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Full text of "The wilderness hunter"

Cbitton 



THE WILDERNESS 
HUNTER 



BY 



THEODORE ROOSEVELT 




PUBLISHED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE 
AUTHOR THROUGH SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT 
WITH THE CENTURY CO., MESSRS. CHARLES 

SCIIIBNER S SONS, AND a. p. PUTNAM S SONS 



NEW YORK 
THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS COMPANY 

MCMX 



COPYRIGHT 1893 
BY G. P. PUTNAM S SONS 

This edition is published under arrangement with 
G. P. Putnam s Sons, of New York and London. 



TO 

E. K. R. 



48039 



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

Joaquin Miller 



"In vain the speeding of shyness; 

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

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

miles, far and near, 
WTiere winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and ice-clad 

trees . . . 
The moose, large as an ox, cornered by hunters, plunging with 

his forefeet, the hoofs as sharp as knives . . . 
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, 

the bed of hemlock boughs, and the bear-skin." 

Walt Whitman 



CONTENTS 



PREFACE 



CHAPTER I 

THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS; WILDERNESS HUNTERS AND 
WILDERNESS GAME 

The American Wilderness Forests, Plains, Mountains 
Likeness and Unlikeness to the Old- World Wilder 
ness Wilderness Hunters Boone, Crockett, Hous 
ton, Carson The Trappers The Buffalo Hunters 
The Stockmen The Regular Army Wilderness 
Game Bison, Moose, Elk, Caribou, Deer, Antelope 
Other Game Hunting in the Wilderness .... 9 

CHAPTER II 

HUNTING FROM THE RANCH; THE BLACKTAIL DEER 

In the Cattle Country Life on a Ranch A Round-up- 
Branding a Maverick The Bad Lands A Shot at a 
Blacktail Still-hunting the Blacktail Its Habits- 
Killing a Buck in August A Shot at Close Range 
Occasional Unwariness of Blacktail 33 

CHAPTER III 

THE WHITETAIL DEER; AND THE BLACKTAIL OF THE 
COLUMBIA 

The Whitetail Yields Poor Sport Fire Hunting Hunt 
ing with Hounds Shooting at Running Game Queer 

VOL. II. (I) 



2 Contents 

Adventure Anecdotes of Plainsmen Good and Bad 
Shots A Wagon Trip A Shot from the Ranch-house 
Veranda The Columbian Blacktail 50 

CHAPTER IV 

ON THE CATTLE RANGES; THE PRONG-HORN ANTELOPE 

Riding to the Round-up The Open Plains Sights and 
Sounds Gophers, Prairie Dogs, Sharp-tail Grouse, 
Antelope The Cow-camp Standing Night Guard 
Dawn Make an Antelope Hunt An Easy Stalk A 
Difficult Stalk Three Antelope Shot The Plains 
Skylark The Meadow-Lark The Mocking - bird- 
Other Singers Harsher Wilderness Sounds Pack 
Rats Plains Ferret, Its Ferocity The War Eagle- 
Attacks Antelope Kills Jack-Rabbit One Shot on 
Wing with Rifle 70 

CHAPTER V 

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

Hunting the Prong-Buck Long Shots Misses Winter 
Weather A Hunt in December Riding in the Bitter 
Cold The Old Hunter s Tepee A Night in a Line 
Camp An Antelope Herd Two Bucks Shot Riding 
Back to Ranch The Immigrant Train Hunting in 
Fall Fighting Fire A Summer Hunt Sufferings 
from Thirst Swimming Cattle Across a Swollen 
Stream Wagon Trip to the Black Hills The Great 
Prairies A Prong-buck Shot Pleasant Camp Buck 
Shot in Morning Continue our Journey Shooting 
Sage Fowl and Prairie Fowl with Rifle 91 

CHAPTER VI 

AMONG THE HIGH HILLS; THE BIGHORN OR MOUNTAIN SHEEP 

A Summer on the Ranch Working Among the Cattle 
Killing Game for the Ranch A Trip After Moun- 



Contents 3 

tain Sheep The Bad Lands Solitary Camp The 
Old Horse Manitou Still -hunt at Dawn Young 
Ram Shot A Hunt in the Rocky Mountains An 
Old Bighorn Stalked and Shot Habits of the Game . 121 

CHAPTER VII 

MOUNTAIN GAME; THE WHITE GOAT 

A Trip to the Big Hole Basin Incidents of Travel with 
a Wagon Camp Among the Mountains A Trip on 
Foot After Goats Spruce Grouse Lying Out at 
Night A Climb over the High Peaks Two Goats 
Shot Weary Tramp Back A Hunt in the Kootenai 
Country Hard Climbing Among the Wooded Moun 
tains Goat Shot on Brink of Chasm Ptarmigan for 
Supper Goat Hunting Very Hard Work Ways and 
Habits of the Goats Not much Decrease in Numbers 133 

CHAPTER VIII 

HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS ; THE CARIBOU 

A Camp on Kootenai Lake Traveling on Foot Through 
the Dense Forests Excessive Toil Water Shrew and 
Water Thrush Black Bear Killed Mountain Climb 
ing Woodchucks and Conies The Indian Ammal 
Night" Sounds A Long Walk A Caribou Killed A 
Midwinter Trip on Snowshoes in Maine Footprints 
on the Snow A Helpless Deer Caribou at Ease in 
the Deep Drifts 156 

CHAPTER IX 

THE WAPITI OR ROUND-HORNED ELK 

A Hunt in the Bitter Root Mountains A Trip on Foot- 
Two Bull Elk Fighting The Peacemaker All Three 
Shot Habits of the Wapiti Their Bungling A 
Grand Chorus Shooting a Bull at Sunrise Another 
Killed near the Ranch Vanishing of the Elk Its 



4 Contents 

Antlers The Lynx Porcupine Chickarees and 
Chipmunks Clark s Crow Lewis Woodpecker 
Whiskey- jack Trout The Yellowstone Canyon . .184 

CHAPTER X 

AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS 

In the Shoshones Traveling with a Pack-train Scenery 
Flowers A Squaw-man Bull Elk Shot in Rain 
while Challenging Storm Breaking Camp in Rain 
Two-Ocean Pass Our Camp A Young Ten-pointer 
Shot The Mountains in Moonlight Blue Grouse 
Snowshoe Rabbits Death of a Master Bull The 
Tetons Following a Bull by Scent 111 Luck Luck 
Changes Death of Spike Bull Three Bulls Killed 
Traveling Home Heavy Snowstorm Bucking Horse 
Various Hunts Compared Number Cartridges Used 
Still-hunting the Elk 208 

CHAPTER XI 

THE MOOSE; THE BEAST OP THE WOODLAND 

The Moose of the Rocky Mountains Its Habits Diffi 
cult Nature of Its Haunts Repeated Failures while 
Hunting It Watching a Marsh at Dawn A Moose 
in the Reeds Stalking and Shooting Him Traveling 
Light with a Pack-train A Beaver Meadow Shoot 
ing a Big Bull at Dawn The Moose in Summer, in 
Winter Young Moose Pugnacity of Moose Still- 
hunting Moose Rather More Easy to Kill than 
Whitetail Deer At Times a Dangerous Antagonist 
The Winter Yards Hunting on Snowshoes A 
Narrow Escape A Fatal Encounter 238 

CHAPTER XII 

HUNTING LORE 

Game Which Ought Not to Be Killed Killing Black 
Bear with a Knife Sports with Rod and Shot-gun 



Contents 5 

Snowshoeing and Mountaineering American Writ 
ers on Out-door Life Burroughs Thoreau Audu- 
bon, Coues, etc. American Hunting Books Ameri 
can Writers on Life in the Wilderness: Parkman, 
Irving Cooper on Pioneer Life American States 
men and Soldiers Devoted to the Chase Lincoln, 
Jackson, Israel Putnam A Letter from Webster on 
Trout-fishing Clay Washington Hunting Extracts 
from Washington s Diaries Washington as a Fox- 
hunter 269 

APPENDIX . 280 



PREFACE 

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

In hunting, the finding and killing of the 
game is after all but a part of the whole. The 
free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with its 
rugged and stalwart democracy; the wild sur 
roundings, the grand beauty of the scenery, 
the chance to study the ways and habits of the 
woodland creatures all these unite to give to 
the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar 
charm. The chase is among the best of all 
national pastimes; it cultivates that vigorous 

(7) 



8 Preface 

manliness for the lack of which in a nation, 
as in an individual, the possession of no other 
qualities can possibly atone. 

No one, but he who has partaken thereof, 
can understand the keen delight of hunting in 
lonely lands. For him is the joy of the horse 
well ridden and the rifle well held; for him. 
the long days of toil and hardship, resolutely 
endured, and crowned at the end with tri 
umph. In after years there shall come forever 
to his mind the memory of endless prairies 
shimmering in the bright sun; of vast snow- 
clad wastes lying desolate under gray skies; 
of the melancholy marshes; of the rush of 
mighty rivers; of the breath of the evergreen 
forest in summer; of the crooning of ice-arm 
ored pines at the touch of the winds of win 
ter; of cataracts roaring between hoary moun 
tain masses ; of all the innumerable sights and 
sounds of the wilderness; of its immensity and 
mystery; and of the silences that brood in its 
still depths. 

THEODORE ROOSEVELT 

SAGAMORE HILL, 
June, 



THE WILDERNESS HUNTER 

CHAPTER I 

THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS; WILDERNESS HUNTERS 
AND WILDERNESS GAME 

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

Some distance beyond the Mississippi, stretching 
from Texas to North Dakota, and westward to the 
Rocky Mountains, lies the plains country. This is 

(9) 



io The Wilderness Hunter 

a region of light rainfall, where the ground is clad 
with short grass, while cottonwood trees fringe the 
courses of the winding plains streams ; streams that 
are alternately turbid torrents and mere dwindling 
threads of water. The great stretches of natural 
pasture are broken by gray sage-brush plains, and 
tracts of strangely shaped and colored Bad Lands; 
sun-scorched wastes in summer, and in winter arctic 
in their iron desolation. Beyond the plains rise the 
Rocky Mountains, their flanks covered with conif 
erous woods; but the trees are small, and do not 
ordinarily grow very closely together. Toward the 
north the forest becomes denser, and the peaks high 
er ; and glaciers creep down toward the valleys from 
the fields of everlasting snow. The brooks are 
brawling, trout-filled torrents ; the swift rivers foam 
over rapid and cataract, on their way to one or the 
other of the two great oceans. 

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

Beyond this desert region rise the sunny Sierras 
of California, with their flower-clad slopes and 



The American Wilderness n 

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

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

Zoologically speaking, the north temperate zones 
of the Old and New Worlds are very similar, differ 
ing from one another much less than they do from 
the various regions south of them, or than these 
regions differ among themselves. The untrodden 



12 The Wilderness Hunter 

American wilderness resembles both in game and 
physical character the forests, the mountains, and 
the steppes of the Old World as it was at the begin 
ning of our era. Great woods of pine and fir, birch 
and beech, oak and chestnut ; streams where the chief 
game fish are spotted trout and silvery salmon; 
grouse of various kinds as the most common game 
birds; all these the hunter finds as characteristic of 
the New World as of the Old. So it is with most 
of the beasts of the chase, and so also with the fur- 
bearing animals that furnish to the trapper alike his 
life work and his means of livelihood. The bear, 
wolf, bison, moose, caribou, wapiti, deer, and big 
horn, the lynx, fox, wolverine, sable, mink, ermine, 
beaver, badger, and otter of both worlds are either 
identical or more or less closely kin to one another. 
Sometimes of the two forms, that found in the Old 
World is the larger. Perhaps more often the re 
verse is true, the American beast being superior in 
size. This is markedly the case with the wapiti, 
which is merely a giant brother of the European 
stag, exactly as the fisher is merely a very large 
cousin of the European sable or marten. The ex 
traordinary prong-buck, the only hollow-horned ru 
minant which sheds its horns annually, is a distant 
representative of the Old- World antelopes of the 
steppes; the queer white antelope-goat has for its 
nearest kinsfolk certain Himalayan species. Of the 
animals commonly known to our hunters and trap- 



The American Wilderness 13 

pers, only a few, such as the cougar, peccary, rac 
coon, possum (and among birds the wild turkey), 
find their nearest representatives and type forms in 
tropical America. 

Of course this general resemblance does not mean 
identity. The differences in plant life and animal 
life, no less than in the physical features of the land, 
are sufficiently marked to give the American wilder 
ness a character distinctly its own. Some of the 
most characteristic of the woodland animals, some 
of those which have most vividly impressed them 
selves on the imagination of the hunters and pioneer 
settlers, are the very ones which have no Old- World 
representatives. The wild turkey is in every way 
the king of American game birds. Among the small 
beasts the coon and the possum are those which have 
left the deepest traces in the humbler lore of the 
frontier; exactly as the cougar usually under the 
name of panther or mountain lion is a favorite 
figure in the wilder hunting tales. Nowhere else is 
there anything to match the wealth of the eastern 
hardwood forests, in number, variety, and beauty 
of trees ; nowhere else is it possible to find conifers 
approaching in size the giant redwoods and sequoias 
of the Pacific slope. Nature here is generally on a 
larger scale than in the Old- World home of our 
race. The lakes are like inland seas, the rivers, like 
arms of the sea. Among stupendous mountain 
chains there are valleys and canyons of fathomless 



14 The Wilderness Hunter 

depth and incredible beauty and majesty. There 
are tropical swamps, and sad, frozen marshes; des 
erts and Death Valleys, weird and evil, and the 
strange wonderland of the Wyoming geyser region. 
The waterfalls are rivers rushing over precipices; 
the prairies seem without limit, and the forest never 
ending. ^ 

At the time when we first became a nation, nine- 
tenths of the territory now included within the limits 
of the United States was wilderness. It was during 
the stirring and troubled years immediately preced 
ing the outbreak of the Revolution that the most 
adventurous hunters, the vanguard of the hardy 
army of pioneer settlers, first crossed the Allegha- 
nies, and roamed far and wide through the lonely, 
danger-haunted forests which filled the No-man s- 
land lying between the Tennessee and the Ohio. 
They waged ferocious warfare with Shawnee and 
Wyandot and wrought huge havoc among the 
herds of game with which the forest teemed. While 
the first Continental Congress was still sitting, Dan 
iel Boone, the archetype of the American hunter, was 
leading his bands of tall backwoods riflemen to set 
tle in the beautiful country of Kentucky, where the 
red and the white warriors strove with such obsti 
nate rage that both races alike grew to know it as 
"the dark and bloody ground." 

Boone and his fellow-hunters were the heralds of 
the oncoming civilization, the pioneers in that con- 



The American Wilderness 15 

quest of the wilderness which has at last been prac 
tically achieved in our own day. Where they pitched 
their camps and built their log huts or stockaded 
hamlets, towns grew up, and men who were tillers 
of the soil, not mere wilderness wanderers, thronged 
in to take and hold the land. Then, ill-at-ease among 
the settlements for which they had themselves made 
ready the way, and fretted even by the slight re 
straints of the rude and uncouth semi-civilization 
of the border, the restless hunters moved onward 
into the yet unbroken wilds where the game dwelled 
and the red tribes marched forever to war and hunt 
ing. Their untamable souls ever found something 
congenial and beyond measure attractive in the law 
less freedom of the lives of the very savages against 
whom they warred so bitterly. 

Step by step, often leap by leap, the frontier of 
settlement was pushed westward ; and ever from be 
fore its advance fled the warrior tribes of the red 
men and the scarcely less intractable array of white 
Indian fighters and game hunters. When the Rev 
olutionary War was at its height, George Rogers 
Clark, himself a mighty hunter of the old back 
woods type, led his handful of hunter-soldiers to the 
conquest of the French towns of the Illinois. This 
was but one of the many notable feats of arms 
performed by the wild soldiery of the backwoods. 
Clad in their fringed and tasseled hunting-shirt of 
buckskin or homespun, with coonskin caps and 



1 6 The Wilderness Hunter 

deer-hide leggings and moccasins, with tomahawk 
and scalping-knife thrust into their bead-worked 
belts, and long rifles in hand, they fought battle after 
battle of the most bloody character, both against the 
Indians, as at the Great Kanawha, at the Fallen 
Timbers, and at Tippecanoe, and against more civ 
ilized foes, as at King s Mountain, New Orleans, 
and the River Thames. 

Soon after the beginning of the present century 
Louisiana fell into our hands, and the most daring 
hunters and explorers pushed through the forests of 
the Mississippi Valley to the great plains, steered 
across these vast seas of grass to the Rocky Moun 
tains, and then through their rugged defiles onward 
to the Pacific Ocean. In every work of exploration, 
and in all the earlier battles with the original lords 
of the western and southwestern lands, whether In 
dian or Mexican, the adventurous hunters played 
the leading part ; while close behind came the swarm 
of hard, dogged, border-farmers, a masterful race, 
good fighters and good breeders, as all masterful 
races must be. 

Very characteristic in its way was the career of 
quaint, honest, fearless Davy Crockett, the Tennes 
see rifleman and Whig Congressman, perhaps the 
best shot in all our country, whose skill in the use 
of his favorite weapon passed into a proverb, and 
who ended his days by a hero s death in the ruins 
of the Alamo. An even more notable man was an- 



The American Wilderness 17 

other mighty hunter, Houston, who when a boy ran 
away to the Indians; who while still a lad returned 
to his own people to serve under Andrew Jackson in 
the campaigns which that greatest of all the back 
woods leaders waged against the Creeks, the Span 
iards, and the British. He was wounded at the 
storming of one of the strongholds of Red Eagle s 
doomed warriors, and returned to his Tennessee 
home to rise to high civil honor, and become the 
foremost man of his State. Then, while Governor 
of Tennessee, in a sudden fit of moody anger, and of 
mad longing for the unfettered life of the wilder 
ness, he abandoned his office, his people, and his race, 
and fled to the Cherokees beyond the Mississippi. 
For years he lived as one of their chiefs ; until one 
day, as he lay in ignoble ease and sloth, a rider from 
the south, from the rolling plains of the San Antonio 
and Brazos, brought word that the Texans were up, 
and in doubtful struggle striving to wrest their 
freedom from the lancers and carbineers of Santa 
Anna. Then his dark soul flamed again into burn 
ing life ; riding by night and day he joined the risen 
Texans, was hailed by them as a heaven-sent leader, 
and at the San Jacinto led them on to the overthrow 
of the Mexican host. Thus the stark hunter, who 
had been alternately Indian fighter and Indian chief, 
became the President of the new Republic, and, after 
its admission into the United States, a Senator at 
Washington ; and, to his high honor, he remained to 



1 8 The Wilderness Hunter 

the end of his days stanchly loyal to the flag of the 
Union. 

By the time that Crockett fell, and Houston be 
came the darling leader of the Texans, the typical 
hunter and Indian fighter had ceased to be a back 
woodsman; he had become a plainsman, or moun 
tain-man; for the frontier, east of which he never 
willingly went, had been pushed beyond the Mis 
sissippi. Restless, reckless, and hardy, he spent years 
of his life in lonely wanderings through the Rockies 
as a trapper; he guarded the slowly moving cara 
vans, which for purposes of trade journeyed over 
the dangerous Santa Fe trail; he guided the large 
parties of frontier settlers who, driving before them 
their cattle, with all their household goods in their 
white-topped wagons, spent perilous months and 
seasons on their weary way to Oregon or Califor 
nia. Joining in bands, the stalwart, skin-clad rifle 
men waged ferocious war on the Indians, scarcely 
more savage than themselves, or made long raids 
for plunder and horses against the outlying Mexican 
settlements. The best, the bravest, the most modest 
of them all was the renowned Kit Carson. He was 
not only a mighty hunter, a daring fighter, a finder 
of trails, and maker of roads through the unknown, 
untrodden wilderness, but also a real leader of men. 
Again and again he crossed and recrossed the con 
tinent, from the Mississippi to the Pacific ; he guided 
many of the earliest military and exploring expe- 



The American Wilderness 19 

ditions of the United States Government; he him 
self led the troops in victorious campaigns against 
Apache and Navahoe ; and in the Civil War he was 
made a colonel of the Federal Army. 

After him came many other hunters. Most were 
pure-blooded Americans, but many were Creole 
Frenchmen, Mexicans, or even members of the so- 
called civilized Indian tribes, notably the Delawares. 
Wide were their wanderings, many their strange 
adventures in the chase, bitter their unending war 
fare with the red lords of the land. Hither and 
thither they roamed, from the desolate, burning 
deserts of the Colorado to the grassy plains of the 
Upper Missouri; from the rolling Texas prairies, 
bright beneath their sunny skies, to the high snow 
peaks of the northern Rockies, or the giant pine 
forests, and soft rainy weather, of the coasts of 
Puget Sound. Their main business was trapping, 
furs being the only articles yielded by the wilderness, 
as they knew it, which were both valuable and port 
able. These early hunters were all trappers like 
wise, and, indeed, used their rifles only to procure 
meat or repel attacks. The chief of the fur-bear 
ing animals they followed was the beaver, which 
abounded in the streams of the plains and mountains ; 
in the far north they also trapped otter, mink, sable, 
and fisher. They married squaws from among the 
Indian tribes with which they happened for the mo 
ment to be at peace; they acted as scouts for the 



20 The Wilderness Hunter 

United States troops in their campaigns against the 
tribes with which they happened to be at war. 

Soon after the Civil War the life of these hunters, 
taken as a class, entered on its final stage. The 
Pacific Coast was already fairly well settled, and 
there were few mining camps in the Rockies; but 
most of this Rocky Mountain region, and the 
entire stretch of plains country proper, the vast belt 
of level or rolling grass land lying between the Rio 
Grande and the Saskatchewan, still remained pri 
meval wilderness, inhabited only by roving hunters 
and formidable tribes of Indian nomads, and by the 
huge herds of game on which they preyed. Beaver 
swarmed in the streams and yielded a rich harvest 
to the trapper ; but trapping was no longer the main 
stay of the adventurous plainsmen. Foremost 
among the beasts of the chase, on account of 
its numbers, its size, and its economic importance, 
was the bison or American buffalo; its innumerable 
multitudes darkened the limitless prairies. As the 
transcontinental railroads were pushed toward com 
pletion, and the tide of settlement rolled onward 
with ever-increasing rapidity, buffalo robes became 
of great value. The hunters forthwith turned their 
attention mainly to the chase of the great clumsy 
beasts, slaughtering them by hundreds of thousands 
for their hides; sometimes killing them on horse 
back, but more often on foot, by still-hunting, with 
the heavy long range Sharp s rifle. Throughout the 



The American Wilderness 21 

fifteen years during which this slaughter lasted, a 
succession of desperate wars was waged with the 
banded tribes of the Horse Indians. All the time, 
in unending succession, long trains of big white- 
topped wagons crept slowly westward across the 
prairies, marking the steady oncoming of the fron 
tier settlers. 

By the close of 1883 the last buffalo herd was de 
stroyed. The beaver were trapped out of all the 
streams, or their numbers so thinned that it no 
longer paid to follow them. The last formidable 
Indian war had been brought to a successful close. 
The flood of the incoming whites had risen over the 
land ; tongues of settlement reached from the Mis 
sissippi to the Rocky Mountains, and from the 
Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. The frontier had 
come to an end; it had vanished. With it vanished 
also the old race of wilderness hunters, the men who 
spent all their days in the lonely wilds, and who 
killed game as their sole means of livelihood. Great 
stretches of wilderness still remained in the Rocky 
Mountains, and here and there in the plains country, 
exactly as much smaller tracts of wild land are to 
be found in the Alleghanies and northern New York 
and New England; and on these tracts occasional 
hunters and trappers still linger ; but as a distinctive 
class, with a peculiar and important position in 
American life, they no longer exist. 

There were other men besides the professional 



22 The Wilderness Hunter 

hunters, who lived on the borders of the wilderness, 
and followed hunting, not only as a pastime, but 
also as yielding an important portion of their sub 
sistence. The frontier farmers were all hunters. 
In the Eastern backwoods, and in certain places in 
the West, as in Oregon, these adventurous tillers of 
the soil were the poineers among the actual settlers ; 
in the Rockies their places were taken by the miners, 
and on the great plains by the ranchmen and cow 
boys, the men who lived in the saddle, guarding 
their branded herds of horses and horned stock, 
Almost all of the miners and cowboys were obliged 
on occasions to turn hunters. 

Moreover, the regular army which played so im 
portant a part in all the later stages of the winning 
of the West produced its full share of mighty hunt 
ers. The later Indian wars were fought principally 
by the regulars. The West Point officer and his 
little company of trained soldiers appeared abreast 
of the first hardy cattlemen and miners. The 
ordinary settlers rarely made their appearance until 
in campaign after campaign, always inconceivably 
wearing and harassing, and often very bloody in 
character, the scarred and tattered troops had 
broken and overthrown the most formidable among 
the Indian tribes. Faithful, uncomplaining, un 
flinching, the soldiers wearing the national uniform 
lived for many weary years at their lonely little 
posts, facing unending toil and danger with quiet 



The American Wilderness 23 

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

Of American big game the bison, almost always 
known as the buffalo, was the largest and most im 
portant to man. When the first white settlers landed 
in Virginia the bison ranged east of the Alleghanies 
almost to the sea-coast, westward to the dry deserts 
lying beyond the Rocky Mountains, northward 
to the Great Slave Lake and southward to Chihua 
hua. It was a beast of the forests and mountains, 
in the Alleghanies no less than in the Rockies; 
but its true home was on the prairies and the 
high plains. Across these it roamed, hither and 
thither, in herds of enormous, of incredible magni 
tude; herds so large that they covered the waving 
grass land for hundreds of square leagues, and 
when on the march occupied days and days in 
passing a given point. But the seething myriads of 
shaggy-maned wild cattle vanished with remarkable 
and melancholy rapidity before the inroads of the 
white hunters, and the steady march of the oncom- 



24 The Wilderness Hunter 

ing settlers. Now they are on the point of extinc 
tion. Two or three hundred are left in that great 
national game preserve, the Yellowstone Park; and 
it is said that others still remain in the wintry deso 
lation of Athabasca. Elsewhere only a few in 
dividuals exist probably considerably less than half 
a hundred all told scattered in small parties in 
the wildest and most remote and inaccessible por 
tions of the Rocky Mountains. A bison bull is the 
largest American animal. His huge bulk, his short, 
curved black horns, the shaggy mane clothing his 
great neck and shoulders, give him a look of ferocity 
which his conduct belies. Yet he is truly a grand 
and noble beast, and his loss from our prairies and 
forest is as keenly regretted by the lover of nature 
and of wild life as by the hunter. 

Next to the bison in size, and much superior in 
height to it and to all other American game for it 
is taller than the tallest horse comes the moose, 
or broad-horned elk. It is a strange, uncouth-look 
ing beast, with very long legs, short thick neek, a 
big, ungainly head, a swollen nose, and huge shovel 
horns. Its home is in the cold, wet pine and spruce 
forests, which stretch from the sub-arctic region of 
Canada southward in certain places across our fron 
tier. Two centuries ago it was found as far south 
as Massachusetts. It has now been exterminated 
from its former haunts in northern New York and 
Vermont, and is on the point of vanishing from 



The American Wilderness 25 

northern Michigan. It is still found in northern 
Maine and northeastern Minnesota and in portions 
of northern Idaho and Washington ; while along the 
Rockies it extends its range southward through 
western Montana to northwestern Wyoming, 
south of the Tetons. In 1884 I saw the fresh 
hide of one that was killed in the Bighorn Moun 
tains. 

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

2 VOL. II. 



26 The Wilderness Hunter 

kind, and its antlers are marvels of symmetrical 
grandeur. 

The woodland caribou is inferior to the wapiti 
both in size and symmetry. The tips of the many 
branches of its long irregular antlers are slightly 
palmated. Its range is the same as that of the 
moose, save that it does not go so far southward. 
Its hoofs are long and round ; even larger than the 
long, oval hoofs of the moose, and much larger than 
those of the wapiti. The tracks of all three can be 
told apart at a glance, and can not be mistaken for 
the footprints of other game. Wapiti tracks, how 
ever, look much like those of yearling and two- 
year-old cattle, unless the ground is steep or muddy, 
in which case the marks of the false hoofs appear, 
the joints of wapiti being more flexible than those of 
domestic stock. 

The whitetail deer is now, as it always has been, 
the best known and most abundant of American big 
game, and though its numbers have been greatly 
thinned it is still found in almost every State of the 
Union. The common blacktail or mule deer, which 
has likewise been sadly thinned in numbers, though 
once extraordinarily abundant, extends from the 
great plains to the Pacific; but is supplanted on the 
Puget Sound coast by the Columbian blacktail. The 
delicate, heart-shaped footprints of all three are 
nearly indistinguishable; when the animal is run 
ning the hoof points are of course separated. The 



The American Wilderness 27 

track of the antelope is more oval, growing squarer 
with age. Mountain sheep leave footmarks of a 
squarer shape, the points of the hoof making little 
indentations in the soil, well apart, even when the 
animal is only walking ; and a yearling s track is not 
unlike that made by a big prong-buck when striding 
rapidly with the toes well apart. White-goat tracks 
are also square, and as large as those of the sheep; 
but there is less indentation of the hoof points, which 
come nearer together. 

The antelope, or prong-buck, was once found in 
abundance from the eastern edge of the great plains 
to the Pacific, but it has everywhere diminished in 
numbers, and has been exterminated along the east 
ern and western borders of its former range. The 
bighorn, or mountain sheep, is found in the Rocky 
Mountains from northern Mexico to Alaska ; and 
in the United States from the Coast and Cascade 
ranges to the Bad Lands of the western edges of 
the Dakotas, wherever there are mountain chains or 
tracts of rugged hills. It was never very abundant, 
and, though it has become less so, it has held its own 
better than most game. The white goat, however, 
alone among our game animals, has positively in 
creased in numbers since the advent of settlers ; be 
cause white hunters rarely follow it, and the In 
dians who once sought its skin for robes now use 
blankets instead. Its true home is in Alaska and 
Canada, but it crosses our borders along the lines of 



28 The Wilderness Hunter 

the Rockies and Cascades, and a few small isolated 
colonies are found here and there southward to Cali 
fornia and New Mexico. 

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

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

The bulk of my hunting has been done in the cat 
tle country, near my ranch on the Little Missouri, 
and in the adjoining lands round the lower Powder 
and Yellowstone. Until 1881 the valley of the Lit 
tle Missouri was fairly thronged with game, and 
was absolutely unchanged in any respect from its 
original condition of primeval wildness. With the 
incoming of the stockmen all this changed, and the 



The American Wilderness 29 

game was wofully slaughtered; but plenty of deer 
and antelope, a few sheep and bear, and an occa 
sional elk are still left. 

Since the professional hunters have vanished with 
the vast herds of game on which they preyed, the 
life of the ranchman is that which yields most 
chance of hunting. Life on a cattle ranch, on the 
great plains or among the foothills of the high moun 
tains, has a peculiar attraction for those hardy, ad 
venturous spirits who take most kindly to a vigor 
ous out-of-door existence, and who are therefore 
most apt to care passionately for the chase of big 
game. The free ranchman lives in a wild, lonely 
country, and exactly as he breaks and tames his own 
horses, and guards and tends his own branded herds, 
so he takes the keenest enjoyment in the chase, 
which is to him not merely the pleasantest of sports, 
but also a means of adding materially to his com 
forts, and often his only method of providing himself 
with fresh meat. 

Hunting in the wilderness is of all pastimes the 
most attractive, and it is doubly so when not carried 
on merely as a pastime. Shooting over a private 
game preserve is of course in no way to be compared 
to it. The wilderness hunter must not only show 
skill in the use of the rifle and address in finding and 
approaching game, but he must also show the quali 
ties of hardihood, self-reliance, and resolution needed 
for effectively grappling with his wild surroundings. 



jo The Wilderness Hunter 

The fact that the hunter needs the game, both for 
its meat and for its hide, undoubtedly adds a zest to 
the pursuit. Among the hunts which I have most 
enjoyed were those made when I was engaged in get 
ting in the winter s stock of meat for the ranch, or 
was keeping some party of cowboys supplied with 
game from day to day. 



CHAPTER II 

HUNTING FROM THE RANCH ; THE BLACKTAIL DEER 

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

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

Sometimes we shoot the deer when we happen 

(30 



32 The Wilderness Hunter 

on them while about our ordinary business, indeed 
throughout the time that I have lived on the ranch, 
very many of the deer and antelope I killed were 
thus obtained. Of course while doing the actual 
round-up work it is impossible to attend to anything 
else ; but we generally carry rifles while riding after 
the saddle band in the early morning, while visiting 
the line camps, or while in the saddle among the 
cattle on the range; and get many a shot in this 
fashion. 

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

At dawn one of the men rode off to bring in the 
saddle band. The rest of us were up by sunrise ; and 
as we stood on the veranda under the shimmering 
cottonwood trees, reveling in the blue of the cloud 
less sky, and drinking in the cool air before going to 
breakfast, we saw the motley-colored string of ponies 
file down from the opposite bank of the river, and 
splash across the broad, shallow ford in front of the 



Hunting from the Ranch 33 

ranch house. Cantering and trotting the band swept 
toward the high, round horse-corral, in the open 
glade to the rear of the house. Guided by the jut 
ting wing which stuck out at right angles, they en 
tered the open gate, which was promptly closed by 
the cowboy who had driven them in. 

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

Once in the saddle we rode off down river, along 
the bottoms, crossing the stream again and again. 
We went in Indian file, as is necessary among the 
trees and in broken ground, following the cattle- 
trails which themselves had replaced or broadened 
the game paths that alone crossed the plateaus and 
bottoms when my ranch house was first built. Now 
we crossed open reaches of coarse grass, thinly 
sprinkled with large, brittle cottonwood trees, their 
branches torn and splintered; now we wound our 
way through a dense jungle where the gray, thorny 



34 The Wilderness Hunter 

buffalo bushes, spangled with brilliant red berry- 
clusters, choked the spaces between the thick-grow 
ing box-alders; and again the sure-footed ponies 
scrambled down one cut bank and up another, 
through seemingly impossible rifts, or with gingerly 
footsteps trod a path which cut the side of a butte 
or overhung a bluff. Sometimes we racked, or 
shacked along at the fox trot which is the cow-pony s 
ordinary gait; and sometimes we loped or galloped 
and ran. 

