Copyright
George Bird Grinnell.

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

. (page 4 of 27)
Online LibraryGeorge Bird GrinnellHunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club → online text (page 4 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


as he fell, was seen to draw his revolver. His
body was not found. That vicinity was afterward
thoroughly searched, but no trace of this boy
could be found. His fate has not been revealed.
During the day's travel there were splendid moun-
tain views from the trail.

In the afternoon of September 15, the trail de-
scended to the valley of the Yellowstone and passed
within one mile of Baronett's Bridge, 26 across
which Howard's command passed on the 5th of
September in pursuit of the Nez Perces. We soon
dropped into the trail taken by that command and
followed it back to Tower Falls. These falls are
named from the tower-like ledges of rock that

6s



Hunting at High Altitudes

overhang the falls, which have about the appear-
ance of the Minnehaha Falls near Minneapolis,
with a single drop of about one hundred and thirty
feet. Just before dark Jack missed one of the
horses, and for a while there was an Indian scare,
but fortunately the animal had only wandered a
short distance, and was soon recovered. We were
a little more sensitive to Indian scares since two
scouts from General Howard's command had been
met on the i3th, who reported that about one
hundred Bannock scouts from Lemhi Agency had
deserted Howard, taking along more horses than
belonged to them. They purposed to ford the
Yellowstone about ten miles above the Grand Falls,
where the Nez Perces crossed, and we were warned
to be on the lookout for them, as they were in a
dangerous temper. Our danger would come when
we should leave the Grand Falls and pass through
some open country in the direction of the Lower
Geyser Basin about the 1 7th.

It rained most of the night at Tower Falls
snowing higher up on the mountains to be crossed
but on the whole, we had a quiet night and sound
sleep. When the rain ceased, about 9 o'clock A.M.,
September 1 6, We packed up and began the ascent
of the Mt. Washburn range. For a few miles the
trail followed an open ridge, exposing us to a

66



Memories of a Bear Hunter

northeast blizzard, accompanied by snow. After
descending into the gulch, up which the trail leads
to the pass in the range, the snow became deeper,
and toward the summit of the range it was eighteen
or twenty inches, knee-deep, which compelled
us to dismount and lead the horses, as the ascent
was very hard on them. In view of future possi-
bilities, we made every effort to save their strength.
It was one of the most laborious day's work of my
experience.

When near the summit, going through open pine
timber, we discovered a large bear approaching us.
He was moving along the side of the steep moun-
tain to the left, about on a level, and would have
passed out of safe range. I immediately dis-
mounted and cut across as rapidly as the snow and
the ascent admitted, to intercept him. He had not
discovered us. When within about one hundred
yards, watching my opportunity through the tim-
ber, I fired at his side. He was hit, but not mor-
tally. As my later experience told me, those bears
when hit always either roll down hill or go "on
the jump." On the jump this bear came, passing
about twenty yards in our front. A cartridge was
ready, and against Jack's injunction "Don't shoot,"
I fired; yet it failed to stop him, and Jack turned
loose with his repeater, I shooting rapidly with my



Hunting at High Altitudes

rifle. By the time the bear had reached the gulch
he stopped, to go no further.

The excitement caused by this incident and my
enthusiasm on killing my first grizzly for I
claimed the bear dispelled at once all feelings of
hardship and fatigue. The bear was a grizzly of
about four hundred pounds weight, fat and with a
fine pelt. We had not time to skin him, nor could
the hide have been packed. After getting a few
steaks, a piece of skin from over the shoulder and
one of his forepaws, we continued our laborious
ascent of the mountain. Still excited by this inci-
dent, the work was now in the nature of a labor
of love.

Passing over the summit and down a quarter of
a mile, through snow still a foot deep, there were
evident fresh pony tracks in the snow on the trail,
made by an animal that had passed on up the gulch
to our right. Jack was called up, and as we were
seriously discussing the situation, a most unearthly
sound proceeded from up the gulch, which caused
us to grasp our rifles and feel for cartridge belts.
In a short time that unearthly blast sounded forth
again, from the same direction, but this time end-
ing with a "he-haw, he-haw." The mystery was
dispelled; the voice was recognized. It was the
voice of the army mule. He had discovered by

68



Memories of a Bear Hunter

scent the presence of our outfit, and soon came trot-
ting down the trail, the embodiment of joy and
good fellowship. He turned out to be a big Mis-
souri or Kentucky mule, sixteen hands high, that
had broken down under his pack and had been
turned loose by Howard's command and was en-
deavoring to follow on. He was a very forlorn
looking animal. Our council of war decided he
would soon perish in these deep snows. Jack Bean
said the A. Q. M. at Fort Ellis was paying $30
for delivery of all such animals. I told him that I
would help to carry him along and he could get
the $30 for him ; so we took him along and camped
as soon as the snow became so little deep that the
horses could feed in a small meadow, where camp
was located.

