Title: Big-Game Hunting in the Far West

Date: June 3, 1897

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Big-Game Hunting in the Far West

There is no longer any buffalo hunting in the far West, but plenty of other wild game can be found there to attract the attention of the ardent and daring sportsman. Altho the buffalo are about extinct it will not be uninteresting to say something about that species of hunting, especially as my nickname is so closely associated with the name of the animal.

Buffalo were very plentiful about fifteen years ago. I remember that soon after I was appointed by General Sheridan Chief of Scouts and guide against the Dog-Soldier Indians (a band of unruly Cheyennes), the colonel of the regiment asked me to go out and kill some buffaloes for the boys. I told him I would do so at once, and asked him to send along a wagon or two to bring in the meat. He replied: "I am not in the habit of sending out my wagons until I know there is something to be hauled in; kill your buffaloes first, and then I'll send out the wagons." I said no more, but went out on a hunt, and, in a short time, returned and asked the colonel to send out his wagons for the half-a-dozen buffaloes I had killed. The next afternoon the colonel again requested me to go out and get some fresh buffalo meat. Without asking him for any wagons I rode out some distance, and, coming up with a small herd, I managed to get seven of them headed straight for the encampment, and, instead of shooting them just then, I ran them at full speed right into the camp, and then killed them all, one after the ohter, in rapid succession. The colonel interrupted the proceeding, which puzzled him somewhat, as he could see no reason why I had not killed them on the prairie. He came up to me, and, with some spirit, demanded an explanation. "I can't allow any such business as this, Cody," said he. "What do you mean by it?" I answered: "I didn't care about asking for any wagons this time, Colonel, so I thought I would make the buffaleos furnish their own transportation!" The colonel saw the point of the remark and had no more to say on the subject.

One of the most exciting scenes in connection with hunting the buffalo was a "buffalo stampede." I recall an exciting incident incident of this kind. It was while I was traveling across the plains with a bull-train outfit, carrying supplies for General Albert Sidney Johnson's army that was sent against the Mormons. A train consisted of twenty-five wagons, all in charge of one man who was known as the wagon-master. The second man, in command was the assistant wagon-master. There was an extra hand, the night herder and the cavallard driver, whose duty it was to drive the lame and loose cattle. The whole train was denominated "a bull outfit." Everything at that time was called an outfit, and at the present time the paraphernalia of the hunter who goes out on a hunting expedition is called by the same name.

When the train struck the South Platte River we found the country alive with buffaloes. Vast herds of these monarchs of the plains were roaming all around us, and we lay over one day for a grand hunt. The next day we pulled out of camp, and the train was strung out a considerable length along the road which ran near the foot of the sand-hills, two miles from the river. Between the road and the river we saw a large herd of buffaloes grazing quietly; they had been down to the stream for a drink. At the same time we observed a party of returning Californians coming from the west. They, too, noticed the buffalo herd, and, in another moment, they were dashing down upon them with terrific speed. The buffalo herd stampeded at once, and broke down the hills. So hotly were they pursued by the hunters that several hundred of them rushed through our train pellmell, frightening both men and oxen. Some of the wagons were turned clear around, and many of the terrified oxen attempted to run to the hills, with the heavy wagons attached to them. Others turned around so short that they broke the wagon-tongues off. Nearly all the teams got entangled in their gearing and became wild and unruly, so that the perplexed drivers were unable to manage them. The buffaloes, the wagons and the drivers were soon running in every direction, and there was certainly no lack of excitement. Many of the cattle broke their yokes and stampeded. One big buffalo bull became entangled in one of the heavy wagon-chains. In his desperate efforts to free himself he not only snapped the strong chain in two, but broke the ox-yoke to which it was attached, and the last seen of him he was running toward the hills with the yoke hanging from his horns. A dozen other equally remarkable incidents happened during the short time that the frantic buffaloes were playing havoc with our train. When they got through and left us our outfit was badly crippled and scattered.

Altho, as I have said, buffalo hunting is now a thing of the past, I feel that these references to the subject will not be without interest, because they refer to a phase of American hunting life which will never be forgotten. In a letter I received from Gen. W. T. Sherman, some years ago, he speaks thus of the disappearance of the buffalo:

"As near as I can estimate, there were in 1865 about 9,500,000 buffaloes on the plains between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains; all are now gone—killed for their meat and skins and bones. This seems like desecration, cruelty and murder, yet they have been replaced by twice as many meat cattle. At that date there were about 165,000 Pawnees, Sioux, Cheyennes, Kiowas and Arapahoes, who depended on these buffaloes for their yearly food. They, too, are gone, and have been replaced by twice or thrice as many white men and women, who have made the earth to blossom as the rose and who can be counted, taxed and governed by the laws of nature and civilization. This change has been salutary, and will go on to the end."

General Sherman speaks of the buffalo period as "an epoch of the world's history."

It seems that the buffalo is disappearing from South Africa. The author of "The Large Game of South Africa" gives it as his opinion that, in a few years, buffalo will be as scarce as an elephant is now. The species he refers to roam in herds over the plains of Central and South Africa, always in the near vicinity of water. Formerly, herds sometimes numbered five or six hundred; but such has ben the havoc wrought among them in recent years that rarely are they to be seen in companies of more than ten, while in the colonized portion of South Africa they are rapidly dying out. In this species of buffalo the hide, which is thick and tough, is thinly clad with hair, old animals being entirely naked with the exception of a slight fringe along the back and withers.

The big game now to be found in the far West are elk, mountain sheep, bear, antelope and moose; the latter being quite scarce. Probably the best big game hunting will be found on the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains south of National Park. The best way for a party of hunters from the East to reach this section would be to go by rail to Red Lodge, Montana, and from there outfit with a pack train and guides. Charles Tregs is the guide who attends parties in that section; his address is Cody, Big Horn County, Wyoming. Not only does large game abound, but the mountain streams in this part of the country are literally filled with trout. You can stop almost anywhere along the road, cast your line, and be quickly rewarded with an ample catch. A competent guide not only can show the party of which he has charge where the big game can be found; but he points out and explains to the visitors the beauties of our great National Park, which, aside from the hunting features of the expedition, will well repay a visit. I think many more parties from the East would go on big game hunting and sight-seeing trips in this most beautiful part of our country if they knew that there were competent guides who would save them a vast amount of trouble in preparing for the rougher part of the journey and were able, in many ways, to help them enjoy such an outing.

In regard to the cost of such service it may be said that for a party of five the expense would be six dollars a day each. This includes the services of the guide, mules, saddle-horses, pack outfit, grub, etc. The lover of big-game hunting will never come back from such an expedition disappointed. If he is inclined to go out "loaded for bear" he can find all the excitement he wants in the pursuit of bruin, while the hunting of the mountain sheep furnishes most excellent and adventurous sport.

The natural beauty and sporting resources of the far Western country have been recognized by the many distinguished persons I have been recognized by the many distinguished persons I have had the honor of conducting. Post McPherson was once the center of a fine game country in which buffalo were particularly plentiful. Altho it was fairly surrounded by hostile Indians it offered so many attractions for sportsmen that several hunting parties braved the dangers for the pleasure of buffalo-chasing. When General Sheridan was in command here he brought a number of friends out to the post for a grand hunt, coming by way of North Platte in a special car, and thence by Government wagons to the post, which was only eighteen miles from the station. This party consisted of the following representative gentlemen, a number of whom have since died: General Sheridan, Lawrence R. Jerome, James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald; Leonard W. Jerome, Carroll Livingston, Major J. G. Hecksher, Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, Gen. H. E. Davies, Capt. M. Edwin Rogers, Col. J. Schuyler Crosby, Samuel Johnson, Gen. Anson Stager, of the Western Union Telegraph Company; Charles Wilson, editor of the Chicago Evening Journal; General Rucker, Quartermaster-General, and Dr. Asch, the two last named being on General Sheridan's staff. The party were met at the station by General Emory and Major Brown, with a cavalry company as escort and a sufficient number of vehicles to carry the distinguished visitors and their baggage. The hunt lasted ten days and was exceedingly enjoyable to all concerned, each member of the party having had his share of the exciting sport. General Davies afterward wrote an interesting account of the hunt under the title of "Ten Days on the Plains."

One of the most interesting hunting expeditions was that in which the Grand-Duke Alexis of Russia took part. The Duke was very anxious to see the Indians hunt the buffalo. At the time Spotted Tail was the chief of the Sioux Indians. He and his tribe had permission from the Government to hunt the buffalo during the winter in the Republican River country. I went to the lodge of Spotted Tail, and told him that the warriors and chiefs would greatly please General Sheridan if they would meet him at a certain point on the Red Willow. I told him that there was a great chief from across the water who was coming there to visit him, and, furthermore, that the Indians would be called upon to give a grand war-dance in honor of the distinguished visitor. He replied that he would go, and the next morning he would call his people together and select those who would accompany him.

The expedition was a great success. The Duke, not without some difficulty, shot a buffalo, a feat not so easy to accomplish when riding on a horse at full speed. What pleased him most was to see the famous Indian chief named "Two Lance" send an arrow entirely through the body of the largest buffalo. The arrow that passed through the buffalo was given to the Duke as a memento of "Two Lance's" skill and power.

Another distinguished sportsman who enjoyed this Western life was the Earl of Dunraven. I accompanied him and his party on an elk hunt, spending several weeks with them. The Earl was an excellent shot; and it was not long before he was able to find plenty of elk and other game without the aid of a guide.