HotFreeBooks.com
Wild Beasts and their Ways
by Sir Samuel W. Baker
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse

There can be little doubt that bears of different kinds intermingle occasionally by cross breeds, and many are met with which do not exactly correspond with the colouring which distinguishes the varieties already mentioned; but in my opinion those distinct varieties actually exist, and any departure occasioned by cross breeding is simply an accident. Eighteen months before my visit to the Big Horn range, the present Lord Lonsdale, together with a large party, was hunting upon the same ground, and at that time the country, being new to British sportsmen, was undisturbed. The bears were so numerous and unsophisticated that the party bagged thirty-two, and game of all kinds indigenous to the locality was in the superlative. It is astonishing that any game remains after the persistent attacks of gunners, especially in such countries, where open plains expose the animals to the sight of man. In the Big Horn range, at high altitudes of from 8000 to 12,000 feet, the open grass prairie-ground predominates. There are plateaux and hill-tops; deep canyons or clefts, from 1500 to 2000 feet sheer, like sudden rifts in the earth's surface; long secluded valleys, with forest-covered bottoms extending for many miles, and slopes of every conceivable gradient descending to a lower level of frightfully broken ground, joining the foot of the main range of Rocky Mountains at a distance of from 70 to 90 miles. There are also isolated patches of cotton-wood upon the sides of slopes, which afford excellent covert for deer and bears.

The actual width from margin to margin of the high land does not exceed 26 miles, although the length may be 100. It may readily be imagined that a month's shooting upon this area would be sufficient to scare the animals from the neighbourhood, more especially as the hunters are invariably on horseback, and traverse great distances each day.

When I was there we very seldom found bears upon the open, as they retired to the obscurity of the forests before break of day. Bob Stewart assured me that two seasons ago it was impossible to ride out in the early morning without seeing bears, but he counted up a long reckoning of seventy-two killed since the visit of Lord Lonsdale's party. This must have sensibly diminished the stock, and have afforded considerable experience to the survivors. Nevertheless upon several occasions bears exhibited themselves during broad daylight without being sought for.

We were tired of nothing but venison in every shape, and although the German cook, "little Henry," was a good fellow, he could not manage to change the menu without other provisions in the larder. I accordingly devoted myself one afternoon to shooting "sage-hens"; this is a species of grouse about the size of a domestic fowl, and, when young, there is nothing better. The old birds are not only tough, but they taste too strongly of sage, from subsisting upon the buds and young shoots of the wild plant. They were very numerous in certain localities, having much the same habits as the black game of North Britain, therefore we knew at once where to seek them.

Our camp was within a few feet of the little stream, just within the forest at the bottom of the valley; the dense mass of spruce firs extended for 8 or 10 miles along the slopes, only broken at intervals by gaps a few hundred yards wide, which divided the forest from top to base, and formed admirable places for ascending to the great plateau on the summit. This plateau extended for several miles, and was nearly level, the surface being liberally strewed with stones about 2 feet in length, but exceedingly flat, as though prepared for roofing slates; these had been turned over incessantly by the bears, in search for what Bob Stewart called "bugs"—the general and comprehensive American name for every insect.

We found a number of sage-hens upon this plateau, and I picked out the young ones with my rabbit rifle, as they ran upon the sage-covered ground. Texas Bill was soon loaded with game, and discarding the old birds that had been killed by mistake, we descended the grass-covered gap between the forests, and returned direct to camp. Little Henry had now a change of materials for our dinner.

It was nearly dusk, and I went into the small tent to have a hot bath after the day's work. I was just drying myself, after the operation of washing, when I heard an excited voice shout "Bears! bears!" It was useless for me to ask questions through the canvas, therefore I hurried on my clothes and ran out.

Texas Bill was gone. It appeared that two large bears had been seen as they came along the glen, and turned up the open slope, by which we had descended after shooting the sage-hens. My best horse had not been unsaddled, as the evening was chilly; therefore Texas Bill had immediately jumped into the saddle, and was off in full pursuit.

"What rifle did he take?" I inquired of little Henry. "He didn't take any rifle, but he's got his six-shooter, which is much better in his hands, as he knows it," was the reply.

There was very little light remaining, and with the long start which the bears obtained, I could not think that Bill would have the slightest chance of overhauling them before they reached the forest; this they would assuredly attempt, the instant they saw themselves pursued. If Bill could only get them upon the open plateau on the summit, he might be able to manage them, but with a gallop up a steep hill to commence with, in the late dusk of evening, the odds were decidedly against him.

It became dark, and we expected Bill's return every minute. Jem Bourne, my head man, who was always a grumbler, and exceedingly jealous, began to ventilate his feelings. "A pretty fool he's made of himself to go galloping after bears in a dark night, and nothing but a six-shooter! . . . A nice thing for our best horse to break his legs over those big rocks that nobody can see at night. . . . Well, he'll have to sleep out, and he'll find it pretty cold before the morning, I know. . . . What business he's got to take that horse without permission, beats me hollow!"

This sort of muttered growling was disturbed by two shots in quick succession, far up, above the summit of the forest. There could be no doubt that Bill had overhauled the bears.

By this time it was quite dark, and we drew our own conclusions from the two pistol shots, the unanimous decision being that Bill had fired in the hope of turning the bears when entering the forest; but what chance had he in the dark, and single-handed?

I did not take much interest in such a hopeless chase, but I was anxious about the horse, as the country was so rough that it would be most difficult to pick a way through holes and rocks, to say nothing of fallen trees, which, even during daylight, required consideration.

We piled immense pine-logs upon the fire, in addition to bundles of spruce branches; these made a blaze 20 feet high, and would form a beacon as a guide in the dark night.

I had taken the time by my watch when we heard the two shots upon the mountain top; twenty minutes had passed, and my lips were almost numbed by whistling with my fingers as a signal that could be heard during a calm night at a great distance. Suddenly this signal appeared to be answered by a shot, from a totally different direction from the first that we had heard; then, quickly, another shot; followed in irregular succession, until we had counted six. "His six-shooter's empty now, but he's got plenty of cartridges in his belt," exclaimed little Henry, the cook.

What was the object of these shots? He could not have followed the bears that distance in the dark, as his position was quite a mile from the spot where he had first fired; and he was now, as nearly as we could imagine, above a rocky cliff which bordered a grassy gap that would enable him to descend into our valley; he would then find his way parallel with the stream direct to our camp.

My men wished to fire some shots in response, but I declined to permit this disturbance of the neighbourhood, as it would have effectually driven all animals from the locality; we merely piled logs upon the fire, which could be seen from the heights at a great distance, and we waited in anxious expectation.

Nearly an hour passed away without any further sign. Bill could not have fired those six shots in succession to attract our attention, as it would have been a needless waste of ammunition: if he had expected a response to a signal, he would have fired a single shot, to be followed by another some minutes later. We now considered that he might have severely wounded the bear by the first two shots that we had heard, and that he had followed the beast up in some extraordinary manner, and at length discovered it.

