The Plight of the Buffalo

In front, only a few rods away, there happened to be a clump of scrubby pines, and he incontinently made a break for them, climbing into the tallest in less time than it takes to tell of it. The bear deliberately ate a hearty meal off the juicy hams of the cow, so providentially fallen in his way, and when he had satiated himself, instead of going away, he quietly stretched himself alongside of the half-devoured carcass, and went to sleep, keeping one eye open, however, on the movements of the unlucky hunter whom he had corralled in the tree. In the early evening his partner came to the spot, and killed the impudent bear, that, being full of tender buffalo meat, was sluggish and unwary, and thus became an easy victim to the unerring rifle; when the unwilling prisoner came down from his perch in the pine, feeling sheepish enough. The last time I saw him he told me he still had the bear’s hide, which he religiously preserved as a memento of his foolishness in separating himself from his rifle, a thing he has never been guilty of before or since.

Kit Carson

Kit Carson

Kit Carson, when with Fremont on his first exploring expedition, while hunting for the command, at some point on the Arkansas River, left a buffalo which he had just killed and partly cut up, to pursue a large bull that came rushing by him alone. He chased his game for nearly a quarter of a mile, not being able, however, to gain on it rapidly, owing to the blown condition of his horse. Coming up at length to the side of the fleeing beast, Carson fired, but at the same instant his horse stepped into a prairie-dog hole, fell down and threw Kit fully fifteen feet over his head. The bullet struck the buffalo low under the shoulder, which only served to enrage him so that the next moment the infuriated animal was pursuing Kit, who, fortunately not much hurt, was able to run toward the river. It was a race for life now, Carson using his nimble legs to the utmost of their capacity, accelerated very much by the thundering, bellowing bull bringing up the rear.

For several minutes it was nip and tuck which should reach the stream first, but Kit got there by a scratch a little ahead. It was a big bend of the river, and the water was deep under the bank, but it was paradise compared with the hades plunging at his back; so Kit leaped into the water, trusting to Providence that the bull would not follow.

The trust was well placed, for the bull did not continue the pursuit, but stood on the bank and shook his head vehemently at the struggling hunter who had preferred deep waves to the horns of a dilemma on shore.

Kit swam around for some time, carefully guarded by the bull, until his position was observed by one of his companions, who attacked the belligerent animal successfully with a forty-four slug, and then Kit crawled out and–skinned the enemy!

He once killed five buffalo during a single race, and used but four balls, having dismounted and cut the bullet from the wound of the fourth, and thus continued the chase. He it was, too, who established his reputation as a famous hunter by shooting a buffalo cow during an impetuous race down a steep hill, discharging his rifle just as the animal was leaping on one of the low cedars peculiar to the region. The ball struck a vital spot, and the dead cow remained in the jagged branches. The Indians who were with him on that hunt looked upon the circumstance as something beyond their comprehension, and insisted that Kit should leave the carcass in the tree as “Big Medicine.” Katzatoa (Smoked Shield), a celebrated chief of the Kiowa many years ago, who was over seven feet tall, never mounted a horse when hunting the buffalo; he always ran after them on foot and killed them with his lance.

Two Lance, another famous chief, could shoot an arrow entirely through a buffalo while hunting on horseback. He accomplished this remarkable feat in the presence of the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, who was under the care of Buffalo Bill, near Fort Hays, Kansas.

During one of Fremont’s expeditions, two of his chasseurs, named Archambeaux and La Jeunesse, had a curious adventure on a buffalo-hunt. One of them was mounted on a mule, the other on a horse; they came in sight of a large band of buffalo feeding upon the open prairie about a mile distant. The mule was not fleet enough, and the horse was too much fatigued with the day’s journey, to justify a race, and they concluded to approach the herd on foot.

Dismounting and securing the ends of their lariats in the ground, they made a slight detour, to take advantage of the wind, and crept stealthily in the direction of the game, approaching unperceived until within a few hundred yards. Some old bulls forming the outer picket guard slowly raised their heads and gazed long and dubiously at the strange objects, when, discovering that the intruders were not wolves, but two hunters, they gave a significant grunt, turned about as though on pivots, and in less than no time the whole herd–bulls, cows, and calves–were making the gravel fly over the prairie in fine style, leaving the hunters to their discomfiture. They had scarcely recovered from their surprise, when, to their great consternation, they beheld the whole company of the monsters, numbering several thousand, suddenly shape their course to where the riding animals were picketed. The charge of the stampeded buffalo was a magnificent one; for the buffalo, mistaking the horse and the mule for two of their own species, came down upon them like a tornado. A small cloud of dust arose for a moment over the spot where the hunter’s animals had been left; the black mass moved on with accelerated speed, and in a few seconds the horizon shut them all from view. The horse and mule, with all their trappings, saddles, bridles, and holsters, were never seen or heard of afterward.

Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill, in less than eighteen months, while employed as hunter of the construction company of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, in 1867-68, killed nearly 5,000 buffalo, which were consumed by the 1200 men employed in track-laying. He tells in his autobiography of the following remarkable experience he had at one time with his favorite horse Brigham, on an impromptu buffalo hunt:

One day we were pushed for horses to work on our scrapers, so I hitched up Brigham, to see how he would work. He was not much used to that kind of labor, and I was about giving up the idea of making a work horse of him, when one of the men called to me that there were some coming over the hill. As there had been no buffalo seen anywhere in the vicinity of the camp for several days, we had become rather short of meat. I immediately told one of our men to hitch his horses to a wagon and follow me, as I was going out after the herd, and we would bring back some fresh meat for supper. I had no saddle, as mine had been left at camp a mile distant, so taking the harness from Brigham I mounted him bareback, and started out after the game, being armed with my celebrated buffalo killer Lucretia Borgia–a newly improved breech-loading needle-gun, which I had obtained from the government.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *