George Bird Grinnell.

Hunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club online

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ful of my injured leg, walking about camp with
one crutch and a cane.

We had not forgotten the old bear. A short
time after the last incident Corey, when he visited
his traps one morning, found one of them missing.
Further signs of a cub bear were to be seen, and
the chain fastening the trap had been broken. He
naturally suspected the old bear. Two or three
nights afterward the jingling of a chain was heard
in the direction of the bait across Willow Creek,


Memories of a Bear Hunter

and we felt sure that the old she bear was there,
the cub carrying around the trap, which the old
bear had broken loose at an earlier visit. Telling
Corey to carry my rifle, I hobbled after him with
crutch and stick. We approached with much cau-
tion, following down the streamlet which flowed
by the camp to its mouth, and thence under cover
of a bank, following up a swale on the opposite
side of Willow Creek, intending to get behind
the carcass, where the bears were supposed to be.
Nevertheless, in some mysterious way, the bear
had received a hint of our movements, for after
climbing high enough to look over the ground,
there was nothing in sight. It was bright moon-

Above us in the direction of the pass over the
mountain which bear used, there was a plain sound
of iron being dragged over boulders. Corey at
once gave me my rifle, and rapidly followed the
sound, while I stopped behind to await develop-
ments. In half an hour he returned rather hur-
riedly, and reported that after following the cub
and going nearly to the top of the pass, he had
come so close to the cub as to make a rush for it
to try and secure his trap. However, the old bear
was on the watch on the mountainside above and
to the right, and she made a dash for Corey.


Hunting at High Altitudes

Corey stood not on the order of his going, but
went at once. As soon as the old bear got between
her cub and danger she stopped, but Corey did
not stop.

The next day Corey scouted around the patch
of timber where he believed the bear remained in
the daytime, and thought he heard the jingling
of the chain as the cub moved about. He did
not think it prudent to investigate. The second
evening after that, about 9 o'clock, with a bright
moon, a squall very similar to that of the cub
came from the direction of the elk carcass, and we
determined to investigate. Binding a wad of white
tissue paper on the end of the rifle barrel, Corey
and I started to see what was the matter, he, as
before, carrying my rifle and I walking on a crutch.
After we reached Willow Creek, we went up that
stream about a hundred yards, and then climbed
the bench toward the bait in a direction opposite
to that taken on the previous occasion. When
high enough up to obtain a view, there was the old
bear quietly feeding and the cub squalling by her
side. Getting my cartridges ready, I moved in
a stooping position, until I had reached a place
where I had an unobstructed shot, and dropping
to my knee, was ready to fire. The cub saw us
first, telling the old bear. She turned with her


Memories of a Bear Hunter

right side exposed, and the shot was aimed care-

"Here she comes," hoarsely whispered Corey.
I fired a second shot, and still she rushed on. Then
Corey fired, giving her a desperate wound. Still
she rushed onward, and when within a few jumps I
fired a final shot. It did not stop her, but she
turned to the left, down hill, stumbled along for a
little way, fell and soon was still. She was twelve
steps from us as she lay.

Next morning, measuring the ground from the
elk carcass to the pile of shells, the distance proved
to be forty-seven yards. Examination of the bear
showed that every shot hit about the center of the
mass as the animal approached. Corey's shot, with
a light bullet, was an excellent one, and penetrated
deeply. After a little time the first shot would
have killed. Considering the moonlight and the
somewhat exciting surroundings, it was first-class

After dressing the bear, we were puzzled to
know what to do with the cub. Corey, who was
wearing his leather shaps, and so did not fear
teeth or claws, walked up to the little animal,
which, as soon as he was within reach, rushed
savagely at him, seized him by the legs and clawed
most energetically, but the leather was too thick.


Hunting at High Altitudes

He kicked the little bear off and was obliged to
club him into something like submission, but the
animal manifested so much life and innate sav-
agery, that we determined to save him and try to
bring him in alive. With some trouble, the chain
was loosened from the stub to which it had become
fastened, and with much pulling and some pound-
ing he was brought to camp and tied to a sapling,
where there was a good bed. All through the
night, at short intervals, the cub kept up his mourn-
ful, heartbreaking wails, which sounded some-
thing like the cry of a child, but were a little
hoarser. I began to feel sorry for the cub, even
though its mother had tried her best to gobble us
up. I even asked myself why Corey had beaten
that cub so hard. Next morning we went to the
cub to offer him some fat elk meat. Our kindly
intentions were not appreciated, and there gleamed
a savage light from his eyes. He rushed at Corey,
seized his leg, scratching and gnawing at the
leather shaps as viciously as last night. I felt that
he needed no sympathy. He ate his breakfast
greedily, which confirmed that view.

