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Charles Frederick Holder.

Life in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California online

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sea with its caps of islands. A fairer land, a fairer
hunting day you will rarely find under this Christmas
sun.

Another hare is started and the hunt is again in full
run, sweeping up to the foot of the mountains, down
into vineyards, where often several jacks are started ;
but the hounds concentrate their attention on one, and
the finish comes up near the entrance to the cafton Las
Flores, where the drags, coaches, and carriages have met.
Lunch is laid under the trees in some adjacent grove,
and the incidents and events of the hunt are again dis-
cussed and good dogs are rewarded. Such a hunt well



12 Life in the Open

illustrates life in the open in Southern California and its
possibilities.

Many towns and cities have spread out over the
land, and Southern California bids fair to become over-
civilised and settled up. But the jack rabbit is not to
be crowded out. A wily fellow lives near my home,
and I have seen him entertaining himself by leading the
dogs down a wide avenue, a fashionable thoroughfare of
the town ; and in the suburbs he may be always found.
This is true of all the foothill cities from Pomona and
Ontario to Riverside and Redlands and beyond, while
San Diego and Coronado afford excellent fields for this
adventurous pastime.

There is also excellent sport to be had on the ranches
near Santa Ana and Orange, and in valleys near the
San Joaquin, one of the most successful hunts in the his-
tory of the Valley Hunt of Pasadena being near Orange,
where it was the guest of the Count and Countess von
Schmidt.

In the vicinity of Los Angeles the best hunting
localities are the San Fernando Valley and the lower
reaches and washes of Baldwin's ranch, which may give
one an excuse to ride through this splendid domain,
with its groves of eucalyptus, orange, and lemon, and its
charming vistas of land and laguna. Some of the best
hunting I have had in Southern California has been in
the southern part of this ranch and near Sunny Slope
ranch, where a pack of fine greyhounds is maintained
to reduce the tree and vine girdlers ; and nearly all




Charles Winston's Sunny Slope Hounds La Manda.



Across Country with Greyhounds 13

large ranches keep greyhounds to kill off this menace to
the crops.

The jack rabbit is a hare, and nests on the surface,
rarely if ever taking to burrows or anything of the kind.
He prefers to run in the open, to dodge behind hedges
and trees. For many years I hunted with my own
dogs, and, when President of the Valley Hunt, often
acted as master of the hounds, when it was my duty to
keep up with the pack and direct it on the runs ; con-
sequently I had many opportunities to watch the dogs
and game in all stages of the chase. The Valley Hunt
pack of ten or fifteen hounds was in charge of a hunts-
man or keeper, and generally there were two masters of
hounds, members of the club, who took charge of the
dogs on a hunt, and went with them, a hard riding
position. Courtesy required that the hunt should not
pass him ; indeed, it was the duty of the one in charge
to see that excited members did not override the
hounds. The hunt could keep as near the master of
the hounds as it could get, but could not pass. When
the game reached cover, he had to keep the jack in
sight, and see that the dogs obeyed his call ; and so well
did the hounds understand this, that often they would
not lose a foot, though they lost sight of the game for
several minutes. A greyhound named " Mouse "would,
in high grass, leap on to my horse behind my saddle,
and, with one arm over her, I would ride slowly along.
When a hare was started she would see it, note its direc-
tion, leap down, and rarely miss it. It is sometimes said



14 Life in the Open

that greyhounds lack intelligence and affection, but
never was there a greater mistake. A good greyhound
is one of the best of dogs, of aristocratic mien, a type
of strength, power, and staying qualities, with a love for
hunting, cleanly, beautiful, and affectionate.

The jack will often nonplus a very clever dog. I once
made a long run nearly to the mountains, and when at the
upper rise of the mesa, horse, dog, and hare began to give
out. After a while we came down to a trot, then to a
walk, and the jack, apparently scarcely able to move, ran
to a big fir tree, and around it several times, chased by
the hound, that was so desperately winded that she could
not catch the jack. I reined in my horse, not twenty
feet distant, and watched the absurd dtnoument, laugh-
ing heartily at my dog Mouse, a very clever animal.
She soon became dizzy and stopped running, then
walked uncertainly over to me in a most shamefaced
manner and sat on her haunches, while the jack faced us
for a second in sheer amazement. He had doubtless
been the hero of numerous chases and was bewildered,
but the dog and I agreed that he had earned his lib-
erty, and we sat and watched him limp away into the
chaparral.

