
yards by actual pacing), and not having 
made out exactly what we were he stood still, 
looking intently in our direction and broad- 
side to us. I held vv^ell over his shoulder, 
and at the report he dropped like a shot, the 
ball having broken his neck. It was a very 
good shot ; the* best I ever made at antelope, 
of which game, as already said, I have killed 



ON THE PRAIRIE 63 

but very few individuals. Taking the hams 
and saddle I rode on down to the creek and 
again went into camp among timber. Thus 
on this trip I was never successful in outwit- 
ting antelope on the several occasions when 
I pitted my craft and skill against their wari- 
ness and keen senses, always either failing to 
get within range or else missing them; but 
nevertheless I got two by taking advantage 
of the stupidity and curiosity which they oc- 
casionally show. 

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

A solitary trip such as this was, through 
a comparatively wild region in which game 
is still plentiful, always has great attraction 
for any man who cares for sport and for 
nature, and who is able to be his own com- 



64 HUNTING TRIPS 

panion, but the pleasure after all depends 
a good deal on the weather. To be sure, 
after a little experience in roughing it, the 
hardships seem a good deal less formidable 
than they formerly did, and a man becomes 
able to roll up in a wet blanket and sleep 
all night in a pelting rain without hurting 
himself — though he will shiver a good deal, 
and feel pretty numb and stiff in those chill 
and dreary hours just before dawn. But 
when a man's clothes and bedding and rifle 
are all wet, no matter how philosophically he 
may bear it, it may be taken for granted that 
he does not enjoy it. So fair weather is a 
very vital and important element among 
those that go to make up the pleasure and 
success of such a trip. Luckily fair weather 
can be counted on with a good deal of cer- 
tainty in late spring and throughout most of 
the summer and fall oi. the northern cattle 
plains. The storms that do take place, 
though very violent, do not last long. 

Every now and then, however, there will 
be in the fall a three-days' storm in which it 



ON THE PRAIRIE 65 

is almost impossible to travel, and then the 
best thing to be done is to lie up under any 
shelter that is at hand until it blows over. 
I remember one such camp which was made 
in the midst of the most singular and pic- 
turesque surroundings. It was toward the 
end of a' long wagon trip that we had been 
taking, and all of the horses were tired by 
incessant work. We had come through coun-' 
try which was entirely new to us, passing 
nearly all day in a long flat prairie through 
which flowed a stream that we supposed to 
be either the Box Alder or the Little Beaver. 
In leaving this we had struck some heavy 
sand-hills, and while pulling the loaded 
wagon up them one of the team played out 
completely, and we had to take her out and 
put in one of the spare saddle-ponies, a tough 
little fellow. Night came on fast, and the 
sun was just setting when we crossed the 
final ridge and came in sight of as singular 
a bit of country as I have ever seen. The 
cowboys, as we afterward found, had chris- 
tened the place " Medicine Buttes." In 



66 HUNTING TRIPS 

plains dialect, I may explain, " Medicine " 
has been adopted froni the Indians, among 
whom it means any thing supernatural or 
very unusual. It is used in the sense of 
'' magic," or " out of the common." 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 67 

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

Altogether it was as fantastically beauti- 
ful a place as I have ever seen: it seemed 
impossible that the hand of man should not 
have had something to do with its formation. 
There was a spring of clear cold water a 
few hundred yards off, with good feed for 
the horses round it ; and we made our camp 
at the foot of one of the largest buttes, build- 
ing a roaring pine-log fire in an angle in the 
face of the cliff, while our beds were under 
the pine trees. It was the time of the full 
moon, and the early part of the night was 
clear. The flame of the fire leaped up the 
side of the cliff, the red light bringing out 
into lurid and ghastly relief the bold corners 
and strange-looking escarpments of the rock, 
while against it the stiff limbs of the pines 
stood out hke rigid bars of iron. Walking 
off out of sight of the circle of fire light, 
among the tall crags, the place seemed al- 



68 HUNTING TRIPS 

most as unreal as if we had been in fairy- 
land. The flood of clear moonlight turned 
the white faces of the cliffs and the grounds 
between them into shining silver, against 
which the pines showed dark and sombre, 
while the intensely black shadows of the 
buttes took on forms that were grimly fan- 
tastic. Every cave or cranny in the crags 
looked so black that it seemed almost to be 
thrown out from the surface, and when the 
branches of the trees moved, the bright 
moonlight danced on the ground as if it were 
a sheet of molten metal. Neither in shape 
nor in color did our surroundings seem to 
belong to the dull gray world through which 
we had been travelling all day. 

But by next morning every thing had 
changed. A furious gale of wind was blow- 
ing, and we were shrouded in a dense, driz- 
zling mist, through which at times the rain 
drove in level sheets. Now and then the fog 
would blow away,. and then would come on 
thicker than ever ; and when it began to clear 
off a steady rain took its place, and the wind 



ON THE PRAIRIE 69 

increased to a regular hurricane. With its 
canvas top on, the wagon would certainly 
have been blown over if on open ground, and 
it was impossible to start or keep a fire ex- 
cept under the sheltered lee of the cliff. 
Moreover, the wind kept shifting, and we 
had to shift too, as fast as ever it started to 
blow from a new quarter; and thus in the 
course of the twenty-four hours we made 
a complete circle of the cliff at whose base 
we were. Our blankets got wet during the 
night ; and they got no drier during the day ; 
and the second night, as we slept on them 
they got steadily damper. Our provisions 
were pretty nearly out, and so, with little to 
eat and less to do, wet and uncomfortable, 
we cowered over the sputtering fire, and 
whiled the long day away as best we might 
with our own thoughts; fortunately we had 
all learned that no matter how bad things 
are, grumbling and bad temper can always 
be depended upon to make them worse, and 
so bore our ill-fortune, if not with stoical in- 
difference, at least in perfect quiet. Next 



70 HUNTING TRIPS 

day the storm still continued, but the fog 
was gone and the wind somewhat easier; 
and we spent the whole day looking up the 
horses, which had drifted a long distance be- 
fore the storm; nor was it till the morning 
of the third day that we left our beautiful 
but, as events had made it, uncomfortable 
camping-ground . 

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

At last the work was ended, and I started 
home in the twilight. The horse splashed 
across the shallow ford, and then spent half 



ON THE PRAIRIE 71 

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



72 HUNTING TRIPS 

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



CHAPTER II 

A TRIP AFTER MOUNTAIN 
SHEEP 

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

n 



74 HUNTING TRIPS 

and in its winding bed the river lay fixed like 
a huge bent bar of blue steel. 

We had been told that a small band of big- 
horn was hanging around some very steep 
and broken country about twenty-five miles 
from the ranch-house. I had been out after 
them once alone, but had failed to find even 
their tracks, and had made up my mind 
that in order to hunt them it would be neces- 
sary to make a three- or four-days' trip, 
taking along the buck-board with our bed- 
ding and eatables. The trip had been de- 
layed owing to two of my men, who had 
been sent out to buy ponies, coming in with 
a bunch of fifty, for the most part hardly 
broken. Some of them were meant for the 
use of the lower ranch, and the men from 
the latter had come up to get them. At night 
the ponies were let loose, and each day were 
gathered into the horse corral and broken as 
well as we could break them in such weather. 
It was my intention not to start on the hunt 
until the ponies were separated into the two 
bands, and the men from the lower ranch 



ON THE PRAIRIE 75 

(theElkhorn) had gone off with theirs. Then 
one of the cowboys was to take the buck- 
board up to a deserted hunter's hut, which 
lay on a great bend of the river near by the 
ground over which the big-horn were said to 
wander, while my foreman, Merrifield, and 
myself would take saddle-horses, and each 
day ride to the country through which we 
intended to hunt, returning at night to the 
buck-board and hut. But we started a little 
sooner than we had intended, owing to a 
funny mistake made by one of the cowboys. 
The sun did not rise until nearly eight, 
but each morning we breakfasted at five, and 
the micn were then sent out on the horses 
which had been kept in overnight, to find 
and drive home the pony band; of course 
they started in perfect darkness, except for 
the starlight. On the last day of our pro- 
posed stay the men had come in with the 
ponies before sunrise; and, leaving the lat- 
ter in the corral^ they entered the house and 
crowded round the fire, stamping and beat- 
ing their numbed hands together. In the 



76 HUNTING TRIPS 

midst of the confusion word was brought by 
one of the cowboys, that while hunting for 
the horses he had seen two bears go down 
into a wash-out ; and he told us that he could 
bring us right to the place where he had 
seen them, for as soon as he left it he had 
come in at speed on his swift, iron-gray 
horse — a vicious, clean-limbed devil, \yith 
muscles like bundles of tense wire; the cold 
had made the brute savage, and it had been 
punished with the cruel curb bit until long, 
bloody icicles hung from its lips. 

At once Merrifield and I mounted in hot 
haste and rode off with the bringer of good 
tidings, leaving hasty instructions where we 
were to be joined by the buck-board. The 
sun was still just below the horizon as we 
started, wrapped warmly in our fur coats 
and with our caps drawn down over our ears 
to keep out the cold. The cattle were stand- 
ing in the thickets and sheltered ravines, 
huddled together with their heads down, the 
frost lying on their backs and the icicles 
har.ging from their muzzles; they stared at 



'ON THE PRAIRIE 77. 

us as we rode along, but were too cold to 
move a hand's breadth out of our way ; in- 
deed it is a marvel how they survive the 
winter at all. Our course at first lay up a 
long valley, cut up by cattle trails ; then we 
came out, just as the sun had risen, upon the 
rounded, gently-sloping highlands, thickly 
clad with the short, nutritious grass, which 
curls on the stalk into good hay, and on 
which the cattle feed during winter. We 
galloped rapidly over the hills, our blood 
gradually warming up from the motion ; and 
soon came to the long wash-out, cutting 
down like a miniature canyon for a space 
of two or three miles through the bottom of 
a valley, into which the cowboy said he had 
seen the bears go. One of us took one side 
and one the other, and we rode along up 
wind, but neither the bears nor any traces 
of them could we see; at last, half a mile 
ahead of us, two dark objects suddenly 
emerged from the wash-out, and came out 
on the plain. For a second we thought they 
v/ere the quarry ; then v/e savv' that they were 



78 HUNTING TRIPS 

merely a couple of dark-colored ponies. The 
cowboy's chapfallen face was a study ; he had 
seen, in the dim light, the two ponies going 
down with their heads held near the ground, 
and had mistaken them for bears (by no 
means the unnatural mistake that it seems; 
I have known an experienced hunter fire 
twice at a black calf in the late evening, 
thinking it was a bear). He knew only too 
well the merciless chaff to which he would be 
henceforth exposed ; and a foretaste of which 
he at once received from my companion. 
The ponies had strayed from the main herd, 
and the cowboy was sent back to drive them 
to the home corral, while Merrifield and my- 
self continued our hunt. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 79 

lay through the heart of the Bad Lands, but 
of course the country was not equally rough 
in all parts. There were tracts of varying 
size, each covered with a tangled mass of 
chains and peaks, the buttes in places reach- 
ing a height that would in the East entitle 
them to be called mountains. Every such 
tract was riven in all directions by deep 
chasms and narrow ravines, whose sides 
sometimes rolled off in gentle slopes, but far 
more often rose as sheer cliffs, with nar- 
row ledges along their fronts. A sparse 
growth of grass covered certain portions of 
these lands, and on some of the steep hill- 
sides, or in the canyons were scanty groves 
of coniferous evergreens, so stunted by the 
thin soil and bleak weather that many of 
them were bushes rather than trees. Most of 
the peaks and ridges, and many of the val- 
leys, were entirely bare of vegetation, and 
these had been cut by wind and water into 
the strangest and most fantastic shapes. In- 
deed it is difficult, in looking at such forma- 
tions, to get rid of the feeling that their 



8o HUNTING TRIPS 

curiously twisted and contorted forms are 
due' to some vast volcanic upheavals or other 
subterranean forces; yet they are merely 
caused by the action of the various weather- 
ing forces of the dry climate on the different 
strata of sandstones, clays, and marls. Iso- 
lated columns shoot up into the air, bear- 
ing on their summits flat rocks like tables ; 
square buttes tower high above surrounding 
depressions, which are so cut up by twisting 
gullies and low ridges as to be almost im- 
passable; shelving masses of sandstone jut 
out over the sides of the cliffs ; some of the 
ridges, with perfectly perpendicular sides, 
are so worn away that they stand up like 
gigantic knife blades ; and gulches, wash- 
outs, and canyons dig out the sides of each 
butte, while between them are thrust out long 
spurs, with sharp ragged tops. All such 
patches of barren, broken ground, where the 
feed seems too scant to support any large ani- 
mal, are the favorite haunts of the big-horn, 
though it also wanders far into the some- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 8i 

what gentler and more fertile, but still very 
rugged, domain of the black-tail deer. 

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



82 HUNTING TRIPS 

ing kept us warm in spite of the bitter 
weather; we only wore our fur coats and 
shaps while on horseback, leaving them 
where we left the horses, and doing our still- 
hunting in buckskin shirts, fur caps, and 
stout shoes. 

Big-horn, more commonly known as 
mountain sheep, are extremely wary and 
cautious animals, and are plentiful in but few 
places. This is rather surprising, for they 
seem to be fairly prolific (although not as 
much so as deer and antelope), and com- 
paratively few are killed by the hunters; in- 
deed, much fewer are shot than of any other 
kind of western game in proportion to their 
numbers. They hold out in a place long 
after the elk and buffalo have been exter- 
minated, and for many years after both of 
these have become things of the past the big- 
horn will still exist to afford sport to the 
man who is a hardy mountaineer and skilful 
with the rifle. For it is the only kind of 
game on whose haunts cattle do not tres- 
pass. Good buffalo or elk pasture is sure 



ON THE PRAIRIE 8^ 

to be also good pasture for steers and cows ; 
and in summer the herds of the ranchman 
wander far into the prairies of the antelope, 
while in winter their chosen and favorite re- 
sorts are those of which the black-tail is 
equally fond. Thus, the cattle-men are al- 
most as much foes of these kinds of game as 
are the hunters, but neither cattle nor cow- 
boys penetrate into the sterile and rocky 
wastes where the big-horn is found. And it 
is too wary game, and the labor of following 
it is too great, for it ever to be much perse- 
cuted by the skin or market hunters. 

In size the big-horn comes next to buffalo 
and elk, averaging larger than the black- 
tail deer, while an old ram will sometimes be 
almost as heavy as a small cow elk. In his 
movements he is not light and graceful like 
the prong-horn and other antelopes, his mar- 
vellous agility seeming rather to proceed 
from sturdy strength and wonderful com- 
mand over iron sinews and muscles. The 
huge horns are carried proudly erect by the 
massive neck; every motion of the body is 



84 HUNTING TRIPS 

made with perfect poise ; and there seems to 
be no ground so difficult that the big-horn 
cannot cross it. There is probably no animal 
in the world his superior in climbmg ; and his 
only equals are the other species of mountain 
sheep and the ibexes. No matter how sheer 
the cliff, if there are ever so tiny cracks or 
breaks in the surface, the big-horn will 
bound up or down it with wonderful ease 
and seeming absence of effort. The perpen- 
dicular bounds it can make are truly startling 
— in strong contrast with its distant relative 
the prong-horn which can leap almost any 
level jump but seems unable to clear the 
smallest height. In descending a sheer wall 
of rock the big-horn holds all four feet to- 
gether and goes down in long jumps, bound- 
ing off the surface almost like a rubber ball 
every time he strikes it. The way that one 
will vanish over the roughest and most bro- 
ken ground is a perpetual surprise to any one 
that has hunted them ; and the ewes are 
quite as skilful as the rams, while even the 
very young lambs seem almost as well able 



ON THE PRAIRIE 85 

to climb, and certainly follow wherever their 
elders lead. Time and again one will rush 
over a cliff to what appears certain death, 
and will gallop away from the bottom un- 
harmed. Their perfect self-confidence seems 
to be justified, however, for they never slip 
or make a misstep, even on the narrowest 
ledges when covered with ice and snow. And 
all their marvellous jumping and climbing is 
done with an apparent ease that renders it 
the more wonderful. Rapid though the 
movements of one are they are made without 
any of the nervous hurry so characteristic of 
the antelopes and smaller deer ; the on-looker 
is really as much impressed w^ith the animal's 
sinewy power and self-command as with his 
agility. His strength and his self-reliance 
seem to fit him above all other kinds of gam.e 
to battle with the elements and with his brute 
foes ; he does not care to have the rough 
ways of his life made smooth; were his 
choice free his abode would still be the vast 
and lonely wilderness in which he is found. 
To him the barren wastes of the Bad Lands 



86 HUNTING TRIPS 

offer a most attractive home; yet to other 
Hving creatures they are at all times as 
grimly desolate and forbidding as any spot 
on earth can be; at all seasons they seem 
hostile to every form of life. In the raging 
heat of summer the dry earth cracks and 
crumbles, and the sultry, lifeless air sways 
and trembles as if above a furnace. Through 
the high, clear atmosphere, the intense sun- 
light casts unnaturally deep shadows; and 
where there are no shadows, brings out in 
glaring relief the weird, fantastic shapes and 
bizarre coloring of the buttes. In winter 
snow and ice coat the thin crests and sharp 
sides of the cliffs, and increase their look of 
savage wildness; the cold turns the ground 
into ringing iron; and the icy blasts sweep 
through the clefts and over the ridges with 
an angry fury even more terrible than is the 
intense, death-like, silent heat of midsummer. 
But the mountain ram is alike proudly indif- 
ferent to the hottest summer sun and to tHe 
wildest winter storm. 