We were about to give up all hope of his return, and knowing that he, as a smoker, was never without a supply of matches, we expected to see the glare of a distant fire, by which he would sit up throughout the night, when presently we heard the sound of whistling, and the clatter of a horse's feet among the stones of the brook, within 150 yards of our position.

In a couple of minutes Texas Bill appeared, leading the horse, which was covered with dry foam. In one hand he held a large bloody mass; this was the liver of a bear!

"Well done, Bill!" we all exclaimed, except the sulky Jem Bourne, who only muttered, "A pretty state you've brought that horse to; why, I shouldn't have known him."

The story was now told by the modest Bill, who did not imagine that he had done anything to excite admiration. This was his account of the hunt in the dark: "Well, you see, when the two bears were going up the open slope, down which you and I came, after shooting the sage-hens, all I could do was to gallop after them, to keep them from getting into the forest; when of course they would have been gone for ever. One of them did make a rush, and passed across me before I could stop him, and I didn't mind this, as I couldn't have managed two. I got in front of the other, and cracked my whip at him, and at last I got him well in the open on the big plateau, where we shot the sage-hens. He got savage now, and was determined to push by me and gain the forest; but I rode right at him, and seeing that I couldn't stop him, I fired my six-shooter to turn him, just as he made a dash at the horse. He made another rush at the horse, and I turned him with another shot, within a couple of paces' distance. This made him take off in a new direction, and he tried to cross the big plateau, intending, no doubt, to get to the forest a couple of miles away on the pointed hill. It was so dark that I could hardly see him, and my only chance was to ride round him, and work him till he should stand quiet enough to let me take a steady shot.

"He went on, sometimes here, sometimes there, and at last he changed his mind, and seeing that he couldn't get away from the horse across the open, he turned, and made for the 10 mile forest. It was as much as I could do to drive him, by shouting and cracking my whip whenever I headed him; if I had only once let him get out of sight, I should never have seen him again. The ground is full of stones, as you know, which bothered the horse in turning quickly; but we went on, sometimes full gallop straight away, at other times dancing round and round, until at last the old bear got regularly tuckered-out, and he was so done he could hardly move. There he was, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, standing, panting and blowing, and my horse wasn't much better, I can tell you. Well, I was drawn up as close to him as though I was going to strike him, and he was so completely done there wasn't any fight in him; my horse's flanks were heaving in such a way that I could hardly load the two chambers that I had fired. I was determined to have all my six shots ready before I began to fire, and it was just lucky that I did, for I'm blessed if I could kill him. There he stood, regularly exhausted-like, and he took shot after shot, and never seemed to notice, or to care for anything. At last I almost touched him, when I fired my sixth cartridge between his shoulders, and he dropped stone dead. That's all that happened, and I thought you wouldn't believe me if I came back without a proof; so I cut him open, and took out his liver to show you; and here it is."

Although this fine fellow thought nothing of his achievement, I considered it to be the most extraordinary feat of horsemanship that I had ever heard of, combined with wonderful determination. In the darkness of night, without a moon, to hunt single-handed, and to kill, a full-grown bear with a revolver, was in my experience an unprecedented triumph in shikar.

Early on the following morning I sent for the bear's skin. It proved to be a large silver-tipped, and a close examination exhibited the difficulties of the encounter during darkness.

Eight shots had been fired from the commencement, to the termination by the last fatal bullet; but, although Texas Bill was an excellent shot with his revolver, he had missed seven times, and the eighth was the only bullet that struck the bear. This had entered between the shoulders vertically, proving the correctness of his description, as he must have shot directly downwards. The bullet had passed through the centre of the heart, and had escaped near the brisket, having penetrated completely through this formidable animal.

Upon my return to England I immediately purchased a similar revolver of Messrs. Colt and Co.—-the long frontier pistol, .450 bullet.

Although bears were scarce, we occasionally met them unexpectedly. As a rule, I took Jem Bourne and Texas Bill out shooting, the man Gaylord had to look after the twelve or thirteen animals, and little Henry, the German cook, was left in camp to assist my wife. Upon one of these rather dull days the camp was enlivened by the visit of three large bears. These creatures emerged from the neighbouring jungle, and commenced a search for food within 50 yards of the camp, only separated by a narrow streamlet of 10 feet in width. For about twenty minutes they were busily engaged in working up the ground like pigs, in search of roots or worms; in this manner they amused themselves harmlessly, until they suddenly observed that they were watched, after which they retreated to the forest.

My acquaintance Bob Stewart assured me that the bears had become so shy, that the only way to succeed was to "jump a bear." This term was explained as follows: you were to ride through forest, until you came across the fresh track of a bear; you were then to follow it up on foot, until you should arrive at the secluded spot where the bear slept during the daytime, in the recesses of the forest. It would of course jump out of its bed when disturbed, and this was termed "jumping a bear." Of course you incurred the chance of the animal's attack, when thus suddenly intruded upon at close quarters.

I agreed to start with Bob upon such an excursion; but I found that this kind of sport was more adapted for his light weight than my own, and that his moccasins were far superior to my boots, for running along the stems of fallen spruce trees at all kinds of angles, and for jumping from one prostrate trunk to another, in a squirrel-like fashion, more in harmony with a man of 9 stone than one of 15. We started together, Bob mounted upon his little mare, while I rode my best horse, "Buckskin," who was trained, like many of these useful animals, to stand alone, and graze, without moving away from his position for hours; should it be necessary to dismount, and leave him. The horses thus tutored are invaluable for shooting purposes, as it is frequently necessary to stalk an animal on foot; in which case, the bridle is simply arranged by drawing the reins over the head, and throwing them in his front, to fall upon the ground before his fore-feet. When thus managed, the horse will feed, but he will never move away from his position, and he will wait for hours for the return of his master.

We rode about four miles without seeing a living creature, except a badger. This animal squatted upon seeing the horses, and lay close to the ground like a hare in form, until we actually halted within 10 feet of its position. Bob immediately suggested that we should kill it, and secure its skin (his one idea appeared to be a longing to divest everything of its hide); but I would not halt, as the day was to be devoted to bears. We at length arrived at a portion of the forest where the young spruce had grown up from a space that had formerly been burnt; about 50 acres were densely covered with bright green foliage, forming a pleasing contrast to the sombre hue of the older forest. This was considered by my guide to be a likely retreat for bears; it was as thick as possible for trees to grow.

