American Big Game in Its Haunts
Part 3 out of 6
ram. My only chance was to take this long shot. We had been crossing a
snow bank at the time, and I settled myself, dug my heels well in, and
with elbows resting on my knees took a steady aim. I was fortunate in
judging the correct distance, for at the report of the rifle the big ram
dropped, gave a few spasmodic kicks, and the next minute came rolling
down the mountain side, tumbling over and over, and bringing with him a
great shower of broken rocks. I feared that his head and horns would be
ruined, but fortunately found them not only uninjured, but a most
beautiful trophy. The horns taped a good 34 inches along the curve and
13-1/2 inches around the butts.
That night the weather changed, and thenceforth the mountains were
constantly enveloped in mist, while it rained almost daily. These were
most difficult conditions under which to hunt, for sheep have wonderful
vision and can see a hunter through the mist long before they can be
I was anxious to bring out as trophies only the finest heads, and daily
refused chances which some might have gladly taken. If we could not
plainly see with the naked eye horns at 300 to 400 yards, we always let
the sheep pass, knowing that the head was small, but if at any time we
could make out that a sheep carried a full turn to his horns, we knew
that the head was well matured. If we saw a sheep facing us we could
always tell when the horns made a full turn, for then the tips curved
A week after killing the big ram we again visited the great basin, but
found nothing, and cautiously moved a little higher to a sheltered
position. From here we carefully scanned the bottom of this large gulch,
and soon spied a bunch of ewes and lambs, and shortly afterward three
medium sized rams. When we first saw them one had become suspicious and
was looking intently in our direction, so we crouched low against the
rocks, keeping perfectly still until they once more began to feed. When
they had gradually worked over a slight knoll we made a quick approach,
cautiously stalking up to the ridge over which the sheep had gone. I had
expected to get a fair shot at two hundred yards or under, but when I
peered over nothing was in sight. I concluded they had not gone up the
mountain side, for their white coats against the black rocks would have
rendered them easily seen. I, therefore, started to walk boldly in the
direction in which we had seen them go, thinking they had probably taken
shelter from the gale behind some rocks.
I had only gone some paces when we located them standing on a snow patch
which had made them indistinguishable. I sat down and tried to shoot
from my knees, but the wind was coming in such fierce gusts that I could
not hold my rifle steady, so I ran as hard as I could in their
direction, looking hastily about for some rock which would offer
The sheep made up the mountain side for some three hundred yards, when
they paused to look back. I had by this time found a sheltered position
behind a large boulder, and soon had one of the rams wounded, but,
although I fired several shots I seemed unable to knock him off his
feet. Fearing that I might lose him after all, I aimed for the second
ram, which was now on the move some distance further up the mountain,
and at my second shot he stopped. Climbing up to within one hundred and
fifty yards I found that both the sheep were badly wounded, and were
unable to go further, so I finished them off. What was my surprise to
find that the larger ram had seven bullets in him, while the smaller one
These sheep would almost never flinch to the shot, and it was difficult
to tell when you had hit, unless in an immediately vital spot.
The weather continued unfavorable for hill shooting until the third of
September, but that day opened bright and clear, and fearing lest the
good conditions might not last, we made an early start. Crossing the
high plateau we followed the valley of the Killy River, keeping well up
and skirting the bases of the mountain summits. As we trudged along, the
shrill cries of alarm of the whistling marmots were heard, and the
little fellows could be seen in all directions scampering for their
holes. Ptarmigan were also frequently met with, but not in such great
numbers as one would have supposed in a region where they had never been
hunted. On several occasions we found these birds on the highest summits
where there was nothing but rocks covered with black moss. It would have
been interesting to have shot one of them and learned upon what they
were then feeding, but it was just in the locality where we hoped to
find rams, and this was out of the question. That morning we traveled
some distance before we saw sheep, but having once reached their feeding
ground I had the satisfaction of watching more wild game than on any
The Kussiloff hills were dotted with scattered bands, and I counted in
one large flock forty-eight, while the long and narrow valley on both
sides of the stream was sprinkled with smaller bunches containing from
two or three to twenty. It was a beautiful sight, for every ewe had at
least one, and many of them two, lambs frolicking at her side.
In addition to these sheep we saw three moose feeding in a small green
valley at the base of the opposite hills. The river was impassable for
some miles, and although they were hardly more than a mile away in a
straight line, they were quite unapproachable, so we sat and watched
them with much interest until they slowly fed into the timber.
Shortly after noon we located some large sheep on a rocky knoll across
the Killy River just below where the stream gushes out from a mighty
glacier. They were a long way off, but with the glasses we could see
that one lying apart from the others was a ram, and we surmised that if
we could see his horns at such a distance even through the glasses he
probably carried a good head.
Working down to the stream we finally found a point shallow enough to
wade. We now made a cautious and careful stalk to the place where we had
last located the sheep, but a bunch of ewes and a small ram were all
that we could see.
Hunter and I were both much disgusted, for we had expected surely to
find a head that was up to our standard.
It was well on in the afternoon when we started back to camp. We had
been going steadily over the broken hillsides since early morning, and
had met sheep at almost every turn. At the sight of us some would bound
up the steep mountain sides in great alarm, while several times at only
a couple of hundred yards others merely turned their heads in our
direction, and after observing us for a short time continued to
graze. Somehow these ewes seemed to understand that I had no intention
of molesting them.
It is strange how the hope of seeing game keeps one from feeling tired,
but as we trudged homeward, a bit depressed that in all the great number
of sheep seen, there had not been one good head, and that our hard day
was all to no purpose, my man and I both began to feel pretty well
Late in the afternoon we paused for a brief rest and a smoke, and here
Hunter sighted two lone rams in a gulch at the top of the mountain above
us. By this time we were both pretty well used up, but the glasses
showed that they carried good heads, and I determined to stalk them,
even if it meant passing the night on the hills. So we worked our way up
to the top of a ridge which commanded a view of the gulch in which the
sheep were grazing, but they had fed some distance away by the time we
reached the place where I had expected to shoot, and were at too long a
range to make my aim certain. If we had had plenty of time, we should
have worked up the ridge nearer, and this Hunter was still anxious for
me to do, but when I saw one of the sheep suddenly raise his head and
look intently in our direction I knew my only chance was to take the
long shot. T had seen what the .30-40 Winchester rifle would do in the
hills, and the question was one of holding. However, I could count on
several shots before they ran out of sight, and even at such a distance
I hoped to get one and possibly the pair. Both sheep carried good heads,
but I aimed at the one which stood broadside to me. Hunter, who had the
glasses, told me afterward that the ram with the more massive horns got
away, but I succeeded in wounding the other so that he was unable to
move. Knowing he would shortly die, and that I could find him the next
morning, we at once started at our best pace for camp.
We only reached our tent at nine o'clock that night, both completely
fagged out. A cup of tea made us feel better, but it was late before I
could get to sleep. Such days are a bit too much for steady practice,
but if they end in success the trophy means all the more.
The following day we were literally wind-bound, and not until the day
after could we set out for the wounded sheep, which we eventually found,
not fifty yards from where we had last seen him. It was a long and hard
climb to reach him, but he carried a very pretty head with massive horns
of over a full turn. I found that two shots of the seven which I had
fired had taken effect.
Two days later the native arrived from the main camp with more
provisions, and brought an interesting letter from Blake. It seemed that
some Englishmen who had been hunting in these hills just before us had
driven the big rams to the other end of the range, where my friend had
been most fortunate in finding them. He strongly advised my leaving my
present camp and coming to the country which he had just left, having
got six excellent heads. This was the limit which we had decided upon as
the number of sheep that we each wanted.
It was now apparently clear that I had been hunting at a great
disadvantage in my district. On receiving Blake's letter I at once
determined to retrace my steps to the main camp, go to the head of the
lake and follow up the trail which he had laid out upon the mountains.
Therefore the next morning (September 7) we shouldered our packs and
went over the hills to our main camp. Instead of following the trail by
which we had come, we decided to push straight across country, hoping in
this way to reach our main camp in one march. Our change of route was
unfortunate, and this day I can easily put down as the hardest one I
ever passed in the mountains.
In order to bring out all our belongings in one trip we had extra heavy
packs, and the country over which we marched was very trying. About noon
I spied sheep on one of the outlying hills, and as we came nearer I made
out through the glasses that this was a bunch of five rams, and that
three of them carried exceptionally good heads. My only chance was to
push ahead of my men, and this I did, but stalking sheep over a rough
country with a heavy pack on your back is very trying work, and I failed
to connect with these rams.
About five o'clock in the afternoon we came down over the mountains on
to the high plateau above our main camp. We were all too used up to go
any further, or even put up our light tent, although it soon began to
rain. We made a rude camp in a patch of stunted hemlocks, and as I sat
before the fire having my tea, I chanced to look up on the hills before
me, and there was the bunch of five rams I had tried so hard to stalk
early in the afternoon. They were at no great distance, but it was
rapidly growing dark, and there was not time to get within range while
it would be light enough to shoot. So I sat and studied these sheep
through the glasses, determined to find them later, even if it took me a
One of them had a most beautiful head, with long and massive horns well
over the full turn. Another had a head which would have been equally
good if the left horn had not been slightly broken at the tip. The third
also had an excellent head, and although not up to the other two, his
horns made the full turn. The remaining two rams were smaller. I watched
them until darkness came on, and all this while they fed slowly back
toward the mountains on which my friend had been hunting the week
before. I am convinced that this bunch of sheep had been driven out of
these hills by Blake, and had been turned back again by me.
It rained hard that night, and the next morning the clouds were so low
that it was impossible to go in search of the rams I had seen the
evening before. I, therefore, determined to push immediately to the
main camp, which we reached three hours later. We at once lunched, and,
putting our light outfit in one of the boats, rowed up to the head of
This range of hills is surrounded by a mighty glacier, and at the foot
of the glacier is a moraine some ten miles long extending down to Kenai
Lake. On one side of this moraine you can walk by skirting the shore
and using care, but on the other side the quicksands are deep and
dangerous. We camped for the night in a place which my friend had used
as his base of supplies.
The next morning opened dull, and I felt the effects of my hard work and
did not greatly relish the idea of shouldering a fifty-pound pack. But
my time was now getting short. In two weeks the rutting season of the
moose would begin, and in the meantime I wanted four more fine specimens
of the white sheep. Any day we might expect a heavy fall of snow, for
the northern winter had already begun in the hills.
We soon found the tracks of Blake's party, which led up the moraine, and
carried us over quicksand and through glacial streams, icy cold.
Finally we came to where Blake had started up the mountain side, and
with all due regard to my friend, his trail was not an easy one. About
noon it began to rain, but we pushed upward, although soon soaked to the
skin, and came out above timber just at dark. We were all fagged out and
shaking with cold by the time we reached Blake's old camp.
The next morning broke dismally with the floodgates of the heavens open
and the rain coming down in torrents. I lay among my rugs and smoked one
pipe after another in order to keep down my appetite, for there was
little chance of making a fire to cook with. In fact, most of the day
was passed in this way, for all the wood had become thoroughly
Late in the afternoon we succeeded in getting a fire started and had a
square meal. While we were crouched around the blaze the natives saw
sheep on the hills just above us, but it was raining so hard that it was
impossible to tell if they were rams. In fact, when sheeps' coats are
saturated with water they do not show up plainly when seen at any
distance, and might easily be mistaken for wet rocks.