The lambs are brought forth late in May 



ON THE PRAIRIE 87 

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

Occasionally the big-horn come down into 
the valleys or along the grassy slopes to feed, 
but this is not often, and in such cases every 
member of the band is always keeping the 
sharpest look-out, and at the slightest alarm 
they beat a retreat to their broken fast- 



88 HUNTING TRIPS 

nesses. At night-time or in the early morn- 
ing they come down to drink at the small 
pools or springs, but move off the instant 
they have satisfied their thirst. As a rule, 
they spend their time among the rocks and 
rough ground, and it is in these places that 
they must be hunted. They cover a good 
deal of ground when feeding, for the feed 
is scanty in their haunts, and they walk 
quite rapidly along the ledges or peaks, by 
preference high up, as they graze or browse. 
When through feeding they always choose 
as a resting-place some point from which 
they can command a view over all the sur- 
rounding territory. An old ram is peculiarly 
wary. The crest of a ridge or the top of a 
peak is a favorite resting-bed ; but even more 
often they choose some ledge, high up, but 
just below the crest, or lie on a shelf of rock 
that juts out from where a ridge ends, and 
thus enables them to view the country on 
three sides of them. In color they harmonize 
curiously with the grayish or yellowish 
brown of the ground on which they are 



ON THE PRAIRIE 89 

found, and it is often very difficult to make 
them out when lying motionless on a ledge 
of rock. Time and again they will be mis- 
taken for boulders, and, on the other hand, 
I have more than once stalked up to masses 
of sandstone that I have mistaken for sheep. 
When lying down the big-horn can thus 
scan every thing below it; and both while 
feeding and resting it invariably keeps the 
sharpest possible look-out for all danger 
from beneath, and this trait makes it need- 
ful for the hunter to always keep on the high- 
est ground and try to come on it from above. 
For protection • against danger it relies on 
ears, eyes, and nose alike. The slightest 
sound startles it and puts it on its guard, 
while if it sees or smells any thing which it 
deems may bode danger it is off like a flash. 
It is as wary and quick-sighted as the ante- 
lope, and its senses are as keen as are those 
of the elk, while it is not afflicted by the oc- 
casional stupidity nor heedless recklessness 
of these two animals, nor by the intense curi- 
osity of the black-tail, and it has all the 



90 HUNTING TRIPS 

white-tairs sound common-sense, coupled 
with a much shyer nature and much sharper 
faculties, so that it is more difficult to kill 
than are any of these creatures. And the 
climbing is rendered all the more tiresome by 
the traits above spoken of, which make it 
necessary for the hunter to keep above it. 
The first thing to do is to clamber up to the 
top of a ridge, and after that to keep on the 
highest crests. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 91 

he will need to pay good heed to his own 
footing or else run the risk of breaking his 
neck. 

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



92 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

After that we saw nothing. The cold, as 
the day wore on, seemed gradually to chill 
us through and through ; our hands and feet 
became numb, and our ears tingled under our 
fur caps. We hunted carefully through two 
or three masses of jagged buttes which 
seemed most likely places for the game we 
were after, taking a couple of hours to each 
place ; and then, as the afternoon was begin- 
ning to wane, mounted our shivering horses 
for good, and pushed toward the bend of the 
river where we were to meet the buck-board. 
Our course lay across a succession of bleak, 
wind-swept plateaus, broken by deep and 
narrow pine-clad gorges. We galloped 



ON THE PRAIRIE 93 

swiftly over the plateaus, where the footing 
was good and the going easy, for the gales 
had driven the feathery snow off the with- 
ered brown grass; but getting on and off 
these table-lands was often a real labor, their 
sides were so sheer. The horses plunged and 
scrambled after us as we led them up ; while 
in descending they would sit back on their 
haunches and half-walk, half-slide, down the 
steep inclines. Indeed, one or two of the 
latter were so very straight that the horses 
would not face them, and we had to turn 
them round and back them over the edge, 
and then all go down with a rush. At any 
rate it warmed our blood to keep out of the 
way of the hoofs. On one of the plateaus 
I got a very long shot at a black-tail, which 
I missed. 

Finally we struck the head of a long, 
winding valley with a smooth bottom^ and 
after cantering down it four or five miles, 
came to the river, just after the cold, pale- 
red sun had sunk behind the line of hills 
ahead of us. Our horses were sharp shod. 



94 HUNTING TRIPS 

and crossed the ice without difficulty ; and in 
a grove of leafless cotton-woods, on the op- 
posite side, we found the hut for which we 
had been making, the cowboy already inside 
with the fire started. Throughout the night 
the temperature sank lower and lower, and it 
was impossible to keep the crazy old hut 
anywhere near freezing-point; the wind 
whistled through the chinks and crannies of 
the logs, and, after a short and by no means 
elaborate supper, we were glad to cower 
down with our great fur coats still on, under 
the pile of buffalo robes and bear skins. My 
sleeping-bag came in very handily, and kept 
me as warm as possible, in spite of the bitter 
frost. 

We were up and had taken breakfast next 
morning by the time the first streak of dawn 
had dimmed the brilliancy of the stars, and 
immediately afterwards strode off on foot, 
as we had been hampered by the horses on 
the day before. We walked briskly across 
the plain until, by the time it was light 
enough to see to shoot, we came to the foot 



ON THE PRAIRIE 95 

of a great hill, known as Middle Butte, a 
huge, isolated mass of rock, several miles in 
length, and with high sides, very steep to- 
wards the nearly level summit; it would be 
deemed a mountain of no inconsiderable size 
in the East. We hunted carefully through 
the outlying foothills and projecting spurs 
around its base, without result, finding but 
a few tracks, and those very old ones, and 
then toiled up to the top, which, though nar- 
row in parts, in others widened out into 
plateaus half a mile square. Having made a 
complete circuit of the top, peering over the 
edge and closely examining the flanks of the 
butte with the field-glass, without having 
seen any thing, we slid down the other side 
and took off through a streak of very rugged 
but low country. This day, though the 
weather had grown even colder, we did not 
feel it, for we walked all the while with a 
quick pace, and the climbing was very hard 
work. The shoulders and ledges of the cliffs 
had become round and slippery with the ice, 
and it was no easy task to move up and 



96 HUNTING TRIPS 

along them, clutching the g^un in one hand, 
and grasping each little projection with the 
other. Climbing through the Bad Lands is 
just like any other kind of mountaineering, 
except that the precipices and chasms are 
much lower; but this really makes very ht- 
tle difference when the ground is frozen as 
solid as iron, for it would be almost as un- 
pleasant to fall fifty feet as to fall two 
hundred, and the result to the person who 
tried it would be very much the same in each 
case. 

Hunting for a day or two without finding 
game where the work is severe and toilsome, 
is a good test of the sportsman's staying 
qualities ; the man who at the end of the time 
is proceeding with as much caution and de- 
termination as at the beginning, has got the 
right stuff in him. On this day I got rather 
tired, and committed one of the blunders of 
which no hunter ought ever to be guilty; 
that is, I fired at small game while on ground 
where I might expect large. We had seen 
two or three jack-rabbits scudding off like 



ON THE PRAIRIE 97 

noiseless white shadows, and finally came 
upon some sharp-tail prairie fowl in a hoi-. 
low. One was quite near me, perched on 
a bush, and with its neck stretched up offered 
a beautiful mark; I could not resist it, so 
knelt and fired. At the report of the rifle 
(it was a miss, by the by) a head suddenly 
appeared over a ridge some six hundred 
yards in front — too far off for us to make out 
what kind of animal it belonged to, — looked 
fixedly at us, and then disappeared. We 
feared it might be a mountain sheep, and that 
my unlucky shot had deprived us of the 
chance of a try at it; but on hurrying up 
to the place where it had been we were re- 
lieved to find that the tracks were only 
those of a black-tail. After this lesson we 
proceeded in silence, making a long circle 
through the roughest kind of country. 
When on the way back to camp, where the 
buttes rose highest and steepest, we came 
upon fresh tracks, but as it was then late in 
the afternoon, did not try to follow them that 
day. When near the hut I killed a sharp- 



98 HUNTING TRIPS 

tail for supper, making rather a neat shot, 
.the bird being eighty yards off. The night 
vv'as even colder than the preceding one, and 
all signs told us that we would soon have a 
change for the worse in the weather, which 
made me doubly anxious to get a sheep be- 
fore the storm struck us. We determined 
that next morning we would take the horses 
and make a quick push for the chain of high 
buttes where we had seen the fresh tracks, 
and hunt them through with thorough care. 
We started in the cold gray of the next 
morning and pricked rapidly off over the 
frozen plain, columns of white steam rising 
from the nostrils of the galloping horses. 
When we reached the foot of the hills where 
we intended to hunt, and had tethered the 
horses, the sun had already risen, but it was 
evident that the clear weather of a fortnight 
past was over. The air v\^as thick and hazy, 
and away off in the northwest a towering 
mass of grayish white clouds looked like a 
weather-breeder ; every thing boded a storm 
at no distant date. The country over which 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



99 



we now hunted was wilder and more moun- 
tainous than any we had yet struck. High, 
sharp peaks and ridges broke off abruptly 
into narrow gorges and deep ravines; they 
were bare of all but the scantiest vegeta- 
tion, save on some of the sheltered sides 
where grew groves of dark pines, now laden 
down with feathery snow. The climbing 
was as hard as ever. At first we went 
straight up the side of the tallest peak, and 
then along the knife-like ridge which joined 
it with the next. The ice made the footing 
very slippery as we stepped along the 
ledges or crawled round the jutting shoul- 
ders, and we had to look carefully for our 
footholds; while in the cold, thin air every 
quick burst we made up a steep hill caused 
us to pant for breath. We had gone but a 
little way before we saw fresh signs of the 
animals we were after, but it was some time 
before we came upon the quarry itself. 

We left the high ground and descending 
into a narrow chasm walked along its bot- 
tom, which was but a couple of feet wide, 



loo HUNTING TRIPS 

while the sides rose up from it at an acute 
angle. After following this for a few hun- 
dred yards, we turned a sharp corner, and 
shortly afterward our eyes were caught by 
some grains of fresh earth lying on the snow 
in front of our feet. On the sides, some 
feet above our heads, were marks in the 
snow which a moment's glance showed us 
had been made by a couple of mountain 
sheep that had come down one side of the 
gorge and had leaped across to the other, 
their sharp toes going through the thin 
snow and displacing the earth that had fallen 
to the bottom. The tracks had evidently 
been made just before we rounded the corner, 
and as we had been advancing noiselessly 
on the snow with the wind in our favor, we 
knew that the animals could have no sus- 
picion of our presence. They had gone up 
the cliff on our right, but as that on our left 
was much lower, and running for some dis- 
tance parallel to the other, we concluded that 
by running along its top we would be most 
certain to get a good shot. Clambering in- 



ON THE PRAIRIE loi 

stantly up the steep side, digging my hands 
and feet into the loose snow, and grasping 
at every little rock or frozen projection, I 
reached the top; and then ran forward 
along the ridge a few paces, crouching be- 
hind the masses of queerly-shaped sandstone ; 
and saw, about ninety yards off across the 
ravine, a couple of mountain rams. The one 
with the largest horns was broadside to- 
ward me, his sturdy, massive form outlined 
clearly against the sky, as he stood on the 
crest of the ridge. I dropped on my knee, 
raising the rifle as I did so ; for a second he 
did not quite make me out, turning his head 
half round to look. I held the sight fairly 
on the point just behind his shoulder and 
pulled the trigger. At the report he stag- 
gered and pitched forward, but recovered 
himself and crossed over the ridge out of 
sight. We jumped and slid dovvn into the 
ravine again, and clambered up the opposite 
side as fast as our lungs and the slippery ice 
would let us; then taking the trail of the 
wounded ram we trotted along it. We had 



I02 HUNTING TRIPS 

not far to go; for, as I expected, we found 
him lying on his side a couple of hundred 
yards beyond the ridge, his eyes already 
glazed in death. The bullet had gone in be- 
hind the shoulder and ranged clean through 
his body crosswise, going a little forward ; no 
animal less tough than a mountain ram 
could have gone any distance at all with such 
a wound. He had most obligingly run round 
to a part of the hill where we could bring 
up one of the horses without very much dif- 
ficulty. Accordingly I brought up old Man- 
itou, who can carry any thing and has no 
fear, and the big-horn was soon strapped 
across his back. It was a fine ram, with per- 
fectly-shaped but not very large horns. 

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

It was still early in the day, and we made 



ON THE PRAIRIE 103 

up our minds to push back for the home 
ranch, as we did not wish to be caught out 
in a long storm. The lowering sky was al- 
ready overcast by a mass of leaden-gray 
clouds; and it was evident that we had no 
time to lose. In a little over an hour we were 
back at the log camp, where the ram was 
shifted from Manitou's back to the buck- 
board. A very few minutes sufficed to pack 
up our bedding and provisions, and we 
started home. Merrifield and I rode on 
ahead, not sparing the horses ; but before we 
got home the storm had burst, and a furi- 
ous blizzard blew in our teeth as we gal- 
loped along the last mile of the river bottom, 
before coming to the home ranch house ; and 
as we warmed our stiffened limbs before the 
log fire, I congratulated myself upon the 
successful outcome of what I knew would 
be the last hunting trip I should take during 
that season. 

The death of this ram was accomplished 
without calling for any very good shooting 



I04 HUNTING TRIPS 

on our part. He was standing still, less than 
a hundred yards off, when the shot was fired ; 
and we came across him so close merely by 
accident. Still, we fairly deserved our luck, 
for we had hunted with the most patient and 
painstaking care from dawn till nightfall for 
the better part of three days, spending most 
of the time in climbing at a smart rate of 
speed up sheer cliffs and over rough and 
slippery ground. Still-hunting the big-horn 
is always a toilsome and laborious task, and 
the very bitter weather during which we 
had been out had not lessened the difficulty 
of the work, though in the cold it was much 
less exhausting than it would have been to 
have hunted across the same ground in sum- 
mer. No other kind of hunting does as much 
to bring out the good qualities, both moral 
and physical, of the sportsmen who follow 
it. If a man keeps at it, it is bound to make 
him both hardy and resolute; to strengthen 
his muscles and fill out his lungs. 

Mountain mutton is in the fall the most 



ON THE PRAIRIE 105 

delicious eating furnished by any game ani- 
mal. Nothing else compares with it for juici- 
ness, tenderness, and flavor ; but at all other 
times of the year it is tough, stringy, and 
worthless. 



CHAPTER III 

THE LORDLY BUFFALO 

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

It is only about a hundred years ago that 
1 06 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



107 



the white man, in his march westward, first 
encroached upon the lands of the buffalo, 
for these animals had never penetrated in 
any number to the Appalachian chain of 
mountains. Indeed, it was after the begin- 
ning of the century before the inroads of the 
whites upon them grew at all serious. Then, 
though constantly driven westward, the 
diminution in their territory, if sure, was at 
least slow, although growing progressively 
more rapid. Less than a score of years ago 
the great herds, containing many millions of 
individuals, ranged over a vast expanse of 
country. that stretched in an unbroken line 
from near Mexico to far into British Amer- 
ica; in fact, over almost all the plains that 
are now known as the cattle region. But 
since that time their destruction has gone on 
with appalling rapidity and thoroughness; 
and the main factors in bringing it about 
have been the railroads, which carried 
hordes of hunters into the land and gave 
them means to transport their spoils to 
market. Not quite twenty years since, the 



io8 HUNTING TRIPS 

range was broken in two, and the buffalo 
herds in the middle slaughtered or thrust 
aside; and thus there resulted two ranges, 
the northern and the southern. The latter 
was the larger, but being more open to the 
hunters, was the sooner to be depopulated; 
and the last of the great southern herds was 
destroyed in 1878, though scattered bands 
escaped and wandered into the desolate 
wastes to the southwest. Meanwhile equal- 
ly savage war was waged on the northern 
herds, and five years later the last of these 
was also destroyed or broken up. The bulk 
of this slaughter was done in the dozen years 
from 1872 to 1883; never before in all his- 
tory were so many large wild animals of one 
species slain in so short a space of time. 

The extermination of the buffalo has been 
a veritable tragedy of the animal world. 
Other races of animals have been destroyed 
within historic times, but these have been 
species of small size, local distribution, and 
limited numbers, usually found in some par- 
ticular island or group of islands ; while the 



ON THE PRAIRIE 109 

huge buffalo, in countless myriads, ranged 
over the greater part of a continent. Its 
nearest relative, the Old World aurochs, 
formerly found all through the forests of 
Europe, is almost as near the verge of ex- 
tinction, but with the latter the process has 
been slow, and has extended over a period 
of a thousand years, instead of being com- 
pressed into a dozen. The destruction of 
the various larger species of South African 
game is much more local, and is proceeding 
at a much slower rate. It may truthfully be 
said that the sudden and complete extermi- 
nation of the vast herds of the buffalo is 
without a parallel in historic times. 

