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AN ELK-HUNT AT TWO-OCEAN PASS.
NE fall with my ranch-partner, wilderness life unaided, and not only to hunt,
Ferguson, I made an elk-huntin but at times to travel for days, whether on foot northwestern Wyoming among or on horseback, alone. However, after one the Shoshone Mountains, where has passed one's novitiate, it is pleasant to be they join the Hoodoo and comfortable when the comfort does not interAbsoraka ranges. There is no fere with the sport; and although a man some
more beautiful game-country times likes to hunt alone, yet often it is well to in the United States. It is a park-land, where be with some old mountain hunter, a master of glades, meadows, and high mountain pastures woodcraft, who is a first-rate hand at finding break the evergreen forest: a forest which is game, creeping upon it, and tracking it when open compared to the tangled density of the wounded. With such a companion one gets woodland farther north. It is a high, cold region much more game, and learns many things by of many lakes and clear, rushing streams. The observation instead of by painful experience. steep mountains are generally of the rounded On this trip we had with us two hunters, Tazeform so often seen in the ranges of the Cordil- well Woody and Elwood Hofer, a packer who leras of the United States; but the Hoodoos, acted as cook, and a boy to herd the horses. Of or Goblins, are carved in fantastic and extra- the latter there were twenty; six saddle-animals ordinary shapes; while the Tetons, a group of and fourteen for the packs, two or three being isolated rock peaks, show a striking boldness spare horses, to be used later in carrying the in their lofty outlines.
elk-antlers, sheep-horns, and other trophies. This was one of the pleasantest hunts I ever Like most hunters' pack-animals, they were made. As always in the mountains, save where either half broken, or else broken down; tough, the country is so rough and so densely wooded unkempt, jaded-looking beasts of every color that one must go afoot, we had a pack-train; – sorrel, buckskin, pinto, white, bay, roan. and we took a more complete outfit than After the day's work was over, they were turned we had ever before taken on such a hunt, and loose to shift for themselves; and about once so traveled in much comfort. Usually, when a week they strayed, and all hands had to in the mountains, I have merely had one spend the better part of the day hunting for companion, or at most two, and two or them. The worst ones for straying, curiously three pack-ponies; each of us doing his share enough, were three broken-down old “bearof the packing, cooking, fetching water, and baits,” which went by themselves, as is generpitching the small square of canvas which ally the case with the cast-off horses of a herd. served as tent. In itself packing is both an art There were two sleeping-tents, another for the and a mystery, and a skilful professional packer, provisions, - in which we ate during bad versed in the intricacies of the “diamond weather, - and a canvas tepee, which was hitch," packs with a speed which no non-pro- put up with lodge-poles, Indian fashion, like fessional can hope to rival, and fixes the side a wigwam. A tepee is more difficult to put packs and top packs with such scientific nicety, up than an ordinary tent; but it is very conand adjusts the doubles and turns of the lash- venient when there is rain or snow. A small rope só accurately, that everything stays in fire kindled in the middle keeps it warm, the place under any but the most adverse condi- smoke escaping through the open top; that tions. Of course, like most hunters, I myself is, when it escapes at all. Strings are passed can in case of need throw the diamond hitch, from one pole to another, on which to hang after a fashion, and pack on either the off or near wet clothes and shoes, and the beds are made side. Indeed, unless a man can pack, it is not round the edges. As an offset to the warmth possible to make a really hard hunt in the and shelter, the smoke often renders it immountains, if alone, or with only a single com- possible even to sit upright. We had a very panion. The mere fair-weather hunter, who good camp-kit, including plenty of cookingtrusts entirely to the exertions of others, and and eating-utensils ; and among our provisions does nothing more than ride or walk about were some canned goods and sweetmeats, to under favorable circumstances, and shoot at give a relish to our meals of meat and bread. what somebody else shows him, is a hunter in We had fur coats and warm clothes, which are name only. Whoever would really deserve the chiefly needed at night, and plenty of bedtitle must be able at a pinch to shift for himself, ding, including water-proof canvas sheeting to grapple with the difficulties and hardships of and two caribou-hide sleeping bags, procured
VOL. XLIV. -93.
from the survivors of a party of arctic explorers. day in and day out, becomes both monotonous Except on rainy days I used my buckskin and irritating, unless one is upheld by the hope hunting-shirt or tunic; in dry weather I deem of a game-country ahead, or by the delight of it, because of its color, texture, and durability, exploration of the unknown. Yet when buoyed the best possible garb for the still-hunter, espe- by such a hope, there is pleasure in taking a cially in the woods.
