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The rapid motion of horse and game is not a charge as heavy as the weapon will confavorable to any steady aim by means of the tain. sights, but the near approach that you are en- ! It seems best to speak thus explicitly with abled to gain by the good conduct of your mount reference to the description of arms to be used, affords an opportunity to deliver shot after shot as I have met so many persons who have gone into the buffalo until you may be sure of your out on the Range with too light a carbine or “meat," or the buffalo, refusing apparently to pistol for the game that they purpose hunting. be made further game of, turns, driven furious Then, too, there is no particular fun in shooting by the pain of the wounds that you have given into a buffalo a bullet that is just sufficiently him. This is the moment for a little calcula- large to worry the animal into turning on you, tion. If the buffalo is bleeding from nose and and making itself the hunter and you the huntmouth it is certain that your shots have done ed. True, you may in some measure avoid this their work; for the buffalo is mortally wound by dashing past the animal as he pivots on those ed, and needs no more of your lead, and you are stumpy front legs, and thus get a little behind free to gallop on for the next victim, following him again. He may dash at you as you run up the sport until your revolvers are emptied, past, but quick movement will save you, and or you are satisfied that you have a sufficiency some one of your little pellets may reach his of meat,
heart or some other vital point; but the chances I have no idea of the quantity of lead that a are against the light pistol, buffalo can carry off, if the shots are not well Or if the buffalo turns so quickly as to throw placed. The vital point of the buffalo-his you off your guard, and your horse is not right heart-is to be reached by a shot fired from a up to his work, the horse is in some way point a little behind him, aiming just behind the turned too; then comes a neat performance shoulder-blade, and about two-thirds down from in the shape of a hunter being hunted. The the top of the hump. A single revolver-ball horse is frightened, and away he dashes. Perwell placed is quite sufficient to bring down haps you are hunting over ground perforated the stoutest old bull. Some hunters have kill- with the holes of the prairie-dog. Your horse's ed as many as eight or nine buffalo on a single foot falling into one of these would send both run. That is, with the twelve loads contained steed and rider-how or where is not certain. in their brace of revolvers, but this is extraor- I once saw an army officer in such a plight do dinary, and a thing of very occasional occur some ground and lofty tumbling that the most rence, three or four buffalo being usually count- successful acrobat would have looked at with ed as a first-rate run.
astonishment. A word here with reference to the arms used A gentleman with whom I once hunted was in buffalo hunting. Those who prefer a car- unceremoniously turned upon by an old bull, bine will find the short Ballard or Spencer guns which he had been previously advised to leave very effective, as they shoot“heavy lead," and undisturbed, and a most laughable scene was may be used with great rapidity. The carbine the result of the over-valorous attempt to kill is frequently used without bringing it to the tough meat. The couple were flying away over shoulder, the piece being rested across the sad- the Plains, when the hunter, feeling that he was dle in front of the hunter, and discharged while about to lose his hat, put up his hand to save in this position. This was the old style of hunt-it. In the hand was the cocked pistol that was ing the buffalo when breech-loaders were un- to have sounded the death-knell of the bull. known, and a short muzzle-loading rifle of large Just as the hand reached the hat the pistol was bore was used as the best arm for buffalo hunt- discharged, and the hat went in one direction ing. With such a weapon the hunter dispensed and the pistol was thrown in the other. The with a ramrod, charging his gun by simply pour- horse, startled by the report, made a quick ing the powder into the barrel, and then drop-movement which landed the rider out of the ping a bullet from his mouth into the gun, and saddle into an inconvenient seat on the horse's sending the charge home by striking the butt of neck. Things were looking just a trifle serious, the rifle smartly on the pommel of the saddle. and one of the party started off, and after a few
Of the revolvers in use the old style dragoon well-directed shots brought the bull down and pistol of the Colt pattern seems the favorite, relieved the hunter from his trying situation. though the bullet that it shoots is no heavier I am not aware that he has hunted any more than that used in the present style known as old bulls since that time, if he has been on a Colt's army revolver. The pistol itself is heav- buffalo hunt, which I think extremely doubtful. ier and more steady to shoot, and the cylinder For an old buffalo hunter there is no better is chambered for more powder. I am not aware sport than to go out with a number of tyros and that this arm is any longer manufactured. The witness their first hunt. To be sure the shots Plains men who possess a pair hold them in from their carbines and revolvers sometimes great esteem. Their calibre is 44-100ths of an come hurtling past you. Will Comstock used inch. I have found it best in loading my pis- to remark at such a time that the safest place tols not to rely upon the fixed ammunition sup- was nearest the buffalo; but I have never known plied for them, preferring to use loose ammuni- of any person that was the recipient of any of tion, or cartridges made by myself. Then there these wild shots. A hunter who is unused to is some certainty of the quantity of powder, and the sport, and becomes excited during the run,
will frequently shoot his horse—how, I never was discharged at him, until the excitement was could quite comprehend; but the revolver goes too great for one of the wagon - masters, who off, and the horse has the bullet. The rider mounted his mule and galloped after the flying loses his mount, gets no sympathy, but learns chase. Two quick shots from his revolver and how to bear jokes of all descriptions. He may the buffalo fell. In a moment the spot was learn, if he will, “that there is no particular crowded with horsemen armed with empty redemand for horse-robes just at present, though volvers. “How many shots in him?" "What they may come in style if he remains on the a lot of lead he could run with!" "He must Range for any length of time.”