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

Close beyond the trees on the further bank stood 
the two round-up wagons; near by was the cook s 
fire, in a trench, so that it might not spread; the 
bedding of the riders and horse-wranglers lay scat 
tered about, each roll of blankets wrapped and corded 
in a stout canvas sheet. The cook was busy about 
the fire; the night-wrangler was snatching an hour 
or two s sleep under one of the wagons. Half a 
mile away, on the plain of sage brush and long grass, 
the day-wrangler was guarding the grazing or rest 
ing horse herd, of over a hundred head. Still 



Hunting from the Ranch 35 

further distant, at the mouth of a ravine, was the 
day-herd of cattle, two or three cowboys watching it 
as they lolled drowsily in their saddles. The other 
riders were off on circles to bring in cattle to the 
round-up; they were expected every moment. 

With the ready hospitality always shown in a cow- 
camp we were pressed to alight and take dinner, or 
at least a lunch; and accordingly we jumped off our 
horses and sat down. Our tin plates were soon 
heaped with fresh beef, bread, tomatoes, rice, and 
potatoes, all very good ; for the tall, bearded, scrawny 
cook knew his work, and the OX outfit always fed 
its men well, and saw that they worked well too. 

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

The horse-wrangler soon drove the saddle band 
to the wagons, where it was caught in a quickly im- 



36 The Wilderness Hunter 

pro vised rope-corral. The men roped fresh horses, 
fitted for the cutting-work round the herd, with its 
attendant furious galloping and flash-like turning 
and twisting. In a few minutes all were in the 
saddle again and riding toward the cattle. 

Then began that scene of excitement and turmoil, 
and seeming confusion, but real method and order 
liness, so familiar to all who have engaged in stock- 
growing on the great plains. The riders gathered in 
a wide ring round the herd of uneasy cattle, and a 
couple of men rode into their midst to cut out the 
beef steers and the cows that were followed by un- 
branded calves. As soon as the animal was picked 
out the cowboy began to drive it slowly toward the 
outside of the herd, and when it was near the edge 
he suddenly raced it into the open. The beast would 
then start at full speed and try to double back among 
its fellows ; while the trained cow-pony followed like 
a shadow, heading it off at every turn. The riders 
round that part of the herd opened out and the 
chosen animal was speedily hurried off to some spot 
a few hundred yards distant, where it was left un 
der charge of another cowboy. The latter at first 
had his Irands full in preventing his charge from re 
joining the herd; for cattle dread nothing so much 
as being separated from their comrades. However, 
as soon as two or three others were driven out, 
enough to form a little bunch, it became a much 
easier matter to hold the "cut," as it is called. The 



Hunting from the Ranch 37 

cows and calves were put in one place, the beeves in 
another; the latter were afterward run into the 
day-herd. 

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

As soon as the herd was worked it was turned 
loose, while the cows and calves were driven over 
to a large corral, where the branding was done. 
A fire was speedily kindled, and in it were laid the 
branding irons of the different outfits represented on 
the round-up. Then two of the best ropers rode into 
the corral and began to rope the calves, round the 
hind legs by preference, but sometimes round the 
head. The other men dismounted to "wrestle" and 
brand them. Once roped, the calf, bawling and 
struggling 1 , was swiftly dragged near the fire, where 
one or two of the calf-wrestlers grappled with and 
threw the kicking, plunging little beast, and held 
it while it was branded. If the calf was large the 



38 The Wilderness Hunter 

wrestlers had hard work; and one or two young 
maverick bulls that is, unbranded yearling bulls, 
which had been passed by in the round-ups of the 
preceding year fought viciously, bellowing and 
charging, and driving some of the men up the 
sides of the corral, to the boisterous delight of the 
others. 

After watching the work for a little while we left 
and rode homeward. Instead of going along the 
river bottoms we struck back over the buttes. From 
time to time we came out on some sharp bluff over 
looking the river. From these points of vantage we 
could see for several miles up and down the valley 
of the Little Missouri. The level bottoms were 
walled in by rows of sheer cliffs, and steep, grassy 
slopes. These bluff lines were from a quarter of 
a mile to a mile apart; they did not run straight, 
but in a succession of curves, so as to look like the 
halves of many amphitheatres. Between them the 
river swept in great bends from side to side; the 
wide bed, brimful during the time of freshets, now 
held but a thin stream of water. Some of the bot 
toms were covered only with grass and sage brush; 
others were a dense jungle of trees; while yet others 
looked like parks, the cottonwoods growing in 
curved lines or in clumps scattered here and there. 

On our way we came across a bunch of cattle, 
among which the sharp eyes of my foreman detected 
a maverick two-year-old heifer. He and one of the 



Hunting from the Ranch 39 

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

When we reached the ranch it was still early, and 
after finishing dinner it lacked over an hour of 
sundown. Accordingly we went for another ride; 
and I carried my rifle. We started up a winding 
coulie which opened back of the ranch house; and 
after half an hour s canter clambered up the steep 
head-ravines, and emerged on a high ridge which 
went westward, straight as an arrow, to the main 
divide between the Little Missouri and the Big 
Beaver. Along this narrow, grassy crest we loped 
and galloped; we were so high that we could look 
far and wide over all the country round about. To 



40 The Wilderness Hunter 

the southward, across a dozen leagues of rolling 
and broken prairie, loomed Sentinel Butte, the chief 
landmark of all that region. Behind us, beyond the 
river, rose the weird chaos of Bad Lands which at 
this point lie for many miles east of the Little 
Missouri. Their fantastic outlines were marked 
against the sky as sharply as if cut with a knife; 
their grim and forbidding desolation warmed into 
wonderful beauty by the light of the dying sun. 
On our right, as we loped onward, the land sunk 
away in smooth green-clad slopes and valleys; on 
our left it fell in sheer walls. Ahead of us the sun 
was sinking behind a mass of blood-red clouds ; and 
on either hand the flushed skies were changing their 
tint to a hundred hues of opal and amethyst. Our 
tireless little horses sprang under us, thrilling with 
life; we were riding through a fairy world of beauty 
and color and limitless space and freedom. 

Suddenly a short hundred yards in front three 
blacktail leaped out of a little glen and crossed our 
path, with the peculiar bounding gait of their kind. 
At once I sprang from my horse and, kneeling, fired 
at the last and largest of the three. My bullet sped 
too far back, but struck near the hip and the crippled 
deer went slowly down a ravine. Running over 
a hillock to cut it off, I found it in some brush a 
few hundred yards beyond and finished it with a 
second ball. Quickly dressing it, I packed it on my 
horse, and trotted back leading him; an hour after- 



Hunting from the Ranch 41 

ward saw through the waning light the quaint, 
home-like outlines of the ranch house. 

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



42 The Wilderness Hunter 

and small elm or ash. In all such places the black- 
tail loves to make its home. 

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

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

During the rut, which begins in September, the 
deer are in constant motion, and are often found 
in bands. The necks of the bucks swell and their 



Hunting from the Ranch 43 

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

At this time I hunt on foot, only using the horse 
to carry me to and from the hunting-ground; for 
while rutting, the deer, being restless, do not try 
to escape observation by lying still, and on the 
other hand are apt to wander about and so are 
easily seen from a distance. When I have reached a 
favorable place I picket my horse and go from van 
tage point to vantage point, carefully scanning the 
hillsides, ravines, and brush coulies from every spot 
that affords a wide outlook. The quarry once seen 
it may be a matter of hours, or only of minutes, to 
approach it, according as the wind and cover are 
or are not favorable. The walks for many miles 
over the hills, the exercise of constant watchfulness, 
the excitement of the actual stalk, and the still 
greater excitement of the shot, combine to make 
still-hunting the blacktail, in the sharp fall weather, 



44 The Wilderness Hunter 

one of the most attractive of hardy outdoor sports. 
Then after the long, stumbling walk homeward, 
through the cool gloom of the late evening, comes 
the meal of smoking venison and milk and bread, 
and the sleepy rest, lying on the deer-skins, or sit 
ting in the rocking chair before the roaring fire, 
while the icy wind moans outside. 

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

One afternoon in mid-August, when the ranch was 



Hunting from the Ranch 45 

entirely out of meat, I started with one of my cow 
hands, Merrifield, to kill a deer. We were on a 
couple of stout, quiet ponies, accustomed to firing 
and to packing game. After riding a mile or two 
down the bottoms we left the river and struck off 
up a winding valley, which led back among the hills. 
In a short while we were in a blacktail country, and 
began to keep a sharp lookout for game, riding par 
allel to, but some little distance from, one another. 
The sun, beating down through the clear air, was 
very hot; the brown slopes of short grass, and still 
more, the white clay walls of the Bad Lands, threw 
the heat rays in our faces. We skirted closely all 
likely-looking spots, such as the heavy brush-patches 
in the bottoms of the winding valleys, and the groves 
of ash and elm in the basins and pockets flanking the 
high plateaus; sometimes we followed a cattle trail 
which ran down the middle of a big washout, and 
again we rode along the brink of a deep cedar can 
yon. After a while we came to a coulie with a small 
muddy pool at its mouth ; and round this pool there 
was much fresh deer sign. The coulie was but half 
a mile long, heading into and flanked by the spurs 
of some steep, bare hills. Its bottom, which was 
fifty yards or so across, was choked by a dense 
growth of brush, chiefly thorny bullberries, while 
the sides were formed by cut banks twelve or fifteen 
feet high. My companion rode up the middle, while 
I scrambled up one of the banks, and, dismounting, 



46 The Wilderness Hunter 

led my horse along its edge, that I might have a clear 
shot at whatever we roused. We went nearly to the 
head, and then the cowboy reined up and shouted 
to me that he "guessed there were no deer in the 
coulie." Instantly there was a smashing in the 
young trees midway between us, and I caught a 
glimpse of a blacktail buck speeding round a shoul 
der of the cut bank: and though I took a hurried 
shot I missed. However, another buck promptly 
jumped up from the same place; evidently the two 
had lain secure in their day-beds, shielded by the 
dense cover, while the cowboy rode by them, and had 
only risen when he halted and began to call to me 
across them. This second buck, a fine fellow with 
big antlers not yet clear of velvet, luckily ran up 
the opposite bank, and I got a fair shot at him as he 
galloped broadside to me along the open hillside. 
When I fired he rolled over with a broken back. As 
we came up he bleated loudly, an unusual thing for 
a buck to do. 

Now, these two bucks must have heard us com 
ing, but reckoned on our passing them by without 
seeing them; which we would have done had they 
not been startled when the cowboy halted and spoke. 
Later in the season they would probably not have 
let us approach them, but would have run as soon as 
they knew of our presence. Of course, however, 
even later in the season, a man may by chance stum 
ble across a deer close by. I remember one occa- 



Hunting from the Ranch 47 

sion when my ranch partner, Robert Munro Fergu 
son, and I almost corraled an unlucky deer in a 
small washout. 

It was October, and our meat supply unexpectedly 
gave out; on our ranch, as on most ranches, an oc 
casional meat famine of three or four days inter 
venes between the periods of plenty. So Ferguson 
and I started together, to get venison; and at the 
end of two days hard work, leaving the ranch by 
sunrise, riding to the hunting grounds and tramp 
ing steadily until dark, we succeeded. The weather 
was stormy and there were continual gusts of wind 
and of cold rain, sleet, or snow. We hunted through 
a large tract of rough and broken country, six or 
eight miles from the ranch. As often happens in 
such wild weather the deer were wild too ; they were 
watchful and were on the move all the time. We 
saw a number, but either they ran off before we 
could get a shot, or if we did fire it was at such a 
distance or under such unfavorable circumstances 
that we missed. At last, as we were plodding drear 
ily up a bare valley, the sodden mud caking round 
our shoes, we roused three deer from the mouth of 
a short washout but a few paces from us. Two 
bounded off; the third by mistake rushed into the 
washout, where he found himself in a regular 
trap and was promptly shot by my companion. 
We slung the carcass on a pole and carried it 
down to where we had left the horses; and then 



48 The Wilderness Hunter 

we loped homeward, bending to the cold, slanting 
rain. 

Although in places where it is much persecuted 
the blacktail is a shy and wary beast, the successful 
pursuit of which taxes to the uttermost the skill and 
energy of the hunter, yet, like the elk, if little mo 
lested it often shows astonishing tameness and even 
stupidity. In the Rockies I have sometimes come 
on blacktail within a very short distance, which 
would merely stare at me, then trot off a few yards, 
turn and stare again, and wait for several minutes 
before really taking alarm. What is much more ex 
traordinary, I have had the same thing happen to 
me in certain little hunted localities in the neighbor 
hood of my ranch, even of recent years. In the fall 
of 1890, I was riding down a canyon-coulie with 
my foreman, Sylvane Ferris, and a young friend 
from Boston, when we almost rode over a barren 
blacktail doe. She only ran some fifty yards, round 
a corner of the coulie, and then turned and stood 
until we ran forward and killed her for we were 
in need of fresh meat. One October, a couple of 
years before this, my cousin, West Roosevelt, and 
I took a trip with the wagon to a very wild and 
rugged country, some twenty miles from the ranch. 
We found that the deer had evidently been but little 
disturbed. One day while scrambling down a steep, 
brushy hill, leading my horse, I came close on a doe 
and fawn; they merely looked at me with curiosity 



Hunting from the Ranch 49 

for some time, and then sauntered slowly off, re 
maining within shot for at least five minutes. For 
tunately we had plenty of meat at the time, and 
there was no necessity to harm the graceful crea 
tures. A few days later we came on two bucks 
sunning themselves in the bottom of a valley. My 
companion killed one. The other was lying but a 
dozen rods off; yet it never moved, until several 
shots had been fired at the first. It was directly un 
der me, and, in my anxiety to avoid overshooting, 
to my horror I committed the opposite fault, and 
away went the buck. 

Every now and then any one will make most un 
accountable misses. A few days after thus losing 
the buck I spent nearly twenty cartridges in butcher 
ing an unfortunate yearling, and only killed it at all 
because it became so bewildered by the firing that 
it hardly tried to escape. I never could tell why I 
used so many cartridges to such little purpose. Dur 
ing the next fortnight I killed seven deer without 
making a single miss, though some of the shots were 
rather difficult. 



VOL. II. 



CHAPTER III 

THE WHITETAIL DEER ; AND THE BLACKTAIL OF THE 
COLUMBIA 

THE whitetail deer is much the commonest game 
animal of the United States, being still found, 
though generally in greatly diminished numbers, 
throughout most of the Union. It is a shrewd, 
wary, knowing beast; but it owes its prolonged stay 
in the land chiefly to the fact that it is an inveter 
ate skulker, and fond of the thickest cover. Ac 
cordingly it usually has to be killed by stealth and 
stratagem, and not by fair, manly hunting; being 
quite easily slain in any one of half a dozen un 
sportsmanlike ways. In consequence I care less for 
its chase than for the chase of any other kind of 
American big game. Yet in the few places where 
it dwells in open, hilly forests and can be killed by 
still-hunting as if it were a blacktail ; or, better still, 
where the nature of the ground is such that it can 
be run down in fair chase on horseback, either with 
greyhounds, or with a pack of trackhounds, it yields 
splendid sport. 

Killing a deer from a boat while the poor animal 
is swimming in the water, or on snowshoes as it 
flounders helplessly in the deep drifts, can only be 

(50) 



The Whitetail Deer 51 

justified on the plea of hunger. This is also true of 
lying in wait at a lick. Whoever indulges in any of 
these methods, save from necessity, is a butcher pure 
and simple, and has no business in the company of 
true sportsmen. 

Fire hunting may be placed in the same category; 
yet it is possibly allowable under exceptional cir 
cumstances to indulge in a fire hunt, if only for the 
sake of seeing the wilderness by torchlight. My 
first attempt at big-game shooting, when a boy, was 
"jacking" for deer in the Adirondacks, on a pond or 
small lake surrounded by the grand northern forests 
of birch and beech, pine, spruce, and fir. I killed a 
spike buck; and while I have never been willing to 
kill another in this manner, I can not say that I re 
gret having once had the experience. The ride over 
the glassy, black water, the witchcraft of such silent 
progress through the mystery of the night, can not 
but impress one. There is pleasure in the mere 
buoyant gliding of the birch-bark canoe, with its 
curved bow and stern; nothing else that floats pos 
sesses such grace, such frail and delicate beauty, as 
this true craft of the wilderness, which is as much 
a creature of the wild woods as the deer and bear 
themselves. The light streaming from the bark 
lantern in the bow cuts a glaring lane through the 
gloom ; in it all objects stand out like magic, shining 
for a moment white and ghastly and then vanishing 
into the impenetrable darkness; while all the time 



$i The Wilderness Hunter 

the paddler in the stern makes not so much as a rip 
ple, and there is never a sound but the occasional 
splash of a muskrat, or the moaning uloo-oo uloo- 
uloo of an owl from the deep forests; and at last 
perchance the excitement of a shot at a buck, stand 
ing at gaze, with luminous eyeballs. 

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

However, even killing driven deer may be good 
fun at certain times. Most of the whitetail we kill 
round the ranch are obtained in this fashion. On the 
Little Missouri as throughout the plains countiy 
generally these deer cling to the big \vooded river 
bottoms, while the blacktail are found in the broken 
country back from the river. The tangled mass of 
cotton woods, box-alders, and thorny bullberry bushes 
which cover the bottoms afford the deer a nearly se 
cure shelter from the still-hunter; and it is only by 
the aid of hounds that they can be driven from their 
wooded fastnesses. They hold their own better than 
any other game. The great herds of buffalo, and 
the bands of elk, have vanished completely; the 
swarms of antelope and blacktail have been wofully 
thinned; but the whitetail, which were never found 
in such throngs as either buffalo or elk, blacktail or 



The Whitetail Deer 53 

antelope, have suffered far less from the advent of 
the white hunters, ranchmen, and settlers. They 
are of course not as plentiful as formerly ; but some 
are still to be found in almost all their old haunts. 
Where the river, winding between rows of high 
buttes, passes my ranch house, there is a long suc 
cession of heavily wooded bottoms; and on all of 
these, even on the one w T hereon the house itself 
stands, there are a good many whitetail yet left. 

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

All is bustle and laughter as we start on such a 
hunt. The baying hounds bound about, as the rifles 
are taken down; the wiry ponies are roped out of 
the corral, and each broad-hatted hunter swings joy 
fully into the saddle. If the pony bucks or "acts 



54 The Wilderness Hunter 

mean" the rider finds that his rifle adds a new ele 
ment of interest to the performance, which is of 
course hailed with loud delight by all the men on 
quiet horses. Then we splash off over the river, 
scramble across the faces of the bluffs, or canter 
along the winding cattle paths, through the woods, 
until we come to the bottom we intend to hunt. 
Here a hunter is stationed at each runway along 
which it is deemed likely that the deer will pass; 
and one man, who has remained on horseback, starts 
into the cover with the hounds; occasionally this 
horseman himself, skilled, as most cowboys are, in 
the use of the revolver, gets a chance to kill a deer. 
The deep baying of the hounds speedily gives warn 
ing that the game is afoot ; and the watching hunt 
ers, who have already hid their horses carefully, look 
to their rifles. Sometimes the deer comes far ahead 
of the dogs, running very swiftly with neck stretched 
straight out; and if the cover is thick such an ani 
mal is hard to hit. At other times, especially if 
the quarry is a young buck, it plays along not very 
far ahead of its baying pursuers, bounding and strut 
ting with head up and white flag flaunting. If struck 
hard, down goes the flag at once, and the deer 
plunges into a staggering run, while the hounds yell 
with eager ferocity as they follow the bloody trail. 
Usually we do not have to drive more than one or 
two bottoms before getting a deer, which is forth 
with packed behind one of the riders, as the distance 



The Whitetail Deer 55 

is not great, and home we come in triumph. Some 
times, however, we fail to find game, or the deer take 
unguarded passes, or the shot is missed. Occa 
sionally I have killed deer on these hunts; generally 
I have merely sat still a long while, listened to the 
hounds, and at last heard somebody else shoot. In 
fact such hunting, though good enough fun if only 
tried rarely, would speedily pall if followed at all 
regularly. 

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

To shoot running game with the rifle it is always 



56 The Wilderness Hunter 

necessary to be a good and quick marksman ; for it 
is never easy to kill an animal, when in rapid mo 
tion, with a single bullet. If on a runway a man 
who is a fairly skilful rifleman has plenty of time 
for a clear shot, on open ground, at comparatively 
short distance, say under eighty yards, and if the 
deer is cantering, he ought to hit; at least I gen 
erally do under such circumstances, by remember 
ing to hold well forward, in fact just in front of the 
deer s chest. But I do not always kill by any means ; 
quite often when I thought I held far enough ahead, 
my bullet has gone into the buck s hips or loins. 
However, one great feature in the use of dogs is that 
they enable one almost always to recover wounded 
game. 

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



The Whitetail Deer 57 

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

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

On my return to the ranch I found a strange 
hunter staying there; a clean, square-built, honest- 
looking little fellow, but evidently not a native 
American. As a rule, nobody displays much curios 
ity about any one s else antecedents in the Far West ; 
but I happened to ask my foreman who the new 
comer was, chiefly because the said newcomer, 
evidently appreciating the warmth and comfort of 
the clean, roomy ranch house, with its roaring fires, 
books, and good fare, seemed inclined to make a 
permanent stay, according to the custom of the 



58 The Wilderness Hunter 

country. My foreman, who had a large way of 
.looking at questions of foreign ethnology and geog 
raphy, responded with indifference : "Oh, he s a 
kind of a Dutchman ; but he hates the other Dutch, 
mortal. He s from an island Germany took from 
France in the last war!" This seemed puzzling; 
but it turned out that the "island" in question was 
Alsace. Native Americans predominate among the 
dwellers in and on the borders of the wilderness, 
and in the wild country over which the great herds 
of the cattlemen roam; and they take the lead in 
every way. The sons of the Germans, Irish, and 
other European newcomers are usually quick to 
claim to be "straight United States," and to dis 
avow all kinship with the fellow-countrymen of their 
fathers. Once while with a hunter bearing a German 
name we came by chance on a German hunting 
party from one of the Eastern cities. One of them 
remarked to my companion that he must be part 
German himself, to which he cheerfully answered : 
"Well, my father was a Dutchman, but my mother 
was a white woman! I m pretty white myself!" 
whereat the Germans glowered at him gloomily. 

As we were out of meat the Alsatian and one of 
the cowboys and I started down the river with a 
wagon. The first day in camp it rained hard, so 
that we could not hunt. Toward evening we grew 
tired of doing nothing, and as the rain had become 
a mere fine drizzle, we sallied out to drive one of 



The Whitetail Deer 59 

the bottoms for whitetail. The cowboy and our 
one trackhound plunged into the young cottonwood 
which grew thickly over the sandy bottom; while 
the little hunter and I took our stands on a cut 
bank, twenty feet high and half a mile long, which 
hedged in the trees from behind. Three or four game 
trails led up through steep, narrow clefts in this 
bank; and we tried to watch these. Soon I saw a 
deer in an opening below, headed toward one end of 
the bank, round which another game trail led; and 
I ran hard toward this end, where it turned into a 
knife-like ridge of clay. About fifty yards from the 
point there must have been some slight irregularities 
in the face of the bank, enough to give the deer 
a foothold ; for as I ran along the animal suddenly 
bounced over the crest, so close that I could have 
hit it with my right hand. As I tried to pull up 
short and swing round, my feet slipped from under 
me in the wet clay, and down I went; while the 
deer literally turned a terrified somersault backward. 
I flung myself to the edge and missed a hurried 
shot as it raced back on its tracks. Then, wheeling, 
I saw the little hunter running toward me along 
the top of the cut bank, his face on a broad grin. 
He leaped over one of the narrow clefts, up which 
a game trail led; and hardly was he across before 
the frightened deer bolted up it, not three yards 
from his back. He did not turn, in spite of my 
shouting and handwaving, and the frightened deer, 



60 The Wilderness Hunter 

in the last stage of panic at finding itself again 
almost touching one of its foes, sped off across the 
grassy slopes like a quarter horse. When at last 
the hunter did turn, it was too late; and our long- 
range fusillade proved harmless. During the next 
two days I redeemed myself, killing four deer. 

Coming back our wagon broke down, no unusual 
incident in ranch-land, where there is often no road, 
while the strain is great in hauling through quick 
sands, and up or across steep broken hills ; it rarely 
makes much difference beyond the temporary de 
lay, for plains-men and mountain-men are very 
handy and self-helpful. Besides, a mere break 
down sinks into nothing compared to having the 
team play out; which is, of course, most apt to 
happen at the times when it ensures hardship and 
suffering, as in the middle of a snowstorm, or when 
crossing a region with no water. However, the 
reinsmen of the plains must needs face many such 
accidents, not to speak of runaways, or having the 
wagon pitchpole over on to the team in dropping 
down too steep a hillside. Once after a three days* 
rainstorm some of us tried to get the ranch wagon 
along a trail which led over the ridge of a gumbo 
or clay butte. The sticky stuff clogged our shoes, 
the horses hoofs, and the wheels; and it was even 
more slippery than it was sticky. Finally we struck 
a sloping shoulder; with great struggling, pulling, 
pushing, and shouting, we reached the middle of 



The Whitetail Deer 61 

it, and then, as one of my men remarked, "the 
whole darned outfit slid into the coulie." 

These hunting trips after deer or antelope with 
the wagon usually take four or five days. I always 
ride some tried hunting horse; and the wagon it 
self when on such a hunt is apt to lead a checkered 
career, as half the time there is not the vestige of 
a trail to follow. Moreover we often make a hunt 
when the good horses are on the round-up, or other 
wise employed, and we have to get together a scrub 
team of cripples or else of outlaws vicious devils, 
only used from dire need. The best teamster for 
such a hunt that we ever had on the ranch was a 
weather-beaten old fellow known as "Old Man 
Tompkins." In the course of a long career as 
lumberman, plains teamster, buffalo hunter, and 
Indian fighter, he had passed several years as a 
Rocky Mountain stage driver; and a stage driver 
of the Rockies is of necessity a man of such skill 
and nerve that he fears no team and no country. 
No matter how wild the unbroken horses, Old Tomp 
kins never asked help; and he hated to drive less 
than a four-in-hand. When he once had a grip on 
the reins, he let no one hold the horses heads. All 
he wished was an open plain for the rush at the 
beginning. The first plunge might take the wheel 
ers forefeet over the cross-bars of the leaders, but 
he never stopped for that; on went the team, run 
ning, bounding, rearing, tumbling, while the wagon 



62 The Wilderness Hunter 

leaped behind, until gradually things straightened 
out of their own accord. I soon found, however, 
that I could not allow him to carry a rifle; for he 
was an inveterate game butcher. In the presence 
of game the old fellow became fairly wild with ex 
citement, and forgot the years and rheumatism 
which had crippled him. Once, after a long and 
tiresome day s hunt, we were walking home to 
gether; he was carrying his boots in his hands, 
bemoaning the fact that his feet hurt him. Sud 
denly a whitetail jumped up; down dropped Old 
Tompkins s boots, and away he went like a college 
sprinter, entirely heedless of stones and cactus. By 
some indiscriminate firing at long range we dropped 
the deer; and as Old Tompkins cooled down he 
realized that his bare feet had paid full penalty for 
his dash. 

One of these wagon trips I remember because 
I missed a fair running shot which I much desired 
to hit; and afterward hit a very much more diffi 
cult shot about which I cared very little. Ferguson 
and I, with Sylvane and one or two others, had gone 
a day s journey down the river for a hunt. We 
went along the bottoms, crossing the stream every 
mile or so, with an occasional struggle through 
mud or quicksand, or up the steep, rotten banks. 
An old buffalo hunter drove the wagon, with a 
couple of shaggy, bandy-legged ponies; the rest of 
us jogged along in front on horseback, picking out 



The Whitetail Deer 63 

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

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

Early the following morning Sylvane and I 
started for another hunt, this time on horseback. 
The air was crisp and pleasant; the beams of the 
just-risen sun struck sharply on the umber-colored 



64 The Wilderness Hunter 

hills and white cliff walls guarding the river, bring 
ing into high relief their strangely carved and chan 
neled fronts. Below camp the river was little but 
a succession of shallow pools strung along the broad 
sandy bed which in spring-time was filled from bank 
to bank with foaming muddy water. Two mallards 
sat in one of these pools ; and I hit one with the rifle, 
so nearly missing that the ball scarcely ruffled a 
feather ; yet in some way the shock told, for the bird, 
after flying thirty yards, dropped on the sand. 

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

As evening grew on we rode riverward; we slid 
down the steep bluff walls, and loped across a great 
bottom of sage brush and tall grass, our horses now 
and then leaping like cats over the trunks of dead 
cottonwoods. As we came to the brink of the cut 
bank which forms the hither boundary of the river 
in freshet time, we suddenly saw two deer, a doe 
and a well grown fawn of course long out of the 



The Whitetail Deer 65 

spotted coat. They were walking with heads down 
along the edge of a sand-bar, near a pool, on the 
further side of the stream bed, over two hundred 
yards distant. They saw us at once, and turning, 
galloped away, with flags aloft, the pictures of 
springing, vigorous beauty. I jumped off my horse 
in an instant, knelt, and covered the fawn. It was 
going straight away from me, running very evenly, 
and I drew a coarse sight at the tip of the white 
flag- As I pulled trigger down went the deer, the 
ball having gone into the back of its head. The 
distance was a good three hundred yards ; and while 
of course there was much more chance than skill in 
the shot I felt well pleased with it though I could 
not help a regret that, while making such a difficult 
shot at a mere whitetail, I should have missed a 
much easier shot at a noble bighorn. Not only I, 
but all the camp, had a practical interest in my suc 
cess ; for we had no fresh meat, and a fat whitetail 
fawn, killed in October, yields the best of venison. 
So after dressing the deer I slung the carcass behind 
my saddle, and we rode swiftly back to camp through 
the dark; and that evening we feasted on the juicy 
roasted ribs. 

The degree of tameness and unsuspiciousness 
shown by whitetail deer depends, of course, upon 
the amount of molestation to which they are ex 
posed. Their times for sleeping, feeding, and com 
ing to water vary from the same cause. Where 



66 The Wilderness Hunter 

they are little persecuted they feed long after sun 
rise and before sunset, and drink when the sun is 
high in the heavens, sometimes even at midday; 
they then show but little fear of man, and speedily 
become indifferent to the presence of deserted dwell 
ings. 

In the cattle country the ranch houses are often 
shut during the months of warm weather, when the 
round-ups succeed one another without intermission, 
as the calves must be branded, the beeves gathered 
and shipped, long trips made to collect strayed ani 
mals, and the trail stock driven from the breeding 
to the fattening grounds. At that time all the men 
folk may have to be away in the white-topped wag 
ons, working among the horned herds, whether 
plodding along the trail, or wandering to and fro 
on the range. Late one summer, when my own 
house had been thus closed for many months, I 
rode thither with a friend to pass a week. The place 
already wore the look of having slipped away from 
the domain of man. The wild forces, barely thrust 
back beyond the threshold of our habitation, were 
prompt to spring across it to renewed possession 
the moment we withdrew. The rank grass grew 
tall in the yard, and on the sodded roofs of the 
stable and sheds; the weather-beaten log walls of 
the house itself were one in tint with the trunks of 
the gnarled cottonwoods by which it was shaded. 
Evidently the woodland creatures had come to re- 



The Whitetail Deer 67 

gard the silent, deserted buildings as mere out 
growths of the wilderness, no more to be feared than 
the trees around them or the gray, strangely shaped 
buttes behind. 

Lines of delicate, heart-shaped footprints in the 
muddy reaches of the half-dry river-bed showed 
where the deer came to water; and in the dusty 
cattle-trails among the ravines many round tracks 
betrayed the passing and repassing of timber wolves, 
once or twice in the late evening we listened to 
their savage and melancholy howling. Cotton-tail 
rabbits burrowed under the veranda. Within doors 
the bushy-tailed pack-rats had possession, and at 
night they held a perfect witches sabbath in the 
garret and kitchen ; while a little white- footed mouse, 
having dragged half the stuffing out of a mattress, 
had made thereof a big fluffy nest, entirely rilling 
the oven. 

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



68 The Wilderness Hunter 

dawn, in spite of the mosquitoes, but saw nothing; 
and the chances we did get we failed to profit by. 

One morning, instead of trudging out to hunt I 
stayed at home, and sat in a rocking-chair on the 
veranda reading, rocking, or just sitting still listen 
ing to the low rustling of the cottonwood branches 
overhead, and gazing across the river. Through 
the still, clear, hot air, the faces of the bluffs shone 
dazzling white; no shadow fell from the cloudless 
sky on the grassy slopes, or on the groves of timber ; 
only the faraway cooing of a mourning-dove broke 
the silence. Suddenly my attention was arrested 
by a slight splashing in the water ; glancing up from 
my book I saw three deer, which had come out of 
the thick fringe of bushes and young trees across 
the river, and were strolling along the sand-bars di 
rectly opposite me. Slipping stealthily into the house 
I picked up my rifle, and slipped back again. One 
of the deer was standing motionless, broadside to 
me ; it was a long shot, two hundred and fifty yards, 
but I had a rest against a pillar of the veranda. I 
held true, and as the smoke cleared away the deer 
lay struggling on the sands. 

As the whitetail is the most common and widely 
distributed of American game, so the Columbian 
blacktail has the most sharply limited geographical 
range; for it is confined to the northwest coast, 
where it is by far the most abundant deer. In ant- 



The Whitetail Deer 69 

lers it is indistinguishable from the common black- 
tail of the Rockies and the great plains, and it has 
the regular blacktail gait, a succession of stiff-legged 
bounds on all four feet at once; but its tail is more 
like a whitetail s in shape, though black above. As 
regards methods of hunting, and the amount of 
sport yielded, it stands midway between its two 
brethren. It lives in a land of magnificent timber, 
where the trees tower far into the sky, the giants of 
their kind ; and there are few more attractive sports 
than still-hunting on the mountains, among these 
forests of marvelous beauty and grandeur. There 
are many lakes among the mountains where it 
dwells, and as it cares more for water than the ordi 
nary blacktail, it is comparatively easy for hounds 
to drive it into some pond where it can be killed 
at leisure. It is thus often killed by hounding. 

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



CHAPTER IV 

ON THE CATTLE RANGES; THE PRONG-HORN 
ANTELOPE 

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

Most of my day at the ranch was spent in slum 
ber; for I had been several weeks on the round-up, 
where nobody ever gets quite enough sleep. This 
is the only drawback to the work; otherwise it is 
pleasant and exciting, with just that slight touch 
of danger necessary to give it zest, and without 
the wearing fatigue of such labor as lumbering or 
mining. But there is never enough sleep, at least 
on the spring and mid-summer round-ups. The 
men are in the saddle from dawn until dusk, at 
(70) 



On the Cattle Ranges 71 

the time when the days are longest on these great 
northern plains; and in addition there is the regu 
lar night guarding and now and then a furious 
storm or a stampede, when for twenty hours at a 
stretch the riders only dismount to change horses 
or snatch a mouthful of food. 