There was an abundance of dry pine, and a
rousing fire to dry us out was soon in full blast.
The day had not been cold, but the rain, snow and
wind made it appear so. We made fine beds of
pine boughs, but I ate too much bear and did not
rest well. That bear was taking post-mortem re-
venge on each of us.

We reached the Grand Falls of the Yellowstone
and spent a part of the morning there. I have
seen Niagara, Montmorency, Minnehaha, the
Great Falls of the Missouri and these falls.

69



Hunting at High Altitudes

Niagara is pre-eminent in grandeur, but its great
volume and evidence of power and force have
always inspired me with a feeling of fear and
dread. The falls of the Missouri are next in
grandeur, while these falls are a combination of
the grand and beautiful, with great volume in times
of high water and a clear width of about 150 feet
and 3 60 feet single leap. Professor Hayden, who
first measured their height, gives it as 396 feet.
The canon below these falls is not less notable than
the falls that give it cause. At the water level its
width is about 250 feet; from above, the stream
appears like a silvery thread. From the water's
edge the sides of the canon slope back at an angle
of 35 degrees to 45 degrees and to a height of
about 150 feet. 27 To the feeling called forth by
the grandeur of these falls is added that of admir-
ation for the beautiful and varied colorings given
out by their geological formations. 28

I have seen all the many canons of the Con-
tinental Divide above the Union Pacific Railroad.
None, however, compares in everything that makes
these wonders of nature notable and grand, with
the canon of the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone,
just above the debouchment of that stream from
the mountains. Its length is about eighteen miles.
The lower six miles has sides sloping on the east

70



Memories of a Bear Hunter

at about 30 degrees, the high peak on that side
being about 3,000 feet above the water level, there
being only sufficient room in the canon for a trail.
The upper twelve miles of the canon is enclosed by
solid walls of reddish granite almost vertical, with
a width of about 1,000 feet at top. At the lower
end of this part of the canon the height of the
walls is about 1,500 feet above the water level, as
attested by a railway survey up the western side.
In this part large masses of granite are found,
some of at least 300 cubic yards capacity, whose
angles are as sharp and as little worn as if dis-
rupted from the cliffs only yesterday.

The caiion has one unusual feature; a tributary
of sufficient volume to be classed as a river ap-
proaches from the south, rushing through walls
of granite 100 feet wide at the top and 600 feet
deep, and leaps out from the wall of the canon at
least 300 feet above water level, the upper 200
feet being a beautiful cascade. The lower 100
feet passes over broken masses of granite lying at
an angle of about 40 degrees. This canon lies
out of the traveled route, and a laborious day's
work is needed to ascend and descend to the level
of the valley of this tributary.

We could not tarry long at the Great Falls, and
took only a look at the second falls, about one-

71



Hunting at High Altitudes

quarter of a mile above and 115 feet clear cascade.
A few miles further on we passed near the camp
where McCartney had buried his friend, and
thence out into the prairie, 29 extending to the mud
geysers up stream, and away to the dividing ridge
between the Yellowstone waters and Fire Hole
waters the head of Madison River. The depth
of the snow and other circumstances determined
me not to go further toward Yellowstone Lake, for
the lake was no novelty, and we would see many
geysers on the route chosen to the Lower Geyser
Basin, crossing the divide at the head of Alum
Creek. Passing through a good deal of snow, we
camped in the Alum Creek group of geysers, at the
head of that creek. The most interesting sight in
this group was a jet of steam passing up through
waters of the creek, making a noise similar to that
of the blower of a locomotive.

The night was clear and cold, freezing water to
an inch depth. We slept in comfort and awoke
with a dense fog enveloping us, caused by the
steam of the spluttering geysers.