Such sport as this is not to be confused with
" coursing " a cowardly, brutal game that cannot hold
its own in any country among gentlemen. The hare is
released in an enclosure and chased by hounds, with no
possible chance of escape ; while in the open, in a fair
chase across country, the chances are against the rider,




Walk at the Mission of Santa Barbara on El Camino Real.



Across Country with Greyhounds 15

and the tree girdler has every opportunity to escape,
as where horses are in trouble he flies over the ground
like a bird and often lives to run another day.

The hunt breakfast ends, the well-rested horses and
hounds walk slowly down the valley again, on the look-
out for game, the carriages and drags following, stop-
ping here and there to see the exciting runs ; and late
in the afternoon, perhaps, the hunt winds down the long
sweeping mesa, headed for home, that may be ten miles
away, if the run has led them down to the Baldwin
wash, or it may be but a mile ; but no matter where,
the weary riders have the panorama of the hills as in-
spiration. As the sun sinks behind the western peaks
of the Coast Range, a splendid transformation scene is
staged on slope and mesa. The tips of the Sierras are
wreathed with light, and out from each cafton and gulch
dark shadows creep, encroaching slowly on the fields of
yellow and gold. Slowly the hills take on a roseate
hue that grows in intensity and splendour as the sun
drops into the sea. Deeper it becomes ; now crimson,
then scarlet, a gorgeous drapery that slowly fades and
melts into purple until the entire range, except where
the snow-caps of San Antonio are bathed in the fiery
glow, is invested with the deep panoply of night.

From down the valley, filtering through the wind-
breaks of eucalpytus trees, comes softly on the wind
the flute-like tremulo of the horn the adios of the
huntsman and his hounds.



Chapter II

Hunting the Lynx



ONE of the charms of Southern California lies
in the fact that the towns and many cities are
within a stone's throw of the open country,
or the mountains. Los Angeles is but thirteen miles
from the main range of the Sierra Madre, a jumble of
mountains so steep and forbidding that trained mount-
aineers have been confused by their precipitous caftons
and sharp divides. There is hardly a village, town, or
city where wild country is not available in some form in a
short distance. The stroller up the east branch of the Los
Angeles River, the Arroyo Seco, is led by agreeable paths
on this winter day into a cafton, down which a small
stream flows, now on the surface, again sinking beneath
it, flowing on and on to the distant sea. Here it has
high banks, and has cut into a series of hills that are a
blaze of yellow, carpeted with a small daisy-like flower.
Everywhere the river-bed is filled with polished stones,
and along the banks patches of silver foxtail grass nod
in the sunlight, and in the shallows windrows of mica
gleam in lines of gold.

19



20 Life in the Open

The hills grow higher. Here they are undermined,
the talus partly covered by masses of wild oat whose
surface ripples in catspaws in changing tints of green.
Along the low left bank are lavender flashes among the
rocks, telling of the wild pea, while the yellow glow of
the primrose and the blue of the larkspur are caught
against the green of the chaparral. Soon the arroyo
widens, and live oaks are seen in a little basin. The
sullen roar of the city is still heard, but the sky is bright,
the sweet song of birds fills the air. Surely it is not
February along this verdant arroyo ? You may climb
the hill and look out over distant fields of rippling grain
and a marvellous coat of green that robes the land from
mountains to the sea. Winter it is, fair and uncompro-
mising, permitting flowers, soft air, and clear skies.
Not the winter of the tropics, hot and enervating, but
a winter of content, crisp, with just a soup9on of
frost in the early morning to make the scent good and
clear.

The scent, ah ! that is what you are after. Are you
not on horseback ? and there, standing under the oaks,

is Don A , with his famous foxhounds, Melody,

Music, and others, and coming down the road are other
hunters and the hounds of the Valley Hunt.

The meet is at the cienaga, and it is proposed to
work the green hills to the east and south for the lynx,
common game in Southern California, game that uses
the big arroyo and washes as highways from the mount-
ains. All the hunters are mounted, and Don A



Hunting the Lynx 21

sounds his silver-throated horn, calls in the straying
dogs, and outlines the plan of action. A few hunters
are to go around the hill with the hounds, the rest are
to remain in the arroyo and keep the game within
bounds. You elect to go, and, making a long detour,
climb the slopes, the hounds entering the hills. Already
Music has the scent, and the blood-stirring melody, like
nothing else in the world, comes rippling through the
air, O-O^o-o, and is taken up by Melody, who is standing
looking at the scenery for a second, then she sends the
news down to the hunters below that not many hours
before a soft velvet-footed lynx passed that way from
some looting, and is not so far away.

Again comes the baying of the hounds, pouring over
the hill and dropping into the little caftada, to be taken)
up by others. The hilltops here, six or eight hundred
feet above the sea, one hundred or more above the
arroyo, form a spur of the Sierra Madre, that reaches
down toward Los Angeles and to the east, merging into
the Puente Hills, a splendid winter highway for game
where there is cover, and for coyotes at any time. On
the surface were disconnected bunches of low brush,
giving the slopes a park-like effect, and farther on groves
of white oak with spreading branches beneath which
nodded the shooting-star, the mariposa lily and the
graceful stalks of Brodaea.

Into this garden of the hills the hounds ran just
ahead of my horse, following the scent, now and then
baying soft and low, working through the tall grass



22 Life in the Open

until they came to the oaks, when Music gave the signal
and the entire pack broke into the volume of sounds
that tells of fresh scent. Few horses with a drop of
sporting blood in their veins can resist the sound, and
mine reared, plunged, and pawed the air in eagerness
to run ; but the hounds had not found the game, and I
followed slowly while they made the welkin ring. I
could hear the answering baying from over the cliff in
the arroyo as I rode into the oak grove, then over the
divide to the south slope.

The hounds were now running at full speed, past the
cactus patches, along rocky slopes, down into a deep
cafton where the baying broke into a roar, and then over
the edge of the arroyo a fourth of a mile above, where
my horse, settling down upon his haunches, slid down
with the miniature avalanche, then running down-stream
at full speed to find the hounds out on the face of a cliff
crawling along on narrow ledges, slipping and rolling,
while in the very centre of the stage, in full sight, was
the lynx. She appeared to ignore the hounds, stopping
now and then to glance behind, then picking her way
along, step by step, looking down at the horses, again
stopping to weigh the chances of the situation.

It seemed impossible for a dog to reach her, but Don

A and I knew that Music was a sort of canine fly,

and he quickly gave a vivid demonstration of it, crawl-
ing out on the trail of the big cat, now perfectly silent,
while other dogs made the arroyo ring with sounds.
The lynx was surrounded. She faced a dog in front,




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Hunting the Lynx 23

others were above and behind, and the hunt stood in
the stream, one hundred feet below. There was wager-
ing among the lookers-on as to what she would do, but
she quickly decided it. Music reached within ten feet
of her short tail, when she turned and came down the
face of the cliff like a rubber ball, bounding from rock
to rock, and when within a few feet of the bottom
with a savage front sprang fairly into the pack and
horses.

It was a brave and clever trick, as a dozen jaws
snapped at her, but when she struck the rock she
seemed to bound into the air, and dashed among the
feet of plunging horses, making a run of perhaps one
hundred yards, and when the hunt recovered from its
surprise she was sitting in the top of a large oak, her
eyes gleaming fire, her short tail twitching, treed, but
not caught, and around the trunk gathered the pack
baying, filling the air with what were now menacing
sounds. The trunk of the tree stood at an angle, and
Ranger, an old tree-climber, was presently fifteen feet
up and out on a limb, from which he had to be helped
down. Some of these dogs were marvellous tree-climb-
ers, but even a dog is helpless where he can fall.

I hauled myself from the saddle into the tree and
climbed slowly upward. The lynx did not move until I
had reached a point within twenty feet of her, where I
sat a moment and looked her over. She was a minia-
ture lynx, with small tufted ears, a rich spotted coat, and
pronounced reddish " whiskers." The head was large,



24 Life in the Open

and the eyes, which looked into mine, blazed with the
same yellow light you may see in the glance of the
black leopard.

When I made an offensive movement, she stood up,
showing the long, powerful legs and the short tail,
which was twitching from side to side in a significant
fashion. I climbed higher and thrust a branch at her,
whereupon she darted out on to a limb, and with one
glance and snarl at me, went crashing down through
the resilient screen of green into the pack.

When I dropped on to my horse again, the hunt
was sweeping up the arroyo and through the chaparral ;
coming to a cliff the lynx clambered up the side, but
was again driven out, two dogs rolling down forty or
more feet, then forced across the stream and treed in a
dense patch of brush, into which the infuriated hounds
vainly essayed to climb.

From here she was finally dislodged, and in making
the leap she missed me by a very few inches. I had
dismounted and was holding my horse when I saw her
coming by my head, literally dropping out of the sky,
four paws out ; when she struck she bounded upward
like a ball, and the pack literally fell over me in their
attempts to reach her. But some miraculous dodging
power aided the tribe, as she again eluded them, and
was treed after a hard run through the chaparral, from
which she ran down through an arcade of wild grape
vines and reached the hills again, where she threw the
dogs off. A long stretch of country was scoured before




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Hunting the Lynx 25

the scent was picked up, and after another run the game
was treed in a large sycamore.

Two hours had slipped by, and the excitement and
speed of the runs had told on the dogs, which were
yelping with rage and disappointment. They now ran
about the tree baying in ominous tones, their tongues
hanging out, and the long mournful O-O-o-o, O-O-o-o, ris-
ing on the air like the tolling of bells. Up into the tree
went another hunter, and the hunt backed off to give the
animal fair play, that was the essence of the sport. She
waited until he reached her, snarling at him viciously,
then creeping out on to the tip of a limb, glanced about,
and made one of the pluckiest jumps I have ever seen
or heard of, going down clear forty or fifty feet, bound-
ing on her rubber-like pads several feet into the air,
then fighting her way through the dogs, cutting as she
went. She ran fifty feet on the level, when Music shot
ahead and rolled her over, and bedlam broke loose as
the pack poured in. At least half the hounds were cut
or slashed by this vicious animal that fought with tooth
and claw, throwing herself upon her back, and snarling
like a fiend. Several dogs were retired before she suc-
cumbed. Hanging from my saddle she nearly touched
the ground, a fine specimen of lynx, in good condition.
On her skin, which I had mounted as a rug, various
young hounds were introduced to their first game, and
it is fair to say that they ultimately wore out the rug in
these practice hunts.

The hunt now worked up the arroyo beyond the



26 Life in the Open

town of Garvanza, eight miles from Los Angeles, and
entered a well-wooded pass, where the dogs took a scent
and ran a mile along the San Rafael Hills. The scent
grew fresher, until finally a roar of sounds indicated
something brought to bay at the foot of a giant syca-
more in an almost impenetrable jungle of scrub oak, tall
briar rose, and other brush. Using my heavy crop I
broke a way in, to find one of the dogs wedged in a
hole, surrounded by others who were so crazed by the
proximity of the game that they fell all over me. I
managed to seize the hound by the hind legs and pull
him out by main force, and with him came, not a lynx,
but a raccoon, which had seized the hound by the paw
and held on with the grip of a bulldog, held on until I
pulled it completely out, and the dogs fell upon it.

The arroyo was from fifty to one hundred feet deep
here, its sides precipitous, filled with underbrush and
large trees ; sycamores and black oaks growing on the
banks, cottonwoods, alders, and others in the centre and
on the sides, with little meadows here and there above
the stream. The wild grape had climbed many of the
trees and interlaced them in a radiant drapery of green,
forming a natural jungle for the wildcat, raccoon , and
fox. The hounds presently caught a scent, and after a
short run treed a large lynx, a process that was repeated
half a score of times before she was finally captured,
proving a most gamy animal.

The Arroyo Seco, a river of verdure if not water,
reaching down from the mountains, is a natural park,



Hunting the Lynx 2 j

the gulch forming the western boundary of Pasadena.
As I write, two minutes' walk from its fragrant edge, over
which I can see the tops of its trees from my lawn, I hear
the melody of a hound calling, O-O-o-o, telling me that
somewhere in its green heart the foot-cushions of a lynx
have left their imprint on the yielding sand. I some-
times go down in the afternoon and smooth it over in
the middle of the moist stream-bed, then visit it in
the morning to read the story. Here are quail tracks, the
long foot of a cottontail, the sinuous trail of a snail, the
big print of a dog some hound hunting for pleasure,
and the round footprint of the lynx, with that of a
raccoon or possibly a fox. Indeed, the casual stroller
through this green arroyo in winter might never see an
animal larger than a quail or rabbit, yet the sandy trails
tell of a diversity of game that walks abroad o' nights or
comes down the dry green river from the mountains to
visit the haunts of man.

Nearly every cafton in Southern California has its
quota of lynxes, generally of two kinds. Those leading
from the main range are most frequented, but in nearly
every arroyo of any size where there is underbrush and
trees there will be found the gamy and savage enemy of
the rancher.

All along the Sierra Madre, from San Luis Obispo
to San Diego, the sport may be had, and several well-
known packs of hounds are kept in California nota-
bly the Kentucky pack of thoroughbreds of Mr. William
G. Burns, of the Pasadena Country Club. These hounds



28 Life in the Open

are trained to drag -hunting as well, and have made
some spirited runs over the beautiful country at the head
of the San Gabriel Valley. There are two or three
small packs of hounds in and about Pasadena ; one
in the vicinity of the San Fernando Valley, and per-
haps the best and largest in the Santiago Cafton, a val-
ley to the south of the San Gabriel, reaching down to
the sea. Here, extending out from the foothills which
constitute a sort of coast range ten or fifteen miles from
it, some of the finest lynx or wild cat hunting in Cali-
fornia is found. The country is beautifully situated,
being in the main a splendid oak park with a series
of well-wooded canons. Nearly all are occupied by
ranchers, and well up Santiago Canon is the attractive
mountain home of Mr. J. E. Pleasants, Master of
Hounds of the Santiago Hunt Club of Orange, whose
hospitality and meets are well known.

This club has hunted the country nine or ten years,
and game, fox, coyote, and lynx, is so plentiful that there
is constant exercise for the pack. The dogs, Trilby,
Don, Pluto, Mack, Diana, Flash, and many more, are
from Southern stock, recruited from Virginia, Kentucky,
Georgia, and Alabama, and some of them, owned by
the hunt and Dr. Page of Pasadena, are remarkable
hunters. The master of the hounds lives up the cafton
twenty miles from the city of Santa Ana, and twice a
year, in May and October, special hunts are enjoyed
that have a wide reputation. They are held in Orange
County Park, a fine piece of well-wooded country about







The Bells of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel near Pasadena.



Hunting the Lynx 2 g

ten miles from Santa Ana and stretching along the south
face of the foothills. Several hundred people attend
them, and go in conveyances of all kinds, and with tents
camp out in the grove, forming a small village. Famous
cooks, the Serranos, are on hand, and after the hunt
there is a barbecue, Mexican fashion, where chili con
carne, chili color ado, tomales, and tortillas are served, and
if the hunter is not fired by the hunt he is by the feast
that savours of the days of Lucullus. It is worth a trip
to California to see Sefior Serrano and his brother bar-
becue a steer, and toss or turn the meat with a pitchfork
by the light of the moon as it pours down through the
great black live oaks.

The hunts average twenty lynxes and fifteen foxes
a year, and in the driest weather the hounds have no
difficulty in taking the foxes. These meets are looked
forward to with pleasure and delight, and in the gloom
of the live-oak forests one meets many famous Califor-
nians and lovers of sport, none of whom are more
enthusiastic than Dr. Benjamin Page, who can tell you
every hound by his voice and the exact stage of the
game, just as he knows the highest peaks of the Sierras,
the deepest cartons, and all the famous trout pools of
Southern California along the high Sierras as they over-
look the great desert of the south. It is good to see the
old-time hunting gentleman imparting his enthusiasm to
the younger generation and handing it down as a legacy.

The Southern California lynx, Lynx rufus, is a
handsome spotted animal, weighing sometimes fifty



30 Life in the Open

pounds ; there are two distinct forms here recognised
by hunters. I have seen a large lynx, a tall, long-
legged, scrawny creature, that could run like a deer and
was treed with difficulty. It had tassels to its ears, and
the fur on its cheeks was very long or pronounced,
while another has more the appearance of a large,
overgrown domestic cat, yet with tassels and beard.

The red lynx, Lynx rufus, is found across the con-
tinent to California and into Texas. It has short red-
dish hair, while the spotted lynx, a larger form, has a
striking spotted coat, and ranges all through Southern
California and down into Mexico. This lynx is a
powerful and savage animal. I have seen one for a few
moments fight off a pack of hounds, lacerating them
badly ; and when I saw one coming from a tree in my
direction I always gave it the right of way. They are
very uncertain game ; no rule can be applied to them.
Some tree repeatedly, and I have worked nearly half a
day on a lynx in an oak grove, the animal repeatedly
ascending trees and refusing to run. Again in the same


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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 2 of 21)