No sight is more common on the plains 
than that of a bleached buffalo skull; and 
their countless numbers attest the abund- 
ance of the animal at a time not so very long 
past. On those portions where the herds 
made their last stand, the carcasses, dried 
in the clear, high air, or the mouldering 
skeletons, abound. Last year, in crossing 
the country around the heads of the Big 



no HUNTING TRIPS 

Sandy, O 'Fallon Creek, Little Beaver, and 
Box Alder, these skeletons or dried car- 
casses were in sight from every hillock, 
often lying over the ground so thickly that 
several score could be seen at once. A 
ranchman who at the same time had made a 
journey of a thousand miles across Northern 
Montana, along the Milk River, told me 
that, to use his own expression, during the 
whole distance he was never out of sight of 
a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live 
one. 

Thus, though gone, the traces of the buf- 
falo are still thick over the land. Their 
dried dung is found everywhere, and is in 
many places the only fuel afforded by the 
plains; their skulls, which last longer than 
any other part of the animal, are among the 
most familiar of objects to the plainsman; 
their bones are in many districts so plentiful 
that it has become a regular industry, fol- 
lowed by hundreds of men (christened 
*' bone hunters " by the frontiersmen), to go 
out with wagons and collect them in great 



ON THE PRAIRIE m 

numbers for the sake of the phosphates they 
yield ; and Bad Lands, plateaus, and prairies 
alike, are cut up in all directions by the deep 
ruts which were formerly buffalo trails. 

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



112 HUNTING TRIPS 

side by side over the prairie for a mile's 
length. These old trails are frequently used 
by the cattle herds at the present time, or 
are even turned into pony paths by the 
ranchmen. For many long years after the 
buffalo die out from a place, their white 
skulls and well-worn roads remain as melan- 
choly monuments of their former existence. 
The rapid and complete extermination of 
the buffalo affords an excellent instance of 
how a race, that has thriven and multiplied 
for ages under conditions of life to which it 
has slowly fitted itself by a process of nat- 
ural selection continued for countless gen- 
erations, may succumb at once when these 
surrounding conditions are varied by the in- 
troduction of one or more new elements, im- 
mediately becoming the chief forces with 
which it has to contend in the struggle for 
life. The most striking characteristics of the 
buffalo, and those which had been found 
most useful in maintaining the species until 
the white man entered upon the scene, were 
its phenomenal gregariousness — surpassed 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



113 



by no other four-footed beast, and only 
equalled, if equalled at all, by one or two 
kinds of South African antelope, — its mas- 
sive bulk, and unwieldy strength. The fact 
that it was a plains and not a forest or 
mountain animal was at that time also great- 
ly in its favor. Its toughness and hardy en- 
durance fitted it to contend with purely nat- 
ural forces: to resist cold and the winter 
blasts, or the heat of a thirsty summer, to 
wander away to new pastures when the feed 
on the old was exhausted, to plunge over 
broken ground, and to plough its way 
through snow-drifts or quagmires. But one 
beast of prey existed sufficiently powerful to 
conquer it when full grov^^n and in health; 
and this, the grizzly bear, could only be con- 
sidered an occasional foe. The Indians 
were its most dangerous enemies, but they 
were without horses, and their weapons, 
bows and arrows, were only available at close 
range; so that a slight degree of speed en- 
abled buffalo to get out of the way of their 
human foes when discovered, and en the 



114 HUNTING TRIPS 

open plains a moderate development of the 
senses was sufficient to warn them of the 
approach of the latter before they had come 
up to the very close distance required for 
their primitive weapons to take effect. 
Thus the strength, size, and gregarious hab- 
its of the brute were sufficient for a protec- 
tion against most foes; and a slight degree 
of speed and moderate development of the 
senses served as adequate guards against the 
grizzlies and bov/-bearing foot Indians. 
Concealment and the habit of seeking lonely 
and remote places for a dwelling would have 
been of no service. 

But the introduction of the 'horse, and 
shortly afterwards the incoming of white 
hunters carrying long-range rifles, changed 
all this. The buffaloes' gregarious habits 
simply rendered them certain to be seen, and 
made it a matter of perfect ease to follow 
them up; their keeping to the open plains 
heightened their conspicuousness, while 
their senses were too dull to discover their 
foes at such a distance as to nullify the ef- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 115 

fects of the long rifles; their speed was not 
such as to enable them to flee from a horse- 
man; and their size and strength merely 
made them too clumsy either to escape from 
or to contend with their foes. Add to this 
the fact that their hides and flesh were valu- 
able, and it is small wonder that under the 
new order of things they should have van- 
ished with such rapidity. 

The incoming of the cattle-men was an- 
other cause of the completeness of their de- 
struction. Wherever there is good feed for 
a buffalo, there is good feed for a steer or 
cow; and so the latter have penetrated into 
all the pastures of the former ; and of course 
the cowboys follow. A cowboy is not able to 
kill a deer or antelope unless in exceptional 
cases, for they are too fleet, too shy, or keep 
themselves too well hidden. But a buffalo 
neither tries nor is able to do much in the 
way of hiding itself; its senses are too dull 
to give it warning in time; and it is not so 
swift as a horse, so that a cowboy, riding 
round in the places where cattle, and there- 



ii6 HUNTING TRIPS 

fore buffalo, are likely to be, is pretty sure 
to see any of the latter that may be about, 
and then can easily approach near enough to 
be able to overtake them when they begin 
running. The size and value of the animal 
makes the chase after it very keen. Hunt- 
ers will follow the trail of a band for days, 
when they would not follow that of deer or 
antelope for a half hour. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 117 

jority of the individuals were utterly unable 
to accommodate themselves to the sudden 
and complete change in the surrounding 
forces with which they had to cope, and 
therefore died out; while a very few of the 
more active and wary, and of those most 
given to wandering off into mountainous 
and out-of-the-way places^ in each genera- 
tion survived, and among these the wariness 
continually increased, partly by personal ex- 
perience, and still more by inheriting an in- 
creasingly suspicious nature from their an- 
cestors. The sense of smell always was ex- 
cellent in the buffalo; the sense of hearing 
becomes much quicker in any woods animal 
than it is in one found on the plains; while 
in beasts of the forest the eyesight does not 
have to be as keen as is necessary for their 
protection in open country. On the moun- 
tains the hair grows longer and denser, and 
the form rather more thickset. As a result, 
a new race has been built up ; and we have 
an animal far better fitted to " harmonize 
with the environment/' to use the scientific 



ii8 HUNTING TRIPS 

cant of the day. Unfortunately this race 
has developed too late. With the settlement 
of the country it will also disappear, unless 
very stringent laws are made for its protec- 
tion ; but at least its existence will for some 
years prevent the total extermination of the 
species as a whole. It must be kept in mind 
that even this shyer kind of buffalo has not 
got the keen senses of other large game, 
such as moose; and it is more easily fol- 
lowed and much more keenly and eagerly 
sought after than would be any other animal 
smaller and less valuable to the hunte^ than 
itself. 

While the slaughter of the buffalo has 
been in places needless and brutal, and while 
it is to be greatly regretted that the species 
is likely to become extinct, and while, more- 
over, from a purely selfish standpoint many, 
including myself, would rather see it con- 
tinue to exist as the chief feature in the un- 
changed life of the Western wilderness; yet, 
on the other hand, it must be remembered 
that its continued existence in any numbers 



07V THE PRAIRIE 119 

was absolutely incompatible with any thing 
but a very sparse settlement of the country ; 
and that its destruction was the condition 
precedent upon the advance of white civili- 
zation in the West, and was a positive boon 
to the more thrifty and industrious fron- 
tiersmen. Where the buffalo were plenty, 
they ate up all the grass that could have sup- 
ported cattle. The country over which the 
huge herds grazed during the last year or 
two of their existence was cropped bare, and 
the grass did not grow to its normal height 
and become able to support cattle for, in 
some cases two, in others three, seasons. 
Every buffalo needed as much food as an ox 
or cow ; and if the former abounded, the lat- 
ter perforce would have to be scarce. Above 
all, the extermination of the buffalo was the 
only way of solving the Indian question. 
As long as this large animal of the chase 
existed, the Indians simply could not be kept 
on reservations, and always had an ample 
supply of meat on hand to support them in 
the event of a war; and its disappearance 



I20 HUNTING TRIPS 

was the only method of forcing them to at 
least partially abandon their savage mode of 
life. From the standpoint of humanity at 
large, the extermination of the buffalo has 
been a blessing. The many have been bene- 
fited by it ; and I suppose the comparatively 
few of us who would have preferred the con- 
tinuance of the old order of things, merely 
for the sake of our own selfish enjoyment, 
have no right to complain. 

The buffalo is easier killed than is any 
other kind of plains game; but its chase is 
very far from being the tame amusement it 
has been lately represented. It is genuine 
sport; it needs skill, marksmanship, and 
hardihood in the man who follows it, and if 
he hunts on horseback, it needs also pluck 
and good riding. It is in no way akin to 
various forms of so-called sport in vogue in 
parts of the East, such as killing deer in a 
lake or by fire hunting, or even by watching 
at a runaway. No man who is not of an 
adventurous temper, and able to stand rough 
food and living, will penetrate to the haunts 



'ON THE PRAIRIE 121 

of the buffalo. The animal is so tough and 
tenacious of life that it must be hit in the 
right spot; and care must be used in ap- 
proaching it, for its nose is very keen, and 
though its sight is dull, yet, on the other 
hand, the plains it frequents are singularly 
bare of cover; while, finally, there is just a 
faint spice of danger in the pursuit, for the 
bison, though the least dangerous of all bo- 
vine animals, will, on occasions, turn upon 
the hunter, and though its attack is, as a 
rule, easily avoided, yet in rare cases it man- 
ages to charge home. A ranchman of my 
acquaintance once, many years ago, went 
out buffalo hunting on horseback, together 
with a friend who was unused to the sport, 
and who was mounted on a large, untrained, 
nervous horse. While chasing a bull, the 
friend's horse became unmanageable, and 
when the bull turned, proved too clumsy to 
get out of the way, and was caught on the 
horns, one of which entered its flank, while 
the other inflicted a huge, bruised gash 
across the man's thigh, tearing the muscles 



I2ii HUNTING TRIPS 

all out. Both horse and rider were flung to 
the ground with tremendous violence. The 
horse had to be killed^ and the man died in a 
few hours from the shock, loss of blood, and 
internal injuries. Such an accident, how- 
ever, is very exceptional. 

My brother was in at the death of the 
great southern herds in 1877, and had a 
good deal of experience in buffalo hunting; 
and once or twice was charged by old bulls, 
but never had any difficulty in either eva- 
ding the charge or else killing the brute as it 
came on. My cousin, John Roosevelt, also 
had one adventure with a buffalo, in which 
he received rather a fright. He had been 
out on foot with a dog and had severely 
wounded a buffalo bull, which nevertheless, 
with the wonderful tenacity of life and abil- 
ity to go over apparently inaccessible places 
that this species shows, managed to clamber 
up a steep., almost perpendicular, cliff. My 
cousin climbed up after it, with some diffi- 
culty ; on reaching the top he got his elbows 
over and drew himself up on them only to 



ON THE PRAIRIE 123 

find the buffalo fronting him with lowered 
head not a dozen feet off. Immediately 
upon seeing him it cocked up its tail and 
came forward. He was clinging with both 
hands to the edge and could not use his rifle ; 
so, not relishing what was literally a tete-a- 
tete, he promptly let go and slid or rather 
rolled head over heels to the foot of the cliff, 
not hurting himself much in the sand, 
though of course a good deal jarred by the 
fall. The buffalo came on till its hoofs 
crumbled the earth at the brink, when the 
dog luckily got up and distracted its atten- 
tion ; meanwhile, my cousin, having bounced 
down to the bottom, picked himself up;, 
shook himself, and finding that nothing was 
broken, promptly scrambled up the bluff at 
another place a few yards oft' and shot his 
antagonist. 

When my cattle first came on the Little 
Missouri three of my men took a small 
bunch of them some fifty miles to the south 
and there wintered with them, on what were 
then the outskirts of the buffalo range, the 



124 HUNTING TRIPS 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 125 

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



126 HUNTING TRIPS 

needed a dozen more balls before he fell for 
good. 

At that time the buffalo would occasion- 
ally be scattered among the cattle, but, as a 
rule, avoided the latter and seemed to be 
afraid of them ; while the cattle, on the con- 
trary, had no apparent dread of the buffalo, 
unless it happened that on some occasion 
they got caught by a herd of the latter that 
had stampeded. A settler or small ranch- 
man, not far from my place, was driving 
in a team of oxen in a wagon one day three 
years since, when, in crossing a valley, he 
encountered a little herd of stampeded 
buffalo, who^ in their blind and heedless 
terror, ran into him and knocked over the 
w^agon and oxen. The oxen never got over 
the fright the rough handling caused them, 
and ever afterward became unmanageable 
and tore off at sight or smell of a buffalo. 
It is said that the few buffalo left in the 
country through which the head waters of 
the Belle Fourche flow, have practically 



ON THE PRAIRIE 127 

joined themselves to the great herds of 
cattle now found all over that region. 

Buffalo are very easily tamed. On a 
neighboring ranch there are four which 
were taken when very young calves. They 
wander about with the cattle, and are quite 
as familiar as any of them, and do not stray 
any farther away. One of them was cap- 
tured when a yearling, by the help of a 
large yellow hound. The cowboy had been 
chasing it some time and, finally, fearing 
it might escape, hied on the hound, which 
dashed in, caught the buft'alo by the ear, and 
finally brought it down to its knees, when the 
cowboy, by means of his lariat secured it, 
and, with the help of a companion, managed 
to get it back to the ranch. Buffalo can be 
trained to draw a wagon, and are valuable 
for their great strength; but they are very 
headstrong and stupid. If thirsty, for in- 
stance, and they smell or see water, it is 
absolutely impossible to prevent their going 
to it, no matter if it is in such a place that 



128 HUNTING TRIPS 

they have to upset the wagon to get down 
to it, nor how deep the mud is. When 
tamed they do not seem to be as ferocious 
as ordinary cattle that are allowed to go 
free; but they are such strong, blundering 
brutes that very few fences will hold them. 
My men, in hunting buffalo, which was 
with them an occasional occupation and not 
a regular pursuit, used light Winchesters; 
but the professional buffalo hunters carried 
either 40-90 or 45-120 Sharps, than which 
there are in the world no rifles more ac- 
curate or powerful ; with the larger-cali- 
bred ones (45 or 50) a man could easily 
kill an elephant. These weapons are ex- 
cellent for very long range work, being 
good for half a mile and over; and some- 
times the hunters were able to kill very many 
buffalo at a time, owing to their curious 
liability to fits of stupid, panic terror. 
Sometimes when these panics seize them 
they stampede and run off in headlong, 
heedless flight, going over any thing in their 
way. Once, in mid-winter, one of my men 



ON THE PRAIRIE 129 

was lying out in the open, under a heavy 
roll of furs, the wagon sheet over all. Dur- 
ing the night a small herd of stampeded 
buffalo passed by, and one of them jumped 
on the bed, almost trampling on the sleeper, 
and then bounded off, as the latter rose with 
a yell. The others of the herd passed al- 
most within arm's length on each side. 

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



I30 HUNTING TRIPS 

mile off, and on approaching would find 
that they had bagged several — for the 
Sharps rifle has a very long range, and the 
narrow, heavy conical bullets will penetrate 
almost any thing. Once while coming in 
over the plains with an ox wagon two of 
my cowboys surprised a band of buffaloes, 
which on being fired at ran clear round 
them and then made a stand in nearly their 
former position ; and there they stood until 
the men had fired away most of their am- 
munition, but only half a dozen or so were 
killed, the Winchesters being too light for 
such a distance. Hunting on foot is much 
the most destructive way of pursuing buf- 
faloes; but it lacks the excitement of chas- 
ing them with horses. 

When in Texas my brother had several 
chances to hunt them on horseback, while 
making a trip as guest of a captain of 
United States cavalry. The country 
through which they hunted was rolling and 
well watered, the buffalo being scattered 
over it in bands of no great size. While 



ON THE PRAIRIE 131 

riding out to look for the game they were 
mounted on large horses ; when a band was 
spied they would dismount and get on the 
smaller buffalo ponies which the orderlies 
had been leading behind them. Then they 
would carefully approach from the leeward 
side, if possible keeping behind some hill 
or divide. When this was no longer pos- 
sible they trotted gently towards the game, 
which usually gathered together and stood 
for a moment looking at them. The in- 
stant the buffalo turned, the spurs were put 
in and the ponies raced forward for all 
there was in them, it being an important 
point to close as soon as possible, as buf- 
falo, though not swift, are very enduring. 
Usually a half a mile took the hunters up to 
the game, when each singled out his animal, 
rode along-side on its left flank, so close 
as almost to be able to touch it with the 
hand, and fired the heavy revolver into the 
loins or small of the back, the bullet rang- 
ing forward. At the instant of firing, the 
trained pony swerved off to the left, al- 



132 HUNTING TRIPS 

most at right angles to its former course, 
so as to avoid the lunging charge some- 
times made by the wounded brute. If the 
animal kept on, the hunter, having made 
a half circle, again closed up and repeated 
the shot; very soon the buffalo came to a 
halt, then its head dropped, it straddled 
widely with its forelegs, swayed to and fro, 
and pitched heavily forward on its side. 
The secret of success in this sort of hunt- 
ing is to go right up by the side of the buf- 
falo; if a man stays off at a distance of 
fifteen or twenty feet he may. fire a score of 
shots and not kill or cripple his game. 

