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Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie
Chapter XVI
Samson and I go on a moose hunt—Samson's clever tracking—He comes up with the moose and tries a shot—No bullet in the gun—Two dejected hunters return to the camp—We have better luck next time —Roses make a thorny path—We disturb a band of wolves—Samson stampedes them with his riding whip—"Firing Stony" and I go hunting—I bring down a noble elk—Novel method of fishing.


ONE day I went with Samson on a moose hunt. We set out early in the morning, walking fast, and sometimes running for awhile. About ten o'clock, after hours of tramping through dense forest and wading through many swamps, we came upon the track of a big buck moose. Samson looked at the hoof-prints, and also at the ends of brush which had been bitten off by the huge fellow as he fed by the way. Finally he said, "Let us sit down for a little while, and let me think." I watched him as he lit his pipe and slowly puffed and thought out his plan of campaign. At last he rose and said, "That moose maybe close to us. You stop right here, for should I miss him or only wound him, he is bound to run right past here. If so, you will have a good shot; so you stay-here and wait for me." I therefore sat down at the root of a stout tree and waited and listened.

Presently a fine large jumping deer came within two rods of me, and stood giving a long startled look around. I was strongly tempted to fire at the handsome creature, but refrained for fear of disturbing our larger game. Then the deer trotted on into the thicket, and I continued to wait. By and by Samson came back, and bid- cling me follow him, once more we took up the track. We strode along for perhaps an hour, when Samson remarked, "There, we will not follow the track any longer. He is resting, and I think he is in the centre of that clump of trees" (pointing to a dense body of timber not far from us). "See, his track passes straight on to the windward of that spot, and he will make a circle and come back close to his own track. I think he is there now. Let us go with the wind from here, and come around and meet his track."

This we accordingly did, and sure enough, as we came in on our circle, which was opposite to that of the moose, we presently met his track. The canny fellow was outwitted and we had but to follow him to his lair, which we proceeded to do with great caution. As we approached the clump of trees close to the westward fringe of which his outgoing track passed, we were moving on tiptoe, I stepping very carefully in Samson's steps as he bent and wriggled around and through amongst the twigs and brush.
Soon we came to where he had first lain down. Here was his bed. Samson looked troubled for a moment, and whispered, "He may have fled." Then he looked and said, "No, he is only moving his bed," and with renewed caution we moved on slowly and carefully. Presently we heard him cough as if a leaf had stuck in his throat. The brush was very close, and now we could hear him breathe, and Samson signed for me to step ahead and shoot him. But I considered that we had been out nearly all day, and as we wanted the meat badly, I did not want to take any chances on myself. So I signed back, "You shoot him." Samson thereupon stepped ahead and fired, and I jumped beside him. We heard the crash of the huge animal making from us, and sprang forward in his track; but to our surprise there was no blood to be seen. On we ran until we came to where I had sat and waited so long and patiently. Samson saw that the moose had passed within three yards of this place, and as there was still no sign of blood on his track we were forced to the conclusion that there could not have been a ball in Samson's gun. This might occur but once in a lifetime, yet it was the only way of explaining the case in hand. He could not miss him, the moose was so close and offered so large a target.

Very much disappointed, we turned our steps homeward. It was dark before we reached the tents. We had gone far, the day had been long, and we had not eaten anything since early morn. But optimistic old Paul said, "The best of hunters often come home like you have. We are not starving, there is plenty in camp, let us be thankful." We could not but be cheered by the old man's words, but even to this day, though thirty years have gone since then, I repent me that I had not taken that shot.

About this time my cow presented me with a fine calf, and from thence on we had milk as part of our provender. Of course the calf could not keep up when we moved camp, so an old widow woman, Maria, made a travois, and the calf was placed on it and thus was moved from camp to camp.

One day Samson and I set off on horseback to reconnoitre the country down east of where we had been hunting, in order to assure ourselves that the enemy was not in the vicinity. We rode all day, and towards evening, when about to make camp, Samson killed a jumping deer. Next morning we shot a cow elk, and I found her calf, so we concluded that with these we had about all our horses could pack home, I had little Bob, or "Split Ear," as the Indians called him, and I put the two smaller skins and half of the meat of the three animals on him, all the time apologizing to the little fellow for doing so. Then we started for home, leading our loaded steeds. Everything went well until our moccasins gave out. The country we were in was rich in roses. Beautiful tiny prairie rose-bushes, crowded with crimson and pink and white blossoms with their delicate shadings and fragrant aroma, were all around us, and everywhere under us, as our bare and bleeding feet evidenced. Under such conditions we surely had "too much of a good thing." And yet we did not like to leave any of the meat. While we were thus proceeding painfully on our way we came upon a sleeping band of prairie wolves. They had evidently gorged themselves to the full and were now resting. I held both horses, and Samson tiptoed in amongst them as they snored, and fetching his riding- whip down full length across the side of a tremendous she-wolf, he brought out of her a howl of mingled surprise and pain, and then there was a stampede of wolves in every direction that was amusing to witness. But while we laughed heartily and trudged on, the rosebushes seemed to multiply, and I bethought me of my saddle-blanket, and again apologizing to my horse, I tore a strip from it, and we wound that around our bleeding and bruised feet. Twice I did this, until no more of the blanket could be spared from the horse's back; and when the second wrapping was worn out I again made profound apologies to my horse, and mounted on top of the meat and hides. The sturdy little fellow, nothing daunted, trotted me into camp, I promising to give him many days of absolute rest.

Another day I went out with one of our hunters called "Firing-at-a-mark Stony." We generally cut his name short, calling him "Firing Stony." He was a good hunter, but just then he was suffering with weak eyes and had not done much on this trip. We rode for miles, when presently I saw a buck elk in the distance, moving across our course. We headed him off, and I said to my companion, "Run to that bluff and shoot him." This he attempted to do, but missed the elk. Then said I, "You have had your chance; the next one is mine."

We kept on a few miles farther, when suddenly I saw a monster elk feeding along the shore of a small lake. I seized my companion's rein and pulled both horse and man out of sight as quickly as I could. We hastily fastened our horses and approached the spot where I had seen the elk. There was quite a promontory or hill down to the spot where our game was feeding, and he seemed to be coming our way. So I crawled to the top of this hill, and Firing Stony came behind me. "If you miss him I will fire," he said. "Of course," said I, "you are Firing Stony; you cannot do anything else but fire. However, I am not going to miss him," and up to the top of the hill we crawled. When I peeped over the summit the big fellow was almost directly beneath me, and still calmly feeding; so I rose and shot him right through the back, and down he tumbled. Firing Stony then ran excitedly down and shot him in the head. "Why did you do that?" I enquired.

To make sure of him," he responded cheerfully, we already missed one to-day." "You missed one, but I did not," said I, and we laughed as we reloaded our guns and straightened the immense creature preparatory to skinning him. We made a fire and roasted the antlers, and were hungry enough to heartily enjoy a substantial meal.

Once more our horses were heavily laden, especially mine, for besides half of the meat I had the hide; but this time it was not little Bob, so I did not much care.

I had with me my train of dogs, and as we were drying all the meat we could spare for future use, I was glad to hear that there were fish in a creek which raii from Spotted Lake into Buffalo Lake. So one day I took a boy with me and a pack-horse, and whistling the dogs after us, we galloped on to the creek. This I found to be made up of a long bar on which the water was shallow, and deep holes, and sure enough in the deep holes the fish were found in great numbers. I saw these were suckers and jackfish; but while here were the fish in plenty, we had neither nets nor spear, nor even a hook. How were we to kill the fish? I sat down on the bank to study out some method for this purpose. The day was clear and fine, with small clouds scudding across the sky. Presently one of these clouds came between us and the sun. As the sky darkened, I saw to my delight that the fish came up out of the deep holes and started across the bar and down stream. They were in the process of migrating. I called to the boy to make ready, and he slipped off his leggings and I took off my trousers, and we got some sticks and watched the sky. Now another fleecy cloud was sailing athwart us and the sun, and up came the fish, and down we ran, and chased them across the full length of the bar, each of us killing quite a number as we ran. These we threw out to the dogs, who ate them eagerly, and in a few' hours we had killed all our dogs could eat and all our horses could carry home. Indeed, the boy's horse seriously objected to carrying any, for no sooner had we got the animal packed and the boy astride of the pack, than there was the biggest kind of a circus, and presently down came both boy and fish. But we made the "bucking" brute pack most of the fish home, and the boy rode the other horse as we rode back to camp.


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