We accordingly dismounted, threw the reins over our horses' heads, and, taking the right direction of the wind, we entered the main forest, which was connected with the younger growth. It was easy to distinguish tracks, as the earth was covered with old half-rotten pine needles, which formed a soft surface, that would receive a deep impression. Nearly all the old trees were more or less barked by the horns of wapiti, showing that immense numbers must visit these woods at the season when the horns are nearly hard, and require rubbing, to clean them from the velvet. We had not strolled more than half a mile through the dark wood when Bob suddenly halted, and, like Robinson Crusoe, he appeared startled by the signs of a footstep deeply imprinted in the soil. It was uncommonly like a large and peculiarly broad human foot, but there was no doubt it was a most recent track of a bear, and the direction taken would lead towards the dense young spruce that we had already seen. We followed the track, until we at length arrived at the bright green thicket, in which we felt sure the bear must be lying down.

This was an exceedingly awkward place, and Bob assured me that if he were alone, he should decline to enter such a forest, as it was impossible to see a yard ahead, and a bear might spring upon you before you knew that it was near. As I had a double-barrelled powerful rifle, I of course went first, followed by Bob close behind. As noiselessly as possible, we pushed through the elastic branches, and very slowly followed the track, which was now more difficult to distinguish, owing to the close proximity of the young trees that overshadowed the surface of the ground.

In this manner we had advanced about a quarter of a mile, when a sudden rush was made exactly in my front, the young trees were roughly shaken, and I jumped forward immediately, to meet or to follow the animal, before I could determine what it really was. Something between a short roar and a grunt proclaimed it to be a bear, and I pushed on as fast as I could through the opposing branches; I could neither see nor hear anything.

Bob Stewart now joined me. "That's no good," he exclaimed, "you shouldn't run forward when you hear the rush of a bear, but jump on one side, as I did. Supposing that bear had come straight at you; why, he'd a been on the top of you before you could have got your rifle up. True, you've got a double-barrel, but that's not my way of shooting bears, although that's the way to JUMP A BEAR, which you've seen now, and you may jump a good many before you get a shot in this kind of stuff."

I could not induce Bob to take any further trouble in pursuit, as he assured me that it would be to no purpose: the bear when thus disturbed would go straight away, and might not halt for several miles.

This was a disappointment; we therefore sought our horses, which we found quietly grazing in the place that we expected. Remounting, we rode slowly through the great mass of spruce firs, which I had named the "10 mile forest."

There was very little underwood beyond a few young spruce here and there, and we could see from 80 to 100 yards in every direction. Presently we came across an enormous skull, which Bob immediately examined, and handed it to me, suggesting that I should preserve it as a specimen. He declared this to be the skull of a true grizzly; but some of the teeth were missing, and as I seldom collect anything that I have not myself shot or taken a part in shooting, I declined the head, although it was double the size of anything I had experienced.

The forest was peculiarly dark, and the earth was so soft from the decaying pine needles, that our horses made no noise, unless when occasionally their hoofs struck against the brittle branches of a fallen tree. We were thus riding, always keeping a bright look-out, when Bob (who was leading) suddenly sprang from his mare, and as quick as lightning fired at a black-tail buck, that was standing about 80 yards upon our right. His shot had no effect; the deer, which had not before observed us, started at the shot, and stood again, without moving more than three or four yards. Bob had reloaded his Sharp like magic, and he fired another shot, hitting it through the neck, as it was gazing directly towards us; it fell dead, without moving a foot.

We rode up to the buck; it was in beautiful condition, but the horns were in velvet, and were useless. I now watched with admiration the wonderful dexterity with which Bob, as a professional skin-hunter, divested this buck of its hide. It appeared to me that I could hardly take off my own clothes (if I were to commence with my greatcoat) quicker than he ripped off the skin from this beautiful beast. With very little delay, the hide was neatly folded up, and secured to the Mexican saddle by the long leathern thongs, which form portions of that excellent invention.

Bob remounted his mare, with the skin strapped behind the cantle, like a military valise; and we continued on our way. "That was a quick shot, Bob."—"Yes, 2 1/2 dollars, or 2 dollars at least I'll get for that skin; you see there's no game that pays us like the black-tail, and I never let one go if I can help it; they're easy to shoot, easy to skin, easy to dry, and easy to sell at a good price, and more than that, they're handy to pack upon a mule."

That little incident having passed, we again relapsed into silence, and rode slowly forward, with a wide-awake look-out on every side.

We had ridden about a mile, when the fresh tracks of bears that had crossed our route caused a sudden halt, and we immediately dismounted to examine them. They were of average size, and there could be no doubt, from the short stride of each pace, that they were retiring leisurely, after a night's ramble, to the beds in which they usually laid up. We led our horses to a small glade of good grass that was not far distant, and left them in the usual manner.

We now commenced tracking, which was simple enough, as the heavy footprints were distinct, and the bears had been travelling tolerably straight towards home. At length, after nearly a mile of this easy work, we arrived at a portion of the forest where some hurricane must in former years have levelled several hundred acres. The trees were lying about in confused heaps, piled in many places one upon the other, in the greatest confusion. None of them were absolutely rotten, but the branches were exceedingly brittle, and, if broken, they snapped like a pistol shot, making a noiseless advance most difficult. Through this chaos of fallen timber the young spruce had grown with extreme vigour, and I never experienced greater difficulty in making my way than in this tangled and obdurate mass of long trunks of gnarled trees, and branches lying at every angle, intergrown with the green boughs of younger spruce.

Bob Stewart wore moccasins, and being exceedingly light and active, he ran up each sloping treestem for 40 or 50 feet, then dropped nimbly to another fallen trunk below, bobbed under a mass of heavy timber, like masts in a shipbuilder's yard, supported as they had chanced to fall, and then dived underneath all sorts of obstructions. He was followed admiringly, but slowly, by myself, not provided with moccasins, but in high riding boots. If I had been a squirrel, I might perhaps have beaten Bob, but after several hundred yards of this horrible entanglement, which might have been peopled by all the bears in Wyoming, we arrived at a small grassy swamp in the bottom of a hollow, just beneath a great mass of perpendicular rock, about 70 or 80 feet in height. In the centre of this hollow was a pool of water, about 8 feet by 6. This had been disturbed so recently by some large animal, that the mud was still curling in dusky rings, showing that the bath had only just been vacated. We halted, and examined this attentively. The edges of the little pool were wet with the drip from the bear's shaggy coat, as it had left the water.

Bob whispered to me, "Look sharp, there are bears here, more than one I think, and if they've heard us, they'll be somewhere alongside this rock I reckon, or maybe up above." We crept along, and beneath the fallen timber; but it was so dark, owing to the great number of young spruce which had pushed their way upwards, that a dozen bear might have moved without our seeing one.

We now arrived at a small open space, about 20 feet square; this was a delightful change from the darkness and obstructions: The ground in this spot was a deep mass of pine needles, and in this soft material there were three or four round depressions, quite smooth, and about 18 inches deep; these were the beds of bears, where in undisturbed solitude they were in the habit of sleeping after their nocturnal rambles.

I was of opinion that we had disturbed our game, as several times we had accidentally broken a dead branch, with a loud report, when clambering through the abominable route. However, we crept forward round the base of the rock, and arrived in the darkest and thickest place that we had hitherto experienced.

At this moment we heard a sharp report, as a dead branch snapped immediately in our front. For an instant I saw a large black shadow apparently walking along the trunk of a fallen pine. I could not see the sight of my rifle in the deep gloom, but I fired, and was answered by a short growl and a momentary crash among the branches.

We ran forward with difficulty, but no bear was to be seen. We searched everywhere, but in vain. I came to the conclusion that the game was hardly worth the candle.

Through several hours we worked hard, but did not find another bear; and it was past five o'clock when we arrived at our camp, after a long day's work, in which we had certainly "jumped" two bears, but had not succeeded in bagging one.

Texas Bill came to hold my horse upon our arrival; he was looking rather shy, and ill-at-ease. "What's the matter, Bill? anything gone wrong?" I asked.

"Well," he replied, "I hope you won't blame me, as I don't think it right, but you know where you killed a wapiti a couple of days ago, and we found the next morning that the bears had been and buried it; and you said we'd better leave the place quiet for a day, and then you'd go early in the morning, and perhaps find the bears upon the spot? Well, after you were gone with Bob this morning, Jem Bourne proposed that we should go and have a look at the place, and sure enough when we got there we found a great big bear fast asleep, lying on the top of the buried wapiti, and her two half-grown cubs asleep with her. So Jem had your Martini-Henry with him, and he killed the mother stone dead, through the shoulder. Up gets one of the young ones, and hits his brother (or sister) such a whack in the eye with his paw that it just made me laugh, and then he cuffs him again over the head, just as though it was his fault that the mother was knocked over. Jem had reloaded, so he put a bullet through this young fellow; and then putting in another cartridge, he floored the third, and they were all dead in less than a minute. It's a fine rifle is that Martini-Henry, but I think you'll be displeased, as we had no business to go nigh the place; it ain't my fault, and I wouldn't have done it myself, you may be sure."

This was a glorious triumph for the jealous Jem Bourne, who was highly offended at my having adopted the advice, and sought the assistance of Bob Stewart, to "jump a bear." We had returned as failures, and he had killed three bears with my rifle, within my sanctuary, which I had specially arranged for a visit upon the following day. He declared "that nobody should stop him from killing bears, as his right was just as good as mine." This poaching upon my preserves was rather too much for my patience, therefore without any discussion or angry words I gave him a note to carry 42 miles' distance on the following morning to a friend of mine at the second ranche. "What horse shall I ride ?" asked the fellow sullenly. "The white mule," I replied. "When am I to come back ?"—"Not till I send for you," was the answer; and Jem Bourne ceased to be a member of our party.

This was an excellent example, as many of these people are exceedingly independent, and although he received high wages (120 dollars monthly, in addition to his food, and a horse to ride), he considered that he was quite the equal of his employer. Although my other men received only half these wages, they were more useful, and after this dismissal we were far more comfortable.

It was a strange study of the Far West in these outlandish and utterly uninhabited districts. When looking down from the summit of the mountains, facing north, we were positively certain that for more than 100 miles in a direct line there was not a human habitation, and the nearest point of embryo civilisation was the Government Park on the Yellowstone river, at least 150 miles distant. In our rear we were 80 miles from the abandoned station of Powder River, with only two ranches in the interval. It may be readily imagined that the laws of civilised communities were difficult to administer in such a wilderness.

The nearest railway station was "Rock Creek," about 240 miles, upon the Union Pacific, from whence we had originally started; that point is about 7000 feet above the sea-level. A curious contrivance, slung upon leather straps instead of springs, represents a coach, which, drawn by four horses, plies to Fort Fetterman, 90 miles distant. During this prairie journey the horses are only changed twice.

There are no dwellings to be seen throughout the undulating mass of wild grass; this possesses extraordinary properties for fattening cattle, and wild animals; but after a weary drive along a track worn by wheels and other traffic, and occasionally well defined by empty tins that had contained preserved provisions, a small speck is seen upon the horizon, which is declared to be the station for spare horses.

Upon arrival at this cheerless abode we entered a small log-house, containing two rooms and a kitchen; but the cooking was conducted in the public room, an apartment about 13 feet square, with a useful kind of stove in one corner. The man who represented the establishment had of course observed the coach in the far distance, therefore he was not startled by the arrival of our party, which consisted of the Hon. Charles Ellis, Lady Baker, and myself. He had already begun to fry bacon in a huge frying-pan upon the little stove, and he had opened some large tins of preserved vegetables, in addition to another containing some kind of animal hardly to be distinguished. He had been successful that morning, having killed an antelope; therefore we had quite an entertainment in this log-hut, so far away from the great world.

The table was spread with a very dirty cloth, and our small party was immediately augmented by the arrival of the coachman (our driver), the man who looked after the horses, an outside passenger of questionable respectability, and our host, who had just cooked the bacon. It was an unexceptional fashion throughout the country to reduce all clothing to a minimum. Coats were unknown during the summer months (this was the middle of August); waistcoats were despised; and the costume of the period consisted of a flannel shirt, and a pair of trousers sustained by a belt in lieu of braces. Attached to this belt was the omnipresent six-shooter in its holster. I was the only person who possessed, or at all events exhibited, a coat; and I felt that peculiar and unhappy sensation of being over-dressed, which I feared might be mistaken for pride by our unsophisticated companions.

We were not a cheery party; on the contrary, everybody appeared to be so determined not to say the wrong thing, that they remained silent; the dullness of the meal was only broken at long intervals by such carefully expressed sentiments as "I'll trouble you to pass the salt, if you please," or "Will you kindly hand the bacon ?"

There was no vulgarity in this, and we were afterwards informed that these rough people, who, as a rule, season their conversation with the pepper of profanity, are painfully sensitive to the presence of a lady, before whom they are upon their P's and Q's of propriety; and, should an improper expression escape their lips in an unguarded moment, they would be in a state of deep depression from the keenest remorse, which might perhaps cause a sense of unhappiness for at least five minutes. They most sensibly refrained altogether from conversation in a lady's presence, to avoid the possibility of a "slip of the tongue."

If they could have left their perfume behind, together with the profanity, our table would have been sweeter; but the flannel shirts were seldom washed, to prevent shrinking, just as their owners seldom spoke, to avoid swearing; an overpowering smell of horses was emitted by the driver, and of stables by the ostler, while the proprietor exhaled the mixed but indescribable odours combined from his various duties, such as cooking, cleaning up, sleeping in his clothes, and never washing them.

The meal over, we again started. This stage was interesting, as we left the treeless expanse of prairie, and drove over highland through picturesque forests of spruce firs among rocks and canyons. About 20 miles of this scenery was passed; then we descended a long slope, and once more emerged upon the dreary, treeless prospect.