While hunting this, the largest of Ameri- 
can animals, on horseback is doubtless the 
most exciting way in which its chase can be 
carried on, we must beware of crying down 
its pursuit on foot. To be sure, in the 
latter case, the actual stalking and shoot- 
ing the buffalo does not need on the part of 
the hunter as much skill and as good 
marksmanship as is the case in hunting 
most other kinds of large game, and is but 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



ZZ 



2l trifle more risky; yet, on the other hand, 
the fatigue of following the game is much 
greater, and the country is usually so wild 
as to call for some hardihood and ability 
to stand rough work on the part of the man 
who penetrates it. 

One September I determined to take a 
short trip after bison. At that time I was 
staying in a cow-camp a good many miles 
up the river from my ranch ; there were then 
no cattle south of me, where there are now- 
very many thousand head, and the buffalo 
had been plentiful in the country for a 
couple of winters past, but the last of the 
herds had been destroyed or driven out six 
months before, and there were only a few 
stragglers left. It was one of my first 
hunting trips ; previously I had shot with 
the rifle very little, and that only at deer or 
antelope. I took as a companion one of my 
best men, named Ferris (a brother of the 
Ferris already mentioned) ; we rode a 
couple of ponies, not very good ones, and 
each carried his roll of blankets and a very 



134 HUNTING TRIPS 

small store of food in a pack behind the 
saddle. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 135 

left this and turned up a winding coulie that 
branched out in every direction, his hoofs 
scarcely made any marks in the hard 
ground. We rode up the ravine, carefully 
examining the soil for nearly half an hour, 
however; finally, as we passed the mouth 
of a little side coulie, there was a plunge 
and crackle through the bushes at its head, 
and a shabby-looking old bull bison gal- 
loped out of it and, without an instant's 
hesitation, plunged over a steep bank into 
a patch of rotten, broken ground which led 
around the base of a high butte. So quickly 
did he disappear that we had not time to 
dismount and fire. Spurring our horses we 
galloped up to the brink of the cliff down 
which he had plunged; it was remarkable 
that he should have gone down it unhurt. 
From where we stood we could see noth- 
ing; so, getting our horses over the broken 
ground as fast as possible, we ran to the 
butte and rode round it, only to see the 
buffalo come out of the broken land and 
climb up the side of another butte over a 



136 HUNTING TRIPS 

quarter of a mile off. In spite of his great 
weight and cumbersome, heavy-looking 
gait, he climbed up the steep bluff with ease 
and even agility, and when he had reached 
the ridge stood and looked back at us for a 
moment; while so doing he held his head 
high up, and at that distance his great 
shaggy mane and huge fore-quarter made 
him look like a lion. In another second he 
again turned away and made off; and, be- 
ing evidently very shy and accustomed to 
being harassed by hunters, must have 
travelled a long distance before stopping, for 
we followed his trail for some miles until it 
got on such hard, dry ground that his hoofs 
did not leave a scrape in the soil, and yet 
did not again catch so much as a glimpse 
of him. 

Soon after leaving his trail we came out 
on the great, broken prairies that lie far 
back from the river. These are by no 
means everywhere level. A flat space of a 
mile or two will be bounded by a low cliff 
or a row of small round-topped buttes; or 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



137 



will be interrupted by a long, gentle sloping 
ridge, the divide between two creeks ; or by 
a narrow canyon, perhaps thirty feet deep 
and not a dozen wide, stretching for miles 
before there is a crossing place. The 
smaller creeks were dried up, and were 
merely sinuous hollows in the prairie; but 
one or two of the larger ones held water 
here and there, and cut down through the 
land in bold, semicircular sweeps, the out- 
side of each curve being often bounded by a 
steep bluff with trees at its bottom, and oc- 
casionally holding a miry pool. At one of 
these pools we halted, about ten o'clock in 
the morning, and lunched ; the banks were 
so steep and rotten that we had to bring 
water to the more clumsy of the two ponies 
in a hat. 

Then we remounted and fared on our 
way, scanning the country far and near 
from every divide, but seeing no trace of 
game. The air was hot and still, and the 
brown, barren land stretched out on every 
side for leagues of dreary sameness. Once 



138 HUNTING TRIPS 

we came to a canyon which ran across our 
path, and followed along its brink for a 
mile to find a place where we could get into 
it; when we finally found such a place, we 
had to back the horses down to the bottom 
and then lead them along it for some 
hundred yards before finding a break 
through which we could climb out. 

It was late in the afternoon before we 
saw any game; then we made out in the 
middle of a large plain three black specks, 
which proved to be buffalo — old bulls. Our 
horses had come a good distance, under a 
hot sun, and as they had had no water ex- 
cept from the mud-hole in the morning they 
were in no condition for running. They 
were not very fast anyhow; so, though the 
ground was unfavorable, we made up our 
minds to try to creep up to the buffalo. We 
left the ponies in a hollow half a mile from 
the game, and started off on our hands and 
knees, taking advantage of every sage- 
brush as cover. After a while we had to 
lie flat on our bodies and wriggle like 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



139 



snakes; and while doing this I blundered 
into a bed of cactus, and filled my hands 
with the spines. After taking advantage of 
every hollow, hillock, or sage-brush, we got 
within about a hundred and twenty-five or 
fifty yards of where the three bulls were 
unconsciously feeding, and as all between 
was bare ground I drew up and fired. It 
was the first time I ever shot at buffalo, 
and, confused by the bulk and shaggy hair 
of the beast, I aimed too far back at one 
that was standing nearly broadside on to- 
wards me. The bullet told on his body with 
a loud crack, the dust flying up from his 
hide; but it did not work him any im- 
mediate harm, or in the least hinder him 
from making off; and away went all three, 
with their tails up, disappearing over a 
slight rise in the ground. 

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



I40 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

As we cantered toward them they faced 
us for a second and then turned round and 
made off, while with spurs and quirts we 
made the ponies put on a burst that enabled 
us to close in with the wounded one just 
about the time that the lessening twilight 
had almost vanished; while the rim of the 
full moon rose above the horizon. The 
pony I was on could barely hold its own, 
after getting up within sixty or seventy 
3^ards of the wounded bull; my companion, 
better mounted, forged ahead, a little to one 
side. The bull saw him coming and swerved 
from his course, and by cutting across I 



ON THE PRAIRIE 141 

was able to get nearly up to him. The 
ground over which we were running was 
fearful, being broken into holes and ditches, 
separated by hillocks ; in the dull light, and 
at the speed we were going, no attempt 
could be made to guide the horses, and the 
latter, fagged out by their exertions, floun- 
dered and pitched forward at every stride, 
hardly keeping their legs. When up within 
twenty feet I fired my rifle, but the dark- 
ness, and especially the violent, labored mo- 
tion of my pony, made me miss; I tried to 
get in closer, when suddenly tip went the 
bull's tail, and wheeling, he charged me with 
lowered horns. My pony, frightened into 
momentary activity, spun round and tossed 
up his head ; I was holding the rifle in both 
hands, and the pony's head, striking it, 
knocked it violently against my forehead, 
cutting quite a gash, from which, heated as I 
was, the blood poured into my eyes. Mean- 
while the buffalo, passing me, charged my 
companion, and followed him as he made 
off, and, as the ground was very bad, for 



142 HUNTING TRIPS 

some little distance his lowered head was 
unpleasantly near the tired pony's tail. I 
tried to run in on him again, but my pony 
stopped short, dead beat; and by no spur- 
ring could I force him out of a slow trot. 
My companion jumped off and took a 
couple of shots at the buffalo, which missed 
in the dim moonlight; and to our unutter- 
able chagrin the wounded bull labored off 
and vanished in the darkness. I made after 
him on foot, in hopeless and helpless wrath, 
until he got out of sight. 

Our horses were completely done out ; we 
did not mount them again, but led them 
slowly along, trembling, foaming, and 
sweating. The ground was moist in places, 
and after an hour's search we found in a 
reedy hollow a little mud-pool, with water 
so slimy that it was almost gelatinous. 
Thirsty though we were, for we had not 
drunk for twelve hours, neither man nor 
horse could swallow more than a mouthful 
or two of this water. We unsaddled the 
horses, and made our beds by the hollow. 



ON THE PRAIRIE 143 

each eating a biscuit ; there was not a twig 
with which to make a fire^ nor any thing to 
which we might fasten the horses. Spread- 
ing the saddle-blankets under us, and our 
own over us, we lay down, with the saddles 
as pillows, to which we had been obliged 
to lariat our steeds. 

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



144 HUNTING TRIPS 

raised, looking out into the darkness. But 
at last, tired out, we fell sound asleep. 

About midnight we were rudely awak- 
ened by having our pillows whipped out 
from under our heads ; and as we started 
from the bed we saw, in the bright moon- 
light, the horses galloping madly off with 
the saddles, tied to the lariats whose other 
ends were round their necks, bounding and 
trailing after them. Our first thought was 
that they had been stampeded by horse- 
thieves, and we rolled over, and crouched 
down in the grass with our rifles ; but noth- 
ing could be seen, except a shadowy four- 
footed form in the hollow, and in the end 
we found that the horses must have taken 
alarm at a wolf or wolves that had come 
up to the edge of the bank and looked over 
at us, not being able at first to make out 
what we were. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 145 

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



146 HUNTING TRIPS 

course over the formless, shapeless plain, 
drenched through, and thoroughly uncom- 
fortable ; then as we rose over a low divide 
the fog lifted for a few minutes, and we 
saw several black objects slowly crossing 
some rolHng country ahead of us, and a 
glance satisfied us they were buffalo. The ' 
horses were picketed at once, and we ran up 
as near the game as we dared, and then 
began to stalk them, creeping forward on 
our hands and knees through the soft, 
muddy prairie soil, while a smart shower 
of rain blew in our faces, as we advanced 
up wind. The country was favorable, and 
we got within less than a hundred yards of 
the nearest, a large cow, though we had to 
creep along so slowly that we were chilled 
through, and our teeth chattered behind our 
blue lips. To crown my misfortunes, I : 
now made one of those misses which a man | 
to his dying day always looks back upon 
with wonder and regret. The rain was 
beating in my eyes, and the drops stood out 
in the sight of the rifle so that I could 



ON THE PRAIRIE 147 

hardly draw a bead; and I either overshot 
or else at the last moment must have given 
a nervous jerk and pulled the rifle clear oflF 
the mark. At any rate I missed clean, and 
the whole band plunged down into a hollow 
and were off before, with my stiffened and 
numbed fingers, I could get another shot; 
and in wet, sullen misery we plodded back 
to the ponies. 

All that day the rain continued, and we 
passed another wretched night. Next 
morning, however, it had cleared off, and as 
the sun rose brightly we forgot our hunger 
and sleepiness, and rode cheerily off up a 
large dry creek, in whose bottom pools of 
rain-water still stood. During the morning, 
however, our ill-luck continued. My com- 
panion's horse almost trod on a rattlesnake, 
and narrowly escaped being bitten. While 
riding along the face of a steeply-inclined 
bluff the sandy soil broke away under the 
ponies' hoofs, and we slid and rolled down 
to the bottom, where we came to in a heap, 
horses and men. Then while galloping 



148 HUNTING TRIPS 

through a brush-covered bottom my pony 
put both forefeet in a hole made by the fall- 
ing and uprooting of a tree, and turned a 
complete somersault, pitching me a good 
ten feet beyond his head. And finally, 
while crossing what looked like the hard 
bed of a dry creek, the earth gave way 
under my horse as if he had stepped on a 
trap-door and let him down to his withers 
in soft, sticky mud. I was off at once and 
floundered to the bank, loosening the lariat 
from the saddlebow ; and both of us turning 
to with a will, and bringing the other pony 
in to our aid, hauled him out by the rope, 
pretty nearly strangling him in so doing; 
and he looked rather a melancholy object 
as he stood up, trembling and shaking, and 
plastered with mire from head to tail. 

So far the trip had certainly not been a 
success, although sufficiently varied as re- 
gards its incidents ; we had been confined 
to moist biscuits for three days as our food ; 
had been wet and cold at night, and sun- 
burned till our faces peeled in the day ; were 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



[49 



hungry and tired, and had met with bad 
weather, and all kinds of accidents; in ad- 
dition to which I had shot badly. But a 
man who is fond of sgort, and yet is not 
naturally a good hunter, soon learns that if 
he wishes any success at all he must both 
keep in memory and put in practice An- 
thony Trollope's famous precept : '' It's 
dogged as does it." And if he keeps dog- 
gedly on in his course the odds are heavy 
that in the end the longest lane will prove to 
have a turning. Such was the case on this 
occasion. 

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



I50 HUNTING TRIPS 

up along the valley. Before I had gone a 
hundred yards, I noticed in the soft soil at 
the bottom the round prints of a bison's 
hoofs; and immediately afterwards got a 
glimpse of the animal himself, as he fed 
slowly up the course of the ravine, some 
distance ahead of me. The wind was just 
right, and no ground could have been better 
for stalking. Hardly needing to bend down, 
I walked up behind a small sharp-crested 
hillock, and peeping over, there below me, 
not fifty yards off, was a great bison bull. 
He was walking along, grazing as he 
walked. His glossy fall coat was in fine 
trim, and shone in the rays of the sun ; 
while his pride of bearing showed him to 
be in the lusty vigor of his prime. As I 
rose above the crest of the hill, he held up 
his head and cocked his tail in the air. 
Before he could go off, I put the bullet in 
behind his shoulder. The wound was an 
almost immediately fatal one, yet with sur- 
prising agility for so large and heavy an 
animal, he bounded up the opposite side of 



ON THE PRAIRIE 151 

the ravine, heedless of two more balls, both 
of which went into his flank and ranged 
forwards, and disappeared over the ridge 
at a lumbering gallop, the blood pouring 
from his mouth and nostrils. We knew he 
could not go far, and trotted leisurely along 
on his bloody trail ; and in the next gully 
we found him stark dead, lying almost on 
his back, having pitched over the side when 
he tried to go down it. His head was a re- 
markably fine one, even for a fall buffalo. 
He was lying in a very bad position, and it 
was most tedious and tiresome work to cut 
it off and pack it out. The flesh of a cow 
or calf is better eating than is that of a 
bull ; but the so-called hump meat — that is, 
the strip of steak on each side of the back- 
bone — is excellent, and tender and juicy. 
Buffalo meat is with difficulty to be dis- 
tinguished from ordinary beef. At any 
rate, the flesh of this bull tasted uncom- 
monly good to us, for we had been without 
fresh meat for a week; and until a healthy, 
active man has been without it for some 



152 HUNTING TRIPS 

little time, he does not know how positively 
and almost painfully hungry for flesh he be- 
comes, no matter how much farinaceous 
food he may have. And the very toil I had 
been obliged to go through, in order to 
procure the head, made me feel all the 
prouder of it when it was at last in my 
possession. 

A year later I made another trip, this 
time with a wagon, through what had once 
been a famous buffalo range, the divide be^ 
tween the Little Missouri and the Powder,,at 
its northern end, where some of the creeks 
flowing into the Yellowstone also head up ; 
but though in most places throughout the 
range the grass had not yet grown from the 
time a few months before when it had been 
cropped off down close to the roots by the 
grazing herds, and though the ground was 
cut up in all directions by buffalo trails, and 
covered by their innumerable skulls and 
skeletons, not a living one did we see, and 
only one moderately fresh track, which we 
followed until we lost it. Some ot the 



ON THE PRAIRIE 153 

sharper ridges were of soft, crumbling sand- 
stone, and when a buifalo trail crossed such 
a one, it generally made a curious, heart- 
shaped cut, the feet of the animals sinking 
the narrow path continually deeper and 
deeper, while their bodies brushed out the 
sides. The profile of a ridge across which 
several trails led had rather a curious look 
when seen against the sky. 

Game was scarce on this broken plains 
country, where the water supply was very 
scanty, and where the dull brown grass that 
grew on the parched, sun-cracked ground 
had been already cropped close; still we 
found enough to keep us in fresh meat ; and 
though no buffalo were seen, the trip was a 
pleasant one. There was a certain charm 
in the very vastness and the lonely, melan- 
choly desolation of the land over which 
every day we galloped far and wide from 
dawn till nightfall; while the heavy can- 
vas-covered wagon lumbered slowly along 
to the appointed halting-place. On such a 
trip one soon gets to feel that the wagon is 



154 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



home; and after a tiresome day it is pleas- 
ant just to lie still in the twilight by the 
side of the smouldering fire and watch the 
men as they busy themselves cooking or ar- 
ranging the beds, while the solemn old 
ponies graze around or stand quietly by the 
great white-topped prairie schooner. 

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



CHAPTER IV 

STILL-HUNTING ELK ON 
THE MOUNTAIN 

AFTER the buffalo the elk are the first 
animals to disappear from a country 
when it is settled. This arises from their 
size and consequent conspicuousness, and 
the eagerness with which they are followed 
by hunters; and also because of their gre- 
gariousness and their occasional fits of 
stupid panic during whose continuance 
hunters can now and then work great 
slaughter in a herd. Five years ago elk were 
abundant in the valley of the Little Mis- 
souri, and in fall were found wandering in 
great bands of over a hundred individuals 
each. But they have now vanished com- 
pletely, except that one or two may still 
lurk in some of the most remote and broken 
155 



156 HUNTING TRIPS 

places, where there are deep, wooded ra- 
vines. 

Formerly the elk were plentiful all over 
the plains, coming down into them in great 
bands during the fall months and travers- 
ing their entire extent. But the incoming 
of hunters and cattle-men has driven them 
off the ground as completely as the buffalo ; 
unlike the latter, however, they are still 
very common in the dense woods that cover 
the Rocky Mountains and the other great 
western chains. In the old days running 
elk on horseback was a highly esteemed 
form of plains sport; but now that it has 
become a beast of the timber and the 
craggy ground, instead of a beast of the 
open, level prairie, it is followed almost 
solely on foot and with the rifle. Its sense 
of smell is very acute, and it has good eyes 
and quick ears; and its wariness makes it 
under ordinary circumstances very difficult 
to approach. But it is subject to fits of 
panic folly, and during their continuance 
great numbers can be destroyed. A band 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



157 



places almost as much reliance upon the 
leaders as does a flock of sheep; and if the 
leaders are shot down, the others will 
huddle together in a terrified mass, seem- 
ingly unable to make up their minds in 
which direction to flee. When one, more 
bold than the rest, does at last step out, the 
hidden hunter's at once shooting it down 
will produce a fresh panic; I have known 
of twenty elk (or wapiti, as they are oc- 
casionally called) being thus procured out 
of one band. And at times they show a 
curious indifference to danger, running up 
on a hunter who is in plain sight, or stand- 
ing still for a few fatal seconds to gaze at 
one that unexpectedly appears. 

In spite of its size and strength and great 
branching antlers, the elk is but little more 
dangerous to the hunter than is an ordinary 
buck. Once, in corning up to a wounded 
one, I had it strike at me with its forefeet, 
bristling up the hair on the neck, and ma- 
king a harsh, grating noise with its teeth; 
as its back was broken it could not get at 



158 HUNTING TRIPS 

me, but the savage glare in its eyes left me 
no doubt as to its intentions. Only in a 
single instance have I ever known of a 
hunter being regularly charged by one of 
these great deer. He had struck a band of 
elk and wounded an old bull, which, after 
going a couple of miles, received another 
ball and tlien separated from the rest of the 
herd and took refuge in a dense patch of 
small timber. The hunter went in on its 
trail and came upon it lying down; it 
jumped to its feet and, with hair all brist- 
ling, made a regular charge upon its pur- 
suer, who leaped out of the way behind a 
tree just in time to avoid it. It crashed past 
through the undergrowth without turning, 
and he killed it with a third and last shot. 
But this was a very exceptional case, and in 
most instances the elk submits to death with 
hardly an effort at resistance; it is by no 
means as dangerous an antagonist as is a 
bull moose. 

The elk is unfortunately one of those 
animals seemingly doomed to total destruc- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 159 

tion at no distant date. Already its range 
has shrunk to far less than one half its 
former size. Originally it was found as far 
as the Atlantic sea-board; I have myself 
known of several sets of antlers preserved 
in the house of a Long Island gentleman, 
whose ancestors had killed the bearers 
shortly after the first settlement of New 
York. Even so late as the first years of 
this century elk were found in many moun- 
tainous and densely wooded places east of 
the Mississippi ; in New York, Pennsylvania, 
Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and all 
of what were then the Northwestern States 
and Territories. The last individual of the 
race was killed in the Adirondacks in 1834; 
i-n Pennsylvania not till nearly thirty years 
later; while a very few are still to be found 
in Northrn Michigan. Elsewhere they 
must now be sought far to the west of the 
Mississippi; and even there they are almost 
gone from the great plains, and are only 
numerous in the deep mountain forests. 
Wherever it exists the skin hunters and 



i6o HUNTING TRIPS 

meat butchers wage the most relentless and 
unceasing war upon it for the sake of its 
hide and flesh, and their unremitting per- 
secution is thinning out the herds with 
terrible rapidity. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE i6i 

wild rocky glens and among the lonely- 
woods of towering pines that cover the 
great western mountain chains. 

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



1 62 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

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

We went into the mountains with a pack 
train, leaving the ranch wagon at the place 
where we began to go up the first steep rise. 
There were two others, besides myself, in 
the party; one of them, the teamster, a 
weather-beaten old plainsman, who pos- 
sessed a most extraordinary stock of mis- 
cellaneous misinformation upon every con- 
ceivable subject, and the other my ranch 
foreman, Merrifield. None of us had ever 
been within two hundred miles of the Big- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 163 

horn range before ; so that our hunting trip 
had the added zest of being also an explor- 
ing expedition. 

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

The Bighorn range is a chain of bare, 
rocky peaks stretching lengthwise along the 
middle of a table-land which is about thirty 
miles wide. At its edges this table-land 
falls sheer off into the rolHng plains coun- 
try. From the rocky peaks flow rapid 
brooks of clear, icy water, which take their 
way through deep gorges that they have 
channelled out in the surface of the plateau ; 
a few miles from the heads of the streams 
these gorges become regular canyons, with 
sides so steep as to be. almost perpendicular; 
in travelling, therefore, the trail has to keep 



1 64 HUNTING TRIPS 

well up toward timber line, as lower down 
horses find it difficult or impossible to get 
across the valleys. In strong contrast to 
the treeless cattle plains extending to its 
foot, the sides of the table-land are densely 
wooded with tall pines. Its top forms what 
is called a park country; that is, it is cov- 
ered with alternating groves of trees and 
open glades, each grove or glade varying in 
size from half a dozen to many hundred 
acres. 

We went in with the pack train two days' 
journey before pitching camp in what we 
intended to be our hunting grounds, fol- 
lowing an old Indian trail. No one who 
has not tried it can understand the work 
and worry that it is to drive a pack train 
over rough ground and through timber. 
We were none of us very skilful at pack- 
ing, and the loads were all the time slip- 
ping ; sometimes the ponies would stampede 
with the pack half tied, or they would get 
caught among the fallen logs, or in a tick- 
lish place would suddenly decline to follow 



ON THE PRAIRIE 165 

the trail, or would commit some one of the 
thousand other tricks which seem to be all 
a pack-pony knows. Then at night they 
were a bother; if picketed out they fed 
badly and got thin, and if they were not 
picketed they sometimes strayed away. 
The most valuable one of the lot was also 
the hardest to catch. Accordingly we used 
to let him loose with a long lariat tied round 
his neck, and one night this lariat twisted 
up in a sage-brush, and in struggling to 
free himself the pony got a half hitch round 
his hind leg, threw himself, and fell over a 
bank into a creek on a large stone. We 
found him in the morning very much the 
worse for wear and his hind legs swelled up 
so that his chief method of progression was 
by a series of awkward hops. Of course 
no load could be put upon him, but he man- 
aged to limp along behind the other horses, 
and actually in the end reached the ranch on 
the Little Missouri three hundred miles off. 
No sooner had he got there and been turned 
loose to rest than he fell down a big wash- 



1 66 HUNTING TRIPS 

out and broke his neck. Another time one 
of the mares — a homely beast with a head 
Hke a camel's — ^managed to flounder into the 
very centre of a mud-hole, and we spent 
the better part of a morning in fishing her 
out. 

It was on the second day of our journey 
into the mountains, while leading the pack- 
ponies down the precipitous side of a steep 
valley, that I obtained my first sight of elk. 
The trail wound through a forest of tall, 
slender pines, standing very close together, 
and with dead trees lying in every direction. 
The narrow trunks or overhanging limbs 
threatened to scrape off the packs at every 
moment, as the ponies hopped and scram- 
bled over the fallen trunks ; and it was dif- 
ficult work, and most trying to the temper, 
to keep them going along straight and pre- 
vent them from wandering off to one side 
or the other. At last we got out into a 
succession of small, open glades, with 
boggy spots in them; the lowest glade was 
of some size, and as we reached it we saw 



ON THE PRAIRIE 167 

a small band of cow elk disappearing into 
the woods on its other edge. I was riding 
a restive horse, and when I tried to jump 
off to shoot, it reared and turned round, 
before I could get my left foot out of the 
stirrup ; when I at last got free I could get a 
glimpse of but one elk, vanishing behind 
a dead trunk, and my hasty shot missed. 
I was a good deal annoyed at this, my 
opening experience with mountain game, 
feeling that it was an omen of misfortune; 
but it did not prove so, for during the rest 
of my two weeks' stay, I with one excep- 
tion got every animal I fired at. 

A beautiful, clear mountain brook ran 
through the bottom of the valley, and in an 
open space by its side we pitched camp. We 
were entirely out of fresh meat, and after 
lunch all three of us separated to hunt, each 
for his own hand. The teamster went up 
stream, Merrifield went down, while I fol- 
lowed the tracks of the band of cows and 
calves that we had started in the morning; 
their trail led along the wooded hill-crests 



1 68 HUNTING TRIPS 

parallel to the stream, and therefore to 
Merrifield's course. The crests of the hills 
formed a wavy-topped but continuous 
ridge between two canyon-like valleys, and 
the sides fell off steeper and steeper the 
farther down stream I went, until at last 
they were broken in places by sheer preci- 
pices and cliffs; the groves of trees too, 
though with here and there open glades, 
formed a continuous forest of tall pines. 
There was a small growth of young spruce 
and other evergreen, thick enough to give 
cover, but not to interfere with seeing and 
shooting to some distance. The pine trunks 
rose like straight columns, standing quite 
close together ; and at their bases the ground 
was carpeted with the sweet-scented 
needles, over which, in my moccasined feet, 
I trod without any noise. It was but a little 
past noon, and the sun in the open was very 
hot; yet underneath the great archways of 
the pine woods the air though still was cool, 
and the sunbeams that struggled down here 
and there through the interlacing branches, 



ON THE PRAIRIE 169 

and glinted on the rough trunks, only made 
bright spots in what was elsewhere the uni- 
form, grayish half-light of the mountain 
forest. Game trails threaded the woods in 
all directions, made for the most part by the 
elk. These animals, when not disturbed, 
travel strung out in single file, each one 
stepping very nearly in the tracks of the 
one before it; they are great wanderers, 
going over an immense amount of coun- 
try during the course of a day, and so 
they soon wear regular, well-beaten paths 
in any place where they are at all plentiful. 
The band I was following had, as is their 
custom, all run together into a wedge- 
shaped mass when I fired, and crashed off 
through the woods in a bunch during the 
first moments of alarm. The footprints in 
the soil showed that they had in the be- 
ginning taken a plunging gallop, but after 
a few strides had settled into the swinging, 
ground-covering trot that is the elk's most 
natural and characteristic gait. A band of 
elk when alarmed is likely to go twenty 



170 



HUNTING TRIPS 



miles without halting; but these had prob- 
ably been very little molested, and there 
was a chance that they would not go far 
without stopping. After getting through the 
first grove, the huddled herd had straight- 
ened itself out into single file, and trotted 
off in a nearly straight line. A mile or two 
of ground having been passed over in this 
/iSLj, the animals had slackened their pace 
into a walk, evidently making up their 
minds that they were out of danger. Soon 
afterwards they had begun to go slower, 
and to scatter out on each side, browsing 
or grazing. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 171 

soil or a faint indentation in the bed of pine 
needles. Besides, I had to advance with the 
greatest caution, keeping the sharpest look- 
out in front and on all sides of me. Even 
as it was, though I got very close up to 
my game, they were on foot before I saw 
them, and I did not get a standing shot. 
While carefully looking to my footsteps I 
paid too little heed to the rifle which I held 
in my right hand, and let the barrel tap 
smartly on a tree trunk. Instantly there 
was a stamp and movement among the 
bushes ahead and to one side of me; the 
elk had heard but had neither seen nor smelt 
me ; and a second afterward I saw the in- 
distinct, shadowy outlines of the band as 
they trotted down hill, from where their 
beds had been made on the very summit 
of the crest, taking a course diagonal to 
mine. I raced forward and also down hill, 
behind some large mossy boulders, and cut 
them fairly off, the band passing directly 
ahead of me and not twenty yards away, 
at a slashing trot, which a few of them 



172 



HUNTING TRIPS 



changed for a wild gallop, as I opened fire. 
I was so hemmed in by the thick tree 
trunks, and it was so difficult to catch more 
than a fleeting glimpse of each animal, that 
though I had fired four shots I only brought 
down one elk, a full-grown cow, with a 
broken neck, dead in its tracks; but I also 
broke the hind leg of a bull calf. Elk offer 
easy marks when in motion, much easier 
than deer, because of their trotting gait, 
and their regular, deliberate movements. 
They look very handsome as they trot 
through a wood, stepping lightly and easily 
over the dead trunks and crashing through 
the underbrush, with the head held up and 
nose pointing forward. In galloping, how- 
ever, the neck is thrust straight out in front, 
and the animal moves with labored bounds, 
which carry it along rapidly but soon tire 
it out. 

After thrusting the hunting-knife into 
the throat of the cow, I followed the trail of 
the band ; and in an open glade, filled v/ith 
tall sage-brush, came across and finished 



ON THE PRAIRIE 173 

the wounded calf. Meanwhile the others ran 
directly across Merrifield's path, and he 
shot two. This gave us much more meat 
than we wished ; nor would we have shot 
as many, but neither of us could reckon 
upon the other's getting as much game, and 
flesh was a necessity. Leaving Merrifield 
to skin and cut up the dead animals, I 
walked back to camp where I found the 
teamster, who had brought in the hams 
and tongues of two deer he had shot, and 
sent him back with a pack-pony for the 
hides and meat of the elk. Elk tongues are 
most delicious eating, being juicy, tender, 
and well flavored; they are excellent to 
take out as a lunch on a long hunting trip. 
' We now had more than enough meat in 
' camp, and did not shoot at another cow or 
calf elk while on the mountains, though we 
saw quite a number; the last day of my 
stay I was within fifty yards of two that 
were walking quietly through a very dense, 
swampy wood. But it took me some time 
longer before 1 got any fine heads. 



174 HUNTING TRIPS 

The day after killing the cow and calf 
I went out in the morning by myself and 
hunted through the woods up toward the 
rocky peaks, going above timber line, and 
not reaching camp until after nightfall. In 
hunting through a wild and unknown coun- 
try a man must always take great care not 
to get lost. In the first place he should 
never, under any conceivable circumstances, 
stir fifty yards from camp without a com- 
pass, plenty of matches, and his rifle; then 
he need never feel nervous, even if he is 
lost, for he can keep himself from cold and 
hunger, and can steer a straight course 
until he reaches some settlement. But he 
should not get lost at all. Old plainsmen 
or backwoodsmen get to have almost an in- 
stinct for finding their way, and are able 
to tell where they are and the way home in 
almost any place ; probably they keep in 
their heads an accurate idea of their course 
and of the general lay of the land. But 
most men cannot do this. In hunting 
through a new country a man should, if 



ON THE PRAIRIE 175 

possible, choose some prominent landmarks, 
and then should learn how they look from 
different sides — for they will with difficulty 
be recognized as the same objects, if seen 
from different points of view. If he gets 
out of sight of these, he should choose an- 
other to work back to, as a kind of half- 
way point; and so on. He should keep 
looking back ; it is wonderful how different 
a country looks when following back on 
one's trail. If possible, he should locate 
his camp, in his mind, with reference to a 
line, and not a point ; he should take a river 
or a long ridge, for example. Then at any 
time he can strike back to this line and fol- 
low it up or down till he gets home. 

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



176 HUNTING TRIPS 

be difficult to tell which fork to fol- 
low up every time the stream branched. A 
man should always notice the position of the 
sun, the direction from which the wind 
blows, the slope of the water-courses, promi- 
nent features in the landscape, and so forth, 
and should keep in mind his own general 
course; and he had better err on the side of 
caution rather than on that of boldness. 
Getting lost is very uncomfortable, both for 
the man himself and for those who have to 
break up their work and hunt for him. Deep 
woods or perfectly flat, open country are al- 
most equally easy places in which to get lost ; 
while if the country is moderately open and 
level, with only here and there a prominent 
and easily recognized hill or butte, a man can 
safely go where he wishes, hardly paying any 
heed to his course. But even here he should 
know his general direction from camp, so as 
to be able to steer for it with a compass if 
a fog comes up. And if he leaves his horse 
hidden in a gully or pocket while he goes 
off to hunt on foot, he must recollect to keep 



ON THE PRAIRIE 177 

the place well in his mind; on one occasion 
when I feared that somebody might meddle 
with my horse, I hid him so successfully that 
I spent the better part of a day in finding 
him. 

Keeping in mind the above given rules, 
when I left camp the morning after the 
breaking up of the band of cows and calves, 
I hunted up-stream, and across and through 
the wooded spurs dividing the little brooks 
that formed its head waters. No game was 
encountered, except some blue grouse, which 
I saw when near camp on my return, and 
shot for the pot. These blue grouse are the 
largest species found in America, except the 
sage fowl. They are exclusively birds of 
the deep mountain forests, and in their man- 
ners remind one of the spruce grouse of the 
Northeastern woods, being almost equally 
tame. When alarmed, they fly at once into 
a tree, and several can often be shot before 
the remainder take fright and are off. On 
this trip we killed a good many, shooting 
off their heads with our rifles. They formed 



178 HUNTING TRIPS 

a most welcome addition to our bill of fare, 
the meat being white and excellent. A curi- 
ous peculiarity in their flesh is that the breast 
meat has in it a layer of much darker color. 
They are very handsome birds, and furnish 
dainty food to men wearied of venison ; but, 
unless their heads are knocked off with a 
rifle, they do not furnish much sport, as 
they will not fly off when flushed, but simply 
rise into a fairly tall tree, and there sit, mo- 
tionless, except that the head is twisted and 
bobbed round to observe the acts of the foe. 
All of the sights and sounds in these pine 
woods that clothed the Bighorn Mountains 
reminded me of the similar ones seen and 
heard in the great, sombre forests of Maine 
and the Adirondacks. The animals and birds 
were much the same. As in the East, there 
were red squirrels, chipmunks, red hares, and 
woodchucks, all of them differing but slightly 
from our common kinds; woodpeckers, 
chickadees, nuthatches, and whiskey jacks 
came about camp ; ravens and eagles flew 
over the rocky cliffs. There were some new 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



179 



forms, however. The nutcracker, a large, 
noisy, crow-Hke bird, with many of the 
habits of a woodpecker, was common, and 
in the rocks above timber hne, we came upon 
the Little Chief hare, a wee animal, with a 
shrill, timorous squeak. 

During our stay upon the mountains the 
weather was generally clear, but always cold, 
thin ice covering the dark waters of the 
small mountain tarns, and there were slight 
snow-falls every two or three days; but we 
were only kept in camp one day, when it 
sleeted, snowed, and rained from dawn till 
nightfall. We passed this day very com- 
fortably, however. I had far too much fore- 
thought to go into the woods without a small 
supply of books for just such occasions. We 
had rigged the canvas wagon sheet into a 
tent, at the bottom of the ravine, near^the 
willow-covered brink of the brook that ran 
through it. The steep hill-sides bounding 
the valley, which a little below us became 
sheer cliffs, were partly covered with great 
pines and spruces, and partly open ground 



i8o HUNTING TRIPS 

grown up with tall grass and sage-brush. 
We were thus well sheltered from the wind ; 
and when one morning we looked out and 
saw the wet snow lying on the ground, and 
with its weight bending down the willow 
bushes and loading the tall evergreens, while 
the freezing sleet rattled against the canvas, 
we simply started a roaring fire of pine logs 
in front of the tent, and passed a cosy day 
inside, cleaning guns, reading, and playing 
cards. Blue grouse, elk hams, and deer sad- 
dles hung from the trees around, so we had 
no fear of starvation. Still, towards evening 
we got a little tired, and I could not resist 
taking a couple of hours' brisk ride in the 
mist, through a chain of open glades that 
sloped off from our camp. 

Later on we made a camp at the head of 
a great natural meadow, whre two streams 
joined together, and in times long gone by 
had been dammed by the beaver. This had 
at first choked up the passage and made a 
small lake ; then dams were built higher and 
higher up, making chains of little ponds. 



ON THE PRAIRIE i8i 

By degrees these filled up, and the whole 
valley became a broad marshy meadow, 
through which the brook wound between 
rows of willows and alders. These beaver 
meadows are very common ; but are not usu- 
ally of such large size. Around this camp 
there was very little game ; but we got a fine 
mess of spotted trout by taking a long and 
most toilsome walk up to a little lake lying 
very near timber line. Our rods and lines 
were most primitive, consisting of two 
clumsy dead cedars (the only trees Vv^ithin 
reach), about six feet of string tied to one 
and a piece of catgut to the other, with pre- 
posterous hooks ; yet the trout were so rave- 
nous that we caught them at the rate of about 
one a minute ; and they formed another wel- 
come change in our camp fare. This lake lay 
in a valley whose sides were so steep and 
boulder-covered as to need hard climbing to 
get into and out of it. Every day in the 
cold, clear weather we tramped miles and 
miles through the woods and mountains, 
which, after a snow-storm took on a really 



i82 HUNTING TRIPS 

wintry look ; while in the moonlight the snow- 
laden forests shone and sparkled like crystal. 
The dweller in cities has but a faint idea of 
the way we ate and slept. 

One day Merrifield and I went out to- 
gether and had a rather exciting chase after 
some bull elk. The previous evening, to- 
ward sunset, I had seen three bulls trotting 
off across an open glade toward a great 
stretch of forest and broken ground, up near 
the foot of the rocky peaks. Next morning 
early we started off to hunt through this 
country. The walking was hard work, es- 
pecially up and down the steep cliffs, covered 
with slippery pine needles; or among the 
windfalls, where the rows of dead trees lay 
piled up across one another in the wildest 
confusion. We saw nothing until we came to 
a large patch of burnt ground, where we at 
once found the soft, black soil marked up by 
elk hoofs ; nor had we penetrated into it more 
than a few hundred yards before we came 
to tracks made but a few minutes before, 
and almost instantly afterward saw three bull 



ON THE PRAIRIE 183 

elk, probably those I had seen on the pre- 
ceding day. We had been running briskly 
up-hill through the soft, heavy loam, in 
which our feet made no noise but slipped and 
sank deeply ; as a consequence, I was all out 
of breath and my hand so unsteady that I 
missed my first shot. Elk, however, do not 
vanish with the instantaneous rapidity of 
frightened deer, and these three trotted off 
in a direction quartering to us. I doubt if I 
ever went through more violent exertion than 
in the next ten minutes. We raced after 
them at full speed, opening fire ; I wounded 
all three, but none of the wounds were im- 
mediately disabling. They trotted on and 
we panted afterwards, slipping on the wet 
earth, pitching headlong over charred 
stumps, leaping on dead logs that broke be- 
neath our weight, more than once measur- 
ing our full-length on the ground, halting 
and firing whenever we got a chance. At 
last one bull fell; we passed him by after 
the others which were still running up-hill. 
The sweat streamed into my eyes and made 



1 84 HUNTING TRIPS 

furrows in the sooty mud that covered my 
face, from having fallen full length down 
on the burnt earth; I sobbed for breath as 
I toiled at a shambling trot after them, as 
nearly done out as could well be. At this 
moment they turned down-hill. It was a 
great relief; a man who is too done up to 
go a steep up-hill can still run fast enough 
down; with a last spurt I closed in near 
enough to fire again ; one elk fell ; the other 
went off at a walk. We passed the second 
elk and I kept on alone after the third, not 
able to go at more than a slow trot myself, 
and too much winded to dare risk a shot at 
any distance. He got out of the burnt patch, 
going into some thick timber in a deep ra- 
vine; I closed pretty well, and rushed after 
him into a thicket of young evergreens. 
Hardly was I in when there was a scramble 
and bounce among them and I caught a 
glimpse of a yellow body moving out to one 
side; I ran out toward the edge and fired 
through the twigs at the moving beast. 
Down it went, but when I ran up, to my dis- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 185 

gust I found that I had jumped and killed, 
in my haste, a black-tail deer, which must 
have been already roused by the passage of 
the wounded elk. I at once took up the 
trail of the latter again, but after a little 
while the blood grew less, and ceased, and I 
lost the track; nor could I find it, hunt as 
hard as I might. The poor beast could not 
have gone five hundred yards; yet we never 
found the carcass. 

Then I walked slowly back past the deer 
I had slain by so curious a mischance, to the 
elk. The first one shot down was already 
dead. The second was only wounded, 
though it could not rise. When it saw us 
coming it sought to hide from us by laying 
its neck flat on the ground, but when we 
came up close it raised its head and looked 
proudly at us, the heavy mane bristling up 
on the neck, while its eyes glared and its 
teeth grated together. I felt really sorry to 
kill it. Though these were both well-known 
elks, their antlers, of ten points, were small, 
twisted, and ill-shaped ; in fact hardly worth 



i86 HUNTING TRIPS 

preserving, except to call to mind a chase 
in which during a few minutes I did as much 
downright hard work as it has often fallen to 
my lot to do. The burnt earth had blackened 
our faces and hands till we looked like ne- 
groes. 

The bull elk had at this time begun call- 
ing, and several times they were heard right 
round camp at night, challenging one another 
or calling to the cows. Their calling is 
known to hunters as " whistling " ; but this 
is a most inappropriate name for it. It is 
a most singular and beautiful sound, and is 
very much the most musical cry uttered by 
any four-footed beast. When heard for the 
first time it is almost impossible to believe 
that it is the call of an animal; it sounds 
far more as if made by an ^olian harp or 
some strange wind instrument. It consists 
of quite a series of notes uttered continu- 
ously, in a most soft, musical, vibrant tone, 
so clearly that they can be heard half a 
mile off. Heard in the clear, frosty moon- 
light from the depths of the rugged and for- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 187 

est-clad mountains the effect is most beauti- 
ful ; for its charm is heightened by the wild 
and desolate surroundings. It has the sus- 
tained, varied melody of some bird songs, 
with, of course, a hundred-fold greater 
power. Now and then, however, the per- 
formance is marred by the elk's apparently 
getting out of breath towards the close, and 
winding up with two or three gasping notes 
which have an unpleasantly mule-like sound. 
The great pine-clad mountains, their for- 
ests studded with open glades, were the best 
of places for the still-hunter's craft. Going 
noiselessly through them in our dull-colored 
buckskin and noiseless moccasins, we kept 
getting glimpses, as it were, of the inner life 
of the mountains. Each animal that we saw 
had its own individuality. Aside from the 
thrill and tingle that a hunter experiences at 
the sight of his game, I by degrees grew to 
feel as if I had a personal interest in the dif- 
ferent traits and habits of the wild creatures. 
The characters of the animals differed 
widely, and the differences were typified by 



i88 HUNTING TRIPS 

their actions; and it was pleasant to watch 
them in their own homes, myself unseen, 
when after stealthy, silent progress through 
the sombre and soundless depths of the 
woods I came upon them going about the or- 
dinary business of their lives. The lumbering, 
self-confident gait of the bears, their burly 
strength, and their half-humorous, half-fero- 
cious look, gave me a real insight into their 
character; and I never was more impressed 
by the exhibition of vast, physical power, 
than when watching from an ambush a 
grizzly burying or covering up an elk car- 
cass. His motions looked awkward, but it 
was marvellous to see the ease and absence 
of effort with which he would scoop out 
great holes in the earth, or twitch the heavy 
carcass from side to side. And the proud, 
graceful, half-timid, half-defiant bearing of 
the elk was in its own way quite as note- 
worthy; they seemed to glory in their own 
power and beauty, and yet to be ever on the 
watch for foes against whom they knew they 
might not dare to contend. The true still- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 189 

hunter should be a lover of nature as well as 
of sport, or he will miss half the pleasure of 
being in the woods. 

The finest bull, with the best head that I 
got, was killed in the midst of very beautiful 
and grand surroundings. We had been hunt- 
ing through a great pine wood which ran up 
to the edge of a broad canyon-like valley, 
bounded by sheer walls of rock. There were 
fresh tracks of elk about, and we had been 
advancing up wind with even more than our 
usual caution when, on stepping out into 
a patch of open ground, near the edge of 
the cliff, we came upon a great bull, beating 
and thrashing his antlers against a young 
tree, about eighty yards off. He stopped 
and faced us for a second, his mighty ant- 
lers thrown in the air, as he held his head 
aloft. Behind him towered the tall and 
sombre pines, while at his feet the jutting 
crags overhung the deep chasm below, that 
stretched off between high walls of barren 
and snow-streaked rocks, the evergreens 
clinging to their, sides, while along the bot- 



I90 HUNTING TRIPS • 

torn the rapid torrent gathered in places into 
black and sullen mountain lakes. As the 
bull turned to run I struck him just behind 
the shoulder; he reeled to the death-blow^ 
but staggered gamely on a few rods into 
the forest before sinking to the ground, with 
my second bullet through his lungs. 

Two or three days later than this I killed 
another bull, nearly as large, in the same 
patch of woods in which I had slain the 
first. A bear had been feeding on the carcass 
of the latter, and, after a vain effort to find 
his den, we determined to beat through the 
woods and try to start him up. Accord- 
ingly, Merrifield, the teamster, and myself 
took parallel courses some three hundred 
yards apart, and started at one end to walk 
through to the other. I doubt if the team- 
ster much wished to meet a bear alone 
(while nothing would have given Merrifield 
more hearty and unaffected enjoyment than 
to have encountered an entire family), and 
he gradually edged in pretty close to me. 
Where the woods became pretty open I saw 



ON THE PRAIRIE 191 

him suddenly lift his rifle and fire, and im- 
mediately afterwards a splendid bull elk 
trotted past in front of me, evidently un- 
touched, the teamster having- missed. The 
elk ran to the other side of two trees that 
stood close together some seventy yards off, 
and stopped for a moment to look round. 
Kneeling down I fired at the only part of 
his body I could see between the two trees, 
and sent a bullet into his flank. Away he 
went, and I after, running in my moccasins 
over the moss and pine needles for all there 
was in me. If a wounded elk gets fairly 
started he will go at a measured trot for 
many hours, and even if mortally hurt may 
run twenty miles before falling ; while at the 
same time he does not start off at full speed, 
and will often give an active hunter a chance 
for another shot as he turns and changes his 
course preparatory to taking a straight 
line. So I raced along after the elk at my 
very best speed for a few hundred feet, and 
then got another shot as he went across a 
little glade, injuring his hip somewhat. 



192 



HUNTING TRIPS 



This made it all right for me, and another 
hundred yards' burst took me up to where 
I was able to put a ball in a fatal spot, and 
the grand old fellow sank down and fell 
over on his side. 

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 



193 



choly pine forests, now treading the brink 
of high, rocky precipices, always amid the 
most grand and beautiful scenery; and al- 
ways after as noble and lordly game as is to 
be found in the Western world. 

Since writing the above I killed an elk near 
my ranch ; probably the last of his race that 
will ever be found in our neighborhood. It 
was just before the fall round-up. An old 
hunter, who was under some obligation to 
me, told me that he had shot a cow elk and 
had seen the tracks of one or two others not 
more than twenty-five miles off, in a place 
where the cattle rarely wandered. Such a 
chance was not to be neglected ; and, on the 
first free day, one of my Elk-horn foremen, 
Will Dow by name, and myself, took our 
hunting horses and started off, accompanied 
by the ranch wagon, in the direction of the 
probable haunts of the doomed deer. To- 
wards nightfall we struck a deep spring pool, 
near by the remains of an old Indian encamp- 
ment. It was at the head of a great basin, 
several miles across, in which we believed 



194 HUNTING TRIPS 

the game to lie. The wagon was halted and 
we pitched camp; there was plenty of dead 
wood, and soon the venison steaks were broil- 
ing over the coals raked from beneath the 
crackling cottonwood logs, while in the nar- 
row valley the ponies grazed almost within 
the circle of the flickering fire-light. It was 
in the cool and pleasant month of Septem- 
ber; and long after going to bed we lay 
awake under the blankets watching the stars 
that on clear nights always shine with such 
intense brightness over the lonely Western 
plains. 

We were up and off by the gray of the 
morning. It was a beautiful hunting day; 
the sundogs hung in the red dawn ; the wind 
hardly stirred over the crisp grass; and 
though the sky was cloudless yet the weather 
had that queer, smoky, hazy look that it is 
most apt to take on during the time of the 
Indian summer. From a high spur of the 
table-land we looked out far and wide over 
a great stretch of broken country, the brown 
of whose hills and valleys was varied every- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 195 

where by patches of dull red and vivid yel- 
low, tokens that the trees were already put- 
ting on the dress with which they greet the 
mortal ripening of the year. The deep and 
narrow but smooth ravines running up to- 
wards the edges of the plateaus were heavily 
wooded, the bright green tree-tops rising to 
a height they rarely reach in the barren 
plains-country; and the rocky sides of the 
sheer gorges were clad with a thick growth 
of dwarfed cedars, while here and there the 
trailing Virginia creepers burned crimson 
among their sombre masses. 

We hunted stealthily up-wind, across the 
line of the heavily timbered coulies. We 
soon saw traces of our quarry; old tracks 
at first, and then the fresh footprints of a 
single elk — a bull, judging by the size — 
which had come down to drink at a mirey 
alkali pool, its feet slipping so as to leave 
the marks of the false hoofs in the soft soil. 
We hunted with painstaking and noiseless 
care for many hours ; at last as I led old Man- 
itou up to look over the edge of a narrow 



196 HUNTING TRIPS 

ravine, there was a crash and movement in 
the timber below me, and immediately after- 
wards I caught a glimpse of a great bull elk 
trotting up through the young trees as he 
gallantly breasted the steep hill-side oppo- 
site. When clear of the woods, and directly 
across the valley from me, he stopped and 
turned half round, throwing his head in the 
air to gaze for a moment at the intruder. 
My bullet struck too far back, but, never- 
theless, made a deadly wound, and the elk 
went over the crest of the hill at a wild, 
plunging gallop. We followed the bloody 
trail for a quarter of a mile, and found him 
dead in a thicket. Though of large size, he 
yet had but small antlers, with few points. 



CHAPTER X 
OLD EPHRAIM 

BUT few bears are found in the imme- 
diate neighborhood of my ranch ; and 
though I have once or twice seen their tracks 
in the Bad Lands, I have never had any ex- 
perience with the animals themselves except 
during the elk-huntmg trip on the Bighorn 
Mountains^ described in the preceding chap- 
ter. 

The grizzly bear undoubtedly comes in the 
category of dangerous game, and is, perhaps 
the only animal in the United States that 
can be fairly so placed, unless we count the 
few jaguars found north of the Rio Grande. 
But the danger of hunting the grizzly has 
been greatly exaggerated, and the sport is 
certainly very much safer than it was at 
the beginning of this century. The first 
197 



198 HUNTING TRIPS 

hunters who came into contact with this 
great bear were men belonging to that hardy 
and adventurous class of backwoodsmen 
which had filled the wild country between 
the Appalachian Mountains and the Missis- 
sippi. These men carried but one weapon: 
the long-barrelled, small-bored pea-rifle, 
whose bullets ran seventy to the pound, the 
amount of powder and lead being a little 
less than that contained in the cartridge of 
a thirty-two calibre Winchester. In the 
Eastern States almost all the hunting was 
done in the woodland ; the shots were mostly 
obtained at short distance, and deer and 
black bear were the largest game ; moreover, 
the pea-rifles were marvellously accurate for 
close range, and their owners were famed 
the world over for their skill as marksmen. 
Thus these rifles had so far proved plenty 
good enough for the work they had to do, 
and indeed had done excellent service as 
military weapons in the ferocious wars that 
the men of the border carried on with their 
Indian neighbors, and even in conflict with 



ON THE PRAIRIE 199 

more civilized foes, as at the battles of 
King's Mountain and New Orleans. But 
when the restless frontiersmen pressed out 
over the Western plains, they encountered in 
the grizzly a beast of far greater bulk and 
more savage temper than any of those found 
in the Eastern woods, and their small-bore ri- 
fles were utterly inadequate weapons with 
which to cope with him. It is small v/onder 
that he was considered by them to be almost 
invulnerable, and extraordinarily tenacious 
of life. He would be a most unpleasant an- 
tagonist now to a man armed only w^ith a 
thirty-two calibre rifle, that carried but a sin- 
gle shot and was loaded at the muzzle. A 
rifle, to be of use in this sport, should carry a 
ball weighing from half an ounce to an 
ounce. With the old pea-rifles the shot had 
to be in the eye or heart; and accidents to 
the hunter were very common. But the in- 
troduction of heavy breech-loading repeaters 
has greatly lessened the danger, even in the 
very few and far-ofif places where the griz- 
zlies are as ferocious as formerly. For now- 



200 HUNTING TRIPS 

adays these great bears are undoubtedly 
much better aware of the death-dealing 
power of men, and, as a consequence, much 
less fierce, than was the case with their fore- 
fathers, who so unhesitatingly attacked the 
early Western travellers and explorers. 
Constant contact with rifle-carrying hunt- 
ers, for a period extending over many gen- 
erations of bear-life, has taught the grizzly 
by bitter experience that man is his un- 
doubted overlord, as far as fighting goes; 
and this knowledge has become an heredi- 
tary characteristic. No grizzly will assail a 
man now unprovoked, and one will almost 
always rather run than fight; though if he 
is wounded or thinks himself cornered he will 
attack his foes with a headlong, reckless fury 
that renders him one of the most dangerous 
of wild beasts. The ferocity of all wild ani- 
mals depends largely upon the amount of re- 
sistance they are accustomed to meet with, 
and the quantity of molestation to which they 
are subjected. 

The change in the grizzly's character dur- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 201 

ing the last half century has been precisely 
paralleled by the change in the characters of 
his northern cousin^ the polar bear, and of 
the South African lion. When the Dutch 
and Scandinavian sailors first penetrated the 
Arctic seas, they were kept in constant dread 
of the white bear, who regarded a man as 
simply an erect variety of seal, quite as 
good eating as the common kind. The rec- 
ords of these early explorers are filled with 
examples of the ferocious and man-eating 
propensities of the polar bears ; but in the 
accounts of most of the later Arctic expe- 
ditions they are portrayed as having learned 
wisdom, and being now most anxious to keep 
out of the way of the hunters. A number of 
my sporting friends have killed white bears, 
and none of them were ever even charged. 
And in South Africa the English sportsmen 
and Dutch Boers have taught the lion to be a 
very different creature from what it was 
when the first white man reached that con- 
tinent. If the Indian tiger had been a native 
of the United States, it would now be one 



202 HUNTING TRIPS 

of the most shy of beasts. Of late years our 
estimate of the grizzly's ferocity has been 
lowered ; and we no longer accept the tales of 
uneducated hunters as being proper authority 
by which to judge it. But we should make 
a parallel reduction in the cases of many for- 
eign animals and their describers. Take, for 
example, that purely melodramatic beast, the 
North African lion, as portrayed by Jules 
Gerard, who bombastically describes him- 
self as " le tueur des Hons." Gerard's ac- 
counts are self-evidently in large part ficti- 
tious, while if true they would prove less for 
the bravery of the lion than for the phenom- 
enal cowardice, incapacity, and bad marks- 
manship of the Algerian Arabs. Doubtless 
Gerard was a great hunter ; but so is many 
a Western plainsman, whose account of the 
grizzlies he has killed would be wholly un- 
trustworthy. Take for instance the follow- 
ing from page 223 of " La Chasse au Lion " : 
'' The inhabitants had assembled one day to 
the number of two or three hundred with 
the object of killing (the lion) or driving 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



203 



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

How the prowess of the grizzly compares 
with that of the lion or tiger would be hard 
to say; I have never shot either of the lat- 
ter myself, and my brother, who has killed 



204 HUNTING TRIPS 

tigers in India, has never had a chance at a 
grizzly. Any one of the big bears we killed 
on the mountains would, I should think, have 
been able to make short work of either a 
lion or a tiger; for the grizzly is greatly su- 
perior in bulk and muscular power to either 
of the great cats, and its teeth are as large 
as theirs, while its claws, though blunter, are 
much longer; nevertheless, I believe that a 
lion or a tiger would be fully as dangerous 
to a hunter or other human being, on account 
of the superior speed of its charge, the light- 
ning-like rapidity of its movements, and its 
apparently sharper senses. Still, after all is 
said, the man should have a thoroughly 
trust-worthy weapon and a fairly cool head, 
w^ho would follow into his own haunts and 
slay grim Old Ephraim. 

A grizzly will only fight if wounded or 
cornered, or, at least, if he thinks himself 
cornered. If a man by accident stumbles on 
to one close up, he is almost certain to be 
attacked really more from fear than from 
any other motive; exactly the same reason 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



205 



that makes a rattlesnake strike at a passer-by. 
I have personally known of but one instance 
of a grizzly turning on a hunter before be- 
ing wounded. This happened to a friend of 
mine, a Californian ranchman, who, with two 
or three of his men, was following a bear 
that had carried oif one of his sheep. They 
got the bear into a cleft in the mountain 
from which there was no escape, and he sud- 
denly charged back through the line of his 
pursuers, struck down one of the horsemen, 
seized the arm of the man in his jaws and 
broke it as if it had been a pipe-stem, and 
was only killed after a most lively fight, in 
which, by repeated charges, he at one time 
drove every one of his assailants off the field. 
But two instances have come to my per- 
sonal knowledge where a man has been killed 
by a grizzly. One was that of a hunter at 
the foot of the Bighorn Mountains who had 
chased a large bear and finally wounded him. 
The animal turned at once and came 
straight at the man, whose second shot 
missed. The bear then closed and passed 



2o6 HUNTING TRIPS 

on, after striking only a single blow; yet 
that one blow, given with all the power of 
its thick, immensely muscular forearm, 
armed with nails as strong as so many hooked 
steel spikes, tore out the man's collar-bone 
and snapped through three or four ribs. He 
never recovered from the shock, and died 
that night. 

The other instance occurred to a neighbor 
of mine — who has a small ranch on the Lit- 
tle Missouri — two or three years ago. He 
was out on a mining trip, and was pros- 
pecting with two other men near the head- 
water of the Little Missouri, in the Black 
Hills country. They were walking down 
along the river, and came to a point of land, 
thrust out into it, which was densely cov- 
ered with brush and fallen timber. Two of 
the party walked round by the edge of the 
stream ; but the third, a German, and a very 
powerful fellow, followed a well-beaten game 
trail, leading through the bushy point. 
When they were some forty yards apart the 
two men heard an agonized shout from the 



ON THE PRAIRIE 207 

German, and at the same time the loud 
coughing growl, or roar, of a bear. They 
turned just in time to see their companion 
struck a terrible blow on the head by a griz- 
zly, which must have been roused from its 
lair by his almost stepping on it; so close 
was it that he had no time to fire his rifle, 
but merely held it up over his head as a 
guard. Of course it was struck down, the 
claws of the great brute at the same time 
shattering his skull like an egg-shell. Yet 
the man staggered on some ten feet before he 
fell; but when he did he never spoke or 
moved again. The two others killed the bear 
after a short, brisk struggle, as he was in the 
midst of a most determined charge. 

In 1872, near Fort Wingate, New Mexico, 
two soldiers of a cavalry regiment came to 
their death at the claws of a grizzly bear. 
The army surgeon who attended them told 
me the particulars, as far as they were 
known. The men were mail carriers^ and 
one day did not come in at the appointed 
time. Next day, a relief party was sent out 



2o8 HUNTING TRIPS 

to look for them, and after some search 
found the bodies of both, as well as that 
of one of the horses. One of the men still 
showed signs of life; he came to his senses 
before dying, and told the story. They had 
seen a grizzly and pursued it on horseback, 
with their Spencer rifles. On coming close, 
one had fired into its side, when it turned 
with marvellous quickness for so large and 
unwieldy an animal, and struck down the 
horse, at the same time inflicting a ghastly 
wound on the rider. The other man dis- 
mounted and came up to the rescue of his 
companion. The bear then left the latter 
and attacked the other. Although hit by 
the bullet, it charged home and threw the 
man down, and then lay on him and deliber- 
ately bit him to death, while his groans and 
cries were frightful to hear. Afterward it 
walked off into the bushes without again 
offering to molest the already mortally 
wounded victim of its first assault. 

At certain times the grizzly works a good 
deal of havoc among the herds of the stock- 



ON THE PRAIRIE 209 

men. A friend of mine, a ranchman in 
Montana, told me that one fall bears became 
very plenty around his ranches, and caused 
him severe loss, killing with ease even full- 
grown beef-steers. But one of them once 
found his intended quarry too much for him. 
My friend had a stocky, rather vicious range 
stallion, which had been grazing one day near 
a small thicket of bushes, and, towards eve- 
ning, came galloping in with three or four 
gashes in his haunch, that looked as if they 
had been cut with a dull axe. The cowboys 
knew at once that he had been assailed by 
a bear, and rode off to the thicket near which 
he had been feeding. Sure enough a bear, 
evidently in a very bad temper, sallied out 
as soon as the thicket was surrounded, and, 
after a spirited fight and a succession of 
charges, was killed. On examination, it was 
found that his under jaw was broken, and 
part of his face smashed in, evidently by the 
stallion's hoofs. The horse had been feeding 
when the bear leaped out at him but failed 
to kill at the first stroke; then the horse 



2IO HUNTING TRIPS 

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

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

Although it was still early in September, 



ON THE PRAIRIE 211 

the weather was cool and pleasant, the nights 
being frosty; and every two or three days 
there was a flurry of light snow, which ren- 
dered the labor of tracking much more easy. 
Indeed, throughout our stay on the moun- 
tains, the peaks were snow-capped almost all 
the time. Our fare was excellent, consisting 
of elk venison, mountain grouse, and small 
trout ; the last caught in one of the beautiful 
little lakes that lay almost up by timber line. 
To us, who had for weeks been accustomed 
to make small fires from dried brush, or from 
sage-brush roots, which we dug out of the 
ground, it was a treat to sit at night before 
the roaring and crackling pine logs; as the 
old teamster quaintly put it, we had at last 
come to a land " where the wood grew on 
trees." There were plenty of black-tail deer in 
the woods, and we came across a number of 
bands of cow and calf elk, or of young bulls ; 
but after several days' hunting, we were still 
without any head worth taking home, and 
had seen no sign of grizzly, which was the 
game we were especially anxious to kill ; for 



212 HUNTING TRIPS 

neither Merrifield nor I had ever seen a wild 
bear aUve. 

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

At last I heard a shout — the familiar long- 
drawn Eikoh-h-h of the cattle-men, — and he 
came in sight galloping at speed down an 
open glade, and waving his hat, evidently 
having had good luck; and when he reined 
in his small, wiry, cow-pony, we saw that 
he had packed behind his saddle the fine, 
glossy pelt of a black bear. Better still, he 
announced that he had been off about ten 
miles to a perfect tangle of ravines and val- 
leys where bear sign was very thick ; and n©t 
of black bear either but of grizzly. The 
black bear (the only one we got on the 
mountains) he had run across by accident, 
while riding up a valley in which there was 



ON THE PRAIRIE 213 

a patch of dead timber grown up with berry 
bushes. He noticed a black object which he 
first took to be a stump ; for during the past 
few days we had each of us made one or two 
clever stalks up to charred logs which our 
imagination converted into bears. On com- 
ing near, however, the object suddenly took 
to its heels; he followed over frightful 
ground at the pony's best pace, until it 
stumbled and fell down. By this time he 
was close on the bear, which had just 
reached the edge of the wood. Picking him- 
self up, he rushed after it, hearing it growl- 
ing ahead of him; after running some fifty 
yards the sound stopped, and he stood still 
listening. He saw and heard nothing, until 
he happened to cast his eyes upwards, and 
there was the bear, almost overhead, and 
about twenty-five feet up a tree; and in as 
many seconds afterwards it came down to 
the ground with a bounce, stone dead. It 
was a young bear, in its second year, and 
had probably never before seen a man, which 
accounted for the ease with which it was 



214 HUNTING TRIPS 

treed and taken. One minor result of the 
encounter was to convince Merrifield — the 
list of whose faults did not include lack of 
self-confidence — that he could run down any 
bear; in consequence of which idea we on 
more than one subsequent occasion went 
through a good deal of violent exertion. 

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

That afternoon we again went out, and I 
shot a fine bull elk. I came home alone to- 
ward nightfall, walking through a reach of 



ON THE PRAIRIE 215 

burnt forest, where there was nothing but 
charred tree-trunks and black mould. When 
nearly through it I came across the huge, 
half-human footprints of a great grizzly, 
which must have passed by within a few 
minutes. It gave me rather an eerie feeling 
in the silent, lonely woods, to see for the first 
time the unmistakable proofs that I was in 
the home of the mighty lord of the wilder- 
ness. I followed the tracks in the fading 
twilight until it became too dark to see them 
any longer, and then shouldered my rifie and 
walked back to camp. 

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



2i6 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

Next day we went off on a long tramp 
through the woods and along the sides of 
the canyons. There were plenty of berry 
bushes growing in clusters; and all around 
these there were fresh tracks of bear. But 
the grizzly is also a fllesh-eater, and has a 
great liking for carrion. On visiting the 
place where Merrifield had killed the black 
bear, we found that the grizzlies had been 
there before us, and had utterly devoured 
the carcass, with cannibal relish. Hardly a 
scrap was left, and we turned our steps to- 
ward where lay the bull elk I had killed. It 
was quite late in the afternoon when we 



ON THE PRAIRIE 217 

reached the place. A grizzly had evidently 
been at the carcass during the preceding 
night, for his great footprints were in the 
ground all around it, and the carcass itself 
was gnawed and torn, and partially covered 
with earth and leaves — for the grizzly has a 
curious habit of burying all of his prey that 
he does not at the moment need. A great 
many ravens had been feeding on the body, 
and they wheeled about over the tree tops 
above us, uttering their barking croaks. 