When the robe a very fine one was brought
in, Corey thoughtlessly threw it to the cub, which
recognized it and gave a distressing exhibition of


Memories of a Bear Hunter

My injured leg had now so much improved that
I decided to trust it. Besides, snow was falling,
the temperature getting lower, snowdrifts were
becoming deeper, winter was approaching. It was
time to seek a lower altitude. It was now the first
day of October, and we had been here since August
23. It was not a good camp, exposed as it was
to westerly winds and the drifting snow. We
determined therefore to go down the mountains,
making the first camp at the spot near the Grey
Bull, at the mouth of Buffalo Fork, where we
were in camp for several weeks the year before.
This was the camp from which I had killed nine-
teen grizzlies within a month.

As I could be of little assistance in packing, I
left ahead of the packs, intending to watch a cer-
tain point near the new camp for a bear. I reached
the Grey Bull, found the site of the old camp, and
at the proper time went to the mouth of Jack Creek
to look for the bear. He did not appear before
dark, and I returned to camp, built a big fire and
awaited the arrival of the outfit. It was not until
about 9 o'clock that I heard shouts across the creek,
and soon after, the outfit crossed at a ford, and we
were comfortably in camp. Corey reported that
when they started he was unable to put the cub on
the packs and that he had finally set it free. I


Hunting at High Altitudes

was greatly pleased that he had done so, for the
cub would have been a great care and trouble, even
if we could have taken it to civilization. I felt no
concern for the cub's welfare this winter, for there
were three elk carcasses on which it could fatten
until the time came for it to "hole up." If these
were not enough, there was the old bear on which
it might feed, since bears readily eat other bears.

The bear that I looked for at the mouth of Jack
Creek was likely to visit that bait late at night, and
I determined to track him to his den in the snow.
In this I was unsuccessful. Several places were
found where there were fresh signs of his having
laid up during the day, but in no case was he at
home, and after an ineffectual half day's work
endeavoring to find him, I gave it up.

I was so much discouraged at the outlook here
that I determined to close the campaign and at
once seek winter quarters. The trail close to the
mountains was too deeply covered with snow to be
followed, and I chose one lower down. The first
camp was made six or seven miles below, close to
the river bank. In front was a meadow with a
spring at the foot of the bench. On the left, just
behind the camp, was a cottonwood grove, backed
by a dense willow thicket. Above the thicket was
another larger meadow with two bold springs. I


Memories of a Bear Hunter

was so impressed with the situation that I selected
it for a ranch to be entered under the land laws as
a pre-emption claim. I made arrangements with
Corey to build for me during the winter a cabin of
suitable size with three rooms. The buildings
were constructed during the following winter and
spring, and, with improvements made later, be-
came my residence until the fall of 1904.

About this time the track of the Northern
Pacific Railroad had reached the present town of
Billings, Montana, and I determined to make for
that point and to decide later on winter quarters.
We set out therefore for Billings, and on October
30 reached a camp near the ranch of J. Bradley
on the North Fork of Stinking River. This camp
is just above the canon of this stream, where is
now being erected (September, 1908) a dam 307
feet in height, which will overflow much of this
country. I arranged with J. Bradley to take me
with my baggage to Billings in his wagon, leav-
ing my pack outfit, horses and all other property
at his ranch. I also arranged that he should meet
me at Billings in the spring and bring me out to
my ranch on the Grey Bull. I arranged with
Corey to take care of my horses and packs for the
winter. Corey and Heyford were to go to Bill-
ings on horseback and to be paid off there. We


Hunting at High Altitudes

left the ranch October 31, crossed the divide by the
Heart Mountain Pass to Pat O'Hara Creek,
thence to the Yellowstone River, and so to Bill-
ings, Montana, which we reached the afternoon of
November 5. A little later the boys, who were
enjoying their return to civilization, were settled
with. An association of six months under the try-
ing conditions of the mountains had naturally
brought us close together, and genuine friendships