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

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

When the sun was well on high and the heat of 
the day had begun we came to a dreary and barren 
plain, broken by rows of low clay buttes. The 
ground in places was whitened by alkali ; elsewhere 
it was dull gray. Here there grew nothing save 
sparse tufts of coarse grass, and cactus, and sprawl- 



Ji The Wilderness Hunter 

ing sage brush. In the hot air all things seen afar 
danced and wavered. As I rode and gazed at the 
shimmering haze the vast desolation of the land 
scape bore on me, it seemed as if the unseen and 
unknown powers of the wastes were moving by and 
marshaling their silent forces. No man save the 
wilderness dweller knows the strong melancholy 
fascination of these long rides through lonely lands. 
At noon, that the horses might graze and drink, 
I halted where some box-alders grew by a pool in 
the bed of a half-dry creek; and shifted my saddle 
to a fresh beast. When we started again we came 
out on the rolling prairie, where the green sea of 
wind-rippled grass stretched limitless as far as the 
eye could reach. Little striped gophers scuttled 
away, or stood perfectly straight at the mouths of 
their burrows, looking like picket pins. Curlews 
clamored mournfully as they circled overhead. 
Prairie fowl swept off, clucking and calling, or 
strutted about with their sharp tails erect. Antelope 
were very plentiful, running like race-horses across 
the level, or uttering their queer, barking grunt as 
they stood at gaze, the white hairs on their rumps 
all on end, their neck bands of broken brown and 
white vivid in the sunlight. They were found sin 
gly or in small straggling parties ; the master bucks 
had not yet begun to drive out the younger and 
weaker ones as later in the season, when each would 
gather into a herd as many does as his jealous 



On the Cattle Ranges 73 

strength could guard from rivals. The nursing 
does whose kids had come early were often found 
with the bands; the others kept apart. The kids 
were very conspicuous figures on the prairies, across 
which they scudded like jack-rabbits, showing nearly 
as much speed and alertness as their parents; only 
the very young sought safety by lying flat to es 
cape notice. 

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

As soon as the work was over the men rode to 
the wagons; sinewy fellows, with tattered broad- 
brimmed hats and clanking spurs, some wearing 
leather shaps or leggings, others having their trou 
sers tucked into their high-heeled top-boots, all with 
their flannel shirts and loose neckerchiefs dusty 
and sweaty. A few were indulging in rough, good- 

4 VOL. II. 



74 The Wilderness Hunter 

natured horse play, to an accompaniment of yelling 
mirth; most were grave and taciturn, greeting me 
with a silent nod or a "How ! friend. * A very talka 
tive man, unless the acknowledged wit of the party, 
according to the somewhat florid frontier notion 
of wit, is always looked on with disfavor in a cow- 
camp. After supper, eaten in silent haste, we gath 
ered round the embers of the small fires, and the 
conversation glanced fitfully over the threadbare sub 
jects common to all such camps; the antics of some 
particularly vicious bucking bronco, how the differ 
ent brands of cattle were showing up, the smallness 
of the calf drop, the respective merits of rawhide 
lariats and grass ropes, and bits of rather startling 
and violent news concerning the fates of certain 
neighbors. Then one by one we began to turn in 
under our blankets. 

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

A few minutes before two, one of the guards 
who had gone on duty at midnight rode into camp 
and wakened us up by shaking our shoulders. Fum 
bling in the dark, I speedily saddled my horse; 



On the Cattle Ranges 75 

Latigo had left his saddled, and he started ahead 
of me. One of the annoyances of night guarding, 
at least in thick weather, is the occasional difficulty 
of finding the herd after leaving camp, or in return 
ing to carnp after the watch is over; there are few 
things more exasperating than to be helplessly wan 
dering about in the dark under such circumstances. 
However, on this occasion there was no such trouble ; 
for it was a brilliant starlight night and the herd had 
been bedded down by a sugar-loaf butte which made 
a good landmark. As we reached the spot we could 
make out the loom of the cattle lying close together 
on the level plain; and then the dim figure of a 
horseman rose vaguely from the darkness and 
moved by in silence; it was the other of the two 
midnight guards, on his way back to his broken 
slumber. 

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

For over an hour we steadily paced the endless 
round, saying nothing, with our greatcoats buttoned, 
for the air was chill toward morning on the north 
ern plains, even in summer. Then faint streaks of 
gray appeared in the east. Latigo Strap began to 
call merrily to the cattle. A coyote came sneaking 



76 The Wilderness Hunter 

over the butte nearby, and halted to yell and wail; 
afterward he crossed the coulie and from the hill 
side opposite again shrieked in dismal crescendo. 
The dawn brightened rapidly; the little skylarks of 
the plains began to sing, soaring far overhead, while 
it \vas still much too dark to see them. Their song 
is not powerful, but it is so clear and fresh and 
long-continued that it always appeals to one very 
strongly; especially because it is most often heard 
in the rose-tinted air of the glorious mornings, while 
the listener sits in the saddle, looking across the 
endless sweep of the prairies. 

As it grew lighter the cattle became restless, ris 
ing and stretching themselves, while we continued 
to ride round them. 

"Then the bronc began to pitch 

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

sang Latigo from the other side of the herd. A 
yell from the wagons told that the cook was sum 
moning the sleeping cow-punchers to breakfast; we 
were soon able to distinguish their figures as they 
rolled out of their bedding, wrapped and corded it 
into bundles, and huddled sullenly round the little 
fires. The horse-wranglers were driving in the sad 
dle bands. All the cattle got on their feet and started 
feeding. In a few minutes the hasty breakfast at 
the wagons had evidently been despatched, for we 



On the Cattle Ranges 77 

could see the men forming rope corrals into which 
the ponies were driven; then each man saddled, 
bridled, and mounted his horse, two or three of the 
half-broken beasts bucking, rearing, and plunging 
frantically in the vain effort to unseat their riders. 

The two men who were first in the saddle relieved 
Latigo and myself, and we immediately galloped to 
camp, shifted our saddles to fresh animals, gulped 
down a cup or two of hot coffee, and some pork, 
beans and bread, and rode to the spot where the 
others were gathered, lolling loosely in their saddles, 
and waiting for the round-up boss to assign them 
their tasks. We were the last, and as soon as we 
arrived the boss divided all into two parties for the 
morning work, or "circle riding," whereby the cattle 
were to be gathered for the round-up proper. Then, 
as the others started, he turned to me and remarked : 
"We ve got enough hands to drive this open country 
without you ; but we re out of meat, and I don t want 
to kill a beef for such a small outfit ; can t you shoot 
some antelope this morning? We ll pitch camp by 
the big blasted cottonwood at the foot of the ash 
coulies, over yonder, below the breaks of Dry 
Creek." 

Of course I gladly assented, and was speedily 
riding alone across the grassy slopes. There was 
no lack of the game I was after, for from every rise 
of ground I could see antelope scattered across the 
prairie, singly, in couples, or in bands. But their 



78 The Wilderness Hunter 

very numbers, joined to the lack of cover on such 
an open, flattish country, proved a bar to success ; 
while I was stalking one band another was sure to 
see me and begin running, whereat the first would 
likewise start ; I missed one or two very long shots, 
and noon found me still without game. 

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

The next one I got, a couple of hours later, of 
fered a much more puzzling stalk. He was a big 
fellow in company with four does or small bucks. 
All five were lying in the middle of a slight basin, 
at the head of a gentle valley. At first sight it 
seemed impossible to get near them, for there was 
not so much cover as a sage brush, and the smooth, 
shallow basin in which they lay was over a thou 
sand yards across, while they were looking directly 
down the valley. However, it is curious how hard 



On the Cattle Ranges 79 

it is to tell, even from nearby, whether a stalk can 
or can not be made; the difficulty being to estimate 
the exact amount of shelter yielded by little inequali 
ties of ground. In this instance a small, shallow 
watercourse, entirely dry, ran along the valley, and 
after much study I decided to try to crawl up it, al 
though the big bulging telescopic eyes of the prong- 
buck which have much keener sight than deer or 
any other game would in such case be pointed di 
rectly my way. 

Having made up my mind I backed cautiously 
down from the coign of vantage whence I had first 
seen the game, and ran about a mile to the mouth 
of a washout which formed the continuation of the 
watercourse in question. Protected by the high 
clay banks of this washout I was able to walk up 
right until within half a mile of the prong-bucks; 
then my progress became very tedious and toilsome, 
as I had to work my way up the watercourse flat on 
rny stomach, dragging the rifle beside me. At last 
I reached a spot beyond which not even a snake 
could crawl unnoticed. In front was a low bank, a 
couple of feet high, crested with tufts of coarse 
grass. Raising my head very cautiously I peered 
through these and saw the prong-horn about a hun 
dred and fifty yards distant. At the same time I 
found that I had crawled to the edge of a village 
of prairie dogs, which had already made me aware 
of their presence by their shrill yelping. They 



8o The Wilderness Hunter 

saw me at once: and all those away from their 
homes scuttled toward them, and dived down the 
burrows, or sat on the mounds at the entrances, 
scolding convulsively and jerking their fat little bod 
ies and short tails. This commotion at once at 
tracted the attention of the antelope. They rose 
forthwith, and immediately caught a glimpse of the 
black muzzle of the rifle which I was gently pushing 
through the grass tufts. The fatal curiosity which 
so often in this species offsets wariness and sharp 
sight, proved my friend ; evidently the antelope could 
not quite make me out and wished to know what I 
was. They moved nervously to and fro, striking 
the earth with their fore hoofs, and now and then 
uttering a sudden bleat. At last the big buck stood 
still broadside to me, and I fired. He went off with 
the others, but lagged behind as they passed over 
the hill crest, and when I reached it I saw him stand 
ing, not very far off, with his head down. Then he 
walked backward a few steps, fell over on his side, 
and died. 

As he was a big buck I slung him across the sad 
dle, and started for camp afoot, leading the horse. 
However, my hunt was not over, for while still a 
mile from the wagons, going down a coulie of Dry 
Creek, a yearling prong-buck walked over the divide 
to my right and stood still until I sent a bullet into 
its chest ; so that I made my appearance in camp with 
three antelope. 



On the Cattle Ranges 81 

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

The meadow-lark is a singer of a higher order, 
deserving to rank with the best. Its song has 
length, variety, power, and rich melody; and there 
is in it sometimes a cadence of wild sadness, inex 
pressibly touching. Yet I can not say that either 
song would appeal to others as it appeals to me ; for 
to me it comes forever laden with a hundred memo 
ries and associations ; with the sight of dim hills 
reddening in the dawn, with the breath of cool morn 
ing winds blowing across lonely plains, with the 
scent of flowers on the sunlit prairie, with the mo 
tion of fiery horses, with all the strong thrill of 
eager and buoyant life. I doubt if any man can 
judge dispassionately the bird songs of his own coun 
try ; he can not disassociate them from the sights and 
sounds of the land that is so dear to him. 



82 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

No one can help liking the lark ; it is such a bra ve, 
honest, cheery bird, and, moreover, its song is ut 
tered in the air, and is very long-sustained. But it 
is by no means a musician of the first rank. The 
nightingale is a performer of a very different and 
far higher order; yet though it is indeed a notable 
and admirable singer, it is an exaggeration to call 
it unequaled. In melody, and above all in that 
finer, higher melody where the chords vibrate with 
the touch of eternal sorrow, it can not rank with 
such singers as the wood-thrush and hermit-thrush. 
The serene, ethereal beauty of the hermit s song, 
rising and falling through the still evening, under 
the archways of hoary mountain forests that have 
endured from time everlasting; the golden, leisurely 
chiming of the wood-thrush, sounding on June after 
noons, stanza by stanza, through sun-fiecked groves 
of tall hickories, oaks, and chestnuts ; with these there 



On the Cattle Ranges 83 

is nothing in the nightingale s song to compare. But 
in volume and continuity, in tuneful, voluble, rapid 
outpouring and ardor, above all in skilful and intri 
cate variation of theme, its song far surpasses that 
of either of the thrushes. In all these respects it is 
more just to compare it with the mocking-bird s, 
which, as a rule, likewise falls short precisely on 
those points where the songs of the two thrushes 
excel. 

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

It was on the plantation of Major Campbell 
Brown, near Nashville, in the beautiful, fertile mid- 
Tennessee country. The mocking-birds were prime 
favorites on the place; and were given full scope 
for the development, not only of their bold friendli 
ness toward mankind, but also of that marked in 
dividuality and originality of character in which they 
so far surpass every other bird as to become the most 
interesting of all feathered folk. One of the mock- 



84 The Wilderness Hunter 

ers, which lived in the hedge bordering the garden, 
was constantly engaged in an amusing feud with 
an honest old setter clog, the point of attack being 
the tip of the dog s tail. For some reason the bird 
seemed to regard any hoisting of the setter s tail as 
a challenge and insult. It would flutter near the 
dog as he walked; the old setter would become in 
terested in something and raise his tail. The bird 
would promptly fly at it and peck the tip; where 
upon down went the tail until in a couple of minutes 
the old fellow would forget himself, and the scene 
would be repeated. The dog usually bore the as 
saults with comic resignation ; and the mocker easily 
avoided any momentary outburst of clumsy resent 
ment. 

On the evening in question the moon was full. 
My host kindly assigned me a room of which the 
windows opened on a great magnolia tree, where, 
I was told, a mocking-bird sang every night and all 
night long. I went to my room about ten. The 
moonlight was shining in through the open win 
dow, and the mocking-bird was already in the mag 
nolia. The great tree was bathed in a flood of 
shining silver; I could see each twig, and mark 
every action of the singer, who was pouring forth 
such a rapture of ringing melody as I have never 
listened to before or since. Sometimes he would 
perch motionless for many minutes, his body quiv 
ering and thrilling with the outpour of music. Then 



On the Cattle Ranges 85 

he would drop softly from twig to twig, until the 
lowest limb was reached, when he would rise, flut 
tering and leaping through the branches, his song 
never ceasing for an instant, until he reached the 
summit of the tree and launched into the warm, 
scent-laden air, floating in spirals, with outspread 
wings, until, as if spent, he sank gently back into the 
tree and down through the branches, while his song 
rose into an ecstasy of ardor and passion. His 
voice rang like a clarionet, in rich, full tones, and 
his execution covered the widest possible compass; 
theme followed theme, a torrent of music, a swell 
ing tide of harmony, in which scarcely any two bars 
were alike. I stayed till midnight listening to him ; 
he was singing when I went to sleep; he was still 
singing when I woke a couple of hours later; he 
sang through the livelong night. 

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

Yet in certain moods a man cares less for even 
the loveliest bird songs than for the wilder, harsher, 



86 The Wilderness Hunter 

stronger sounds of the wilderness; the guttural 
booming and clucking of the prairie fowl and the 
great sage fowl in spring; the honking of gangs of 
wild geese, as they fly in rapid wedges ; the bark of 
an eagle, wheeling in the shadow of storm-scarred 
cliffs; or the far-off clanging of many sand-hill 
cranes, soaring high overhead in circles which cross 
and recross at an incredible altitude. Wilder yet, 
and stranger, are the cries of the great four-footed 
beasts; the rhythmic pealing of a bull-elk s chal 
lenge; and that most sinister and mournful sound, 
ever fraught with foreboding of murder and rapine, 
the long-drawn baying of the gray wolf. 

Indeed, save to the trained ear, most mere bird 
songs are not very noticeable. The ordinary wil 
derness dweller, whether hunter or cowboy, scarcely 
heeds them; and in fact knows but little of the 
smaller birds. If a bird has some conspicuous pe 
culiarity of look or habit he will notice its existence ; 
but not otherwise. He knows a good deal about mag 
pies, whiskey jacks, or water ousels ; but nothingwhat- 
ever concerning the thrushes, finches, and warblers. 

It is the same with mammals. The prairie-dogs 
he can not help noticing. With the big pack-rats 
also he is well acquainted; for they are handsome, 
with soft gray fur, large eyes, and bushy tails; 
and, moreover, no one can avoid remarking their 
extraordinary habit of carrying to their burrows 
everything bright, useless, and portable, from an 



On the Cattle Ranges 87 

empty cartridge case to a skinning knife. But he 
knows nothing of mice, shrews, pocket gophers, or 
weasels; and but little even of some larger mam 
mals with very marked characteristics. Thus I have 
met but one or two plainsmen who knew anything 
of the curious plains ferret, that rather rare weasel- 
like animal, which plays the same part on the plains 
that the mink does by the edges of all our streams 
and brooks, and the tree-loving sable in the cold 
northern forests. The ferret makes its home in 
burrows, and by preference goes abroad at dawn 
and dusk, but sometimes even at midday. It is as 
bloodthirsty as the mink itself, and its life is one 
long ramble for prey, gophers, prairie-dogs, sage 
rabbits, jack-rabbits, snakes, and every kind of 
ground bird furnishing its food. I have known one 
to fairly depopulate a prairie-dog town, it being 
the arch foe of these little rodents, because of its 
insatiable blood lust and its capacity to follow them 
into their burrows. Once I found the bloody body 
and broken eggs of a poor prairie-hen which a fer 
ret had evidently surprised on her nest. Another 
time one of my men was eye-witness to a more re 
markable instance of the little animal s blood 
thirsty ferocity. He was riding the range, and be 
ing attracted by a slight commotion in a clump of 
grass, he turned his horse thither to look, and to 
his astonishment found an antelope fawn at the last 
gasp, but still feebly struggling, -in the grasp of a 



88 The Wilderness Hunter 

ferret, which had throttled it and was sucking its 
blood with hideous greediness. He avenged the 
murdered innocent by a dexterous blow with the 
knotted end of his lariat. 

That mighty bird of rapine, the war eagle, which 
on the great plains and among the Rockies supplants 
the bald-headed eagle of better- watered regions, is 
another dangerous foe of the young antelope. It 
is even said that under exceptional circumstances 
eagles will assail a full-grown prong-horn; and a 
neighboring ranchman informs me that he was once 
an eye-witness to such an attack. It was a bleak 
day in the late winter, and he was riding home 
across a wide dreary plateau, when he saw two 
eagles worrying and pouncing on a prong-buck 
seemingly a yearling. It made a gallant fight. The 
eagles hovered over it with spread wings, now and 
then swooping down, their talons out-thrust, to strike 
at the head, or to try to settle on the loins. The 
antelope reared and struck with hoofs and horns 
like a goat ; but its strength was failing rapidly, and 
doubtless it would have succumbed in the end had 
not the approach of the ranchman driven off the 
marauders. 

I have likewise heard stories of eagles attacking 
badgers, foxes, bob-cats, and coyotes; but I am 
inclined to think all such cases exceptional. I have 
never myself seen an eagle assail anything bigger 
than a fawn, lamb, kid, or jack-rabbit. It also 



On the Cattle Ranges 89 

swoops at geese, sage fowl, and prairie fowl. On 
one occasion while riding over the range I witnessed 
an attack on a jack-rabbit. The eagle was soaring 
overhead, and espied the jack while the latter was 
crouched motionless. Instantly the great bird 
rushed down through the humming air, with closed 
wings; checked itself when some forty yards above 
the jack, hovered for a moment, and again fell like 
a bolt. Away went long-ears, running as only a 
frightened jack can; and after him the eagle, not 
with the arrowy rush of its descent from high air, 
but with eager, hurried flapping. In a short time 
it had nearly overtaken the fugitive, when the latter 
dodged sharply to one side, and the eagle overshot 
it precisely as a greyhound would have done, stop 
ping itself by a powerful, setting motion of the great 
pinions. Twice this manoeuvre was repeated; then 
the eagle made a quick rush, caught and overthrew 
the quarry before it could turn, and in another 
moment was sitting triumphant on the quivering 
body, the crooked talons driven deep into the soft, 
furry sides. 

Once while hunting mountain sheep in the Bad 
Lands I killed an eagle on the wing with the rifle. 
I was walking beneath a cliff of gray clay, when 
the eagle sailed into view over the crest. As soon 
as he saw me he threw his wings aback, and for a 
moment before wheeling poised motionless, offering 
a nearly stationary target ; so that my bullet grazed 



90 The Wilderness Hunter 

his shoulder, and down he came through the air, 
tumbling ovei and over. As he struck the ground 
he threw himself on his back, and fought against 
his death with the undaunted courage proper to his 
brave and cruel nature. 

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

Even eagles are far less dangerous enemies to 
antelope than are wolves and coyotes. These beasts 
are always prowling round the bands to snap up the 
sick or unwary ; and in spring they revel in carnage 
of the kids and fawns. They are not swift enough 
to overtake the grown animals by sheer speed; but 
they are superior in endurance, and, especially in 
winter, often run them down in fair chase. A 
prong-buck is a plucky little beast, and when cor 
nered it often makes a gallant, though not a very 
effectual, fight. 



CHAPTER V 

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

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

(90 



92 The Wilderness Hunter 

Often I have killed prong-bucks while riding be 
tween the outlying line camps, which are usually 
stationed a dozen miles or so back from the river, 
where the Bad Lands melt into the prairie. In con 
tinually trying long shots, of course one occasional 
ly makes a remarkable hit. Once I remember while 
riding down a broad, shallow coulie with two of 
my cow-hands Seawell and Dow, both keen hunt 
ers and among the stanchest friends I have ever 
had rousing a band of antelope which stood ir 
resolute at about a hundred yards until I killed one. 
Then they dashed off, and I missed one shot, but 
with my next, to my own utter astonishment, killed 
the last of the band, a big buck, just as he topped 
a rise four hundred yards away. To offset such 
shots I have occasionally made an unaccountable 
miss. Once I was hunting with the same two men, 
on a rainy day, when we came on a bunch of ante 
lope some seventy yards off, lying down on the side 
of a coulie, to escape the storm. They huddled to 
gether a moment to gaze, and, with stiffened fingers 
I took a shot, my yellow oilskin slicker flapping 
around me in the wind and rain. Down went one 
buck, and away went the others. One of my men 
walked up to the fallen beast, bent over it, and then 
asked, "Where did you aim? Not reassured by the 
question, I answered doubtfully, "Behind the shoul 
der;" whereat he remarked dryly, "Well, you hit 
it in the eye!" I never did know whether I killed 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 93 

the antelope I aimed at or another. Yet that same 
day I killed three more bucks at decidedly long shots ; 
at the time we lacked meat at the ranch, and were out 
to make a good killing. 

Besides their brute and human foes, the prong- 
horn must also fear the elements, and especially the 
snows of winter. On the northern plains the cold 
weather is of polar severity, and turns the green, 
grassy prairies of midsummer into iron-bound 
wastes. The blizzards whirl and sweep across them 
with a shrieking fury which few living things may 
face. The snow is like fine ice dust, and the white 
waves glide across the grass with a stealthy, crawl 
ing motion which has in it something sinister and 
cruel. Accordingly, as the bright fall weather passes, 
and the dreary winter draws nigh, when the days 
shorten, and the nights seem interminable, and gray 
storms lower above the gray horizon, the antelope 
gather in bands and seek sheltered places, where 
they may abide through the winter-time of famine 
and cold and deep snow. Some of these bands travel 
for many hundred miles, going and returning over 
the same routes, swimming rivers, crossing prairies, 
and threading their way through steep defiles. Such 
bands make their winter home in places like the 
Black Hills, or similar mountainous regions, where 
the shelter and feed are good, and where in conse 
quence antelope have wintered in countless thou 
sands for untold generations. Other bands do not 



94 The Wilderness Hunter 

travel for any very great distance, but seek some 
sheltered grassy tableland in the Bad Lands, or 
some well-shielded valley, where their instinct and 
experience teach them that the snow does not lie 
deep in winter. Once having chosen such a place 
they stand much persecution before leaving it. 

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

At dawn, before our early breakfast, I saddled a 
tough, shaggy sorrel horse; hastening indoors as 
soon as the job was over, to warm my numbed 
fingers. After breakfast I started, muffled in my 
wolfskin coat, with beaver-fur cap, gloves, and 
shaps, and great felt overshoes. The windless air 
was bitter cold, the thermometer showing well be 
low zero. Snow lay on the ground, leaving bare 
pa^hes here and there, but drifted deep in the hol 
lows. Under the steel-blue heavens the atmosphere 
had a peculiar glint as if filled with myriads of tiny 
crystals. As I crossed the frozen river, immediately 
in front of the ranch house, the strangely carved 
tops of the bluffs were reddening palely in the win 
ter sunrise. Prairie fowl were perched in the bare 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 95 

cottonwoods along the river brink, showing large in 
the leafless branches ; they called and clucked to one 
another. 

Where the ground was level and the snow not too 
deep I loped, and before noon I reached the sheltered 
coulie where, with long poles and bark, the hunter 
had built his tepee- wigwam, as Eastern woodsmen 
would have called it. It stood in a loose grove of 
elms and box-alders ; from the branches of the near 
est trees hung saddles of frozen venison. The smoke 
rising from the funnel-shaped top of the tepee 
showed that there was more fire than usual within; 
it is easy to keep a good tepee warm, though it is 
so smoky that no one therein can stand upright. As 
I drew rein the skin door was pushed aside, and the 
hard old face and dried, battered body of the hunter 
appeared. He greeted me with a surly nod, and 
a brief request to "light and hev somethin to eat"- 
the invariable proffer of hospitality on the plains. 
He wore a greasy buckskin shirt or tunic, and an 
odd cap of badger skin, from beneath which strayed 
his tangled hair ; age, rheumatism, and the many ac 
cidents and incredible fatigue, hardship, and ex 
posure of his past life had crippled him, yet he still 
possessed great power of endurance, and in his 
seamed, weather-scarred face his eyes burned fierce 
and piercing as a hawk s. Ever since early manhood 
he had wandered over the plains, hunting and trap 
ping; he had waged savage private war against half 



96 The Wilderness Hunter 

the Indian tribes of the north; and he had wedded 
wives in each of the tribes of the other half. A few 
years before this time the great buffalo herds had 
vanished, and the once swarming beaver had shared 
the same fate; the innumerable horses and horned 
stock of the cattlemen, and the daring rough riders 
of the ranches, had supplanted alike the game and 
the red and white wanderers who had followed it 
with such fierce rivalry. When the change took 
place the old fellow, with failing bodily powers, 
found his life-work over. He had little taste for 
the career of the desperado, horse-thief, highway 
man and mankiller, which not a few of the old 
buffalo hunters adopted when their legitimate occu 
pation was gone; he scorned still more the life of 
vicious and idle semi-criminality led by others of 
his former companions who were of weaker mold. 
Yet he could not do regular work. His existence 
had been one of excitement, adventure, and restless 
roaming, when it was not passed in lazy ease; his 
times of toil and peril varied by fits of brutal revelry. 
He had no kin, no ties of any kind. He would 
accept no help, for his wants were very few, and he 
was utterly self-reliant. He got meat, clothing, and 
bedding from the antelope and deer he killed; the 
spare hides and venison he bartered for what little 
else he needed. So he built him his tepee in one of 
the most secluded parts of the Bad Lands, where he 
led the life of a solitary hunter, awaiting in grim 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 97 

loneliness the death which he knew to be near at 
hand. 

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

After a couple of hours rest I again started, 
and pushed out to the end of the Bad Lands. Here, 
as there had been no wind, I knew I should find in 
the snow the tracks of one of the riders from the 
line camp, whose beat lay along the edge of the 
prairie for some eight miles, until it met the beat of 
a rider from the line camp next above. As nightfall 
came on it grew even colder ; long icicles hung from 
the lips of my horse; and I shivered slightly in my 
fur coat. I had reckoned the distance ill, and it was 
dusk when I struck the trail; but my horse at once 
turned along it of his own accord and began to lope. 
Half an hour later I saw through the dark what 
looked like a spark on the side of a hill. Toward this 
my horse turned ; and in another moment a whinny 
ing from in front showed I was near the camp. The 
light was shining through a small window, the camp 
itself being a dugout with a log roof and front a 

5 VOL. II. 



98 The Wilderness Hunter 

kind of frontier building always warm in winter. 
After turning my horse into the rough log stable 
with the horses of the two cowboys, I joined the 
latter at supper inside the dugout; being received 
of course with hearty cordiality. After the intense 
cold outside the warmth within was almost oppres 
sive, for the fire was roaring in the big stone fire 
place. The bunks were broad; my two friends 
turned into one, and I was given the other, with 
plenty of bedding; so that my sleep was sound. 

We had breakfasted and saddled our horses and 
were off by dawn next morning. My companions, 
muffled in furs, started in opposite directions to ride 
their lonely beats, while I steered for my hunting- 
ground. It was a lowering and gloomy day; at 
sunrise pale, lurid sundogs hung in the glimmering 
mist; gusts of wind moaned through the ravines. 

At last I reached a row of bleak hills, and from 
a ridge looked cautiously down on the chain of 
plateaus, where I had been told I should see the 
antelope. Sure enough, there they were, to the 
number of several hundred, scattered over the level 
snow-streaked surface of the nearest and largest 
plateau, greedily cropping the thick, short grass. 
Leaving my horse tied in a hollow I speedily stalked 
up a coulie to within a hundred yards of the nearest 
band and killed a good buck. Instantly all the ante 
lope in sight ran together into a thick mass and 
raced away from me, until they went over the oppo- 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 99 

site edge of the plateau ; but almost as soon as they 
did so they were stopped by deep drifts of powdered 
snow, and came back to the summit of the tableland. 
They then circled round the edge at a gallop, and 
finally broke madly by me, jostling one another in 
their frantic haste, and crossed by a small ridge into 
the next plateau beyond; as they went by I shot a 
yearling. 

I now had all the venison I wished, and would 
shoot no more, but I was curious to see how the an 
telope would act, and so walked after them. They 
ran about half a mile, and then the whole herd, of 
several hundred individuals, wheeled into line front 
ing me, like so many cavalry, and stood motionless, 
the white and brown bands on their necks looking 
like the facings on a uniform. As I walked near 
they again broke and rushed to the end of the valley. 
Evidently they feared to leave the flats for the broken 
country beyond, where the rugged hills were riven 
by gorges in some of which snow lay deep even thus 
early in the season. Accordingly, after galloping a 
couple of times round the valley, they once more 
broke by me, at short range, and tore back along the 
plateaus to that on which I had first found them. 
Their evident and extreme reluctance to venture 
into the broken country round about made me read 
ily understand the tales I had heard of game butch 
ers killing over a hundred individuals at a time out 
of a herd so situated. 



ioo The Wilderness Hunter 

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

Late in the afternoon, as I rode over a roll in the 
prairie I saw ahead of me a sight very unusual at 
that season ; a small emigrant train going westward. 
There were three white-topped prairie schooners, 
containing the household goods, the tow-headed 
children, and the hard-faced, bony women ; the tired 
horses were straining wearily in the traces; the 
bearded, moody men walked alongside. They had 
been belated by sickness, and the others of their com 
pany had gone ahead to take up claims along the 
Yellowstone ; now they themselves were pushing for 
ward in order to reach the holdings of their friends 
before the first deep snows stopped all travel. They 
had no time to halt; for there were still two or 
three miles to go that evening before they could 
find a sheltered resting-place with fuel, grass, and 
water. A little while after passing them I turned 
in the saddle and looked back. The lonely little 
train stood out sharply on the sky-line, the wagons 
looming black against the cold red west as they 
toiled steadily onward across the snowy plains. 

Night soon fell; but I cared little, for I was on 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 101 

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

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

One October, Ferguson and I, with one of the 
cow-hands, and a friend from the East, took the 
wagon for an antelope hunt in the broken country 
between the Little Missouri and the Beaver. The 
cowboy drove the wagon to a small spring, near 
some buttes which are well distinguished by a num 
ber of fossil tree-stumps ; while the rest of us, who 
were mounted on good horses, made a circle after 
antelope. We found none, and rode on to camp, 
reaching it about the middle of the afternoon. We 



102 The Wilderness Hunter 

had noticed several columns of smoke in the south 
east, showing that prairie fires were under way; 
but we thought that they were too far off to endan 
ger our camp, and accordingly unsaddled our horses 
and sat down to a dinner of bread, beans, and coffee. 
Before we were through the smoke began to pour 
over a ridge a mile distant in such quantities that 
we ran thither with our slickers, hoping to find some 
stretch of broken ground where the grass was sparse, 
and where we could fight the fire with effect. Our 
hopes were vain. Before we reached the ridge the 
fire came over its crest, and ran down in a long 
tongue between two scoria buttes. Here the grass 
was quite short and thin, and we did our best to 
beat out the flames ; but they gradually gained on us, 
and as they reached the thicker grass lower down 
the slope, they began to roar and dart forw r ard in a 
way that bade us pay heed to our own safety. Fi 
nally they reached a winding line of brushwood in 
the bottom of the coulie; and as this burst into a 
leaping blaze we saw it was high time to look to the 
safety of our camp, and ran back to it at top speed. 
Ferguson, who had been foremost in fighting the 
fire, was already scorched and blackened. 

We were camped on the wagon trail which leads 
along the divide almost due south to Sentinel Butte. 
The line of fire was fanned by a southeasterly breeze, 
and was therefore advancing diagonally to the di 
vide. If we could drive the wagon southward on 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 103 

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

When I got back to camp Ferguson had taken 
measures for the safety of the wagon. He had 
moved it across the coulie, which at this point had 
a wet bottom, making a bar to the progress of the 
flames until they had time to work across lower 



104 The Wilderness Hunter 

down. Meanwhile we fought to keep the fire from 
entering the well-grassed space on the hither side 
of the coulie, between it and a row of scoria buttes. 
Favored by a streak of clay ground, where the grass 
was sparse, we succeeded in beating out the flame as 
it reached this clay streak, and again beating it out 
when it ran round the buttes and began to back up 
toward us against the wind. Then we recrossed 
the coulie with the wagon, before the fire swept 
up the further side; and so, when the flames passed 
by, they left us camped on a green oasis in the 
midst of a charred, smoking desert. We thus saved 
some good grazing for our horses. 

But our fight with the fire had only begun. No 
stockman will see a fire waste the range and destroy 
the winter feed of the stock without spending every 
ounce of his strength in the effort to put a stop to 
its ravages even when, as in our case, the force of 
men and horses at hand is so small as to offer only 
the very slenderest hope of success. 