On September 17 we climbed the mountain to
the Pass of Mountains, beyond which is the water-
shed of the Fire Hole River. Up to this time we
had been constantly on the lookout for Indian sign,
and especially on the qui vive for the band of

72



Memories of a Bear Hunter

one hundred Bannock scouts reported as having
deserted General Howard. On the summit we
expected to strike the trail where they would prob-
ably have passed if in this part of the Park.

On the summit of the range we crossed this
trail and were gratified to find no sign of anything
passing after that made by Colonel Gilbert's cav-
alry in its effort to overtake General Howard's
command.

We descended into the valley of the East Fork
of Fire Hole River now named Nez Perce Creek
by the wagon road cut out by Howard's com-
mand, and were soon out of the snow; for the
valley of Fire Hole is nearly one thousand feet
lower than the Yellowstone River above the falls.
We passed near the scene of the massacre of a
portion of the Cowan party before alluded to.
We also scared up one or two wild Indian ponies,
left by the hostiles, that by their speed and activity
to avoid the white man, showed no evidence of
wishing to be rescued, as had the lone army mule.
This was an unpleasant sign. Reaching the lower
Fire Hole Basin before noon, we went into camp,
and devoted the remainder of the day to visiting
various geysers of this wonderful formation,
against the advice of Bean, who was for camping
that night at the upper geysers ten miles further on.

73



Hunting at High Altitudes

Having seen no Indian sign in the day's travel
except the ponies, we had a quiet and restful night,
and by noon on the 1 8th we were among the Upper
Geyser group and spent the remainder of the day
in wonder and admiration of what was seen.

On the morning of the I9th we packed up and
started on our return trip to Bo>zeman. After
nooning at Lower Geysers, we passed on down
the Fire Hole Valley. In about five miles a fresh
pony track was noticed coming in from the west
side and at a trot. In a short distance another
pony track was observed going in the opposite
direction and leaving the trail to the west. This
was interpreted as meaning that a party of Indians
for some cause had been left behind by the hostiles,
and that they were hidden in the dense pine timber
west of the trail, and had sent out scouts to watch
the trail. We acted on this suggestion, and pushed
on as fast as the jaded condition of our animals
would admit at a trot passing through the
upper canon of the Madison, admirable for its
facilities for an ambush as well as for its grand
scenery. On emerging from this canon, we left all
trails, crossed the Madison and about sundown
camped on a bluff with an outlook to our rear,
having traveled this day at least thirty-five miles.
The plan adopted was to go into camp, cook

74



Memories of a Bear Hunter

supper, and after dark, replenishing the camp-fire,
travel about two hours through the timber and
make a dry camp.

While Bean was attending to camp duties, I
went back far enough to command a view of five
hundred yards to the rear, across the Madison, and
with a field glass kept a good lookout for hostile
signs, but detected none. In accordance with the
plan, we traveled about two hours through thick
pine timber and made camp in a little meadow
sufficient for horse feed.

During this night's tramp we occasionally
jumped small bands of antelope feeding on little
patches of open ground. This was the only in-
stance in my twenty-five years' experience among
these animals when I found them using in timber.
Afterward I saw a buck antelope near the Lower
Geyser Basin. 30 With an early start, we break-
fasted near the Madison. We nooned in the
upper canon, having a feast of trout and whitefish,
the first square meal we had had since the start
from Bozeman, except bacon and grizzly. Pass-
ing out of the canon, we camped near the point
where the Nez Perces had set afoot the scouting
party before related. We were now out of reach
of Indian scares, and in the prairie country on the
Upper Madison.

75



Hunting at High Altitudes

Before entering the upper canon on the 2ist of
September it was necessary to decide on one of
two routes to Bozeman. One, and the shortest,
was over a high mountain divide to the head of
the West Gallatin River, and thence down that
stream; the other to continue down the Madison
River. I was tired of climbing mountains and
wallowing through snow, and chose to go down
hill, so we took the last route.

Our camp on the 2ist was near a large fork of
the Madison, just above its junction with that
stream above the upper canon. It was a beautiful
valley, and on that day was literally full of ante-
lope; in fact, in my entire sojourn in the North-
west, I have never seen more antelope than in the
forenoon of that day.