The next day opened just as dismally, with the storm raging harder than
ever, but by eleven o'clock it began to let up, and we soon had our
things drying in the wind, for the clouds looked threatening, and we
feared the rain would begin again at any time.
As we were short of provisions and depended almost entirely upon meat,
my head man and I started at once for the hills. The little stream by
our camp was swollen into a rushing torrent, and we were obliged to go
almost to its source--a miniature glacier--before we could wade it.
Climbing to the crest of the mountains on which we had seen the sheep
the evening before, and following just under the sky line, we soon saw a
large and two small rams feeding on a sheltered ledge before us.
We much feared that they would get: our scent, but by circling well
around we succeeded in making a fair approach. I should have had an
excellent shot at the big ram had not one of the smaller ones given the
alarm. The gale was coming in such gusts that it was difficult to take a
steady aim, and at my first shot the bullet was carried to one side. I
fired again just as the sheep were passing from view, and succeeded in
breaking the leg of the big ram. Hunter and I now raced after him, but
the hillside was so broken that it was impossible to locate him, so my
man went to the valley below where he could get a good view and signal
It is always well in hill shooting to have an understood code of signals
between your man and yourself. The one which I used and found most
satisfactory provided that if my man walked to the right or left it
meant that the game was in either of these directions; if he walked away
from the mountain, it was lower down; if he approached the mountain, it
was higher up.
As Hunter, after reaching the valley and taking a look with the glasses,
began to walk away, I knew that the sheep was below me, and I suddenly
came close upon the three, which had taken shelter from the gale behind
a large rock. Very frequently sheep will remain behind with a wounded
companion; especially is this so when it is a large ram. Now,
unfortunately, one of the smaller rams got between me and the big one,
and as I did not want to kill the little fellow the big ram was soon out
of range. But he was too badly wounded to go far over such grounds, and
I soon stalked up near, when I fired, breaking another leg, and then ran
up and finished him off. This ram carried a very pretty head 13-1/2
inches around the butts and 36-1/4 inches along the curve, but
unfortunately the left horn was slightly broken at the tip. It was
undoubtedly an old sheep, as his teeth, worn to the gums, and the ten
rings around his horns indicated.
When a ram's constitution has been undermined by the rutting season, the
horns cease to grow, nor do they begin again until the spring of the
year with its green vegetation brings nourishing food, and this is the
cause of the rings, which, therefore, indicate the number of winters old
a sheep is. This was my head man's theory, and is, I believe, a correct
one, for in the smaller heads which I have examined these rings
coincided with the age of the sheep as told by the teeth. Up to five
years, the age of a sheep can always be determined by the incisor teeth;
a yearling has but two permanent incisors, a two-year-old four, a
three-year-old six, and a four-year-old or over eight teeth, or a full
[Illustration: HEADS OF DALL'S SHEEP
(The horns above are of the Stone's sheep)]
It was unpleasantly cold upon the mountains this day, and as no other
sheep could be seen, we returned to camp by five o'clock. This was the
easiest day's shooting that I had had.
As we sat by the camp-fire that evening, four sheep were seen on the
hills above us, two of which I recognized as the small rams that had
been with the one I had just killed. We felt quite certain that these
were the bunch of five rams which we had seen when we were packing out
from our first hill camp. In fact, this was the only good band of rams
which I saw during the entire hunt. If these were the same sheep, the
two newcomers carried good heads, for, as previously stated, I had
studied this lot carefully through the glasses.
The next day, the thirteenth and Friday, opened dismally enough, but by
the time we had finished breakfast the mountains Were clear of clouds
and there was no wind to mar one's shooting. Such conditions were to be
taken advantage of, and Hunter and I were soon working up the ridge well
to leeward of the place where we had seen the sheep the night
before. Reaching the crest we scanned the grounds on all sides, and also
the rugged mountain tops about us.
The white coats of these sheep against the dark background of black
moss-covered rocks render them easily seen, but we now failed to sight
any even on the distant hills. Therefore we pushed ahead, going
stealthily up wind and keeping a careful watch on all sides. We crossed
over the ridge and worked our way just below the sky-line on the other
side of the mountain from our camp, never supposing that the sheep would
work back, for they had seen our camp-fire on the night before. We
traveled nearly to the end of the ridge, and were just about to cross
and work down to a sheltered place where we expected to find our game,
when Hunter chanced to look back, and instantly motioned me to drop out
While we had been working around one side of the summit the sheep had
been working back on the other side, and we had passed them with the
mountain ridge between. Fortunately they were all feeding with their
heads away or they must have seen us as we came out on the sky-line. My
man had the glasses and assured me that there were two excellent
heads. We now felt quite certain that these were the sheep we knew so
We cautiously dropped out of sight and worked back, keeping the mountain
ridge between us. We were well above and had a favorable wind and the
entire day before us. It was the first and only time upon these hills
that the conditions had all been favorable for a fair stalk and good
shooting. Hunter did his part well, and brought me up to within one
hundred and twenty-five yards of the rams, which were almost directly
below us. They had stopped feeding and were lying down. Only one of the
smaller sheep was visible, and my man advised me to take a shot at him,
and then take the two large ones as they showed themselves. Aiming low,
I fired, and then as one of the big rams jumped up I fired again,
killing him instantly. The smaller one that I had first shot at went to
the left, while the one remaining large ram and the second smaller one
went to the right. The latter were instantly hidden from view, for the
mountain side was very rough and broken and covered with large slide
rock. I raced in the same direction, knowing well that they would work
up hill. But hurrying over such ground is rather dangerous work.
Soon the two sheep came into view, offering a pretty quartering shot at
a little under a hundred yards. The old ram fell to my first bullet, and
I allowed the smaller one to go and grow up, and I hope offer good sport
to some persevering sportsman five years hence.
While Hunter climbed down and skinned out the heads I turned in pursuit
of the one which I had first fired at, for we both thought he had been
hit, having seen hair fly. I soon located him in the distance, but he
showed no signs of a bad wound, and as his head was small I was truly
glad that my shot had only grazed him. Both the rams which I killed
carried excellent heads with unbroken points, and we were safely back in
camp with the trophies shortly after two o'clock that afternoon--an easy
and a pleasant day.
The larger ram measured 13-1/4 inches around the base of the horns, and
37-7/8 inches along the outer curves. These were the longest horns of
the _Ovis dalli_ that I killed. The other ram measured 13 inches
around the horns and 34-1/2 inches along the outer curve.
[Illustration: MY BEST HEAD]
While we were having tea that afternoon, we chanced to look up on the
hills, and there, near the crest of the ridge, was one of the small rams
from the bunch we had stalked that morning. He offered a very easy
chance had I wanted his head. It is worthy of note that these sheep
seem to have no fear of the smell of blood or dead comrades, and on
several occasions I have observed them near the carcass of some ram
which I had shot.
The next day opened perceptibly cooler, and the angry clouds overhead
told us to beware of a coming storm. As I now had seven heads, five of
which were very handsome trophies, I concluded to take Hunter's advice
and leave the high hills.
Our sheep shooting for the year was now practically over. Had the
weather been fine it would have been an ideal trip; but with the
exception of the third and thirteenth of September every day passed upon
the mountains was not only disagreeable, but with conditions so
unfavorable that it had been almost impossible to stalk our game
properly, for when I had been once wet to the skin the cold wind from
the glaciers soon chilled me to such a degree that I was unable to
remain quietly in one place and allow the game to get in a favorable
position for a stalk. I had been obliged to keep constantly going, and
this frequently meant shooting at long range. With the exception of the
rams shot on the eleventh and thirteenth of September, I had killed
nothing under three hundred yards. Therefore much of the sport in
making a careful and proper stalk had been lost.
My success with the white sheep had come only with the hardest kind of
work, but I now had five really fine heads--which I later increased to
six, my limit. I was quite satisfied with the measurements of these
horns along the curve, but had hoped to have shot at least one which
would tape over 14 inches around the butts, although this would be
extreme, for the horns of the white sheep do not grow so large as the
common Rocky Mountain variety. They are also much lighter in color. I
believe that large and perfect heads will be most difficult to find a
few years hence in this section, and the sportsman who has ambitions in
this direction would do well not to delay his trip too long; for this
range of hills is not over large, and unless these sheep have some
protection, it is only a question of time before they will be almost
entirely killed off.
HUNTING THE GIANT MOOSE
On September 17 we packed up and moved down the lake several miles,
where we made another base of supplies, for we were now going upon the
The rutting season of the moose begins on the Kenai Peninsula about the
15th of September, and lasts, roughly speaking, for one month. At this
time the bulls come from the remote places where they have passed the
summer and seek the cows, and the country which they now roam is
generally the high tablelands which lie at the base of the mountains
just below the timber line. We had timed our hunt to be in the moose
range during this season, for then the bulls are bold, and not so
difficult to find.
Bull moose differ from the rest of the deer family in not getting
together a big band of cows, but pair off. The female remains with the
bull only a short time, and then slips away, and then the bulls roam the
forest in search of other partners. They are now very fearless, and if
they come upon a female accompanied by another bull, fight gallantly to
get possession of her. Their sense of smell is rather dulled at this
time, for I have often seen their tracks following the trail which my
native was constantly traveling.
The calves are born in May or June, and are weaned during the rutting
season, for the bulls are very apt to drive them away from their
The antlers are hardly out of the velvet before the rutting season
begins. They are then a light yellowish color, but are later stained
dark brown by constant rubbing and scraping against bushes and tree
The moose of Alaska undoubtedly carry heads far grander than those found
in the East. In fact, the antlers of the Kenai Peninsula moose equal, if
they do not exceed in size, those from any other part of the world, and
it was my ambition to kill by still-hunting a good example of one of
Calling moose I have never looked upon as true sport, unless the hunter
does his own calling, and I am glad to see that many feel in the same
way about this mode of hunting.
After we had made our base of supplies on the shore of the lake, we
shouldered our packs and climbed up through the forest for several
hours, until we came to the shore of a small lake, where we made
camp. The scrubby woods were very thick, and extended up the sides of
the mountains for some distance; then came a broad belt of thick alders,
and beyond that the high open tablelands, which rolled back to the base
of the sheep hills. In all directions deep game trails, traveled by the
moose for many years, wound through the forest.
In the afternoon my man and I took our first hunt. Fresh tracks were
seen in the much-used runways, which were often worn two feet deep by
constant travel. Late in the afternoon I saw five sheep feeding on some
low hills at no great distance, and as there were no lambs among the
lot, we supposed that this was a band of rams, but we had not time to
reach them before dark.
We were just about to return to camp when Hunter saw glistening in the
sun among the thick alders, just above the timber line, the massive
antlers of a moose. There was no time to be lost if we meant to come up
with him, and so my man and I raced the entire way through the woods,
and then up the steep ascent, but failed to reach him.
When I started on this hunt I had a thorough understanding with Hunter
and my native that no one was to carry a rifle but myself, for I was
determined not to allow my natives to molest the game. Indians do not
like to wander through the forests without a gun, and my native had
lately borrowed a rifle from one of Blake's men, but I insisted upon his
leaving it at our base of supplies.
That afternoon, as Hunter and I started from camp, we sent the native
back to the lake to bring us more provisions. He told us that he had no
sooner reached the shore than he had heard a splash in the water near
him, and looking up had seen a large moose swimming across to a neck of
land at no great distance. He described this moose as at times being
completely submerged by the weight of his antlers, and said that he had
apparently great difficulty in swimming.
This temptation was too great for Lawroshka, and, as his rifle was at
hand, he pushed off in the boat, and coming up close to the moose, shot
him just as he was leaving the water. He offered to give me the head,
and seemed greatly surprised when I refused it, and told him I did not
wish to bring out any trophies which I had not shot myself. I was sorry
to learn that some men who have hunted in this region did not hesitate
to class among their trophies the heads which had been shot by their
I went to sleep that night with the expectation of a fair day and good
sport on the morrow, but woke next morning to find it raining
hard. Since reaching our hunting grounds on the 22d of August, we had
had only five pleasant days, and three of these were used up in marching
from one camp to another. It was now raining so hard that I determined
not to hunt, and turned in among my blankets with my pipe, but after a
time this failed to satisfy me, and by 11 o'clock Hunter and I decided
that even a thorough wetting was preferable to doing nothing.
The five sheep which we had seen the evening before were still in view
from our camp. One bunch of three lay in a commanding position on an
open hillside, and were unapproachable, but the other two had left the
main mountain range and were feeding on one of the outlying foothills.
These offered an excellent chance, and Hunter and I started in their
Nothing so thoroughly wets one as passing through thick underbrush which
is ladened with raindrops, and we were both soon drenched, but we were
now quite used to this discomfort, and had expected it.
After coming out above timber, we reached the belt of alders through
which we were working upward, when one of the sheep appeared upon the
rugged sky-line some half mile above us. The glasses showed that he was
a young ram with a head not worth shooting, but as his mate followed, we
could see at a glance that his horns made the full turn, and were well
up to the standard that I had set.
The smaller one soon wandered down the hill to our left, but the old
fellow was more wary, and kept to the rocky summit. We gradually worked
nearer and nearer as his head was turned, or as he slowly fed behind
some rocks. In this way we had almost reached a dip in the hillside
which would hide us from view until I could approach near enough for a
shot, when the ram suddenly appeared on the sky-line above. We both
crouched to the ground and kept perfectly still, while he stood in bold
relief against the clouds intently gazing in all directions. For almost
a half hour he never moved, except to slowly turn his head. It was
evident that he was restless, and missed his young companion which had
wandered away. Then he gradually moved off and sank behind a rock, and
as Hunter and I had seen his hindquarters disappear last, we knew he was
lying down, for a sheep goes down on his front knees first. This was
our chance, and we hastened to take advantage of it. In fact, Hunter had
crossed the last open and I was half way over, when the ram suddenly
appeared again on the crest of the hill, and by his side was his young
companion. Again I dropped to the ground, while the sheep gazed down at
me. I was almost tempted to take the shot, for the distance was now not
over 400 yards, and I had killed several sheep at this range. But hoping
that they had not made me out, I kept perfectly still. I could see
Hunter crouching behind a bush a short distance ahead, and soon he
beckoned. I now looked up only to find that the sheep had vanished.
As I was wearing a dark green shooting suit, I do not think they quite
made me out, but their suspicions were aroused, and they headed for the
main range of mountains. In order to reach this they would be obliged to
cross nearly half a mile of open tableland. We hastened after them, and
soon saw the rams, as we had expected, heading for the other hills. We
yet hoped to stalk them when they had reached the level, for they had
not been greatly alarmed, and were going leisurely along, now and again
stopping to munch some of their favorite black moss from the rocks. On
reaching the last hill they seemed to change their minds, for after
gazing in all directions they lay down in an absolutely unapproachable
Hunter and I were caught on a bald hillside exposed to a biting north
wind, with no chance of a nearer approach without being seen. Finally,
as a last resort, we determined upon a drive.
While I lay perfectly still, Hunter advanced boldly across the open in a
big circle, getting between the hill and the main range. When the rams'
attention was fixed on him, I cautiously worked back and around, taking
up a position which commanded the ridge over which the sheep had just
gone. When Hunter had got between them and the other mountains, he began
to approach. The rams now sprang to their feet, and evidently fully
realized their dangerous position. They came, as we had expected, to
the other end of the range from where I had taken my stand, but seemed
reluctant to go back further on the isolated foothills.
It was too far for an accurate shot, and I waited, hoping for a better
chance. As Hunter now worked up over the summit, the sheep broke back
below him, and in another second would have had a clear field across the
flat to the main range. Running up as quickly as the nature of the
ground would permit, I lessened the distance some fifty yards, and, just
as they were about to disappear from view, I fired twice, carefully
aiming at the larger sheep, which I knew to be the big ram.
There was a strong wind blowing, and accurate shooting at such a long
distance was out of the question, so I must regard it as an
exceptionally lucky shot which broke his leg.
Hunter now signaled me to continue around the hill, and I soon came upon
the old fellow lying down. I seated myself well within range, intending
to catch my breath before shooting, when he suddenly sprang to his feet
and bounded down the hill. I fired and missed, and started in pursuit.
Although a sheep with a broken leg finds it hard to go up hill over
rough ground, it is surprising how fast they can go down hill or across
When this ram came to the base of the mountain he started in a straight
line across the tableland, and led me a long chase before I ran him down
and shot him. He carried quite a pretty head, measuring 13-1/2 inches
around the butts and 32 inches along the curve.
I had now reached the limit I had set on sheep, and although I saw some
later, I did not go after them.
It stormed hard all that night, and we woke the next morning to another
wet and dismal day. I, therefore, determined to remain in camp, and was
mending my much-worn knickerbockers by the fire when a moose was sighted
on the mountain above timber, making for the thick belt of alders. He
was soon hidden from view, and as we could not see that he passed
through any of the open patches lower down, we hoped that he had chosen
this secure retreat to lay up in.
The rain was coming down in torrents, but the bull carried a large and
massive pair of antlers, and as I did not want to allow a chance to go
by, Hunter and I were soon in pursuit. We circled well around in order
to get the wind, and then forced our way through the heavy underbrush
for some hours until we finally came to the belt of alders where we had
last seen him. I now climbed a tree at the edge of the timber, hoping
that from a lofty position I should be able to locate him, but met with
It was now my intention to take a stand upon the hillside above timber,
hoping that the moose would show himself toward evening, but in our wet
clothes we were soon too chilled to remain inactive. As a last resort,
Hunter forced his way back into the alders, while I kept in the open
above. After going some distance my man turned to the right for the
purpose of driving him out in my direction, but our hard and
disagreeable hunt was to no purpose, and we returned to camp just before
dark, having passed a wetter and more uncomfortable day than any yet.
Both Hunter and I thought this was the same bull which we had twice seen
before, as he carried rather an unusual head, and had come from the same
direction and to the same place.
The next day it rained even harder, and the clouds were so low that we
could not see the mountain side, and therefore had no temptation to
leave camp. My patience was by this time nearly exhausted, for the
continual rain was very depressing, and detracted much from the pleasure
of being in such a grand game country.
About noon I was sitting before the fire when Lawroshka went to the
lake, only some ten steps away, for a pail of water. Here he saw a bull
moose standing on the other side. He beckoned to me, and I seized my
rifle and cautiously approached the native. The moose offered an easy
shot at 250 yards, and my first bullet rolled him over. His head was
disappointing, but it is often difficult to tell the size of a moose's
antlers when they are half hidden in the trees.
We woke next morning to the usual dismal surroundings, and remained in
camp all that day. Late that afternoon the fog lifted and we saw the
same large moose in his accustomed place among the alders, but it was
too late in the day to try for him.
That night the wind veered to the west, and just as I was about to turn
in, the rain stopped and a few stars shone faintly in the heavens. The
weather had been so constantly bad that even these signs failed to cheer
me, and I had decided that we would break camp the next day no matter
what the conditions might be. But the morning (September 22) opened
bright and clear, with the first good frost in two weeks. We were most
anxious for a cold snap, for the leaves were still thick upon the trees,
which made it next to impossible to sec game in the woods at any
After breakfast we shouldered our packs and were soon on the march,
expecting to reach our permanent quarters in the moose range before
noon, and have the afternoon to hunt. Bright days had been so rare with
us that we meant to make the most of this one.
The heavy rains had flooded the woods, and the deep worn game trails
that we followed were half full of water, while the open meadows and
tundra that we occasionally crossed were but little better than
miniature lakes. We had made about half of our march and my pack had
just begun to grow doubly heavy from constant floundering around in the
mire, when we came out into a long and narrow meadow. There were a few
dwarf spruce at our end, but the rest of the small opening was free of
Hunter was leading and I was close behind with Stereke at heel, while
the native was a few steps further back. I had noticed my dog a short
time before sniffing the air, and was therefore keeping a constant watch
on all sides, hoping that we might come upon game, but little expecting
it, when suddenly I caught sight of a large bull moose standing in the
middle of the opening. He was about 300 yards away, and almost directly
down wind. I do not see how he could have failed to get our scent, and
he must have been indifferent to us rather than alarmed.
My first thought was of Stereke. I knew that he would break at the sight
of game, and realized for the hundredth time my mistake in bringing a
bear dog into the moose range. Quickly giving him to the native to hold,
I dropped my pack and was instantly working my way toward the moose. I
had got to within rather less than 200 yards when I saw the moose turn
his head and look in my direction. A nearer approach was impossible, so
I gave him at once two shots, and at the second he fell.
My dog, having bitten himself free from the native, made for the moose,
and savagely attacked his haunches. Seeing that the bull was trying to
regain his feet, I gave him another shot, and running up drove off the
Now, for the first time, I had a good chance to see my trophy. I knew
that it was a good head, but hardly expected such large and massive
antlers. They were malformed and turned in, or the spread would have
been considerably larger, but even then they went over sixty inches,
with forty-four well defined points. I am quite sure that this was the
same bull that we had seen so often among the alders, and which I had
twice before unsuccessfully stalked.
Our march was delayed until we skinned out the head, cleaned the scalp,
and hung the meat in some near-by trees for future use. It was therefore
late that afternoon when we reached our new camp. We now settled
ourselves comfortably, for we meant to stay in these quarters for the
remainder of the hunt.
The next week my friend Blake joined me, and we scoured the country
around this camp most diligently, but with no further success. Daily we
came upon cows and small bulls, but it seemed as if all the large males
had left the neighborhood. Stamp holes and unmistakable signs of the
rutting season were found everywhere, but with the most careful hunting
I was unable to get another shot.
There were a few bull moose in the dense woods, but not a sufficient
number to warrant the hope of my getting another head such as I had
already shot. At this time of the year moose are such restless animals,
and are so constantly on the move that it is not difficult to
distinguish their presence.
I had now hunted this entire range most thoroughly, and was reluctantly
forced to the conclusion that there were not sufficient signs to warrant
my remaining another month. I talked the matter over with my friend, and
told him that if he cared to wait until the next monthly steamer we
could combine our forces and start into a new country which we knew was
good; but Blake did not want to delay his departure so long, and as he
now decided to return to the coast, I made up my mind to go out with
him, take the steamer to Seattle, and thence go to British Columbia,
where I would finish my long hunt by a trip after Rocky Mountain sheep.
Shortly after this we broke camp and started back to Cook Inlet, which
we reached October 2. A few days later the steamer arrived, and that
same night I was on my way from Alaska.
Unfortunately, my hunting for the year was over, for on my arrival at
Seattle I found that I had been too much pulled down by the hard work
upon the hills to make it wise for me to go into British Columbia.
[Transcriber's Note: Footnote numbered in the text, but no associated
_Jas. H. Kidder_.
The Kadiak Bear and his Home
In 1901 the opportunity came to me to make a trip to the island which
the Kadiak bear inhabits, and to become slightly acquainted with this
largest of all carnivora. My companion was A. W. Merriam, of Milton,
We were under great obligations to Dr. C. Hart Merriam, of the
Biological Survey, Washington, who, before we left home, gave us
valuable information about the large game of Alaska. He told us of
investigations which might prove of scientific value, and helped us to
place our trip on a much broader base than a mere shooting expedition.
One of the pleasantest features of such a trip was to see how freely
information came in from all sides from those who could help in rounding
out our work.
In order to find the Alaskan bears in their best pelage one must be on
the ground in April, and this made it necessary for us to sail from
Seattle April 1, on the Pacific Steam Whaling Company's boat,
Excelsior. Seattle proved a very good outfitting place, and before
sailing we had safely stowed away below, in waterproof canvas bags, the
provisions necessary to last us three months, in the most condensed and
Most of our fellow passengers were miners. One of them interested me
particularly. He was a Finn, one of the pioneer white hunters in the
Aleutian country, and his drawn face and stooping shoulders told the
tale of trails too long and packs too heavy. I passed much time with
him, and learned a good deal about the habits of the big, brown, barren
bear, and his methods of fighting when hard pressed.
Our first Alaskan port was Hunter's Bay, Prince of Wales Island,
interesting because here is Clincon, one of the old settlements of the
Haida Indians, famed for their wonderful totem poles, which tell in
striking symbolic language the family histories of the tribe. There were
many good faces among these people, and we asked ourselves and others
the puzzling question, are they Aztecs, New Zealanders, or Japanese in
origin? Among these people families with the same totem pole may not
intermarry. An old man, the special wood carver of the tribe, does
An offshoot of the tribe inhabits Annette Island, under the kindly
governorship of an old priest named Duncan. At first he founded his
colony on the mainland, in British territory, but was there so hampered
by religious rules that, with almost all his followers, he moved to
Annette, where he is still beloved by the natives, to whom he has taught
right living and many valuable arts of civilization.
We kept the inland route until Icy Straits took us away from Glacier
Bay, and out into the open ocean. Early the next morning Yakutat came
into view, and our boat was quickly surrounded by canoes filled with
Indians, their wives, and woven baskets. These natives, supposed to
belong to the Tlinkits, were distinctly less advanced than the Haida
In Yakutat we thought we were lucky in buying three Siwash bear dogs,
but were not long in discovering our mistake. One of the dogs was so
fierce we had to shoot him. Another was wild and ran away at the first
opportunity, and the "last of the Siwash," though found wanting in every
hunting instinct, had a kindly disposition and staid with us. We could
not bring ourselves to the shooting point. Finally we found a Creole,
who kept a store in a remote village on Kadiak Island, willing to take
him off our hands.
The sight of the massive snow face of Mt. St. Elias, rising 18,002 feet
above the immense stretches of the Malaspina glacier, called to mind the
successful Abruzzi expedition, which reached the top of this mountain a
few years ago. Looking at the rough sides of the grand old mountain,
more impressive than any snow peak in Europe, one unconsciously plans an
attack, as the climbing instinct is aroused.
Abruzzi has taken Mt. St. Elias out of the field of the mountain climber
looking for new peaks, but a glance at the map shows us Mt. Logan,
19,000 feet, backing up Mt. St. Elias from the north, and Mt. McKinley,
20,000 feet, the highest known peak we have, placed nearer the center of
the big peninsula. These should now claim the attention of some good
mountaineer, with time and money at his command. They demand both.
We did not fail to inquire at Yakutat about that rare animal, the blue
or St. Elias bear, and were told that two or three skins were secured
every year. I was later much disappointed in being unable to return to
this coast early enough in the year to look up this bear, which has
never been killed by a white man, and as its skull has never been
brought in by the Indians, it remains practically unknown.
The island of Kayak, the next calling place for boats, played a very
important part in the early history of Alaska. This is the first land
that Bering sighted, and where he landed after the memorable voyage of
his two boats, the St. Peter and St. Paul, from Kamtschatka.
The early Russian adventurers of this part of the world have, it seems,
been lost sight of, and have not had justice done them. The names of the
Dane Bering, the Russians Shelikoff and Baranoff, should mean to us
something more than the name of a sea, strait or island. A man who
fitted out his expedition in Moscow, carried much of the building
material for his two boats across Siberia to the rough shores of
Kamtschatka, and sailed boldly eastward, deserves our warmest
admiration. Bering never reached home. He died on the return voyage,
and was buried on the small island of the Commander group which bears
his name. The story of the expedition is one of extreme hardship and of
splendid Russian courage.
At Orca we were transferred to the Newport, with Captain Moore in
command, and, as on the Excelsior, everything was done for our comfort.
We looked with envious eyes on Montague Island as we passed it in Prince
William Sound, for we were told that the natives avoid fishing and
shooting here, claiming that the big Montague brown bear are larger and
fiercer than any others.
Our boat made a brief call at Homer, in Cook Inlet, one of the starting
points for the famous Kenai shooting grounds. This inlet was named for
the renowned voyager, who hoped that it would furnish a water passage
for him to Hudson's Bay.
The trees stop at Cook Inlet, there being only a few on the western
shore. To the south the wooded line intersects the Kadiak group of
islands, and we find the northeastern part of Kadiak, as well as the
whole of Wood and Afognak, except the central portion of the last, well
covered with spruce.
The absence of forests makes it often possible to see for miles over the
country, and explains why the Barren Grounds of Alaska offer such
wonderful opportunities for bear hunting. There are bears all along the
southern coast of the peninsula, but in the timber there, as elsewhere,
the bears have all the best of it.
On leaving Cook Inlet, we kept a southerly course through the gloomy
Barren Islands which mark the eastern boundary of the much-dreaded
Shelikoff Straits, and early one morning passed Afognak, and made Wood
Island landing, where we were most hospitably received by the North
American Fur Company's people. Wood Island, about 1-1/2 miles from Kadiak,
is small and well covered with spruce. It has some two hundred people,
for the most part natives, and under Russian rule was used for a huge
ice-storing plant. Kadiak Island, 100 miles by 30, is thickly studded
with mountains, and extremely picturesque, with the white covering of
early spring, as we found it, or when green with heavy grass dotted with
wild flowers in July.
[Illustration: ST. PAUL, KADIAK ISLAND.]
The Kadiak group looks as if it might have fallen out of Cook Inlet, and
one of the native legends tells us that once the Kadiak Islands were so
near the Alaskan shore that a mammoth sea otter, while trying to swim
through the narrow straits, got wedged between the rocks, and his
tremendous struggles to free himself pushed the islands out into their
present position. The sea otter and bear have always been most
intimately connected with the lives of the Kadiakers, and have exercised
a more important influence on their characters than any of their
surroundings except the sea. It is no wonder, then, that the natives
endowed these animals with a strength and size which easily takes them
into the realm of mythology. The sea otter being nearly extinct, the
bear is now made to shoulder all the large stories, and, strong as he
is, this is no light burden.
The Kadiak coast line is roughly broken by deep bays, running inland
from a half mile to fifteen or twenty miles. Some are broad, others
narrow, but all are walled in by serrated, mountainous sides, much
resembling the fjords of Norway. The highest peaks are about 4,000
The portions of Kadiak Island uncovered by spruce and the barren lands
of the mainland, are not absolutely devoid of trees or bushes. Often
there is a considerable growth of cottonwood trees along the bottom
lands of the streams, and large patches of alder bushes are common, so
that when the leaves are well out, one's view of the bottoms and lower
hillsides is much obscured. The snowfall must be heavy on the upper
reaches of the mountains, as there are great white patches to be seen
well into the summer time. The climate is not what one would expect,
unless he should look at the map, and note the warm Kuro Siwo (Japan
current) sweeping along the southern Alaskan coast. Zero weather is
uncommon, and except for the great rainfall the island is a very
comfortable place of existence; existence, because that is the limit
reached by most of the people. The few connected with the mission and
the two fur companies are necessarily busy people, the latter especially
so on steamer days, but a deep, unbroken peacefulness permeates the
island and its people; it is a place so apart that outside happenings
awaken but little interest, and time is not weighed in the balance. Some
of the rare old Kadiak repose seems to have come down to the present
people from the time when Lisiansky first visited the island and found
the natives sitting on their mud houses, or on the shore, gazing into
space, with apparent satisfaction.
[Illustration: SUNSET IN ENGLISH BAY, KADIAK.]
On the other hand, if there is any sailing, fishing or shooting to be
done, you will find the Kadiakers keen enough, and in trying situations
they will command your respect, and will quite reverse your impression
of them, gathered in the village life. The Eskimo inhabitants of the old
times are gone, and the population is now made up of Russians, Creoles
(part Russian and part Aleut), and a handful of Americans.
The natives are good-natured but not prepossessing in looks or
cleanly. They live in dwellings kept very hot, and both men and women
injure themselves by immoderate indulgence in the banya, a small Turkish
bath, often attached to the barabaras, or native huts. It is made like a
small barabara, except there is no smoke hole, has a similar frame, is
thatched with straw, and can be made air-tight. The necessary steam is
furnished by pouring water on stones previously heated very hot.
The women are frail and many die of consumption. When once sick, they
appear to have no physical or mental resistance. They must be
attractive, however, as there is a considerable population of white men
here who have taken native wives. From a condition of comparative
wealth, eight or ten years ago, when fur was plenty and money came
easily, and was as promptly spent on all sorts of unnecessary luxuries,
these people are now rapidly coming down to salmon, codfish and
potatoes. When a native wants anything, he will sell whatever he owns
for it, even to his rifle or wife. They almost all belong to the Greek
Church, the Russians, when we bought Alaska, having reserved the right
to keep their priests in the country.
The baidarka, the most valuable possession of the native in a country so
cut up by waterways that little traveling is done by land, deserves a
word. These are trusted in the roughest water more than any other
craft, except the largest. A trip from Kadiak to Seattle in a baidarka
is in fact on record. With a light framework of wood, covered, bottom
and deck, excepting the hatches, with the skin of the hair seal, it is
lighter than any other canoe, pliable, but very staunch, and works its
way over the waves more like a snake than a boat. The lines are such
that friction is done away with, and driven through the water by good
men, it is the most graceful craft afloat. It has a curious split prow,
so made for ease in lifting with one hand, and may have one, two, or
three hatches, according to its size. The paddles used are curiously
narrow and pointed.
What still remains unexplained is the native one-sided method of
paddling; that is to say, in a two-hatch baidarka, both natives make six
or seven short strokes on one side together, and then change to the
other side. An absolutely straight course is thus impossible, but the
Aleut is a creature of habit, and smiles at all new suggestions.
In the canoe is plenty of room for provisions and live stock. I speak of
the latter because a native will often carry his wife, children, and dog
inside a one-hatch baidarka while he paddles.
Water is kept out of the hatches by the kamlaykas which the natives
wear. This is a long jacket made of bears' intestines, very light and
water tight, and when the neck and sleeve bands are made fast, and the
skirts secured about the hatch with a thong, man and canoe alike are dry
as a chip.
In the early days, Shelikoff's severe rule in Kadiak actively encouraged
the hunting instinct, and the first Russian fur post was established at
St. Paul, named after one of Bering's boats, the present town of Kadiak,
by far the largest village of the island, and situated on the eastern
coast, opposite Wood Island. It is said that the Russians, after a few
very prosperous years of indiscriminate slaughter, recognized the great
importance of carrying on the fur industry in a systematic manner, in
order to prevent entire extinction of the game, and divided the lands
and waters into large districts. They made laws, with severe penalties
attached, and enforced them. Certain districts were hunted and trapped
over in certain years. Fur animals were killed only when in good
pelage, and the young were spared. In this way hunted sections always
had considerable intervals in which to recover from attacks.
A solitary sea otter skin hanging up in the fur company's store, at the
end of the season, told us plainer than words that these animals,
formerly so plentiful east of Kadiak Island, and along the coast of
Cook's Inlet, were almost extinct. Two of our hunters were famous shots,
and they liked to talk of the good old days, when sea otter and bear
were plenty. One of them, Ivan, it is claimed, made $3,000 in one
day. The amount paid a native is $200 or more for each sea otter pelt.
They are much larger than a land otter, a good skin measuring six feet
in length and three feet in width when split and stretched.
When fishing is allowed from schooners, the natives leave Kadiak for the
grounds early in May. Each schooner carries thirty or forty baidarkas
and twice as many men. Otters are often found at some distance from
shore, and can be seen only when the water is quiet. The natives prefer
the bow and arrow to the .40-65 Winchesters the company have given them,
even claiming that otter are scarce because they have been driven from
their old grounds by the noise of firearms. The bows, four feet long,
are very stout, and strongly reinforced with cords of sinew along the
back. The arrows, a little under a yard in length, are tipped with a
well-polished piece of whalebone. A sharp and barbed piece of whale's
tooth fits into a hole bored in the end of the bone, and a cord of
considerable length is tied to the detachable arrow head, the other end
of the cord being wound around and fastened to the middle of the shaft.
The advantages of this arrow are obvious. When the game is struck, its
struggles disengage the arrow head, and the shaft being dragged by the
cord attached to its middle, soon tires the otter out. The seal spears,
used for the finishing coup, are made in the same way, and in addition
have attached to the long shaft a bladder, which continually draws the
animal to the surface. So expert are the natives, that, after shooting
several arrows, they gather them all up together in one hand as they
sweep by in a baidarka. The arrow is not sent straight to the mark, but
describes a considerable curve. Good bows are valued very highly, and on
an otter expedition will not be swapped even for a rifle.
On a favorable morning the baidarkas leave the schooners, and, holding
their direction so as to describe a large fan, can view a good piece of
water. A paddle held high in air shows that game has been sighted, and a
large circle, perhaps a mile in circumference, is at once formed around
the otter, each baidarka trying to get in the first successful shot. To
the man who first hits home belongs the skin, but as an otter can stay
under water twenty minutes, and when rising for air exposes only his
nose, a long and exciting chase follows.
Some natives patrol the small island shores, and during the winter make
a good harvest picking up dead otters which have washed ashore. This
happens in winter, because it is during severest weather that the otter
freezes his nose, which means death. The pelts from these frozen
animals, however, bring only a small price.
In earlier days nets were spread beneath the water around rocks shown by
the hair rubbings to be resting places of otter. The method was often
successful, as the poor beast swam over the trap in gaining his rock,
but when leaving dove well below the surface, and was caught. This
barbarous custom, together with the netting of ducks in narrow
passageways, has, fortunately, long been a thing of the past.
In Kadiak Village, we met a Captain Nelson, the first man down from the
north that spring, who had sledded from Nome to Katmai on Shelikoff
Straits in two months. At Katmai he was held up several days, his men
refusing to cross the straits until the local weather prophet, or
astronom, as he is called, gave his consent. Seven hours of hard
paddling carried them over the twenty-seven miles, the most treacherous
of Alaskan narrows.
These astronoms are relics of an interesting type, who formerly held
firm sway over the natives. They are supposed to know much about the
weather from reading the sunrises, sunsets, stars, moon and tides, and
often sit on a hilltop for hours studying the weather conditions. They
are still absolutely relied upon to decide when sea otter parties may
start on a trip, and are looked up to and trusted as chiefs by the
people of the villages in which they live.
At Wood Island we heard of Messrs. Kidder and Blake, two other sportsmen
from Boston, who had already left for their hunting grounds in Kaluda
The spring was backward, and the bears still in their dens, but Merriam
and I decided to take the North American Company's schooner Maksoutoff
on its spring voyage around the island, when it carries supplies and
collects furs from the natives. We were to sail as far as Kaguiac, a
small village on the south shore, and were here promised a 30-foot sloop
by the company. We added to our equipment two native baidarkas for
hunting and a bear dog belonging to an old Russian hunter, Walter
Matroken. Tchort (Russian for Devil) looked like a cross between a water
spaniel and a Newfoundland, and though old and poorly supplied with
teeth, many of which he had lost during his acquaintance with bears, he
proved a good companion, game in emergencies, and a splendid retriever.
Our rifle and camera batteries were as follows:
Merriam had a.45-70 and a.50-110 Winchester, both shooting half-jacketed
bullets. My rifles were a.30-40 Winchester, a double .577, and a
double .40-93-400, kindly lent me by Mr. S.D. Warren, of Boston, and on
which I relied. Besides the pocket cameras and a small Goerz, I carried
one camera with double lenses of 17-1/2-inch focus, and one with single
lense of 30-inch focus. The last two were, of course, intended for
animals at long range.
Hoping to prove something in regard to the weight of the Kadiak bear, I
brought a pair of Fairbanks spring scales, weighing up to 300 pounds,
and some water-tight canvas bags for weighing blood and the viscera.
We selected two good men as hunters for the trip, Vacille and Klampe.
On the second day out from Wood Island a storm came on, and though the
Maksoutoff was staunch, we could not hold for our port, owing to the
exposed coast, where squalls come sweeping without warning from the
mountain tops, driving the snow down like smoke, the so-called
"wollies." It was wild and wintry enough when we turned into the
sheltered protection of Steragowan Harbor.
A few mallards and a goose were here added to the ship's store next
morning from the flats, and the weather clearing, we made Kaguiac, and
found our sloop in good condition. In addition we took along an otter
boat, a large rowboat, from here, as our baidarkas proved rather
unseaworthy. Besides Mr. Heitman, the fur company's man, there was one
other white settler in Kaguiac named Walch, who came to Kadiak
twenty-seven years ago at the time of the first American military
occupation, and though he had served in many an exciting battle in the
Civil War, the Kadiak calm appealed to him. He married, settled down
among the natives contentedly, and has never moved since. This,
curiously, is the case of many men who come to the North, after leading
wandering and adventurous lives.
Unfavorable winds at Kaguiac delayed our sailing, so we passed the time
in excursions after ptarmigans and mallards. We also secured here
another native, a strong, willing worker, who knew the coast.
The weather cleared suddenly, the wind shifting from northeast to
northwest, and enabled us to make a run to our first good hunting ground
in Windy Bay, a large piece of water five miles long by three wide, and
surrounded by rock mountains covered with snow, the only bare ground to
be seen at this time being on the low foothills, and in the sunny
ravines. We made ourselves at home at the only good anchorage in a small
cove with high crags on two sides and a ravine running off toward the
The following morning--April 28--opened bright and calm, and we were
soon viewing the snow slopes with our glasses. Ivan, the new man, was
the first to call our attention to a streak on a distant mountain side,
and although perhaps 2-1/2 miles away, we could make out, even with the
naked eye, a deep furrow in the snow running down diagonally into the
valley below, undoubtedly a bear road. I took a five-cent piece from my
pocket, tossed for choice of shot, and lost to Merriam.
Once on land, we found the going very bad, and often wallowed in the
snow mid-thigh deep. Then was the time for snowshoes, which we had been
told were unnecessary. Floundering along in this soft snow began to tell
a little on the keenness of the party, when Vacille and Ivan, who were
off on one side, suddenly waved, and hunting on to them we were shown
the bear far up the valley in some bushes. As he lay on his side in the
snow he looked much like a cord of wood, and very large. The wind came
quartering down the valley, and made a stalk difficult, so it was
thought best to wait, as the bear would probably come down nearer the
water in the evening. We watched nearly four hours, and during that time
the bear made perhaps 150 yards in all, crawling, rolling over, lapping
his paws, occasionally trying a somersault, and finally landing in a
patch of alders.
As night was upon us, we decided to chance the situation, and approached
along a ridge on one side of the valley until almost above the bear. At
this point Tchort, the dog, caught the scent, broke away, and raced down
over the bluff out of sight. Almost immediately the bear appeared in
the open 200 yards away, legging as fast as he could in the snow, and
headed for the hillside. Merriam made a good shot behind the shoulder
with his fifty. The bear fell, caught his feet again, and was in and
over a small brook, leaving a bloody road behind him, which Tchort was
quick in following. The dog was soon nipping the bear's heels, and
giving him a good deal of trouble. Up the side of the hill they raced,
Merriam firing when the dog gave him opportunity. The bear, angry and
worried, suddenly whipped around and made for the dog, which in the soft
snow at such close quarters could not escape. But Tchort, a born
fighter, accepted the only chance and closed in. He disappeared
completely between the forelegs of the bear, and we felt that all was
over. To our great wonder in a few seconds he crawled out from beneath
the hindquarters of his enemy, and engaged him again. One more shot and
the bear lay quiet. The skin was a beauty--dark brown, with a little
silvering of gray over the shoulders, without any rubbed spots, such as
are common on bears only just out of their dens. Some brush was thrown
over the bear, and we rowed back to the sloop, well content. The next
day, which was foggy and rainy, was spent in getting off the skin,
measuring and weighing the animal piecemeal, and carrying all back to
Contrary to expectation, the bear was found to be still covered with a
thin layer of fat, even after his long hibernation. Before weighing, our
men, who had killed some thirty bear among them, said that this one was
two-thirds as large as any they had seen.
The measurements and weights were as follows: Height at shoulder, about
4 ft. Length in straight line from nose to root of tail, 6 ft. 8 in.
Total weight, 625 lbs. Weight of middle piece, 260 lbs. Weight of skull
(skin removed), 20 lbs. Weight of skin, 80 lbs. The right forearm
weighed 50 lbs., and the left 55. This supports the theory that a bear
is left-handed. Right hind-quarter, 60 lbs.; left hindquarter, 60
pounds. The stomach was filled with short alder sticks, not much chewed,
and one small bird feather. Organic acids were present in the stomach,
but no free hydrochloric for digestion of flesh.
It was a great satisfaction to see that none of the bear was wasted,
which fact brings up one very good trait of the Creole hunters. They
dislike to go after bear into a district situated far from the coast,
because in so rough a country it is almost impossible to get all the
meat out. They sell the skin, eat the meat, and make the intestines into
kamlaykas for baidarka work.
April 30 a strong wind kept us from trying the head of the bay, and a
short trip was made up into a low lying valley, near the sloop, but
Our men had already proved themselves good. Vacille was the best
waterman and a good cook; Klampe the best hunter, and Ivan a glutton for
all sorts of work.
The underlying principle on which the Aleut hunter works was brought out
on our short bear hunt. After sighting the game, he waits until he is
sure of his wind, then takes a stand where the bear will pass close by,
and shows himself a monument of patience. Almost all the viewing is done
from the water, a small hill near the shore being occasionally used for
a lookout. They get up at daylight, and two men in a baidarka patrol
both sides of a big bay, watching carefully for bear tracks on the
mountain sides, as this is the surest indication of their presence. As
soon as the bears come from their dens they always make a climbing tour,
the natives claiming that this exercise is taken to strengthen
them. Personally I believe the Kadiak bear has very good reasons for
keeping on the move continually outside of his hibernating season.
If the natives find no sign on their morning tour, they rest all day,
perhaps taking a Turkish bath in a banya, which is not infrequently
attached to the hunting barabara. Another trip of inspection is made
again in the afternoon at four or five o'clock, as the bear usually lies
up between nine and three. A bay is watched for several days in this
way, and if nothing is seen the natives return to their village, or hunt
the hair seal, which are still to be found in fair numbers, especially
on Afognak Island.
When you are with these men you must either conduct the shooting trip on
your own lines or give yourself entirely into the native's hands, and do
as he thinks best. You must leave him alone, and not bother him with
many questions, and in any case you usually get _Nish naiou_ ("I
don't know") for answer. The native gives this reply without thinking;
it is so much easier. The most you can do is to cheer him on when luck
is bad, as he is easily discouraged and becomes homesick.
During the bad weather that followed we had plenty of opportunity to use
our ingenuity in extracting information from our men on the subject of
It seems that the Kadiak bear hibernates, as a rule, from December to
April, depending on the season somewhat, and the young are supposed to
be born in March in the dens. Although the skins are good in the late
fall, they are finest when the bear first comes out in early spring, as
it is then that the hide is thinnest and the hair longest. On the other
hand, in summer, when the hair is very thin, the hide becomes extremely
thick and heavy; this condition changing again as fall comes on. The
total amount of epidermis, in other words, does not vary so much as one
would suppose, and whether the hide or the hair is responsible for most
of the weight depends on the time of year.
When the animal leaves his den he finds food scarce, and has to go on
the principle that a full stomach is better than an empty one, even if
the filling is made of alder twigs. It is not long, however, before
green grass begins to sprout along the small streams, low down, and
grass and the roots of the salmon berry bushes carry the bear along
until the fish run.
The running of the salmon varies, and the bears make frequent
prospecting trips down the streams in order to be sure to be on hand for
the first run, which usually occurs during the latter part of
May. During the salmon season the bears have opportunity to fill
themselves full every night, and put on a tremendous weight of fat in
the late fall, when they become saucy and lazy, and more inclined to
show fight. Berries--especially the salmon berry--help out the fish diet
in summer time. As soon as salmon becomes their food the pelts
deteriorate, but unless living near a red salmon stream, with shallow
reaches, the bears do not get much fish diet until the second run early
in July, so that fair skins are sometimes obtained even up to June 15,
although by this time the hair is usually much faded in color.
The bear makes a zigzag course down the salmon stream from one shallow
rapid to another, standing immovable while fishing, and throwing out his
catch with the left paw. The numerous fishing beds give a false idea of
the number of bear present in a district, as it takes but a few days for
a single bear to cover the sides of a stream for a long distance with
such places. One finds fish skeletons scattered all along a salmon
stream, and it is generally easy to tell whether a bear or eagle has
made the kill. An eagle usually carries the whole fish away with him,
leaving only scales behind. A bear, on the other hand, eats his fish
where he catches him, preferring the belly and back, and usually
discarding the skeleton, and always the under jaw.
The Finn hunter whom I met on my way north, said he had seen an old cow
bear when fishing with her cubs, rush salmon in toward the shore and
scoop them out for the young. Generally they watch on a low bank, or in
the shallow water, while fishing.
During the rutting season, supposed to be in June, the female travels
ahead, the male bringing up the rear to furnish protection from that
quarter. Then if one kills the female the male gives trouble, often
charging on sight.
The Finn thought that, as a rule, the cow bear comes on at a gallop and
a bull rises on his hind legs when getting in close. When wounded the
bear usually strikes the injured spot, or if it is a cow and cubs, the
old one cuffs her young soundly, thinking them the cause of pain. The
nose is the main source of protection, as, like all bears, these are
followed to their very dens in the fall by the keenest of hunters, and
their only restful sleep is the long winter one. Fortunately some
excellent game laws for Alaska have been passed, and by making a close
season for several years, followed by severe restrictions, we may yet
hope that the perpetual preservation of this grand brown bear will be
assured on the Kadiak group, which, from its situation, fitly offers
him, when well guarded, his best chance of making a successful stand
against his enemies.
[Illustration: SITKALIDAK ISLAND FROM KADIAK.]
The fact that the natives make a profit from the bear skins, and that
his flesh furnishes them with food is not to be considered, as at the
present rate of extermination there will soon be no bear left for
The natives certainly could and should be helped out in their living, as
competition in the fur trade of late has so exterminated fur-bearing
animals that hunting and trapping bring them in little, and their diet
is indeed low. One of my hunters during last fall only secured one bear,
one silver gray fox, and two land otter.
A good way to help out the food question, and compensate the native for
his loss of bear meat, would be to transport a goodly number of Sitka
deer to the three islands, and allow them to multiply. There has been a
Sitka deer on Wood Island for several years, and he has lived through
the winters without harm, as his footprints scattered over the island
testify. Afognak and Wood Island are especially suitable for such a
purpose, being well wooded and furnishing plenty of winter food for deer
in willows, alders and black birch. The clement winters make the plan
feasible, and it ought not to be an expensive experiment.
[Illustration: A KADIAK EAGLE.]
We had a very bad time of it on the night of April 30, which showed me
what I had long felt, that the dangers of Kadiak were not centered in
the bear, but in the tremendous wind blows and tide rips in its
fjords. A strong wind came on from the east, and fairly howled through
the ravine opposite our anchorage, catching our little sloop with full
force. We could not change our position, as we occupied the only
anchorage. Vacille, who had turned in, felt the anchor dragging, and we
found ourselves being blown out into the large bay, where we could not
have lived for any time in the big seas, and, should we continue to
drag, our only chance was to try to beach her on a sand shore some half
When the boat was not dragging she was wallowing in cross seas, and
being hammered by the otter boat, which was difficult to manage. The
anchors held firmly, much to our relief, and after a disagreeable night
of watching we beat back to our mooring at the head of the little
cove. The mountains being covered with fresh snow in the morning, there
was nothing to do but eat and sleep.
The bear meat improved with age, and hours of boiling rid it of its
bitter flavor. The whole cabin--and its occupants--smelled of bear's
grease. The thermometer registered 30.
On May 2, as the wind was unsuitable for bear hunting, we made a
photographing trip to a cliff across the bay, where two bald-headed
eagles had built their nest. Merriam and I had a very interesting stalk
with a camera. We landed near the cliff, and the eagles, becoming
disturbed, flew away. The men were sent out in the boat, and we kept in
hiding until signalled that the birds had quieted down. We gained the
top of the cliff, a mere knife edge in places, where we worked our way
along, straddling the rock. The birds had selected a splendid place,
straight up from the water, where they had built their nest firmly into
a bush on the side of the cliff.
I stalked the eagle within about 75 feet and caught her with the camera,
as she was leaving her nest. The earth forming the center of the nest
was frozen and three eggs lay in a little hollow of hay on top. The big
birds circled about us all the time, but did not offer to
attack. Bald-headed eagles are very common on Kadiak, and are always
found about the salmon streams later, during the run, being good
fishermen. It seems they, of all the birds here, are the first to lay
their eggs, and their young are the last to leave the nest.
We secured some eagle eggs on these trips, of which we made several, and
found the cliff nests much the easier to approach, as it was very
difficult to get above nests built in trees.
In connection with the eagle, the magpie should not be forgotten. Of
these black and white birds there were many about, and there seemed to
be a bond of sympathy between the widely separated species of
marauders. Bold enough we knew the smaller bird to be, but to believe
that he would actually steal an eagle's fish breakfast from under his
very nose one must sec the act. The eagle appeared to mind but little,
occasionally pecking the thief away when he became offensive.
The magpie, on the other hand, seemed to have a warm feeling for his big
friend, and once at least we saw him flying about an eagle's nest and
warning the old birds of our approach with his harsh cry.
One good day among many bad ones showed no more bear signs, so we soaped
the seams of the otter boat, which leaked badly, and set sail for Three
Saints Bay, named after Shelikoff's ship. This proved to be a narrow
piece of water running far inland, with snow-covered mountain sides, and
by far the most beautiful fjord on the island.
There were no bear signs, however, and a favorable wind carried us
eastward toward Kaluda Bay, where Kidder and Blake were hunting. On our
way we stopped at Steragowan, an interesting little village, bought a
few stores, and secured some interesting stone lamps, and whale spears,
with throwing sticks.
Once in Kaluda Bay, we found Kidder's and Blake's barabara where they
made headquarters, and their cook informed us that both sportsmen were
many miles up the bay after bear.
Several years ago there was a flourishing colony of natives at the
entrance to Kaluda Bay, but now there are only two hunting barabaras, a
broken down chapel, and a good-sized graveyard. The village prospered
until one day a dead whale was reported not far from land. All the
inhabitants gorged themselves on the putrid blubber, and they died
almost to a man.
The Kadiakers show a good deal of courage in whale hunting. With nothing
but their whale spears tipped with slate, two men will run close up to a
whale, drive two spears home with a throwing stick, and make off
again. The slate is believed in some way to poison the animal, and he
often dies within a short time. The natives go home, return in a few
days, and, if lucky, find the whale in the same bay. Whales are plenty,
and were sometimes annoying to us, playing too near our otter boat. On
one occasion we tried a shot at one that was paying us too much
attention, and persuaded the big chap to leave us in peace.
Bad weather held us fast several days, but we finally made the southeast
corner of the island, and from there had good wind to Kadiak. On our way
we passed Uyak, one of the blue fox islands. Raising these animals for
their fur has become a regular business, and when furs are high it pays
well. The blue fox has been found to be the only one that multiplies
well in comparative captivity, and he thrives on salmon flesh.
At Wood Island, news came to us through prospectors, of a bear in
English Bay, south of Kadiak village. This bay is well known as a good
bear ground, and at the end of the bay there are some huge iron cages
weighing tons which were used as bear traps, some years ago, by men
working for the Smithsonian Institution.
We found bear tracks coming into the valley, down one mountain side, and
leading out over the opposite mountain, and were obliged to return to
Wood Island empty handed.
Merriam now decided to return home on the next boat, and after a few
days I started off for the north side of Kadiak in an otter boat fitted
with sail, picking up on the way a white man, Jack Robinson, and a
native hunter, Vacille, at Ozinka, a small village on Spruce Island. My
men proved a good combination, but we were all obliged to work hard for
two months before a bear was finally secured.
We tried bay after bay, and were often held up, and for days at a time
kept from good grounds by stormy weather and bad winds. The inability to
do anything for long periods made these months the most wearing I have
ever passed. Our little open boat went well only before the wind, but,
as somebody has said, the prevailing winds in Alaska are head winds, and
we spent many long hours at the oars.
Although we had a good tent with us, we used, for the most part, the
native hunting barabara for shelter. These are fairly clean and
comfortable, and are found in every bay of any size.
The natives inherit their hunting grounds, and are apparently scrupulous
in observing each other's rights. In fact, it is dangerous to invade
another man's trapping country, as one may spring a Klipse trap set for
fox and otter, and receive a dangerous gash from the blade that makes
these contrivances so deadly.
On the way to the hunting grounds Vacille pointed out to us a cliff
where he once had an exciting bear hunt.
There were two hunters, and they were fortunate enough to locate an
inhabited den in early spring. Two bears were killed through crevices in
the rocks, but the men suspected there was still one inside, and Vacille
crawled in to make sure. He found himself in a fair sized chamber with
a bear at the other end, and a lucky shot tumbled the animal at his
This story brought up others of bear hunting with the lance. Before
firearms came into common use, boys were given lessons in fighting the
bear with the lance, and became very expert at it. Their method was to
approach a bear as closely as possible, without being seen, then show
themselves suddenly, and as the bear reared strike home. The lance was
held fast by the native, and the bear was often mortally wounded by
forcing the lance into himself in his struggles to reach his enemy.
This class of native no longer exists on Kadiak, but it is said there is
one famous old Aleut near Iliamna Lake on the mainland who scorns any
but this method of hunting.
High above the den where the three bears were killed was a scoop out of
the cliff called the shaman's barabara. Here, before Russian times, the
shamans or witches were buried, and here also were kept the masks used
in certain ceremonial rites. The Russians removed the mummies and masks
The shamans were considered oracles. It was claimed they could prevent a
whale from swimming out of a bay by dragging a bag of fat, extracted
from the dead body of a newly born infant, across the entrance. Their
instructions were unfailingly obeyed, as it was supposed they could
cause death as a punishment for their enemies.
One evening at our first halting place beyond Ozinka, we found tracks in
the snow on one side of our valley, and early in the morning came upon a
two-year-old bear, not far from camp. The bear was grubbing about on the
hillside, and we took our position so that he crossed us under a hundred
yards. Unbeknown to me, and just as I was about to fire, my native gave
the caw of a raven to hold the bear up. He whipped around and faced us,
my bullet entering the brush on one side of him. Off he rushed into the
woods with the dog after him. I followed, and on coming out into a
clearing saw the dog being left far behind on the mountain side. Old
Tchort was not in condition. This was sad and illustrated the fact that
it is sometimes best to be alone.
[Illustration: BEAR PATHS, KODIAK ISLAND.]
We next tried Kaguiac Bay and here spent many days. Two bears had been
killed by the natives near the barabara where we camped, and there was
plenty of sign.
Before sunrise we were watching from a good position, and it was
scarcely light when Vacille made out a big bear, two miles or more
away. He was traveling the snow arete of the mountain opposite, and
trying to find a good descent into our valley. One could see the huge
body and head plainly with the naked eye against the sky-line as he made
his way rapidly through the deep snow. Finally he found a place
somewhat bare of snow and gave us a splendid exhibition of rock
climbing. It took little time for him to get down into the alders,
where he apparently dropped asleep. To our astonishment he woke up about
10 o'clock and worked down toward the bottom land. We stalked him in the
woods and alders, which were very thick, within 300 yards, and here I
should have risked a shot at his hindquarters showing up brown against
the hillside, and seemingly as large as a horse.
We chanced a nearer approach, though the wind was treacherous, and
coming up to a spot where we could have viewed him found the monster had
decamped. All attempts to locate him again were fruitless.
The bear paths around this bay were a very interesting study. They are
hammered deep into the earth, and afford as good means of traveling as
the New Brunswick moose paths.
Sometimes instead of a single road we have a double one, the bear using
one path for the legs of each side of his body. Again, on soft mossy
side hills, instead of paths we find single footprints which have been
used over and over, and made into huge saucers, it being the custom of
the bear to take long strides on the side hills, and to step into the
impressions made by other animals which had traveled ahead of it.
The red salmon were beginning to run, and some fishermen in another part
of the bay supplied us, from time to time, from their nets. Especially
good were the salmon heads roasted.
Bear sign failed, and Afognak Island, where Vacille shot and trapped,
had been so much talked about, that I determined to see it for myself,
and with a good wind we rowed across the straits and sailed twelve miles
into the island by Kofikoski Bay.
[Illustration: BEAR PATHS, KODIAK ISLAND.]
Scattered along up the bay were small islands, and these furnished us
with a good supply of gulls' eggs, which lasted many days.
The Afognak coast is heavily wooded with spruce, while a large plateau
in the interior is almost barren, and gave good opportunity for using
During several days at the head of Kofikoski Bay nothing was seen, so we
packed up and crossed a large piece of the island by portages and a
chain of lakes, where our Osgood boat was indispensable. The country
crossed was like a beautiful park of meadows, groves and lakes, and one
could scarcely believe it was uncultivated.
The Red Salmon River of Seal Harbor, to which we were headed, could not
fail us, for bear could scoop out the salmon in armfuls below the lower
falls, so Vacille said, and he was honest, and now as keen as anything
while traveling his own hunting grounds.
For a whole week a northeast storm blew directly toward the bay, and
kept us in camp. It was fishing weather, however, and my fly-rod, with a
Parmachenee belle, kept us well supplied with steelheads and speckled
trout, which were plentiful in the clear waters of a wandering trout
brook running through a meadow below the camp.
A calm evening came finally, and we paddled down the last lake, some
three miles, to the famous pool.
There were the salmon swarming below the fall, and many constantly in
the air on their upward journey, but the eagles perched high on the dark
spruces, closing in the swirling water, were all they had to fear. There
were no bears and no fresh bear signs. It was an ideal spot, this salmon
pool, but a feast for the eyes only, as the red salmon will not rise to
a fly. Even Tchort looked disconsolate on our track back to Ozinka.
About July 10 there is usually a run of dog salmon, and not much later
another of humpbacks. The dog salmon grow to be about twice as large as
the red salmon, and often weigh 12 pounds. They are much more sluggish
than the red fish, and as they prefer the small shallow streams, become
an easy prey for the bear. The humpback fish are fatter and better
eating even than the red salmon, but are somewhat smaller.
The red fish never ascend a stream which has not a lake on its upper
waters for spawning. The dog and humpback, on the contrary, are not so
particular, and are found almost everywhere. In September there is a run
of silver salmon, which, like the red salmon, will only swim a stream
with a lake at its head. They run up to 40 pounds, and the bears grow
fat on them before turning into winter quarters. The skeletons of this
big fish, cleaned by bear, are found along every small stream running
from the lakes.
The large canneries, like the one at Karluk, on Karluk River, near the
western end of Kadiak, put up only the red salmon. They are not nearly
as good eating as the humpback or silver salmon, but are red, and this
color distinction the market demands. The catches at Karluk run up into
the tens of thousands, and one thinks of this with many misgivings,
remembering the fate of the sea otter and bear. Good hatcheries are
constantly busy, keeping up the supply, but it appears that though one
in every ten thousand of these fish is marked before being set free, so
far as known no marked fish have ever been captured.
On our return to Kadiak Island, we found the streams still free of
salmon, and the vegetation had become so rank as to interfere a good
deal with traveling and sighting game. The whole party looked serious,
and the strain was beginning to tell, no game having been seen for seven
long weeks. This, with the swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, made time
Other places proving barren, we finally brought up at Wesnoi Leide, half
an hour's row from Ozinka, and found the dog fish just beginning to run
up stream, at the head of the bay. Better still, there were fresh bear
The wind was favorable, and we stationed ourselves the first evening on
a bluff overlooking a long meadow, on the lower part of the stream.
Hardly had we sat down, when Vacille said: "If that brown spot on the
hillside were not so large, I would take it for a bear." The brown spot
promptly walked into the woods, half a mile away. We were keen enough
again, but our watching proved fruitless, as nothing came down on the
meadow, showing that there was good fishing well up the stream.
We rowed back to Ozinka, and left the country undisturbed, determined to
get well into the woods the following night, before the bear came down
The next evening we made an early start, and walking up the stream into
the woods found plenty of fresh tracks, and finally halted by some big
trees. The men placed themselves on some high limbs, where they could
watch, and I stood in deep grass, some six or eight feet from a
well-traveled path used by the bear in fishing the stream. The magpies
were calling all about, and seemed to be saying, _Midwit, midwit_,
Aleut for bear. The air was dead calm. Hardly were the men on their
perches, before they saw a bear walk into the brush on one side of the
valley. We waited quietly, in the midst of mosquitoes, but nothing came
in sight. It was already after 10 o'clock, and so dark that the men
gave up their watch, and came down to join me. Suddenly we heard a sharp
screech up the stream, and when it was repeated, Vacille said it must be
a young bear crying because its mother would not feed it fast
enough. Here Vacille did some good work.
We walked rapidly up stream, through the thick brush, and before we had
gone 100 yards heard a large animal, just ahead, moving about in the
brush, and making a good deal of noise. I started ahead to get a view,
thinking we had disturbed the bear, but Vacille held me back. We walked
on noiselessly to a little bare point in the stream, and just then the
bear appeared, bent on fishing, thirty feet away. She lumbered down into
the stream, and when I fired fell into the water, the ball just missing
her shoulder. She was up again, and this time I shot hurriedly, and a
little behind the ribs. She ran, crossing up about forty feet away, and
a trial with the .30-40 scored, but made no impression.
Tchort caught up with her just as she fell, after running a hundred feet
or more, and gave us to understand that he was the responsible party. We
tried immediately to capture the cub, which would have been a rare
prize, but had no success at all in the thicket. The old one, though of
considerable age, was not a large specimen, and, with the exception of
the head, the hair was in bad condition. Length about 6 feet 4 inches;
height at shoulder 44 inches; weight 500 pounds. The stomach was full of
salmon, gleaned from the fishing beds made all along the stream. The
Ozinka people did not enjoy my killing a bear just outside the village.
I caught the boat about a week later, after a few pleasant days with
Kidder and Blake, who had turned up at Wood Island, after a very
successful hunt on the mainland.
A word in regard to the Kadiak bear. Dr. Merriam has proved that he is
distinct from other bear. That he ever reached 2,000 pounds is doubtful
in my mind, but, by comparing measurements of skins, we can be sure he
comes up to 1,200, or a little over. Whether the Kadiak bear is bigger
than the big brown bear of the mainland is doubtful. At present the
growth of these bears is badly interfered with by the natives, and they
rarely reach the old bear age, when these brutes become massive in their
bony structure, and accumulate a vast amount of fat, just before denning
_W. Lord Smith_.
The Mountain Sheep and its Range
The mountain sheep is, in my estimation, the finest of all our American
big game. Many men have killed it and sheep heads are trophies almost as
common as moose heads, and yet among those who have hunted it most and
know it best, but little is really understood as to the life of the
mountain sheep, and many erroneous ideas prevail with regard to it. It
is generally supposed to be an animal found only among the tops of the
loftiest and most rugged mountains, and never to be seen on the lower
ground, and there are still people interested in big game who now and
then ask one confidentially whether there really is anything in the
story that the sheep throw themselves down from great heights, and,
striking on their horns, rebound to their feet without injury.
Each one of us individually knows but little about the mountain sheep,
yet each who has hunted them has observed something of their ways, and
each can contribute some share to an accumulation of facts which some
time may be of assistance to the naturalist who shall write the life
history of this noble species. But unless that naturalist has already
been in the field and has there gathered much material, he is likely to
be hard put to it when the time comes for his story to be written, since
then there may be no mountain sheep to observe or to write of. The sheep
is not likely to be so happy in its biographer as was the buffalo, for
Dr. Allen's monograph on the American bison is a classic among North
American natural history works.
The mountain sheep is an inhabitant of western America, and the books
tell us that it inhabits the Rocky Mountains from southern California to
Alaska. This is sufficiently vague, and I shall endeavor a little
further on to indicate a few places where this species may still be
found, though even so I am unable to assign their ranges to the various
forms that have been described.
For this species seems to have become differentiated into several
species and sub-species, some of which are well marked, and all of which
we do not as yet know much about. These as described are the common
sheep of the Rocky Mountains _(Ovis canadensis_); the white sheep
of Alaska _(Ovis dalli)_, and its near relative, _O. dalli
kenaiensis_; the so-called black sheep of northern British Columbia
(_O. stonei_), described by Dr. Allen; Nelson's sheep of the
southwest (_O. nelsoni_) and _O. mexicanus_, both described by
Dr. Merriam. Besides these, Mr. Hornaday has described _Ovis
fannini_ of Yukon Territory, about which little is known, and
Dr. Merriam has given the sheep of the Missouri River bad lands
sub-specific rank under the title _O.c. auduboni_. Recently
Dr. Elliot has described the Lower California sheep as a sub-species of
the Rocky Mountain form under the name _O.c. cremnobates_. For
twenty-five years I heard of a black sheep-like animal in the central
range of the Rocky Mountains far to the north, said to be not only black
in color, but with black horns, something like those of an antelope, but
in shape and ringed like a female mountain sheep. From specimens
recently examined at the American Museum of Natural History, I now know
this to be the young female of _Ovis stonei_. That several species
of sheep should have been described within the last three or four years
shows, perhaps as well as anything, how very little we know about the
animals of this group.
The sheep of the Rocky Mountains and of the bad lands
(_O. canadensis_ and _O. canadensis auduboni_) are those with
which we are most familiar. Both forms are called the Rocky Mountain
sheep, and from this it is commonly inferred that they are confined to
the mountains, and live solely among the rocks. In a measure this belief
is true today, but it was not invariably so in old times. As in Asia,
so in America, the wild sheep is an inhabitant of the high grass land
plateaus. It delights in the elevated prairies, but near these prairies
it must have rough or broken country to which it may retreat when
pursued by its enemies. Before the days of the railroad and the
settlements in the West, the sheep was often found on the prairie. It
was then abundant in many localities where to-day farmers have their
wheat fields, and to some extent shared the feeding ground of the
antelope and the buffalo. Many and many a time while riding over the
prairie, I have seen among the antelope that loped carelessly out of the
way of the wagon before which I was riding, a few sheep, which would
finally separate themselves from the antelope and run up to rising
ground, there to stand and call until we had come too near them, when
they would lope off and finally be seen climbing some steep butte or
bluff, and there pausing for a last look, would disappear.
Those were the days when if a man had a deer, a sheep, an antelope, or
the bosse ribs of a buffalo cow on his pack or in his wagon, it did not
occur to him to shoot at the game among which he rode. I have seen sheep
feeding on the prairies with antelope, and in little groups by
themselves in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, and men whose
experience extends much further back than mine--men, too, whose life was
largely devoted to observing the wild animals among which they
lived--unite in telling me that they were commonly found in such
situations. Personally I never saw sheep among buffalo, but knowing as I
do the situations that both inhabited and the ways of life of each, I am
confident that sheep were often found with the buffalo, just as were
The country of northwestern Montana, where high prairie is broken now
and then by steep buttes rising to a height of several hundred feet, and
by little ranges of volcanic uplifts like the Sweet Grass Hills, the
Bear Paw Mountains, the Little Rockies, the Judith, and many others, was
a favorite locality for sheep, and so, no doubt, was the butte country
of western North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, this being roughly
the eastern limit of the species. In general it may be said that the
plains sheep preferred plateaus much like those inhabited by the mule
deer, a prairie country where there were rough broken hills or buttes,
to which they could retreat when disturbed. That this habit was taken
advantage of to destroy them will be shown further on.
To-day, if one can climb above timber line in summer to the beautiful
green alpine meadows just below the frowning snow-clad peaks in regions
where sheep may still be found, his eye may yet be gladdened by the
sight of a little group resting on the soft grass far from any cover
that might shelter an enemy. If disturbed, the sheep get up
deliberately, take a long careful look, and walking slowly toward the
rocks, clamber out of harm's way. It will be labor wasted to follow
Such sights may be witnessed still in portions of Montana and British
Columbia, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, where bald, rolling mountains,
showing little or no rock, are frequented by the sheep, which graze over
the uplands, descending at midday to the valleys to drink, and then
slowly working their way up the hills again to their illimitable
Of Dall's sheep, the white Alaskan form, we are told that its favorite
feeding grounds are bald hills and elevated plateaus, and although when
pursued and wounded it takes to precipitous cliffs, and perhaps even to
tall mountain peaks, the land of its choice appears to be not rough
rocks, but rather the level or rolling upland.
The sheep formerly was a gentle, unsuspicious animal, curious and
confiding rather than shy; now it is noted in many regions for its
alertness, wariness, and ability to take care of itself.
Richardson, in his "Fauni-Boreali Americana," says: "Mr. Drummond
informs me that in the retired part of the mountains, where hunters had
seldom penetrated, he found no difficulty in approaching the Rocky
Mountain sheep, which there exhibited the simplicity of character so
remarkable in the domestic species; but that where they had been often
fired at they were exceedingly wild, alarmed their companions on the
approach of danger by a hissing noise, and scaled the rocks with a speed
and agility that baffled pursuit." The mountain men of early days tell
precisely the same thing of the sheep. Fifty or sixty years ago they
were regarded as the gentlest and most unsuspicious animal of all the
prairie, excepting, of course, the buffalo. They did not understand that
the sound of a gun meant danger, and, when shot at, often merely jumped
about and stared, acting much as in later times the elk and the mule
We may take it for granted that, before the coming of the white man, the
mountain sheep ranged over a very large portion of western America, from
the Arctic Ocean down into Mexico. Wherever the country was adapted to
them, there they were found. Absence of suitable food, and sometimes the
presence of animals not agreeable to them, may have left certain areas
without the sheep, but for the most part these animals no doubt existed
from the eastern limit of their range clear to the Pacific. There were
sheep on the plains and in the mountains; those inhabiting the plains
when alarmed sought shelter in the rough bad lands that border so many
rivers, or on the tall buttes that rise from the prairies, or in the
small volcanic uplifts which, in the north, stretch far out eastward
from the Rocky Mountains.
While some hunters believe that the wild sheep were driven from their
former habitat on the plains and in the foothills by the advent of
civilized man, the opinion of the best naturalists is the reverse of
this. They believe that over the whole plains country, except in a few
localities where they still remain, the sheep have been exterminated,
and this is probably what has happened. Thus Dr. C. Hart Merriam writes
"I do not believe that the plains sheep have been driven to the
mountains at all, but that they have been exterminated over the greater
part of their former range. In other words, that the form or sub-species
inhabiting the plains (_auduboni_) is now extinct over the greater
part of its range, occurring only in the localities mentioned by you.
The sheep of the mountains always lived there, and, in my opinion, has
received no accession from the plains. In other words, to my mind it is
not a case of changed habit, but a case of extermination over large
areas. The same I believe to be true in the case of elk and many other
That this is true of the elk--and within my own recollection--is
certainly the fact. In the early days of my western travel, elk were
reasonably abundant over the whole plains as far east as within 120
miles of the city of Omaha on the Missouri River, north to the Canadian
boundary line--and far beyond--and south at least to the Indian
Territory. From all this great area as far west as the Rocky Mountains
they have disappeared, not by any emigration to other localities, but by
A few years ago we knew but one species of mountain sheep, the common
bighorn of the West, but with the opening of new territories and their
invasion by white men, more and more specimens of the bighorn have come
into the hands of naturalists, with the result that a number of new
forms have been described covering territory from Alaska to Mexico. These
forms, with the localities from which the types have come, are as follows:
_Ovis canadensis_, interior of western Canada.
(Mountains of Alberta.)
_Ovis canadensis auduboni_, Bad Lands of South Dakota.
(Between the White and Cheyenne rivers.)
_Ovis nelsoni_, Grapevine Mountains,
boundary between California and Nevada.
(Just south of Lat. 37 deg.)
_Ovis mexicanus_, Lake Santa Maria, Chihuahua, Mexico.
_Ovis stonei_, headwaters Stikine River
(Che-o-nee Mountains), British Columbia.
_Ovis dalli_, mountains on Forty-Mile Creek,
west of Yukon River, Alaska.
_Ovis dalli kenaiensis_, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (1901).
_Ovis canadensis cremnobates_, Lower California.
The standing of _Ovis fannini_ has been in doubt ever since its
description, and recent specimens appear to throw still more doubt on
it. Those most familiar with our sheep do not now, I believe,
acknowledge it as a valid species. It comes from the mountains of the
Klondike River, near Dawson, Yukon Territory.
What the relations of these different forms are to one another has not
yet been determined, but it may be conjectured that _Ovis canadensis,
O. nelsoni_, and _O. dalli_ differ most widely from one another;
while _O. stonei_ and _O. dalli_, with its forms, are close
together; and _O. canadensis_, and _O.c. auduboni_ are closely
related; as are also _O. nelsoni, O. mexicanus_, and _O.c.
cremnobates_. The sub-species _auduboni_ is the easternmost
member of the American sheep family, while the sheep of Chihuahua
and of Lower California are the most southern now known.
At many points in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas the Indians
were formerly great sheep hunters, and largely depended on this game for
their flesh food. That it was easily hunted in primitive times cannot be
doubted, and is easily comprehended when we remember the testimony of
white observers already quoted. In certain places in the foothills of
the mountains, or in more or less isolated ranges in Utah, Nevada,
Montana, and other sections, the Indians used to beat the mountains,
driving the sheep up to the summits, where concealed bowmen might kill
them. On the summits of certain ranges which formerly were great resorts
for sheep, I have found hiding places built of slabs of the trachyte
which forms the mountain, which were used by the Indians for this
purpose in part, as, later, they were also used by the scouting warrior
as shelters and lookout stations from which a wide extent of plain might
be viewed. The sheep on the prairie or on the foothills of such ranges,
if alarmed, would of course climb to the summit, and there would be shot
with stone-headed arrows.
Mr. Muir has seen such shelters in Nevada, and he tells us also that the
Indians used to build corrals or pounds with diverging wings, somewhat
like those used for the capture of antelope and buffalo on the plains,
and that they drove the sheep into these corrals, about which, no doubt,
men, women, and children were secreted, ready to destroy the game.
Certain tribes made a practice of building converging fences and driving
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