I took quarters at the Metropolitan, a new hotel
of rough boards hastily thrown together and thor-
oughly well ventilated. Here I had the great
pleasure of meeting two old friends of ante-
bellum days, Joel B. Glough and Adna Anderson.
We had been fellow civil engineers on connecting
railroads in Tennessee for several years, and had
become good friends. Adna Anderson was a fel-
low member of the American Society of Civil En-
gineers. He was at that time engineer in chief of
the Northern Pacific Railroad, while J. B. Glough
was his principal assistant engineer at the end of
the track. It was extremely pleasant to meet these
men in this out of the way part of the country.

I spent about two weeks in and around Billings,
partly on business. Messrs. Anderson and Glough
were very kind. I made a trip with Glough to the


Memories of a Bear Hunter

head of the track, sleeping in boarding cars and
enjoying it all.

The hotel which I occupied was a small con-
struction of loose boards, and the change from
sleeping in a warm tent to these quarters in a barn
of a hotel, did not agree with me. I caught cold,
and on November 2 1 became seriously sick. When
my friends learned of it, they at once sent me one of
the best of surgeons, Dr. Parker, who pronounced
the disease pneumonia in one lung, and two nurses
were provided. In a week the other lung became
involved. The next morning after this new com-
plication, appeared friend Glough with the doctor
and four stout men with a stretcher, and told me
that it was imperative that I should have more
comfortable quarters. I was put on the stretcher,
carried through the streets for several hundred
yards and deposited on a very comfortable bed in
a convenient, well furnished room in a building
constructed by the Northern Pacific Railroad Co.
for the use of its Engineer Corps. The room was
Mr. Glough's own room, which he had given up
to me.

For twenty-six days I was sick with this dread
disease, and for a week my fate hung in the
balance. At last, however, the kindness and atten-
tion of Colonel Glough, Dr. Parker and Mrs.


Hunting at High Altitudes

Tomlinson, the matron of the building, together
with a strong constitution, pulled me through the
crisis. While I was convalescing, Dr. Monroe
came from Bozeman to visit me, as also* did
George Wakefield and Mr. Huffman. On Decem-
ber 1 8, with Colonel Glough, Mrs. Tomlinson and
a number of young engineers, who were going
East, I left for Minneapolis. When wholly recov-
ered, about the middle of January, I went to
Denver, Colo., where I remained until May, when
I returned to St. Paul. I left Billings May 15 for
my new ranch on the Grey Bull, riding my old
horse, purchased at the mouth of the Musselshell
from Pike Landusky, which had carried me over
many a mile of prairie and mountain. We reached
my ranch on the Grey Bull River May 30. I had
engaged J. Bradley and his wife to live with me,
and we shortly moved into the buildings which
Corey had finished, and took formal possession.
I lived on that ranch until the fall of 1904,
twenty-one years.


I 883

In September, 1883, I was living on my cattle
ranch on Grey Bull River, Wyoming, Big Horn
County, with Jay Bradley and his wife as
employees; Mrs. Bradley as housekeeper and
cook, and Jay doing the outside work.

I had determined with Bradley to take a hunt
in the mountains to the west for grizzly bear and
elk, the latter for winter's meat.

We were to have started the next day, Septem-
ber 12, when word came that Otto Franc, my
neighbor, six miles below, while gathering his beef
cattle preparatory to taking them to Chicago to
market, had met with a misfortune in which,
during a stampede, fifty fat beeves, while attempt-
ing to cross a deep gulch, had been trampled to
death by those following. The catastrophe had
taken place about three miles below me, near the
river, at the mouth of Rose Creek, a mountain
stream, which, through a gorge about twenty feet
in depth, entered Grey Bull River from the north.


Hunting at High Altitudes

My neighbor, Richard Ashworth, had filed on the
land around the mouth of this creek, and George
Marquette was constructing the necessary ranch
buildings just above the mouth of the creek.
Among his other belongings, George owned an
"ornery 11 bench-legged dog.