The forest was composed mainly of what 
are called ridge-pole pines, which grow close 
together, and do not branch out until the 
stems are thirty or forty feet from the 
ground. Beneath these trees we walked 
over a carpet of pine needles, upon which our 
moccasined feet made no sound. The woods 
seemed vast and lonely, and their silence 
was broken now and then by the strange 
noises always to be heard in the great for- 
ests, and which seem to mark the sad and 
everlasting unrest of the wilderness. We 
climbed up along the trunk of a dead tree 



2i8 HUNTING TRIPS 

which had toppled over until its upper 
branches struck in the limb crotch of another, 
that thus supported it at an angle half-way 
in its fall. When above the ground far 
enough to prevent the bear's smelling us, 
we sat still to wait for his approach; until, 
in the gathering gloom, we could no longer 
see the sights of our rifles, and could but 
dimly make out the carcass of the great elk. 
It was useless to wait longer; and we clam- 
bered down and stole out to the edge of the 
woods. The forest here covered one side 
of a steep, almost canyon-like ravine, whose 
other side was bare except of rock and sage- 
brush. Once out from under the trees there 
was still plenty of light, although the sun 
had set, and we crossed over some fifty yards 
to the opposite hill-side, and crouched down 
under a bush to see if perchance some ani- 
mal might not also leave the cover. To our 
right the ravine sloped downward toward the 
valley of the Bighorn River, and far on its 
other side we could catch a glimpse of the 
great main chain of the Rockies, their 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



219 



snow peaks glinting crimson in the light of 
the set sun. Again we waited quietly in the 
growing dusk until the pine trees in our front 
blended into one dark, frowning mass. We 
saw nothing; but the wild creatures of the 
forest had begun to stir abroad. The owls 
hooted dismally from the tops of the tall 
trees, and two or three times a harsh wail- 
ing cry, probably the voice of some lynx or 
wolverine, arose from the depths of the 
woods. At last, as we were rising to leave, 
we heard the sound of the breaking of a 
dead stick, from the spot where we knew the 
carcass lay. It was a sharp, sudden noise, 
perfectly distinct from the natural creaking 
and snapping of the branches; just such a 
sound as would be made by the tread of some 
heavy creature. " Old Ephraim " had come 
back to the carcass. A minute afterward, 
listening with strained ears, we heard him 
brush by some dry twigs. It was entirely 
too dark to go in after him ; but we made up 
our minds that on the morrow he should be 
ours. 



2 20 HUNTING TRIPS 

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

My companion was a skilful tracker, and 
we took up the trail at once. For some dis- 
tance it led over the soft, yielding carpet of 
moss and pine needles, and the footprints 



ON THE PRAIRIE 221 

Vv'ere quite easily made out, although we 
could follow them but slowly; for we had, 
of course, to keep a sharp look-out ahead 
and around us as we walked noiselessly on 
in the sombre half-light always prevailing 
under the great pine trees, through whose 
thickly interlacing branches stray but few 
beams of light, no matter how bright the sun 
may be outside. We made no sound our- 
selves, and every little sudden noise sent a 
thrill through me as I peered about with each 
sense on the alert. Two or three of the 
ravens that we had scared from the carcass 
flew overhead, croaking hoarsely; and the 
pine tops moaned and sighed in the slight 
breeze — for pine trees seem to be ever in 
motion, no matter how light the wind. 

After going a few hundred yards the tracks 
turned oflf on a well-beaten path made by the 
elk; the woods were in many places cut up 
by these game trails, which had often be- 
come as distinct as ordinary foot-paths. 
The beast's footprints were perfectly plain 
in the dust, and he had lumbered along up 



222 'HUNTING TRIPS 

the path until near the middle of the hill- 
side, where the ground broke away and there 
were hollows and boulders. Here there had 
been a windfall, and the dead trees lay among 
the living, piled across one another in all di- 
rections; while between and around them 
sprouted up a thick growth of young spruces 
and other evergreens. The trail turned off 
into the tangled thicket, within which it was 
almost certain we would find our quarry. 
We could still follow the tracks, by the slight 
scrapes of the claws on the bark, or by the 
bent and broken twigs; and we advanced 
with noiseless caution, slowly climbing over 
the dead tree trunks and upturned stumps, 
and not letting a branch rustle or catch on 
our clothes. When in the middle of the 
thicket we crossed v/hat was almost a breast- 
work of fallen logs, and Merrifield, who was 
leading, passed by the upright stem of a 
great pine. As soon as he was by it he 
sank suddenly on one knee, turning half 
round, his face fairly aflame with excitement ; 
and as I strode past him, with my rifle at 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



223 



the ready, there, not ten steps off, was the 
great bear, slowly rising from his bed among 
the young spruces. He had heard us, but 
apparently hardly knew exactly where or 
what we were, for he reared up on his 
haunches sideways to us. Then he saw us 
and dropped down again on all fours, the 
shaggy hair on his neck and shoulders seem- 
ing to bristle as he turned towards us. As he 
sank down on his forefeet I had raised the ri- 
fle; his head was bent slightly down, and 
when I saw the top of the white bead fairly 
between his small, glittering, evil eyes, I 
pulled trigger. Half-rising up, the huge 
beast fell over on his side in the death throes, 
the ball having gone into his brain, striking 
as fairly between the eyes as if the distance 
had been measured by a carpenter's rule. 

The whole thing was over in twenty sec- 
onds from the time I caught sight of the 
game ; indeed, it was over so quickly that the 
grizzly did not have time to show fight at all 
or come a step toward us. It was the first 
I had ever seen, and I felt not a little proud, 



2 24 HUNTING TRIPS 

as I stood over the great brindled bulk, which 
lay stretched out at length in the cool shade 
of the evergreens. He was a monstrous fel- 
low, much larger than any I have seen since, 
whether alive or brought in dead by the 
hunters. As near as we could estimate (for 
of course we had nothing with which to 
weigh more than very small portions) he 
must have weighed about twelve hundred 
pounds, and though this is not as large as 
some of his kind are said to grow in Cali- 
fornia, it is yet a very unusual size for a 
bear. He was a good deal heavier than any 
of our horses; and it was with the greatest 
difficulty that we were able to skin him. He 
must have been very old, his teeth and claws 
being all worn down and blunted ; but never- 
theless he had been living in plenty, for he 
was as fat as a prize hog, the layers on his 
back being a finger's length in thickness. 
He was still in the summer coat, his hair be- 
ing short, and in color a curious brindled 
brown, somewhat like that of certain bull- 
dogs; while all the bears we shot afterward 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



22$ 



had the long thick winter fur, cinnamon or 
yellowish brown. By the way, the name of 
this bear has reference to its character and 
not to its color, and should, I suppose, be 
properly spelt grisly — in the sense of horrible, 
exactly as we speak of a '* grisly spectre " 
— and not grizzly ; but perhaps the latter way 
of spelling it is too well established to be 
now changed. 

In killing dangerous game steadiness is 
more needed than good shooting. No game 
is dangerous unless a man is close up, for 
nowadays hardly any wild beast will charge 
from a distance of a hundred yards, but 
will rather try to run off; and if a man is 
close it is easy enough for him to shoot 
straight if he does not lose his head. A 
bear's brain is about the size of a pint bot- 
tle; and any one can hit a pint bottle off- 
hand at thirty or forty feet. I have had two 
shots at bears at close quarters, and each time 
I fired into the brain, the bullet in one case 
striking fairly between the eyes, as told 
above, and in the other going in betv/een the 



2 26 HUNTING TRIPS 

eye and ear. A novice at this kind of sport 
will find it best and safest to keep in mind 
the old Norse viking's advice in reference 
to a long" sword : " If you go in close 
enough your sword will be long enough." If 
a poor shot goes in close enough he will find 
that he shoots straight enough. 

I was very proud over my first bear; but 
Merrifield's chief feeling seemed to be dis- 
appointment that the animal had not had 
time to show fight. He was rather a reck- 
less fellow, and very confident in his own 
skill with the rifle; and he really did not 
seem to have any more fear of the grizzlies 
than if they had been so many jack-rabbits. 
I did not at all share his feelings, having a 
hearty respect for my foes' prowess, and in 
following and attacking them always took all 
possible care to get the chances on my side. 
Merrifield was sincerely sorry that we never 
had to stand a regular charge; while on 
this trip we killed five grizzlies with seven 
bullets, and except in the case of the she and 
cub, spoken of further on, each was shot 



ON THE PRAIRIE 227 

about as quickly as it got sight of us. The 
last one we got was an old male, which was 
feeding on an elk carcass. We crept up to 
within about sixty feet, and as Merrifield had 
not yet killed a grizzly purely to his own 
gun, and I had killed three, I told him to take 
the shot. He at once whispered gleefully: 
" I'll break his leg, and we'll see what he'll 
do ! " Having no ambition to be a partici- 
pator in the antics of a three-legged bear, I 
hastily interposed a most emphatic veto ; and 
with a rather injured air he fired, the bul- 
let going through the neck just back of the 
head The bear fell to the shot, and could 
not get up from the ground, dying in a few 
minutes ; but first he seized his left wrist in 
his teeth and bit clean through it, completely 
separating the bones of the paw and arm. 
Although a smaller bear than the big one 
I first shot, he would probably have proved 
a much more ugly foe, for he was less un- 
wieldy, and had much longer and sharper 
teeth and claws. I think that if my com- 
panion had merely broken the beast's leg 



2 28 HUNTING TRIPS 

he would have had his curiosity as to its 
probable conduct more than gratified. 

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

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



ON THE PRAIRIE 229 

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



230 HUNTING TRIPS 

clear air we looked far over the broad val- 
ley of the Bighorn as it lay at our very feet, 
walled in on the other side by the distant 
chain of the Rocky Mountains. 

Turning our horses, we rode back along 
the edge of another canyon-like valley, with 
a brook flowing down its centre, and its rocky 
sides covered with an uninterrupted pine for- 
est — the place of all others in whose inac- 
cessible wildness and ruggedness a bear 
would find a safe retreat. After some time 
we came to where other valleys, with steep, 
grass-grown sides, covered with sage-brush, 
branched out from it, and we followed one of 
these out. There was plenty of elk sign 
about, and we saw several black-tail deer. 
These last were very common on the moun- 
tains, but we had not hunted them at all, as 
we were in no need of meat. But this af- 
ternoon we came across a buck with re- 
markably fine antlers, and accordingly I shot 
it, and we stopped to cut off and skin out the 
horns, throwing the reins over the heads 
of the horses and leaving them to graze by 



ON THE PRAIRIE 231 

themselves. The body lay near the crest of 
one side of a deep valley, or ravine, which 
headed up on the plateau a mile to our left. 
Except for scattered trees and bushes the 
valley was bare; but there was heavy tim- 
ber along the crests of the hills on its oppo- 
site side. It took some time to fix the head 
properly, and we were just ending when 
Merrifield sprang to his feet and exclaimed : 
" Look at the bears ! " pointing down into 
the valley below us. Sure enough there 
were two bears (which afterwards proved to 
be an old she and a nearly full-grown cub) 
travelling up the bottom of the valley,^ much 
too far off for us to shoot. Grasping our 
rifles and throwing off our hats we started 
off as hard as we could run, diagonally down 
the hill-side, so as to cut them off. It was 
some little time before they saw us, when 
they made off at a lumbering gallop up the 
valley. It would seem impossible to run into 
two grizzlies in the open, but they were 
going up hill and we down, and moreover 
the old one kept stopping. The cub would 



232 HUNTING TRIPS 

forge ahead and could probably have escaped 
us, but the mother now and then stopped to 
sit up on her haunches and look round at 
us, when the cub would run back to her. 
The upshot was that we got ahead of them, 
when they turned and went straight up one 
hill-side as we ran straight down the other 
behind them. By this time I was pretty 
nearly done out, for running along the steep 
ground through the sage-brush was most ex- 
hausting work; and Merrifield kept gaining 
on me and was well in front. Just as he dis- 
appeared over a bank, almost at the bottom 
of the valley, I tripped over a bush and fell 
full-length. When I got up I knew I could 
never make up the ground I had lost, and 
besides, could hardly run any longer; Mer- 
rifield was out of sight below, and the bears 
were laboring up the steep hill-side directly 
opposite and about three hundred yards off, 
so I sat down and began to shoot over Mer- 
rifield's head, aiming at the big bear. She 
was going very steadily and in a straight line, 
and each bullet sent up a puff of dust where 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



233 



it struck the dry soil, so that I could keep 
correcting my aim; and the fourth ball 
crashed into the old bear's flank. She lurched 
heavily forward, but recovered herself and 
reached the timber, while Merrifield, who had 
put on a spurt, was not far behind. 

I toiled up the hill at a sort of trot, fairly 
gasping and sobbing for breath ; but before 
I got to the top I heard a couple of shots 
and a shout. The old bear had turned as 
soon as she was in the timber, and came to- 
wards Merrifield, but he gave her the death 
wound by firing into her chest, and then 
shot at the young one, knocking it over. 
When I came up he was just walking to- 
wards the latter to finish it with the re- 
volver, but it suddenly jumped up as lively 
as ever and made off at a great pace — for it 
was nearly full-grown. It was impossible to 
fire where the tree trunks were so thick, 
but there was a small opening across which 
it would have to pass, and collecting all my 
energies I made a last run, got into posi- 
tion, and covered the opening with my rifle. 



234 



HUNTING TRIPS 



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

The feed for the horses was excellent in 
the valley in which we were camped, and 
the rest after their long journey across the 
plains did them good. They had picked up 
wonderfully in condition during our stay on 



ON THE PRAIRIE 



235 



the mountains; but they were apt to wan- 
der very far during the night, for there were 
so many bears and other wild beasts around 
that they kept getting frightened and run- 
ning off. We were very loath to leave our 
hunting grounds, but time was pressing, and 
we had already many more trophies than we 
could carry; so one cool morning when the 
branches of the evergreens were laden with 
the feathery snow that had fallen overnight, 
we struck camp and started out of the moun- 
tains, each of us taking his own bedding 
behind his saddle, while the pack-ponies were 
loaded down with bearskins, elk and deer 
antlers, and the hides and furs of other game. 
In single file we moved through the woods, 
and across the canyons to the edge of the 
great table-land, and then slowly down the 
steep slope to its foot, where we found our 
canvas-topped wagon; and next day saw us 
setting out on our long journey homewards, 
across the three hundred weary miles of tree- 
less and barren-looking plains country. 
Last spring, since the above was written,. 



236 HUNTING TRIPS 

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



ADDENDUM 

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

Although with us antelope display the most 
rooted objection to entering broken or 
wooded ground, yet a friend of mine, whose 
experience in the hunting-field is many 
times as great as my own, tells me that in 
certain parts of the country they seem by 
preference to go among the steepest and 
roughest places (of course, \n so doing, be- 
237 



238 ADDENDUM 

ing obliged to make vertical as well as hori- 
zontal leaps), and even penetrate into thick 
woods. Indeed, no other species seems to 
show such peculiar '' freakiness " of char- 
acter, both individually and locally. 



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Miss Cayley's Adventures 

By Grant Allen. With 80 illustrations by- 
Gordon Browne. 

12% $1.50 

*' One of the most delightfully jolly, entertaining, and fasci- 
nating works that has ever come from Grant Allen's pen." — 
N. v. World. 

" A quaint and sparkling story — bright and entertaining from 
beginning to end." — Chicago Times-Herald. 

Hilda Wade 

A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose. By 
Grant Allen. With 98 illustrations by 
Gordon Browne. 

12°, $1.50 

" Mr. Allen's text, as in all his writings, is singularly pictur- 
esque and captivating. There are no commonplaces and although 
the outcome is perfectly evident early in the story, the reader will 
find his attention chained. . . . It is one of the best of the 
summer books, and as an artistic bit of light reading ranks high. 
It is a pity that such a vivid imagination and high-bred stj'le of 
discourse are no longer in the land of the living to entertain us 
with further stories of adventure." — Boston Times. 

The Angel of Clay 

By William Ordway Partridge, author of 
" The Song Life of a Sculptor," etc. 
With illustrations by A. B. Wenzell. 
12°, $1.25 

" A story of the studio order, free from the grosser elements 
which frequently mar such novels, and stronger in situations, 
thought, and action than are most. The central figure is that of 
the true man and artist, and this character is splendidly por- 
trayed. The style and story both invite perusal. — Portland 
Tratiscript. 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

New York and London 



Works on the Civil War 

The Story of the Civil War. A Concise Account 
of the War in the United States of America between 
i86i and 1865. By John Codman Ropes, Member 
of the Massachusetts Historical Society, The Mili- 
tary Historical Society of Massachusetts, Fellow of 
the Royal Historical Society. Author of "The 
Army Under Pope," " The First Napoleon," " The 
Campaign of Waterloo," etc. To be complete in 
four parts, with comprehensive maps and battle plans. 
Each part will be complete in itself, and will be sold 
separately. 

Part I. Narrative of Events to the Opening of the 
Campaign of 1862. With 5 maps. 8vo . $i 50 
Part II. The Campaigns of 1862. With 13 maps. 
8vo 2 50 

Slavery and Four Years of War. A Political 

History of Slavery in the United States, together 
with a narrative of the Campaigns and Battles of the 
Civil War in which the author took part. By JOSEPH 
Warren Keifer, Brevet Major-General of Volun- 
teers, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, 
U.S.A., and Major-General of Volunteers, Spanish 
War. 
Two vols., illustrated. 8°, 336, 340 pages, $6 00 

Ulysses S. Grant, and the Period of National 
Preservation and Reconstruction. 1822- 

1885. By William Conant Church, late Lieut. - 
Colonel, U.S.A., author of " Life of John Ericsson." 
No. 21 in the " Heroes of the Nations Series." Fully 
illustrated Large 12", cloth, $i 50 ; half leather, 
gilt top $1 75 

Robert E. Lee, and the Southern Confed= 
eracy. 1 807-1 870. By Prof. Henry Alex- 
ander White, of Washington and Lee University. 
No. 22 in the " Heroes of the Nations Series." 
Fully illustrated. Large 12°, cloth, |i 50; half 
leather, gilt top $1 75 



Q. P. PUTNAM»S SONS 
New York and London 



m 



3 1902