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

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



Hunting the Prong-Buck 105 

we started toward the line of fire, which was work 
ing across a row of broken grassy hills, three-quar 
ters of a mile distant. Two of us were on horse 
back, dragging a half carcass, bloody side down, by 
means of ropes leading from our saddle-horns to the 
fore and hind legs; the other two followed on foot 
with slickers and wet saddle blankets. There was 
a reddish glow in the night air, and the waving, 
bending lines of flame showed in great bright curves 
against the hillside ahead of us. 

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

The fire made the horses wild, and it was not 
always easy to manage both them and the ropes, so 
as to keep the carcass true on the line. Sometimes 
there would be a slight puff of wind, and then the 
man on the grass side of the line ran the risk of 
a scorching. We w r ere blackened w r ith smoke, and 



io6 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

By midnight the half carcass was worn through ; 
but we had stifled the fire in the comparatively level 
country to the eastward. Back we went to camp, 
drank huge draughts of muddy water, devoured 
roast ox-ribs, and dragged out the other half car 
cass to fight the fire on the west. But after hours 
of wearing labor we found ourselves altogether 
baffled by the exceeding roughness of the ground. 
There was some little risk to us who were on horse 
back, dragging the carcass; we had to feel our way 
along knife-like ridges in the dark, one ahead and 
the other behind, while the steer dangled over the 
precipice on one side; and in going down the buttes 
and into the canyons only by extreme care could we 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 107 

avoid getting- tangled in the ropes and rolling down 
in a heap. Moreover the fire was in such rough 
places that the carcass could not be twitched fairly 
over it, and so we could not put it out. Before 
dawn we were obliged to abandon our fruitless ef 
forts and seek camp, stiffened and \veary. From 
a hill we looked back through the pitchy night at 
the fire we had failed to conquer. It had been 
broken into many lines by the roughness of the 
chasm-strewn and hilly country. Of these lines of 
flame some were in advance, some behind, some 
rushing forward in full blast and fury, some stand 
ing still; here and there one wheeling toward a 
flank, or burning in a semicircle, round an isolated 
hill. Some of the lines \vere flickering out; gaps 
were showing in others. In the darkness it looked 
like the rush of a mighty army, bearing triumph 
antly onward, in spite of a resistance so stubborn 
as to break its formation into many fragments and 
cause each one of them to wage its own battle for 
victory or defeat. 

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

It was late in the summer. I was with the ranch 
wagon on the way to join a round-up, and as we 
were out of meat I started for a day s hunt. Before 
leaving in the morning I helped to haul the wagon 



io8 The Wilderness Hunter 

across the river. It was fortunate I stayed, as it 
turned out. There was no regular ford where we 
made the crossing; we anticipated no trouble, as 
the water was very low, the season being dry. How 
ever, we struck a quicksand, in which the wagon set 
tled, while the frightened horses floundered help 
lessly. All the riders at once got their ropes on the 
wagon, and hauling from the saddle, finally pulled 
it through. This took time; and it was ten o clock 
when I rode away from the river, at which my horse 
and I had just drunk our last drink for over 
twenty-four hours as it turned out. 

After two or three hours ride, up winding coulies, 
and through the scorched desolation of patches of 
Bad Lands, I reached the rolling prairie. The heat 
and drought had long burned the short grass dull 
brown; the bottoms of what had been pools were 
covered with hard, dry, cracked earth. The day 
was cloudless, and the heat oppressive. There were 
many antelope, but I got only one shot, breaking 
a buck s leg; and though I followed it for a couple 
of hours I could not overtake it. By this time it 
was late in the afternoon, and I was far away from 
the river; so I pushed for a creek, in the bed of 
which I had always found pools of water, especially 
toward the head, as is usual with plains water 
courses. To my chagrin, however, they all proved 
to be dry; and though I rode up the creek bed to 
ward the head, carefully searching for any sign of 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 109 

water, night closed on me before I found any. For 
two or three hours I stumbled on, leading my horse, 
in my fruitless search; then a tumble over a cut 
bank in the dark warned me that I might as well 
stay where I was for the rest of the warm night. 
Accordingly I unsaddled the horse, and tied him to 
a sage brush ; after a while he began to feed on the 
dewy grass. At first I was too thirsty to sleep. 
Finally I fell into slumber, and when I awoke at 
dawn I felt no thirst. For an hour or two more I 
continued my search for water in the creek bed; 
then abandoned it and rode straight for the river. 
By the time we reached it my thirst had come back 
with redoubled force, my mouth was parched, and 
the horse was in quite as bad a plight; we rushed 
down to the brink, and it seemed as if we could 
neither of us ever drink our fill of the tepid, rather 
muddy water. Of course this experience was merely 
unpleasant; thirst is not a source of real danger 
in the plains country proper, whereas in the hideous 
deserts that extend from southern Idaho through 
Utah and Nevada to Arizona, it ever menaces with 
death the hunter and explorer. 

In the plains the weather is apt to be in extremes ; 
the heat is tropical, the cold arctic, and the droughts 
are relieved by furious floods. These are generally 
most severe and lasting in the spring, after the melt 
ing of the snow; and fierce local freshets follow 
the occasional cloudbursts. The large rivers then 



no The Wilderness Hunter 

become wholly impassable, and even the smaller 
are formidable obstacles. It is not easy to get cat 
tle across a swollen stream, where the current runs 
like a turbid mill-race over the bed of shifting quick 
sand. Once five of us took a thousand head of trail 
steers across the Little Missouri when the river was 
up, and it was no light task. The muddy current 
was boiling past the banks, covered with driftwood 
and foul, yellow froth, and the frightened cattle 
shrank from entering it. At last, by hard riding, 
with much loud shouting and swinging of ropes, we 
got the leaders in, and the whole herd followed. 
After them we went in our turn, the horses swim 
ming at one moment, and the next staggering and 
floundering through the quicksand. I was riding 
my pet cutting horse, Muley, which has the provok 
ing habit of making great bounds where the water 
is just not deep enough for swimming; once he al 
most unseated me. Some of the cattle were caught 
by the currents and rolled over and over; most of 
these we were able, with the help of our ropes, to 
put on their feet again; only one was drowned, or 
rather choked in a quicksand. Many swam down 
stream, and in consequence struck a difficult land 
ing, where the river ran under a cut bank ; these we 
had to haul out with our ropes. Both men and 
horses were well tired by the time the whole herd 
was across. 

Although I have often had a horse down in quick- 



Hunting the Prong-Buck in 

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

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

Toward the end of the summer of 92 I found it 
necessary to travel from my ranch to the Black Hills, 
some two hundred miles south. The ranch wagon 
went with me, driven by an all-round plainsman, a 
man of iron nerves and varied past, the sheriff of 
our county. He was an old friend of mine ; at one 
time I had served as deputy-sheriff for the northern 
end of the county. In the wagon we carried our 
food and camp kit, and our three rolls of bedding, 
each wrapped in a thick, nearly waterproof canvas 
sheet; we had a tent, but we never needed it. The 
load being light, the wagon was drawn by but a 
span of horses, a pair of wild runaways, tough, and 
good travelers. My foreman and I rode beside the 
wagon on our wiry, unkempt, unshod cattle-ponies. 



ii2 The Wilderness Hunter 

They carried us all day at a rack, pace, single-foot, 
or slow lope, varied by rapid galloping when we 
made long circles after game; the trot, the favorite 
gait with Eastern park-riders, is disliked by all peo 
ples who have to do much of their life-work in the 
saddle. 

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

Next morning the weather changed, growing 
cooler, and we left the tangle of ravines and Bad 
Lands, striking out across the vast sea-like prairies. 
Hour after hour, under the bright sun, the wagon 
drew slowly ahead, over the immense rolling 
stretches of short grass, dipping down each long 
slope until it reached the dry, imperfectly outlined 
creek bed at the bottom, wholly devoid of water 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 113 

and without so much as a shrub of wood, and then 
ascending the gentle rise on the other side until at 
last it topped the broad divide, or watershed, be 
yond which lay the shallow winding coulies of an 
other creek system. From each rise of ground we 
looked far and wide over the sunlit prairie, with its 
interminable undulations. The sicklebill curlews, 
which in spring, while breeding, hover above the 
traveling horseman with ceaseless clamor, had for 
the most part gone southward. We saw only one 
small party of half a dozen birds; they paid little 
heed to us, but piped to one another, making short 
flights, and on alighting stood erect, first spreading 
and then folding and setting their wings with a slow, 
graceful motion. Little horned larks continually ran 
along the ruts of the faint wagon track, just ahead 
of the team, and twittered plaintively as they rose, 
while flocks of long-spurs swept hither and thither, 
in fitful, irregular flight. 

My foreman and I usually rode far off to one side 
of the wagon, looking out for antelope. Of these 
we at first saw few, but they grew more plentiful as 
we journeyed onward, approaching a big, scantily 
wooded creek, where I had found the prong-horn 
abundant in previous seasons. They were very wary 
and watchful whether going singly or in small par 
ties, and the lay of the land made it exceedingly diffi 
cult to get within range. The last time I had hunted 
in this neighborhood was in the fall, at the height 



H4 The Wilderness Hunter 

of the rutting season. Prong-bucks, even more than 
other game, seem fairly maddened by erotic excite 
ment. At the time of my former hunt they were in 
ceaseless motion ; each master buck being incessantly 
occupied in herding his harem, and fighting would- 
be rivals, while single bucks chased single does as 
greyhounds chase hares, or else, if no does were in 
sight, from sheer excitement ran to and fro as if 
crazy, racing at full speed in one direction, then halt 
ing, wheeling, and tearing back again just as hard 
as they could go. 

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

I was finally helped to success by a characteristic 
freak of the game I was following. No other ani 
mals are as keen-sighted, or are normally as wary 
as prong-horns ; but no others are so whimsical and 
odd in their behavior at times, or so subject to fits 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 115 

of the most stupid curiosity and panic. Late in the 
afternoon, on topping a rise I saw two good bucks 
racing off about three hundred yards to one side; I 
sprang to the ground, and fired three shots at them 
in vain, as they ran like quarter horses until they 
disappeared over a slight swell. In a minute, how 
ever, back they came, suddenly appearing over the 
crest of the same swell, immediately in front of me, 
and, as I afterward found by pacing, some three 
hundred and thirty yards away. They stood side 
by side facing me, and remained motionless, unheed 
ing the crack of the Winchester ; I aimed at the right- 
hand one, but a front shot of the kind, at such a 
distance, is rather difficult, and it was not until I 
fired for the fourth time that he sank back out of 
sight. I could not tell whether I had killed him, 
and took two shots at his mate, as the latter went 
off, but without effect. Running forward, I found 
the first one dead, the bullet having gone through 
him lengthwise ; the other did not seem satisfied even 
yet, and kept hanging round in the distance for some 
minutes, looking at us. 

I had thus bagged one prong-buck, as the net out 
come of the expenditure of fourteen cartridges. 
This was certainly not good shooting; but neither 
was it as bad as it would seem to the man inexpe 
rienced in antelope hunting. When fresh meat is 
urgently needed, and when time is too short, the 
hunter who is after antelope in an open, flattish coun- 



n6 The Wilderness Hunter 

try must risk many long shots. In no other kind 
of hunting is there so much long-distance shooting, 
or so many shots fired for every head of game 
bagged. 

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



Hunting the Prong-Buck 117 

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

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



n8 The Wilderness Hunter 

pulled trigger, and away he went; but I could see 
that his race was nearly run, and he fell after going 
a few hundred yards. 

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

Next morning we drove to the river, and kept 
near it for several days, most of the time following 
the tracks made by the heavy wagons accompanying 
the trail herds this being one of the regular routes 
followed by the great throng of slow-moving cattle 
yearly driven from the south. At other times we 
made our own road. Twice or thrice we passed 
ranch houses; the men being absent on the round 
up, they were shut, save one which was inhabited by 
two or three lean Texan cow-punchers, with sun 
burned faces and reckless eyes, who had come up 
with a trail herd from the Cherokee strip. Once, 
near the old Sioux crossing, where the Dakota war 
bands used to ford the river on their forays against 
the Crows and the settlers along the Yellowstone? 
we met a large horse herd. The tough, shabby, 
tired-looking animals, one or two of which were 



Hunting the Prong-Buck 119 

loaded with bedding and a scanty supply of food, 
were driven by three travel- worn, hard-faced men, 
with broad hats, shaps, and long pistols in their 
belts. They had brought the herd over plain and 
mountain pass all the way from far distant Oregon. 

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

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



120 The Wilderness Hunter 

neatly taken off, the remaining shots representing 1 
spoiled birds and misses. 

For the last sixty or seventy miles of our trip 
we left the river and struck off across a great, deso 
late gumbo prairie. There was no game, no wood 
for fuel, and the rare water-holes were far 
apart, so that we were glad when, as we toiled 
across the monotonous succession of long, swelling 
ridges, the dim, cloud-like mass, looming vague and 
purple on the rim of the horizon ahead of us, gradu 
ally darkened and hardened into the bold outline of 
the Black Hills. 



CHAPTER VI 

AMONG THE HIGH HILLS; TPIE BIGHORN OR MOUN 
TAIN SHEEP 

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

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

(121) VOL. II. 

6 



122 The Wilderness Hunter 

horsemen. Soon after nightfall we lay down, in a 
log hut or tent, if at a line camp ; under the open sky, 
if with the round-up wagon. 

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

During the summer in question, I once or twice 
shot a whitetail buck right on this large bottom; 



Among the High Hills 123 

once or twice I killed a blacktail in the hills behind, 
not a mile from the ranch house. Several times 
I killed and brought in prong-bucks, rising before 
dawn, and riding off on a good horse for an all 
day s hunt in the rolling prairie country twelve or 
fifteen miles away. Occasionally I took the wagon 
and one of the men, driving to some good hunting 
ground and spending a night or two; usually return 
ing with two or three prong-bucks, and once with an 
elk but this was later in the fall. Not infrequently 
I went away by myself on horseback for a couple 
of days, when all the men were on the round-up, 
and when I wished to hunt thoroughly some coun 
try quite a distance from the ranch. I made one 
such hunt in late August, because I happened to 
hear that a small bunch of mountain sheep were 
haunting a tract of very broken ground, with high 
hills, about fifteen miles away. 

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

I rode more than six hours before reaching a good 
spot to camp. At first my route lay across grassy 



124 The Wilderness Hunter 

plateaus, and along smooth wooded coulies; but 
after a few miles the ground became very rugged 
and difficult. At last I got into the heart of the Bad 
Lands proper, where the hard, wrinkled earth was 
torn into shapes as sullen and grotesque as those of 
dreamland. The hills rose high, their barren flanks 
carved and channeled, their tops mere needles and 
knife crests. Bands of black, red, and purple varied 
the gray and yellow-brown of their sides ; the tufts 
of scanty vegetation were dull green. Sometimes 
I rode my horse at the bottom of narrow washouts, 
between straight walls of clay, but a few feet apart ; 
sometimes I had to lead him as he scrambled up, 
down, and across the sheer faces of the buttes. The 
glare from the bare clay walls dazzled the eye; the 
air was burning under the hot August sun. I saw 
nothing living except the rattlesnakes, of which there 
were very many. 

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



Among the High Hills 125 

happened early, for the valley was very narrow and 
the hills on either hand were steep and high. 

Springing to my feet, I climbed the nearest ridge, 
and then made my way, by hard clambering, from 
peak to peak and from crest to crest, sometimes 
crossing and sometimes skirting the deep washouts 
and canyons. When possible I avoided appearing 
on the sky-line, and I moved with the utmost cau 
tion, walking in a wide sweep so as to hunt across 
and up wind. There was much sheep sign, some of 
it fresh, though I saw none of the animals them 
selves ; the square slots, with the indented marks of 
the toe points wide apart, contrasting strongly with 
the heart-shaped and delicate footprints of deer. 
The animals had, according to their habit, beaten 
trails along the summits of the higher crests; little 
side trails leading to any spur, peak, or other van 
tage-point from which there was a wide outlook 
over the country roundabout. 

The bighorns of the Bad Lands, unlike those of 
the mountains, shift their range but little, winter or 
summer. Save in the breeding season, when each 
master ram gets together his own herd, the ewes, 
lambs, and yearlings are apt to go in bands by them 
selves, while the males wander in small parties ; now 
and then a very morose old fellow lives by himself, 
in some precipitous, out-of-the-way retreat. The 
rut begins with them much later than with deer ; the 
exact time varies with the locality, but it is always 



126 The Wilderness Hunter 

after the bitter winter weather has set in. Then the 
old rams fight fiercely together, and on rare occa 
sions utter a long grunting bleat or call. They are 
marvelous climbers, and dwell by choice always 
among cliffs and jagged, broken ground, whether 
wooded or not. An old bighorn ram is heavier than 
the largest buck ; his huge, curved horns, massive yet 
supple build, and proud bearing mark him as one of 
the noblest beasts of the chase. He is wary; great 
skill and caution must be shown in approaching 
him; and no one but a good climber, with a steady 
head, sound lungs, and trained muscles, can success 
fully hunt him in his own rugged fastnesses. The 
chase of no other kind of American big game ranks 
higher, or more thoroughly tests the manliest quali 
ties of the hunter. 

I walked back to camp in the gloaming, taking 
care to reach it before it grew really dark; for in 
the Bad Lands it is entirely impossible to travel, or 
to find any given locality, after nightfall. Old Mani- 
tou had eaten his fill and looked up at me with 
pricked ears, and wise, friendly face as I climbed 
down the side of the cedar canyon; then he came 
slowly toward me to see if I had not something for 
him. I rubbed his soft nose and gave him a cracker ; 
then I picketed him to a solitary cedar, where the 
feed was good. Afterward I kindled a small fire, 
roasted both prairie fowl, ate one, and put the other 
by for breakfast; and soon rolled myself in my 



Among the High Hills 127 

blanket, with the saddle for a pillow, and the oilskin 
beneath. Manitou was munching the grass nearby. 
I lay just outside the line of stiff black cedars ; the 
night air was soft in my face; I gazed at the shining 
and brilliant multitude of stars until my eyelids 
closed. 

The chill breath which comes before dawn awak 
ened me. It was still and dark. Through the 
gloom I could indistinctly make out the loom of 
the old horse, lying down. I was speedily ready, 
and groped and stumbled slowly up the hill, and then 
along its creast to a peak. Here I sat clown and 
waited a quarter of an hour or so, until gray ap 
peared in the east, and the dim light-streaks enabled 
me to walk further. Before sunrise I was two miles 
from camp; then I crawled cautiously to a high 
ridge and, crouching behind it, scanned all the land 
scape eagerly. In a few minutes a movement about 
a third of a mile to the right, midway down a hill, 
caught my eye. Another glance showed me three 
white specks moving along the hillside. They were 
the white rumps of three fine mountain sheep, on 
their way to drink at a little alkaline pool in the 
bottom of a deep, narrow valley. In a moment they 
went out of sight round a bend of the valley; and I 
rose and trotted briskly toward them, along the 
ridge. There were two or three deep gullies to 
cross, and a high shoulder over which to clamber; 
so I was out of breath when I reached the bend be- 



128 The Wilderness Hunter 

yond which they had disappeared. Taking advan 
tage of a scrawny sage brush as cover I peeped over 
the edge, and at once saw the sheep, three big young 
rams. They had finished drinking and were stand 
ing beside the little miry pool, about three hundred 
yards distant. Slipping back I dropped down into the 
bottom of the valley, where a narrow washout zig 
zagged from side to side, between straight walls of 
clay. The pool was in the upper end of this wash 
out, under a cut bank. 

An indistinct game trail, evidently sometimes 
used by both bighorn and blacktail, ran up this 
washout; the bottom w r as of clay so that I walked 
noiselessly; and the crookedness of the washout s 
course afforded ample security against discovery by 
the sharp eyes of the quarry. In a couple of min 
utes I stalked stealthily round the last bend, my rifle 
cocked and at the ready, expecting to see the rams 
by the pool. However, they had gone, and the 
muddy water was settling in their deep hoof marks. 
Running on I looked over the edge of the cut bank 
and saw them slowly quartering up the hillside, 
cropping the sparse tufts of coarse grass. I whis 
tled, and as they stood at gaze I put a bullet into the 
biggest, a little too far aft of the shoulder, but rang 
ing forward. He raced after the others, but soon fell 
behind, and turned off on his own line, at a walk, 
with dropping head. As he bled freely I followed 
his tracks, found him, very sick, in a washout a quar- 



Among the High Hills 129 

ter of a mile beyon * and finished him with another 
shot. After dressing him, and cutting off the sad 
dle and hams, as well as the head, I walked back to 
camp, breakfasted, and rode Manitou to where the 
sheep lay. Packing it securely behind the saddle, 
and shifting the blanket roll to in front of the saddle- 
horn, I led the horse until we were clear of the Bad 
Lands ; then mounted him, and was back at the ranch 
soon after midday. The mutton of a fat young 
mountain ram, at this season of the year, is deli 
cious. 

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

Once a lucky stalk and shot at a bighorn was 
almost all that redeemed a hunt in the Rockies from 
failure. I was high among the mountains at the 
time, but was dogged by ill luck; I had seen but 
little, and I had not shot very well. One morning I 
rose early, and hunted steadily until midday with 
out seeing anything. A mountain hunter was with 
me. At noon we sat down to rest, and look over the 
country, from behind a shield of dwarf evergreens 
on the brink of a mighty chasm. The rocks fell 
downward in huge cliffs, stern and barren ; from far 



130 The Wilderness Hunter 

below rose the strangled roaring of the torrent, as 
the foaming masses of green and white water 
churned round the bowlders in the stream bed. Ex 
cept this humming of the wild water, and the sough 
ing of the pines, there was no sound. We were 
sitting on a kind of jutting promontory of rock so 
that we could scan the cliffs far and near. First I 
took the glasses and scrutinized the ground almost 
rod by rod, for nearly half an hour; then my com 
panion took them in turn. It is very hard to make 
out game, especially when lying down, and still; 
and it is curious to notice how, after fruitlessly scan 
ning a country through the glasses for a consider 
able period, a herd of animals will suddenly appear 
in the field of vision as if by magic. In this case, 
while my companion held the glasses for the second 
time, a slight motion caught his eye; and looking 
attentively he made out, five or six hundred yards 
distant, a mountain ram lying among some loose 
rocks and small bushes at the head of a little grassy 
cove or nook, in a shallow break between two walls 
of the cliff. So well did the bluish gray of its 
body harmonize in tint with the rocks and shrub 
bery that it was some time before I could see it, 
even when pointed out to me. 

The wind was favorable, and we at once drew 
back and began a cautious stalk. It was impos 
sible, owing to the nature of the cliffs above and 
below the bighorn s resting-place, to get a shot save 



Among the High Hills 131 

by creeping along nearly on a level with him. Ac 
cordingly we worked our way down through a big 
cleft in the rocks, being forced to go very slowly 
and carefully lest we should start a loose stone ; and 
at last reached a narrow terrace of rock and grass 
along which we walked comparatively at our ease. 
Soon it dwindled away, and we then had to do our 
only difficult piece of climbing a clamber for fifty 
or sixty feet across a steep cliff shoulder. Some 
little niches and cracks in the rock and a few pro 
jections and diminutive ledges on its surface, barely 
enabled us to swarm across, with painstaking care 
not merely to avoid alarming the game this time, 
but also to avoid a slip which would have proved 
fatal. Once across we came on a long, grassy shelf, 
leading round a shoulder into the cleft where the 
ram lay. As I neared the end I crept forward on 
hands and knees, and then crawled flat, shoving the 
rifle ahead of me, until I rounded the shoulder and 
peered into the rift. As my eyes fell on the ram he 
sprang to his feet, with a clatter of loose stones, and 
stood facing me, some sixty yards off, his dark face 
and white muzzle brought out finely by the battered, 
curved horns. I shot into his chest, hitting him in 
the sticking place; and after a few mad bounds he 
tumbled headlong, and fell a very great distance, 
unfortunately injuring one horn. 

When much hunted, bighorn become the wariest 
of all American game, and their chase is then pe- 



132 The Wilderness Hunter 

culiarly laborious and exciting. But where they 
have known nothing of men, not having been mo 
lested by hunters, they are exceedingly tame. Pro 
fessor John Bach McMaster informs me that in 
1877 he penetrated to the Uintah Mountains of 
Wyoming, which were then almost unknown to 
hunters; he found all the game very bold, and the 
wild sheep in particular so unsuspicious that he 
could walk up to within short rifle range of them 
in the open. 

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



CHAPTER VII 
MOUNTAIN GAME; THE WHITE GOAT 

T ATE one August I started on a trip to the Big 
J Hole Basin, in western Montana, to hunt white 
goats. With me went a friend of many hunts, John 
Willis, a tried mountain man. 

We left the railroad at the squalid little hamlet 
of Divide, where we hired a team and wagon from 
a "busted" granger, suspected of being a Mormon, 
who had failed, even with the help of irrigation, in 
raising a crop. The wagon was in fairly good or 
der; the harness was rotten, and needed patching 
with ropes ; while the team consisted of two spoiled 
horses, overworked and thin, but full of the devil 
the minute they began to pick up condition. How 
ever, on the frontier one soon grows to accept little 
facts of this kind with bland indifference ; and Wil 
lis was not only an expert teamster, but possessed 
that inexhaustible fertility of resource and unfail 
ing readiness in an emergency so characteristic of 
the veteran of the border. Through hard experi 
ence he had become master of plainscraft and wood 
craft, skilled in all frontier lore. 

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

(i33) 



134 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

Finally we reached the neighborhood of the Battle 
Ground, where a rude stone monument commemo 
rates the bloody drawn fight between General Gib 
bons soldiers and the Nez Perces warriors of Chief 
Joseph. Here, on the third day of our journey, we 
left the beaten road and turned toward the moun 
tains, following an indistinct trail made by wood- 
choppers. We met with our full share of the usual 
mishaps incident to prairie travel ; and toward even- 



Mountain Game 135 

ing our team got mired in crossing a slough. We 
attempted the crossing with some misgivings, which 
were warranted by the result ; for the second plunge 
of the horses brought them up to their bellies in the 
morass, where they stuck. It was freezing cold, 
with a bitter wind blowing, and the bog holes were 
skimmed with ice; so that we passed a thoroughly 
wretched two hours while freeing the horses and un 
loading the wagon. However, we eventually got 
across; my companion preserving an absolutely un 
ruffled temper throughout, perseveringly whistling 
the "Arkansaw Traveler." At one period, when we 
were up to our waists in the icy mud, it began to 
sleet and hail, and I muttered that I would "rather 
it didn t storm"; whereat he stopped whistling for 
a moment to make the laconic rejoinder, "We re 
not having our rathers this trip." 1 

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

Early next morning we struck camp, shivering 
with cold as we threw the stiff, frozen harness on 
the horses. We soon got among the foothills, where 
the forest was open and broken by large glades, 



136 The Wilderness Hunter 

forming what is called a park country. The higher 
we went the smaller grew the glades and the denser 
the woodland; and it began to be very difficult to 
get the wagon forward. In many places one man 
had to go ahead to pick out the way and if neces 
sary do a little chopping and lopping with the axe, 
while the other followed driving the team. At last 
we were brought to a standstill, and pitched camp 
beside a rapid, alder-choked brook in the uppermost 
of a series of rolling glades, hemmed in by moun 
tains and the dense coniferous forest. Our tent 
stood under a grove of pines, close to the brook; 
at night we built in front of it a big fire of crackling, 
resinous logs. Our goods were sheltered by the 
wagon, or covered with a tarpaulin ; we threw down 
sprays of odorous evergreens to make a resting- 
place for our bedding; we built small scaffolds on 
which to dry the flesh of elk and deer. In an hour 
or two we had round us all the many real comforts 
of such a little wilderness home. 

Whoever has long roamed and hunted in the wil 
derness always cherishes with wistful pleasure the 
memory of some among the countless camps he has 
made. The camp by the margin of the clear, moun 
tain-hemmed lake; the camp in the dark and mel 
ancholy forest, where the gusty wind booms through 
the tall pine tops; the camp under gnarled cotton- 
woods, on the bank of a shrunken river, in the 
midst of endless grassy prairies, of these, and 



Mountain Game 137 

many like them, each has had its own charm. Of 
course in hunting one must expect much hardship 
and repeated disappointment; and in many a camp, 
bad weather, lack of shelter, hunger, thirst, or ill 
success with game, renders the days and nights irk 
some and trying. Yet the hunter worthy of the 
name always willingly takes the bitter if by so doing 
he can get the sweet, and gladly balances failure and 
success, spurning the poorer souls who know neither. 

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

There were elk and deer in the neighborhood; 
also ruffed, blue, and spruce grouse; so that our 
camp was soon stocked with meat. Early one morn 
ing while Willis was washing in the brook, a little 



ij 8 The Wilderness Hunter 

black bear thrust its sharp nose through the alders a 
few feet from him, and then hastily withdrew and 
was seen no more. The smaller wild-folk were more 
familiar. As usual in the northern mountains, the 
gray moose-birds and voluble, nervous little chip 
munks made themselves at home in the camp. 
Parties of chickadees visited us occasionally. A 
family of flying squirrels lived overhead in the 
grove; and at nightfall they swept noiselessly from 
tree to tree, in long, graceful curves. There were 
sparrows of several kinds moping about in the 
alders; and now and then one of them would sing 
a few sweet, rather mournful bars. 

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

All the first day we tramped through dense woods 
and across and around steep mountain spurs. We 
caught glimpses of two or three deer and a couple 
of elk, all does or fawns, however, which we made 
no effort to molest. Late in the afternoon we 
stumbled across a family of spruce grouse, which 
furnished us material for both supper and break 
fast. The mountain men call this bird the fool- 



Mountain Game 139 

hen; and most certainly it deserves the name, 
The members of this particular flock, consisting of 
a hen and her three-parts grown chickens, acted 
with a stupidity unwonted even for their kind. They 
were feeding on the ground among some young 
spruce, and on our approach flew up and perched 
in the branches four or five feet above our heads. 
There they stayed, uttering a low, complaining 
whistle, and showed not the slightest suspicion when 
we came underneath them with long sticks and 
knocked four off their perches for we did not wish 
to alarm any large game that might be in the neigh 
borhood by firing. One particular bird was par 
tially saved from my first blow by the intervening 
twigs ; however, it merely flew a few yards, and then 
sat with its bill open, having evidently been a 
little hurt, until I came up and knocked it over with 
a better directed stroke. 

Spruce grouse are plentiful in the mountain for 
ests of the northern Rockies, and, owing to the ease 
with which they are killed, they have furnished me 
my usual provender when off on trips of this kind, 
where I carried no pack. They are marvelously 
tame and stupid. The young birds are the only ones 
I have ever killed in this manner with a stick; but 
even a full plumaged old cock in September is easily 
slain with a stone by any one who is at all a good 
thrower. A man who has played much base-ball 
need never use a gun when after spruce grouse. 



140 The Wilderness Hunter 

They are the smallest of the grouse kind; the cock 
is very handsome, with red eyebrows and dark, 
glossy plumage. Moreover, he is as brave as he is 
stupid and good-looking, and in the love season 
becomes fairly crazy : at such time he will occasion 
ally make a feint of attacking a man, strutting, 
fluttering, and ruffling his feathers. The flesh of 
the spruce grouse is not so good as that of his ruffed 
and blue kinsfolk; and in winter, when he feeds on 
spruce buds, it is ill tasting. I have never been able 
to understand why closely allied species, under ap 
parently the same surroundings, should differ so 
radically in such important traits as wariness and 
capacity to escape from foes. Yet the spruce grouse 
in this respect shows the most marked contrast to the 
blue grouse and the ruffed grouse. Of course all 
three kinds vary greatly in their behavior according 
as they do or do not live in localities where they 
have been free from man s persecutions. The ruffed 
grouse, a very wary game bird in all old-settled 
regions, is often absurdly tame in the wilderness; 
and under persecution even the spruce grouse gains 
some little wisdom; but the latter never becomes as 
wary as the former, and under no circumstances 
is it possible to outwit the ruffed grouse by such 
clumsy means as serve for his simple-minded broth 
er. There is a similar difference between the sage 
fowl and prairie fowl, in favor of the latter. It 
is odd that the largest and the smallest kinds of 



Mountain Game 141 

grouse found in the United States should be the 
tamest; and also the least savory. 

After tramping all day through the forest, at 
nightfall we camped in its upper edge, just at the 
foot of the steep rock walls of the mountain. We 
chose a sheltered spot, where the small spruce grew 
thick, and there was much dead timber; and as the 
logs, though long, were of little girth, we speedily 
dragged together a number suffcient to keep the 
fire blazing all night. Having drunk our full at a 
brook we cut two forked willow sticks, and then 
each plucked a grouse, split it, thrust the willow-fork 
into it, and roasted it before the fire. Besides this 
we had salt, and bread; moreover we were hungry 
and healthily tired; so the supper seemed, and 
was, delicious. Then we turned up the collars 
of our jackets, and lay down, to pass the night 
in broken slumber; each time the fire died down 
the chill waked us., and we rose to feed it with 
fresh logs. 

At dawn we rose, and cooked and ate the two re 
maining grouse. Then we turned our faces upward, 
and passed a day of severe toil in climbing over the 
crags. Mountaineering is very hard work; and 
when we got high among the peaks, where snow 
filled the rifts, the thinness of the air forced me to 
stop for breath every few hundred yards of the as 
cent. We found much sign of white goats, but in 
spite of steady work and incessant careful scanning 



142 The Wilderness Hunter 

of the rocks, we did not see our quarry until early 
in the afternoon. 

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

A moment or two passed before I got my eyes on 
it. We were looking down into a basin-like valley, 
surrounded by high mountain chains. At one end 
of the basin was a low pass, where the ridge was 
cut up with the zigzag trails made by the countless 
herds of game which had traveled it for many gen 
erations. At the other end was a dark gorge, 
through which a stream foamed. The floor of the 
basin was bright emerald green, dotted with darker 
bands where belts of fir trees grew; and in its mid 
dle lay a little lake. 

At last I caught sight of the goat, feeding on a 



Mountain Game 143 

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

Hardly had I fired my fourth shot when my com 
panion again exclaimed, "Look at the white goats! 
look at the white goats !" Glancing in the direction 
in which he pointed I speedily made out four more 
goats standing in a bunch rather less than a hun 
dred yards off, to one side of my former line of fire. 
They were all looking up at me. They stood on a 
slab of white rock, with which the color of their 
fleece harmonized well ; and their black horns, muz 
zles, eyes, and hoofs looked like dark dots on a 
light-colored surface, so that it took me more than 
one glance to determine what they were. White 
goat invariably run up hill when alarmed, their one 
idea seeming to be to escape danger by getting above 



144 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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



Mountain Game 145 

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

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

We broiled our two grouse before our fire, 
dragged plenty of logs into a heap beside it, and 
then lay down to sleep fitfully, an hour or so at a 
time, throughout the night. We were continually 
wakened by the cold, when we had to rise and feed 
the flames. In the early morning we again started, 
walking for some time along the fresh trail made by 
a large band of elk, cows and calves. We thought 
we knew exactly the trend and outlet of the valley 
in which we were, and that therefore we could tell 

7 VOL. II. 



146 The Wilderness Hunter 

where the camp was ; but, as so often happens in the 
wilderness, we had not reckoned aright, having 
passed over one mountain spur too many, and en 
tered the ravines of an entirely different watercourst- 
system. In consequence we became entangled in a 
network of hills and valleys, making circle after 
circle to find our bearings; and we only reached 
camp after twelve hours tiresome tramp without 
food. 

On another occasion I shot a white goat while it 
was in a very curious and characteristic attitude. 
I was hunting, again with an old mountain man as 
my sole companion, among the high mountains of 
the Kootenai country, near the border of Montana 
and British Columbia. We had left our main camp, 
pitched by the brink of the river, and were strug 
gling wearily on foot through the tangled forest and 
over the precipitous mountains, carrying on our 
backs light packs, consisting of a little food and 
two or three indispensable utensils, wrapped in our 
blankets. One day we came to the foot of a great 
chain of bare rocks, and climbed laboriously to its 
crest, up cliff after cliff, some of which were almost 
perpendicular. Swarming round certain of the rock 
shoulders, crossing an occasional sheer chasm, and 
in many places clinging to steep, smooth walls by 
but slight holds, we reached the top. The climbing 
at such a height was excessively fatiguing; more 
over, it was in places difficult and even dangerous. 



Mountain Game 147 

Of course it was not to be compared to the ascent 
of towering, glacier-bearing peaks, such as those of 
the Selkirks and Alaska, where climbers must be 
roped to one another and carry ice axes. 

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

When I peeped over the little ridge of rock, shov 
ing my rifle carefully ahead of me, I found that the 
goats had finished feeding and were preparing to 
leave the slope. The old billy saw me at once, but 
evidently could not quite make me out. Thereupon, 
gazing intently at me, he rose gravely on his 
haunches, sitting up almost in the attitude of a dog 



148 The Wilderness Hunter 

when begging. I know no other horned animal that 
ever takes this position. 

As I fired he rolled backward, slipped down the 
grassy slope, and tumbled over the brink of the 
cliff, while the other two, a she and a kid, after a 
moment s panic-struck pause, and a bewildered rush 
in the wrong direction, made off up a little rocky 
gully, and were out of sight in a moment. To my 
chagrin when I finally reached the carcass, after a 
tedious and circuitous climb to the foot of the cliff, 
I found both horns broken off. 

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

While descending the mountain we came on a lit 
tle pack of snow grouse or mountain ptarmigan, 
birds which, save in winter, are always found above 
timber line. They were tame and fearless, though 
hard to make out as they ran among the rocks, 



Mountain Game 149 

cackling noisily, with their tails cocked aloft; and 
we had no difficulty in killing four, which gave us 
a good breakfast and supper. Old white goats are 
intolerably musky in flavor, there being a very large 
musk-pod between the horn and ear. The kids are 
eatable, but of course are rarely killed; the shot 
being usually taken at the animal with best horns 
and the shes and young of any game should only 
be killed when there is a real necessity. 

These two hunts may be taken as samples of most 
expeditions after white goat. There are places 
where the goats live in mountains close to bodies 
of water, either ocean fiords or large lakes; and in 
such places canoes can be used, to the greatly in 
creased comfort and lessened labor of the hunters. 
In other places, where the mountains are low and 
the goats spend all the year in the timber, a pack- 
train can be taken right up to the hunting grounds. 
But generally one must go on foot, carrying every 
thing on one s back, and at night lying out in the 
open or under a brush lean-to ; meanwhile living on 
spruce grouse and ptarmigan, with an occasional 
meal of trout, and in times of scarcity squirrels, or 
anything else. Such a trip entails severe fatigue 
and not a little hardship. The actual hunting, also, 
implies difficult and laborious climbing, for the goats 
live by choice among the highest and most inacces 
sible mountains; though where they are found, as 
they sometimes are, in comparatively low forest- 



150 The Wilderness Hunter 

clad ranges, I have occasionally killed them with 
little trouble by lying in wait beside the well-trodden 
game trails they make in the timber. 

In any event the hard work is to get up to the 
grounds where the game is found. Once the ani 
mals are spied there is but little call for the craft of 
the still-hunter in approaching them. Of all Amer 
ican game the white goat is the least wary and most 
stupid. In places where it is much hunted it of 
course gradually grows wilder and becomes diffi 
cult to approach and kill ; and much of its silly tame- 
ness is doubtless due to the inaccessible nature of its 
haunts, which renders it ordinarily free from moles 
tation; but aside from this it certainly seems as if 
it was naturally less wary than either deer or moun 
tain sheep. The great point is to get above it. All 
its foes live in the valleys, and while it is in the 
mountains, if they strive to approach it at all, they 
must do so from below. It is in consequence al 
ways on the watch for danger from beneath; but it 
is easily approached from above, and then, as it gen 
erally tries to escape by running up hill, the hunter 
is very apt to get a shot. 

Its chase is thus laborious rather than exciting; 
and to my mind it is less attractive than is the pur 
suit of most of our other game. Yet it has an at 
traction of its own after all; while the grandeur of 
the scenery amid which it must be carried on, the 
freedom and hardihood of the life and the pleasure 



Mountain Game 151 

of watching the queer habits of the game, all com 
bine to add to the hunter s enjoyment. 

White goats are self-confident, pugnacious be 
ings. An old billy, if he discovers the presence of 
a foe without being quite sure what it is, often re 
fuses to take flight, but walks around, stamping, and 
shaking his head. The needle-pointed black horns 
are alike in both sexes, save that the males are a 
trifle thicker; and they are most effective weapons 
when wielded by the muscular neck of a resolute and 
wicked old goat. They wound like stilettos and 
their bearer is in consequence a much more formi 
dable foe in a hand-to-hand struggle than either a 
branching-antlered deer or a mountain ram, with his 
great battering head. The goat does not butt; he 
thrusts. If he can cover his back by a tree trunk 
or bowlder he can stand off most carnivorous ani 
mals no larger than he is. 

Though awkward in movement, and lacking all 
semblance of lightness or agility, goats are excel 
lent climbers. One of their queer traits is their way 
of getting their forehoofs on a slight ledge, and then 
drawing or lifting their bodies up by simple mus 
cular exertion, stretching out their elbows, much as 
a man would. They do a good deal of their climb 
ing by strength and command over their muscles; 
although they are also capable of making aston 
ishing bounds. If a cliff surface has the least slope, 
and shows any inequalities or roughness whatever, 



152 The Wilderness Hunter 

goats can go up and down it with ease. With their 
short, stout legs, and large, sharp-edged hoofs they 
clamber well over ice, passing and repassing the 
mountains at a time when no man would so much 
as crawl over them. They bear extreme cold with 
indifference, but are intolerant of much heat; even 
when the weather is cool they are apt to take their 
noontide rest in caves; I have seen them solemnly 
retiring, for this purpose, to great rents in the rocks, 
at a time when my own teeth chattered because of 
the icy wind. 

They go in small flocks; sometimes in pairs or 
little family parties. After the rut the bucks often 
herd by themselves, or go off alone, while the young 
and the shes keep together throughout the winter 
and the spring. The young are generally brought 
forth above timber line, or at its uppermost edge, 
save of course in those places where the goats live 
among the mountains wooded to the top. Through 
out the summer they graze on the short mountain 
plants which in many places form regular mats above 
timber line; the deep winter snows drive them low 
down in the wooded valleys, and force them to sub 
sist by browsing. They are so strong that they plow 
their way readily through deep drifts; and a flock 
of goats at this season, when their white coat is very 
long and thick, if seen waddling off through the 
snow, have a comical likeness to so many dimin 
utive polar bears. Of course they could easily be 



Mountain Game 153 

run down in the snow by a man on snowshoes, in the 
plain; but on a mountain side there are always 
bare rocks and cliff shoulders, glassy with winter 
ice, which give either goats or sheep an advantage 
over their snowshoe-bearing foes that deer and elk 
lack. Whenever the goats pass the winter in wood 
land they leave plenty of sign in the shape of patches 
of wool clinging to all the sharp twigs and branches 
against which they have brushed. In the spring 
they often form the habit of drinking at certain low 
pools, to which they beat deep paths; and at this 
season, and to a less extent in the summer and fall, 
they are very fond of frequenting mineral licks. 
At any such lick the ground is tramped bare of 
vegetation, and is filled with pits and hollows, actual 
ly dug by the tongues of innumerable generations 
of animals ; while the game paths lead from them in 
a dozen directions. 

In spite of the white goat s pugnacity, its clumsi 
ness renders it no very difficult prey when taken 
unawares by either wolf or cougar, its two chief 
enemies. They can not often catch it when it is 
above timber line ; but it is always in sore peril from 
them when it ventures into the forest. Bears, also, 
prey upon it in the early spring ; and one midwinter 
my friend Willis found a wolverine eating a goat 
which it had killed in a snowdrift at the foot of a 
cliff. The savage little beast growled and showed 
fight when he came near the body. Eagles are great 



154 The Wilderness Hunter 

enemies of the young kids, as they are of the young 
lambs of the bighorn. 

The white goat is the only game beast of America 
which has not decreased in numbers since the ar 
rival of the white man. Although in certain local 
ities it is now decreasing, yet, taken as a whole, it 
is probably quite as plentiful now as it was fifty 
years back; for in the early part of the present 
century there were Indian tribes who hunted it 
perseveringly to make the skins into robes, whereas 
now they get blankets from the traders and no 
longer persecute the goats. The early trappers and 
mountain-men knew but little of the animal. 
Whether they were after beaver, or were hunting 
big game or were merely exploring, they kept to 
the valleys; there was no inducement for them to 
climb to the tops of the mountains; so it resulted 
that there was no animal with which the old hunt 
ers were so unfamiliar as with the white goat. The 
professional hunters of to-day likewise bother it 
but little; they do not care to undergo severe toil 
for an animal with worthless flesh and a hide of little 
value for it is only in the late fall and winter that 
the long hair and fine wool give the robe any beauty. 

So the quaint, sturdy, musky beasts, with their 
queer and awkward ways, their boldness and their 
stupidity, with their white coats and big black hoofs, 
black muzzles, and sharp, gently curved span-long 
black horns, have held their own well among the 



Mountain Game 155 

high mountains that they love. In the Rockies and 
the Coast ranges they abound from Alaska south to 
Montana, Idaho, and Washington; and here and 
there isolated colonies are found among the high 
mountains to the southward, in Wyoming, Colorado, 
even in New Mexico, and, strangest of all, in one 
or two spots among the barren coast mountains of 
southern California. Long after the elk has followed 
the buffalo to the happy hunting grounds the white 
goat will flourish among the towering and glacier- 
riven peaks, and, grown wary with succeeding gen 
erations, will furnish splendid sport to those hunters 
who are both good riflemen and hardy cragsmen. 



CHAPTER VIII 

HUNTING IN THE SELKIRKS J THE CARIBOU 

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

Close to such a brook, from which we drew strings 
of large silver trout, our tent was pitched, just with- 
(156) 



Hunting in the Selkirks 157 

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

With these exceptions there was nothing to break 



158 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

We had come down from a week s fruitless hunt 
ing in the mountains; a week of excessive toil, in a 
country where we saw no game for in our igno 
rance we had wasted time, not going straight back 
to the high ranges, from which the game had not 
yet descended. After three or four days of rest, 
and of feasting on trout a welcome relief to the 
monotony of frying-pan bread and coarse salt pork 
we were ready for another trial; and early one 
morning we made the start. Having to pack every- 



Hunting in the Selkirks 159 

thing for a fortnight s use on our backs, through an 
excessively rough country we of course traveled as 
light as possible, leaving almost all we had with the 
tent and boat. Each took his own blanket; and 
among us we carried a frying-pan, a teapot, flour, 
pork, salt, tea, and matches. I also took a jacket, a 
spare pair of socks, some handkerchiefs, and my 
washing kit. Fifty cartridges in my belt completed 
my outfit. 

We walked in single file, as is necessary in thick 
woods. The white hunter led and I followed, each 
with rifle on shoulder and pack on back. Ammal, 
the Indian, pigeon-toed along behind, carrying his 
pack, not as we did ours, but by help of a forehead- 
band, which he sometimes shifted across his breast. 
The traveling through the tangled, brush-choked 
forest, and along the bowlder-strewn and precipitous 
mountain sides, was inconceivably rough and diffi 
cult. In places we followed the valley, and when 
this became impossible we struck across the spurs. 
Every step was severe toil. Now we walked through 
deep moss and rotting mould, every few feet clam 
bering over huge trunks ; again we pushed through 
a stiff jungle of bushes and tall, prickly plants 
called "devil s clubs," which stung our hands and 
faces. Up the almost perpendicular hillsides we in 
many places went practically on all fours, forcing 
our way over the rocks and through the dense thick 
ets of laurels or young spruce. Where there were 



160 The Wilderness Hunter 

windfalls or great stretches of burned forest, black 
and barren wastes, we balanced and leaped from log 
to log, sometimes twenty or thirty feet above the 
ground; and when such a stretch was on a steep 
hillside, and especially if the logs were enveloped 
in a thick second growth of small evergreens, the 
footing was very insecure, and the danger from a 
fall considerable. Our packs added greatly to our 
labor, catching on the snags and stubs; and where 
a grove of thick-growing young spruces or balsams 
had been burned, the stiff and brittle twigs pricked 
like so much coral. Most difficult of all were the 
dry watercourses, choked with alders, where the in 
tertwined tangle of tough stems formed an almost 
literally impenetrable barrier to our progress. 
Nearly every movement leaping, climbing, swing 
ing one s self up with one s hands, bursting through 
stiff bushes, plunging into and out of bogs was one 
of strain and exertion ; the fatigue was tremendous, 
and steadily continued, so that in an hour every 
particle of clothing I had on was wringing wet with 
sweat. 

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

While at lunch I made a capture. I was sitting 
on a great stone by the edge of the brook, idly gaz 
ing at a water-wren which had come up from a 
short flight I can call it nothing else underneath 



Hunting in the Selkirks 161 

the water, and was singing sweetly from a spray- 
splashed log. Suddenly a small animal swam across 
the little pool at my feet. It was less in size than a 
mouse, and as it paddled rapidly underneath the 
water its body seemed flattened like a disk and was 
spangled with tiny bubbles, like specks of silver. It 
was a water-shrew, a rare little beast. I sat motion 
less and watched both the shrew and the water-wren 
water-ousel, as it should rightly be named. The 
latter, emboldened by my quiet, presently flew by me 
to a little rapids close at hand, lighting on a round 
stone, and then slipping unconcernedly into the swift 
water. Anon he emerged, stood on another stone, 
and trilled a few bars, though it was late in the 
season for singing, and then dived again into the 
stream. 

I gazed at him eagerly; for this strange, pretty 
water-thrush is to me one of the most attractive and 
interesting birds to be found in the gorges of the 
great Rockies. Its haunts are romantically beauti 
ful, for it always dwells beside and in the swift-flow 
ing mountain brooks ; it has a singularly sweet song ; 
and its ways render it a marked bird at once, for, 
though looking much like a sober-colored, ordinary 
woodland thrush, it spends half its time under the 
water, walking along the bottom, swimming and 
diving, and flitting through as well as over the 
cataracts. 

In a minute or two the shrew caught my eye 



1 62 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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

It was well that I did so. An hour or two be 
fore sunset we were traveling, as usual, in Indian 



Hunting in the Selkirks 163 

file, beside the stream, through an open wood of 
great hemlock trees. There was no breeze, and we 
made no sound as we marched, for our feet sunk 
noiselessly into the deep spong e of moss, while the 
incessant dashing of the torrent, churning among 
the stones, would have drowned a far louder ad 
vance. 

Suddenly the hunter, who was leading, dropped 
down in his tracks, pointing forward; and some 
fifty feet beyond I saw the head and shoulders of 
a bear as he rose to make a sweep at some berries. 
He was in a hollow where a tall, rank, prickly plant, 
with broad leaves, grew luxuriantly; and he was 
gathering its red berries, rising on his hind legs and 
sweeping them down into his mouth with his paw, 
and was much too intent on his work to notice us, 
for his head was pointed the other way. The mo 
ment he rose again I fired, meaning to shoot through 
the shoulders, but instead, in the hurry, taking him 
in the neck. Down he went, but whether hurt or 
not we could not see, for the second he was on all 
fours he was no longer visible. Rather to my sur 
prise he uttered no sound for bear when hit or 
when charging often make a great noise so I raced 
forward to the edge of the hollow, the hunter close 
behind me, while Ammal danced about in the rear, 
very much excited, as Indians always are in the 
presence of big game. The instant we reached the 
hollow and looked down into it from the low bank 



164 The Wilderness Hunter 

on which we stood we saw by the swaying of the 
tall plants that the bear was coming our way. The 
hunter was standing some ten feet distant, a hem 
lock trunk being between us; and the next mo 
ment the bear sprang clean up the bank the other 
side of the hemlock, and almost within arm s-length 
of my companion. I do not think he had intended 
to charge; he was probably confused by the bullet 
through his neck, and had by chance blundered out 
of the hollow in our direction ; but when he saw the 
hunter so close he turned for him, his hair bristling 
and his teeth showing. The man had no cartridge 
in his weapon, and with his pack on could not have 
used it anyhow; and for a moment it looked as if 
he stood a fair chance of being hurt, though it is 
not likely that the bear would have done more than 
knock him down with his powerful forepaw, or per 
chance give him a single bite in passing. However, 
as the beast sprang out of the hollow he poised for 
a second on the edge of the bank to recover his bal 
ance, giving me a beautiful shot, as he stood side- 
wise to me; the bullet struck between the eye and 
ear, and he fell as if hit with a pole axe. 

Immediately the Indian began jumping about the 
body, uttering wild yells, his usually impassive face 
lighted up with excitement, while the hunter and I 
stood at rest, leaning on our rifles and laughing. 
It was a strange scene, the dead bear lying in the 
shade of the giant hemlocks, while the fantastic- 



Hunting in the Selkirks 165 

looking savage danced round him with shrill whoops, 
and the tall frontiersman looked quietly on. 

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

The morning after killing Bruin, we again took up 
our march, heading up stream, that we might go 
to its sources amid the mountains, where the snow 
fields fed its springs. It was two full days journey 
thither, but we took much longer to make it, as we 



1 66 The Wilderness Hunter 

kept halting to hunt the adjoining mountains. On 
such occasions Ammal was left as camp guard, 
while the white hunter and I would start by day 
break and return at dark utterly worn out by the 
excessive fatigue. We knew nothing of caribou, 
nor where to hunt for them ; and we had been told 
that thus early in the season they were above tree 
limit on the mountain sides. Accordingly we would 
climb up to the limits of the forests, but never found 
a caribou trail ; and once or twice we went on to the 
summits of the crag-peaks, and across the deep 
snow fields in the passes. There were plenty of 
white goats, however, their trails being broad paths, 
especially at one spot where they led down to a lick 
in the valley; round the lick for a space of many 
yards the ground was trampled as if in a sheepfold. 
The mountains were very steep, and the climbing 
was in places dangerous, when we were above the 
timber and had to make our way along the jagged 
knife-crests and across the faces of the cliffs; while 
our hearts beat as if about to burst in the high, thin 
air. In walking over rough but not dangerous 
ground across slides or in thick timber my com 
panion was far more skilful than I was; but rather 
to my surprise I proved to be nearly as good as he 
when we came to the really dangerous places, where 
we had to go slowly, and let one another down 
from ledge to ledge, or crawl by narrow cracks 
across the rock walls. 



Hunting in the Selkirks 167 

The view from the summits was magnificent, and 
I never tired of gazing at it. Sometimes the sky 
was a dome of blue crystal, and mountain, lake, 
and valley lay spread in startling clearness at our 
very feet; and again snow-peak and rock-peak were 
thrust up like islands through a sea of billowy clouds. 
At the feet of the topmost peaks, just above the 
edge of the forest, were marshy alpine valleys, the 
boggy ground soaked with water, and small bushes 
or stunted trees fringing the icy lakes. In the stony 
mountain sides surrounding these lakes there were 
hoary woodchucks and conies. The former resem 
bled in their habits the alpine marmot, rather than 
our own common Eastern woodchuck. They lived 
alone or in couples among the rocks, their gray 
color often making them difficult to see as they 
crouched at the mouths of their burrows, or sat 
bolt upright; and as an alarm note they uttered a 
loud piercing whistle, a strong contrast to the quer 
ulous, plaintive "p-a-a-y" of the timid conies. These 
likewise loved to dwell where the stones and slabs 
of rock were heaped on one another; though so 
timid, they were not nearly as wary as the wood- 
chucks. If we stood quite still the little brown 
creatures would venture away from their holes and 
hop softly over the rocks as if we were not present. 

The white goats were too musky to eat, and we 
saw nothing else to shoot; so we speedily became 
reduced to tea, and to bread baked in the frying-pan, 



1 68 The Wilderness Hunter 

save every now and then for a feast on the luscious 
mountain blueberries. This rather meagre diet, 
coupled with incessant fatigue and exertion, made 
us fairly long for meat food ; and we fell off in flesh, 
though of course in so short a time we did not suffer 
in either health or strength. Fortunately the nights 
were too cool for mosquitoes; but once or twice in 
the afternoons, while descending the lower slopes of 
the mountains, we were much bothered by swarms of 
gnats; they worried us greatly, usually attacking us 
at a time when we had to go fast in order to reach 
camp before dark, while the roughness of the ground 
forced us to use both hands in climbing, and thus 
forbade us to shield our faces from our tiny tor 
mentors. Our chief luxury was, at the end of the 
day, when footsore and weary, to cast aside our 
sweat-drenched clothes and plunge into the icy 
mountain torrent for a moment s bath that fresh 
ened us as if by magic. The nights were generally 
pleasant, and we slept soundly on our beds of balsam 
boughs, but once or twice there were sharp frosts, 
and it was so cold that the hunter and I huddled 
together for warmth and kept the fires going till 
morning. One day, when we were on the march, 
it rained heavily, and we were soaked through, and 
stiff and chilly when we pitched camp; but we speed 
ily built a great brush lean-to, made a roaring fire in 
front, and grew once more to warmth and comfort 
as we sat under our steaming shelter, The only 



Hunting in the Selkirks 169 

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

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

Ammal himself was one of the Lower Kootenais ; 
I had hired him for the trip, as the Indians west of 
the Rockies, unlike their kinsmen of the plains, often 
prove hard and willing workers. His knowledge of 
English was almost nil; and our very scanty con 
versation was carried on in the Chinook jargon, 
universally .employed between the mountains and the 
Pacific. Apparently he had three names: for he 
assured us that his "Boston" (i.e. American) name 
was Ammal; his "Siwash" (i.e. Indian) name was 
Appak ; arid that the priest called him Abel for the 

8 VOL. II. 



1 70 The Wilderness Hunter 

Lower Kootenais are nominally Catholics. What 
ever his name he was a good Indian, as Indians go. 
I often tried to talk with him about game and hunt 
ing, but we understood each other too little to ex 
change more than the most rudimentary ideas. His 
face brightened one night when I happened to tell 
him of my baby boys at home; he must have been 
an affectionate father in his way, this dark Ammal, 
for he at once proceeded to tell me about his own 
papoose, who had also seen one snow, and to de 
scribe how the little fellow was old enough to take 
one step and then fall down. But he never dis 
played so much vivacity as on one occasion when the 
white hunter happened to relate to him a rather 
grewsome feat of one of their mutual acquaintances, 
an Upper Kootenai Indian named Three Coyotes. 
The latter was a quarrelsome, adventurous Indian, 
with whom the hunter had once had a difficulty "I 
had to beat the cuss over the head with my gun a 
little," he remarked parenthetically. His last feat 
had been done in connection with a number of China 
men who had been working among some placer 
mines, where the Indians came to visit them. Now, 
the astute Chinese are as fond of gambling as any of 
the borderers, white or red, and are very successful, 
generally fleecing the Indians unmercifully. Three 
Coyotes lost all he possessed to one of the pigtailed 
gentry ; but he apparently took his losses philosoph 
ically, and pleasantly followed the victor round, un- 



Hunting in the Selkirks 171 

til the latter had won all the cash and goods of 
several other Indians. Then he suddenly fell on the 
exile from the Celestial Empire, slew him and took 
all his plunder, retiring unmolested, as it did not 
seem any one s business to avenge a mere Chinaman. 
Ammal was immensely interested in the tale, and 
kept recurring to it again and again, taking two lit 
tle sticks and making the hunter act out the whole 
story. The Kootenais were then only just begin 
ning to consider the Chinese as human. They knew 
they must not kill white people, and they had their 
own code of morality among themselves; but when 
the Chinese first appeared they evidently thought that 
there could not be any special objection to killing 
them, if any reason arose for doing so. I think the 
hunter himself sympathized somewhat with this view. 
Ammal objected strongly to leaving the neigh 
borhood of the lake. He went the first day s journey 
willingly enough, but after that it was increasingly 
difficult to get him along, and he gradually grew 
sulky. For some time we could not find out the 
reason ; but finally he gave us to understand that he 
was afraid because up in the high mountains there 
were "little bad Indians * who would kill him if 
they caught him alone, especially at night. At first 
we thought he was speaking of stray warriors of 
the Blackfeet tribe; but it turned out that he was 
not thinking of human beings at all, but of hob 
goblins. 



1 72 The Wilderness Hunter 

Indeed the night sounds of these great stretches 
of mountain woodlands were very weird and strange. 
Though I have often and for long periods dwelt 
and hunted in the wilderness, yet I never before so 
well understood why the people who live in lonely 
forest regions are prone to believe in elves, wood 
spirits and other beings of an unseen world. Our 
last camp, whereat we spent several days, was pitched 
in a deep valley nearly at the head of the stream. 
Our brush shelter stood among the tall coniferous 
trees that covered the valley bottom; but the alti 
tude was so great that the forest extended only a 
very short distance up the steep mountain slopes. 
Beyond, on either hand, rose walls of gray rock, 
with snow beds in their rifts, and, high above, 
toward the snow peaks, the great white fields daz 
zled the eyes. The torrent foamed swiftly by but 
a short distance below the mossy level space on 
which we had built our slight weather-shield of pine 
boughs; other streams poured into it, from ravines 
through which they leaped down the mountain 
sides. 

After nightfall, round the camp fire, or if I awak 
ened after sleeping a little while, I would often lie 
silently for many minutes together, listening to the 
noises in the wilderness. At times the wind moaned 
harshly through the tops of the tall pines and hem 
locks ; at times the branches were still ; but the splash 
ing murmur of the torrent never ceased, and through 



Hunting in the Selkirks 173 

it came other sounds the clatter of huge rocks 
falling down the cliffs, the dashing of cataracts 
in far-off ravines, the hooting of owls. Again, the 
breeze would shift, and bring to my ears the ringing 
of other brooks and cataracts and wind-stirred for 
ests, and perhaps at long intervals the cry of some 
wild beast, the crash of a falling tree, or the faint 
rumble of a snow avalanche. If I listened long 
enough, it would almost seem that I heard thunder 
ous voices laughing and calling to one another, and 
as if at any moment some shape might stalk out of 
the darkness into the dim light of the embers. 

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

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

Next day we started early, determined to take a 
long walk and follow the main stream up to its 
head, or at least above timber line. The hunter 



174 The Wilderness Hunter 

struck so brisk a pace, plunging through thickets 
and leaping from log to log in the slashes of fallen 
timber, and from bowlder to bowlder in crossing 
the rock-slides, that I could hardly keep up to him, 
struggle as I would, and we each of us got several 
ugly tumbles, saving our rifles at the expense of 
scraped hands and bruised bodies. We went up one 
side of the stream, intending to come down the 
other ; for the forest belt was narrow enough to hunt 
thoroughly. For two or three hours we toiled 
through dense growth, varied by rock-slides, and 
once or twice by marshy tracts, where water oozed 
and soaked through the mossy hillsides, studded 
rather sparsely with evergreens. In one of these 
places we caught a glimpse of an animal which the 
track showed to be a wolverine. 

Then we came to a spur of open hemlock forest; 
and no sooner had we entered it than the hunter 
stopped and pointed exultingly to a well-marked 
game trail, in which it was easy at a glance to 
discern the great round footprints of our quarry, 
We hunted carefully over the spur and found sev 
eral trails, generally leading down along the ridge; 
we also found a number of beds, some old and some 
recent, usually placed where the animal could keep 
a lookout for any foe coming up from the valley. 
They were merely slight hollows or indentations in 
the pine needles ; and, like the game trails, were 
placed in localities similar to those that would be 



Hunting in the Selkirks 175 

chosen by blacktail deer. The caribou droppings 
were also very plentiful; and there were signs of 
where they had browsed on the blueberry bushes, 
cropping off the berries, and also apparently of 
where they had here and there plucked a mouthful 
of a peculiar kind of moss, or cropped off some 
little mushrooms. But the beasts themselves had 
evidently left the hemlock ridge, and we went on. 

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

After a little while the valley became so high 
that the large timber ceased, and there were only 
occasional groves of spindling evergreens. Beyond 
the edge of the big timber was a large boggy tract, 
studded with little pools; and here again we found 
plenty of caribou tracks. A caribou has an enormous 
foot, bigger than a cow s, and admirably adapted for 
traveling over snow or bogs; hence they can pass 
through places where the long, slender hoofs of 
moose or deer, or the round hoofs of elk, would let 
their owners sink at once; and they are very difficult 
to kill by following on snowshoes a method much 
in vogue among the brutal game butchers for slaugh 
tering the more helpless animals. Spreading out his 
great hoofs, and bending his legs till he walks al 
most on the joints, a caribou will travel swiftly over 



176 The Wilderness Hunter 

a crust through which a moose breaks at every 
stride, or through deep snow in which a deer can 
not flounder fifty yards. Usually he trots ; but when 
pressed he will spring awkwardly along, leaving 
tracks in the snow almost exactly like magnified 
imprints of those of a great rabbit, the long marks 
of the two hind legs forming an angle with each 
other, while the forefeet make a large point almost 
between. 

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

The caribou trails had ceased, and it was evi 
dent that the beasts were not ahead of us in the 
barren, treeless recesses between the mountains of 
rock and snow; and we turned back down the val 
ley, crossing over to the opposite or south side of 
the stream. We had already eaten our scanty lunch, 
for it was afternoon. For several miles of hard 
walking, through thicket, marsh, and rock-slide, we 



Hunting in the Selkirks 177 

saw no traces of the game. Then we reached the 
forest, which soon widened out, and crept up the 
mountain sides; and we came to where another 
stream entered the one we were following. A high, 
steep shoulder between the two valleys was covered 
with an open growth of great hemlock timber, and 
in this we again found the trails and beds plentiful. 
There was no breeze, and after beating through the 
forest nearly to its upper edge, we began to go down 
the ridge, or point of the shoulder. The compara 
tive freedom from brushwood made it easy to walk 
without noise, and we descended the steep incline 
with the utmost care, scanning every object, and 
using every caution not to slip on the hemlock 
needles, nor to strike a stone or break a stick with 
our feet. The sign was very fresh, and when still 
half a mile or so from the bottom we at last came 
on three bull caribou. 

Instantly the hunter crouched down, while I ran 
noiselessly forward behind the shelter of a big hem 
lock trunk until within fifty yards of the grazing 
and unconscious quarry. They were feeding with 
their heads up-hill, but so greedily that they had 
not seen us; and they were rather difficult to see 
themselves, for their bodies harmonized well in color 
with the brown tree trunks and lichen-covered bowl 
ders. The largest, a big bull with a good but by 
no means extraordinary head, was nearest. As he 
stood fronting me with his head down I fired into 



1 78 The Wilderness Hunter 

his neck, breaking the bone, and he turned a tre 
mendous back somersault. The other two halted a 
second in stunned terror; then one, a yearling, 
rushed past us up the valley down which we had 
come, while the other, a large bull with small ant 
lers, crossed right in front of me, at a canter, his neck 
thrust out, and his head so coarse-looking com 
pared to the delicate outlines of an elk s- turned 
toward me. His movements seemed clumsy and 
awkward, utterly unlike those of a deer; but he 
handled his great hoofs cleverly enough, arid broke 
into a headlong, rattling gallop as he went down 
the hillside, crashing through the saplings and leap 
ing over the fallen logs. There was a spur a little 
beyond, and up this he went at a swinging trot, 
halting when he reached the top, and turning to look 
at me once more. He was only a hundred yards 
away ; and though I had not intended to shoot him 
(for his head was not good), the temptation was 
sore; and I was glad when, in another second, the 
stupid beast turned again and went off up the valley 
at a slashing run. 

Then we hurried down to examine with pride and 
pleasure the dead bull his massive form, sleek coat, 
and fine antlers. It was one of those moments that 
repay the hunter for days of toil and hardship; that 
is if he needs repayment, and does not find life in 
the wilderness pleasure enough in itself. 

It was getting late, and if we expected to reach 



Hunting in the Selkirks 179 

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

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

We were off by dawn, the Indian joyfully leading. 
Coming up into the mountains he had always been 
the rear man of the file; but now he went first and 
struck a pace that, continued all day long, gave 
me a little trouble to follow. Each of us carried his 
pack ; to the Indian s share fell the caribou skull and 
antlers, which he bore on his head. At the end of 
t ie day he confessed to me that it had made his head 
"heap sick" as well it might. We had made four 
short days , or parts of days march coming up ; for 



i8o The Wilderness Hunter 

we had stopped to hunt, and moreover we knew 
nothing of the country, being probably the first 
white men in it, while none of the Indians had ever 
ventured a long distance from the lake. Returning 
we knew how to take the shortest route, we were 
going down hill, and we walked or trotted very fast ; 
and so we made the whole distance in twelve hours 
travel. At sunset we came out on the last range of 
steep foothills, overlooking the cove where we had 
pitched our permanent camp; and from a bare cliff 
shoulder we saw our boat on the beach, and our 
white tent among the trees, just as we had left them, 
while the glassy mirror of the lake reflected the out 
lines of the mountains opposite. 

