John A. McGuire.

In the Alaska-Yukon game-lands online

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Alaska nl]u



- ,ff - IN THE



Introduction by


(Photographs by the author)





All Rights Reserved

Set up and Electroplated by THE ABINGDON PRESS
Published April. 1921









OC/ 30 6 01 (T


Chapter Page

Introduction, by William T. Hornaday - - 9

I Enroute to the Hunting Grounds - - - - 15

II In the Goat and Glacier Fields - - - 45

III Russell Glacier - - - - - -71

IV Sheep Both White and Dark a Digression - 81

V On the Sheep Ranges - - - - 101

VI Sheep, Moose and Caribou - - - - -119

VII Moose and Caribou - - ____ 141

VIII Rams and Caribou ......... 163

IX A New Species of Caribou Rangifer mcguirei 179

X Homeward Bound - ______ 187

XI Outfitting Hints _ _ _ 199

XII Afterthoughts - 214


No. Page

1. Good-bye to home for seventy days - - - 18

2. Our first impression of traveling on a glacier

the Nizina. Going goat hunting this morning 58

3. Scene of a busy camp. Everybody must work

during packing-up time ______ 68

4. Crossing, 'midst grand surroundings, a glacial

stream, the Frederika - - - -74

5. Cliffs, canyons and hills of the glacial moraine

Russell Glacier - - - - 78

6. Upper picture A "kettle-biled" lunch in the

caribou country. Middle How a sheep
specimen was damaged by eagles. Lower
A large white sheep - - - -88

7. The beautiful Kletsan camp on White River - 96

8. The "Too-Much" Johnson cabin, Kletsan Creek 106

9. Upper picture The author and 45-inch moose.

Middle Grayling fishing on Harris Creek.
Lower A fly came in handy to sleep under
at Skolai Pass - - - - - 144

10. Skinning specimens in the taxidermist's tent - 152

11. Left picture Mr. James and his night abode

for six weeks. Middle The author and a
nice specimen of white sheep. Right A
horse falls in a crevice on Nizina Glacier - 170

12. Group of rangifer mcguirei - - - - - -182

13. Type specimen of rangifer mcguirei - - - - 184

14. The singular dentition found in rangifer

mcguirei - - - - - - 190

15. Nearing the end of Russell Glacier, twenty-

four horses in line - - - - 194

1 6. Route traveled by the party in Alaska and

Yukon Territory ........ 210


T/^IEWED from any side or angle, a long,
arduous and costly expedition from Denver
to the north-eastern boundary of Alaska in the
interest of museum groups of wild animals well
may be regarded as a tribute to the Museum
Group Idea. Moreover, as hunting trips go,
that kind of "game" is well "worth the candle."

Up to this time, the term "habitat group" is
of new coinage, and very generally unknown.
In a few words, it stands for an assemblage of
important zoological specimens that have been
mounted by the taxidermist's art, surrounded by
natural or artificial trees, plants, flowers, rocks,
land and water, either drawn from or made to
represent the natural haunts of the beasts or
birds, and displayed in a museum case specially
designed for it.

The animal specimens must be the finest of
fine. The accessories must be provided lavishly,
and with consummate skill. Each large group
of this kind represents a tour deforce, and many
of them are masterpieces of real art. They are
expected to endure for a century or longer, and
to interest and instruct millions of people long
after the species represented have been exter-
minated by the grinding progress of modern


Many sportsmen have gone far, risked much
and toiled long in the procuring of rare animals
and accessories for habitat groups. In the list
of unpaid men who have done so, we find the
names of Theodore Roosevelt, Col. Cecil Clay,
John M. Phillips, Childs Frick, Richard Tjader,
C. V. R. Radcliffe, W. S. Rainsford and the
author of this volume.

Work of this kind appeals particularly to
sportsmen with an inborn love for creative work,
and delight in the construction of fine, monu-
mental things out of the raw materials. Mr.
McGuire first "tasted blood" in the making of
museum groups when he hunted and killed the
largest specimens for the splendid group of silver-
tip grizzly bears that now is a source of pride to
his home museum in Denver. Beyond a doubt,
it was the joyous contemplation of that master-
piece, so ably and satisfactorily wrought out
by and under the direction of Director Jesse D.
Figgins, that inspired the trip over the long trail
to Alaska and Yukon Territory, and here do I
ask this question:

What finer sentiment could inspire any trip in
quest of big game than the intent to bring into
existence two or three great habitat groups to
entertain and to educate Americans, old and
young, long after Time has overtaken the gallant
hunter, and his rifle has been hung up forever?

I have seen "the White River country" of
North-eastern Alaska and Yukon Territory re-



ferred to as "the last big-game hunting ground
of North America." Can it be true that this
claim, or feeling, constituted Mr. McGuire's
reason for going over 300 miles from salt water to
look for big game? Where are the giant moose,
the Kenai caribou and the white sheep of the
Kenai Peninsula? Where are the moose that
were so big and so abundant in the Susitna val-
ley only twenty years ago? Where are the white
sheep of the Matinuska, common enough for all
purposes in 1900 and after?

But let us not say that those hunting grounds
are one and all "shot out," or forever closed to
the sportsman. Not until we are compelled, do
we admit the state of "no game." Let us believe
that the lure of the McGuire party was the really
magnificent wide-horned breed of white sheep
that is found, in numbers really worth while, in
the White River country. We will not soon for-
get our astonishment when we first saw a collec-
tion of five wide-horned sheep heads from that
region. We are glad that Mr. McGuire's party
obtained fine specimens of that very interesting
development of Ovis dalli.

I find Mr. McGuire's story and pictures more
interesting than any mere moving-picture trav-
els. His graphic and conscientious pen gives us
the action, and his pictures furnish the local
color so dear to the heart of the reader. Jaded
indeed must be the mind that cannot turn from
the worries and the care of the daily business



life to this stirring portrayal of travel and adven-
ture, in a strange and wild land after strange
wild beasts.

We are glad that the Colorado Museum of
Natural History is prosperous, and in need of
the groups that intrepid sportsmen and skilled
taxidermists together can create. We are glad
that this trip was made, and that Mr. McGuire
has given us this admirable account of it. The
personnel of the expedition seems to have been
excellently composed. The local cooperation
was gratifying and effective. The supply of
game was sufficient, and the killing was done
with commendable moderation. Such toll of
wild life as was taken by that party does not
spell extermination; and we hold that there is no
higher use to which a dead wild animal can be
devoted than to mount it for permanent exhibi-
tion in a free public museum.

Incidentally, the pictures of far northern scen-
ery, life and character herein set forth are dis-
tinctly educational, and to the honor and glory
of Alaska and Yukon Territory. They draw us
nearer to our great Arctic province, whose people
now are somewhat irritated and inclined to chafe
over the neglectful treatment that for forty years
and more has been bestowed upon that far-away
land. The Congress and people of the United
States never have taken Alaska with sufficient
seriousness; and the people of Alaska have been
strangely slow and backward in setting forth



before the American people their governmental
and administrative rights and needs.

Far too long and too much has Alaska been
left to work out her own salvation. Now Alas-
kans are beginning to clamor for the privileges
of statehood long before their territorial re-
sources are sufficient for Alaska's many needs.

It is the duty of Congress, and of all fair-
minded Americans, to take a proper amount of
interest in Alaska, and put Alaska in the list of
well-financed and well-managed political and
economic units of the American possessions.


First Chapter



There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon,
There where the sullen sun-dogs glare in the snow-bright, bitter noon,
And the glacier-glutted streams sweep down at the clarion call of June.

There where the livid tundras keep their tryst with the tranquil snows ;
There where the silences are spawned, and the light of hell-fire flows
Into the bowl of the midnight sky, violet, amber and rose.

There where the rapids churn and roar, and the ice-floes bellowing run ;
Where the tortured, twisted rivers of blood rush to the setting sun
I've packed my kit and I'm going, boys, ere another day is done.

Robert Service.


HOPE to be pardoned for entertaining no
ambition, in this work, to produce an ex-
haustive treatise on the hunting possibilities
of either Alaska or Yukon Territory; for to
emerge from a two-months' trip into the wilds of
that country and be able to write a history of it
would be about as impossible as to return from a
month's visit to Timbuctoo and pen an accurate
chronicle of the whole African race. First, the
coast and interior of Alaska are about as dissimi-
lar as the two sides of the Cascade Mountains
of Washington the coast being warm, wet and
woodsy, while the interior is dry and sunny
and in winter fiercely cold, sometimes reaching
down to the very chilly level of 75 degrees below
zero. For 200 miles inland this rain belt reaches,
and thru its width one encounters ferns, vines
and underbrush to an almost impenetrable de-
gree where bears, berries and the usual aquatic
plants and fowls are numerous. Here on the
coast bears and ducks furnish the sport for the
hunter and no "milk-and-water" Nimrod is he
who braves the elements and the hard traveling



conditions usually found here. It takes a man
of strong heart and stout limb to stalk the bear
and shoot the duck in this labyrinth of vine and
shrub entanglement in the rain and snow, which
are so prevalent here. Seattle with her thirty-
four inches of precipitation a year seems like an
arid country when compared with Ketchikan,
Juneau and Cordova, each of which piles up any-
where from 125 to 175 inches a year; while Colo-
rado, with her fifteen inches of moisture, is in-
deed "bone-dry" in comparison. A school
teacher at Ketchikan recently was explaining
about the Flood, saying that it rained for forty
days and forty nights, and that all on the earth
were drowned except those in the ark. One lit-
tle child spoke up, saying no one could make him
believe that story. "Why?" asked the teacher.
"Because," said the boy, "it's been raining here
every day the last ten years and nobody's been
drowned yet."

The Colorado Museum of Natural History,
Denver, fostering a well-founded notion that it
should be second to no other such institution in
the West or Middle West, and harboring within
its organization some of America's greatest nat-
uralists, philanthropists and sportsmen, finished,
during the past three years, a beautiful and com-
modious wing to its already magnificent struc-
ture in Denver's City Park (a gift from Mrs.
Helen Standley while Harry James and his sis-
ter, Mrs. Lemen, have donated $100,000 for a



similar wing on the south side of the building).
And in order that this wing or the cases provided
to be set in it should not go unadorned, the mu-
seum board, thru its very efficient director, Jesse
D. Figgins, appointed Harry C. James and the
writer to head an expedition to Alaska and Yu-
kon Territory for the purpose of collecting some
mammal groups suitable to fill the new wing.
So, armed with sundry licenses, permits and
plenary portfolios from the United States, Alas-
kan and Yukon governments (to say nothing of
divers big guns and hundreds of shells of very sub-
stantial power and velocity), we boarded a Union
Pacific train in Denver on the evening of July 27, Y
1918, bound for Seattle. Added to our hunting
party which was composed of Mr. James, his
son William, and the writer was Al Rogers,
the museum taxidermist, whose duty it was to
take care of the specimens secured on the trip.
A two-and-a-half-day streak along smooth
rails landed our party of four in Seattle, where
we met John H. Bunch, the Sequoian chief of
the Alaska Steamship Company's destinies in
that district; George Allen, the vim-and-vigor
merchant of that burg, and C. C. Filson, the
outing goods outfitter and manufacturer of the
well-known Filson Cruiser Shirt. These genial *
gentlemen seemed to lose all interest in their
business, their families and in their religion,
when we struck the city, for they gave up every-
thing for our comfort and amusement.



The time passed quickly on the good ship
Alaska (of the Alaska Steamship Line) from
Seattle as far as Skagway, the short stops at the
latter point, at Ketchikan and Juneau inter-
posing a lively diversion from the quiet roll of
the boat up the Inside Passage. Singing, danc-
ing, cards, lectures, sourdough talks and tete-a-
tete parties formed absorbing amusement for the
passengers while going up. Prof. Herschel C.
Parker, of Mount McKinley climbing fame, was
on board, and in a stump speech told us of the
experiences of Bellmore Brown and himself
while climbing the great mountain. Governor
Riggs and wife boarded the boat at Juneau, and
from there to Cordova were passengers with us.
Other notable personages on the boat were

X Thomas J. Corcoran, a big-game hunter, of Cin-
cinnati, Ohio, and two of his guides (Archie Mac-
Lennan and Frank Williams) ; Dr. George Curtis

/ Martin, of the U. S. Geological Survey, who has
made annual trips to Alaska in the interest of
the government for more than a dozen years;