The men in charge of the seventy-five beeves
already collected, crossed the cattle just above the
mouth of this creek, the cattle coming out of the
river bottom on to the bench just opposite the tent
occupied by George and his dog. As soon as
the leaders of the herd emerged from the bottom,
the dog burst out at them, barking fiercely. Fat
cattle are usually easily alarmed, and in this case
the leaders were greatly frightened. They turned
square to the right, ran at full speed toward the
gorge at the mouth of the creek, the others of the
herd as they came to the top of the bench madly
following the leaders. The leaders, naturally
hesitating on the brink, were swept into the gorge,
followed by the balance of the herd. The finale
was that the gorge was literally filled up and
bridged over with a mass of fat beeves of 1,200
to 1,500 pounds weight, about fifty head being
trampled to death.

From my knowledge of grizzly bears, I knew
that all the bears from the surrounding mountains


Memories of a Bear Hunter

would be attracted to this pile of fat flesh, so I
determined quietly to await developments at home.

Knowing the habits of these bears, it was evi-
dently a discreet policy to move with a good deal
of caution ; not to show myself to them or to leave
my scent around or near the bait late in the day.
Alarmed in any way, they would at once become
cautious, and would come to feed only at night.
I accordingly scouted around early in the day on
the outskirts of the locality to ascertain the route
by which the bears approached, and then late in
the evening, watched the trail some distance back
from instead of at the carcasses. The bears soon
found the feast and commenced their visitations.

Four or five days were required to ascertain the
direction from which they came and the route or
trail they used. I found that one or more came
down Rose Creek, or Four Bear, as it was after-
ward named, and one or two came down the river
on the north side. Watching the trail on the
latter stream, on two evenings, I saw a bear pass
down about sundown, but on each occasion out of
good rifle range.

A few evenings afterward, the same bear again
passed down the valley, but still out of rifle range.
Unless sure of a certain hit, in a vital place, it was
not good policy to fire. Watching the other trail,


Hunting at High Altitudes

I selected a location near the carcass, to catch the
bear coming down the river, thinking he laid up
during the day in a certain thicket. Going early
to a position at the head of the trail he traveled in
coming from the thicket, a porcupine was encoun-
tered, and by punching him with my rifle, he was
made to climb a small tree, and was made an
object lesson a sign that there was no danger.

Soon after locating myself, a dark object was
seen on the edge of the thicket, apparently peeping
out. He soon satisfied himself that the way was
clear, and walked rapidly toward me. He had
reached the foot of the trail approaching me
about twenty yards distant when I delivered a
shot, but it was not effective. As he rushed back
toward the thicket, two more shots were delivered,
when he dropped at the edge of the thicket, too
badly hit to go further. This happened before
night. He was disemboweled and the ranch was
reached before dark. After firing several shots
around a carcass it was useless to remain longer,
as no bear would come till late at night.

I now turned my attention to the bears ap-
proaching from Four Bear Creek. The first even-
ing's reconnaissance came near success. Lying in
full view of a trail, but close enough, with plenty
of daylight for a safe shot, an old bear and two


Memories of a Bear Hunter

cubs came along the trail. In rising to a position
for delivering a shot, the rustling of the grass
attracted the bear's attention, and she stopped, the
cubs sitting up and looking to see what was up.
It had become dark, and the distance being 125
yards, I determined not to risk a shot, but wait for
a more convenient season. They passed on down.

A reconnaissance the next morning indicated
that the bears laid up during the day in a willow
thicket near the creek and about a mile above the
pile of beef. I selected a place on the hillside near
the trail they traveled, to occupy that evening. I
was accordingly on hand about sundown, and was
soon in position, dressed in a buckskin suit of the
color of dead grass.

The light was becoming dim, when a slight
sound came from the thicket above, and soon there
appeared on the trail a dark object, followed by
two smaller dark spots. I at once realized it was
the old bear and the cubs, and prepared for what
was to come. The trail along which they ap-
proached passed within thirty feet of me. My
first shot was delivered when the old she bear was
within fifty feet. In the dusk it was not at once
fatal, for she rushed toward me with two or three
jumps, and then not knowing exactly where I lay,
stood on hindfeet to look for me. I was then


Hunting at High Altitudes

ready for her, and a close shot delivered into her
chest rolled her over. I then delivered a shot into
each of the cubs, one of which managed to get
back into the brush. I quickly followed, and by
its squalling found it and delivered another shot.
As it ceased squalling, I was satisfied it was dead.
By the time these bears were dressed it was fully
dark, but the moon was shining, although occa-
sionally obscured by a cloud.