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

The following February I made a trip on snow- 



Hunting in the Selkirks 181 

shoes after the same game, and with the same result. 
However, I enjoyed the trip, for the northland 
woods are very beautiful and strange in winter, as 
indeed they are at all other times and it was my 
first experience on snowshoes. I used the ordinary 
webbed racquets, and as the snow, though very 
deep, was only imperfectly crusted, I found that for 
a beginner the exercise was laborious in the extreme, 
speedily discovering that, no matter how cold it 
was, while walking through the windless woods I 
stood in no need of warm clothing. But at night, 
especially when lying out, the cold was bitter. Our 
plan was to drive in a sleigh to some logging camp, 
where we were always received with hearty hospi 
tality, and thence make hunting trips, in very light 
marching order, through the heart of the surround 
ing forest. The woods, wrapped in their heavy 
white mantle, were still and lifeless. There were a 
few chickadees and woodpeckers ; now and then we 
saw flocks of red-polls, pine linnets, and large, rosy 
grossbeaks ; and once or twice I came across a grouse 
or white rabbit, and killed it for supper ; but this was 
nearly all. Yet, though bird life was scarce, and 
though we saw few beasts beyond an occasional 
porcupine or squirrel, every morning the snow was 
dotted with a network of trails made during the 
hours of darkness ; the fine tracery of the footprints 
of the little red wood-mouse, the marks which showed 
the loping progress of the sable, the V and dot of 



1 82 The Wilderness Hunter 

the rabbit, the round pads of the lucivee, and many 
others.. The snow reveals, as nothing else does, 
the presence in the forest of the many shy woodland 
creatures which lead their lives abroad only after 
nightfall. Once we saw a coon, out early after its 
winter nap, and following I shot it in a hollow tree. 
Another time we came on a deer and the frightened 
beast left its "yard," a tangle of beaten paths or 
deep furrows. The poor animal made but slow 
headway through the powdery snow; after going 
thirty or forty rods it sank exhausted in a deep drift, 
and lay there in helpless panic as we walked close 
by. Very different were the actions of the only 
caribou we saw a fine beast which had shed its ant 
lers. I merely caught a glimpse of it as it leaped 
over a breastwork of down timbers; and we never 
saw it again. Alternately trotting and making a suc 
cession of long jumps, it speedily left us far behind; 
with its great splay-hoofs it could snowshoe better 
than we could. It is among deer the true denizen 
of the regions of heavy snowfall; far more so than 
the moose. Only under exceptional conditions of 
crust-formation is it in any danger from a man on 
snowshoes. 

In other ways it is no better able to take care of 
itself than moose and deer; in fact I doubt whether 
its senses are quite as acute, or at least whether it is 
as wary and knowing, for under like conditions it 
is rather easier to still-hunt. In the fall caribou 



Hunting in the Selkirks 183 

wander long distances, and are fond of frequenting 
the wet barrens which break the expanse of the 
northern forest in tracts of ever-increasing size as 
the subarctic regions are neared. At this time they 
go in bands, each under the control of a master 
bull, which wages repeated and furious battles for 
his harem; and in their ways of life they resemble 
the wapiti more than they do the moose or deer. 
They sometimes display a curious boldness, the 
bulls especially showing both stupidity and pugnac 
ity when in districts to which men rarely penetrate. 
On our way out of the woods, after this hunt, 
there was a slight warm spell, followed by rain and 
then by freezing weather, so as to bring about 
what is known as a silver thaw. Every twig was 
sheathed in glittering ice, and in the moonlight 
the forest gleamed as if carved out of frosted 
silver. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE WAPITI OR ROUND-HORNED ELK 

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

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

On the morning in question we left camp at sun 
rise. For two or three hours we walked up-hill 
through a rather open growth of small pines and 
(184) 



The Wapiti 185 

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

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

Hardly had we entered this valley before we 
caught a glimpse of a yearling elk walking rapidly 
along a game path some distance ahead. We fol- 



1 86 The Wilderness Hunter 

lowed as quickly as we could without making a 
noise, but after the first glimpse never saw it again ; 
for it is astonishing how fast an elk travels, with 
its ground-covering walk. We went up the valley 
until we were well past its middle, and saw abun 
dance of fresh elk signs. Evidently two or three 
bands had made the neighborhood their headquar 
ters. Among them were some large bulls, which 
had been trying their horns not only on the quaking- 
asp and willow saplings, but also on one another, 
though the rut had barely begun. By one pool 
they had scooped out a kind of a wallow or bare 
spot in the grass, and had torn and tramped the 
ground with their hoofs. The place smelt strongly 
of their urine. 

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

Having selected a smooth spot, where some low- 
growing firs made a wind break, we dragged up 
enough logs to feed the fire throughout the night. 
Then we drank our fill at the icy pool, and ate a 



The Wapiti 187 

few mouthfuls of bread. While it was still light 
we heard the querulous bleat of the conies, from 
among the slide rocks at the foot of the mountain; 
and the chipmunks and chickarees scolded at us. 
As dark came on, and we sat silently gazing into 
the flickering blaze, the owls began muttering and 
hooting. 

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

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

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



1 88 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

In a little glade, a hundred and twenty-five yards 
from us, two bull elk were engaged in deadly com 
bat, while two others were looking on. It was a 
splendid sight. The great beasts faced each other 
with lowered horns, the manes that covered their 
thick necks and the hair on their shoulders bristling 
and erect. Then they charged furiously, the crash of 
the meeting antlers resounding through the valley. 
The shock threw them both on their haunches ; with 
locked horns and glaring eyes they strove against 
each other, getting their hind legs well under them, 
straining every muscle in their huge bodies, and 
squealing savagely. They were evenly matched 
in weight, strength and courage; and push as they 
might, neither got the upper hand, first one yielding 
a few inches, then the other, while they swayed to 
and fro in their struggles, smashing the bushes and 
plowing up the soil. 

Finally they separated and stood some little dis 
tance apart, under the great pines ; their sides heav 
ing, and columns of steam rising from their nos 
trils through the frosty air of the brightening morn 
ing. Again they rushed together with a crash, and 



The Wapiti 189 

each strove mightily to overthrow the other, or get 
past his guard; but the branching antlers caught 
every vicious lunge and thrust. This set-to was 
stopped rather curiously. One of the onlooking elk 
was a yearling ; the other, though scarcely as heavy- 
bodied as either of the fighters, had a finer head. 
He was evidently much excited by the battle, and 
he now began to walk toward the two comba 
tants, nodding his head and uttering a queer, whist 
ling noise. They dared not leave their flanks un 
covered to his assault; and as he approached they 
promptly separated, and walked off side by side a 
few yards apart. In a moment, however, one spun 
round and jumped at his old adversary, seeking 
to stab him in his unprotected flank; but the latter 
was just as quick, and as before caught the rush 
on his horns. They closed as furiously as ever; 
but the utmost either could do was to inflict one 
or two punches on the neck and shoulders of his 
foe, where the thick hide served as a shield. Again 
the peacemaker approached, nodding his head, whist 
ling, and threatening; and again they separated. 

This was repeated once or twice; and I began 
to be afraid lest the breeze, which was very light 
and puffy, should shift and give them my wind. 
So, resting my rifle on my knee I fired twice, put 
ting one bullet behind the shoulder of the peace 
maker, and the other behind the shoulder of one 
of the combatants. Both were deadly shots, but, as 



190 The Wilderness Hunter 

so often with wapiti, neither of the wounded ani 
mals at the moment showed any signs of being hit. 
The yearling ran off unscathed. The other three 
crowded together and trotted behind some spruce 
on the left, while we ran forward for another shot. 
In a moment one fell ; whereupon the remaining two 
turned and came back across the glade, trotting to 
the right. As we opened fire they broke into a lum 
bering gallop, but were both downed before they got 
out of sight in the timber. 

As soon as the three bulls were down we busied 
ourselves taking off their heads and hides, and cut 
ting off the best portions of the meat from the 
saddles and hams to take back to camp, where we 
smoked it. But first we had breakfast. We kindled a 
fire beside a little spring of clear water and raked out 
the coals. Then we cut two willow twigs as spits, 
ran on each a number of small pieces of elk loin, and 
roasted them over the fire. We had salt; we were 
very hungry; and I never ate anything that tasted 
better. 

The wapiti is, next to the moose, the most quar 
relsome and pugnacious of American deer. It can 
not be said that it is ordinarily a dangerous beast 
to hunt; yet there are instances in which wounded 
wapiti, incautiously approached to within striking 
distance, have severely misused their assailants, both 
with their antlers and their forefeet. I myself knew 
one man who had been badly mauled in this fashion. 



The Wapiti 191 

When tamed the bulls are dangerous to human life 
in the rutting season. In a grapple they are of 
course infinitely more to be dreaded than ordinary 
deer, because of their great strength. 

However, the fiercest wapiti bull, when in a wild 
state, flees the neighborhood of man with the same 
panic terror shown by the cows; and he makes no 
stand against a grisly, though when his horns are 
grown he has little fear of either wolf or cougar if 
on his guard and attacked fairly. The chief battles 
of the bulls are of course waged with one another. 
Before the beginning of the rut they keep by them 
selves: singly, while the sprouting horns are still 
very young, at which time they lie in secluded spots 
and move about as little as possible; in large bands, 
later in the season. At the beginning of the fall 
these bands join with one another and with the 
bands of cows and calves, which have likewise been 
keeping to themselves during the late winter, the 
spring, and the summer. Vast herds are thus some 
times formed, containing, in the old days when 
wapiti were plenty, thousands of head. The bulls 
now begin to fight furiously with one another, and 
the great herd becomes split into smaller ones. 
Each of these has one master bull, who has won his 
position by savage battle, and keeps it by overcom 
ing every rival, whether a solitary bull, or the lord 
of another harem, who challenges him. When not 
fighting or love-making he is kept on the run, chas- 



The Wilderness Hunter 



ing away the young bulls who venture to pay court 
to the cows. He has hardly time to eat or sleep, 
and soon becomes gaunt and worn to a degree. At 
the close of the rut many of the bulls become so 
emaciated that they retire to some secluded spot to 
recuperate. They are so weak that they readily suc 
cumb to the elements, or to their brute foes; many 
die from sheer exhaustion. 

The battles between the bulls rarely result fatally, 
After a longer or shorter period of charging, push 
ing, and struggling the heavier or more enduring 
of the two begins to shove his weaker antagonist 
back and round; and the latter then watches his 
chance and bolts, hotly, but as a rule harmlessly, 
pursued for a few hundred yards. The massive 
branching antlers serve as effective guards against 
the most wicked thrusts. While the antagonists are 
head on, the worst that can happen is a punch on 
the shoulder which will not break the thick hide, 
though it may bruise the flesh underneath. It is 
only when a beast is caught while turning that there 
is a chance to deliver a possibly deadly stab in the 
flank, with the brow prongs, the "dog-killers" as 
they are called in bucks. Sometimes, but rarely, 
fighting wapiti get their antlers interlocked and 
perish miserably; my own ranch, the Elkhorn, was 
named from finding on the spot where the ranch 
house now stands two splendid pairs of elk antlers 
thus interlocked. 



The Wapiti 193 

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

During the rut the bulls are very noisy; and 
their notes of amorous challenge are called "whist 
ling" by the frontiersmen, very inappropriately. 
They begin to whistle about ten days before they 
begin to run ; and they have in addition an odd kind 
of bark, which is only heard occasionally. The 
whistling is a most curious, and to me a most at 
tractive sound, when heard in the great lonely moun- 

9 VOL. II. 



194 The Wilderness Hunter 

tains. As with so many other things, much depends 
upon the surroundings. When listened to nearby 
and under unfavorable circumstances, the sound re 
sembles a succession of hoarse whistling roars, end 
ing with two or three gasping grunts. 

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

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

The day before we had walked long and hard; 
and during the night I slept the heavy sleep of the 
weary. Early in the morning, just as the east be 
gan to grow gray, I waked; and as I did so, the 
sounds that smote on my ear caused me to sit up and 
throw off the warm blankets. Bull elk were chal 
lenging among the mountains on both sides of the 



The Wapiti 195 

valley, a little way from us, their notes echoing like 
the calling of silver bugles. Groping about in the 
dark, I drew on my trousers, an extra pair of thick 
socks, and my moccasins, donned a warm jacket, 
found my fur cap and gloves, and stole out of the 
tent with my rifle. 

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

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



196 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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

Nothing can be finer than a wapiti bull s carriage 
when excited or alarmed ; he then seems the embodi 
ment of strength and stately grace. But at ordinary 
times his looks are less attractive, as he walks with 
his neck level with his body and his head out- 



The Wapiti 197 

stretched, his horns lying almost on his shoulders. 
The favorite gait of the wapiti is the trot, which is 
very fast, and which they can keep up for countless 
miles; when suddenly and greatly alarmed, they 
break into an awkward gallop, which is faster, but 
which speedily tires them. 

I have occasionally killed elk in the neighborhood 
of my ranch on the Little Missouri. They were 
very plentiful along this river until 1881, but the 
last of the big bands were slaughtered or scattered 
about that time. Smaller bunches were found for 
two or three years longer, and to this day, scattered 
individuals, singly or in parties of two or three, lin 
ger here and there in the most remote and inacces 
sible parts of the broken country. In the old times 
they were often found on the open prairie, and were 
fond of sunning themselves on the sand bars by the 
river, even at midday, while they often fed by day 
light (as they do still in remote mountain fast 
nesses). Nowadays the few survivors dwell in the 
timber of the roughest ravines, and only venture 
abroad at dusk or even after nightfall. Thanks 
to their wariness and secluseness, their presence is 
often not even suspected by the cowboys or others 
who occasionally ride through their haunts; and so 
the hunters only know vaguely of their existence. 
It thus happens that the last individuals of a species 
may linger in a locality for many years after the 
rest of their kind have vanished ; on the Little Mis- 



198 The Wilderness Hunter 

souri to-day every elk (as in the Rockies every buf 
falo) killed is at once set down as "the last of its 
race." For several years in succession I myself 
kept killing one or two such "last survivors/ 

A yearling bull which I thus obtained was killed 
while in company with my stanch friend Will Dow, 
on one of the first trips which I took with that prince 
of drivers, old man Tompkins. We were laying in 
our stock of winter meat; and had taken the wagon 
to go to a knot of high and very rugged hills where 
we knew there were deer, and thought there might 
be elk. Old Tompkins drove the wagon with un 
moved composure up, down, and across frightful- 
looking hills, and when they became wholly impass 
able, steered the team over a cut bank and up a kind 
of winding ravine or wooded washout, until it be 
came too rough and narrow for further progress. 
There was good grass for the horses on a hill off 
to one side of us; and stunted cottonwood trees 
grew between the straight white walls of clay and 
sandstone which hemmed in the washout. We 
pitched our tent by a little trickling spring and 
kindled a great fire, the fitful glare lighting the bare 
cliffs and the queer, sprawling tops of the cotton- 
woods; and after a dinner of fried prairie-chicken 
went to bed. At dawn we were off, and hunted till 
nearly noon; when Dow, who had been walking to 
one side, beckoned to me and remarked, "There s 
something mighty big in the timber down under 



The Wapiti 199 

the cliff; I guess it s an elk" (he never had seen one 
before) ; and the next moment, as old Tompkins ex 
pressed it, "the elk came bilin out of the coulie." 
Old Tompkins had a rifle on this occasion and the 
sight of game always drove him crazy; as I aimed 
I heard Dow telling him "to let the boss do the 
shooting"; and I killed the elk to a savage inter- 
jectional accompaniment of threats delivered at old 
man Tompkins between the shots. 

Elk are sooner killed off than any other game 
save buffalo, but this is due to their size and the 
nature of the ground they frequent rather than to 
their lack of shyness. They like open woodland, or 
mountainous park country, or hills riven by timber 
coulies; and such ground is the most favorable to 
the hunter, and the most attractive in which to 
hunt. On the other hand moose, for instance, live 
in such dense cover that it is very difficult to get 
at them; when elk are driven by incessant persecu 
tion to take refuge in similar fastnesses they become 
almost as hard to kill. In fact, in this respect the 
elk stands to the moose much as the blacktail stands 
to the whitetail. The moose and whitetail are some 
what warier than the elk and blacktail ; but it is the 
nature of the ground which they inhabit that tells 
most in their favor. On the other hand, as compared 
to the blacktail, it is only the elk s size which puts 
it at a disadvantage in the struggle for life when the 
rifle-bearing hunter appears on the scene. It is 



200 The Wilderness Hunter 

quite as shy and difficult to approach as the deer; 
but its bulk renders it much more eagerly hunted, 
more readily seen, and more easily hit. Occasional 
ly elk suffer from fits of stupid tameness or equally 
stupid panic; but the same is true of blacktail. In 
two or three instances, I have seen elk show silly 
ignorance of danger; but half a dozen times I have 
known blacktail behave with an even greater degree 
of stupid familiarity. 

There is another point in which the wapiti and 
blacktail agree in contrast to the moose and white- 
tail. Both the latter delight in water-lilies, entering 
the ponds to find them, and feeding on them greedily. 
The wapiti is very fond of wallowing in the mud, 
and of bathing in pools and lakes; but as a rule 
it shows as little fondness as the blacktail for feed 
ing on water-lilies or other aquatic plants. 

In reading of the European red deer, which is 
nothing but a diminutive wapiti, we often see "a 
stag of ten" alluded to as if a full-grown monarch. 
A full-grown wapiti bull, however, always has 
twelve, and may have fourteen, regular normal 
points on his antlers, besides irregular additional 
prongs ; and he occasionally has ten points when a 
two-year-old, as I have myself seen with calves cap 
tured young and tamed. The calf has no horns. 
The yearling carries two foot-long spikes, some 
times bifurcated, so as to make four points. The 
two-year-old often has six or eight points on his 



The Wapiti 201 

antlers; but sometimes ten, although they are al 
ways small. The three-year-old has eight or ten 
points, while his body may be nearly as large as 
that of a full-grown animal. The four-year-old is 
normally a ten or twelve pointer, but as yet with 
much smaller antlers than those so proudly borne 
by the old bulls. 

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

In the high mountain forest into which the wapiti 
has been driven, the large, heavily furred northern 
lynx, the lucivee, takes the place of the smaller, 
thinner-haired lynx of the plains, and of the more 
southern districts, the bobcat or wildcat. On the 
Little Missouri the latter is the common form; yet 
I have seen a lucivee which was killed there. On 
Clark s Fork of the Columbia both occur, the luci 
vee being the most common. They feed chiefly on 
hares, squirrels, grouse, fawns, etc. ; and the lucivee, 
at least, also occasionally kills foxes and coons, and 
has in its turn to dread the pounce of the big timber 
wolf. Both kinds of lynx can most easily be killed 
with dogs, as they tree quite readily when thus pur 
sued. The wildcat is often followed on horseback, 



202 The Wilderness Hunter 

with a pack of hounds, when the country is favor 
able; and when chased in this fashion yields excel 
lent sport. The skin of both these lynxes is tender. 
They often maul an inexperienced pack quite badly, 
inflicting severe scratches and bites on any hound 
which has just resolution enough to come to close 
quarters, but not to rush in furiously; but a big 
fighting dog will readily kill either. At Thomp 
son s Falls two of Willis hounds killed a lucivee un 
aided, though one got torn. Archibald Rogers dog 
Sly, a cross between a greyhound and a bull mastiff, 
killed a bobcat single-handed. He bayed the cat 
and then began to threaten it, leaping from side to 
side; suddenly he broke the motion, and rushing 
in got his foe by the small of the back and killed it 
without receiving a scratch. 

The porcupine is sure to attract the notice of any 
one going through the mountains. It is also found 
in the timber belts fringing the streams of the great 
plains, where it lives for a week at a time in a single 
tree or clump of trees, peeling the bark from the 
limbs. But it is the easiest of all animals to exter 
minate, and is now abundant only in deep moun 
tain forests. It is very tame and stupid ; it goes on 
the ground; but its fastest pace is a clumsy waddle, 
and on trees, but is the poorest of tree-climbers, 
grasping the trunk like a small, slow bear. It can 
neither escape nor hide. It trusts to its quills for 
protection, as the skunk does to its odor; but it is 



The Wapiti 203 

far less astute and more helpless than the skunk. It 
is readily made into a very unsuspicious and famil 
iar, but uninteresting, pet. I have known it come 
into camp in the daytime, and forage round the fire 
by which I was sitting. Its coat protects it against 
most foes. Bears sometimes eat it when very hun 
gry, as they will eat anything; and I think that elk 
occasionally destroy it in sheer wantonness. One 
of its most resolute foes is the fisher, that big sable 
almost a wolverine which preys on everything, 
from a coon to a fawn, or even a small fox. 

The noisy, active little chickarees and chipmunks, 
however, are by far the most numerous and lively 
denizens of these deep forests. They are very abun 
dant and very noisy; scolding the travelers exactly 
as they do the bears when the latter dig up the caches 
of ants. The chipmunks soon grow tame and visit 
camp to pick up the crusts. The chickarees often 
ascend to the highest pine tops, where they cut off 
the cones, dropping them to the ground with a noise 
which often for a moment puzzles the still-hunter. 

Two of the most striking and characteristic birds 
to be seen by him who hunts and camps among the 
pine-clad and spruce-clad slopes of the northern 
Rockies are a small crow and a rather large wood 
pecker. The former is called Clark s crow, and 
the latter Lewis woodpecker. Their names com 
memorate their discoverers, the explorers Lewis and 
Clark, the first white men who crossed the United 



204 The Wilderness Hunter 

States to the Pacific, the pioneers of that great army 
of adventurers who since then have roamed and 
hunted over the Great Plains and among the Rocky 
Mountains. 

These birds are nearly of a size, being about as 
large as a flicker. The Clark s crow, an ash-col 
ored bird with black wings and white tail and fore 
head, is as common as it is characteristic, and is sure 
to attract attention. I c is as knowing as the rest of 
its race, and very noisy and active. It flies some 
times in a straight line, with regular wing-beats, 
sometimes in a succession of loops like a wood 
pecker, and often lights on rough bark or a dead 
stump in an attitude like the latter; and it is very 
fond of scrambling and clinging, often head down 
ward, among the outermost cones on the top of a 
pine, chattering loudly all the while. One of the 
noticeable features of its flight is the hollow, beat 
ing sound of the wings. It is restless and fond of 
company, going by preference in small parties. 
These little parties often indulge in regular plays, 
assembling in some tall tree-top and sailing round 
and round it, in noisy pursuit of one another, light 
ing continually among the branches. 

The Lewis woodpecker, a handsome, dark-green 
bird, with white breast and red belly, is much rarer, 
quite as shy, and generally less noisy and conspicu 
ous. Its flight is usually strong and steady, like a 
jay s, and it perches upright among the twigs, or 



The Wapiti 205 

takes short flights after passing insects, as often as 
it scrambles over the twigs in the ordinary wood 
pecker fashion. Like its companion, the Clark s 
crow, it is ordinarily a bird of the high tree-tops, 
and around these it indulges in curious aerial games, 
again like those of the little crow. It is fond of 
going in troops, and such a troop frequently choose 
some tall pine and soar round and above it in irregu 
lar spirals. 

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

No bird is so common around camp, so familiar, 
so amusing on some occasions, and so annoying on 
others, as that drab-colored imp of iniquity, the 
whiskey- jack also known as the moose bird and 



206 The Wilderness Hunter 

camp robber. The familiarity of these birds is as 
tonishing, and the variety of their cries generally 
harsh, but rarely musical extraordinary. They 
snatch scraps of food from the entrances of the 
tents, and from beside the camp fire ; and they shred 
the venison hung in the trees unless closely watched. 
I have seen an irate cook of accurate aim knock 
one off an elk-haunch, with a club seized at ran 
dom ; and I have known another to be killed with a 
switch, and yet another to be caught alive in the 
hand. When game is killed they are the first birds 
to come to the carcass. Following them come the 
big jays, of a uniform dark-blue color, who bully 
them, and are bullied in turn by the next arrivals, 
the magpies; while when the big ravens come, they 
keep all the others in the background, with the ex 
ception of an occasional wide-awake magpie. 

For a steady diet no meat tastes better or is more 
nourishing than elk venison ; moreover the different 
kinds of grouse give variety to the fare, and deli 
cious trout swarm throughout the haunts of the 
elk in the Rockies. I have never seen them more 
numerous than in the wonderful and beautiful Yel 
lowstone Canyon, a couple of miles below where the 
river pitches over the Great Falls, in wind-swayed 
cataracts of snowy foam. At this point it runs like 
a mill-race, in its narrow winding bed, between im 
mense walls of queerly carved and colored rock 
which tower aloft in almost perpendicular cliffs. 



The Wapiti 207 

Late one afternoon in the fall of 90 Ferguson and 
I clambered down into the canyon, with a couple 
of rods, and in an hour caught all the fish we could 
carry. It then lacked much less than an hour of 
nightfall, and we had a hard climb to get out of 
the canyon before darkness overtook us; as there 
was not a vestige of a path, and as the climbing 
was exceedingly laborious, and at one or two points 
not entirely without danger, the rocks being prac 
ticable in very few places, we could hardly have 
made much progress after it became too dark to 
see. Each of us carried the bag of trout in turn, 
and I personally was nearly done out when we 
reached the top; and then had to trot three miles to 
the horses. 



CHAPTER X 

AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS 

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

This was one of the pleasantest hunts I ever made. 
As always in the mountains, save where the country 
is so rough and so densely wooded that one must 
go afoot, we had a pack-train ; and we took a more 
complete outfit than we had ever before taken on 
such a hunt, and so traveled in much comfort. Usu- 
(208) 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 209 

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



210 The Wilderness Hunter 

fortable when the comfort does not interfere with 
the sport; and although a man sometimes likes to 
hunt alone, yet often it is well to be with some old 
mountain hunter, a master of woodcraft, who is a 
first-rate hand at finding game, creeping upon it, 
and tracking it when wounded. With such a com 
panion one gets much more game, and learns many 
things by observation instead of by painful experi 
ence. 

On this trip we had with us two hunters, Taze- 
well Woody and Elwood Hofer, a packer who acted 
as cook, and a boy to herd the horses. Of the lat 
ter, there were twenty ; six saddle-animals and four 
teen for the packs two or three being spare horses, 
to be used later in carrying the elk-antlers, sheep- 
horns, and other trophies. Like most hunters pack- 
animals, they were either half-broken, or else broken 
down; tough, unkempt, jaded-looking beasts of 
every color sorrel, buckskin, pinto, white, bay, 
roan. After the day s work was over, they were 
turned loose to shift for themselves ; and about once 
a week they strayed, and all hands had to spend the 
better part of the day hunting for them. The worst 
ones for straying, curiously enough, were three 
broken-down old "bear-baits," which went by them 
selves, as is generally the case with the cast-off horses 
of a herd. There were two sleeping tents, another 
for the provisions, in which we ate during bad 
weather, and a canvas tepee, which was put up with 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 211 

lodge-poles, Indian fashion, like a wigwam. A 
tepee is more difficult to put up than an ordinary 
tent ; but it is very convenient when there is rain or 
snow. A small fire kindled in the middle keeps it 
warm, the smoke escaping through the open top 
that is, when it escapes at all; strings are passed 
from one pole to another, on which to hang wet 
clothes and shoes, and the beds are made around the 
edges. As an offset to the warmth and shelter, the 
smoke often renders it impossible even to sit up 
right. We had a very good camp-kit, including 
plenty of cooking and eating utensils; and among 
our provisions were some canned goods and sweet 
meats, to give a relish to our meals of meat and 
bread. We had fur coats and warm clothes, 
which are chiefly needed at night, and plenty of 
bedding, including water-proof canvas sheeting and 
a couple of caribou-hide sleeping-bags, procured 
from the survivors of a party of arctic explorers. 
Except on rainy days, I used my buckskin hunting- 
shirt or tunic ; in dry weather I deem it, because of 
its color, its texture, and its durability, the best 
possible garb for the still-hunter, especially in the 
woods. 

Starting a day s journey south of Heart Lake, 
we traveled and hunted on the eastern edge of the 
great basin, wooded and mountainous, wherein rise 
the head-waters of the mighty Snake River. There 
was not so much as a spotted line that series of 



212 The Wilderness Hunter 

blazes made with the axe, man s first highway 
through the hoary forest, but this we did not mind, 
as for most of the distance we followed the well- 
worn elk-trails. The train traveled in Indian file. 
At the head, to pick the path, rode tall, silent old 
Woody, a true type of the fast-vanishing race of 
game hunters and Indian fighters, a man who had 
been one of the California forty-niners, and who 
ever since had lived the restless, reckless life of the 
wilderness. Then came Ferguson and myself; then 
the pack-animals, strung out in line; while from 
the rear rose the varied oaths of our three com 
panions, whose miserable duty it was to urge for 
ward the beasts of burden. 

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



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 213 

mountain sides, or among bowlders and over fallen 
logs. 

As our way was so rough, we found that we had 
to halt at least once every hour to fix the packs. 
Moreover, we at the head of the column were con 
tinually being appealed to for help by the unfortu 
nates in the rear. First it would be "that white- 
eyed cayuse; one side of its pack s down!" then we 
would be notified that the saddle-blanket of the "lop- 
eared Indian buckskin" had slipped back; then a 
shout "Look out for the pinto!" would be fol 
lowed by that pleasing beast s appearance, bucking 
and squealing, smashing dead timber, and scattering 
its load to the four winds. It was no easy task 
to get the horses across some of the boggy places 
without miring ; or to force them through the denser 
portions of the forest, where there was much down 
timber. Riding with a pack-train, day in and day out, 
becomes both monotonous and irritating, unless one 
is upheld by the hope of a game-country ahead, or 
by the delight of exploration of the unknown. Yet 
when buoyed by such a hope, there is pleasure in 
taking a train across so beautiful and wild a country 
as that which lay on the threshold of our hunting 
grounds in the Shoshones. We went over moun 
tain passes, with ranges of scalped peaks on either 
hand; we skirted the edges of lovely lakes, and of 
streams with bowlder-strewn beds; we plunged into 
depths of sombre woodland, broken by wet prairies. 



214 The Wilderness Hunter 

It was a picturesque sight to see the loaded pack- 
train stringing across one of these high mountain 
meadows, the motley colored line of ponies winding 
round the marshy spots through the bright green 
grass, while beyond rose the dark line of frowning 
forest, with lofty peaks towering in the background. 
Some of the meadows were beautiful with many 
flowers goldenrod, purple aster, bluebells, white 
immortelles, and here and there masses of blood-red 
Indian pinks. In the park-country, on the edges of 
the evergreen forest, were groves of delicate quak 
ing-aspen, the trees often growing to quite a height ; 
their tremulous leaves were already changing to 
bright green and yellow, occasionally with a reddish 
blush. In the Rocky Mountains the aspens are al 
most the only deciduous trees, their foliage offering 
a pleasant relief to the eye after the monotony of the 
unending pine and spruce woods, which afford so 
striking a contrast to the hardwood forest east of 
the Mississippi. 

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

The morning of the third day of our journey was 
gray and lowering. Gusts of rain blew in my face as 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 215 

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

In this place the forest was composed of the 
Western tamarack; the large, tall trees stood well 
apart, and there was much down timber, but the 
ground was covered with deep wet moss, over which 
we trod silently. The elk was traveling up-wind, 
but slowly, stopping continually to paw the ground 
and thresh the bushes with his antlers. He was very 
noisy, challenging every minute or two, being doubt 
less much excited by the neighborhood of his rival 
on the mountain. We followed, Woody leading, 
guided by the incessant calling. 

It was very exciting as we crept toward the great 
bull, and the challenge sounded nearer and nearer. 
While we were still at some distance the pealing 
notes were like those of a bugle, delivered in two 
bars, first rising, then abruptly falling; as we drew 
nearer they took on a harsh squealing sound. Each 



2i 6 The Wilderness Hunter 

call made our veins thrill; it sounded like the cry 
of some huge beast of prey. At last we heard the 
roar of the challenge not eighty yards off. Steal 
ing forward three or four yards, I saw the tips of 
the horns through a mass of dead timber and young 
growth, and I slipped to one side to get a clean 
shot. 

Seeing us but not making out what we were, 
and full of fierce and insolent excitement, the wapiti 
bull stepped boldly toward us with a stately swing 
ing gait. Then he stood motionless, facing us, 
barely fifty yards away, his handsome twelve-tine d 
antlers tossed aloft, as he held his head with the 
lordly grace of his kind. I fired into his chest, and 
as he turned I raced forward and shot him in the 
flank ; but the second bullet was not needed, for the 
first wound was mortal, and he fell before going 
fifty yards. 

The dead elk lay among the young evergreens. 
The huge, shapely body was set on legs that were as 
strong as steel rods, and yet slender, clean, arid 
smooth ; they were in color a beautiful dark brown, 
contrasting well with the yellowish of the body. 
The neck and throat were garnished with a mane of 
long hair; the symmetry of the great horns set off 
the fine, delicate lines of the noble head. He had 
been wallowing, as elk are fond of doing, and the 
dried mud clung in patches to his flank ; a stab in the 
haunch showed that he had been overcome in battle 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 217 

by some master bull who had turned him out of the 
herd. 

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

Next day opened with fog and cold rain. The 
drenched pack-animals, when driven into camp, 
stood mopingly, with drooping heads and arched 
backs; they groaned and grunted as the loads were 
placed on their backs and the cinches tightened, the 
packers bracing one foot against the pack to get a 
purchase as they hauled in on the lash-rope. A 
stormy morning is a trial to temper; the packs are 
wet and heavy, and the cold makes the work even 
more than usually hard on the hands. By ten we 
broke camp. It needs between two and three hours 
to break camp and get such a train properly packed ; 
once started, our day s journey was six to eight 
hours, making no halt. We started up a steep, pine- 
clad mountain side, broken by cliffs. My hunting- 
shoes, though comfortable, were old and thin, and 

10 VOL. II. 



2i 8 The Wilderness Hunter 

let the water through like a sieve. On the top of 
the first plateau, where black spruce groves were 
strewn across the grassy surface, we saw a band of 
elk, cows and calves, trotting off through the rain. 
Then we plunged down into a deep valley, and, 
crossing it, a hard climb took us to the top of a 
great bare tableland, bleak and wind-swept. We 
passed little alpine lakes, fringed with scattering 
dwarf evergreens. Snow lay in drifts on the north 
sides of the gullies ; a cutting wind blew the icy rain 
in our faces. For two or three hours we traveled 
toward the further edge of the tableland. In one 
place a spike bull elk stood half a mile off, in the 
open ; he traveled to and fro, watching us. 

As we neared the edge the storm lulled, and pale, 
watery sunshine gleamed through the rifts in the 
low-scudding clouds. At last our horses stood on 
the brink of a bold cliff. Deep down beneath our 
feet lay the wild and lonely valley of Two-Ocean 
Pass, walled in on either hand by rugged mountain 
chains, their flanks scarred and gashed by precipice 
and chasm. Beyond, in a wilderness of jagged and 
barren peaks, stretched the Shoshones. At the mid 
dle point of the pass, two streams welled down from 
either side. At first each flowed in but one bed, but 
soon divided into two; each of the twin branches 
then joined the like branch of the brook opposite, and 
swept one to the east and one to the west, on their 
long journey to the two great oceans. They ran as 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 219 

rapid brooks, through wet meadows and willow-flats, 
the eastern to the Yellowstone, the western to the 
Snake. The dark pine forests swept down from the 
flanks and lower ridges of the mountains to the 
edges of the marshy valley. Above them jutted gray 
rock peaks, snow-drifts lying in the rents that 
seamed their northern faces. Far below its, from a 
great basin at the foot of the cliff, filled with the 
pine forest, rose the musical challenge of a bull elk ; 
and we saw a band of cows and calves looking like 
mice as they ran among the trees. 

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

As evening fell, we reached the bottom, and 
pitched camp in a beautiful point of open pine forest, 
thrust out into the meadow. There was good shel 
ter, and plenty of wood, water and grass; we built 
a huge fire and put up our tents, scattering them in 



220 The Wilderness Hunter 

likely places among the pines, which grew far apart 
and without undergrowth. We dried our steaming 
clothes, and ate a hearty supper of elk-meat ; then we 
turned into our beds, warm and dry, and slept sound 
ly under the canvas, while all night long the storm 
roared without. Next morning it still stormed fit 
fully ; the high peaks and ridges round about were all 
capped with snow. Woody and I started on foot for 
an all-day tramp ; the amount of game seen the day 
before showed that we were in a good elk country, 
where the elk had been so little disturbed that they 
fwere traveling, feeding, and whistling in daylight. 
For three hours w r e walked across the forest-clad 
spurs of the foothills. We roused a small band of 
elk in thick timber; but they rushed off before we 
saw them, with much smashing of dead branches. 
Then we climbed to the summit of the range. The 
wind was light and baffling; it blew from all points, 
veering every few minutes. There were occasional 
rain-squalls; our feet and legs were well soaked; 
and we became chilled through whenever \ve sat 
down to listen. We caught a glimpse of a big bull 
feeding up-hill, and followed him ; it needed smart 
running to overtake him, for an elk, even w r hile feed 
ing, has a ground-covering gait. Finally we got 
within a hundred and twenty-five yards, but in very 
thick timber, and all I could see plainly was the hip 
and the after-part of the flank. I waited for a 
chance at the shoulder, but the bull got my wind and 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 221 

was off before I could pull trigger. It was just one 
of those occasions when there are two courses to 
pursue, neither very good, and when one is apt to 
regret whichever decision is made. 

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

That evening the storm broke, and the weather 



222 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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

Blue grouse rose from beside our path; Clark s 
crows flew past us, with a hollow, flapping sound, 
or lit in the pine-tops, calling and flirting their tails ; 
the gray-clad whiskey- jacks, with multitudinous 
cries, hopped and fluttered near us. Snowshoe rab- 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 223 

bits scuttled away, the big furry feet which give them 
their name already turning white. At last we came 
out on the great plateau, seamed with deep, narrow 
ravines. Reaches of pasture alternated with groves 
and open forests of varying size. Almost immedi 
ately we heard the bugle of a bull elk, and saw a 
big band of cows and calves on the other side of a 
valley. There were three bulls with them, one very 
large, and we tried to creep up on them; but the 
wind was baffling and spoiled our stalk. So we re 
turned to our horses, mounted them, and rode a mile 
further, toward a large open wood on a hillside. 
When within two hundred yards we heard directly 
ahead the bugle of a bull, and pulled up short. In 
a moment I saw him walking through an open glade ; 
he had not seen us. The slight breeze brought us 
down his scent. Elk have a strong characteristic 
smell ; it is usually sweet, like that of a herd of Al- 
derney cows; but in old bulls, while rutting, it is 
rank, pungent, and lasting. We stood motionless 
till the bull was out of sight, then stole to the wood, 
tied our horses, and trotted after him. He was 
traveling fast, occasionally calling; whereupon oth 
ers in the neighborhood would answer. Evidently 
he had been driven out of some herd by the master 
bull. 

He went faster than we did, and while we were 
vainly trying to overtake him we heard another very 
loud and sonorous challenge to our left. It came 



224 The Wilderness Hunter 

from a ridge-crest at the edge of the woods, among 
some scattered clumps of the northern nut-pine or 
pinyon a queer conifer, growing very high on the 
mountains, its multi forked trunk and wide-spread 
ing branches giving it the rounded top, and, at a 
distance, the general look of an oak rather than a 
pine. We at once walked toward the ridge, up-wind. 
In a minute or two, to our chagrin, we stumbled on 
an outlying spike bull, evidently kept on the out 
skirts of the herd by the master bull. I thought he 
would alarm all the rest; but, as we stood motion 
less, he could not see clearly what we were. He 
stood, ran, stood again, gazed at us, and trotted 
slowly off. We hurried forward as fast as we dared, 
and with too little care; for we suddenly came in 
view of two cows. As they raised their heads to 
look, Woody squatted down where he was, to keep 
their attention fixed, while I cautiously tried to slip 
off to one side unobserved. Favored by the neutral 
tint of my buckskin hunting-shirt, with which my 
shoes, leggings, and soft hat matched, I succeeded. 
As soon as I was out of sight I ran hard and came 
up to a hillock crested with pinyons, behind which I 
judged I should find the herd. As I approached the 
crest, their strong, sweet smell smote my nostrils. 
In another moment I saw the tips of a pair of mighty 
antlers, and I peered over the crest with my rifle at 
the ready. Thirty yards off, behind a clump of 
pinyons, stood a huge bull, his head thrown back as 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 225 

he rubbed his shoulders with his horns. There were 
several cows around him, and one saw me immedi 
ately, and took alarm. I fired into the bull s shoul 
der, inflicting a mortal wound ; but he went off, and 
I raced after him at top speed, firing twice into his 
flank; then he stopped, very sick, and I broke his 
neck with a fourth bullet. An elk often hesitates in 
the first moments of surprise and fright, and does 
not get really under way for two or three hundred 
yards ; but, when once fairly started, he may go sev 
eral miles, even though mortally wounded; there 
fore, the hunter, after his first shot, should run for 
ward as fast as he can, and shoot again and again 
until the quarry drops. In this way many animals 
that would otherwise be lost are obtained, especially 
by the man who has a repeating-rifle. Neverthe 
less, the hunter should beware of being led astray by 
the ease with which he can fire half a dozen shots 
from his repeater; and he should aim as carefully 
with each shot as if it were his last. No possible 
rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness 
of aim with the first shot. 

The elk I thus slew was a giant. His body was 
the size of a steer s, and his antlers, though not un 
usually long, were very massive and heavy. He lay 
in a glade, on the edge of a great cliff. Standing 
on its brink we overlooked a most beautiful country, 
the home of all homes for the elk: a wilderness of 
mountains, the immense evergreen forest broken by 



226 The Wilderness Hunter 

park and glade, by meadow and pasture, by bare 
hillside and barren tableland. Some five miles off 
lay the sheet of water known to the old hunters as 
Spotted Lake; two or three shallow, sedgy places, 
and spots of geyser formation, made pale green 
blotches on its wind-rippled surface. Far to the 
southwest, in daring beauty and majesty, the grand 
domes and lofty spires of the Tetons shot into the 
blue sky. Too sheer for the snow to rest on their 
sides, it yet filled the rents in their rough flanks, and 
lay deep between the towering pinnacles of dark 
rock. 

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

Next day, which was rainy, we spent in getting 
in the antlers and meat of the two dead elk; and I 
shot off the heads of two or three blue grouse on 
the way home. The following day I killed another 
bull elk, following him by the strong, not unpleas- 
ing, smell, and hitting him twice as he ran, at about 
eighty yards. So far I had had good luck, killing 
everything I had shot at ; but now the luck changed, 
through no fault of mine, as far as I could see, and 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 227 

Ferguson had his innings. The day after I killed 
this bull he shot two fine mountain rams; and dur 
ing the remainder of our hunt he killed five elk, 
one cow, for meat, and four good bulls. The two 
rams were with three others, all old and with fine 
horns; Ferguson peeped over a lofty precipice and 
saw them coming up it only fifty yards below him. 
His first two and finest bulls were obtained by hard 
running and good shooting; the herds were on the 
move at the time, and only his speed of foot and 
soundness of wind enabled him to get near enough 
for a shot. One herd started before he got close, 
and he killed the master bull by a shot right through 
the heart, as it trotted past, a hundred and fifty 
yards distant. 

As for me, during the next ten days I killed noth 
ing save one cow for meat ; and this though I hunted 
hard every day from morning till night, no matter 
what the w r eather. It was stormy, with hail and 
snow almost every day; and after working hard 
from dawn until nightfall, laboriously climbing the 
slippery mountain-sides, walking through the wet 
woods, and struggling across the bare plateaus and 
cliff-shoulders, while the violent blasts of wind 
drove the frozen rain in our faces, we would come 
in after dusk wet through and chilled to the mar 
row. Even when it rained in the valleys it snowed 
on the mountain-tops, and there was no use trying 
to keep our feet dry. I got three shots at bull elk, 



228 The Wilderness Hunter 

two being very hurried snapshots at animals running 
in thick timber, the other a running-shot in the open, 
at over two hundred yards ; and I missed all three. 
On most days I saw no bull worth shooting; the 
two or three I did see or hear we failed to stalk, 
the light, shifty wind baffling us, or else an outlying 
cow which we had not seen giving the alarm. There 
were many blue and a few ruffed grouse in the 
woods, and I occasionally shot off the heads of a 
couple on my way homeward in the evening. In 
racing after one elk, I leaped across a gully and so 
bruised and twisted my heel on a rock that, for the 
remainder of my stay in the mountains, I had to 
walk on the fore part of that foot. This did not in 
terfere much with my walking, however, except in 
going down-hill. 

Our ill success was in part due to sheer bad luck ; 
but the chief element therein was the presence of a 
great hunting-party of Shoshone Indians. Split into 
bands of eight or ten each, they scoured the whole 
country on their tough, sure-footed ponies. They 
always hunted on horseback, and followed the elk 
at full speed wherever they went. Their method of 
hunting was to organize great drives, the riders 
strung in lines far apart; they signaled to one an 
other by means of willow whistles, with which they 
also imitated the calling of the bull elk, thus tolling 
the animals to them, or making them betray their 
whereabout. As they slew whatever they could, but 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 229 

by preference cows and calves, and as they were very 
persevering, but also very excitable and generally 
poor shots, so that they wasted much powder, they 
not only wrought havoc among the elk, but also 
scared the survivors out of all the country over which 
they hunted. 

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

After a week at Two-Ocean Pass, we gathered 
our pack-animals one frosty morning, and again set 
off across the mountains. A two-days jaunt took 
us to the summit of Wolverine Pass, near Pinyon 
Peak, beside a little mountain tarn ; each morning we 
found its surface skimmed with black ice, for the 
nights were cold. After three or four days, we 
shifted camp to the mouth of Wolverine Creek, to 
get off the hunting grounds of the Indians. We 
had used up our last elk-meat that morning, and 
when we were within a couple of hours journey of 
our intended halting-place, Woody and I struck 



230 The Wilderness Hunter 

off on foot for a hunt. Just before sunset we came 
on three or four elk ; a spike bull stood for a moment 
behind some thick evergreens a hundred yards off. 
Guessing at his shoulder, I fired, and he fell dead 
after running a few rods. I had broken the luck, 
after ten days of ill success. 

Next morning Woody and I, with the packer, 
rode to where this elk lay. We loaded the meat on 
a pack-horse, and let the packer take both the loaded 
animal and our own saddle-horses back to camp, 
while we made a hunt on foot. We went up the 
steep, forest-clad mountain-side, and before we had 
walked an hour heard two elk whistling ahead of 
us. The woods were open, and quite free from 
undergrowth, and we were able to advance noise 
lessly ; there was no wind, for the weather was still, 
clear and cold. Both of the elk were evidently very 
much excited, answering each other continually; 
they had probably been master bulls, but had become 
so exhausted that their rivals had driven them from 
the herds, forcing them to remain in seclusion until 
they regained their lost strength. As we crept stealth 
ily forward, the calling grew louder and louder, until 
we could hear the grunting sounds with which the 
challenge of the nearest ended. He was in a large 
wallow, which was also a lick. When we were 
still sixty yards off, he heard us, and rushed out, but 
wheeled and stood a moment to gaze, puzzled by 
my buckskin suit. ,1 fired into his throat, breaking 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 231 

his neck, and down he went in a heap. Rushing in 
and turning, I called to Woody, "He s a twelve- 
pointer, but the horns are small !" As I spoke I 
heard the roar of the challenge of the other bull not 
two hundred yards ahead, as if in defiant answer to 
my shot. 

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

These two bulls lay only a couple of hundred 
yards apart, on a broad game-trail, which was as 
well beaten as a good bridle-path. We began to 
skin out the heads; and as we were finishing we 
heard another bull challenging far up the mountain. 
He came nearer and nearer, and as soon as we 



232 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

Next day it snowed, but we brought a pack-pony 
to where the three great bulls lay, and took their 
heads to camp; the flesh was far too strong to be 
-worth taking, for it was just the height of the rut. 

This was the end of my hunt; and a day later 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 233 

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



234 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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

I have described this hunt at length because, 
though I enjoyed it particularly on account of the 
comfort in which we traveled and the beauty of the 
land, yet, in point of success in finding and killing 
game, in value of trophies procured, and in its al- 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 235 

ternations of good and bad luck, it may fairly stand 
as the type of a dozen such hunts I have made. 
Twice I have been much more successful; the dif 
ference being due to sheer luck, as I hunted equally 
hard in all three instances. Thus on this trip I 
killed and saw nothing but elk; yet the other mem 
bers of the party either saw, or saw fresh signs of, 
not only blacktail deer, but sheep, bear, bison, moose, 
cougar, and wolf. Now in 1889 ^ hunted over al 
most precisely similar country, only further to the 
northwest, on the boundary between Idaho and 
Montana, and, with the exception of sheep, I stum 
bled on all the animals mentioned, and white goat 
in addition, so that my bag of twelve head actually 
included eight species much the best bag I ever 
made, and the only one that could really be called 
out of the common. In 1884, on a trip to the Big 
horn Mountains, I killed three bear, six elk and 
six deer. In laying in the winter stock of meat for 
my ranch I often far excelled these figures as far 
as mere numbers went; but on no other regular 
hunting trip, where the quality and not the quantity 
of the game was the prime consideration, have I 
ever equaled them ; and on several where I worked 
hardest I hardly averaged a head a week. The 
occasional days or weeks of phenomenal luck are 
more than earned by the many others where no 
luck whatever follows the very hardest work. Yet 
if a man hunts with steady resolution he is apt to 



236 The Wilderness Hunter 

strike enough Incky days amply to repay him for 
his trouble. 

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

To me still-hunting elk in the mountains, when 
they are calling, is one of the most attractive of 
sports, not only because of the size and stately beauty 
of the quarry and the grand nature of the trophy. 
but because of the magnificence of the scenery, and 
the stirring, manly, exciting nature of the chase it 
self. It yields more vigorous enjoyment than does 
lurking stealthily through the grand but gloomy 
monotony of the marshy woodland where dwells the 
moose. The climbing among the steep forest-clad 
and glade-strewn mountains is just difficult enough 
thoroughly to test soundness in wind and limb, while 



An Elk-Hunt at Two-Ocean Pass 237 

without the heart-breaking fatigue of white-goat 
hunting. The actual grapple with an angry grisly 
is of course far more full of strong, eager pleasure ; 
but bear hunting is the most uncertain, and usually 
the least productive, of sports. 

As regards strenuous, vigorous work, and pleas 
urable excitement, the chase of the bighorn alone 
stands higher. But the bighorn, grand beast of the 
chase though he be, is surpassed in size, both of body 
and of horns, by certain of the giant sheep of Cen 
tral Asia; whereas the wapiti is not only the most 
stately and beautiful of American game far more 
so than the bison and moose, his only rivals in size 
but is also the noblest of the stag kind throughout 
the world. Whoever kills him has killed the chief 
of his race; for he stands far above his brethren of 
Asia and Europe. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE MOOSE; THE BEAST OF THE WOODLAND 

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

I shot my first moose after making several fruit 
less hunting trips with this special game in view. 
The season I finally succeeded it was only after hav 
ing hunted two or three weeks in vain, among the 
Bitter Root Mountains, and the ranges lying south 
east of them. 

I began about the first of September by making a 
trial with my old hunting friend Willis. We speed 
ily found a country where there were moose, but of 
the animals themselves we never caught a glimpse. 
We tried to kill them by hunting in the same manner 
that we hunted elk ; that is, by choosing a place where 
there was sign, and going carefully through it 
against or across the wind. However, this plan 
failed; though at that very time we succeeded in 
killing elk in this way, devoting one or two days 
to their pursuit. There were both elk and moose 
in the country, but they were usually found in differ- 
(238) 



The Moose 239 

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

The moose did not seem to care much whether 
they lived among the summits of the mountains or 
not, so long as they got the right kind of country; 
for they were much more local in their distribution, 
and at this season less given to wandering than their 
kin with round horns. What they wished was a 
cool, swampy region of very dense growth; in the 
main chains of the northern Rockies even the val 
leys are high enough to be cold. Of course many 
of the moose lived on the wooded summits of the 
lower ranges; and most of them came down lower 
in winter than in summer, following about a fort 
night after the elk; but if in a large tract of woods 
the cover was dense and the ground marshy, though 
it was in a valley no higher than the herds of the 
ranchmen grazed, or perchance even in the immedi 
ate neighborhood of a small frontier hamlet, then it 
might be chosen by some old bull who wished to lie 
in seclusion till his horns were grown, or by some 



240 The Wilderness Hunter 

cow with a calf to raise. Before settlers came to this 
high mountain region of western Montana, a moose 
would often thus live in an isolated marshy tract sur 
rounded by open country. They grazed throughout 
the summer on marsh plants, notably lily stems, and 
nibbled at the tops of the very tall natural hay of the 
meadows. The legs of the beast are too long and 
the neck too short to allow it to graze habitually on 
short grass ; yet in the early spring when greedy for 
the tender blades of young, green marsh grass, the 
moose will often shuffle down on its knees to get at 
them, and it will occasionally perform the same feat 
to get a mouthful or two of snow in winter. 

The moose which lived in isolated, exposed locali 
ties were speedily killed or driven away after the 
incoming of settlers ; and at the time that we hunted 
we found no sign of them until we reached the re 
gion of continuous forest. Here, in a fortnight s 
hunting, we found as much sign as we wished, and 
plenty of it fresh; but the animals themselves we 
not only never saw, but we never so much as heard. 
Often after hours of careful still-hunting or cautious 
tracking, we found the footprints deep in the soft 
earth, showing where our quarry had winded or 
heard us, and had noiselessly slipped away from the 
danger. It is astonishing how quietly a moose can 
steal through the woods if it wishes: and it has 
what is to the hunter a very provoking habit of 
making a half or three-quarters circle before lying 



The Moose 241 

down, and then crouching with its head so turned 
that it can surely perceive any pursuer who may 
follow its trail. We tried every method to outwit 
the beasts. We attempted to track them; we beat 
through likely spots; sometimes we merely "sat on 
a log" and awaited events, by a drinking hole, 
meadow, mud wallow, or other such place (a course 
of procedure which often works well in still-hunt 
ing) ; but all in vain. 

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

However, a few days later I met a crabbed old 
trapper named Hank Griffin, who was going after 

11 VOL. II. 



242 The Wilderness Hunter 

beaver in the mountains, and who told me that if I 
would come with him he would show me moose. 
I jumped at the chance, and he proved as good as 
his word ; though for the first two trials rny ill-luck 
did not change. 

At the time that it finally did change we had at 
last reached a place where the moose were on favor 
able ground. A high, marshy valley stretched for 
several miles between two rows of stony mountains, 
clad with a forest of rather small fir-trees. This 
valley was covered with reeds, alders, and rank 
grass, and studded with little willow-bordered ponds 
and island-like clumps of spruce and graceful tama 
racks. 

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

As it grew lighter we scanned the valley with 
increasing care and eagerness. The sun rose behind 
us; and almost as soon as it was up we made out 
some large beast moving among the dwarf willows 
beside a little lake half a mile in our front. In a 
few minutes the thing walked out where the bushes 



The Moose 243 

were thinner, and we saw that it was a young bull 
moose browsing on the willow tops. He had evi 
dently nearly finished his breakfast, and he stood 
idly for some moments, now and then lazily crop 
ping a mouthful of twig tips. Then he walked off 
with great strides in a straight line across the marsh, 
splashing among the wet water-plants, and plowing 
through boggy spaces with the indifference begotten 
of vast strength and legs longer than those of any 
other animal on this continent. At times he en 
tered beds of reeds which hid him from view, 
though their surging and bending showed the wake 
of his passage; at other times he walked through 
meadows of tall, grass, the withered yellow stalks 
rising to his flanks, while his body loomed above 
them, glistening black and wet in the level sunbeams. 
Once he stopped for a few moments on a rise of dry 
ground, seemingly to enjoy the heat of the young 
sun ; he stood motionless, save that his ears were con 
tinually pricked, and his head sometimes slightly 
turned, showing that even in this remote land he 
was on the alert. Once, with a somewhat awkward 
motion, he reached his hind leg forward to scratch 
his neck. Then he walked forward again into the 
marsh; where the water was quite deep he broke 
into the long, stretching, springy trot, which forms 
the characteristic gait of his kind, churning the 
marsh water into foam. He held his head straight 
forward, the antlers resting on his shoulders. 



244 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

He could not have chosen a spot better suited for 
us. He was nearly at the edge of the morass, the 
open space between the spruce clump where he was 
lying and the rocky foothills being comparatively 
dry and not much over a couple of hundred yards 
broad ; while some sixty yards from it, and between 
it and the hills, was a little hummock, tufted with 
firs, so as to afford us just the cover we needed. 
Keeping back from the edge of the morass we were 
able to walk upright through the forest, until we 
got the point where he was lying in a line with this 
little hummock. We then dropped on our hands 
and knees, and crept over the soft, wet sward, where 
there was nothing to make a noise. Wherever the 
ground rose at all we crawled flat on our bellies. 
The air was still, for it was a very calm morning. 

At last we reached the hummock, and I got into 
position for a shot, taking a final look at my faithful 
45-90 Winchester to see that all was in order. Peer 
ing cautiously through the shielding evergreens, I 



The Moose 245 

at first could not make out where the moose was ly 
ing, until my eye was caught by the motion of his 
big ears, as he occasionally flapped them lazily for 
ward. Even then I could not see his outline; but I 
knew where he was, and having pushed my rifle for 
ward on the moss, I snapped a dry twig to make him 
rise. My veins were thrilling and my heart beating 
with that eager, fierce excitement, known only to the 
hunter of big game, and forming one of the keenest 
and strongest of the many pleasures which with him 
go to make up "the wild joy of living." 

As the sound of the snapping twig smote his ears 
the moose rose nimbly to his feet, with a lightness 
on which one would not have reckoned in a beast 
so heavy of body. He stood broadside to me for a 
moment, his ungainly head slightly turned, while his 
ears twitched and his nostrils snuffed the air. Draw 
ing a fine bead against his black hide, behind his 
shoulder and two-thirds of his body s depth below 
his shaggy withers, I pressed the trigger. He 
neither flinched nor reeled, but started with his reg 
ular ground-covering trot through the spruces; yet 
I knew he was mine, for the light blood sprang from 
both of his nostrils, and he fell dying on his side 
before he had gone thirty rods. 

Later in the fall I was again hunting among the 
lofty ranges which continue toward the southeast 
the chain of the Bitter Root, between Idaho and 
Montana. There were but two of us, and we were 



246 The Wilderness Hunter 

traveling very light, each having but one pack-pony 
and the saddle animal he bestrode. We were high 
among the mountains, and followed no regular trail. 
Hence our course was often one of extreme diffi 
culty. Occasionally, we took our animals through 
the forest near timber line, where the slopes were 
not too steep; again we threaded our way through 
a line of glades, or skirted the foothills, in an open, 
park country; and now and then we had to cross 
stretches of tangled mountain forest, making but 
a few miles a day, at the cost of incredible toil, and 
accomplishing even this solely by virtue of the won 
derful docility and sure-footedness of the ponies, 
and of my companion s skill with the axe and thor 
ough knowledge of the woodcraft. 

Late one cold afternoon we came out in a high 
alpine valley in which there was no sign of any 
man s having ever been before us. Down its middle 
ran a clear brook. On each side was a belt of thick 
spruce forest, covering the lower flanks of the moun 
tains. The trees came down in points and isolated 
clumps to the brook, the banks of which were thus 
bordered with open glades, rendering the traveling 
easy and rapid. 

Soon after starting up this valley we entered a 
beaver meadow of considerable size. It was cov 
ered with lush, rank grass, and the stream wound 
through it rather sluggishly in long curves, which 
were fringed by a thick growth of dwarfed willows. 



The Moose 247 

In one or two places it broadened into small ponds, 
bearing a few lily-pads. This meadow had been all 
tramped up by moose. Trails led hither and thither 
through the grass, the willow twigs were cropped 
off, and the muddy banks of the little black ponds 
were indented by hoof-marks. Evidently most of 
the lilies had been plucked. The footprints were 
unmistakable ; a moose s foot is longer and slimmer 
than a caribou s, while on the other hand it is much 
larger than an elk s, and a longer oval in shape. 

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

The light was already fading, and, of course, we 
did not wish to camp where we were, because we 
would then certainly scare the moose. Accordingly 
we pushed up the valley for another mile, through 
an open forest, the ground being quite free from 
underbrush and dead timber, and covered with a 
carpet of thick moss, in which the feet sank noise 
lessly. Then we came to another beaver-meadow, 
which offered fine feed for the ponies. On its edge 
we hastily pitched camp, just at dusk. We tossed 
down the packs in a dry grove, close to the brook, 
and turned the tired ponies loose in the meadow, 
hobbling the little mare that carried the bell. The 
ground was smooth. We threw a cross-pole from 



248 The Wilderness Hunter 

one to the other of two young spruces, which hap 
pened to stand handily, and from it stretched and 
pegged out a piece of canvas, which we were using 
as a shelter tent. Beneath this we spread our bed 
ding, laying under it the canvas sheets in which it 
had been wrapped. There was still bread left over 
from yesterday s baking, and in a few moments the 
kettle was boiling and the frying-pan sizzling, while 
one of us skinned and cut into suitable pieces two 
grouse we had knocked over on our march. For 
fear of frightening the moose we built but a small 
fire, and went to bed soon after supper, being both 
tired and cold. Fortunately, what little breeze there 
was blew up the valley. 

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

I walked slowly, it being difficult not to make a 
noise by cracking sticks or brushing against trees, 
in the gloom; but the forest was so open that it 
favored me. When I reached the edge of the beaver- 
meadow it was light enough to shoot, though the 



The Moose 249 

front sight still glimmered indistinctly. Streaks of 
cold red showed that the sun would soon rise. 

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

Crouching, I stole noiselessly along the edge of 
the willow-thicket. The stream twisted through it 
from side to side in zigzags, so that every few rods 
I got a glimpse down a lane of black water. In a 
minute I heard a slight splashing near me; and on 
passing the next point of bushes, I saw the shad 
owy outline of the moose s hindquarters, standing 
in a bend of the water. In a moment he walked 
onward, disappearing. I ran forward a couple of 
rods, and then turned in among the willows, to 
reach the brook where it again bent back toward 
me. The splashing in the water, and the rust 
ling of the moose s body against the frozen twigs, 
drowned the noise made by my moccasined feet. 



250 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

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

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



The Moose 251 

inferior to ordinary buckskin; caribou hide is the 
best of all, especially when used as webbing for 
snowshoes. 

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

After the rut begins the animals roam everywhere 
through the woods; and where there are hardwood 
forests the winter-yard is usually made among them, 
on high ground, away from the swamps. In the 
mountains the deep snows drive the moose, like 
all other game, down to the lower valleys, in hard 
winters. In the summer it occasionally climbs to 
the very summits of the wooded ranges, to escape 
the flies; and it is said that in certain places where 
wolves are plenty the cows retire to the tops of the 
mountains to calve. More often, however, they 



The Wilderness Hunter 



select some patch of very dense cover, in a swamp 
or by a lake, for this purpose. Their ways of life 
of course vary with the nature of the country they 
frequent. In the towering chains of the Rockies, 
clad in sombre and unbroken evergreen forests, their 
habits, in regard to winter and summer homes, and 
choice of places of seclusion for cows with young 
calves and bulls growing their antlers, differ from 
those of their kind which haunt the comparatively 
low, hilly, lake-studded country of Maine and Nova 
Scotia, where the forests are of birch, beech, and 
maple, mixed with pine, spruce, and hemlock. 

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

In the fall, winter, and early spring, and in cer 
tain places during summer, the moose feeds princi 
pally by browsing, though always willing to vary its 
diet by mosses, lichens, fungi, and ferns. In the 
Eastern forests, with their abundance of hardwood, 
the birch, maple, and moose-wood form its favorite 



The Moose 253 

food. In the Rocky Mountains, where the forests 
are almost purely evergreen, it feeds on such wil 
lows, alders, and aspens as it can find, and also, when 
pressed by necessity, on balsam, fir, spruce, and very 
young pine. It peels the bark between its hard pal 
ate and sharp lower teeth, to a height of seven or 
eight feet; these "peelings" form conspicuous moose 
signs. It crops the juicy, budding twigs and stem- 
tops to the same height ; and if the tree is too tall it 
"rides" it, that is, straddles the slender trunk with 
its forelegs, pushing it over and walking up it until 
the desired branches are within reach. No beast is 
more destructive to the young growth of a forest 
than the moose. Where much persecuted it feeds 
in the late evening, early morning, and by moon 
light. Where rarely disturbed it passes the day 
much as cattle do, alternately resting and feeding 
for two or three hours at a time. 

Young moose, when caught, are easily tamed, and 
are very playful, delighting to gallop to and fro, 
kicking, striking, butting, and occasionally making 
grotesque faces. As they grow old they are apt 
to become dangerous, and even their play takes the 
form of a mock fight. Some lumbermen I knew on 
the Aroostook, in Maine, once captured a young 
moose, and put it in a pen of logs. A few days 
later they captured another, somewhat smaller, and 
put it in the same pen, thinking the first would be 
grateful at having a companion. But if it was it 



254 The Wilderness Hunter 

dissembled its feelings, for it promptly fell on the 
unfortunate new-comer and killed it before it could 
be rescued. 

During the rut the bulls seek the cows far and 
wide, uttering continually throughout the night a 
short, loud roar, which can be heard at a distance 
of four or five miles; the cows now and then re 
spond with low, plaintive bellows. The bulls also 
thrash the tree trunks with their horns, and paw big 
holes in soft ground ; and when two rivals come to 
gether at this season they fight with the most des 
perate fury. It is chiefly in these battles with one 
another that the huge antlers are used; in contend 
ing with other foes they strike terrible blows with 
their fore hoofs and also sometimes lash out behind 
like a horse. The bear occasionally makes a prey 
of the moose ; the cougar is a more dangerous enemy 
in the few districts where both animals are found 
at all plentifully; but next to man its most dreaded 
foe is the big timber wolf, that veritable scourge 
of all animals of the deer kind. Against all of these 
the moose defends itself valiantly; a cow with a calf 
and a rutting bull being especially dangerous op 
ponents. In deep snows through which the great 
deer flounders while its adversary runs lightly on 
the crust, a single wolf may overcome and slaughter 
a big bull moose; but with a fair chance no one or 
two wolves would be a match for it. Desperate 
combats take place before a small pack of wolves can 



The Moose 255 

master the shovel-horned quarry, unless it is taken 
at a hopeless disadvantage; and in these battles the 
prowess of the moose is shown by the fact that it is 
no unusual thing for it to kill one or more of the 
ravenous throng; generally by a terrific blow of the 
foreleg, smashing a wolf s skull or breaking its 
back. I have known of several instances of wolves 
being found dead, having perished in this manner. 
Still, the battle usually ends the other way, the 
wolves being careful to make the attack with the 
odds in their favor ; and even a small pack of the fe 
rocious brutes will in a single winter often drive the 
moose completely out of a given district. Both 
cougar and bear generally reckon on taking the 
moose unawares, when they jump on it. In 
one case that came to my knowledge a black 
bear was killed by a cow moose whose calf he 
had attacked. 

In the Northeast a "favorite method of hunting the 
moose is by "calling" the bulls in the rutting season, 
at dawn or nightfall ; the caller imitating their cries 
through a birch-bark trumpet. If the animals are 
at all wary, this kind of sport can only be carried 
on in still weather, as the approaching bull always 
tries to get the wind of the caller. It is also some 
times slain by fire-hunting, from a canoe, as the deer 
are killed in the Adirondacks. This, however, is 
but an ignoble sport ; and to kill the animal while it 
is swimming in a lake is worse. However, there 



256 The Wilderness Hunter 

is sometimes a spice of excitement even in these 
unworthy methods of the chase; for a truculent 
moose will do its best, with hoofs and horns, to up 
set the boat. 