/ and C. C. Georgeson, D.Sc., agronomist in charge
of Alaska experimental stations at Sitka a
truly representative and brainy aggregation of

A whale spouted 200 yards away to the lar-
board as we cut thru the waters after leaving
Dixon's Entrance. I was one of those lucky
enough to see the monster perform. Clear skies
and favorable winds were with us until after



passing Cape Spencer, lying beyond Skagway.
At this point our boat took to the open sea, leav-
ing the protective islands, behind which she had
quietly glided almost continually since leaving
Seattle. And right here is where one of the most
malicious attempts to swamp a boat that ever
occurred was almost pulled off by a sub-sea
"force." Before we could collect our thoughts,
it seemed, Old Neptune took a dive under our
boat, succeeding, within four inches, of upsetting
the craft. I was in my stateroom at the time.
Harry James was telling some ladies and their
husbands (while seated in a very cozy corner of
the aft deck) the difference between raising muf-
fins in a high altitude and raising hirsute locks
on a billiard ball; Rogers was singing some pretty
things to a pretty girl from Spokane, while Will-
iam James, firmly braced against the corner rail-
ing of his seat on the main deck, was an unwilling
listener to the cooings of a widow from Walla
Walla. As before stated, I was in my stateroom,
where I should have been, at the time, most
likely writing a prelude to this story. (Or, pos-
sibly, I was penciling a preamble to the sermon
that the minister was to preach on arrival at
Cordova. My memory is greatly at fault now,
owing to the shock received.) At any rate, I re-
member what happened afterward. It was
about 9:30 in the evening, and as Old Nep made
his first dive I was precipitated with much force
and violence against the bed railing, and as he



dove back again I felt myself flung against the
opposite wall. It seemed my feet couldn't travel
fast enough to keep up with my body, the result
being that I was recklessly tossed hither and
thither until the crust of my anatomy and my
wearing apparel looked more like a shredded
laundry basket than a human shell and a coil of
clothes. It's a good thing my supper had already
digested. I was being juggled about the state-
room much like a fly in a cream separator when
the door opened and the Captain's smiling face

"Come down to the dining room and have a
little spread with me, and you'll feel better," he
said. "It's my birthday, and I'm asking several
of the passengers down."

I threw myself out the door and tried to follow
him. It seemed really unnecessary for us to de-
scend the stairs to the dining room, as the floor
of that room came up to meet us as we started
down. As we all sat at the Captain's table he
said: "I hope all twenty-five of you will have a
pleasant trip, and that this assembly of twenty-
four will be much benefited by the voyage. I
look upon these twenty- two smiling faces as a
father upon his family, for I am responsible for
the safety of this group of seventeen. I hope all
fourteen of you will join me in drinking a toast to
a merry trip. I believe that we eight are most
congenial, and I applaud the judgment which
chose these three persons for my table. You and



I, my dear sir, are there, steward, clear away
and bring me fish." It may safely be assumed,
from my behavior on this boat, that I was not
the "my dear sir" referred to by the captain (as
I didn't remain that long), nor the designer of
this yarn, either.

All next day I lay in my berth not well
enough to eat, and not quite sick enough to die.
The members of our party were all better sailors
than I, for I don't believe one of them took sick.
I was just a little sorry, too, that some of the
boys couldn't experience one of those fulsome
uproars that I felt, if only by way of diversion.
It helped my feelings a little, however, when they
informed me that the dining room had very few
patrons that day.

On August 7th, at 10 a. m., after something
like six days on the boat from Seattle, we landed
at Cordova. I stood on deck watching the spec-
tators at the dock, all curiously scrutinizing the
passengers, as we were being pulled up to the
pier. The Home Guards, composed of a score of
stalwart, splendid, manly specimens, stood on
the wharf to salute the Governor.

The man standing next to me touched my
elbow. "Do you see that large man, the third
from the end in the Guards' line?" said he.
"Well, that's Dr. Council, the greatest bear
hunter in Alaska. I'll introduce you to him
when we debark."

And he did, with the result that all our party


met the pleasant doctor, who is, from the crown
of his head to the soles of his feet, an athlete and
a model of imperturbability 225 pounds of non-
superfluous avoirdupois and over a six-footer in
height. I afterward remarked to Mr. James
that if I possessed that man's physique, his nerve
and his, undoubted strength, I would turn bear
hunter immediately and follow no other occupa-
tion. At his office he showed us grizzly skins that
he had killed a short distance from the Copper
River Railroad', ten to one hundred miles from
Cordova. These hides were found in shades run-

J ning from almost black to a dark cream, and
were grizzly, notwithstanding the fact that some
people up there called them "big brown." The
grizzly evidence showed everywhere in the very
long fore-claws (the big browns do not have as

* long fore-claws as the grizzly), in the accent-
uated shoulder hump, in the very small ears and
in the silver-tip hair with the exception that,
as I now recall it, the lighter shades did not show
this silver-tip effect. However, I have seen
grizzlies in the States of a pure creamy shade in
which the silver-tip characteristic was entirely
lacking. Asked if these were the kind of bears
found in the interior, Dr. Council said he thought
there were no other than this phase to be found

From Dr. Council's remarks, and judging by
the skins shown us, and from conversations
with others that we met, both along the coast and


in the interior, I feel certain that none of the
/ big brown bears are found in the Upper Copper
River country nor on the White River. That, of
course, would be the natural supposition without
even visiting that section, as these animals, so
far, have only been found on the islands and
coastal strips of that region. However, as I
write, a rumor has come to me of the presence of
big brown bears in the vicinity of the Alaska
range, near Mt. McKinley. All naturalists will
await with interest a verification of this report
and if it is verified a few of us may entertain a
suspicion that the big browns are hybridizing
with the grizzlies. While black bears inhabit
the country hunted by us and that contiguous
to the Copper River as well, of course we know,
but from evidence noted on this trip I do not be-
lieve they are nearly so numerous as the grizzly.
Asked how many bears he had killed in his
time, Dr. Council said he didn't know. "How-
ever," said he, "you can imagine how plentiful
they are around here when I tell you that out of
a certain string of seven trips for them from Cor-
dova I killed a bear the first day on each of six
of these trips; on the seventh I got my bear, but
it took longer than one day.

Before we left Denver I received a letter from
Caleb Corser, superintendent of the Copper
River & Northwestern Railway, advising me
that he would gladly give our party the use of
his private car from Cordova to McCarthy.


When I received his kind offer I didn't compre-
hend the full significance of it, but when we
entered that beautiful little car, with drawing
room, berths, sleeping rooms, containing real
brass beds, kitchen, and a first-class Japanese
cook and realized that all of this comfort was
ours for the two days' travel to McCarthy as a
guest of Mr. Corser well, we immediately called
a meeting and voted him the most popular man
in Alaska, bar none. As we had plenty of room
in our private car, we invited Governor Riggs
and his wife, also Dr. Martin, the government
geologist, to join us as far as Chitina, their rail-
road destination.

As we passed the Miles and Childs glaciers, at
Mile 50, lying on opposite sides of the track a
mile or so apart, we heard thunderous concussion
sounds that might have been mistaken for can-
nonading, but on looking out we saw clouds of
mist arising from the end of the Childs Glacier
where an immense column of ice, probably a
hundred or more feet high, had separated from
the body of the glacier and had gone crashing
into the Copper River, which flows along the foot
of this glacier. This ice field is always moving,
and naturally, as it does so the river continues
undermining its mouth. When the cavern made
by the river gets too deep the ice must fall. This
it is doing ceaselessly, for during our ten-minute
stop there we heard two or three more thunder-
like reports.



During the day much interesting information
was imparted by our friends regarding Alaska.
The theme was principally along the line of game
and game protection. We all readily agreed that
the present paltry $20,000 annually allowed
Alaska by the government is utterly inade-
quate to cover the expenses of the game wardens
and the warden service. The way I view the
matter is that that territory is the wild-life nest-
egg that is to supply the United States when the
game down here is all killed off, and we should
furnish the money and means to protect it now
when the protecting is easier than it will be in
ten or twenty years from now. Wild game in
large numbers carries a certain momentum or
force that is utterly lost when thinned down.
In other words, due care and watchfulness over
that game now will require not half the effort

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Online LibraryJohn A. McGuireIn the Alaska-Yukon game-lands → online text (page 1 of 11)