Hunting with the Bow and Arrow
Part 3 out of 4
follow, but are soon outdistanced. Down the creek bed we go, splash
through mud, clamber over logs, stop, listen, and hear them baying,
afar off. Their voices rise in a chorus, some are high-pitched,
incessant yelps, some are deep-voiced, bell-like tones. We know they
have him treed and, breathless, we push forward, arriving in the order
of our physical vigor, those with the best legs and lungs coming first.
High up in a tree, out on a limb, we see a shadowy form and two glowing
orbs--that is the coon. The dogs are insistent; since they cannot
climb, although they try, man must rout the victim out. Somebody turns
a flashlight on the varmint. Frank Ferguson is the champion coon
hunter; so he draws a blunt arrow from his quiver, takes quick aim and
shoots. A dull thud tells that he has hit, but the coon does not fall.
Another arrow whistles past, registering a miss; then a sharp click as
the blunt point of the third arrow strikes the creature's head, a
stifled snarl, a falling body, a rush of dogs on the ground, and all is
over. The hounds are delighted, and we count one chicken thief the
Sometimes the coon becomes the aggressor. He boldly enters our camp at
night and purloins a savory ham or rifles the larder and eats a pound
of butter. He fully deserves what is coming to him. I loose Teddy and
Dixie, my two faithful hounds. The morning mist is rising from the
stream, the tree trunks are barely visible in the early dawn, the
grasses drip with dew.
The eager dogs take up the trail and start on a run up the stream bank.
They cross on a great fallen tree and mount the wooded hill on the
other side where I lose them in the jungle. I run on by instinct,
listening for their directing bark. Once in a while I catch it faintly
in the distance. They must be mounting rapidly and too busy to bark.
Again it is audible far off to my left and I force my tired legs to
renewed energy, climbing higher and higher.
Up I mount through the forest, alert for the telltale yelp. There it
is, a whine and faint, stifled guttural sounds, but so indistinct and
so obscured by the prattle of the stream and the murmuring tree tops
that I fail to locate it. So I flounder on through vines and
underbrush, wondering where my dogs have gone. I blow the horn and
Dixie answers with a pathetic howl, away off to the right. I run and
blow the horn again; again that puppy whine. Teddy doesn't answer and I
wonder how Dixie could have been lost, though after all, he is only a
recent graduate from the kennel and unseasoned in this world of canine
misery and wisdom. Unexpectedly, I come upon him, looking very
disconsolate and somewhat mauled. There is no doubt about it, he has
rushed in where angels fear to tread. He has received a recent lesson
in coon hunting. So I console him with a little petting and ask him
where is Teddy. Just then I hear a subterranean gurgle and scuffle and
rushing off to a nearby clump of trees, I find that away down under the
ground in a hollow stump, there is a death struggle going on--Teddy and
the coon are having it out. From the sounds I know that Ted has him by
the throat and is waiting for the end. But he seems very weak himself.
As I shout down the hole to encourage him, the coon, with one final
effort, wrests himself free from the dog and comes scuttling out of the
hole. With undignified haste I back away from the outlet and fumble a
blunt arrow on the string, and I am just in time, for here comes one of
the maddest and one of the sickest coons I ever saw. With a hasty shot
back of the ear, I bowl him over and put him out of his misery. Turning
him over with my foot to make sure he is finished, I note how desperate
the fight must have been. His neck and brisket are a mass of mangled
flesh and skin. Then reaching deep down in the hole I grab poor
exhausted Teddy by the scruff of his neck, lift him out, and let him
regain his breath in the fresh air. He certainly is a weary champion.
The coon has bitten him viciously between the legs and along the
abdomen. After a while we all go down to the stream and there bathe the
With the rascally old coon over my shoulder, we three wander back to
camp in time for congratulations and wonderment of the children and the
consolation of hot victuals.
That is a typical coon hunt with us. Some are less damaging to the
dogs, but usually this little cousin of the bears is able to give a
good account of himself in the contest.
Ferguson and his pack of fox terriers have had more experience with the
redoubtable raccoon than the rest of us; he hunts them for their pelts.
He is also a trapper for the market and long since has found that the
blunt arrow shot from a light bow serves very admirably for dispatching
the captured varmint when once trapped.
The fox is more difficult to meet in the wilds. His business hours are
also at night, but he extends them not infrequently both into the
sunrise and twilight zones. One of the most beautiful sights I ever
witnessed came unexpectedly while hunting deer.
It was evening; dusky shadows merged all objects into a common drab.
Two silent, graceful foxes rose over the crest of a little eminence of
ground before me. Outlined distinctly against a red dirt bank across
the ravine, they stood just for a moment in surprise. I drew my bow and
instantly loosed an arrow at the foremost. It flew swift as a
night-hawk and with a rush of wind passed his head. As is usual at
dusk, I had overestimated the distance. It was but forty yards; I
thought it fifty.
Half-startled, but not alarmed, the two foxes fixed their gaze upon me
a second, then gracefully, and with infinite ease, they cleared a
three-foot bush without a run and disappeared in the gloom.
But in that leap I gained all the thrill that I missed with my arrow.
Such facile grace I never saw. Without an effort they rose, hovered an
instant in midair, straightened their wonderful bushy tails as an
aeroplane readjusts its flight, and soared level across the obstacle.
One final downward curve of that beautiful counterbalance landed them
smoothly on the distant side of the bush where, with uninterrupted
speed, they vanished from sight. For the first time I appreciated why a
fox has such a light, long, fluffy caudal appendage. Marvelous!
[Illustration: MR. COON BROUGHT INTO CAMP]
[Illustration: A PRETTY PAIR OF WINGS]
[Illustration: JUST A LITTLE HUNT BEFORE BREAKFAST]
[Illustration: YOUNG AND COMPTON WITH A QUAIL APIECE]
Often at night when coming late to camp through the woods, a fox has
emerged from the outer sphere of darkness and given a querulous little
bark at me. Wheeling with a bright light on the head, I could have shot
him, but then he is such a harmless little denizen of the woods that I
hate to kill him. But after all, is he really harmless? The little
culprit! He actually does a deal of harm, destroying birds' nests,
eating the young, catching quail and rabbits--I don't know that we
should spare him.
With horses and hounds we have chased many foxes over the sage and
The fox terrier and the black and tan are excellent dogs for this sort
of work. These little hunters are keen for the sport and make their way
beneath the brush where a larger dog follows with difficulty. With
strident yelps the pack picks up the hot trail, and off they rush,
helter skelter, through the sage and chaparral; we circle and cross
cut, dash down the draw, traverse the open forest meadow and follow the
furious procession into the trees.
There the hard-pressed little fox makes a final spurt for a large red
pine, leaps straight for the bare trunk, mounts like a squirrel and
gains a rotten limb, panting with effort. As we approach he climbs
still higher and lodges himself securely in the crotch of the tree,
gazing furtively down at the dogs.
Who ever thought that a fox could climb such a tree! It was twenty feet
to the first foothold on a decayed branch; yet there he was, and we saw
him do it.
Sometimes when the fleeing fox has mounted a smaller tree, we have
shaken him from his perch and let the dogs deal with him as they think
best--for a dog must not be too often cheated of his conquest or he
loses heart. Sometimes we have mounted the tree and slipped a noose
over the fox's neck, brought him close, tied his wicked little jaws
tightly together with a thong, packed him off on the horse to show him
to the children in camp, and later given him his liberty. Or, as in the
case of our little villain up the pine tree, we have drawn a careful
arrow and settled his life problems with a broad-head.
In winter time the trap and the blunt arrow add another fur collar to
the coat of the feminine sybarite.
The woods and plains are full of hunters. The hawk is on the wing; the
murderous mink and weasel never cease their crimes; the bird seeks the
slothful worm and jumping insect; the fox, cat, and wolf forever quest
for food. And so we, hunting in the early morning light, once saw a
flock of quail flushed long before our presence should have given them
cause for flight. Compton and Young, arrows nocked and muscles taut,
crept cautiously to the thicket of wild roses out of which flew the
quail. There, stooping low, they saw the spotted legs of a lynx softly
stalking the birds. Aiming above the legs where surely there must be a
body, Young sped an arrow. There was a thud, a snarl, and an animal
tore through the crackling bushes. Out from the other side bounded the
cat, and there, not twenty yards off, he met Compton. Like a flash
another arrow flew at him, flew through him, and down he tumbled, a
flurry of scratching claws, torn up grasses and dust. Young's arrow,
having been a blunt barbed head, still lodged in his chest, and as the
lynx succumbed to death I took his picture.
Lazy, sleepy cat, both lynx and wildcats, we meet not infrequently on
our travels. Still they are ever up to mischief in spite of their
indolent casual appearance. Often have we seen them slink out from a
bunch of cover, cross the open hillside, and there, if within range,
receive an archer's salute. Many times we miss them, sometimes we hit;
but that's not the point, we are not so anxious to get them as to send
Then, too, since Ishi taught us to do it, we have called these wary
creatures from the thicket and sometimes got a shot.
With the dogs, the story is soon told and the role of the bowman is
without triumph; so for this reason, we prefer the accidental meetings
and impromptu adventures to the more certain contact. Still when at
night we hear the tingling call of the lynx up in the woods, we yearn
for a willing dog and a taut bowstring.
With the distant barking wail of the prairie wolf or coyote, one feels
differently. I presume that man has become so accustomed to the dog
that he has rather a kindly feeling toward this little brother of the
plains, called by the Aztecs coyote, or "wild one." We know his evil
propensities and his economic menace, but still we love him, or at
least, look upon him much as the Indians do, as a sort of comedian
Ishi used to tell me of his laughable experiences with coyotes. When
coming home at night with a haunch of venison on his shoulder, a band
of these gamins of the wilds would follow him teasing at his heels.
Ishi would turn upon them with feigned fury and chase them back into
the shadows or wield his bow as a short lance and jab them vigorously
in the ribs--when he could.
With him the coyote was the reincarnation of a mythical character, half
buffoon, half magician. He was cunning, crafty, humorous, and evil, all
in one, and no doings of the animal folk ever progressed very far
without the entrance of the "coyote doctor" on the scene. He was the
doer of tricks and caster of spells, but still he himself met with
misadventure--witness how he lost his claws. Of course, he had long
claws like the bear in the beginning, and fine silky fur. But one
night, coming weary from hunting and cold, he crept into a hollow oak
gall to sleep. The wind fanned the embers of the camp-fire and the dry
grass burst into a blaze. It swept up to the sleeping coyote, where
only his feet protruded from his hollow spherical den. Here they hung
out for lack of room. So, of course, his claws were burned off before
the pain wakened him. He leaped out of his nest, dashed through the
blaze, and plunged into the creek, not in time, however, to keep his
beautiful long hair from being singed. Even to this day he has that
half-scorched, moth-eaten pelt, and his claws are only those of a
When met in the open, the prairie wolf seems so weary and listless. If
at a distance, he protests at your entrance upon his domain with a
forlorn wail, or insolently stares at you from a ridge. He sits and
looks or moves about dyspeptically waiting for you to go.
Once I remember that we saw one sitting on his haunches a hundred and
eighty yards away. Compton loosed an arrow at him, one of those
whining, complaining shafts that drone through the air. The coyote
heard it coming; he pricked up his ears, pointed his nose skyward, rose
and limped lively to the left, turned, peered into the sky, and ran a
short distance to the right, then loped off just in time to be missed
by the descending arrow, which landed exactly where he sat originally.
It was indeed a most ludicrous performance, incidentally a splendid
Just as with a rifle, the coyote simply is not there when your missile
strikes. He doesn't seem to bestir himself greatly, but just seems to
drag himself out of harm's way at the last moment. How often have we
let fly at him, sometimes at a group of them, but seldom has he been
hit. A beginner's luck seems to fool him, however. One of our neophytes
with the bow, having had his tackle less than a month, was out riding
in his new automobile in company with a group of friends. The bow at
that time was his vade-mecum; he never left it home. He chanced to see
a stray coyote near the side of the highway when, after passing it a
hundred yards or so, he stopped his machine, grabbed his trusty weapon,
which he had hardly learned to shoot, strung it, nocked an arrow, and
ran back to take a shot at the animal in question. His eagerness and
obvious incapacity so amused the gay company in the machine, that they
cheered him on with laughter and ridicule.
Undaunted, our bowman hastened back, saw the crafty beast retreating in
a slinking gallop, drew his faithful bow, and shot at sixty yards.
Unerringly the fatal shaft flew, struck the coyote back of the ear and
laid him low without a quiver.
Mad with unexpected triumph, our archer dragged his slain victim back
to the car to meet the jeering company, and confounded them with his
success. Loud were the shouts of joy; a war dance ensued to celebrate
the great event. When done the merry party cranked up the machine and
sped on its fragrant way, a happier and a more enlightened bevy of
Thus is shown the danger of utter innocence.
These chance meetings seem rather unlucky for coyotes. Frank Ferguson,
when trapping in the foothills of the Sierras, repeatedly had his traps
robbed by an impudent member of the wolf family. One day while making
his regular rounds and approaching a set, he saw in the distance a
coyote run off with the catch of his trap. Seeing that the wolf turned
up a branch creek, Ferguson cut across the intervening neck of the
woods to intercept him if possible. He reached the stream bottom at the
moment the coyote came trotting past. Having a blunt arrow on the
bowstring, he shot across the twenty-five yards of bank, and quite
unexpectedly cracked the animal on the foreleg, breaking the bone. A
jet of blood spurted out with astonishing force, and the brute
staggered for a space of time. This gave Ferguson a moment to nock a
second shaft, a broad-head, and with that accuracy known to come in
excitement, he drove it completely through the animal's body, killing
it instantly. When next we met after this episode, he showed me the
bloody arrows and wolf skin as mute evidence of his skill.
Ferguson was won over to archery when, as packer upon our first trip
together, he asked Compton to show him what could be done with the bow
in the way of accurate shooting. Compton is particularly good at long
ranges, so he pointed out a bush about one hundred and seventy-five
yards distant. It was about the size of a dog. Compton took unusual
care with his shots, and dropped three successive arrows in that bush.
When "Ferg" saw this he took the bow seriously.
The timber wolf is seldom met in our clime, and so for this reason he
has been spared the fate common to all fearsome beasts that cross the
trail of an archer. But with that fateful hope which has foreshadowed
and seemingly insured our subsequent achievement, I fervently wish that
some day we may meet, wolf and bowman.
In the absence of this the more austere and wicked member of the
family, we shall continue from time to time to speed a questing arrow
in the general direction of the furtive coyote.
Deer are the most beautiful animals of the woods. Their grace, poise,
agility, and alertness make them a lovely and inspiring sight. To see
them feed undisturbed is wonderful; such mincing steps, such dainty
nibbling is a lesson in culture. With wide, lustrous eyes, mobile ears
ever listening, with moist, sensitive nostrils testing every vagrant
odor in the air, they are the embodiment of hypersensitive
self-preservation. And yet deer are not essentially timid animals. They
will venture far through curiosity, and I have seen them from the
hilltop, being run by dogs, play and trifle with their pursuers. The
dog, hampered by brush and going only by scent, follows implicitly the
trail. The deer runs, leaps high barriers, doubles on his tracks, stops
to browse at a tempting bush, even waits for the dog to catch up with
him, and leads him on in a merry chase. I feel sure that unless badly
cornered or confused by a number of dogs or wolves, the deer does not
often develop great fear, nor is he hard put to it in these episodes.
Quite likely there is an element of sport in it with him.
Why men should kill deer is a moot question, but it is a habit of the
brute. For so many hundreds of years have we been at it, that we can
hardly be expected to reform immediately. Undoubtedly, it is a sign of
undeveloped ethnic consciousness. We are depraved animals. I must admit
that there are quite a number of things men do that mark them as far
below the angels, but in a way I am glad of it. The thrill and glow of
nature is strong within us. The great primitive outer world is still
unconquered, and there are impulses within the breast of man not yet
measured, curbed and devitalized, which are the essential motives of
life. Therefore, without wantonness, and without cruelty, we shall hunt
as long as the arm has strength, the eye glistens, and the heart
To go deer hunting, the archer should seek a country unspoiled by
civilization and gunpowder. It should approach as nearly as possible
the pristine wilderness of our forefathers. The game should be
unharried by the omnipresent and dangerous nimrod. In fact, as a matter
of safety, an archer particularly should avoid those districts overrun
by the gunman. The very methods employed by the bowman make him a ready
target for the unerring, accidental bullet.
Never go in company with those using firearms; never carry firearms.
The first spoils your hunting, and the second is unnecessary and only
gives your critic a chance to say that you used a gun to kill your
animal, then stuck it full of arrows to take its picture.
On our deer hunts we first decide upon the location, usually in some
mountain ranch owned by a man who is willing and anxious to have us
hunt on his grounds. The sporting proposition of shooting deer with a
bow strikes the fancy of most men in the country. If we are unfamiliar
with the district, the rancher can give us valuable information
concerning the location of bucks, and this saves time. Usually he is
our guide and packer, supplying the horses and equipment for a
compensation, so we are welcome. Some of the intimate relations
established on these expeditions are among the pleasantest features of
Having reached the hunting grounds, we make camp. Tents are pitched,
stores unpacked and arranged, beds made and all put in order for a stay
of days or weeks.
Each archer has with him two or more bows, and anywhere from two to six
dozen arrows. About half of these are good broad-heads and the rest are
blunts or odd scraps to be shot away at birds on the wing, at marks, or
some are shot in pure exhilaration across deep canyons.
As a rule, there are two or three of us in the party, and we hunt
Having decided what seems the best buck ground, we rise before daylight
and, having eaten, strike out to reach the proposed spot before
sunrise. There we spread out, approximately a bowshot apart, that is to
say, two hundred yards. In parallel courses we traverse the country;
one just below the ridges where one nearly always finds a game trail;
one part way down, working through the wooded draws; and the third
going through the timber edge where deer are likely to lurk or bed
In this way we cross-cut a good deal of country, and one or the other
is likely to come upon or rout out a buck. With great caution we
progress very quietly, searching every bit of cover, peering at every
fallen log, where deer often lie, standing to scrutinize every
conspicuous twig in anticipation that it may be horns. Does, of course,
we see in plenty. So carefully do we approach that often we have come
up within ten yards of female deer. Once Compton sneaked up on a doe
nursing her fawn. He crept so close that he could have thrown his hat
on them. While he watched, the mother got restless, seemed to sense
danger without scenting or seeing it. She moved off slowly, pulling her
teats out of the eager fawn's mouth, gave a flip to her hind legs and
hopped over him, then meandered leisurely to the crest of the hill. The
little fellow, unperturbed, licked his chops, ran his tongue up his
nose, shook his ears, and seeing mother waiting for him, trotted away
unaware of the possible danger of man. But we do not shoot does.
So we travel. Sometimes a startled deer bounds down the hillside
leaving us chagrined and disappointed. Sometimes one tries this and is
defeated. One evening as we returned to camp, making haste because of
the rapidly falling night, we startled a deer that plunged down the
steep slope before us. Instantly Compton drew to the head and shot. His
arrow led the bounding animal by ten yards. Just as the deer reached
cover at a distance of seventy-five yards, the arrow struck. It entered
his flank, ranged forward and emerged at the point of the opposite
shoulder. The deer turned and dashed into the bush. As it did so the
protruding arrow shaft snapped; we descended and picked up the broken
piece. Following the crashing descent of the buck down the canyon, we
found him some two hundred yards below, crumpled up and dead against a
madrone tree. It was a heart shot, one of the finest I ever hope to
see. Compton is a master at the judgment of distance and the speed of
Having worked out a piece of country by the method of sub-division, we
meet at a pre-arranged rendezvous and plan another sortie.
If the sun has not risen above the peaks, we continue this method of
combing the land until we know the time for bucks has passed. For this
reason we work the high points first, and the lower points last, for in
this way we take advantage of the slowly advancing illumination.
Sometimes, using glasses, we pick out a buck at a considerable
distance, either in his solitary retreat, or with a band of deer; and
we go after him. Here we figure out where he is traveling and make a
detour to intercept him. This is often heartbreaking work, up hill and
down dale, but all part of the game.
Young and Compton brought low a fine buck by this means on one of our
recent hunts. Seeing a three-pointer a mile distant, we all advanced at
a rapid pace. We reached suitable vantage ground just as the buck
became aware of our presence. At eighty yards Young shot an arrow and
pierced him through the chest. The deer leaped a ravine and took refuge
in a clump of bay trees. We surrounded this cover and waited for his
exit. Since he did not come out after due waiting, Compton cautiously
invaded the wooded area, saw the wounded deer deep in thought; he
finished him with a broad-head through the neck.
[Illustration: WOODCHUCKS GALORE!]
[Illustration: PORCUPINE QUILLS TO DECORATE A QUIVER]
[Illustration: A FATAL ARROW AT 65 YARDS]
[Illustration: THE CHIEF AND ART GET A BUCK AT 85 YARDS]
Not having had any large experience myself in hunting deer with
firearms, the use of the bow presented no great contrast. Mr. Young has
often said, however, that it gave him more pleasure to shoot at a deer
and miss it with an arrow, than to kill all the deer he ever had with a
gun. For my part, I did not want to kill anything with a gun. It did
not seem fair; so until I took up archery, I did not care to hunt.
Therefore, the analysis of my feelings interested me considerably as we
began to have experiences with the bow.
The first deer I shot at was so far off that there was no chance to hit
it, but I let drive just to get the sensation. My arrow sailed
harmlessly over its back. The next I shot at was within good range, but
my arrow only grazed its rump. And that deer did something that I never
saw before. It sagged in the middle until its belly nearly touched the
ground, then it gathered its seemingly weakened legs beneath it, and
galloped off in a series of bucks. We laughed immoderately over its
antics; in fact, some of our adventures have been most ludicrous at
Once, when two of us shot at an old stag together as it raced far off
down the trail, the two arrows dropped twenty yards ahead of it.