have had an accident-insurance policy !" and I remember on one occasion to have seen a divers other like exclamations were heard. I large party leave a column of cavalry that had will simply remark that two shots were all that halted for rest, and start for a herd near by. the closest examination by a score or more pair A few buffalo were killed by old hands; but the of eyes could discover in that buffalo, and who novices had a time all of their own with a buf- fired those shots was never quite determined, as falo that had separated from the herd. Round the wagon-master failed to claim his shots. But and round the point where the command was some of those who assisted in frightening that halted was the buffalo hurried ; shot after shot buffalo on that occasion have since become good
hunters and successful shots; but they do not At first sight the short, fine buffalo grass now shoot at a buffalo when he is running quite seems but a scanty forage for the vast herds; fifty yards distant from them.
! but close examination will reveal the fact that It must not be supposed that a person can grazing on it will be full and abundant. Durride directly into a herd of buffalo without dan- ing the summer months the color of this grass ger. In your excitement the horse may stum- is a greenish gray; as autumn approaches it beble and fall; or, as is frequently the case, you comes more brown in its tint; but late fall and may, before you are aware, ride into a dog vil- winter spreads a mantle of gray, with a just lage, and the wide, deep holes that are to be perceptible tint of blue, that is in pleasant harseen in almost every square yard are traps that mony with the delicate skies of the Range. it is impossible to avoid entirely. I have seen Grass that has been thoroughly fed over or several instances of this kind, and horses have burned off' is the first to spring up the next year. been killed or disabled, and the riders severely During April and May bright green grass marks braised.
the ground that has been burned over during the The buffalo, too, is sometimes known to turn previous fall. The Indians, taking advantage with a surprising quickness of movement; and of favorable winds, will burn thousands of acres woe betide the hunter who is not instantly be- of grass each fall, knowing full well that this yond the reach of those short, sharp horns. will make a hunting-ground during the next Then, too, you may bear in mind the fact that spring, and at the same time afford the forage a wounded bull is not as safe a companion as that will be greatly needed by their ponies. you might select if you had a choice.
Buffalo are in the best condition during the I have seen old hunters, who were excellent fall, spring time being a rather unfavorable pehorsemen, kill buffalo with lances somewhat riod of the year to look for fat bison. The Insimilar to those used by the Indians ; but this dians have a number of ways of designating the has been more for bravado than as a favorite months or moons of the year. They have " fat style of hunting. To lance a buffalo the hunt- buffalo moon,” “thin buffalo moon,” “the moon er must have a horse that has no fear of the in which to find the buffalo with much hair," buffalo, and is thoroughly trained as a buffalo- “the moon when the hair is gone." But I will horse—a “split ear," if possible, for his Indian not go through with the calendar, for Indians education is then of service to you.