I determined to make a scout around that pile
of beef before bedtime. Mounting my hunting
mare Kate, I made a circuit to the left for some
distance, so as not to alarm any animal there,
'either by scent or noise. Cautiously approaching,
my mare was tied to a tree about three hundred
yards to leeward of the carcasses. The mare acted
very uneasy and must have scented the bears.

I took the precaution to tie a wad of white tissue
paper on the end of the rifle barrel, over the sight,
for night work, and cautiously approached. My
object was to slip up to the edge of the gulch and
have a commanding view below. At such short
range I could get one good shot, and then depend
on having a second shot as the bear ascended the
opposite side, which had a gentler slope.

When within one hundred feet of the rim of the
gulch, a coyote passed just in front of me and dis-


Memories of a Bear Hunter

appeared down toward where the bear would be
found. I knew he would at once give the alarm.
Knowing that animal's character for veracity, or,
rather, for lack of veracity, I hoped the bears, if
any were there, would pay no attention to him, so
I walked rapidly toward the gulch. When within
fifty feet of the brink, two dark objects appeared,
walking rapidly up the opposite slope. The moon
was clouded over, and as I was not ready to shoot,
I at once dropped and lay prone and very close to
the ground. When the bears reached the top of
the bank they stopped, and immediately sat up
and looked very intently in my direction. Then
they walked away about fifty feet, turned and
walked back again, and again sat up and looked.
They moved about, back and forth, in most in-
tricate or fantastic fashion, sitting up occasionally
to try to discover danger. They evidently had
not believed the coyote talk, yet they were unwill-
ing to take any chances.

Discovering no sign of danger, and doubtless
being hungry, they returned down the slope to the
feast. I was on the point of slipping up to the
brink and delivering a shot, believing I could get
both the second one as he ascended the slope.
Before I had time to move, however, the coyote,
doubtless wishing a free hand at the carcasses, had


Hunting at High Altitudes

insisted on his story, the two bears walked swiftly
up the opposite slope, again sat up, took a search-
ing view in my direction and commenced going
through the same gyrations as before. Had they
believed the coyote's tale at first, they would have
come up from the gulch on a run and disappeared.

Their actions plainly showed their uneasiness
and their doubt as to what course to pursue. Be-
fore them was that mass of fat flesh they were
eager to fill up on ; yet, in the face of the story told
by that lying coyote, that their inveterate enemy
was lurking near, they hesitated to take the
chances. Finally, at a swift walk, they went up
the opposite bank, thus apparently intent on some
scheme. I kept them in sight with my field glasses
until, after going about two hundred yards, they
stopped, remained irresolute for a while, and then
retraced their steps and appeared on the point of
descending to where the coyote was enjoying

They were evidently afraid to do so, and again
sat up and looked long and intently in my direc-
tion. My clothes were so much the color of dry
grass and I hugged the ground so closely, with my
head to them, that they did not discover danger.
Again they began to do what they had done be-
fore walking away fifty feet or more, then com-


Memories of a Bear Hunter

ing back again, and sitting up and looking intently
in my direction. By this time I became very much
interested as to the significance of their actions,
and my wits became sharpened. I became inter-
ested in guessing at what these two hungry bears
would do.

Finally putting their heads together, they ap-
parently held a council of war and determined on
a course of action. They moved swiftly up the
creek, as once before they had done. I watched
them through the field glasses, for the moon was
shining, and they soon disappeared in the darkness.

It then dawned upon me what these bears were
up to. Evidently they intended to cross the creek
a short distance above, make a circuit some dis-
tance in rear of the point where they feared their
enemy lurked, obtain its wind, ascertain what it
was and then act.

In the bright moonlight and the open cotton-
wood timber a good view could be had by the aid
of glasses for a long distance up the creek. I kept
a sharp lookout, and soon detected two dark
objects, and approaching. My surmise had proved

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Online LibraryGeorge Bird GrinnellHunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club → online text (page 12 of 27)