At the end of 35 miles another speck was seen, which eventually turned out to be a station similar to that at which we had halted in the morning. There were two pretty-looking and clean girls here; they had come to assist their brother, who "ran" the house. It was curious to observe the little evidences of civilisation which the presence of these girls had introduced. At first sight, among a rude community, I should have had strong misgivings concerning the security of young girls without a mother; but, on the contrary, I was assured that no man would ever presume to insult a respectable woman, and the girls were safer here than they would be at New York. It was a doughtful anomaly in a society which otherwise was exceedingly brutal, that a good woman possessed a civilising power which gained the respect of her rough surroundings, and, by an unpretentious charm, softened both speech and morals.

It was to be regretted that this benign influence could not have been extended to the vermin. When the lamp was extinguished, the bed was alive. I always marvelled at the phrase, "he took up his bed and walked," but if the bugs had been unanimous, they could have walked off with the bed without a miracle. Sleeping was impossible. I relighted the paraffin lamp, a retreat was evidently sounded, and the enemy retired. Presently an explosion took place—the lamp had gone wrong, and burst, fortunately without setting the place on fire. An advance was sounded, and the enemy came on, determined upon victory.

I never slept in one of those prairie stations again, but we preferred a camp sheet and good blankets on the sage-bush, with the sky for a ceiling.

On arrival at Fort Fetterman, 90 miles from Rock Creek station, the coach drew up at a loghouse of greater pretensions than those upon the prairie. I had letters of introduction from General McDowell (who was Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Coast) to Colonel Gentry, who commanded Fort Fetterman, and Major Powell of the same station.

Not wishing to drive up to the door of his private house, we alighted at the log-hut which represented the inn. The room was horridly dirty, the floor was sanded, and there was a peculiar smell of bad drink, and an expression of depravity about the establishment.

The host was a tall man, attired as usual in a flannel shirt and trousers, with a belt and revolver. He had evidently observed an expression of disgust upon our faces, as he exclaimed, "Well, I guess we ain't fixed up for ladies; and p'r'aps it's as well that you came to-day instead of last night, if you ain't fond of shooting affairs. You were just looking at that table and thinking the tablecover was a bit dirty, weren't you? Well, last night Dick and Bill got to words over their cards, and before Dick could get out his six-shooter, young Bill was too quick and resolute, and he put two bullets through him just across this table, and he fell over it on his face, and never spoke a word. It's a good job too that Dick's got it at last."

This little incident was quite in harmony with the appearance of the den. I knew that letters had been previously forwarded from San Francisco to the Commandant, therefore I strolled towards his quarters, to leave my card and letter of introduction.

Fort Fetterman is not a fort, but merely an open station, with a frontier guard of one company of troops. I met Colonel Gentry, who was, very kindly, on his way towards the inn to meet us on arrival. Upon my inquiring respecting the fatal quarrel across the table, he informed me that he had held an inquest, and buried the man that morning.

The deceased was a notorious character, and he would assuredly have shot his younger antagonist, had he not been the quicker of the two in drawing his pistol.

This was a satisfactory termination to a dispute concerning cards, and there was a total absence of any false sentiment upon the part of the commonsense authority.

We were most hospitably entertained by Major and Mrs. Powell, to whose kind care we were committed by Colonel Gentry, who, being a bachelor, had no accommodation for ladies. It was very delightful, in the centre of a prairie wilderness, to meet with ladies, and to hear the rich contralto voice of Miss Powell, their daughter of eighteen, who promised to be a singer much above the average.

On the following morning we started for Powder River, 92 miles from Fort Fetterman; there was no public conveyance, as Powder River station had been abandoned since the Indians had been driven back, and confined to their reservation lands. We were bound by invitation to the cattle ranche of Mr. R. Frewen and his brother Mr. Moreton Frewen; these gentlemen had an establishment at Powder River, although their house was 22 miles distant upon the other side, in the centre of their ranche. They had very kindly sent a four-wheeled open carriage for us; one of those conveyances that are generally known as American waggons, with enormously high wheels of cobweb-like transparency. Jem Bourne had been sent as our conductor, having been engaged as my head man.

There was nothing but prairie throughout this uninteresting journey, enlivened now and then by a few antelopes.

Castle Frewen, as the superior log building was facetiously called by the Americans, was 212 miles from Rock Creek station, and we were well pleased upon arrival to accept their thoroughly appreciated hospitality. Their house had an upper floor, and a staircase rising from a hall, the walls of which were boarded, but were ornamented with heads and horns of a variety of wild animals; these were in excellent harmony with the style of the surroundings. Here we had the additional advantage of a kind and most charming hostess in Mrs. Moreton Frewen, in whose society it seemed impossible to believe that we were so remote from what the world calls civilisation. There was a private telephone, 22 miles in length, to the station at Powder River, and the springing of the alarm every quarter of an hour throughout the day was a sufficient proof of the attention necessary to conduct the affairs successfully at that distance from the place of business.

Our kind friends afforded us every possible assistance for the arrangements that were necessary, and we regarded with admiration the energy and perseverance they exhibited in working with their own hands, and in KNOWING HOW TO USE THEIR OWN HANDS, in the absence of such assistance as would be considered necessary in civilised countries.

There were about 8000 head of cattle upon the Frewens' ranche, all of which were in excellent condition. It was beyond my province to enter upon the question of successful ranching, but the Americans confided to me that the prairie grass, instead of benefiting by the pasturing of cattle, became exhausted, and that weeds usurped the place of the grass, which disappeared; therefore it would follow that a given area, that would support 10,000 head of cattle at the present time, would in a few years only support half that number. It might therefore be inferred that the process of deterioration would ultimately result in the loss of pasturage, and the necessary diminution in the herds.

From the Frewens' ranche, a ride of 25 miles along the course of the Powder river brought us to the last verge of civilisation; the utmost limit of the cattle ranches was owned by very nice young people, Mr. and Mrs. Peters, Americans, and Mr. Alston, an English partner.

We had been hospitably received by these charming young settlers, whose rough log-house was in the last stage of completion, and I fear we must have caused them great personal inconvenience.

On the following morning we started for the wilds of the Big Horn, and crossing the Powder river, we at once commenced the steep ascent, for a steady pull of 4000 feet above the dell in which the house was situated. We left them, with the promise to pay them a few days' visit on our return.

It was then that we quickly discovered the peculiarities of our four attendants, whom I had expected to be examples of stern hardihood, that would represent the fabled reputation of the backwoodsman.

Although they were fine fellows in a certain way, they astonished me by their luxurious habits. In a country that abounded with game, I should have expected to exist upon the produce of the rifle, as I had done so frequently during many years' experience of rough life. A barrel of biscuits, a few pounds of bacon, and a good supply of coffee would have been sufficient for a crowned head who was fond of shooting, especially in a country where every kind of animal was fat. My men did not view this picture of happiness in the same light; they required coffee, sugar, an immense supply of bacon, an oven for baking bread, flour, baking-powder, preserved apples (dried), ditto peaches, ditto blackberries, together with the necessaries of pepper, salt, etc.