Instantly the stag came to an abrupt stop, smelled first one arrow at
one side of the trail, and the other on the opposite side, deliberated
a moment, bolted sidewise and disappeared. What he got in his olfactory
investigation must have been confusing. He smelled man; he smelled
turkey feathers; and he smelled paint. What sort of animals do you
think he imagined the arrows to be?
This reminds me that Ishi always said that a white man smelled like a
horse, and in hunting made a noise like one, but apparently he doesn't
always have horse sense.
I saw this exemplified upon one occasion. When camped in a beautiful
little spot we were disturbed by the arrival of a party of some four
men, five horses, and three dogs--all heavily accoutred for the chase.
With our quiet Indian methods, we caused little excitement in the land,
but they burst in upon us with a fury that warned all game for miles
The day after their arrival, alone on a trail, I heard one of this band
approaching; half a mile above me his noise preceded him. Down he came
over brush and stones. I stepped quietly beside a bush and waited as I
would for an oncoming elephant. With gun at right shoulder arms,
knapsack and canteen rattling, spiked shoes crunching, he marched past
me, eyes straight ahead; walking within ten yards and never saw me.
Twenty deer must have seen him where he saw one. That night this same
man came straggling wearily into our midst and asked the way to his
camp. He explained that he had put a piece of paper on a tree to guide
him, but that he could not find the tree. We asked him what luck. He
said that there were only does in the country. Perhaps he was right,
because that is all they shot. We found two down in the gullies after
they had gone. For a week they hunted all over the place with horses,
guns, and dogs, and got no legitimate game. During this same time,
beneath their very noses, we got two fine bucks. So much for the men of
The first buck I ever landed with the bow thrilled me to such an extent
that every detail is memorable. After a long, hard morning hunt, I was
returning to camp alone. It was nearly noon; the sun beat down on the
pungent dust of the trail, and all nature seemed sleepy. The air, heavy
with the fragrance of the pines, hardly stirred.
I was walking wearily along thinking of food, when suddenly my outer
visual fields picked up the image of a deer. I stopped. There, eighty
yards away, stood a three-year-old buck, grazing under an oak. His back
was toward me. I crouched and sneaked nearer. My arrow was nocked on
the string. The distance I measured carefully with my eye; it was now
sixty-five yards. Just then the deer raised its head. I let fly an
arrow at its neck. It flew between its horns. The deer gave a started
toss to its head, listened a second, then dipped its crest again to
feed. I nocked another shaft. As it raised its head again I shot. This
arrow flew wide of the neck, but at the right elevation. The buck now
was more startled and jumped so that it stood profile to me, looking
and listening. I dropped upon one knee. A little rising ground and
intervening brush partially concealed me. As I drew a third arrow from
my quiver its barb caught in the rawhide, and I swore a soft vicious
oath to steady my nerves. Then drawing my bow carefully, lowering my
aim and holding like grim death, I shot a beautifully released arrow.
It sped over the tops of the dried grass seeming to skim the ground
like a bird, and struck the deer full and hard in the chest. It was a
welcome thud. The beast leaped, bounded off some thirty yards,
staggered, drew back its head and wilted in the hind legs. I had stayed
immovable as wood. Seeing him failing, I ran swiftly forward, and
almost on the run at forty yards I drove a second arrow through his
heart. The deer died instantly.
Conflicting emotions of compassion and exultation surged through me,
and I felt weak, but I ran to my quarry, lifted his head on my knee and
claimed him in the name of Robin Hood.
Looking him over, it was apparent that my second shaft had hit him in
the base of the heart, emerged through the breast and only stopped in
its flight by striking the foreleg. The first arrow had gone completely
through the back part of the chest, severed the aorta, and flown past
him. There it lay, sticking deep into the ground twenty yards beyond
the spot where he stood when shot.
After the body had been cleaned and cooled in the shade of an oak, we
packed it home in the twilight, an easy burden for a light heart. This
is the fulfilment of the hunter's quest. It was the sweetest venison we
We have had little experience in trailing deer on the snow and none in
the use of dogs to run them. Doubtless, the latter method under some
conditions is admirable, particularly in very brushy countries.
But we have preferred the still hunt. Lying in wait at licks we have
done so to study animal life and in conjunction with the Indian to
learn his methods, but neither the lick nor the ambush appealed to us
as sport. In fact, we have hunted deer more for meat than for trophies,
and quite a number of our kills have been in a way incidental to
hunting mountain lions or other predatory animals.
Once, when on a lion trail, the dogs ran down a steep trail ahead of
me, and there in the creek bottom they started a fine large buck. On
each side of the path the brush was very high, and up this corridor
dashed the buck. There was no room for him to pass, and he came upon me
with a rush. When less than twenty yards away, I hastily drew my bow
and drove an arrow deep into his breast. With a lateral bound he
cleared the brushy hedge and was lost to view. The dogs had been
trained not to follow deer; but since they saw me shoot it, they ran in
hot pursuit. I sounded my horn and brought them back, and scolded them.
But fearing to lose the deer, I decided to go down to the ranch house,
a couple of miles away, and borrow Jasper and his dog, Splinters. Now
Splinters was some sort of a mongrel fise, an insignificant-looking
little beast that had come originally from the city and presumably was
hopelessly civilized. Jasper, however, had recognized in him certain
latent talents and had trained him to follow wounded deer. He paid no
attention to any scent except that of deer blood. In an accidental
encounter with the hind foot of a horse, Splinters had lost the sight
of one eye and the use of one ear; but in spite of the lopsided
progression occasioned by this disability, he was infallible with
So Jasper came, and Splinters trotted along at his heels. At the spot
where the deer leaped off the trail, we let the dog smell a drop of
blood. After a deliberate, unexcited investigation, he began to wander
through the brush. Occasionally he stopped to stand on his hind legs
and nose the chaparral above him, then wandered on. Just about this
time I stepped on a rattlesnake, and, after a hasty change of location,
directed my efforts toward dispatching the snake. By the time I had
finished this worthy deed, Jasper and Splinters were lost to view; so I
sat down and waited. After a quarter of an hour I heard a distant
Following Jasper's signal, I descended to the creek below me, went a
short distance up a side branch, and there were all three--Jasper,
Splinters, and the deer. The latter had made almost a complete circle,
half a mile in extent, and dropped in the creek, not a hundred yards
from his starting point.
My arrow had caused a most destructive wound in the lungs and great
vessels of the chest, and it was remarkable that the animal could have
gone so far. We were of the opinion that if my own dogs had not started
to run him, the deer would have gone but a short distance and lain down
where in a few minutes we could have found him dead.
While, after all, the object of deer hunting is to get your deer, it
does seem that some of our keenest delight has been when we have missed
it. So far, we have never shot one of those massive old bucks with
innumerable points to his antlers; they have all been adolescent or
prospective patriarchs. But several times we have almost landed the big
Out of the quiet purple shadow of the forest one evening there stepped
the most stately buck I ever saw. His noble crest and carriage were
superb. On a grassy hillside, some hundred and fifty yards away, he
stood broadside on. With a rifle the merest tyro might have bowled him
over. In fact, he looked just like the royal stag in the picture.
Two of us were together--a little underbrush shielded us. We drew our
bows, loosed the arrows and off they flew. The flight of an arrow is a
beautiful thing; it is grace, harmony, and perfect geometry all in one.
They flew, and fell short. The deer only looked at them. We nocked
again and shot. This time we dropped them just beneath his belly. He
jumped forward a few paces and stopped to look at us. Slowly we reached
for a third arrow, slowly nocked and drew it, and away it went,
whispering in the air. One grazed his withers, the other pierced him
through the loose skin of the brisket and flew past.
With an upward leap he soared away in the woods and we sent our
blessing with him. His wound would heal readily, a mere scratch. We
picked up our arrows and returned to camp to have bacon for supper,
An arrow wound may be trivial, as was this one, or it may be
surprisingly deadly, as brought out by an experience of Arthur Young.
Once when stalking deer, the animal became alarmed and started to run
away behind a screen of scrub oak. Young, perceiving that he was about
to lose his quarry, shot at the indistinct moving body. Thinking that
he had missed his shot, he searched for his arrow and found that it had
plowed up the ground and buried its head deep in the earth. When he
picked it up, he noted that it was strangely damp, but since he could
not explain it, he dismissed the matter from his mind.
Next day, hunting over the same ground, he and Compton found the deer
less than a hundred and fifty yards from this spot. It had run, fallen,
bled, risen and fallen down hill, where it died of hemorrhage. Their
inspection showed that the arrow had struck back of the shoulder, gone
through the lungs and emerged beneath the jaw. With all this it had
flown yards beyond, struck deeply in the earth, and was only a trifle
Upon another occasion, while hunting cougars with a hound, I came
abruptly upon a doe and a buck in a deep ravine. It was open season and
we needed camp meat. Gauging my distance carefully, I shot at the buck,
striking him in the flank. For the first time in my life, I heard an
adult deer bleat. He gave an involuntary exclamation, whirled, but
since he knew not the location or the nature of his danger, he did not
My hound was working higher up in the canyon, but he heard the bleat,
when like a wild beast he came charging through the undergrowth and
hurled himself with terrific force upon the startled deer, bearing him
to the ground. There was a fierce struggle for a brief moment in which
the buck wrenched himself free from the dog's hold upon his throat and
with an effort lunged down the slope and eluded us. Because of the many
deer trails and because the hound was unused to following deer, night
fell before we could locate him.
Next day we found the dead buck, but the lions had left little meat on
his bones--in fact, it seemed that a veritable den of these animals had
feasted on him.
The striking picture in my mind today is the fierceness and the savage
onslaught of my dog. Never did I suspect that the amiable, gentle pet
of our fireside could turn into such an overpowering, indomitable
killer. His assault was absolutely bloodthirsty. I've often thought how
grateful I should be that such an animal was my friend and companion in
the hunt and not my pursuer. How quickly the dog adjusts himself to the
bow! At first he is afraid of the long stick. But he soon gets the idea
and not waiting for the detonation of the gun, he accepts the hum of
the bowstring and the whirr of the arrow as signals for action. Some
dogs have even shown a tendency to retrieve our arrows for us, and
nothing suits them better than that we go on foot, and by their sides
can run with them and with our silent shafts can lay low what they
bring to bay. In fact, it is a perfect balance of power--the hound with
his wondrous nose, lean flanks and tireless legs; the man with his
human reason, the horn, and his bow and arrow.
We who have hunted thus, trod the forest trails, climbed the lofty
peaks, breathed the magic air, and viewed the endless roll of mountain
ridges, blue in the distance, have been blessed by the gods.
In all, we have shot about thirty deer with the bow. The majority of
these fell before the shafts of Will Compton, while Young and I have
contributed in a smaller measure to the count. Despite the vague
regrets we always feel at slaying so beautiful an animal, there is an
exultation about bringing into camp a haunch of venison, or hanging the
deer on the limb of a sheltering tree, there to cool near the icy
spring. By the glow of the campfire we broil savory loin steaks, and
when done eating, we sit in the gloaming and watch the stars come out.
Great Orion shines in all his glory, and the Hunters' Moon rises golden
and full through the skies.
Drowsy with happiness, we nestle down in our sleeping bags, resting on
a bed of fragrant boughs, and dream of the eternal chase.