On the 22d we met the first white face since the
1 3th, a Frenchman, on his way as a scout to
Henry's Lake. With him Bean made a trade for
the army mule we had still all safe, whereby he was
to deliver the mule at Fort Ellis. After traveling
down the upper valley of the Madison during the
22d and 23d, we reached Whitney's ranch across the
river from the Bozeman and Virginia City road.
At this camp we got plenty of milk and thirty-two
eggs, which we divided equally between us. Bean
ate his half, sixteen eggs, that night and the fol-

76



Memories of a Rear Hunter

lowing morning eight hard-boiled eggs at a sit-
ting. No ill-effects were heard of during the night.
I took my sixteen eggs in broken doses.

We here received late papers telling how the
Nez Perces had out-maneuvered Colonel Sturgis
of the Seventh Cavalry, and of their escape.

On the 24th we crossed the Madison, and
dropped into the wagon road leading to Bozeman
from Virginia City. Here some alarm was caused
by our pack mule, Dollie, to which after getting
into the open country, we had not paid much at-
tention, for we had allowed her to trot on behind
at will. As before remarked, when packed for the
road there was nothing visible except her ears and
feet under a pile of bedding with a white wagon
sheet on top. Soon after getting on to the Boze-
man road, we met twelve empty farm wagons that
had been hired by General Howard to carry the
impedimenta of his command, had been paid off
and were on their way to their homes on the west
side of the Rockies. We stopped the head team,
passed the news and went ahead. In a short time
was heard a tremendous clattering and rumpus
behind. On looking back, there was Dollie trot-
ting along, innocent and apparently careless of her
surroundings. As the lead wagon was met, the
horses, after being kept in the road a short time,

77



Hunting at High Altitudes

could not be held, but bolted to the right on the
full run. The next wagon followed suit at the
proper time until the entire outfit of twelve wagons
was on a rampage, tearing through the fortunately
open and level prairie, Dollie in the meantime
keeping the center of the road. To all the wit-
nesses to this scene it was most amusing and ludi-
crous, a scare caused by an innocent, patient and
careless little pack mule, who had nothing what-
ever to do with her fearful looking makeup. That
scene caused its only two witnesses to forget for a
time at least all the labors and hardships and risks
from hostiles and snowstorms of the past ten days.

Without occurrence of especial interest, we
reached Bozeman on September 26, after an
absence of fifteen days, having traveled on an
average twenty miles per day.

To me, this was the most eventful trip, for its
duration, of my long sojourn among the North-
western mountains, whether be considered the un-
questioned danger from hostile Indians, the
scarcely slighter danger from the storms and deep
snows among these mountains, or the exposure, the
labor and hardships incident to traveling five days
through snow from five to twenty inches deep, the
only shelter from the storms at night during the
trip being that afforded by a small wagon sheet.

78



Memories of a Bear Hunter

I felt fully compensated, however, for all these
risks and hardships by the privilege of viewing the
canons of the Yellowstone and the Madison, those
beautiful and grand falls at Tower Creek, and at
the Yellowstone, the indescribable wonders of the
upper and lower geyser basins; and last, though
not least, by the opportunity afforded of killing
my first grizzly.



1878

After seven months spent in civilization about
St. Louis and in the State of Illinois, my soul
began once more to long for the wilds of the
Northwest. I did not greatly strive to resist the
temptation, and after a short time returned to the
headwaters of the Missouri River.

It was July 17, 1878, when I left Chicago* on
the steamer Peerless, for the lake trip. Touching
at Mackinac, Sault Ste. Marie and Houghton, I
reached Duluth. I left there July 28, and in due
time reached Bismarck. The next steamer to leave
for the upper river was the Red Cloud, on which
I took passage August 7. We reached Cow Island
Rapids August 24, and just here I did not know
precisely what to do. However, after a time,
through the kindness of Colonel George Clenden-
nin, I arranged to make a hunt for the fall months
with an Englishman, Mr. C. Messiter, who was
expected to arrive by the next steamer.

We were to start from Carroll, a landing on the
south side of the river, not far above the mouth

80



Memories of a Bear tiunter

of the Musselshell River, and to hunt in the foot-
hills of the mountain enclosing the famous Judith
Basin on the head of the Judith River, which
enters the Missouri above Cow Island. 31

At that time game was abundant here deer,
elk and buffalo, with a few antelope. 32

Colonel Clendennin arranged for a two-horse
wagon and team, saddle horses, a guide, teamster
and cook, the expense to be divided between Mes-
siter and myself. I left Cow Island on the steamer
Benton, September 2, and reaching Carroll the
next day, found all the outfit ready, except Mes-
siter, some tents and other camp fixtures.