It was always my custom to drink a pint of cafe au lait and to eat some toast and butter at about 6 A.M. before starting for our day's work; after this I never thought of food throughout the day, until my return in the evening, which was generally at five or six o'clock.

My people were never ready in the morning, but were invariably squatted in front of the frying-pan, frizzling bacon, when I was prepared to start. Jem Bourne was a chronic grumbler because we hunted far away from camp, instead of returning at mid-day to luncheon. Excellent fresh bread was baked daily, and I insisted upon the people supplying themselves with sufficient food packed upon their saddles, if they were not hardy enough for a day's work after a good breakfast.

I observed that my friends Big Bill and Bob Stewart were also provided with a large supply of bacon, although they left the fattest animals rotting in the forest, simply because they hunted for the hides.

In the same manner I remarked the extreme fastidiousness of these otherwise hardy people in rejecting food which we should have considered delicious. I have seen them repeatedly throw away the sage-hens that I have shot; these were birds which we prized. On one occasion, as we were travelling when moving camp, I shot a jackass rabbit from the saddle, with my .577 rifle. It gave me considerable trouble to dismount and open this animal, which would have gained a prize for fat; having cleaned it most carefully, I stuffed the inside with grass, and attached it to the saddle. We never had an opportunity of eating this splendid specimen; on inquiring, the cook had thrown it away, "because at this season jackass rabbits fed upon sage shoots, and the flesh tasted of sage!

As we shall return to the Big Horn range when treating upon the habits of wapiti and other animals, I shall now refer to the Indian bears, and commence with the most spiteful of the species, Ursus labiatus.



CHAPTER XI

THE BEAR (continued)

The outline that I have already given of Ursus labiatus is sufficient to condemn its character; there are more accidents to natives of India and Ceylon from the attacks of this species than from any other animal; at the same time it is not carnivorous, therefore no excuse can be brought forward in extenuation. I have already observed that this variety of the bear family does not hybernate; it has a peculiar knack of concealment, as it is seldom met during the daytime, although perhaps very numerous in a certain locality. In places abounding with rocky hills, deep ravines, and thick bush, it may be readily imagined that bears obtain the requisite shelter without difficulty; but I have frequently visited their haunts, where no perceptible means of secreting themselves existed, nevertheless each night afforded fresh evidences of their industry in digging pits, when searching for white ants, within 150 yards of our camp. In these places we seldom found a bear, although driving the jungles daily with nearly two hundred beaters. This experience would denote that the bears travel long distances at night, to visit some favourite resort which produces the necessary food. The stomachs of all wild animals when shot should be immediately examined, as the contents will be a guide to the locality which they inhabit. I have killed elephants in Africa at least 50 miles distant from any cultivation, but their stomachs were filled with dhurra (Sorghum vulgare), thus proving that they had wandered great distances in search of a much-loved food that could not be obtained in their native forests. In the same manner all wild animals will travel extraordinary distances to obtain either water or food in countries where they are liable to be pursued. When the watchers who protect the crops are in sufficient force to drive the nocturnal intruders away with guns, the same animals will probably not reappear upon the following night, but they will visit some well-known spot in an opposite direction, and reappear forty-eight hours later upon the forbidden ground.

The elephants in that portion of Abyssinia which is traversed by the various affluents of the Nile, being much harassed by the sword-hunters of the Hamran Arabs, never drink in the same locality upon two nights consecutively; they drink in the Settite river perhaps on Monday, march 30 miles in retreat, and on the following night they will have wandered another 30 miles to the river Gash, in a totally opposite direction. They will then possibly return to the Settite, and after drinking, they will take a new departure, and march to the river Royan or to the Bahr Salaam.

A bear is a rapid traveller, and although sluggish in appearance when confined, it is extremely active; therefore outward signs of digging, although evidence of nocturnal visits, cannot be accepted as proofs of the bear's proximity.

I believe that leopards may be frequently crouching among the branches of trees, and remain unseen, while a person, unconscious of their presence, may pass beneath; but although the sloth bear is most active in ascending a tree, it would be difficult for it to remain unobserved, owing to its superior size and remarkable black colour. A very large old tree with a considerable cavernlike hole at the bottom should always be carefully examined, as bears are particularly fond of these impromptu dwellings. I knew a man who was thus surprised whilst cutting wood from a large tree, unconscious of the fact that a bear was concealed within the hollow trunk. The blows of the axe disturbed the occupant, which immediately bolted from the hollow, and seized the wood-cutter by the thigh. Fortunately the man had his axe, with which he at once belaboured the bear upon the head until it relinquished its hold. I saw the scars of the wound inflicted by the canine teeth; these were about 6 inches in length, extending from inside the thigh to the knee-joint. The man declared that if his axe had been heavier he could have killed the bear, but it happened to be exceedingly light, and had very little effect.

My shikari Kerim Bux, who was a very powerful man, had a serious encounter with a bear, which seized his master, and immediately turned upon him when he rushed unarmed to his assistance; the bear seized him by the leg, but in the wrestling match which ensued, Kerim came off victor, although badly bitten, as he threw the bear over a precipice, upon the edge of which the struggle had taken place. This man was head constable in the police, and bore a very high reputation.

The Ursus labiatus being one of the most vicious animals, I have seen it upon two occasions attack an elephant, one of which was quite unprovoked.

We had been driving jungle for sambur deer in the Balaghat district, and instead of posting myself upon a mucharn, or occupying any fixed position, I remained upon my elephant Hurri Ram. This was a tusker that had been lent to me by the Government upon two occasions, and he was so good-tempered, and active in making his way over bad ground in steep forests, that I determined to try him as a shooting elephant. I took my stand upon the open grass-land, which was beautifully undulating, and would have made a handsome park. Standing behind a bush we were partially concealed, and I waited in expectation that some animals might break covert in my direction. Presently I saw a dark object running through the low bushes upon the margin of the sal forest on my right, and a large bear emerged about 100 yards from my position. It stood upon the open for a few seconds, evidently taking a close scrutiny of the surroundings, prior to a run across the country, where no chance would be afforded for concealment. It suddenly espied the elephant, and, apparently without a moment's hesitation, it charged from the great distance of 100 yards at full speed directly upon the nervous Hurri Ram. I had not long to wait, but just as I pulled the trigger, when the bear was within 10 yards, the elephant whisked round and bolted down hill across the open, towards the portion of the jungle that was about 250 yards upon my left. Nothing would stop the runaway brute, but fortunately I had stationed a police constable at the very spot for which the elephant was making, and he, seeing the state of affairs, ran forward, shouting at the top of his voice and flourishing his rifle; this had the effect of turning the runaway, just as it was about to enter the forest, where we should in all probability have been smashed.