train across so beautiful and wild a country as Starting a day's journey south of Heart Lake, that which lay on the threshold of our huntingwe traveled and hunted on the eastern edge grounds in the Shoshones. Wewentover mounof the great basin, wooded and mountainous, tain passes, with ranges of scalped peaks on wherein rise the head waters of the mighty each hand; we skirted the edges of lovely Snake River. There was not so much as a lakes, and of streams with boulder-strewn beds; spotted line,- that series of blazes made with we plunged into depths of somber woodland, the ax, man's first highway through the hoary broken by wet prairies. It was a picturesque forest,— but this we did not mind, as for most sight to see the loaded pack-train stringing of the distance we followed well-worn elk-trails. across one of these high mountain meadows, The train traveled in Indian file. At the head, the motley-colored line of ponies winding round to pick the path, rode tall, silent old Woody, the marshy spots through the bright green a true type of the fast-vanishing race of game- grass, while beyond rose the dark line of frownhunters and Indian-fighters, a man who had ing forest, with lofty peaks towering in the backbeen one of the California forty-niners, and who ground. Some of the meadows were beautiful ever since had lived the restless, reckless life of with many flowers-goldenrod, purple aster, the wilderness. Then came Ferguson and I; bluebells, white immortelles, and here and there then the pack-animals, strung out in line; masses of blood-red Indian pinks. In the parkwhile from the rear rose the varied oaths of our country, on the edges of the evergreen forest, three companions, whose miserable duty it was were groves of delicate quaking-aspen, the trees to urge forward the beasts of burden.
often growing to a considerable height; their Itis heart-breaking work to drive a pack-train tremulous leaves were already changing to through thick timber and over mountains, where bright green and yellow, occasionally with a there is either a dim trail or none. The animals reddish blush. In the Rocky Mountains the have a perverse faculty for choosing the wrong aspens are almost the only deciduous trees, turn at critical moments, and they are continu- their foliage offering a pleasant relief to the eye ally scraping under branches and squeezing be- after the monotony of the unending pine and tween tree-trunks, to the jeopardy or destruction spruce woods, which afford so striking a contrast of their burdens. After having been laboriously to the hard-wood forest east of the Mississippi. driven up a very steep incline, at the cost of For two days our journey was uneventful, severe exertion both to them and to the men, save that we came on the camp of a squawthe foolish creatures turn and run down to the man, one Beaver Dick, an old mountain bottom, so that all the work has to be done over hunter, living in a skin tepee, where dwelt his again. Some travel too slow, others travel too comely Indian wife and half-breed children. fast; yet one cannot but admire the toughness He had quite a herd of horses, many of them of the animals, and the sure-footedness with mares and colts; they had evidently been well which they pick their way along the sheer moun- treated, and came up to us fearlessly. tain-sides, or among boulders and over fallen The morning of the third day of our journey logs.
was gray and lowering. Gusts of rain blew in As our way was so rough, we found that we my face as I rode at the head of the train. It had to halt at least once every hour to fix the still lacked an hour of noon, as we were plodpacks. Moreover, we at the head of the column ding up a valley, beside a rapid brook running were continually being appealed to for help by through narrow willow-flats, with the dark forthe unfortunates in the rear. First it would be est crowding down on each hand from the low " that white-eyed cayuse; one side of its pack's foot-hills of the mountains. Suddenly the call down!" then we would be notified that the of a bull elk came echoing down through the saddle-blanket of the “ lop-eared Indian buck- wet woodland on our right, beyond the brook, skin" had slipped back; then a shout“ Look out seemingly less than half a mile off, and was for the pinto!” would be followed by that pleas- answered by a faint, far-off call from a rival on ing beast's appearance, bucking and squealing, the mountain beyond. Instantly halting the smashing dead timber, and scattering its load train, Woody and I slipped off, our horses, to the four winds. It was no easy task to get crossed the brook, and started to still-hunt the the horses across some of the boggy places first bull. without miring, or to force them through the In this place the forest was composed of the denser portions of the forest, where there was western tamarack; the large, tall trees stood much down timber. Riding with a pack-train, well apart, and there was much down timber, but the ground was covered with deep, wet drenched pack-animals, when driven into moss, over which we trod silently. The elk camp, stood mopingly, with drooping heads was traveling up-wind, but slowly, stopping and arched backs; they groaned and grunted as continually to paw the ground and to thrash the the loads were placed on their backs and the bushes with his antlers. He was very noisy, cinches tightened, the packers bracing one foot challenging every minute or two, being doubts against the pack to get a purchase as they less much excited by the neighborhood of his hauled in on the lash-rope. A stormy morn. rival on the mountain. We followed, Woody ing is a trial to temper: the packs are wet and leading, guided by the incessant calling. heavy, and the cold makes the work even more