use all manner of things by which to designate What is known as still hunting is a favorite and remember the great changing luminary of mode of hunting practiced by those who do not the night, which go frequently affords light for hunt so much for the sport as for the meat, and depredations that they fear to commit during desire also to save their ponies for other work the day. than running buffalo. Some of the colored in- In hunting buffalo the Indian is not particufantry troops on the Plains are quite successful lar in his selection. If the animal is old and in this kind of hunting, which is merely to gain tough, his hide will make many articles that a a position as near the herd as possible, taking thin skin would be unfit for: soles for moccacare to keep well concealed from the vigilant sins, shields, etc. The sinews are larger and eyes of the watchful pickets of the herd; then, stronger, which fact makes them useful for inselecting the buffalo, crack away with a long numerable purposes that are best known to the musket, which you will find the best arm for squaws who collect and use them. Give a this kind of hunting. If you are careful, three squaw time and a raven would starve on the or four buffalo, and sometimes many more, may leavings that he could find on the spot where be secared before the herd moves off.
| the buffalo had been killed, so thorough is the This is regarded by many Plains men as a removal of every particle of nutritious matter. kind of pot-hunting, that is not entitled to the The Indian prefers as food the flesh of a name of sport, and only to be resorted to for young cow; he will eat the oldest bull, howthe purpose of securing the meat needed as ever; and an unborn calf is a feast to the redfood. I must say, however, that the skill dis- skin. The hide of this very young buffalo baby played by some of the colored soldiers, as they is greatly prized by the Indians, and frequently approach a feeding herd and single out their used, when nicely tanned, as one of the articles game, is worthy to be classed as the work of of wearing apparel with which a show may be good hunters. These same sable warriors make made. A hunting party of twenty or thirty Ingood antelope hunters too.
dians will frequently kill more buffalo during The principal food of the buffalo is a short, one day than the squaws of the band are able fine grass that grows in tufts, and only to the to skin and strip in two days; for the squaws height of four or five inches. This, it would do nearly if not all of the actual labor that Inseem, is very nutritious, for domestic cattle fat- dians find necessary; and, to say the truth, an ten on the "buffalo grass” even during some of Indian squaw will accomplish an amount of lathe winter months. On the bottoms or low- bor that is surprising, and do it well too. lands, through which the water-courses flow, ! Hunting buffalo is to the Indian a labor raththere is found a taller growth of grass that er than a pastime; so he kills the animal, and grows rank and coarse. Somewhat similar to leaves the labor of cutting out the meat, curing this is the forage found in the cañons among the skin, etc., to the women. He prefers the the breaks.
easiest mode of killing the buffalo, and regards hunting them on snow-shoes as one of the best practiced by the northern bands of Sioux and methods of securing his quarry. The number other Indians whose range is well to the north of buffalo that may be killed in this way, even of the true hunting-ground. by a small party of Indians, would supply a con- Buffalo are to be found as high as latitude siderable band of Indians with food for weeks, fifty, and as low as thirty. To the east the maybe months; for there would seem to be settlements form a boundary, and to the west hardly a limit to the number of buffalo that the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. This could be slaughtered.
embraces an area of many thousands of square When the snows are deepest on the Range, miles. But, as I have previously stated, the which is most generally during January and best hunting on the Range is to be found beFebruary, the top of the snow will be melted by tween the Platte and Arkansas rivers. Here I the noonday sun. This melting ceases as the have seen the Indians have recourse to another afternoon comes on, and by nightfall the cold method of slaughtering buffalo, in a very easy, winds have frozen a crust over the snow, which but to me cruel, way, for where one buffalo is crust is sometimes sufficiently thick and strong killed several are sure to be painfully injured ; to support the weight of a man. Provided with but these, too, are soon killed by the Indians, the broad snow-shoe, or, as they are sometimes who make haste to lance or shoot the cripples. termed, “rackets," the Indian will move over | The mode of hunting is somewhat as follows: the frozen crust quite rapidly, and entirely with- A herd is discovered grazing on the table-lands. out danger of breaking through. With the Being thoroughly acquainted with the country, buffalo things are somewhat different; to him the Indians are aware of the location of the the deep snow is bad enough, but a thick crust nearest point where the table-land is broken is still worse, as it not only impedes progress, abruptly by a precipice which descends a hunbut renders it painful as well, the crust being dred or more feet. Toward this “devil jump" sharp almost as a knife-blade. All of this is the Indians head the herd, which is at once well known to the Indian, and is at the same driven pell - mell to and over the precipice. time a source of profit, for he loses no time when Meanwhile a number of Indians have taken near a herd of buffalo thus embarrassed by the their way, by means of routes known to them, crust, but starts out on his snow-shoes, and, and succeeded in reaching the cañon, throngh with arrow and spear, makes game of the trou- which the crippled buffalo are running in all bled bison. An Indian on snow-shoes has the directions. These are quickly killed, so that buffalo herd at a great disadvantage, unless the out of a very considerable band of buffalo but herd be a very large one; then a solid path is few escape, many having been killed by the beaten which will be kept by the main herd, fall, and others dispatched while limping off. which in this manner is enabled to escape. At This mode of hunting is sometimes indulged in such a time it is the scattered members of the by harum-scarum white men; but it is done band that are the victims; and it is to these more for deviltry than any thing else. I have that the Indians devote their entire attention. never known of its practice by army officers, or This mode of hunting the buffalo is principally persons who professed to hunt buffalo as a sport.
DRIVING BUFFALO OVER A BLUFF. Some time since some enterprising individual became imbued with the idea that one of the vast herds of buffalo-say a thousand or so might be driven eastward until near the Missouri River, when the herd was to be made to enter a strong stockade that should be arranged for their reception. Then, as he expressed it,'
ed it, they were to be beefed and sent East, or put into # cattle-cars, and killed after they had arrived in the Eastern cities. The exact number of men, that would be necessary for the accomplishment i of this neat drover performance was not definitely stated, but the party did not think that it would take many “fellers," if the boys were only up to the mark. · Fancy this idea practicable, what a lively entertainment would be in some unfrequented place, and only resort to the result of an attempt on the part of a beef- it for the purpose of “making medicine," or butcher to act as executioner of a stout old buf- some other mummery in which the white robe falo bull! Young America could have a buf- is thought to be of great and important assistfalo hunt in a Communipaw stock -yard, and ance. the Board of Health might take advantage of Some persons have suggested that the white the opportunity thus afforded to discover the ef- robe and white buffalo were things of the purest fect of the cattle disease on bison.
imagination, or at best only old bulls that had Governor Gilpin, of Colorado, once suggested been wallowing in some alkali bottom and thus that a very sure way of keeping the Indians off coated their hides with a whitish earth, which the Smoky Hill route would be to drive all the at a distance might easily cause them to be misbuffalo to the north of the Platte River, and taken for white buffalo. I saw my snow-backed then station guards to keep them there. I told friend during that part of the season when the the Governor that when this was done I should buffalo is not much addicted to wallowing, so surely be on hand to secure a sketch of the per- still adhere to my belief in the existence of at formance. It has not been done as yet. least one white buffalo.
A question frequently propounded to a per- I have frequently noticed the statement pub. son returned to the East after a journey to and lished that buffaloes made their wallows in over the Buffalo Range is, Did you see a white marshy places, and made pilgrimages to such buffalo? In my experience I have seen but locality for the purpose of indulging themselves one, and then, being mounted upon a pony tired in an occasional roll. This may all be, but for from much travel and a somewhat long run, one wallow found on the lowlands you will find failed to secure a position sufficiently near the twenty on the rolling Plains, far from water and animal to make any sure shot, but a white buf- high above any thing damp, unless it be rain. falo it certainly was. I have met persons who These wallows may be well described by stating have seen white buffalo, but never yet with a that they seem as if huge saucers of eight or party who has succeeded in killing a white ten feet in diameter had been used as moulds, bison ; neither have I ever seen a white buffalo- and the impress had been secured by pressing skin,
them into the earth. On every hand you will The Indians regard the possession of a white note these basins in the earth, and during the buffalo-robe as "good medicine" for the tribe; spring time you may frequently notice the bufbut they do not carry them about during their falo pawing or wallowing in these spots. At wanderings over the Plains. The reason for times he will throw himself on his back, and this I am not aware of; but from the best in- seening to pivot on his hump, he will “wabble" formation that I have been able to obtain I and kick for some moments. By many the believe that the Indians cache or hide the skin buffalo is supposed to have recourse to this per