It was understood that I should take the outfit
away from the river about three days' travel to the
base of the Judith Mountains, make camp there
and then send the team back for Messiter, the tents
and other baggage.

Colonel Clendennin had arranged that I
should purchase a horse belonging to> a wood-
chopper, Pike Landusky, 33 who had a woodyard
across the river from Carroll. The day after my
arrival I crossed the river, and after a few miles'
search found Landusky, inspected the horse, liked
his looks and paid his price. I took him with me,
swimming him across the river from the rear of
the dugout in which I sat. He turned out to be

81



Hunting at High Altitudes

an excellent animal, well trained for hunting. If
you respected his prejudices, he was gentle enough;
if you did not, he was certain to buck you off, as
more than once he did me.

Our outfit consisted of Fishel as guide; Hayden,
teamster, and Derby, cook. The two-horse wagon
was drawn by a pair of white horses, which I after-
ward purchased in the division of the outfit and
used them as pack animals until they died on the
Grey Bull ranch. For three days we traveled
through the Bad Lands, finding only alkali water,
and no wood, except greasewood. It rained
almost every day. Our protection at night was an
ordinary wagon sheet, stretched as a tent. We
had carried from Carroll a few sticks of wood in
the wagon, but were saving of our fuel. We were
not very comfortable.

At the end of the second day we met a few buf-
falo, the leaders of a large herd that during the
summer and fall had been occupying the Judith
Basin, and now as it happened were moving out
before a party of Crows and Chief Tendoy's 34
band of Bannock Indians from the Lemhi Agency
west of the Rockies.

On the 9th of September we camped on Box
Elder Creek, and here found the first fresh water
met with, and a fair amount of wood. Here we

to



Memories of a Bear Hunter

found large bands of buffalo and I killed what was
needed for .meat by running them on horseback.
The next day made a good drive to a camp on
Armell's Creek, 35 near the foot of the Judith
Mountains, and here I determined to remain until
Messiter should come up, sending back Hayden
and the team for him if necessary.

On this day I killed two buffalo bulls for bear
bait, and Fishel in different localities killed two.
We killed also several antelope and deer for camp
meat. On the following day, while hunting for
elk, I climbed one end of the Judith Mountains 36
and had a magnificent view across the valley of
the Missouri, with the Bear Paw and Little Rocky
Mountains to the north and the Moccasin Moun-
tains on the west. The Missouri is about forty
miles distant and the Bear Paw and Little Rock-
ies about seventy miles.

My hunting companion, C. Messiter, reached us
on September 13. He had been sent out by Major
Reed's 37 team with all his baggage.

When we arose on the morning of September
14 we found about three inches of snow on the
ground, and a little later Fishel, who had been
looking over the country with the field glasses, re-
ported that the carcass of one of the buffalo* had
been moved. We rode out toward the carcass, and

83



Hunting at High Attitudes

on climbing on a bench of the mountain about a
mile from the bait, discovered a large bear, which
had evidently seen or smelt us, making off in the
opposite direction. We followed him in the effort
to get ahead of him, but he was too swift for us.

The snow was melting and the trail becoming
difficult to follow. I became separated from Fishel
and Messiter, and they first found the trail, and
followed it until it entered a dense willow thicket
on a small creek. They rode around it to see
whether the bear had gone on, and when on the
opposite side a huge bear rushed out and charged
them fiercely. At first the horses did not wholly
comprehend the situation, and the bear was close to
their heels before they began to run. Fishel
started back to the camp, to bring out a greyhound
that Messiter had brought with him. I met him,
and learning what had happened, I hurried to the
scene of action and found Messiter already on a
high rocky point overlooking the thicket, his horse
being tied some distance further away. The clump
of willows was dense and extended about a hun-
dred yards up and down the small stream, and
was fifty yards across. The stream, which was
six or eight feet wide and two feet deep, meandered
through the willows.

Across the thicket we held a council of war and
84



'Memories of a Bear Hunter

determined to stir the bear out. We thought that
we could shoot through the brush with solid balls,
and if we wounded him he might be angry enough
to rush out. I rode up to within a short distance
of the thicket on my side, but failed to hear any



Online LibraryGeorge Bird GrinnellHunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club → online text (page 4 of 27)