It was very exciting as we crept toward the than usually hard on the hands. By ten we great bull, and the challenge sounded nearer broke camp. It needs between two and three and nearer. While we were still at some dis- hours to break camp and to get such a train tance the pealing notes were like those of a properly packed; once started, our day's jourbugle, delivered in two bars, first rising, then ney was from six to eight hours long, making no abruptly falling; as we drew nearer they took halt. We started up a steep, pine-clad mountainon a harsh, squealing sound. Each call made side, broken by cliffs. My hunting-shoes, though our veins thrill; it sounded like the cry of comfortable, were old and thin, and let the wasome huge beast of prey. At last we heard ter through like a sieve. On the top of the first the roar of the challenge not eighty yards off. plateau, where black-spruce groves were strewn Stealing forward three or four rods, I saw the across the grassy surface, we saw a band of elk, tips of the horns through a mass of dead tim- cows and calves, trotting off through the rain. ber and young growth, and slipped to one Then we plunged down into a deep valley, and, side to get a clean shot. Seeing us, but not crossing it, a hard climb took us to the top of making out what we were, and full of fierce and a great bare table-land, bleak and wind-swept. insolent excitement, the wapiti bull stepped We passed little alpine lakes, fringed with scatboldly toward us with a stately, swinging gait. tering dwarf evergreens. Snow lay in drifts on Then he stood motionless, facing us, barely the north sides of the gullies; a cutting wind fifty yards away, his handsome twelve-tined blew the icy rain in our faces. For two or three antlers tossed aloft, as he held his head with hours we traveled toward the farther edge of the lordly grace of his kind. I fired into his the table-land. In one place a spike-bull elk chest, and as he turned I raced forward and stood half a mile off in the open; he traveled shot him in the flank; but the second bullet to and fro, watching us. was not needed, for the first wound was mor- As we neared the edge the storm lulled, and tal, and he fell before going fifty yards. pale, watery sunshine gleamed through the rists
The dead elk lay among the young ever- in the low-scudding clouds. At last our horses greens. The huge, shapely body was set on stood on the brink of a bold cliff. Deep down legs that were as strong as steel rods, and yet beneath our feet lay the wild and lonely valslender, clean, and smooth; they were in color ley of Two-Ocean Pass, walled in on each a beautiful dark brown, contrasting well with hand by rugged mountain-chains, their flanks the yellowish of the body. The neck and throat scarred and gashed by precipice and chasm. were garnished with a mane of long hair; the Beyond, in a wilderness of jagged and barren symmetry of the great horns set off the fine, peaks, stretched the Shoshones. At the middle delicate lines of the noble head. He had been point of the pass two streams welled down from wallowing, as elk are fond of doing, and the each side. At first each flowed in but one bed, dried mud clung in patches to his flank; a stab but soon divided into two; each of the twin in the haunch showed that he had been over- branches then joined the like branch of the come in battle by some master bull, who had brook opposite, and swept one to the east and turned him out of the herd.
one to the west, on their long journey to the We cut off the head, and bore it down to two great oceans. They ran as rapid brooks, the train. The horses crowded together, snort- through wet meadows and willow-flats, the ing, with their ears pricked forward, as they eastern to the Yellowstone, the western to the smelled the blood. We also took the loins with Snake. The dark pine forests swept down us, as we were out of meat, though bull elk from the flanks and lower ridges of the mounin the rutting season is not very good. The tains to the edges of the marshy valley. Above rain had changed to a steady downpour when them jutted gray rock peaks, snow-drifts lying we again got under way. Two or three miles in the rents that seamed their northern faces. further we pitched camp in a clump of pines Far below us, from a great basin at the foot on a hillock in the bottom of the valley, start- of the cliff, filled with the pine forest, ros the ing hot fires of pitchy stumps before the tents, musical challenge of a bull elk; and we saw a to dry our wet things.
band of cows and calves looking like mice as Next day opened with fog and cold rain. The they ran among the trees.
It was getting late, and after some search opposite. An hour's stiff climb, down and up, we failed to find any trail leading down; so at brought us nearly to him; but the wind forced last we plunged over the brink at a venture. us to advance from below through a series of It was very rough scrambling, dropping from open glades. He was lying on a point of the bench to bench, and in places it was not only cliff-shoulder, surrounded by his cows; and he difficult but dangerous for the loaded pack- saw us, and made off. An hour afterward, as we animals. Here and there we were helped by were trudging up a steep hillside dotted with well-beaten elk-trails, which we could follow groves of fir and spruce, a young bull of ten for several hundred yards at a time. On one points, roused from his day-bed by our apnarrow pine-clad ledge we met a spike-bull face proach, galloped across us some sixty yards off
. to face, and in scrambling down a very steep, We were in need of better venison than can be bare, rock-strewn shoulder the loose stones furnished by an old rutting bull, so I instantly started by the horses' hoofs, bounding in great took a shot at the fat and tender young tenleaps to the forest below, dislodged two cows. pointer. I aimed well ahead, and pulled trigger
As evening fell, we reached the bottom, and just as he came to a small gully, and he fell into pitched camp in a beautiful point of open pine it in a heap with a resounding crash. On the forest thrust out into the meadow. There we way back that afternoon I shot off the heads of found good shelter and plenty of wood, water, two blue grouse, as they perched in the pines. and grass; we built a huge fire and put up our That evening the storm broke, and the tents, scattering them in likely places among the weather became clear and very cold, so that pines, which grew far apart and without under- the snow made the frosty mountains gleam like growth. We dried our steaming clothes, and ate silver. The moon was full, and in the flood of a hearty supper of elk-meat; then we turned into light the wild scenery round our camp was very our beds, warm and dry, and slept soundly under beautiful. As always where we camped for sevthe canvas, while all night long the storm roared eral days, we had fixed long tables and settles, without. Next morning it still stormed fitfully; and were most comfortable; and when we the high peaks and ridges round about were came in at nightfall, or sometimes long afterall capped with snow. Woody and I started ward, cold, tired, and hungry, it was sheer physon foot for an all-day tramp; the amount of ical delight to get warm before the roaring fire game seen the day before showed that we were of pitchy stumps, and then to feast ravenously in a good elk-country, where the elk had been on bread and beans, on stewed or roasted elk so little disturbed that they were traveling, feed- venison, on grouse, and sometimes trout, and ing, and whistling in daylight. For three hours flapjacks with maple syrup. we walked across the forest-clad spurs of the Next morning dawned clear and cold, the foot-hills. We roused a small band of elk in sky a glorious blue. Woody and I started to thick timber; but they rushed off before we saw hunt over the great table-land, and led our them, with much smashing of dead branches. stout horses up the mountain-side by elk-trails Then we climbed to the summit of the range. so bad that they had to climb like goats. All The wind was light and baffling; it blew from these elk-trails have one striking peculiarity: all points, veering every few minutes. There they lead through thick timber, but every now were occasional rain-squalls; our feet and legs and then send off short, well-worn branches to were well soaked; and we became chilled some cliff-edge or jutting crag, commanding a through whenever we sat down to listen. We view far and wide over the country beneath. caught a glimpse of a big bull feeding up-hill, Elk love to stand on these lookout points, and and followed him; it needed smart running to scan the valleys and mountains round about. overtake him, for an elk, even while feeding, has Blue grouse rose from beside our path; a ground-covering gait. Finally we got within a Clarke's crows flew past us, with a hollow, flaphundred and twenty-five yards, but in very thick ping sound, or lighted in the pine-tops, calling timber, and all I could see plainly was the hip and flirting their tails; the gray-clad whiskyand the after part of the flank. Í waited for a jacks, with multitudinous cries, hopped and chance at the shoulder, but the bull got my wind fluttered near us. Snow-shoe rabbits scuttled and was off before I could pull trigger. It was away, the great furry feet which give them their just one of those occasions when there are two name already turning white. At last we came courses to pursue, neither very good, and when out on the great plateau, seamed with deep, one is apt to regret whichever decision is made. narrow ravines. Reaches of pasture alternated
At noon we came to the edge of a deep and with groves and open forests of varying size. wide gorge, and sat down shivering to await Almost immediately we heard the bugle of a bull what might turn up, our fingers numb, and our elk, and saw a big band of cows and calves on wet feet icy. Suddenly the love-challenge of the other side of a valley. There were three an elk came pealing across the gorge, through bulls with them, one very large, and we tried the fine, cold rain, from the heart of the forest to creep up on them; but the wind was baf
Aling, and spoiled our stalk. So we returned to often hesitates in the first moments of surprise our horses, mounted them, and rode a mile and fright, and does not get really under way farther, toward a large open wood on a hill- for two or three hundred yards; but when once side. When within two hundred yards we fairly started, he may go several miles, even heard directly ahead the bugle of a bull, and though mortally wounded; therefore, the hunpulled up short. In a moment I saw him walk- ter, after his first shot, should run forward as ing through an open glade; he had not seen fast as he can, and shoot again and again until
The slight breeze brought us his scent. the quarry drops. In this way many animals Elk have a strong characteristic smell; it is that would otherwise be lost are obtained, esusually sweet, like that of a herd of Alderney pecially by the man who has a repeating-ritie. cows, but in old bulls, while rutting, it is rank, Nevertheless the hunter should beware of being pungent, and lasting. We stood motionless till led astray by the ease with which he can fire half the bull was out of sight, then stole to the a dozen shots from his repeater; and he should wood, tied our horses, and trotted after him. aim as carefully with each shot as if it were his He was traveling fast, occasionally calling, last. No possible rapidity of fire can atone for whereupon others in the neighborhood would habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot. answer. Evidently he had been driven out of The elk I thus slew was a giant. His body some herd by the master bull.
was the size of a steer's, and his antlers, though He went faster than we did, and while we not unusually long, were very massive and were vainly trying to overtake him we heard heavy. He lay in a glade, on the edge of a another very loud and sonorous challenge to great cliff. Standing on its brink, we overlooked our left. It came from a ridge-crest at the edge a most beautiful country, the home of all homes of the woods, among some scattered clumps of for the elk: a wilderness of mountains, the imthe northern nut-pine, or piñon, a queer coni- mense evergreen forest broken by park and fer, growing very high on the mountains, its mul- glade, by meadow and pasture, by bare hilltiforked trunk and wide-spreading branches side and barren table-land. Some five miles off giving it the rounded top and, at a distance, lay the sheet of water known to the old hunters the general look of an oak rather than a pine. as Spotted Lake; two or three shallow, sedgy We at once walked toward the ridge, up-wind. places, and spots of geyser formation made In a minute or two, to our chagrin, we stum- pale green blotches on its wind-rippled surface. bled on an outlying spike-bull, evidently kept Far to the southwest, in daring beauty and majon the outskirts of the herd by the master bull. esty, the grand domes and lofty spires of the I thought it would alarm all the rest; but, as we Tetons shot into the blue sky. "Too sheer for stood motionless, it could not see clearly what the snow to rest on their sides, it yet filled the we were. It stood, ran, stood again, gazed at rents in their rough flanks, and lay deep beus, and trotted slowly off
. We hurried forward tween the towering pinnacles of dark rock. as fast as we dared, and with too little care, for That night, as on more than one night afterwe suddenly came in view of two cows. As ward, a bull elk came down whistling to within they raised their heads to look, Woody squatted two or three hundred yards of the tents, and tried down where he was, to keep their attention to join the horse herd. The moon had set, so I fixed, while I cautiously tried to slip off to one could not go afterit. Elk are very restless and acside unobserved. Favored by the neutral tint tive throughout the night in the rutting season; of my buckskin hunting-shirt, with which my but where undisturbed they feed freely in the dayshoes, leggings, and soft hat matched, I suc- time, resting for two or three hours about noon. ceeded. As soon as I was out of sight, I ran Next day, which was rainy, we spent in
gethard and came up to a hillock crested with ting in the antlers and meat of the two dead elk, piñons, behind which I judged I should find and I shot off the heads of two or three blue the herd. As I approached the crest, their grouse on the way home. The following day strong, sweet smell smote my nostrils. In an- I killed another bull elk, following him by the other moment I saw the tips of a pair of mighty strong, not unpleasing, smell, and hitting him antlers, and I peered over the crest with my twice as he ran, at about eighty yards. So far rifle at the ready. Thirty yards off, behind a I had had good luck, killing everything I had clump of piñons, stood a huge bull, his head shot at; but now the luck changed, through no thrown back as he rubbed his shoulders with fault of mine, as far as I could see, and Ferhis horns. There were several cows around guson had his innings. The day after I killed him, and one saw me immediately, and took this bull he shot two fine mountain rams, and alarm. I fired into the bull's shoulder, inflict- during the remainder of our hunt he killed five ing a mortal wound; but he went off, and I elk one cow, for meat, and four good bulls. raced after him at top speed, firing twice into The two rams were with three others, all old his flank; then he stopped, very sick, and I and with fine horns; Ferguson peeped over a broke his neck with a fourth bullet. An elk lofty precipice and saw them coming up it only