The bear had in the meantime gone across country, and although we hunted it for more than a mile, we never saw it again. This was a purely unprovoked attack, and it would have been interesting to have seen the result had the elephant not bolted. I imagine that the bear would have seized it by the leg, and afterwards would have attempted a retreat.

Upon another occasion, at a place called Soondah in the same district, I was upon Hurri Ram; I had been working through the high grass in the first-class reserves throughout the day, having killed a splendid stag sambur, when we were attracted by the peculiar short roar or moan made by a tigress calling either for her cub or for some male companion. This was in the sal forest, within a quarter of a mile of our position. It was a dangerous attempt, upon such an untrustworthy elephant as Hurri Ram, to look for a tiger in a thick sal jungle, as that species of tree grows in long straight trunks exceedingly close together, to an extent that would make it impossible for a large elephant to continue a direct course. Should the animal run away, the result would probably be fatal to the rider. We again heard the cry of the tiger repeated; this decided me to make the trial, and we entered the forest, carefully advancing, and scanning every direction.

The sal tree produces one of the most valuable woods in India for building purposes, and for railway sleepers. The bark is black, which gives the forest a sombre appearance, and the trees grow perfectly straight, generally to a height of 30 or 40 feet, before they divide into branches; it may be readily imagined that an elephant would find a difficulty in threading its way through the narrow passages formed by these mast-like growths. In addition to this difficulty, there were numerous clumps of the tough male bamboo, which nothing will break, and which is terribly dangerous should a runaway elephant attempt to penetrate it, as the hard wiry branches would lacerate a rider in a frightful manner. There were numerous ravines in this forest, and we kept along the margin, slowly and cautiously, peering at the same time into the depths, in the expectation of seeing the wandering tiger.

It was very perplexing; sometimes we heard the cry of the tiger in one direction, and upon reaching the spot, we heard it at a different place. I was determined not to give it up, and we worked for at least two hours, until we had thoroughly examined every ravine, and all the smaller nullahs that would have been likely hiding-places. "Past five o'clock," I exclaimed, upon looking at my watch. It was time to turn homewards, as it would be dark at six, and should we be benighted in the forest we should not find our way, neither would it be possible to ride an elephant, owing to the thick bamboo. We accordingly gave up our search for the tiger, and steered in a new direction towards the camp.

We had advanced for about half an hour through the gloomy forest, and were within about 3/4 of a mile in a direct line of the tents, when I observed a peculiarly dark shadow upon my right, about 35 yards distant, close to a dense mass of feathery bamboos. I stopped the elephant for an instant, and at the same moment the black mass moved away towards the thick cover of the foliage.

Guessing the position of the shoulder, I took a quick shot with the Paradox gun; the elephant, most fortunately, not having observed the animal.

The effect was most extraordinary; I never heard such a noise; there was a combination of roars and howls, as though a dozen tigers and lions were engaged in a Salvation Army chorus. Away went Hurri Ram, rendering it impossible for me to fire, as a large bear came straight at us, charging from the deep gloom of a bamboo clump, and growling, as it ran with the speed of a dog, direct at the elephant.

I thought we must be knocked to pieces; two or three smaller trees fortunately gave way before the terrified rush of Hurri Ram, but the power of the driving-hook was gone; although the mahout alternately drove the spike deep into his skull and hooked the sharp crook into the tender base of the ears, the elephant crashed along, threatening us with destruction, as he swept through bamboos, and appeared determined to run for miles.

I had been accustomed to feed this animal daily with all kinds of nice delicacies beloved by elephants, and at such times I always spoke to him in a peculiar phraseology. Although I was in the worst possible humour, and considerably anxious regarding our safety, when rushing through forest at 15 miles an hour, I addressed Hurri Ram in most endearing terms-"Poor old fellow, poor old Hurri Ram, where are the sugar-canes? where are the chupatties, poor old boy?" etc. etc. I believe thoroughly that the well-known tones of my voice restored his confidence far more than the torture of the driving-hook, and after a race of about 150 yards he stopped. "Now turn him round, give him the point sharp, and drive him straight for the bear." The mahout obeyed the order, and we soon approached the spot, where the roars and howls still continued. My men were up the trees; the shikari had thrown a mighty spear upon the ground, and had gone up the branches like a squirrel, as he did not see the fun of meeting the bear's charge.

Before we had time to examine the actual condition of affairs, the big bear suddenly dashed out again straight at the elephant, and once more in a disgraceful panic he took to flight, without the possibility, on my part, of taking a shot, when the bear thus daringly exposed itself. Again I had to comfort Hurri Ram, and by degrees we stopped his mad career, and once more returned to the scene of his discomfiture. There was a slight depression in an open hollow, where high grass in swampy ground intervened between two sections of the forest. As we advanced, the elephant being severely punished by the driving-hook and scolded by the mahout, the bear suddenly uprose from the high grass, and standing upon its hind legs, it faced us at about 40 yards' distance, affording a magnificent chance for a deadly shot. Away went Hurri Ram again, whisking round before I had a moment to fire; and after two successive chances of this kind, the bear escaped into the opposite jungle, and we searched for it in vain.

We now returned, and with some difficulty drove Hurri Ram to the scene of conflict. There was a bear lying dead. The howls and roars had ceased, and a few yards to the left of the dead bear was a large black mass: this was another bear, in the last gasp. Both had been knocked over by only one bullet from the Paradox.

Although I had only seen one bear, and that most indistinctly, it appeared that the bullet, being intensely hard, and propelled by 4 1/2 drams of powder, had gone completely through the shoulder of the original bear, and then struck an unseen companion, who must have been some yards distant upon lower ground beyond. The bullet had broken the shoulder of this unlucky friend, and was sticking in its lungs, having carried a bundle of coarse black hair from bear No. 1 and deposited it upon its course in bear No. 2.

Although these were full-grown bears, there can be little doubt that the bear that had so determinedly attacked the elephant was the mother, infuriated by the roars and howls of her dying offspring. The penetration of the Paradox bullet was highly satisfactory, but I was terribly disgusted with Hurri Ram, whose misconduct had caused the loss of bear No. 3, which would most certainly have been included in the list of killed had I had the chance of only one second's quiet.

My men were not in the least ashamed when they descended from the trees, as they considered that the better part of valour was discretion. The large spear had been manufactured expressly for this kind of emergency, by a celebrated native cutler, Bhoput of Nagpur. It is always advisable that some powerful and plucky shikari should carry such a weapon for approaching any wounded animal, as accidents generally occur from carelessness, when the animal is supposed to be lying helpless, at the point of death. Such a spear should be 2 feet long, with a blade 3 inches wide, and extremely sharp. There should be a short cross-bar about 22 inches from the point, to prevent the spear from running completely through an animal, which could then writhe up the handle, and attack. The socket should be large and long, to admit a very thick male bamboo, as the mistake is too frequently made that the spear is strong, but the handle is too weak. It is very important that a trustworthy attendant should be thus armed, as a dying animal can then be approached with comparative impunity.