Killing bears with the bow and arrow is a very old pastime, in fact, it
ranks next in antiquity to killing them with a club. However, it has
faded so far into the dim realms of the past that it seems almost
The bear has stood for all that is dangerous and horrible for ages. No
doubt, our ancestral experiences with the cave bears of Europe stamped
the dread of these mighty beasts indelibly in our hearts. The American
Indians in times gone past killed them with their primitive weapons,
but even they have not done it lately, so it can be considered a lost
The Yana's method of hunting bears has been described. Here they made
an effort to shoot the beast in the open mouth. Ishi said that the
blood thus choked and killed him. But after examining the bear skulls,
it seems to me that a shot in the mouth is more likely to be fatal
because the base of the brain is here covered with the thinnest layers
of bone. Arrows can hardly penetrate the thick frontal bones of the
skull, but up through the palate there would be no difficulty in
entering the brain. At any rate, it is here that the Yana directed
their shots. Apparently, from Ishi's description, it took quite a time
to wear down and slay the animal.
All Indians seem to have had a wholesome respect for the grizzly, the
mighty brother of the mountains, and they gave him the right of way.
The black bear is, of course, the same animal whether brown or
cinnamon, these color variations are simply brunette, blonde and auburn
complexions, the essential anatomical and habit characteristics are
The American black bear at one time ranged all over the United States
and Canada. He has recently become a rare inhabitant of the eastern and
more thickly populated districts; yet it is astonishing to hear that
even in the year of 1920 some four hundred and sixty-five bears were
taken in the State of Pennsylvania.
In the western mountains he is to be met with quite frequently, but is
not given to unprovoked attack, and with modern firearms an encounter
with him is not fraught with great danger. He, or more properly, she
will charge man with intent to kill upon certain rare occasions--when
wounded, surprised, or when feeling that her young are in danger. But
the bear, in company with all the other animals of the wilds, has
learned to fear man since gunpowder was invented. Prior to this time,
it felt the game was more equal, and seldom avoided a meeting, even
Bears are a mixture of the curious comedy traits with cunning and
savage ferocity. In some of their lighter moods and pilfering habits,
they add to the gayety of life.
While hunting in Wyoming one night, on coming to camp we discovered a
young black bear robbing our larder. He had a ham bone in his jaws as
we approached. Hastily nocking a blunt arrow on my bowstring, I let fly
at sixty yards as he started to make his escape. I did not wish to
kill, only admonish him. The arrow flew in a swift chiding stroke and
smote him on his furry side with a dull thud. With a grunt and a bound,
he dropped the bone and scampered off into the forest while the arrow
rattled to the ground. His antics of surprise were most ludicrous. We
sped him on his way with hilarious shouts; he never came again.
Upon a different occasion with another party, where the camp was
bothered by the midnight foraging of a bear, our guide arranged to play
a practical joke upon a certain "tenderfoot." Unknown to the victim, he
tied a chunk of bacon to the corner of his sleeping bag with a piece of
bale wire. In the middle of the night the camp was awakened by a
pandemonium as the sleeping bag, man and all disappeared down the slope
and landed in the creek bed below, where the determined bear, hanging
on to the bacon, dragged the protesting tenderfoot. Here he abandoned
his noisy burden and left the scene of excitement. No doubt, this goes
down in the annals of both families as the most dramatic and stirring
moment of life.
Bear stories of this sort tend to give one the idea that these beasts
can be petted and made trustworthy companions. In fact, certain
sentimental devotees of nature foster the sentiment that wild animals
need naught but kindness and loving thoughts to become the bosom friend
of man. Such sophists would find that they had made a fatal mistake if
they could carry out their theories. The old feud between man and beast
still exists and will exist until all wild life is exterminated or is
semi-domesticated in game preserves and refuges.
Even domestic cattle allowed to run wild are extremely dangerous. Their
fear of man breeds their desperate assault when cornered.
The black bear has killed and will kill men when brought to bay or
wounded or even when he feels himself cornered.
Although largely vegetarian, bear also capture and devour prey. Young
deer, marmots, ground squirrels, sheep, and cattle are their diet. In
certain districts great damage is done to flocks by bears that have
become killers. In our hunts we have come across dead sheep, slain and
partially devoured by black bears. All ranchers can tell of the
depredations of these animals.
In Oregon and the northern part of California, there are many men who
make it their business to trap or run bears with dogs to secure their
hides and to sell their meat to the city markets. It is a hardy sport
and none but the most stalwart and experienced can hope to succeed at
it. In the late autumn and early winter the bears are fat and in prime
condition for capture.
Having graduated from ground squirrels, quail and rabbits, and having
laid low the noble deer, we who shoot the bow became presumptuous and
wanted to kill bear with our weapons. So, learning of a certain
admirable hunter up in Humboldt County by the name of Tom Murphy, we
wrote to him with our proposal. He was taken with the idea of the bow
and arrow and invited us to join him in some of his winter excursions.
In November, 1918, we arrived in the little village of Blocksburg, on
the outskirts of which was Murphy's ranch. In normal times, Tom cuts
wood, and raises cattle and grain for the market. In the winter months
he hunts bear for profit and recreation. In the spring after his
planting is done he also runs coyotes with dogs and makes a good income
We found Murphy a quiet-spoken, intelligent man of forty-five years,
married, and having two daughters. I was surprised to see such a
redoubtable bear-slayer so modest and kindly. We liked him immediately.
It is an interesting observation that all the notable hunters that have
guided us on our trips have been rather shy, soft-spoken men who
neither smoked nor drank.
Arthur Young and I constituted the archery brigade. We brought with us
in the line of artillery two bows and some two dozen arrows apiece. We
also brought our musical instruments. Not only do we shoot, but in camp
we sit by the fire at night and play sweet harmonies till bedtime.
Young is a finished violinist, and he has an instrument so cut down and
abbreviated that with a short violin bow he can pack it in his bed
roll. Its sound is very much like that of a violin played with a mute.
My own instrument was an Italian mandolin with its body reduced to a
box less than three inches square. It also is carried in a blanket roll
and is known as the camp mosquito.
Young is a master at improvising second parts, double stopping, and
obbligato accompaniments. So together we call all the sweet melodies
out of the past and play on indefinitely by ear. In the glow of the
camp-fire, out in the woods, this music has a peculiar plaintive appeal
dear to our hearts.
With these charms we soon won the Murphy family and Tom was eager to
see us shoot. He had heard that we shot deer, but he was rather
skeptical that our arrows could do much damage to bear. So one of the
first things he did after our arrival was to drag out an old dried hide
and hang it on a fence in the corral and asked me to shoot an arrow
through it. It was surely a test, for the old bear had been a tough
customer and his hide was half an inch thick and as hard as sole
But I drew up at thirty yards and let drive at the neck, the thickest
portion. My arrow went through half its length and transfixed a paw
that dangled behind. Tom opened his eyes and smiled. "That will do," he
said, "if you can get into them that far, that's all you need. I'll
take you out tomorrow morning, but I'll pack the old Winchester rifle
just for the sake of the dogs."
The dogs were Tom's real asset, and his hobby. There were five of them.
The two best, Baldy and Button, were Kentucky coon hounds in their
prime, probably being descendants of the English fox hound with the
admixture of harrier and bloodhound strains. Their breed has been in
the family for thirty years. Tom took great pride in his pack, trained
them to run nothing but bear and mountain lions, and never let anybody
else touch them. When not hunting they are kept fastened by a sliding
leash to a long heavy wire. Their diet was boiled cracked wheat and
cracklings, raw apples, and bear meat. They never tasted deer meat or
beef. I never saw more intelligent nor better conditioned hounds.
With the same stock he has hunted ever since he was a boy, and their
lineage is more important than that of the Murphys. He has taken from
ten to twenty bears every winter with these dogs for the past thirty
We were to stay right in Tom's house, and go by horseback to the bear
grounds next morning. We had a supper which included bear steaks from a
previous hunt, and doughnuts fried in bear grease, which they say is
the best possible material for this culinary process, and later we
greased our bows with bear grease, and our shoes with a mixture of bear
fat and rosin. So we felt ready for bear.
Then we spent a delightful evening with the family before the big
fireplace, played our soft music, and all turned in for an early start
in the morning.
At four o'clock Tom began stirring around, building the fire and
feeding the horses. An hour later we breakfasted and were ready to
start. Light snow had fallen in the hills and the air was chill; the
moon was sinking in the valley mist. These early morning hours in the
country are strange to us who live so far from nature.
We mount and are off. As we go the horses see the trail that we cannot
discern, vague forms slip past, a skunk steals off before us, an owl
flaps noiselessly past, overhanging brush sweeps our faces, the dogs
leashed in couples trot ahead of us like spectres in procession.
Thus we journey for nearly ten miles in the darkness, going up out of
the valley, on to the foothills, through Windy Gap, past Sheep Corral,
over the divide, heading toward the Little Van Duzen River.
[Illustration: TOM MURPHY WITH HIS TWO BEST DOGS, BUTTON AND BALDY,
INDISPENSABLE IN GETTING BEARS]
All the while the dogs amble along, sniffing here and there at obscure
scents, now loitering to investigate a moment, now standing and looking
off into the dark. Tom knows by their actions what they think. "That's
a coyote's trail," he says, "they've just crossed a deer scent, but
they won't pay much attention to that." Their demeanor is
self-possessed and un-excited.
At last, just before dawn, we arrive on a pine-covered hillside and the
dogs become more eager. This is the bear country. They cross the canyon
here to get to the forest of young oak trees, beyond where the autumn
crop of acorns lies ready to fatten them for their long winter sleep.
Here is a bear tree, a small pine or fir, stripped of limbs and bark,
against which countless bears have scratched themselves.
Tom looses the dogs and sends them ranging to pick up a scent. They
take to it with eagerness, and soon we hear the boom of the hounds on a
cold track. Tom gets interested, but shakes his head. Last night's
snowfall and later drizzle have spoiled the ground for good tracking.
We dismount, tie our horses and follow the general direction of the
pack. They must be kept within earshot so that when they strike a hot
track we can keep up with them. If there is much wind and the forest
noises are loud, Tom will not run his dogs for fear of losing them.
Once on the trail of a bear, they never quit, but will leave the
country rather than give him up.
Expectation, stimulated by the distant baying of the running hounds,
the cold gray shadows of the woods, and the knowledge that any moment a
bear may come crashing through the undergrowth right where we stand,
tends to hold one in a state of exquisite suspense--not fear, just
chilly suspense. In fact, I was rather glad to see the sun rise.
But nothing came of this hunt. We worked over the creek bottom below,
rode over adjacent hills and canyons, struck cold trails here and there
to assure us that bear really existed, then at about ten o'clock Murphy
decided that weather conditions of the night before, combined with the
dissipating effect of sunshine and the lateness of the hour, all
dictated that we had best give up the game for that day.
So back we rode, the dogs a trifle footsore, for they had covered many
a mile in their ranging. Tom had shoes for them to wear when they are
very lame at the first of the season. Later on, their feet become tough
and need no protection. So we arrived back at the ranch empty-handed.
Next day we rested, and rain fell.
The day following we again tried a hunt and again failed to strike a
hot track. Tom was perplexed, for it was a rare thing for him to return
home without a bear. He rather suspected that the bows were a "jinx"
and brought bad luck. So again we rested the dogs and waited for a
change of fortune.
The time between hunts Young and I spent shooting rabbits. Once when
down on the stream bank looking for trout, Young saw a female duck
diving beneath the surface of the water. As it rose he shot it with an
arrow and nocking a second shaft, he prepared to deliver a finishing
blow if necessary, when up the stream he heard the whirring wings of a
flying duck; instantly he drew his bow, glanced to the left, and shot
at the rapidly approaching male. Pinioned through the wings, it dropped
near the first victim and he gathered the two as a tidbit for supper.
These things do happen between our larger adventures, and delight us
The evenings we spent before the fire, played music, and I performed
sleights of hand, much to the wonderment of the rural audience that
gathered to see the strangers who expected to kill bears with bows and
arrows. After numerous coin tricks, card passes, mysterious
disappearances, productions of wearing apparel and cabbages from a hat,
and many other incredible feats of prestidigitation, they were almost
ready to believe we might slay bears with our bows.
Tom's dogs having recovered from our previous unsuccessful trips, we
started again one crisp frosty morning with the stars all aglitter
overhead. This time we were sure of good luck. Mrs. Murphy was positive
we would bring home a bear; she felt it in her bones.
It is cold riding this time in the morning, but it is beautiful. The
snow-laden limbs of the firs drop their loads upon us as we pass, the
twigs are whip-like in their recoil as they strike our legs; the horses
pick their way with surefooted precision, and we wonder what adventures
wait for us in the silent gloom.
This time we rode far. If bears were to be had any place, they could be
found in Panther Canyon, below Mt. Lassie.
By sunrise we reached the ridge back of the desired spot where we tied
our horses preparatory to climbing up the gulch. The dogs were made
ready; there were only three of them this time: Button, Baldy, and old
Buck, the shepherd dog. Immediately they struck a cold trail and danced
around in a circle, baying with long deep bell tones, pleading to be
released. My breath quivers at the memory of them. Murphy unclasped the
chains that linked them together and they scampered up the precipitous
ravine before us. As they passed, Tom pointed out bear tracks, the
first we had seen.
In less than ten minutes the full-throated bay of the hounds told us
that they had struck a hot track and routed the bear from his temporary
That was the signal for speed, and we began a desperate race up the
side of the mountain. Nothing but perfect physical health can stand
such a strain. One who is not in athletic training will either fail
completely in the test or do his heart irreparable damage.
But we were fit; we had trained for the part. Stripped for action, we
were dressed in hunting breeches, light high-topped shoes spiked on the
soles, in light cotton shirts, and carried only our bows, quivers of
arrows, and hunting knives. Tom was a seasoned mountain climber, born
on the crags, and had knees like a goat. So we ran. Up the side and
over the crest we sped. The bay of the hounds pealed out with every
bound ahead of us. As we crossed the ridge, we heard them down the
canyon below us, the crashing of the bear and the cry of the dogs
thrilled us with a very old and a very strong flood of emotions.
Panting and flushed with effort we rushed onward; legs, legs, and more
air, 'twas all we wanted. Tom is tough and used to altitudes, Young is
stronger and more youthful than I am, and besides a flapping quiver, an
unwieldy bow, my camera banged me unmercifully on the back. Still I
kept up very well, and my early sprinting on the cinder track came to
my aid. We stuck together, but just as I had about decided that running
was a physical impossibility, Tom shouted, "He is treed." That was a
welcome word. We slackened our pace, knowing that the dogs would hold
him till we arrived, and we needed our breath for the next act. So on a
trot we came over a rise of ground and saw, away up on the limb of a
tall straight fir tree, a bear that looked very formidable and large.
The golden rays of the rising sun were shining through his fur.
That was the first bear I had ever seen in the open, first wild bear,
first bear with no iron bars between him and me. I felt peculiar.
The dogs were gathered beneath the tree keeping up a chorus of yelps
and assaulting its base as if to tear it to pieces. The bear apparently
had no intention of coming down.
Tom had instructed us fully what to do; so we now helped him catch his
dogs and tie them with a rope which he held. He did this because he
knew that if we wounded the bear and he descended there was going to be
a fight, and he didn't want to lose his valuable dogs in an experiment.
He had his gun to take care of himself, and Young and I were supposed
to stand our share of the adventure as best we could.
Keen with anticipation of unexpected surprises; wondering, yet willing
to take a chance, we prepared to shoot our first bear. We stationed
ourselves some thirty yards from the base of the tree. The bear was
about seventy-five feet up in the air, facing us, looking down and
exposing his chest.
We drew our arrows together and a second later released as one man.
Away flew the two shafts, side by side, and struck the beast in the
breast, not six inches apart. Like a flash, they melted into his body
and disappeared forever. He whirled, turned backward, and began sliding
down the tree.
Ripping and tearing the trunk, he descended almost as if falling, a
shower of bark preceding him like a cartload of shingles. Tom shouted,
"You missed him, run up close and shoot him again!" From his side of
the tree he couldn't see that our arrows had hit and gone through, also
he was used to seeing bear drop when he hit them with a bullet.
But we were a little diffident about running up close to a wounded
bear, for Tom had told us it would fight when it got down.
Nevertheless, we nocked an arrow again, and just as he reached the
ground we were close by to receive him. We delivered two glancing blows
on his rapidly falling body. When he landed, however, he selected the
lower side of the tree, away from us, and bounded off down the canyon.
We protested that we had hit him and begged Tom to turn his dogs loose.
After a moment's deliberation, Tom let old Buck go and off he tore in
hot pursuit. The shepherd was a wily old cattle dog and would keep out
Soon we heard him barking and Murphy exclaimed incredulously, "He's
treed again!" Button and Baldy were unleashed and once more we started
our cross-country running. Through maple thickets, over rocky sides,
down the wooded canyon we galloped. Much sooner than we expected, we
came to our bear. Hard pressed, he had climbed a small oak and crouched
out on a swaying limb. We could see that he was heaving badly, and was
a very sick animal. His gaze was fixed on the howling dogs. Young and I
ran in close and shot boldly at his swaying body. Our arrows slipped
through him like magic. One was arrested in its course as it buried
itself in his shoulder. Savagely he snapped it in two with his teeth,
when another driven by Young with terrific force struck him above the
eye. He weakened his hold, slipped backward, dropped from the bending
limb and rolled over and over down the ravine. The dogs were on him in
a rush, and wooled him with a vengeance. But he was dead by the time he
reached the creek bottom. We clambered down, looked him over with awe,
then Young and I shook hands across the body of our first bear. We took
Tom opened up the chest and abdominal cavity, explored the wounds and
was full of exclamations of surprise at the damage done by our arrows.
He agreed that our animal was mortally wounded with our first two
shots, and had we let him alone there would have been no necessity for
more arrows. But this being our very first bear, we had overdone the
So he gave the liver and lungs to the waiting hounds as a reward for
their efforts, and cleaned the carcass for carrying. We found the
stomach full of acorn mush, just as clean and sweet as a mess of
Murphy left us to pack the bear up on the pine flat above, while he
went around three or four miles to get the horses. After a strenuous
half hour, we got our bear up the steep bank and rested on the flat.
Here we ate our pocket lunch.
As we sat there quietly eating, we heard a rustle in the woods below
us, and looking up, saw another good-sized black bear about forty yards
off. I had one arrow left in my quiver, Young only two broken shafts,
the rest we had lost in our final scramble. So we passed no insulting
remarks to the bear below, who suddenly finding our presence, vanished
in the forest. We had had enough bear for one day, anyhow.
Tom came with the horses, and loaded our trophy on one. Ordinarily a
horse is greatly frightened at bears, and difficult to manage, but
these were long ago accustomed to the business. It interested us to see
the method of tying the carcass securely on a common saddle. By placing
a clove hitch on the wrists and ankles and cinching these beneath the
horse's belly with a sling rope through the bear's crotch and around
its neck, the body was held suspended across the saddle and rode easily
without shifting until we reached home.
Adult black bear range in weight from one hundred to five hundred
pounds. Ours, although he had looked very formidable up the tree, was
really not a very large animal and not fully grown. After cleaning, it
tipped the scales at a little below two hundred pounds. But it was
large enough for our purposes, and we couldn't wait for it to grow any
heavier. It was no fault of ours that it was only some three or four
years old. We felt that even had it been one of those huge old boys, we
would have conquered him just the same. In fact, we had begun to count
ourselves among the intrepid bear slayers of the world. So we returned
to the ranch in triumph.
[Illustration: YOUNG AND I ARE VERY PROUD OF OUR MAIDEN BEAR]
Next day we took our departure from Blocksburg and bade the Murphys an
affectionate farewell. The bear we carried with us wrapped in canvas to
distribute in luscious steaks to our friends in the city. The beautiful
silky pelt now rests on the parlor floor of Young's home with a
ferocious wide open mouth waiting to scare little children, or trip up
the unwary visitor.
Since this, our maiden bear, we have had various other encounters with
bruin. Once while hunting mountain lions, we came upon the body of an
angora goat recently killed by a bear. The ground was covered with his
ungainly footprints. We set the dogs on the scent and off they went,
booming in hot pursuit. Running like wild Indians, Young and I followed
by ear, bows ready strung and quivers held tightly to our sides. In
less than ten minutes, we burst into a little open glade in the forest
and saw up in a large madrone tree, a good-sized cinnamon bear
fretfully eyeing the dogs below.
We had lost our apprehension concerning the outcome of an encounter
with bears, so we coolly prepared to settle his fate. In fact, we even
discussed the problem whether or not we should kill him. We were not
after bears, but lions. This fellow, however, was a rogue, a killer of
sheep and goats. He had repeatedly thrown our dogs off the track with
his pungent scent and we were strictly within our hunting rights if we
wanted him. We therefore drew our broadheads to the barb and drove two
wicked shafts deep into his front. As if knocked backwards, the bear
reared and threw himself down the slanting tree trunk. As he reached
the ground, one of our dogs seized him by the hind leg and the two went
flying past us within a couple of yards, the dog hanging on like grim
death. Furiously, the other dogs followed and we leaped to the chase.
This time the course of the bear was marked by a swath of broken brush.
It dashed headlong through the forest regardless of obstruction. Small
trees in his way meant nothing to him; he ran over them, or if old and
brittle, smashed them down. Into the densest portion of the woods he
made his way. Not more than three hundred yards from the spot he
started, he treed again. In an almost impenetrable thicket of small
cedars, the dogs sent up their chorus of barks. I dashed in, fighting
my way free from restraining limbs, the bow and quiver holding me again
and again. Young got stuck and fell behind, so that I came alone upon
our bear at bay. He had mounted but a short distance up a mighty oak
and hung by his claws to the bark. I had run beneath him before seeing
his position. Instantly I recognized the danger of the situation and
backed off, away from the tree, at the same time nocking an arrow on
the string. I glanced about for Young, but he was detained, so I drew
the head and discharged my arrow right into the heart region of our
beast, where it buried its point. Loosening his hold, the bear fell
backward from the tree and landed on the nape of his neck. He was weak
with mortal wounds, and even had he wanted to charge me, the combat
could not have progressed far. But instantly the dogs were on him.
Seizing him by the front and back legs, they dragged him around a small
tree, holding him firmly in spite of his struggles, while he bawled
like a lost calf. The din was terrific; snarling, snapping dogs, the
crashing underbrush, and the bellowing of bear made the world hideous.
It seemed that the pain of our arrows was nothing to him compared to
his fear of the dogs, and when he felt himself helpless in their power,
his morale was completely shattered.
It was soon over; hardly a minute elapsed before his resistless form
lay still, and even the dogs knew he was dead. Poor Young arrived at
this moment, having just extricated himself from the brush.
We skinned the pelt to make quivers, took his claws for decorations,
and cut some sweet bear steaks from his hams; the rest we gave to the
It seems a very proper thing that the service of the dogs should always
be recognized promptly, that they be given their share of the spoils
and that they be praised for their courage and fidelity. This makes
them better hunters. Stupid men who drive off their dogs from the
quarry, defer their rewards, and grudge them praise, kill the spirit of
the chase within them and spoil them for work.
Hounds have the finest hunting spirit of any animal. The team work of
the wolf and their intelligent use of strategy is one of the most
striking evidences of community interests in animal life.
The fellowship between us and our dogs is a most satisfactory relation.
Since prehistoric times, the hunter has taken advantage of the
comradeship and on it rests the mutual dependence and trust of the two.
Altogether, bringing bears to bay is among the most thrilling
experiences of life. It is a primitive sport and as such it stirs up in
the human breast the primordial emotions of men. The sense of danger,
the bodily exhaustion, the ancestral blood lust, the harkening bay of
the hounds, the awe of deep-shadowed forests, and the return to an
almost hand-to-claw contest with the beast, call upon a latent manhood
that is fast disappearing in the process of civilization.
I hope there always will be bears to hunt and youthful adventurers to
The cougar, panther, or mountain lion is our largest representative of
the cat family. Early settlers in the Eastern States record the
existence of this treacherous beast in their conquest of the forests.
The cry of the "painter," as he was called, rang through the dark woods
and caused many hearts to quaver and little children to run to mother's
side. Once in a while stories came of human beings having met their
doom at the swift stealthy leap of this dreaded beast. He was bolder
then than now. Today he is not less courageous, but more cautious. He
has learned the increased power of man's weapons.
Our Indians knew that he would strike, as they struck, without warning
and at an advantage. It is a matter of tradition among frontiersmen
that he has upon rare occasions attacked and killed bears. Even today
he will attack man if provoked by hunger, and can do so with some
assurance of success, the statements of certain naturalists to the
John Capen Adams, in his adventures, 
[Footnote 1: _The Adventures of James Capen Adams of California_, by
Theodore H. Hittell.]
describes such an episode. The lion in this instance sprang upon a
companion, seized him by the back of the neck, and bore him to the
ground. He was only saved from death by a thick buckskin collar to his
coat and the ready assistance of Adams who heard the cry for help.
I know of an instance where a California lion leaped upon some bathing
children and attempted to kill them, but was driven off by the heroic
efforts of a young woman school teacher, who in turn died of her
Those of us who have roamed the wilds of the western country have had
varying experiences with this animal, while others have lived their
lives in districts undoubtedly infested with cougars and have never
seen one, although nearly every mountain rancher has heard that
hair-raising, almost human scream echo down the canyon. It is like the
wail of a woman in pain. Penetrating and quavering, it rings out on the
night gloom, and brings to the human what it must, in a similar way,
bring to the lesser animals a sense of impending attack, a death
warning. It is part of the system of the predatory beast that he uses
fear to weaken the powers of his prey before he assaults it. Animal
psychology is essentially utilitarian. Cowering, trembling, muscularly
relaxed, on the verge of emotional shock, we are easier to overcome.
The cougar lives principally on deer. His kill averages more than one a
week, and often we may find evidence that this murderer has wantonly
slain two or three deer in a single night's expedition.
It is not his habit to lie in wait on the limb of a tree, though he
often sleeps there; but he makes a stealthy approach on the
unsuspecting victim, then, with a series of stupendous bounds, he
throws himself upon the deer, and by his momentum bears it to the
ground. Here, while he holds on with teeth and forelegs, he rips open
the flank with his hind claws and immediately plunges his head into the
open abdomen, where he tears the great blood vessels with his teeth and
drinks its life blood.
These are facts learned from lion hunters whose observations are
accurate and reliable. A lion can jump a distance greater than
twenty-four feet, and has been seen to ascend at a single leap a cliff
of rock eighteen feet high.
Their weight runs from one hundred to two hundred pounds, and the
length from six to nine feet. The skin will stretch farther than this,
but we count only the carcass from the tip of the nose to the tip of
the extended tail. The speed of a lion for a short distance is greater
than that of a greyhound, less than five seconds to the hundred yards.
Some observers contend that the lion never gives that blood-curdling
cry assigned to him. They say he is silent, and that this classic
scream is made by a lynx in the mating period. However, popular
experience to the contrary seems to be too strong and counterbalances
this iconoclastic opinion.
For many years, off and on, we have hunted lions, but sad to say, we
have done more hunting than finding. They are a very wary creature.
Practically, one never sees them unless hunting with dogs; they may be
in the brush within thirty yards, but the human eye will fail to
Our camps have been robbed by lions, our horses killed by them, cattle
and sheep ruthlessly murdered; lion tracks have been all about, and yet
unless trapped or treed by dogs, we have never met.
Camping at the base of Pico Blanco, in Monterey County, several years
ago, a lion was seen to bound across the road and follow a small band
of deer. At this very spot a few seasons before one leaped upon an old
mare with foal and broke her neck as she crashed through the fence and
rolled down the hill. Three years later I rode the young horse. As we
passed the tree from which it is thought the lion sprang, where the
broken fence was still unmended, my colt jumped and reared, the memory
of his fright was still vivid in his mind. Up the trail a half mile
beyond we saw other fresh lion tracks. At night we camped on the ridge
with our dogs in hope that our feline friend would come again.
It was too late to hunt that evening, so we turned in. Nothing happened
save that in the middle of the night I was roused by the whine of our
dogs, and looking up in the face of the pale moon, I saw two deer go
bounding past, silhouetted like graceful phantoms across the silvered
sky. They swept across the lunar disc and melted into blackness over
the dark horizon.
No sound followed them, and having appeased the fretful hounds, we
returned to sleep. In the morning, up the trail, there were his tracks;
too wise to cross the human scent, and knowing that there are more deer
in the brush, he had turned upon his course and let his quarry slip.
Because of the heat and the inferior tracking capacity of our dogs, we
never got this panther. A lion dog is a specialist and must be so
trained that no other track will divert him from his quest. These dogs
were willing, but erratic.
The best dogs for this work are mongrels. By far the finest lion dog I
ever saw was a cross between a shepherd and an airedale. He had the
intelligence of the former and the courage of the latter. The airedale
himself is not a good trailer, he is too temperamental. He will start
on a lion track, jump off and chase a deer and wind up by digging out a
ground squirrel. After a good hound finds a lion, the airedale will
We once started an airedale on a lion track, followed him at a fiendish
pace, dashed down the side of a mountain, and found that he had an
angora goat up a tree.
This cougar on Pico Blanco still roams the forests, so far as I know,
and many with him. Once we saw him across a canyon. He appeared as a
tawny slow-moving body as large as a deer but low to the earth and
trailing a listless tail, while his head slowly swung from side to
side. He seemed to be looking for something on the ground. For the
space of a hundred yards we watched him traverse an open side hill,
deep in ferns and brakes. Seeing him thus was little satisfaction to
us, for we had lost our dogs. Ferguson and I were returning from one of
our unsuccessful expeditions.
We started with two saddle horses, a pack animal, and five good lion
dogs. On the trail to the Ventana Mountains we came across lion tracks
and followed them for a day, then lost them; but we knew that a large
male and young female were ranging over the country. Their circuit
extended over a radius of ten miles; they are great travelers.
The track of a lion is characteristic. The general contour is round,
from three to four inches in diameter. There are four toe prints
arranged in a semicircle which show no claw marks. But the ball of the
foot is the unmistakable feature. It consists of three distinct
eminences or pads which lie parallel, antero-posteriorly, and appear in
the track as if you had pressed the terminal phalanges of your fingers
side by side in the dust. These marks are nearly equal in length and
absolutely identify the big cat.
On the morning of the second day of our trailing this lion, our pack
was working down in the thick brush below the crest of Rattlesnake
Ridge, when suddenly they raised a chorus of yelps. There was a rush of
bodies in the chamise brush, and the chase was on at a furious pace. We
rode up to an observation point and saw the dogs speeding down the
canyon side, close on the heels of a yellow leaping demon. They
switched from side to side, as cat and dog races have been carried on
since time immemorial.
The undergrowth was so dense we could not follow, so we sat our horses
and waited for them to tree. But further and further they descended.
They crossed the bottom, mounted a cliff on the opposite side, came
scrambling down from this and plunged into the bed of the stream, where
their voices were lost to hearing.
We rode around to a spur of the hill that dipped into the brush and
overhung the canyon. From this we heard occasional barks away down at
least a mile below us. It was a difficult situation. Nothing but a
bluejay could possibly get down to the creek below. I never saw such a
jungle! So we waited for the indications that the lion was treed, but
all became silent.
Evening approached, we ate our supper and then sat on the hill above,
sounding our horns. Their vibrant echoes rang from mountain to mountain
and returned to us clear and sweet.
Way down below us, where a purple haze hung over the deep ravine, we
faintly heard the answering hounds. In their voices we caught the dog's
response to his master and friend. It said, "We have him. Come! Come!"
We blew the horns again. The elf-land notes returned again and again,
and with them came the call of the faithful hound, "We are here. Come!
Now, there was a pitiful plight. No sane man would venture down such a
chasm, impenetrable with thorns, and night descending. So we built a
beacon fire and waited for dawn. All during the long dark hours we
heard the distant appeal of the hounds, and we slept little.
At the first rays of dawn we took a hasty meal, fed our horses, and
stripping ourselves of every unnecessary accoutrement, we prepared to
descend the canyon. Our bows and quivers we left behind because it
would have been impossible to drag them through the jungle. Ferguson
carried only his Colt pistol; I took my hunting knife.
Having surveyed the topography carefully, we attacked the problem at
its most available angle and slid from view. We literally dived beneath
the brush. For more than two hours we wormed our way down the face of
the mountain, crawling like moles at the base of the overhanging
thickets of poison oak, wild lilac, chamise, sage, manzanita, hazel and
buckthorn. At last we reached the depth of the canyon and, finding a
little water, we bathed our sweat-grimed faces and cooled off.
No sound of the dogs was heard, but pressing forward we followed the
boulder-strewn bottom of the creek for a mile or more, almost
despairing of ever finding them, when suddenly we came upon a strange
sight. There was the pack in a circle about a big reclining oak. They
were voiceless and utterly exhausted, but sat watching a huge lion
crouched on a great overhanging limb of the tree. The moment we
appeared they raised a feeble, hoarse yelp of delight. The panther
turned his head, saw us, sprang from the tree with a prodigious bound,
landed on the side hill, tore down the canyon, and leaped over a
The dogs, heartened by our presence, with instant accord charged after
the lion. When they came to the precipitous drop in the bed of the
stream, they whined a second, ran back and forth, then mounted the
lateral wall, circled sidewise and, by a detour, gained the ground
below. We ran and looked over. The drop was at least thirty feet. The
cat had taken it without hesitation, but we were absolutely stalled.
Even if we had cared to take the risk of the descent, we saw so many
similar drops beyond that the situation was hopeless. The dogs having
lost their voices, we were at a great disadvantage. So we returned to
the tree to rest and meditate.
There we saw the evidence of the long vigil of the night. All about its
base were little nests, where the tired dogs had bedded down and kept
their weary watch. Their incessant barking had served to keep the
cougar treed, but it cost them a temporary loss of voice. Poor devils,
they had our admiration and sympathy.
At noon, hearing nothing from the hounds, we decided to return to camp.
If coming down was hard, going up was herculean. We crawled on hands
and knees, dragged ourselves by projecting roots, panted, rested, and
worked again. After a three-hours' struggle we came out upon a rough
ledge of granite, a mile below the spot at which we aimed, but near
enough to the top to permit us, after a little more brush fighting, to
gain our camp and lie down, too fatigued to eat.
For another day we remained at this place, hoping that the dogs would
return, but in vain. At last we decided to pack up and go around a
ten-mile detour and work up the outlet of the canyon. We left a mess of
food in several piles for the dogs should they return, and knew they
could follow our horses' tracks if they came to camp.
But our detour was futile. We lost all signs of our pack and returned
to our headquarters to await results.
It was on this homeward journey that we saw the lion of Pico Blanco,
and had to let him slip.
Ten days later, two weak, emaciated hounds came into camp, an old
veteran and a young dog that trailed after him as if tied with a rope.
He had followed him to save his life, and for days after he could not
be separated without whining with fear.
We fed them carefully and nursed them back to health. But these were
all of the five to appear. Old Belle, the greatest fighter of them all,
was gone. She must have met her death at the claws of the cougar, for
nothing else could keep her. This ended that particular lion hunt.
In our travels over California in search for cougars, we have picked up
more tales than trails of the big cats.
Just before one of my visits to Gorda, on the Monterey Coast, a panther
visited the Mansfield ranch in broad daylight. Jasper being up on the
mountainside after deer, his wife, left at home with the two little
children, noticed a very large lion out in the pasture back of the
house. It wandered among the cattle in a most unconcerned manner and
did not even cause a stir. While it did not approach any of the cows
very closely, they seemed to be not in the least alarmed. For half an
hour or more it stayed in the neighborhood of the house, where Mrs.
Mansfield locked herself in and waited for her husband's return. It was
not until evening, and too late to track the beast, that Jasper came
home. So no capture was made.
Some time before this, one of the hired hands on the ranch was going to
his cabin in the dusk; and swinging his hand idly to catch the tops of
tall grass by the side of the path, he suddenly touched something warm
and soft. Instantly he grasped a handful of the substance. At the same
moment some sort of an animal bounded off in the dark. Holding fast to
the material in his hand, he ran back to the farmhouse and found his
fist full of lion hair. To say that he was startled, puts it very
mildly. Apparently one of these beasts had been crouched on a log by
the side of his path, waiting for something to turn up. The hired man
took a lantern home with him after that.
At another ranch on the Big Sur River, one of the little boys called to
his mother that there was a funny sort of a "big dog" out in the
pasture. His mother paid no attention to it, but a diminutive pet black
and tan started an assault on the animal in question. The lion and the
dog disappeared in the brush. Presently the canine barking ceased and
the small boy wondered what had become of his valiant companion. In a
few minutes he heard a plaintive whine up in a near-by tree, and
running to its base he found that the panther had seized his pet by the
nape of the neck and climbed a tall fir with him. The boy ran for his
father, working in the fields, who, bringing his rifle, dispatched the
panther. As it fell from the tree, the little dog clung to the upper
limbs, and stayed at the top. Nothing they could do would coax him
down. The fir was one difficult to climb, so to save time the man took
an ax and felled the tree, which, falling gently against another,
precipitated the canine hero to the ground without harm. Later I had
the pleasure of shaking his paw and congratulating him on his bravery.
After many futile attempts, at last our opportunity to get a _Felis
Concolor_ arrived. We received word from a certain ranger station in
Tuolumne County that a mountain lion was killing sheep and deer in the
immediate vicinity, and having the promise of a well trained pack,
Arthur Young and I gathered our archery tackle and started from San
Francisco at night in an automobile. We traveled until the small hours
of the morning, then lay down on the side of the road to take a short
sleep; and rising at the first gray of dawn, sped on our way.
We reached the Sierras by sun-up and began to climb. At noon we met our
guide above Italian Bar, and prepared for an evening hunt. This,
however, was as unsatisfactory as evening hunts usually are.
A morning expedition the next day only brought out the fact that our
lion had left the country. News of his activities twelve miles further
up the mountains having been obtained, we gathered our bows, arrows,
and dogs and departed for this region. Here we found a bloody record of
his work. More than two hundred goats had been killed by the big cat in
the past year. In fact, the rancher thought that several panthers were
at work. Goats were taken from beneath the shepherd's nose, and as he
turned in one direction, another goat would be killed behind him. It
seemed impossible to apprehend the villain; their dogs were useless.
Equipped for rough camping, we soon planned our morning excursion and
bedded down for rest.
At 3 o'clock we waked, ate a meager breakfast, and hit the trail up the
mountain. We knew the general range of our cougar. It is necessary in
all his tracking to get in the field while the dew is on the ground and
before the sun dissipates it, also before the goats obliterate the
Arrived at the crest of the ridge, we struck a well-defined goat trail,
and soon the fresh tracks of a lion were discovered. Our dogs took up
the scent at once and we began to travel at a rapid pace.
Here again, one must have a good pair of legs. If automobiles,
elevators, and general laziness have not ruined your powers of
locomotion, you may follow the dogs; otherwise, you had best stay at
At first we walk, then we trot, and when with a leap the hounds start
in full cry, we race. Regardless of five thousand feet of altitude,
regardless of brush, rocks, and dizzy cliffs, we follow at a breakneck
pace. I don't know where our breath comes from in these trials. We just
have to run; in fact, we have planned to run on our hands when our legs
play out. With pounding hearts we surge ahead. "Keep the dogs within
hearing!" "It can't last long!" But this time we come to a sudden halt
on a rocky slide. We've lost the scent. The dogs circle and backtrack
and work with feverish haste. The sun has risen, and up the mountain
side comes a band of goats led by a single shepherd dog--no man in
sight. We shout to the dog to steer his rabble away, but on they come,
and obliterate our trail with a thousand hoofprints and a cloud of
The sun then comes out, and our day is done. No felis this time.
So we scout the country for information to be used later, and return to
camp to drown our sorrow in food.
This was my first knowledge that a dog could be placed in charge of a
flock of sheep or goats. It seems that these little sheep dogs, not
even collies, but some shaggy little plebeians, are given full charge
of the band. They lead them out to pasture, guard them, and keep them
together during the day and bring them home at night. They will, when
properly instructed, take a band of goats out for a week on a long
route, and bring them all safely home again. At least, they used to do
this until the lion appeared on the scene.
That evening we asked the rancher to lock his goats in the corral till
Next morning we rose again in time to see the morning star glitter with
undimmed glory. Up the trail we mounted, the dogs eager for the chase.
An old owl in a hollow tree asked us again and again who we were; all
else was silent in the woods.
Saving our strength, we arrived quietly on the upper ridges and waited
for the dawn. Way down below us in the canyon we could smell the faint
incense of our camp-fire. The morning breeze was just beginning to
breathe in the trees. The birds awoke with little whispered
confidences, small twitterings and chirps. A faint lavender tint melted
the stars in the eastern sky. Shadows crept beneath the trees, and we
knew it was time to start.
Just as the light defined the margins of the trail, we picked up in the
grayness the track of a lion. Strange to say, the dogs had not smelled
it, but when we pointed to the footprint in the dust, which was
apparently none too fresh, they took up the work of tracking. It is
astonishing to see how a dog can tell which way a track leads. If in
doubt, he runs quickly back and forth on the scent, and thus gauges the
way the animal has progressed. A mediocre dog cannot do this, but we
had dogs with college educations.
Traveling carefully and at a moderate pace, we came to an open knoll in
the forest. Here in the ferns our pack circled about us as if the cat
had been doing a circus stunt, and they seemed confused. Later on we
found that our feline friend had been experimenting with a porcupine
and learned another lesson in natural history.
Suddenly the leader sniffed at a fallen tree where, doubtless, the cat
had perched, then with a ringing bay, the hound clamped his tail close
to his rump and left in a streak of yellow light. The rest of the pack
leaped into full cry.
We were off on a hot track. Oh, for the wings of a bird! Trained as
Young and I were to desperate running, this game taxed us to the
utmost. First we climbed the knoll, deep in ferns and mountain misery,
then we dashed over the crest, tore through manzanita brush, thickets
of young cedar and buckthorn, over ledges of lava rock, down deep
declivities, among giant oaks, cedars, and pines. As we ran we grasped
our ready strung bows in one hand and the flapping quivers in the
You would not think that at this time we could take note of the
fragrant shrubs and pine needles beneath our feet, but I smelled them
as we passed in flight, and they revived me to renewed energy. On we
rushed, only to lose the sound of the dogs. Then we listened and caught
it down the hill below us. Again we hurdled barriers of brush, took
long sliding leaps down the treacherous shale and ran breathless to the
shade of a great oak.
There above our heads was the lion. Oh, the beauty of that beast!
Heaving and giddy with exertion, we saw a wonderful sight, a great
tawny, buff-colored body crouched on a limb, grace and power in every
outline. A huge, soft cylindrical tail swung slowly back and forth.
Luminous eyes gazed at us in utmost calm, a cold calculating calm. He
watched and waited our next move, waited with his great muscles tense
We retreated, not only to get out of his reach, but to gain a better
shooting position. As we did this, he gave a lithe leap to a higher
limb and shielded himself as best he could behind the boughs of the
From our position, his chest and throat were visible through a
triangular space in the branches, not more than a foot across. We must
shoot through this. His attitude was so huddled that his head hung over
Young and I caught our breath, drew our arrows from their quivers,
nocked them, and set ourselves in the archer's "stable stand." We drew
together and, at a mutual thought, shot together. Because of our
unsteady condition the arrows flew a trifle wild. Mine buried itself in
the lion's shoulder. Young's hit him in the nose.
He reared and struck at this latter shaft, then, not dislodging it,
began swaying back and forth while with both front paws he fought the
While he thrashed about thus in the tree top, we nocked two more arrows
and shot. We both missed the brute. Young's flew off into the next
state, and if you ever go up into Tuolumne County, you will find mine
buried deep in the heart of an oak.
Just as we nocked a third arrow, he freed himself from the offending
shaft in his muzzle, raised his fore-paws upon a limb and prepared to
leap. In that movement he bared the white hair of his throat and chest,
and like a flash, two keen arrows were driven through his heart area.
[Illustration: ARTHUR YOUNG AND HIS COUGAR]
[Illustration: OUR FIRST MOUNTAIN LION]
[Illustration: WE PACK THE PANTHER TO CAMP]
As they struck and disappeared from sight, he leaped. Like a flying
squirrel, he soared over our heads. Full seventy-five feet he cleared
in one mighty outward, downward bound. I saw his body glint across the
rising sun, swoop in a wonderful curve and land in a sheltering bush.
The dogs threw themselves upon him. There was a medley of sounds, a
fierce, but brief fight, and all was over. We grabbed him by the tail
and dragged him forth--dead. The ringleader of our pack, trembling with
excitement, effort, and fighting frenzy, drove all the other dogs away
and took possession of the body. No one but a man, his master, might
Our lion was a young male, six feet eight inches from tip to tip, and
weighing a little over one hundred and twenty pounds. Later, as we
skinned him, we found his paws full of porcupine quills, speaking
loudly of his recent experience. The stomach was empty; the chest was
full of blood from our arrows.
He was as easy to kill as a deer. We packed him back to camp and added
his photograph to our rogues' gallery.
There was no further goat killing on that Sierra ranch.
This was our first lion, and for me so far, my only one. Arthur Young,
however, has been fortunate enough to land two cougars by himself on
another hunting trip.
Captain C. H. Styles, a recent addition to the ranks of field archers,
while on an expedition to cut yew staves in Humboldt County,
California, started a mountain lion, ran him to bay with hounds, and
killed him with one arrow in the chest. We shall undoubtedly hear more
of the captain later on.
But so long as we can draw a bowstring and our legs hold out, and there
is an intelligent dog to be had, it will not be the last lion on our
list. Wherever there are deer, there will be found panthers, and it is
our business to help reduce their number in the game fields to maintain
the balance of power.
The very idea of shooting grizzly bears with the bow and arrow strikes
most people as so absurd that they laugh at the mention of it. The
mental picture of the puny little archery implements of their childhood
opposed to that of the largest and most fearsome beast of the Western
world, produces merriment and incredulity.
Because it seemed so impossible, I presume, this added to our desire to
Ever since we began hunting with the bow, we had talked of shooting
grizzlies. We thought of an Alaskan trip as a remotely attainable
adventure, and planned murderous arrows of various ingenious spring
devices to increase their cutting qualities. We estimated the power of
formidable bows necessary to pierce the hides of these monsters. In
fact, it was the acme of our hunting desires.
We read the biography of John Capen Adams and his adventures with the
California grizzlies, and Roosevelt's admirable descriptions of these
animals. They filled out our dreams with detail. And after killing
black bears we needed only the opportunity to make our wish become an
The opportunity to do this arrived unexpectedly, as many opportunities
seem to, when the want and the preparedness coincide.
The California Academy of Sciences has in its museum in Golden Gate
Park, San Francisco, a collection of very fine animal habitat groups,
among which are deer, antelope, mountain sheep, cougars, and brown
bear. While an elk group was being installed, it happened that the
taxidermist, Mr. Paul Fair, said to me that the next and final setting
would be one of grizzly bears. In surprise, I asked him if it were not
a fact that the California grizzly was extinct. He said this was true,
but the silver-tip bear of Wyoming was a grizzly and its range extended
westward to the Sierra Nevada Mountains; so it could properly be
classified as a Pacific Coast variety. He cited Professor Merriam's
monograph on the classification of grizzlies to prove his statements.
He also informed me that permit might be obtained from Washington to
secure these specimens in Yellowstone National Park.
Immediately I perceived an opportunity and interviewed Dr. Barton
Everman, curator of the museum, concerning the feasibility of offering
our services in taking these bears at no expense to the academy.
Incidentally, we proposed to shoot them with the bow and arrow, and
thereby answer a moot question in anthropology. The proposition
appealed to him, and he wrote to Washington for a permit to secure
specimens in this National Park, stating that the bow and arrow would
be used. I insisted upon this latter stipulation, so that there should
be no misunderstanding if, in the future, any objection was raised to
this method of hunting.
In a very short time permit was given to the academy, and we started
our preparations for the expedition. This was late in the fall of 1919,
and bear were at their best in the spring, just after hibernation; so
we had ample time.
It was planned that Mr. Compton, Mr. Young, and I should be the
hunters, and such other assistance would be obtained as seemed
necessary. We began reviewing our experience and formulating the
principles of the campaign.
Our weapons we now considered adequate in the light of our contact with
black bears. We had found that our bows were as strong as we could
handle, and ample to drive a good arrow through a horse, a fact which
we had demonstrated upon the carcasses of recently dead animals.
But we decided to add to the length of our arrowheads, and use tempered
instead of soft steel as heretofore. We took particular pains to have
them perfect in every detail.
Then we undertook the study of the anatomy of bears and the location
and size of their vital organs. In the work of William Wright on the
grizzly, we found valuable data concerning the habits and nature of
In spite of the reputation of this bear for ferocity and tenacity of
life, we felt that, after all, he was only made of flesh and blood, and
our arrows were capable of solving the problem.
We also began preparing ourselves for the contest. Although habitually
in good physical condition, we undertook special training for the big
event. By running, the use of dumbbells and other gymnastic practices,
we strengthened our muscles and increased our endurance. Our field
shooting was also directed toward rapid delivery and the quick judgment
of distances on level, uphill, and falling ground. In fact, we planned
to leave no factor for success untried.
My brother, G. D. Pope, of Detroit, being a hunter of big game with the
gun, was invited to join the party, and his advice was asked concerning
a reliable guide. He gladly consented to come with us and share the
expenses. At the same time he suggested Ned Frost, of Cody, Wyoming, as
the most experienced hunter of grizzly bears in America.
About this time one of my professional friends visited the Smithsonian
Institute at Washington, where he met a member of the staff, who
inquired if he knew Doctor Pope, of San Francisco, a man that was
contemplating shooting grizzlies with the bow and arrow. The doctor
replied that he did, whereat the sage laughed and said that the feat
was impossible, most dangerous and foolhardy; it could not be done. We
fully appreciated the danger involved--therein lay some of the zest.
But we also knew that even should we succeed in killing them in
Yellowstone Park, the glory would be sullied by the popular belief that
all park bears are hotel pets, live upon garbage, and that it was a
cruel shame to torment them with arrows.
So in my early correspondence with Frost, I assured him that we did not
want to shoot any tame bears and that we would not consider the trip at
all if this were necessary. He assured us that this was not necessary,
and reminded us that Yellowstone Park was fifty miles wide by sixty
miles long, and that some of the highest portions of the Rocky
Mountains lay in it. The animals in this preserve, he said, were far
from tame and the bears were divided into two distinct groups, one
mostly composed of black and brown with a few inferior specimens of
grizzlies that frequent the dumps back of the camps and hotels, and
another group of bears that never came near civilization, but lived
entirely up in the rugged mountains and were as dangerous and wary as
those in Alaska or any other wild country. These bear wander outside
the park and furnish hunting material throughout the neighboring State.
He promised to put us in communication with grizzlies that were as
unspoiled and unafraid as those first seen by Lewis and Clarke in their
After explaining the purposes of our trip and the use of the bow, Ned
Frost agreed that it was a real sporting proposition and took up the
plan with enthusiasm. I sent him a sample arrow we used in hunting, and
his letter in reply I take the liberty of printing. It is typical of
the frontier spirit and comes, not only from the foremost grizzly
hunter of all times, but discloses the man's bigness of heart:
"My dear Doctor:
"Your letter of the 18th was received a day or so ago, and last
night I received 'Good Medicine' [a hunting arrow] on the evening
train, and I feel better away down deep about this hunt after a
good examination of this little Grizzly Tickler than I have at any
time before. I have, by mistake, let it simmer out in a quiet way
that I was going to see what a grizzly would really do if he had a
few sticks stuck in his innerds, and my friends have been giving
the Mrs. and me a regular line of farewell parties. Really, I think
it has been a splendid paying thing to do; pork chops are high, you
know, and I really feel I am off to the good about nine dollars and
six bits worth of bacon and flour right now on this deal. Maybe
I'll be in debt to you before green-grass if I don't look out.
"Well, anyway, here is hoping we will all live through it and have
a dandy time. Don't worry about coming to blows with the bear; I
have noticed from long experience that it is not the times that you
think a bear is going to give you trouble that it happens, but
always when least expected. I have trailed wounded grizzlies time
and time again, and was more or less worried all the while, but
never had one turn on me yet. Then, too, I have had about three
experiences with them that made my hair stand straight up, and when
it finally settled, it had more FROST in it than ever before; and
let me add right here, that one of the worst places I ever got into
was when I had sixteen of the best bear dogs that were ever gotten
together I believe, after an old she-grizzly, and I was like you,
thought they would hold the bear's attention. BUT, don't let any
notion like this get you into trouble. Now, I am not running down
dogs as a means of getting bear; I love them and would now have a
good pack if it was possible to run them in the game fields of this
State, but you don't want to think that they can handle a grizzly
like they do a black bear. In fact, I would place no value on them
whatsoever as a safeguard in case a grizzly got on the pack, and I
am speaking from experience, mind you. No, a good little shepherd
would do more than a dozen regular bear dogs, but there is only
about one little shepherd like I speak of in a lifetime.
"If you can use the bow from horseback, here is a safe proposition,
and I believe a practical one, too. But I don't feel that there is
really so much danger in the game after all, as it is only once in
a great while that any bear will go up against the human animal,
and then is most likely to be when you are not expecting it at all.
Don't worry about it. What I am thinking about most is to get the
opportunity to get the first arrow into some good big worthy old
boy that will be a credit to the expedition.
"There are lots of grizzlies in the park all right, and some of
them are not very wild, but if you get out away from the hotels a
few miles, they are not going to come up and present their
broadsides to you at thirty yards. So, as I say, I am thinking
mostly about the chances of getting the opportunities. I don't
know, of course, just how close you can place your arrows at thirty
yards, and it is getting the first hole into them that I am most
interested in now. I feel that we ought to get some good chances,
as I have seen so many bear in the park; but, of course, have never
hunted them and don't know just how keen they will be when it comes
right down to getting their hides. There are some scattered all
over the park that will rob a camp at night, and some of them will
even put up a fight for it, but most of them will beat it as soon
as one gets after them.
"It would be impossible, I believe, to keep dogs still while
watching a bait, as they would get the scent of any approaching
bear, and then you would not be able to keep them quiet, and they
would most likely scare the bear out of the country. I can rustle a
few dogs to take along if you want them, and pretty good dogs, too;
but I am not strong for them myself only in this way, to put them
on the trail of a bear and take a good horse apiece, so that we
could get up to the chase and have a chance to land on him. This
might be a good thing to try if all others failed.
"I know how you feel about killing clean with the bow and not
having any shooting, and I can assure you that I would let 'em get
just as close as you want them, and not feel any concern about
their getting the best of anybody, and you would have a chance to
use the bow well in this case; but I am more prone to think they
will beat it off with a lot of your perfectly good arrows than
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