The true way to kill the noble beast, however, is 
by fair still-hunting. There is no grander sport 
than still-hunting the moose, whether in the vast 
pine and birch forests of the Northeast, or among 
the stupendous mountain masses of the Rockies. 
The moose has wonderfully keen nose and ears, 
though its eyesight is not remarkable. Most, hunt 
ers assert that it is the wariest of all game, and the 
most difficult to kill. I have never been quite satis 
fied that this was so ; it seems to me that the nature 
of the ground wherein it dwells helps it even more 
than do its own sharp senses. It is true that I made 
many trips in vain before killing my first moose; 
but then I had to hunt through tangled timber, 
where I could scarcely move a step without noise, 
and could never see thirty yards ahead. If moose 
were found in open park-like forests like those 
where I first killed elk, on the Bighorn Mountains, 
or among brushy coulies and bare hills, like the 
Little Missouri Bad Lands, where I first killed black- 
tail deer, I doubt whether they would prove espe 
cially difficult animals to bag. My own experience 
is much too limited to allow me to speak with any 
certainty on the point; but it is borne out by what 
more skilled hunters have told me. In the Big 



The Moose 257 

Hole Basin, in southwest Montana, moose were quite 
plentiful in the late seventies. Two or three of the 
old settlers, whom I know as veteran hunters and 
trustworthy men, have told me that in those times 
the moose were often found in very accessible locali 
ties; and that when such was the case they were 
quite as easily killed as elk. In fact, when run 
across by accident they frequently showed a certain 
clumsy slowness of apprehension which amounted to 
downright stupidity. One of the most successful 
moose-hunters I know is Col. Cecil Clay, of the De 
partment of Law, in Washington; he it was who 
killed the moose composing the fine group mounted 
by Mr. Hornaday, in the National Museum. Col. 
Clay lost his right arm in the Civil War; but is an 
expert rifle shot nevertheless, using a short, light 
forty-four calibre old style Winchester carbine. With 
this weapon he has killed over a score of moose, by 
fair still-hunting; and he tells me that on similar 
ground he considers it if anything rather less easy 
to still-hunt and kill a whitetail deer than it is to 
kill a moose. 

My friend Col. James Jones killed two moose in 
a day in northwestern Wyoming, not far from the 
Tetons; he was alone when he shot them and did 
not find them especially wary. Ordinarily, moose 
are shot at fairly close range; but another friend 
of mine, Mr. E. P. Rogers, once dropped one with 
a single bullet, at a distance of nearly three hundred 



258 The Wilderness Hunter 

yards. This happened by Bridger s Lake, near Two- 
Ocean Pass. 

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

One thing which renders the chase of the moose 
particularly interesting is the fact that there is in 
it on rare occasions a spice of peril. Under certain 
circumstances it may be called dangerous quarry, 
being, properly speaking, the only animal of the deer 
kind which ever fairly deserves the title. In a hand 
to hand grapple an elk or caribou, or even under 
exceptional circumstances a blacktail or a white- 
tail, may show itself an ugly antagonist; and indeed 
a maddened elk may for a moment take the offensive ; 
but the moose is the only one of the tribe with 
which this attitude is at all common. In bodily 
strength and capacity to do harm it surpasses the 
elk; and in temper it is far more savage and more 
apt to show fight when assailed by man; exactly as 
the elk in these respects surpasses the common 
deer. 



The Moose 259 

Two hunters with whom I was well acquainted 
once wintered between the Wind River Mountains 
and the Three Tetons, many years ago, in the days 
of the buffalo. They lived on game, killing it on 
snowshoes; for the most part wapiti and deer, but 
also bison, and one moose, though they saw others. 
The wapiti bulls kept their antlers two months 
longer than the moose; nevertheless, when chased 
they rarely made an effort to use them, while the 
hornless moose displayed far more pugnacity, and 
also ran better through the deep snow. The winter 
was very severe, the snows were heavy and the 
crusts hard; so that the hunters had little trouble 
in overtaking their game, although being old 
mountain-men, and not hide hunters they killed 
only what was needed. Of course in such hunting 
they came very close to the harried game, usually 
after a chase of from twenty minutes to three 
hours. They found that the ordinary deer would 
scarcely charge under any circumstances ; that among 
the wapiti it was only now and then that individuals 
would turn upon their pursuers though they some 
times charged boldly; but that both the bison and 
especially the moose, when worried and approached 
too near, would often turn to bay and make charge 
after charge in the most resolute manner, so that 
they had to be approached with some caution. 

Under ordinary conditions, however, there is very 
little danger, indeed, of a moose charging. A 



26o The Wilderness Hunter 

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



The Moose 261 

killed a cow moose; the bull lay dying in the gully, 
Dut of which he had scared the cow by his last rush. 

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

If the snowfall is very light, moose do not yard 
at all; but in a hard winter they begin to make 
their yards in December. A "yard" is not, as some 
people seem to suppose, a trampled-down space, 
with definite boundaries; the term merely denotes 
the spot which a moose has chosen for its winter 
home, choosing it because it contains plenty of 
browse in the shape of young trees and saplings, 
and perhaps also because it is sheltered to some 
extent from the fierce winds and heaviest snowdrifts. 
The animal travels to and fro across this space in 
straight lines and irregular circles after food, tread- 



262 The Wilderness Hunter 

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

When hunters approach an isolated yard the 
moose immediately leave it and run off through the 
snow. If there is no crust, and if their long legs 
can reach the ground, the snow itself impedes them 
but little, because of their vast strength and endur 
ance. Snowdrifts which render an ordinary deer ab 
solutely helpless, and bring even an elk to a standstill, 
offer no impediment whatever to a moose. If, as 
happens very rarely, the loose snow is of such depth 



The Moose 263 

that even the stilt-like legs of the moose can not 
touch solid earth, it flounders and struggles for 
ward for a little time, and then sinks exhausted; 
for a caribou is the only large animal which can 
travel under such conditions. If there be a crust, 
even though the snow is not remarkably deep, the 
labor of the moose is vastly increased, as it breaks 
through at every step, cutting its legs and exhaust 
ing itself. A caribou, on the other hand, will go 
across a crust as well as a man on snowshoes, and 
can never be caught by the latter, save under alto 
gether exceptional conditions of snowfall and thaw. 

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

Hunting moose on snow, therefore, may be, and 
very often is, mere butchery; and because of this 
possibility or probability, and also because of the 
fact that it is by far the most destructive kind of 
hunting, and is carried on at a season when the 
bulls are hornless and the cows heavy with calf, it 
is rigidly and properly forbidden wherever there are 



264 The Wilderness Hunter 

good game-laws. Yet this kind of hunting may also 
be carried on under circumstances which render it 
if not a legitimate, yet a most exciting and manly 
sport, only to be followed by men of tried courage, 
hardihood, and skill. This is not because it ever 
necessitates any skill whatever in the use of the 
rifle, or any particular knowledge of hunting-craft; 
but because under the conditions spoken of the 
hunter must show great endurance and resolution, 
and must be an adept in the use of snowshoes. 

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

If the snow is less deep, or the crust not so heavy, 
the moose may travel for scores of miles before it 
is overtaken; and this even though the crust be 



The Moose 265 

strong enough to bear a man wearing snowshoes 
without breaking. The chase then involves the most 
exhausting fatigue. Moreover, it can be carried 
on only by those who are very skilful in the use of 
snowshoes. These snowshoes are of two kinds. In 
the Northeast, and in the most tangled forests of 
the Northwest, the webbed snowshoes are used; on 
the bare mountain-sides, and in the open forests 
of the Rockies, the long narrow wooden skees, or 
Norwegian snowskates, are preferred, as upon them 
men can travel much faster, though they are less 
handy in thick timber. Having donned his snow- 
shoes and struck the trail of a moose, the hunter 
may have to follow it three days if the snow 
is of only ordinary depth, with a moderate crust. 
He shuffles across the snow without halt while day 
light lasts, and lies down wherever he happens to 
be when night strikes him, probably with a little 
frozen bread as his only food. The hunter thus 
goes through inordinate labor, and suffers from ex 
posure ; not infrequently his feet are terribly cut by 
the thongs of the snowshoes, and become sore and 
swollen, causing great pain. When overtaken after 
such a severe chase, the moose is usually so ex 
hausted as to be unable to make any resistance; in 
all likelihood it has run itself to a standstill. Ac 
cordingly, the quality of the firearms makes but 
little difference in this kind of hunting. Many of 
the most famous old moose-hunters of Maine, in 

12 VOL. II. 



266 The Wilderness Hunter 

the long past days, before the Civil War, when 
moose were plenty there, used what were known as 
"three dollar" guns; light, single-barreled smooth 
bores. One whom I knew used a flint-lock musket, 
a relic of the War of 1812. Another in the course 
of an exhausting three days chase lost the lock off 
his cheap, percussion-cap gun; and when he over 
took the moose he had to explode the cap by ham 
mering it with a stone. 

It is in "crusting," when the chase has lasted 
but a comparatively short time, that moose most 
frequently show fight; for they are not cast into a 
state of wild panic by a sudden and unlooked-for 
attack by a man who is a long distance from them, 
but on the contrary, after being worried and irri 
tated, are approached very near by foes from whom 
they have been fleeing for hours. Nevertheless, in 
the majority of cases even crusted moose make not 
the slightest attempt at retaliation. If the chase 
has been very long, or if the depth of the snow and 
character of the crust are exceptionally disadvan 
tageous to them, they are so utterly done out, when 
overtaken, that they can not make a struggle, and 
may even be killed with an axe. I know of at least 
five men who have thus killed crusted moose with 
an axe; one in the Rocky Mountains, one in Min 
nesota, three in Maine. 

But in ordinary snow a man who should thus at 
tempt to kill a moose would merely jeopardize his 



The Moose 267 

own life; and it is not an uncommon thing for 
chased moose, when closely approached by their 
pursuers, even when the latter carry guns and are 
expert snowshoers, to charge them with such fe 
rocity as to put them in much peril. A brother of 
one of my cow-hands, a man from Maine, was once 
nearly killed by a cow moose. She had been in a 
yard with her last year s calf when started. After 
two or three hours chase he overtook them. They 
were traveling in single file, the cow breaking her 
path through the snow, while the calf followed close 
behind, and in his nervousness sometimes literally 
ran up on her. The man trotted close alongside; 
but, before he could fire, the old cow spun round and 
charged him, her mane bristling and her green eyes 
snapping with rage. It happened that just there the 
snow became shallow, and the moose gained so rap 
idly that the man, to save his life, sprang up a tree. 
As he did so the cow reared and struck at him, one 
forefoot catching in his snowshoe and tearing it 
clear off, giving his ankle a bad wrench. After 
watching him a minute or two she turned and con 
tinued her flight; whereupon he climbed down the 
tree, patched up his torn snowshoe and limped after 
the moose, which he finally killed. 

An old hunter named Purvis told me of an adven 
ture of the kind, which terminated fatally. He was 
hunting near the Cceur d Alene Mountains with a 
mining prospector named Pingree; both were origi- 



268 The Wilderness Hunter 

nally from New Hampshire. Late in November 
there came a heavy fall of snow, deep enough to 
soon bring a deer to a standstill, although not so 
deep as to hamper a moose s movement. The men 
bound on their skees and started to the borders of 
a lake, to kill some blacktail. In a thicket close to 
the lake s brink they suddenly came across a bull 
moose; a lean old fellow, still savage from the rut. 
Pingree, who was nearest, fired at and wounded him ; 
whereupon he rushed straight at the man, knocked 
him down before he could turn round on his skees, 
and began to pound him with his terrible forefeet. 
Summoned by his comrade s despairing cries, Pur 
vis rushed round the thickets, and shot the squeal 
ing, trampling monster through the body, and im 
mediately after had to swing himself up a small 
tree to avoid its furious rush. The moose did not 
turn after this charge, but kept straight on, and 
was not seen again. The wounded man was past 
all help, for his chest was beaten in, and he died in 
a couple of hours. 



CHAPTER XII 

HUNTING LORE 

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

I have never sought to make large bags, for a 
hunter should not be a game butcher. It is always 
lawful to kill dangerous or noxious animals, like the 
bear, cougar, and wolf; but other game should only 
be shot when there is need of the meat, or for the 
sake of an unusually fine trophy. Killing a reason 
able number of bulls, bucks, or rams does no harm 
whatever to the species; to slay half the males of 
any kind of game would not stop the natural in 
crease, and they yield the best sport, and are the 
legitimate objects of the chase. Cows, does, and 
ewes, on the contrary, should only be killed (unless 

barren) in case of necessity; during my last five 

(269) 



270 The Wilderness Hunter 

years hunting I have killed but five one by a mis 
chance, and the other four for the table. 

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

There are, in different parts of our country, 
chances to try so many various kinds of hunting, 
with rifle or with horse and hound, that it is nearly 
impossible for one man to have experience of them 
all. There are many hunts I long hoped to take, 
but never did and never shall ; they must be left for 
men with more time, or for those whose homes are 
nearer to the hunting grounds. I have never seen 



Hunting Lore 271 

a grisly roped by the riders of the plains, nor a black 
bear killed with the knife and hounds in the South 
ern canebrakes ; though at one time I had for many 
years a standing invitation to witness this last feat 
on a plantation in Arkansas. The friend who gave 
it, an old backwoods planter, at one time lost almost 
all his hogs by the numerous bears who infested his 
neighborhood. He took a grimly humorous re 
venge each fall by doing his winter killing among 
the bears instead of among the hogs they had slain ; 
for as the cold weather approached he regularly 
proceeded to lay in a stock of bear-bacon, scouring 
the cranebrakes in a series of systematic hunts, 
bringing the quarry to bay with the help of a big 
pack of hard-fighting mongrels, and then killing it 
with his long, broad-bladed bowie. 

Again, I should like to make a trial at killing pec 
caries with the spear, whether on foot or on horse 
back, and with or without dogs. I should like much 
to repeat the experience of a friend who cruised 
northward through Bering Sea, shooting walrus and 
polar bear; and that of two other friends who trav 
eled with dog-sleds to the Barren Grounds, in chase 
of the caribou, and of that last survivor of the Ice 
Age, the strange musk-ox. Once in a while it 
must be good sport to shoot alligators by torch 
light in the everglades of Florida or the bayous 
of Louisiana. 



272 The Wilderness Hunter 

If the big-game hunter, the lover of the rifle, has 
a taste for kindred field sports with rod and shot 
gun, many are his chances for pleasure, though per 
haps of a less intense kind. The wild turkey really 
deserves a place beside the deer; to kill a wary old 
gobbler with the small-bore rifle, by fair still-hunt 
ing, is a triumph for the best sportsman. Swans, 
geese, and sandhill cranes likewise may sometimes 
be killed with the rifle ; but more often all three, save 
perhaps the swan, must be shot over decoys. Then 
there is prairie-chicken shooting on the fertile grain 
prairies of the Middle West, from Minnesota to 
Texas ; and killing canvas-backs from behind blinds, 
with the help of that fearless swimmer, the Chesa 
peake Bay dog. In Californian mountains and val 
leys live the beautiful plumed quails; and who does 
not know their cousin bob- white, the bird of the farm, 
with his cheery voice and friendly ways ? For pure 
fun, nothing can surpass a night scramble through 
the woods after coon and possum. 

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



Hunting Lore 273 

least of all for the sluggish pickerel, and his big 
brother of the Great Lakes, the muscallonge. 

Yet the sport yielded by rod and smooth-bore is 
really less closely kin to the strong pleasures so be 
loved by the hunter who trusts in horse and rifle than 
are certain other outdoor pastimes, of the rougher 
and hardier kind. Such a pastime is snowshoeing, 
whether with webbed rackets, in the vast northern 
forests, or with skees, on the bare slopes of the 
Rockies. Such is mountaineering, especially when 
joined with bold exploration of the unknown. Most 
of our mountains are of rounded shape, and though 
climbing them is often hard work, it is rarely diffi 
cult or dangerous, save in bad weather, or after a 
snowfall. But there are many of which this is not 
true; the Tetons, for instance, and various glacier- 
bearing peaks in the Northwest; while the lofty, 
snow-clad ranges of British Columbia and Alaska 
offer one of the finest fields in the world for the 
daring cragsman. Mountaineering is among the 
manliest of sports ; and it is to be hoped that some 
of our young men with a taste for hard work and 
adventure among the high hills will attempt the 
conquest of these great untrodden mountains of 
their own continent. As with all pioneer work, there 
would be far more discomfort and danger, far more 
need to display resolution, hardihood, and wisdom 
in such an attempt than in any expedition on well- 



274 The Wilderness Hunter 

known and historic ground like the Swiss Alps ; but 
the victory would be a hundred-fold better worth 
winning. 

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

Foremost of all American writers on outdoor life 
is John Burroughs; and I can scarcely suppose that 
any man who cares for existence outside the cities 
would willingly be without anything that he has 
ever written. To the naturalist, to the observer and 
lover of nature, he is of course worth many times 
more than any closet systematist ; and though he has 
not been very much in really wild regions, his pages 
so thrill with the sights and sounds of outdoor life 
that nothing by any writer who is a mere profes 
sional scientist or a mere professional hunter can 
take their place, or do more than supplement them 
for scientist and hunter alike would do well to re 
member that before a book can take the highest rank 
in any particular line it must also rank high in lit 
erature proper. Of course, for us Americans, Bur 
roughs has a peculiar charm that he can not have 
for others, no matter how much they, too, may like 
him ; for what he writes of is our own, and he calls 
to our minds memories and associations that are very 



Hunting Lore 275 

dear. His books make us homesick when we read 
them in foreign lands ; for they spring from our soil 
as truly as "Snowbound" or "The Biglow Papers." * 

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

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

There have been many American hunting-books; 

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



276 The Wilderness Hunter 

but too often they have been very worthless, even 
when the writers possessed the necessary first hand 
knowledge, and the rare capacity of seeing the truth. 
Few of the old-time hunters ever tried to write of 
what they had seen and done ; and of those who made 
the effort fewer still succeeded. Innate refinement 
and the literary faculty that is, the faculty of writ 
ing a thoroughly interesting book, full of valuable 
information may exist in uneducated people; but 
if they do not, no amount of experience in the field 
can supply their lack. However, we have had some 
good works on the chase and habits of big game, 
such as Caton s "Deer and Antelope of America," 
Van Dyke s "Still-Hunter," Elliott s "Carolina 
Sports," and Dodge s "Hunting Grounds of the 
Great West," besides the Century Company s 
"Sport with Rod and Gun." Then there is Catlin s 
book, and the journals of the explorers from Lewis 
and Clark down; and occasional volumes on out 
door life, such as Theodore Winthrop s "Canoe 
and Saddle," and Clarence King s "Mountaineering 
in the Sierra Nevada." 

Two or three of the great writers of American 
literature, notably Parkman in his "Oregon Trail," 
and, with less interest, Irving in his "Trip on the 
Prairies," have written with power and charm of life 
in the American wilderness; but no one has arisen 
to do for the far Western plainsman and Rocky 



Hunting Lore 277 

Mountain trappers quite what Hermann Melville 
did for the South Sea whaling folk in "Omoo" and 
"Moby Dick." The best description of these old- 
time dwellers among the mountains and on the 
plains is to be found in a couple of good volumes 
by the Englishman Ruxton. However, the back 
woodsmen proper, both in their forest homes and 
when they first began to venture out on the prairie, 
have been portrayed by a master hand. In a suc 
cession of wonderfully drawn characters, ranging 
from "Aaron Thousandacres" and "Ishmael Bush," 
Fenimore Cooper has preserved for always the like 
nesses of these stark pioneer settlers and backwoods 
hunters; uncouth, narrow, hard, suspicious, but 
with all the virile virtues of a young and masterful 
race, a race of mighty breeders, mighty fighters, 
mighty commonwealth builders. As for Leather- 
stocking, he is one of the undying men of story; 
grand, simple, kindly, pure-minded, stanchly loyal, 
the type of the steel-thewed and iron-willed hunter- 
warrior. 

Turning from the men of fiction to the men of 
real life, it is worth noting how many of the lead 
ers among our statesmen and soldiers have sought 
strength and pleasure in the chase, or in kindred 
vigorous pastimes. Of course field sports, or at 
least the wilder kinds, which entail the exercise of 
daring, and the endurance of toil and hardship, and 



278 The Wilderness Hunter 

which lead men afar into the forests and moun 
tains, stand above athletic exercises; exactly as 
among the latter, rugged outdoor games, like foot 
ball and lacrosse, are much superior to mere gym 
nastics and calisthenics. 

With a few exceptions, the men among us who 
have stood foremost in political leadership, like their 
fellows who have led our armies, have been of stal 
wart frame and sound bodily health. When they 
sprang from the frontier folk, as did Lincoln and 
Andrew Jackson, they usually hunted much in their 
youth, if only as an incident in the prolonged war 
fare waged by themselves and their kinsmen against 
the wild forces of nature. Old Israel Putnam s fa 
mous wolf-killing feat comes strictly under this head. 
Doubtless he greatly enjoyed the excitement of the 
adventure; but he went into it as a matter of busi 
ness, not of sport. The wolf, the last of its kind in 
his neighborhood, had taken heavy toll of the flocks 
of himself and his friends; when they found the 
deep cave in which it had made its den it readily 
beat off the dogs sent in to assail it ; and so Putnam 
crept in himself, with his torch and his flint-lock 
musket, and shot the beast where it lay. 

When such men lived in long settled and thickly 
peopled regions, they needs had to accommodate 
themselves to the conditions and put up with hum 
bler forms of sport. Webster, like his great rival 



Hunting Lore 279 

for Whig leadership, Henry Clay, cared much for 
horses, dogs, and guns ; but though an outdoor man 
he had no chance to develop a love for big-game 
hunting. He was, however, very fond of the rod 
and shotgun. Mr. Cabot Lodge recently handed 
me a letter written to his grandfather by Webster, 
and describing a day s trout fishing. It may be 
worth giving for the sake of the writer, and because 
of the fine heartiness and zest in enjoyment which 
it shows: 

SANDWICH, June 4, 
Saturday mor g 

6 o clock 
DEAR SIR: 

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

I took 26 trouts, all weighing 17 Ib. 12 oz. 

The largest (you have him) 
weighed at Crokers 2 " 4 " 

The 5 largest 3 " 5 " 

The eight largest II " 8 " 

I got these by following your advice; that is, by careful & 
thorough fishing of the difficult places, which others do not 
fish. The brook is fished, nearly every day. I entered it, not 
so high up as we sometimes do, between 7 & 8 o clock, & at 
12 was hardly more than half way down to the meeting-house 
path. You see I did not hurry. The day did not hold out 
to fish the whole brook properly. The largest trout I took at 
3 P.M. (you see I am precise) below the meeting-house, under 
a bush on the right bank, two or three rods below the large 
beeches. It is singular, that in the whole day, I did not take 
two trouts out of the same hole. I found both ends, or parts 



28o The Wilderness Hunter 

of the Brook about equally productive. Small fish not plenty, 
in either. So many hooks get everything which is not hid 
away in the manner large trouts take care of themselves. I 
hooked one, which I suppose to be larger than any which I 
took, as he broke my line, by fair pulling, after I had pulled 
him out of his den, & was playing him in fair open water. 

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

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

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

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

YRS. 

D. WEBSTER. 
H. CABOT, Esq. 



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



Hunting Lore 281 

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

His manuscript diaries, preserved in the State 
Department at Washington, are full of entries con 
cerning his feats in the chase; almost all of them 
naturally falling in the years between the ending of 
the French war and the opening of the Revolution 
ary struggle against the British, or else in the period 
separating his service as Commander-in-chief of the 
Continental armies from his term of office as Presi 
dent of the Republic. These entries are scattered 
through others dealing with his daily duties in over 
seeing his farm and mill, his attendance at the Vir 
ginia House of Burgesses, his journeys, the drill of 
the local militia, and all the various interests of his 
many-sided life. Fond though he was of hunting, 
he was wholly incapable of the career of inanity led 



282 The Wilderness Hunter 



by those who make sport, not a manly pastime, but 
the one serious business of their lives. 

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

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



Hunting Lore 283 

fox-hounds proved unable to cope ; as witness entries 
like : "found both a Bear and a Fox, but got neith 
er"; "went a hunting . . . started a Deer & then 
a Fox but got neither"; and "Went a hunting 
and after trailing a fox a good while the Dogs 
raized a Deer & ran out of the Neck with it & did 
not some of them at least come home till the next 
day." If it was a small animal, however, it was soon 
accounted for. "Went a Hunting . . . catched 
a Rakoon but never found a fox." 

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

Another result of this density and continuity of 
cover was the frequent recurrence of days of ill 
success. There are many such entries as: "Went 



284 The Wilderness Hunter 

Fox hunting, but started nothing" ; "Went a hunt 
ing, but catched nothing"; "found nothing *; "found 
a Fox and lost it." Often failure followed long 
and hard runs: "Started a Fox, run him four 
hours, took the Hounds off at night" ; "found a Fox 
and run it 6 hours and then lost" ; "Went a hunting 
above Darrells . . . found a fox by two dogs but 
lost it upon joining the Pack." In the season of 
1772-73 Washington hunted eighteen days and killed 
nine foxes; and though there were seasons when 
he was out much more often, this proportion of 
kills to runs was if anything above the average. 
At the beginning of 1768 he met with a series of 
blank days which might well have daunted a less 
patient and persevering hunter. In January and the 
early part of February he was out nine times with 
out getting a thing; but this diary does not contain 
a word of disappointment or surprise, each succes 
sive piece of ill luck being entered without comment, 
even when one day he met some more fortunate 
friends "who had just catched 2 foxes." At last, 
on February I2th, he himself "catched two foxes"; 
the six or eight gentlemen of the neighborhood who 
made up the field all went home with him to Mt. 
Vernon, to dine and pass the night, and in the hunt 
of the following day they repeated the feat of a 
double score. In the next seven days hunting he 
killed four times. 



Hunting Lore 285 

The runs of course varied greatly in length; on 
one day he "found a bitch fox at Piney Branch and 
killed it in an hour"; on another he "killed a Dog 
fox after having him on foot three hours & hard 
running an hour and a qr." ; and on yet another he 
"catched a fox with a bobd Tail & cut ears after 7 
hours chase in which most of the Dogs were worst 
ed." Sometimes he caught his fox in thirty-five 
minutes, and again he might run it nearly the whole 
day in vain; the average run seems to have been 
from an hour and a half to three hours. Sometimes 
the entry records merely the barren fact of the run; 
at others a few particulars are given, with home 
spun, telling directness, as : "Went a hunting with 
Jacky Custis and catched a Bitch Fox after three 
hours chase founded it on ye. ck. by I. Soals"; 
or "went a Fox hunting with Lund Washington 
took the drag of a fox by Isaac Gates & carrd. it 
tolerably well to the old Glebe then touched now 
and then upon a cold scent till we came into Col. 
Fairfaxes Neck where we found about half after 
three upon the Hills just above Accotinck Creek 
after running till quite Dark took off the dogs and 
came home." 

The foxes were doubtless mostly of the gray kind, 
and besides going to holes they treed readily. In 
January, 1770, he was out seven days, killing four 
foxes; and two of the entries in the journal relate 



286 The Wilderness Hunter 

to foxes which treed; one, on the loth, being, "I 
went a hunting in the Neck and visited the plantn. 
there found and killed a bitch fox after treeing it 3 
t. chasg. it abt. 3 hrs.," and the other on the 23d : 
"Went a hunting after breakfast & found a Fox at 
muddy hole & killed her (it being a bitch) after a 
chase of better than two hours and after treeing her 
twice the last of which times she fell dead out of 
the Tree after being therein sevl. minutes apparent 
ly." In April, 1769, he hunted four days, and on 
every occasion the fox treed. April 7th, "Dog fox 
killed, ran an hour & treed twice." April nth, 
"Went a fox hunting and took a fox alive after 
running him to a Tree brot him home." April 
1 2th, "Chased the above fox an hour & 45 minutes 
when he treed again after which we lost him." 
April 1 3th, "Killed a dog fox after treeing him in 
35 minutes." 

Washington continued his fox hunting until, in 
the spring of 1775, the guns of the minutemen in 
Massachusetts called him to the command of the 
Revolutionary soldiery. When the eight weary 
years of campaigning were over, he said good-by 
to the war-worn veterans whom he had led through 
defeat and disaster to ultimate triumph, and became 
once more a Virginia country gentleman. Then he 
took up his fox-hunting with as much zest as ever. 
The entries in his journal are now rather longer, 



Hunting Lore 287 

and go more into detail than formerly. Thus, on 
December I2th, 1785, he writes that after an early 
breakfast he went on a hunt and found a fox at 
half after ten, "being first plagued with the dogs 
running hogs," followed on his drag for some time, 
then ran him hard for an hour, when there came a 
fault; but when four dogs which had been thrown 
out rejoined the pack they put the fox up afresh, and 
after fifty minutes run killed him in an open field, 
"every Rider & every Dog being present at the 
Death." With his usual alternations between days 
like this, and days of ill-luck, he hunted steadily 
every season until his term of private life again 
drew to a close and he was called to the headship of 
the nation he had so largely helped to found. 

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



288 The Wilderness Hunter 

become contemptible when indulged in while the 
nation is at death-grips with her enemies. 

It was not in Washington s strong nature to make 
such an error. Nor yet, on the other hand, was 
he likely to undervalue either the pleasure, or the 
real worth of outdoor sports. The qualities of heart, 
mind and body, which made him delight in the 
hunting-field, and which he there exercised and de 
veloped, stood him in good stead in many a long 
campaign and on many a stricken field ; they helped 
to build that stern capacity for leadership in war 
which He showed alike through the bitter woe of 
the winter at Valley Forge, on the night when he 
ferried his men across the half-frozen Delaware to 
the overthrow of the German mercenaries at Tren 
ton, and in the brilliant feat of arms whereof the 
outcome was the decisive victory of Yorktown. 



APPENDIX 



(289) 
13 



VOL. II. 



APPENDIX 

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

There have been many changes, both in my old 
hunting-grounds and my old hunting-friends, since 
I first followed the chase in the far Western coun 
try. Where the buffalo and the Indian ranged, 
along the Little Missouri, the branded herds of the 
ranchmen now graze; the scene of my elk-hunt at 

(291) 



292 Appendix 

Two-Ocean Pass is now part of the National Forest 
Reserve; settlers and miners have invaded the 
ground where I killed bear and moose ; and steamers 
ply on the lonely waters of Kootenai Lake. Of my 
hunting companions some are alive ; others among 
them my stanch and valued friend, Will Dow, and 
crabbed, surly old Hank Griffen are dead; while 
yet others have drifted away, and I know not what 
has become of them. 

I have made no effort to indicate the best kind of 
camp kit for hunting, for the excellent reason that it 
depends so much upon the kind of trip taken, and 
upon the circumstances of the person taking it. The 
hunting trip may be made with a pack-train, or with 
a wagon, or with a canoe, or on foot ; and the hunter 
may have half a dozen attendants, or he may go ab 
solutely alone. I have myself made trips under all 
of these circumstances. At times I have gone with 
two or three men, several tents, and an elaborate 
apparatus for cooking, cases of canned goods, and 
the like. On the other hand, I have made trips on 
horseback, with nothing whatsoever beyond what I 
had on, save my oil-skin slicker, a metal cup, and 
some hardtack, tea, and salt in the saddle pockets; 
and I have gone for a week or two s journey on foot, 
carrying on my shoulders my blanket, a frying-pan, 



Appendix 293 

some salt, a little flour, a small chunk of bacon, and 
a hatchet. So it is with dress. The clothes should 
be stout, of a neutral tint; the hat should be soft, 
without too large a brim; the shoes heavy, and the 
soles studded with small nails, save when moccasins 
or rubber-soled shoes are worn; but within these 
limits there is room for plenty of variation. Avoid, 
however, the so-called deer-stalker s cap, which is 
an abomination; its peaked brim giving no protec 
tion whatsoever to the eyes when facing the sun 
quartering, a position in which many shots must be 
taken. In very cold regions, fur coats, caps, and 
mittens, and all-wool underclothing are necessary. 
I dislike rubber boots when they can possibly be 
avoided. In hunting in snow in the winter I use 
the so-called German socks and felt overshoes where 
possible. One winter I had an ermine cap made. 
It w r as very good for peeping over the snowy ridge 
crests when game was on the other side ; but, except 
when the entire landscape was snow-covered, it was 
an unmitigated nuisance. In winter, webbed snow- 
shoes are used in the thick woods, and skees in the 
open country. 

There is an endless variety of opinion about 
rifles, and all that can be said with certainty is that 
any good modern rifle will do. It is the man be- 



294 Appendix 

hind the rifle that counts, after the weapon has 
reached a certain stage of perfection. One of my 
friends invariably uses an old Government Spring 
field, a 45-calibre, with an ounce bullet. Another 
cares for nothing but the 40-90 Sharps , a weapon 
for which I myself have much partiality. Another 
uses always the old 45-calibre Sharps , and yet an 
other the 45-calibre Remington. Two of the best 
bear and elk hunters I know prefer the 32 and 38- 
calibre Marlin s with long cartridges, weapons with 
which I myself would not undertake to produce any 
good results. Yet others prefer pieces of very large 
calibre. 

The amount of it is that each one of these guns 
possesses some excellence which the others lack, 
but which is in most cases atoned for by some cor 
responding defect. Simplicity of mechanism is very 
important, but so is rapidity of fire ; and it is hard to 
get both of them developed to the highest degree 
in the same piece. In the same way, flatness of 
trajectory, penetration, range, shock, and accuracy 
are all qualities which must be attained; but to get 
one in perfection usually means the sacrifice of some 
of the rest. For instance, other things being equal, 
the smallest calibre has the greatest penetration, but 
gives the least shock; while a very flat trajectory, 



Appendix 295 

if acquired by heavy charges of powder, means the 
sacrifice of accuracy. Similarly, solid and hollow 
pointed bullets have, respectively, their merits and 
demerits. There is no use of dogmatizing about 
weapons. Some which prove excellent for particu 
lar countries and kinds of hunting are useless in 
others. 

There seems to be no doubt, judging from the 
testimony of sportsmen in South Africa and in In 
dia, that very heavy calibre double-barreled rifles 
are best for use in the dense jungles and against the 
thick-hided game of those regions ; but they are of 
very little value with us. In 1882, one of the buffalo 
hunters on the Little Missouri obtained from some 
Englishman a double-barreled ten-bore rifle of the 
kind used against rhinoceros, buffalo, and elephant 
in the Old World ; but it proved very inferior to the 
40 and 45-calibre Sharps buffalo guns when used 
under the conditions of American buffalo hunting, 
the tremendous shock given by the bullet not com 
pensating for the gun s great relative deficiency in 
range and accuracy, while even the penetration was 
inferior at ordinary distances. It is largely also 
a matter of individual taste. At one time I pos 
sessed a very expensive double-barreled SCXD Ex 
press, by one of the crack English makers; but I 



296 Appendix 

never liked the gun, and could not do as well with 
it as with my repeater, which cost barely a sixth as 
much. So one day I handed it to a Scotch friend, 
who was manifestly ill at ease with a Winchester 
exactly like my own. He took to the double-barrel 
as naturally as I did to the repeater, and did excel 
lent work with it. Personally, I have always pre 
ferred the Winchester. I now use a 45-90, with 
my old buffalo gun, a 40-90 Sharps , as spare rifle. 
Both, of course, have specially tested barrels, and 
are stocked and sighted to suit myself. 



END OF VOLUME TWO 



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