The risks that are run in following wounded animals are far greater than the prime attack. Should an animal charge without being wounded, it may generally be turned by a steady shot, if not absolutely killed; but when badly hurt, the onset of a beast is spasmodic, and nothing but death will paralyse the spring. I could mention numerous cases where lamentable disasters have occurred simply through thoughtlessness on the part of the hunter, who has been sacrificed in consequence of his neglect. One of the saddest catastrophes was the death of the late Lord Edward St. Maur, son of the Duke of Somerset, who died from the effects of amputation necessitated by the mangled state of his knee from the attack of a bear some years ago in India. This unfortunate young sportsman was shooting alone, and having wounded a bear, he followed up the animal for about a mile. When discovered it immediately charged him, and although again seriously wounded by his shot, the bear seized him by the knee, pulled him to the ground, and in the struggle that ensued he was seriously mauled. The bear was driven away by his attendants, and he was conveyed to camp. There was no blame in this instance attached to himself, or to any other person. In a most courageous manner he defended himself against the bear with his hunting-knife, and the body of the animal was recovered after some days by his shikari; but this promising young nobleman was cut off in the early days of his career, and was probably sacrificed through a want of surgical experience on the part of the native operator. I remember an instance of carelessness, which might have had a disastrous result, many years ago, when I was hunting in Ceylon. My brother, the late General Valentine Baker, was riding with me through the jungles in the district called "The Park." I had been caught by a rogue elephant a few days before, and my right thigh was so damaged that I could only walk a few yards with difficulty. Suddenly the man who walked before my horse ran back, and shouted "Wallahah, Wallahah" (Bears, Bears), and we caught sight of some large black object rushing through the jungle, close to our horses' heads. Valentine Baker jumped nimbly off, and I heard a shot almost immediately; my wounded leg was perfectly numbed, and I had no feeling in my foot; therefore, as it touched the ground without sensation, I fell over on my back. Gathering myself together, I managed to run in chase, and I shortly found myself close to the retreating heels of two bears that were trotting through the dense underwood. One of these brutes, feeling that it was pursued, turned quickly round, and immediately jumped upon the muzzle of my gun, which I fired into its stomach and rolled it over. I now heard my brother shouting my name at only a few yards' distance; running towards him, as I feared some accident, I found a large bear half lying and half sitting upon the ground, growling and biting at the hard-wood loading-rod which V. Baker had thrust into a bullet wound behind its shoulder; he seemed surprised that the bear would not die at once. This was exceedingly dangerous, as the animal might have recovered sufficient strength to have directed an attack at an unguarded moment. Having a heavy hunting-knife of 3 lbs. weight, I gave it a blow across the skull, which cleft it to the brain and terminated its struggles. This was exactly the occasion upon which an accident might have occurred, and when a spear would have been of use.

I cannot understand why persons who reside in India neglect the assistance of dogs for the various kinds of hunting. Bull terriers would be invaluable for tracking up a wounded tiger or bear, and the latter might be hunted by such dogs even without being wounded. At any rate, well-trained dogs would be of immense assistance, but I have never seen them used. During the cool season of Central and Northern India the climate is most favourable, and the dogs could work during the hottest hours of the day without undue fatigue. Mr. Sanderson set the example some years ago, and had some interesting hunts; he describes the Ursus labiatus as rendered powerless, in spite of its great strength and activity, as one bull terrier invariably seized it by the nose; this is the most sensitive part, and easy to hold, as it is long, and connected with a projecting upper lip, which is almost prehensile in this variety. His experience proved that three dogs were sufficient to hold any bear, as the claws, although dangerous to the tender skin of a man, were too blunt to tear the tough but yielding hide of the dog.

There are two other varieties of bears in the continent of India, the black (Ursus Thibetanus) and the brown, both of which are confined to Cashmere and the Himalayah range. I have had no personal experience of these animals, therefore I do not presume to offer myself as an authority; but from the accounts I have received from those who have hunted them successfully, they are much the same in their habits as the average of their species.

The dangerous character of bears, in like manner with all other animals, was accredited at a time when breechloaders and high velocities were unknown, but with a '577 rifle and 6 drams of powder, or a No. 12 spherical and 7 drams of powder, I cannot conceive the possibility of escape for any bear or other creature below the standard of a buffalo, if the hunter is a cool and steady shot. The conditions of this theory will include a solid bullet, not a hollow projectile dignified by the term "Express."

I will conclude this notice of the bear with an example of the failure of the hollow bullet, '577 Express, fired by a native gentleman, Zahur al Islam, when shooting with me in the reserves of Singrampur in the Central Provinces last winter.

We were driving for any kind of animals that the jungle might produce, and, being on foot, we constructed the usual little hiding-place by cutting half through a sapling about 3 feet from the root, and bearing down upon the young tree so as to form a horizontal rail in front of our seat; a similar cut at the back of another sapling about 3 inches thick, facing the stem already laid, and that was also pressed down to interlace with the branches of the prostrate tree. This makes a screen which can be rendered still more opaque by the addition of a few green boughs.

The grass was parched to a bright straw colour, and was about 4 feet high. As the beaters approached, a bear rushed forward and passed within 15 paces of Zahur. He fired; the bear emitted a short growl and passed on.

I assisted in tracking this animal by the blood upon the grass. Zahur described the shot he had taken as oblique; as the bear had passed him, therefore the bullet must have struck either the hindquarters full, or the thigh.

We found a teak tree about 14 inches in diameter covered with small pieces of flesh resembling sausage-meat, for a height of 6 feet from the ground. The yellow grass at the foot of this tree was covered with blood, and many minute fragments of flesh adhered to the leaves. Searching the place carefully, we picked up two pieces of bone covered with blood; these were very thick and strong, the larger fragment being 2 1/2 inches in length and 1 inch in width, evidently pieces belonging to the upper portion of the thigh.

After tracking the wounded bear for about 200 yards through the high grass and jungle, we came to a tolerably deep nullah, where we expected to find the animal lying down. Instead of this, we discovered another large piece of fractured thigh bone, which proved that the hollow Express bullet, although '577, had broken up upon striking the bone, instead of penetrating throughout the body. The muscles of the thigh and the bone had been shattered to atoms, and the flesh so completely exploded that it had flown in all directions, dispersed in the smallest fragments; nevertheless this bear had gone right away, and was never more seen, although we expended more than an hour in its search, both with men and elephants.

There could not be a more cruel example of the effect of a hollow projectile when striking a bone. If that had been a solid bullet, it would have raked the animal fore and aft, and would have rolled it over on the spot.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse