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ram. My only chance was to take this long shot. We had been crossing a snow bank at the time, and I settled myself, dug my heels well in, and with elbows resting on my knees took a steady aim. I was fortunate in judging the correct distance, for at the report of the rifle the big ram dropped, gave a few spasmodic kicks, and the next minute came rolling down the mountain side, tumbling over and over, and bringing with him a great shower of broken rocks. I feared that his head and horns would be ruined, but fortunately found them not only uninjured, but a most beautiful trophy. The horns taped a good 34 inches along the curve and 13-1/2 inches around the butts.

That night the weather changed, and thenceforth the mountains were constantly enveloped in mist, while it rained almost daily. These were most difficult conditions under which to hunt, for sheep have wonderful vision and can see a hunter through the mist long before they can be seen.

I was anxious to bring out as trophies only the finest heads, and daily refused chances which some might have gladly taken. If we could not plainly see with the naked eye horns at 300 to 400 yards, we always let the sheep pass, knowing that the head was small, but if at any time we could make out that a sheep carried a full turn to his horns, we knew that the head was well matured. If we saw a sheep facing us we could always tell when the horns made a full turn, for then the tips curved outward.

A week after killing the big ram we again visited the great basin, but found nothing, and cautiously moved a little higher to a sheltered position. From here we carefully scanned the bottom of this large gulch, and soon spied a bunch of ewes and lambs, and shortly afterward three medium sized rams. When we first saw them one had become suspicious and was looking intently in our direction, so we crouched low against the rocks, keeping perfectly still until they once more began to feed. When they had gradually worked over a slight knoll we made a quick approach, cautiously stalking up to the ridge over which the sheep had gone. I had expected to get a fair shot at two hundred yards or under, but when I peered over nothing was in sight. I concluded they had not gone up the mountain side, for their white coats against the black rocks would have rendered them easily seen. I, therefore, started to walk boldly in the direction in which we had seen them go, thinking they had probably taken shelter from the gale behind some rocks.

I had only gone some paces when we located them standing on a snow patch which had made them indistinguishable. I sat down and tried to shoot from my knees, but the wind was coming in such fierce gusts that I could not hold my rifle steady, so I ran as hard as I could in their direction, looking hastily about for some rock which would offer shelter.

The sheep made up the mountain side for some three hundred yards, when they paused to look back. I had by this time found a sheltered position behind a large boulder, and soon had one of the rams wounded, but, although I fired several shots I seemed unable to knock him off his feet. Fearing that I might lose him after all, I aimed for the second ram, which was now on the move some distance further up the mountain, and at my second shot he stopped. Climbing up to within one hundred and fifty yards I found that both the sheep were badly wounded, and were unable to go further, so I finished them off. What was my surprise to find that the larger ram had seven bullets in him, while the smaller one had three.

These sheep would almost never flinch to the shot, and it was difficult to tell when you had hit, unless in an immediately vital spot.

The weather continued unfavorable for hill shooting until the third of September, but that day opened bright and clear, and fearing lest the good conditions might not last, we made an early start. Crossing the high plateau we followed the valley of the Killy River, keeping well up and skirting the bases of the mountain summits. As we trudged along, the shrill cries of alarm of the whistling marmots were heard, and the little fellows could be seen in all directions scampering for their holes. Ptarmigan were also frequently met with, but not in such great numbers as one would have supposed in a region where they had never been hunted. On several occasions we found these birds on the highest summits where there was nothing but rocks covered with black moss. It would have been interesting to have shot one of them and learned upon what they were then feeding, but it was just in the locality where we hoped to find rams, and this was out of the question. That morning we traveled some distance before we saw sheep, but having once reached their feeding ground I had the satisfaction of watching more wild game than on any previous day.

The Kussiloff hills were dotted with scattered bands, and I counted in one large flock forty-eight, while the long and narrow valley on both sides of the stream was sprinkled with smaller bunches containing from two or three to twenty. It was a beautiful sight, for every ewe had at least one, and many of them two, lambs frolicking at her side.

In addition to these sheep we saw three moose feeding in a small green valley at the base of the opposite hills. The river was impassable for some miles, and although they were hardly more than a mile away in a straight line, they were quite unapproachable, so we sat and watched them with much interest until they slowly fed into the timber.

Shortly after noon we located some large sheep on a rocky knoll across the Killy River just below where the stream gushes out from a mighty glacier. They were a long way off, but with the glasses we could see that one lying apart from the others was a ram, and we surmised that if we could see his horns at such a distance even through the glasses he probably carried a good head.

Working down to the stream we finally found a point shallow enough to wade. We now made a cautious and careful stalk to the place where we had last located the sheep, but a bunch of ewes and a small ram were all that we could see.

Hunter and I were both much disgusted, for we had expected surely to find a head that was up to our standard.

It was well on in the afternoon when we started back to camp. We had been going steadily over the broken hillsides since early morning, and had met sheep at almost every turn. At the sight of us some would bound up the steep mountain sides in great alarm, while several times at only a couple of hundred yards others merely turned their heads in our direction, and after observing us for a short time continued to graze. Somehow these ewes seemed to understand that I had no intention of molesting them.

It is strange how the hope of seeing game keeps one from feeling tired, but as we trudged homeward, a bit depressed that in all the great number of sheep seen, there had not been one good head, and that our hard day was all to no purpose, my man and I both began to feel pretty well fagged out.

Late in the afternoon we paused for a brief rest and a smoke, and here Hunter sighted two lone rams in a gulch at the top of the mountain above us. By this time we were both pretty well used up, but the glasses showed that they carried good heads, and I determined to stalk them, even if it meant passing the night on the hills. So we worked our way up to the top of a ridge which commanded a view of the gulch in which the sheep were grazing, but they had fed some distance away by the time we reached the place where I had expected to shoot, and were at too long a range to make my aim certain. If we had had plenty of time, we should have worked up the ridge nearer, and this Hunter was still anxious for me to do, but when I saw one of the sheep suddenly raise his head and look intently in our direction I knew my only chance was to take the long shot. T had seen what the .30-40 Winchester rifle would do in the hills, and the question was one of holding. However, I could count on several shots before they ran out of sight, and even at such a distance I hoped to get one and possibly the pair. Both sheep carried good heads, but I aimed at the one which stood broadside to me. Hunter, who had the glasses, told me afterward that the ram with the more massive horns got away, but I succeeded in wounding the other so that he was unable to move. Knowing he would shortly die, and that I could find him the next morning, we at once started at our best pace for camp.

We only reached our tent at nine o’clock that night, both completely fagged out. A cup of tea made us feel better, but it was late before I could get to sleep. Such days are a bit too much for steady practice, but if they end in success the trophy means all the more.

The following day we were literally wind-bound, and not until the day after could we set out for the wounded sheep, which we eventually found, not fifty yards from where we had last seen him. It was a long and hard climb to reach him, but he carried a very pretty head with massive horns of over a full turn. I found that two shots of the seven which I had fired had taken effect.

Two days later the native arrived from the main camp with more provisions, and brought an interesting letter from Blake. It seemed that some Englishmen who had been hunting in these hills just before us had driven the big rams to the other end of the range, where my friend had been most fortunate in finding them. He strongly advised my leaving my present camp and coming to the country which he had just left, having got six excellent heads. This was the limit which we had decided upon as the number of sheep that we each wanted.

It was now apparently clear that I had been hunting at a great disadvantage in my district. On receiving Blake’s letter I at once determined to retrace my steps to the main camp, go to the head of the lake and follow up the trail which he had laid out upon the mountains.

Therefore the next morning (September 7) we shouldered our packs and went over the hills to our main camp. Instead of following the trail by which we had come, we decided to push straight across country, hoping in this way to reach our main camp in one march. Our change of route was unfortunate, and this day I can easily put down as the hardest one I ever passed in the mountains.

In order to bring out all our belongings in one trip we had extra heavy packs, and the country over which we marched was very trying. About noon I spied sheep on one of the outlying hills, and as we came nearer I made out through the glasses that this was a bunch of five rams, and that three of them carried exceptionally good heads. My only chance was to push ahead of my men, and this I did, but stalking sheep over a rough country with a heavy pack on your back is very trying work, and I failed to connect with these rams.

About five o’clock in the afternoon we came down over the mountains on to the high plateau above our main camp. We were all too used up to go any further, or even put up our light tent, although it soon began to rain. We made a rude camp in a patch of stunted hemlocks, and as I sat before the fire having my tea, I chanced to look up on the hills before me, and there was the bunch of five rams I had tried so hard to stalk early in the afternoon. They were at no great distance, but it was rapidly growing dark, and there was not time to get within range while it would be light enough to shoot. So I sat and studied these sheep through the glasses, determined to find them later, even if it took me a month.

One of them had a most beautiful head, with long and massive horns well over the full turn. Another had a head which would have been equally good if the left horn had not been slightly broken at the tip. The third also had an excellent head, and although not up to the other two, his horns made the full turn. The remaining two rams were smaller. I watched them until darkness came on, and all this while they fed slowly back toward the mountains on which my friend had been hunting the week before. I am convinced that this bunch of sheep had been driven out of these hills by Blake, and had been turned back again by me.

It rained hard that night, and the next morning the clouds were so low that it was impossible to go in search of the rams I had seen the evening before. I, therefore, determined to push immediately to the main camp, which we reached three hours later. We at once lunched, and, putting our light outfit in one of the boats, rowed up to the head of the lake.

This range of hills is surrounded by a mighty glacier, and at the foot of the glacier is a moraine some ten miles long extending down to Kenai Lake. On one side of this moraine you can walk by skirting the shore and using care, but on the other side the quicksands are deep and dangerous. We camped for the night in a place which my friend had used as his base of supplies.

The next morning opened dull, and I felt the effects of my hard work and did not greatly relish the idea of shouldering a fifty-pound pack. But my time was now getting short. In two weeks the rutting season of the moose would begin, and in the meantime I wanted four more fine specimens of the white sheep. Any day we might expect a heavy fall of snow, for the northern winter had already begun in the hills.

We soon found the tracks of Blake’s party, which led up the moraine, and carried us over quicksand and through glacial streams, icy cold. Finally we came to where Blake had started up the mountain side, and with all due regard to my friend, his trail was not an easy one. About noon it began to rain, but we pushed upward, although soon soaked to the skin, and came out above timber just at dark. We were all fagged out and shaking with cold by the time we reached Blake’s old camp.

The next morning broke dismally with the floodgates of the heavens open and the rain coming down in torrents. I lay among my rugs and smoked one pipe after another in order to keep down my appetite, for there was little chance of making a fire to cook with. In fact, most of the day was passed in this way, for all the wood had become thoroughly water-soaked.

Late in the afternoon we succeeded in getting a fire started and had a square meal. While we were crouched around the blaze the natives saw sheep on the hills just above us, but it was raining so hard that it was impossible to tell if they were rams. In fact, when sheeps’ coats are saturated with water they do not show up plainly when seen at any distance, and might easily be mistaken for wet rocks.

The next day opened just as dismally, with the storm raging harder than ever, but by eleven o’clock it began to let up, and we soon had our things drying in the wind, for the clouds looked threatening, and we feared the rain would begin again at any time.

As we were short of provisions and depended almost entirely upon meat, my head man and I started at once for the hills. The little stream by our camp was swollen into a rushing torrent, and we were obliged to go almost to its source–a miniature glacier–before we could wade it. Climbing to the crest of the mountains on which we had seen the sheep the evening before, and following just under the sky line, we soon saw a large and two small rams feeding on a sheltered ledge before us.

We much feared that they would get: our scent, but by circling well around we succeeded in making a fair approach. I should have had an excellent shot at the big ram had not one of the smaller ones given the alarm. The gale was coming in such gusts that it was difficult to take a steady aim, and at my first shot the bullet was carried to one side. I fired again just as the sheep were passing from view, and succeeded in breaking the leg of the big ram. Hunter and I now raced after him, but the hillside was so broken that it was impossible to locate him, so my man went to the valley below where he could get a good view and signal to me.

It is always well in hill shooting to have an understood code of signals between your man and yourself. The one which I used and found most satisfactory provided that if my man walked to the right or left it meant that the game was in either of these directions; if he walked away from the mountain, it was lower down; if he approached the mountain, it was higher up.

As Hunter, after reaching the valley and taking a look with the glasses, began to walk away, I knew that the sheep was below me, and I suddenly came close upon the three, which had taken shelter from the gale behind a large rock. Very frequently sheep will remain behind with a wounded companion; especially is this so when it is a large ram. Now, unfortunately, one of the smaller rams got between me and the big one, and as I did not want to kill the little fellow the big ram was soon out of range. But he was too badly wounded to go far over such grounds, and I soon stalked up near, when I fired, breaking another leg, and then ran up and finished him off. This ram carried a very pretty head 13-1/2 inches around the butts and 36-1/4 inches along the curve, but unfortunately the left horn was slightly broken at the tip. It was undoubtedly an old sheep, as his teeth, worn to the gums, and the ten rings around his horns indicated.

When a ram’s constitution has been undermined by the rutting season, the horns cease to grow, nor do they begin again until the spring of the year with its green vegetation brings nourishing food, and this is the cause of the rings, which, therefore, indicate the number of winters old a sheep is. This was my head man’s theory, and is, I believe, a correct one, for in the smaller heads which I have examined these rings coincided with the age of the sheep as told by the teeth. Up to five years, the age of a sheep can always be determined by the incisor teeth; a yearling has but two permanent incisors, a two-year-old four, a three-year-old six, and a four-year-old or over eight teeth, or a full set.

[Illustration: HEADS OF DALL’S SHEEP
(The horns above are of the Stone’s sheep)]

It was unpleasantly cold upon the mountains this day, and as no other sheep could be seen, we returned to camp by five o’clock. This was the easiest day’s shooting that I had had.

As we sat by the camp-fire that evening, four sheep were seen on the hills above us, two of which I recognized as the small rams that had been with the one I had just killed. We felt quite certain that these were the bunch of five rams which we had seen when we were packing out from our first hill camp. In fact, this was the only good band of rams which I saw during the entire hunt. If these were the same sheep, the two newcomers carried good heads, for, as previously stated, I had studied this lot carefully through the glasses.

The next day, the thirteenth and Friday, opened dismally enough, but by the time we had finished breakfast the mountains Were clear of clouds and there was no wind to mar one’s shooting. Such conditions were to be taken advantage of, and Hunter and I were soon working up the ridge well to leeward of the place where we had seen the sheep the night before. Reaching the crest we scanned the grounds on all sides, and also the rugged mountain tops about us.

The white coats of these sheep against the dark background of black moss-covered rocks render them easily seen, but we now failed to sight any even on the distant hills. Therefore we pushed ahead, going stealthily up wind and keeping a careful watch on all sides. We crossed over the ridge and worked our way just below the sky-line on the other side of the mountain from our camp, never supposing that the sheep would work back, for they had seen our camp-fire on the night before. We traveled nearly to the end of the ridge, and were just about to cross and work down to a sheltered place where we expected to find our game, when Hunter chanced to look back, and instantly motioned me to drop out of sight.

While we had been working around one side of the summit the sheep had been working back on the other side, and we had passed them with the mountain ridge between. Fortunately they were all feeding with their heads away or they must have seen us as we came out on the sky-line. My man had the glasses and assured me that there were two excellent heads. We now felt quite certain that these were the sheep we knew so well.

We cautiously dropped out of sight and worked back, keeping the mountain ridge between us. We were well above and had a favorable wind and the entire day before us. It was the first and only time upon these hills that the conditions had all been favorable for a fair stalk and good shooting. Hunter did his part well, and brought me up to within one hundred and twenty-five yards of the rams, which were almost directly below us. They had stopped feeding and were lying down. Only one of the smaller sheep was visible, and my man advised me to take a shot at him, and then take the two large ones as they showed themselves. Aiming low, I fired, and then as one of the big rams jumped up I fired again, killing him instantly. The smaller one that I had first shot at went to the left, while the one remaining large ram and the second smaller one went to the right. The latter were instantly hidden from view, for the mountain side was very rough and broken and covered with large slide rock. I raced in the same direction, knowing well that they would work up hill. But hurrying over such ground is rather dangerous work.

Soon the two sheep came into view, offering a pretty quartering shot at a little under a hundred yards. The old ram fell to my first bullet, and I allowed the smaller one to go and grow up, and I hope offer good sport to some persevering sportsman five years hence.

While Hunter climbed down and skinned out the heads I turned in pursuit of the one which I had first fired at, for we both thought he had been hit, having seen hair fly. I soon located him in the distance, but he showed no signs of a bad wound, and as his head was small I was truly glad that my shot had only grazed him. Both the rams which I killed carried excellent heads with unbroken points, and we were safely back in camp with the trophies shortly after two o’clock that afternoon–an easy and a pleasant day.

The larger ram measured 13-1/4 inches around the base of the horns, and 37-7/8 inches along the outer curves. These were the longest horns of the _Ovis dalli_ that I killed. The other ram measured 13 inches around the horns and 34-1/2 inches along the outer curve.

[Illustration: MY BEST HEAD]

While we were having tea that afternoon, we chanced to look up on the hills, and there, near the crest of the ridge, was one of the small rams from the bunch we had stalked that morning. He offered a very easy chance had I wanted his head. It is worthy of note that these sheep seem to have no fear of the smell of blood or dead comrades, and on several occasions I have observed them near the carcass of some ram which I had shot.

The next day opened perceptibly cooler, and the angry clouds overhead told us to beware of a coming storm. As I now had seven heads, five of which were very handsome trophies, I concluded to take Hunter’s advice and leave the high hills.

Our sheep shooting for the year was now practically over. Had the weather been fine it would have been an ideal trip; but with the exception of the third and thirteenth of September every day passed upon the mountains was not only disagreeable, but with conditions so unfavorable that it had been almost impossible to stalk our game properly, for when I had been once wet to the skin the cold wind from the glaciers soon chilled me to such a degree that I was unable to remain quietly in one place and allow the game to get in a favorable position for a stalk. I had been obliged to keep constantly going, and this frequently meant shooting at long range. With the exception of the rams shot on the eleventh and thirteenth of September, I had killed nothing under three hundred yards. Therefore much of the sport in making a careful and proper stalk had been lost.

My success with the white sheep had come only with the hardest kind of work, but I now had five really fine heads–which I later increased to six, my limit. I was quite satisfied with the measurements of these horns along the curve, but had hoped to have shot at least one which would tape over 14 inches around the butts, although this would be extreme, for the horns of the white sheep do not grow so large as the common Rocky Mountain variety. They are also much lighter in color. I believe that large and perfect heads will be most difficult to find a few years hence in this section, and the sportsman who has ambitions in this direction would do well not to delay his trip too long; for this range of hills is not over large, and unless these sheep have some protection, it is only a question of time before they will be almost entirely killed off.



On September 17 we packed up and moved down the lake several miles, where we made another base of supplies, for we were now going upon the moose range.

The rutting season of the moose begins on the Kenai Peninsula about the 15th of September, and lasts, roughly speaking, for one month. At this time the bulls come from the remote places where they have passed the summer and seek the cows, and the country which they now roam is generally the high tablelands which lie at the base of the mountains just below the timber line. We had timed our hunt to be in the moose range during this season, for then the bulls are bold, and not so difficult to find.

Bull moose differ from the rest of the deer family in not getting together a big band of cows, but pair off. The female remains with the bull only a short time, and then slips away, and then the bulls roam the forest in search of other partners. They are now very fearless, and if they come upon a female accompanied by another bull, fight gallantly to get possession of her. Their sense of smell is rather dulled at this time, for I have often seen their tracks following the trail which my native was constantly traveling.

The calves are born in May or June, and are weaned during the rutting season, for the bulls are very apt to drive them away from their mothers.

The antlers are hardly out of the velvet before the rutting season begins. They are then a light yellowish color, but are later stained dark brown by constant rubbing and scraping against bushes and tree trunks.

The moose of Alaska undoubtedly carry heads far grander than those found in the East. In fact, the antlers of the Kenai Peninsula moose equal, if they do not exceed in size, those from any other part of the world, and it was my ambition to kill by still-hunting a good example of one of these.

Calling moose I have never looked upon as true sport, unless the hunter does his own calling, and I am glad to see that many feel in the same way about this mode of hunting.

After we had made our base of supplies on the shore of the lake, we shouldered our packs and climbed up through the forest for several hours, until we came to the shore of a small lake, where we made camp. The scrubby woods were very thick, and extended up the sides of the mountains for some distance; then came a broad belt of thick alders, and beyond that the high open tablelands, which rolled back to the base of the sheep hills. In all directions deep game trails, traveled by the moose for many years, wound through the forest.

In the afternoon my man and I took our first hunt. Fresh tracks were seen in the much-used runways, which were often worn two feet deep by constant travel. Late in the afternoon I saw five sheep feeding on some low hills at no great distance, and as there were no lambs among the lot, we supposed that this was a band of rams, but we had not time to reach them before dark.

We were just about to return to camp when Hunter saw glistening in the sun among the thick alders, just above the timber line, the massive antlers of a moose. There was no time to be lost if we meant to come up with him, and so my man and I raced the entire way through the woods, and then up the steep ascent, but failed to reach him.

When I started on this hunt I had a thorough understanding with Hunter and my native that no one was to carry a rifle but myself, for I was determined not to allow my natives to molest the game. Indians do not like to wander through the forests without a gun, and my native had lately borrowed a rifle from one of Blake’s men, but I insisted upon his leaving it at our base of supplies.

That afternoon, as Hunter and I started from camp, we sent the native back to the lake to bring us more provisions. He told us that he had no sooner reached the shore than he had heard a splash in the water near him, and looking up had seen a large moose swimming across to a neck of land at no great distance. He described this moose as at times being completely submerged by the weight of his antlers, and said that he had apparently great difficulty in swimming.

This temptation was too great for Lawroshka, and, as his rifle was at hand, he pushed off in the boat, and coming up close to the moose, shot him just as he was leaving the water. He offered to give me the head, and seemed greatly surprised when I refused it, and told him I did not wish to bring out any trophies which I had not shot myself. I was sorry to learn that some men who have hunted in this region did not hesitate to class among their trophies the heads which had been shot by their men.

I went to sleep that night with the expectation of a fair day and good sport on the morrow, but woke next morning to find it raining hard. Since reaching our hunting grounds on the 22d of August, we had had only five pleasant days, and three of these were used up in marching from one camp to another. It was now raining so hard that I determined not to hunt, and turned in among my blankets with my pipe, but after a time this failed to satisfy me, and by 11 o’clock Hunter and I decided that even a thorough wetting was preferable to doing nothing.

The five sheep which we had seen the evening before were still in view from our camp. One bunch of three lay in a commanding position on an open hillside, and were unapproachable, but the other two had left the main mountain range and were feeding on one of the outlying foothills. These offered an excellent chance, and Hunter and I started in their direction.

Nothing so thoroughly wets one as passing through thick underbrush which is ladened with raindrops, and we were both soon drenched, but we were now quite used to this discomfort, and had expected it.

After coming out above timber, we reached the belt of alders through which we were working upward, when one of the sheep appeared upon the rugged sky-line some half mile above us. The glasses showed that he was a young ram with a head not worth shooting, but as his mate followed, we could see at a glance that his horns made the full turn, and were well up to the standard that I had set.

The smaller one soon wandered down the hill to our left, but the old fellow was more wary, and kept to the rocky summit. We gradually worked nearer and nearer as his head was turned, or as he slowly fed behind some rocks. In this way we had almost reached a dip in the hillside which would hide us from view until I could approach near enough for a shot, when the ram suddenly appeared on the sky-line above. We both crouched to the ground and kept perfectly still, while he stood in bold relief against the clouds intently gazing in all directions. For almost a half hour he never moved, except to slowly turn his head. It was evident that he was restless, and missed his young companion which had wandered away. Then he gradually moved off and sank behind a rock, and as Hunter and I had seen his hindquarters disappear last, we knew he was lying down, for a sheep goes down on his front knees first. This was our chance, and we hastened to take advantage of it. In fact, Hunter had crossed the last open and I was half way over, when the ram suddenly appeared again on the crest of the hill, and by his side was his young companion. Again I dropped to the ground, while the sheep gazed down at me. I was almost tempted to take the shot, for the distance was now not over 400 yards, and I had killed several sheep at this range. But hoping that they had not made me out, I kept perfectly still. I could see Hunter crouching behind a bush a short distance ahead, and soon he beckoned. I now looked up only to find that the sheep had vanished.

As I was wearing a dark green shooting suit, I do not think they quite made me out, but their suspicions were aroused, and they headed for the main range of mountains. In order to reach this they would be obliged to cross nearly half a mile of open tableland. We hastened after them, and soon saw the rams, as we had expected, heading for the other hills. We yet hoped to stalk them when they had reached the level, for they had not been greatly alarmed, and were going leisurely along, now and again stopping to munch some of their favorite black moss from the rocks. On reaching the last hill they seemed to change their minds, for after gazing in all directions they lay down in an absolutely unapproachable position.

Hunter and I were caught on a bald hillside exposed to a biting north wind, with no chance of a nearer approach without being seen. Finally, as a last resort, we determined upon a drive.

While I lay perfectly still, Hunter advanced boldly across the open in a big circle, getting between the hill and the main range. When the rams’ attention was fixed on him, I cautiously worked back and around, taking up a position which commanded the ridge over which the sheep had just gone. When Hunter had got between them and the other mountains, he began to approach. The rams now sprang to their feet, and evidently fully realized their dangerous position. They came, as we had expected, to the other end of the range from where I had taken my stand, but seemed reluctant to go back further on the isolated foothills.

It was too far for an accurate shot, and I waited, hoping for a better chance. As Hunter now worked up over the summit, the sheep broke back below him, and in another second would have had a clear field across the flat to the main range. Running up as quickly as the nature of the ground would permit, I lessened the distance some fifty yards, and, just as they were about to disappear from view, I fired twice, carefully aiming at the larger sheep, which I knew to be the big ram.

There was a strong wind blowing, and accurate shooting at such a long distance was out of the question, so I must regard it as an exceptionally lucky shot which broke his leg.

Hunter now signaled me to continue around the hill, and I soon came upon the old fellow lying down. I seated myself well within range, intending to catch my breath before shooting, when he suddenly sprang to his feet and bounded down the hill. I fired and missed, and started in pursuit. Although a sheep with a broken leg finds it hard to go up hill over rough ground, it is surprising how fast they can go down hill or across the open.

When this ram came to the base of the mountain he started in a straight line across the tableland, and led me a long chase before I ran him down and shot him. He carried quite a pretty head, measuring 13-1/2 inches around the butts and 32 inches along the curve.

I had now reached the limit I had set on sheep, and although I saw some later, I did not go after them.

It stormed hard all that night, and we woke the next morning to another wet and dismal day. I, therefore, determined to remain in camp, and was mending my much-worn knickerbockers by the fire when a moose was sighted on the mountain above timber, making for the thick belt of alders. He was soon hidden from view, and as we could not see that he passed through any of the open patches lower down, we hoped that he had chosen this secure retreat to lay up in.

The rain was coming down in torrents, but the bull carried a large and massive pair of antlers, and as I did not want to allow a chance to go by, Hunter and I were soon in pursuit. We circled well around in order to get the wind, and then forced our way through the heavy underbrush for some hours until we finally came to the belt of alders where we had last seen him. I now climbed a tree at the edge of the timber, hoping that from a lofty position I should be able to locate him, but met with no success.

It was now my intention to take a stand upon the hillside above timber, hoping that the moose would show himself toward evening, but in our wet clothes we were soon too chilled to remain inactive. As a last resort, Hunter forced his way back into the alders, while I kept in the open above. After going some distance my man turned to the right for the purpose of driving him out in my direction, but our hard and disagreeable hunt was to no purpose, and we returned to camp just before dark, having passed a wetter and more uncomfortable day than any yet.

Both Hunter and I thought this was the same bull which we had twice seen before, as he carried rather an unusual head, and had come from the same direction and to the same place.

The next day it rained even harder, and the clouds were so low that we could not see the mountain side, and therefore had no temptation to leave camp. My patience was by this time nearly exhausted, for the continual rain was very depressing, and detracted much from the pleasure of being in such a grand game country.

About noon I was sitting before the fire when Lawroshka went to the lake, only some ten steps away, for a pail of water. Here he saw a bull moose standing on the other side. He beckoned to me, and I seized my rifle and cautiously approached the native. The moose offered an easy shot at 250 yards, and my first bullet rolled him over. His head was disappointing, but it is often difficult to tell the size of a moose’s antlers when they are half hidden in the trees.

We woke next morning to the usual dismal surroundings, and remained in camp all that day. Late that afternoon the fog lifted and we saw the same large moose in his accustomed place among the alders, but it was too late in the day to try for him.

That night the wind veered to the west, and just as I was about to turn in, the rain stopped and a few stars shone faintly in the heavens. The weather had been so constantly bad that even these signs failed to cheer me, and I had decided that we would break camp the next day no matter what the conditions might be. But the morning (September 22) opened bright and clear, with the first good frost in two weeks. We were most anxious for a cold snap, for the leaves were still thick upon the trees, which made it next to impossible to sec game in the woods at any distance.

After breakfast we shouldered our packs and were soon on the march, expecting to reach our permanent quarters in the moose range before noon, and have the afternoon to hunt. Bright days had been so rare with us that we meant to make the most of this one.

The heavy rains had flooded the woods, and the deep worn game trails that we followed were half full of water, while the open meadows and tundra that we occasionally crossed were but little better than miniature lakes. We had made about half of our march and my pack had just begun to grow doubly heavy from constant floundering around in the mire, when we came out into a long and narrow meadow. There were a few dwarf spruce at our end, but the rest of the small opening was free of underbrush.

Hunter was leading and I was close behind with Stereke at heel, while the native was a few steps further back. I had noticed my dog a short time before sniffing the air, and was therefore keeping a constant watch on all sides, hoping that we might come upon game, but little expecting it, when suddenly I caught sight of a large bull moose standing in the middle of the opening. He was about 300 yards away, and almost directly down wind. I do not see how he could have failed to get our scent, and he must have been indifferent to us rather than alarmed.

My first thought was of Stereke. I knew that he would break at the sight of game, and realized for the hundredth time my mistake in bringing a bear dog into the moose range. Quickly giving him to the native to hold, I dropped my pack and was instantly working my way toward the moose. I had got to within rather less than 200 yards when I saw the moose turn his head and look in my direction. A nearer approach was impossible, so I gave him at once two shots, and at the second he fell.

My dog, having bitten himself free from the native, made for the moose, and savagely attacked his haunches. Seeing that the bull was trying to regain his feet, I gave him another shot, and running up drove off the dog.

Now, for the first time, I had a good chance to see my trophy. I knew that it was a good head, but hardly expected such large and massive antlers. They were malformed and turned in, or the spread would have been considerably larger, but even then they went over sixty inches, with forty-four well defined points. I am quite sure that this was the same bull that we had seen so often among the alders, and which I had twice before unsuccessfully stalked.

Our march was delayed until we skinned out the head, cleaned the scalp, and hung the meat in some near-by trees for future use. It was therefore late that afternoon when we reached our new camp. We now settled ourselves comfortably, for we meant to stay in these quarters for the remainder of the hunt.

The next week my friend Blake joined me, and we scoured the country around this camp most diligently, but with no further success. Daily we came upon cows and small bulls, but it seemed as if all the large males had left the neighborhood. Stamp holes and unmistakable signs of the rutting season were found everywhere, but with the most careful hunting I was unable to get another shot.

There were a few bull moose in the dense woods, but not a sufficient number to warrant the hope of my getting another head such as I had already shot. At this time of the year moose are such restless animals, and are so constantly on the move that it is not difficult to distinguish their presence.

I had now hunted this entire range most thoroughly, and was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that there were not sufficient signs to warrant my remaining another month. I talked the matter over with my friend, and told him that if he cared to wait until the next monthly steamer we could combine our forces and start into a new country which we knew was good; but Blake did not want to delay his departure so long, and as he now decided to return to the coast, I made up my mind to go out with him, take the steamer to Seattle, and thence go to British Columbia, where I would finish my long hunt by a trip after Rocky Mountain sheep.

Shortly after this we broke camp and started back to Cook Inlet, which we reached October 2. A few days later the steamer arrived, and that same night I was on my way from Alaska.

Unfortunately, my hunting for the year was over, for on my arrival at Seattle I found that I had been too much pulled down by the hard work upon the hills to make it wise for me to go into British Columbia.[7]

[Transcriber’s Note: Footnote numbered in the text, but no associated text.]

_Jas. H. Kidder_.

The Kadiak Bear and his Home

In 1901 the opportunity came to me to make a trip to the island which the Kadiak bear inhabits, and to become slightly acquainted with this largest of all carnivora. My companion was A. W. Merriam, of Milton, Mass.

We were under great obligations to Dr. C. Hart Merriam, of the Biological Survey, Washington, who, before we left home, gave us valuable information about the large game of Alaska. He told us of investigations which might prove of scientific value, and helped us to place our trip on a much broader base than a mere shooting expedition. One of the pleasantest features of such a trip was to see how freely information came in from all sides from those who could help in rounding out our work.

In order to find the Alaskan bears in their best pelage one must be on the ground in April, and this made it necessary for us to sail from Seattle April 1, on the Pacific Steam Whaling Company’s boat, Excelsior. Seattle proved a very good outfitting place, and before sailing we had safely stowed away below, in waterproof canvas bags, the provisions necessary to last us three months, in the most condensed and evaporated form.

Most of our fellow passengers were miners. One of them interested me particularly. He was a Finn, one of the pioneer white hunters in the Aleutian country, and his drawn face and stooping shoulders told the tale of trails too long and packs too heavy. I passed much time with him, and learned a good deal about the habits of the big, brown, barren bear, and his methods of fighting when hard pressed.

Our first Alaskan port was Hunter’s Bay, Prince of Wales Island, interesting because here is Clincon, one of the old settlements of the Haida Indians, famed for their wonderful totem poles, which tell in striking symbolic language the family histories of the tribe. There were many good faces among these people, and we asked ourselves and others the puzzling question, are they Aztecs, New Zealanders, or Japanese in origin? Among these people families with the same totem pole may not intermarry. An old man, the special wood carver of the tribe, does wonderful work.

An offshoot of the tribe inhabits Annette Island, under the kindly governorship of an old priest named Duncan. At first he founded his colony on the mainland, in British territory, but was there so hampered by religious rules that, with almost all his followers, he moved to Annette, where he is still beloved by the natives, to whom he has taught right living and many valuable arts of civilization.

We kept the inland route until Icy Straits took us away from Glacier Bay, and out into the open ocean. Early the next morning Yakutat came into view, and our boat was quickly surrounded by canoes filled with Indians, their wives, and woven baskets. These natives, supposed to belong to the Tlinkits, were distinctly less advanced than the Haida Indians.

In Yakutat we thought we were lucky in buying three Siwash bear dogs, but were not long in discovering our mistake. One of the dogs was so fierce we had to shoot him. Another was wild and ran away at the first opportunity, and the “last of the Siwash,” though found wanting in every hunting instinct, had a kindly disposition and staid with us. We could not bring ourselves to the shooting point. Finally we found a Creole, who kept a store in a remote village on Kadiak Island, willing to take him off our hands.

The sight of the massive snow face of Mt. St. Elias, rising 18,002 feet above the immense stretches of the Malaspina glacier, called to mind the successful Abruzzi expedition, which reached the top of this mountain a few years ago. Looking at the rough sides of the grand old mountain, more impressive than any snow peak in Europe, one unconsciously plans an attack, as the climbing instinct is aroused.

Abruzzi has taken Mt. St. Elias out of the field of the mountain climber looking for new peaks, but a glance at the map shows us Mt. Logan, 19,000 feet, backing up Mt. St. Elias from the north, and Mt. McKinley, 20,000 feet, the highest known peak we have, placed nearer the center of the big peninsula. These should now claim the attention of some good mountaineer, with time and money at his command. They demand both.

We did not fail to inquire at Yakutat about that rare animal, the blue or St. Elias bear, and were told that two or three skins were secured every year. I was later much disappointed in being unable to return to this coast early enough in the year to look up this bear, which has never been killed by a white man, and as its skull has never been brought in by the Indians, it remains practically unknown.

The island of Kayak, the next calling place for boats, played a very important part in the early history of Alaska. This is the first land that Bering sighted, and where he landed after the memorable voyage of his two boats, the St. Peter and St. Paul, from Kamtschatka.

The early Russian adventurers of this part of the world have, it seems, been lost sight of, and have not had justice done them. The names of the Dane Bering, the Russians Shelikoff and Baranoff, should mean to us something more than the name of a sea, strait or island. A man who fitted out his expedition in Moscow, carried much of the building material for his two boats across Siberia to the rough shores of Kamtschatka, and sailed boldly eastward, deserves our warmest admiration. Bering never reached home. He died on the return voyage, and was buried on the small island of the Commander group which bears his name. The story of the expedition is one of extreme hardship and of splendid Russian courage.

At Orca we were transferred to the Newport, with Captain Moore in command, and, as on the Excelsior, everything was done for our comfort. We looked with envious eyes on Montague Island as we passed it in Prince William Sound, for we were told that the natives avoid fishing and shooting here, claiming that the big Montague brown bear are larger and fiercer than any others.

Our boat made a brief call at Homer, in Cook Inlet, one of the starting points for the famous Kenai shooting grounds. This inlet was named for the renowned voyager, who hoped that it would furnish a water passage for him to Hudson’s Bay.

The trees stop at Cook Inlet, there being only a few on the western shore. To the south the wooded line intersects the Kadiak group of islands, and we find the northeastern part of Kadiak, as well as the whole of Wood and Afognak, except the central portion of the last, well covered with spruce.

The absence of forests makes it often possible to see for miles over the country, and explains why the Barren Grounds of Alaska offer such wonderful opportunities for bear hunting. There are bears all along the southern coast of the peninsula, but in the timber there, as elsewhere, the bears have all the best of it.

On leaving Cook Inlet, we kept a southerly course through the gloomy Barren Islands which mark the eastern boundary of the much-dreaded Shelikoff Straits, and early one morning passed Afognak, and made Wood Island landing, where we were most hospitably received by the North American Fur Company’s people. Wood Island, about 1-1/2 miles from Kadiak, is small and well covered with spruce. It has some two hundred people, for the most part natives, and under Russian rule was used for a huge ice-storing plant. Kadiak Island, 100 miles by 30, is thickly studded with mountains, and extremely picturesque, with the white covering of early spring, as we found it, or when green with heavy grass dotted with wild flowers in July.

[Illustration: ST. PAUL, KADIAK ISLAND.]

The Kadiak group looks as if it might have fallen out of Cook Inlet, and one of the native legends tells us that once the Kadiak Islands were so near the Alaskan shore that a mammoth sea otter, while trying to swim through the narrow straits, got wedged between the rocks, and his tremendous struggles to free himself pushed the islands out into their present position. The sea otter and bear have always been most intimately connected with the lives of the Kadiakers, and have exercised a more important influence on their characters than any of their surroundings except the sea. It is no wonder, then, that the natives endowed these animals with a strength and size which easily takes them into the realm of mythology. The sea otter being nearly extinct, the bear is now made to shoulder all the large stories, and, strong as he is, this is no light burden.

The Kadiak coast line is roughly broken by deep bays, running inland from a half mile to fifteen or twenty miles. Some are broad, others narrow, but all are walled in by serrated, mountainous sides, much resembling the fjords of Norway. The highest peaks are about 4,000 feet.

The portions of Kadiak Island uncovered by spruce and the barren lands of the mainland, are not absolutely devoid of trees or bushes. Often there is a considerable growth of cottonwood trees along the bottom lands of the streams, and large patches of alder bushes are common, so that when the leaves are well out, one’s view of the bottoms and lower hillsides is much obscured. The snowfall must be heavy on the upper reaches of the mountains, as there are great white patches to be seen well into the summer time. The climate is not what one would expect, unless he should look at the map, and note the warm Kuro Siwo (Japan current) sweeping along the southern Alaskan coast. Zero weather is uncommon, and except for the great rainfall the island is a very comfortable place of existence; existence, because that is the limit reached by most of the people. The few connected with the mission and the two fur companies are necessarily busy people, the latter especially so on steamer days, but a deep, unbroken peacefulness permeates the island and its people; it is a place so apart that outside happenings awaken but little interest, and time is not weighed in the balance. Some of the rare old Kadiak repose seems to have come down to the present people from the time when Lisiansky first visited the island and found the natives sitting on their mud houses, or on the shore, gazing into space, with apparent satisfaction.


On the other hand, if there is any sailing, fishing or shooting to be done, you will find the Kadiakers keen enough, and in trying situations they will command your respect, and will quite reverse your impression of them, gathered in the village life. The Eskimo inhabitants of the old times are gone, and the population is now made up of Russians, Creoles (part Russian and part Aleut), and a handful of Americans.

The natives are good-natured but not prepossessing in looks or cleanly. They live in dwellings kept very hot, and both men and women injure themselves by immoderate indulgence in the banya, a small Turkish bath, often attached to the barabaras, or native huts. It is made like a small barabara, except there is no smoke hole, has a similar frame, is thatched with straw, and can be made air-tight. The necessary steam is furnished by pouring water on stones previously heated very hot.

The women are frail and many die of consumption. When once sick, they appear to have no physical or mental resistance. They must be attractive, however, as there is a considerable population of white men here who have taken native wives. From a condition of comparative wealth, eight or ten years ago, when fur was plenty and money came easily, and was as promptly spent on all sorts of unnecessary luxuries, these people are now rapidly coming down to salmon, codfish and potatoes. When a native wants anything, he will sell whatever he owns for it, even to his rifle or wife. They almost all belong to the Greek Church, the Russians, when we bought Alaska, having reserved the right to keep their priests in the country.

The baidarka, the most valuable possession of the native in a country so cut up by waterways that little traveling is done by land, deserves a word. These are trusted in the roughest water more than any other craft, except the largest. A trip from Kadiak to Seattle in a baidarka is in fact on record. With a light framework of wood, covered, bottom and deck, excepting the hatches, with the skin of the hair seal, it is lighter than any other canoe, pliable, but very staunch, and works its way over the waves more like a snake than a boat. The lines are such that friction is done away with, and driven through the water by good men, it is the most graceful craft afloat. It has a curious split prow, so made for ease in lifting with one hand, and may have one, two, or three hatches, according to its size. The paddles used are curiously narrow and pointed.

What still remains unexplained is the native one-sided method of paddling; that is to say, in a two-hatch baidarka, both natives make six or seven short strokes on one side together, and then change to the other side. An absolutely straight course is thus impossible, but the Aleut is a creature of habit, and smiles at all new suggestions.

In the canoe is plenty of room for provisions and live stock. I speak of the latter because a native will often carry his wife, children, and dog inside a one-hatch baidarka while he paddles.

Water is kept out of the hatches by the kamlaykas which the natives wear. This is a long jacket made of bears’ intestines, very light and water tight, and when the neck and sleeve bands are made fast, and the skirts secured about the hatch with a thong, man and canoe alike are dry as a chip.

In the early days, Shelikoff’s severe rule in Kadiak actively encouraged the hunting instinct, and the first Russian fur post was established at St. Paul, named after one of Bering’s boats, the present town of Kadiak, by far the largest village of the island, and situated on the eastern coast, opposite Wood Island. It is said that the Russians, after a few very prosperous years of indiscriminate slaughter, recognized the great importance of carrying on the fur industry in a systematic manner, in order to prevent entire extinction of the game, and divided the lands and waters into large districts. They made laws, with severe penalties attached, and enforced them. Certain districts were hunted and trapped over in certain years. Fur animals were killed only when in good pelage, and the young were spared. In this way hunted sections always had considerable intervals in which to recover from attacks.

A solitary sea otter skin hanging up in the fur company’s store, at the end of the season, told us plainer than words that these animals, formerly so plentiful east of Kadiak Island, and along the coast of Cook’s Inlet, were almost extinct. Two of our hunters were famous shots, and they liked to talk of the good old days, when sea otter and bear were plenty. One of them, Ivan, it is claimed, made $3,000 in one day. The amount paid a native is $200 or more for each sea otter pelt. They are much larger than a land otter, a good skin measuring six feet in length and three feet in width when split and stretched.

When fishing is allowed from schooners, the natives leave Kadiak for the grounds early in May. Each schooner carries thirty or forty baidarkas and twice as many men. Otters are often found at some distance from shore, and can be seen only when the water is quiet. The natives prefer the bow and arrow to the .40-65 Winchesters the company have given them, even claiming that otter are scarce because they have been driven from their old grounds by the noise of firearms. The bows, four feet long, are very stout, and strongly reinforced with cords of sinew along the back. The arrows, a little under a yard in length, are tipped with a well-polished piece of whalebone. A sharp and barbed piece of whale’s tooth fits into a hole bored in the end of the bone, and a cord of considerable length is tied to the detachable arrow head, the other end of the cord being wound around and fastened to the middle of the shaft.

The advantages of this arrow are obvious. When the game is struck, its struggles disengage the arrow head, and the shaft being dragged by the cord attached to its middle, soon tires the otter out. The seal spears, used for the finishing coup, are made in the same way, and in addition have attached to the long shaft a bladder, which continually draws the animal to the surface. So expert are the natives, that, after shooting several arrows, they gather them all up together in one hand as they sweep by in a baidarka. The arrow is not sent straight to the mark, but describes a considerable curve. Good bows are valued very highly, and on an otter expedition will not be swapped even for a rifle.

On a favorable morning the baidarkas leave the schooners, and, holding their direction so as to describe a large fan, can view a good piece of water. A paddle held high in air shows that game has been sighted, and a large circle, perhaps a mile in circumference, is at once formed around the otter, each baidarka trying to get in the first successful shot. To the man who first hits home belongs the skin, but as an otter can stay under water twenty minutes, and when rising for air exposes only his nose, a long and exciting chase follows.

Some natives patrol the small island shores, and during the winter make a good harvest picking up dead otters which have washed ashore. This happens in winter, because it is during severest weather that the otter freezes his nose, which means death. The pelts from these frozen animals, however, bring only a small price.

In earlier days nets were spread beneath the water around rocks shown by the hair rubbings to be resting places of otter. The method was often successful, as the poor beast swam over the trap in gaining his rock, but when leaving dove well below the surface, and was caught. This barbarous custom, together with the netting of ducks in narrow passageways, has, fortunately, long been a thing of the past.

In Kadiak Village, we met a Captain Nelson, the first man down from the north that spring, who had sledded from Nome to Katmai on Shelikoff Straits in two months. At Katmai he was held up several days, his men refusing to cross the straits until the local weather prophet, or astronom, as he is called, gave his consent. Seven hours of hard paddling carried them over the twenty-seven miles, the most treacherous of Alaskan narrows.

These astronoms are relics of an interesting type, who formerly held firm sway over the natives. They are supposed to know much about the weather from reading the sunrises, sunsets, stars, moon and tides, and often sit on a hilltop for hours studying the weather conditions. They are still absolutely relied upon to decide when sea otter parties may start on a trip, and are looked up to and trusted as chiefs by the people of the villages in which they live.

At Wood Island we heard of Messrs. Kidder and Blake, two other sportsmen from Boston, who had already left for their hunting grounds in Kaluda Bay.

The spring was backward, and the bears still in their dens, but Merriam and I decided to take the North American Company’s schooner Maksoutoff on its spring voyage around the island, when it carries supplies and collects furs from the natives. We were to sail as far as Kaguiac, a small village on the south shore, and were here promised a 30-foot sloop by the company. We added to our equipment two native baidarkas for hunting and a bear dog belonging to an old Russian hunter, Walter Matroken. Tchort (Russian for Devil) looked like a cross between a water spaniel and a Newfoundland, and though old and poorly supplied with teeth, many of which he had lost during his acquaintance with bears, he proved a good companion, game in emergencies, and a splendid retriever.

Our rifle and camera batteries were as follows:

Merriam had a.45-70 and a.50-110 Winchester, both shooting half-jacketed bullets. My rifles were a.30-40 Winchester, a double .577, and a double .40-93-400, kindly lent me by Mr. S.D. Warren, of Boston, and on which I relied. Besides the pocket cameras and a small Goerz, I carried one camera with double lenses of 17-1/2-inch focus, and one with single lense of 30-inch focus. The last two were, of course, intended for animals at long range.

Hoping to prove something in regard to the weight of the Kadiak bear, I brought a pair of Fairbanks spring scales, weighing up to 300 pounds, and some water-tight canvas bags for weighing blood and the viscera.

We selected two good men as hunters for the trip, Vacille and Klampe.

On the second day out from Wood Island a storm came on, and though the Maksoutoff was staunch, we could not hold for our port, owing to the exposed coast, where squalls come sweeping without warning from the mountain tops, driving the snow down like smoke, the so-called “wollies.” It was wild and wintry enough when we turned into the sheltered protection of Steragowan Harbor.

A few mallards and a goose were here added to the ship’s store next morning from the flats, and the weather clearing, we made Kaguiac, and found our sloop in good condition. In addition we took along an otter boat, a large rowboat, from here, as our baidarkas proved rather unseaworthy. Besides Mr. Heitman, the fur company’s man, there was one other white settler in Kaguiac named Walch, who came to Kadiak twenty-seven years ago at the time of the first American military occupation, and though he had served in many an exciting battle in the Civil War, the Kadiak calm appealed to him. He married, settled down among the natives contentedly, and has never moved since. This, curiously, is the case of many men who come to the North, after leading wandering and adventurous lives.

Unfavorable winds at Kaguiac delayed our sailing, so we passed the time in excursions after ptarmigans and mallards. We also secured here another native, a strong, willing worker, who knew the coast.

The weather cleared suddenly, the wind shifting from northeast to northwest, and enabled us to make a run to our first good hunting ground in Windy Bay, a large piece of water five miles long by three wide, and surrounded by rock mountains covered with snow, the only bare ground to be seen at this time being on the low foothills, and in the sunny ravines. We made ourselves at home at the only good anchorage in a small cove with high crags on two sides and a ravine running off toward the east.

The following morning–April 28–opened bright and calm, and we were soon viewing the snow slopes with our glasses. Ivan, the new man, was the first to call our attention to a streak on a distant mountain side, and although perhaps 2-1/2 miles away, we could make out, even with the naked eye, a deep furrow in the snow running down diagonally into the valley below, undoubtedly a bear road. I took a five-cent piece from my pocket, tossed for choice of shot, and lost to Merriam.

Once on land, we found the going very bad, and often wallowed in the snow mid-thigh deep. Then was the time for snowshoes, which we had been told were unnecessary. Floundering along in this soft snow began to tell a little on the keenness of the party, when Vacille and Ivan, who were off on one side, suddenly waved, and hunting on to them we were shown the bear far up the valley in some bushes. As he lay on his side in the snow he looked much like a cord of wood, and very large. The wind came quartering down the valley, and made a stalk difficult, so it was thought best to wait, as the bear would probably come down nearer the water in the evening. We watched nearly four hours, and during that time the bear made perhaps 150 yards in all, crawling, rolling over, lapping his paws, occasionally trying a somersault, and finally landing in a patch of alders.

As night was upon us, we decided to chance the situation, and approached along a ridge on one side of the valley until almost above the bear. At this point Tchort, the dog, caught the scent, broke away, and raced down over the bluff out of sight. Almost immediately the bear appeared in the open 200 yards away, legging as fast as he could in the snow, and headed for the hillside. Merriam made a good shot behind the shoulder with his fifty. The bear fell, caught his feet again, and was in and over a small brook, leaving a bloody road behind him, which Tchort was quick in following. The dog was soon nipping the bear’s heels, and giving him a good deal of trouble. Up the side of the hill they raced, Merriam firing when the dog gave him opportunity. The bear, angry and worried, suddenly whipped around and made for the dog, which in the soft snow at such close quarters could not escape. But Tchort, a born fighter, accepted the only chance and closed in. He disappeared completely between the forelegs of the bear, and we felt that all was over. To our great wonder in a few seconds he crawled out from beneath the hindquarters of his enemy, and engaged him again. One more shot and the bear lay quiet. The skin was a beauty–dark brown, with a little silvering of gray over the shoulders, without any rubbed spots, such as are common on bears only just out of their dens. Some brush was thrown over the bear, and we rowed back to the sloop, well content. The next day, which was foggy and rainy, was spent in getting off the skin, measuring and weighing the animal piecemeal, and carrying all back to the sloop.

Contrary to expectation, the bear was found to be still covered with a thin layer of fat, even after his long hibernation. Before weighing, our men, who had killed some thirty bear among them, said that this one was two-thirds as large as any they had seen.

The measurements and weights were as follows: Height at shoulder, about 4 ft. Length in straight line from nose to root of tail, 6 ft. 8 in. Total weight, 625 lbs. Weight of middle piece, 260 lbs. Weight of skull (skin removed), 20 lbs. Weight of skin, 80 lbs. The right forearm weighed 50 lbs., and the left 55. This supports the theory that a bear is left-handed. Right hind-quarter, 60 lbs.; left hindquarter, 60 pounds. The stomach was filled with short alder sticks, not much chewed, and one small bird feather. Organic acids were present in the stomach, but no free hydrochloric for digestion of flesh.

It was a great satisfaction to see that none of the bear was wasted, which fact brings up one very good trait of the Creole hunters. They dislike to go after bear into a district situated far from the coast, because in so rough a country it is almost impossible to get all the meat out. They sell the skin, eat the meat, and make the intestines into kamlaykas for baidarka work.

April 30 a strong wind kept us from trying the head of the bay, and a short trip was made up into a low lying valley, near the sloop, but without results.

Our men had already proved themselves good. Vacille was the best waterman and a good cook; Klampe the best hunter, and Ivan a glutton for all sorts of work.

The underlying principle on which the Aleut hunter works was brought out on our short bear hunt. After sighting the game, he waits until he is sure of his wind, then takes a stand where the bear will pass close by, and shows himself a monument of patience. Almost all the viewing is done from the water, a small hill near the shore being occasionally used for a lookout. They get up at daylight, and two men in a baidarka patrol both sides of a big bay, watching carefully for bear tracks on the mountain sides, as this is the surest indication of their presence. As soon as the bears come from their dens they always make a climbing tour, the natives claiming that this exercise is taken to strengthen them. Personally I believe the Kadiak bear has very good reasons for keeping on the move continually outside of his hibernating season.

If the natives find no sign on their morning tour, they rest all day, perhaps taking a Turkish bath in a banya, which is not infrequently attached to the hunting barabara. Another trip of inspection is made again in the afternoon at four or five o’clock, as the bear usually lies up between nine and three. A bay is watched for several days in this way, and if nothing is seen the natives return to their village, or hunt the hair seal, which are still to be found in fair numbers, especially on Afognak Island.

When you are with these men you must either conduct the shooting trip on your own lines or give yourself entirely into the native’s hands, and do as he thinks best. You must leave him alone, and not bother him with many questions, and in any case you usually get _Nish naiou_ (“I don’t know”) for answer. The native gives this reply without thinking; it is so much easier. The most you can do is to cheer him on when luck is bad, as he is easily discouraged and becomes homesick.

During the bad weather that followed we had plenty of opportunity to use our ingenuity in extracting information from our men on the subject of bear.

It seems that the Kadiak bear hibernates, as a rule, from December to April, depending on the season somewhat, and the young are supposed to be born in March in the dens. Although the skins are good in the late fall, they are finest when the bear first comes out in early spring, as it is then that the hide is thinnest and the hair longest. On the other hand, in summer, when the hair is very thin, the hide becomes extremely thick and heavy; this condition changing again as fall comes on. The total amount of epidermis, in other words, does not vary so much as one would suppose, and whether the hide or the hair is responsible for most of the weight depends on the time of year.

When the animal leaves his den he finds food scarce, and has to go on the principle that a full stomach is better than an empty one, even if the filling is made of alder twigs. It is not long, however, before green grass begins to sprout along the small streams, low down, and grass and the roots of the salmon berry bushes carry the bear along until the fish run.

The running of the salmon varies, and the bears make frequent prospecting trips down the streams in order to be sure to be on hand for the first run, which usually occurs during the latter part of May. During the salmon season the bears have opportunity to fill themselves full every night, and put on a tremendous weight of fat in the late fall, when they become saucy and lazy, and more inclined to show fight. Berries–especially the salmon berry–help out the fish diet in summer time. As soon as salmon becomes their food the pelts deteriorate, but unless living near a red salmon stream, with shallow reaches, the bears do not get much fish diet until the second run early in July, so that fair skins are sometimes obtained even up to June 15, although by this time the hair is usually much faded in color.

The bear makes a zigzag course down the salmon stream from one shallow rapid to another, standing immovable while fishing, and throwing out his catch with the left paw. The numerous fishing beds give a false idea of the number of bear present in a district, as it takes but a few days for a single bear to cover the sides of a stream for a long distance with such places. One finds fish skeletons scattered all along a salmon stream, and it is generally easy to tell whether a bear or eagle has made the kill. An eagle usually carries the whole fish away with him, leaving only scales behind. A bear, on the other hand, eats his fish where he catches him, preferring the belly and back, and usually discarding the skeleton, and always the under jaw.

The Finn hunter whom I met on my way north, said he had seen an old cow bear when fishing with her cubs, rush salmon in toward the shore and scoop them out for the young. Generally they watch on a low bank, or in the shallow water, while fishing.

During the rutting season, supposed to be in June, the female travels ahead, the male bringing up the rear to furnish protection from that quarter. Then if one kills the female the male gives trouble, often charging on sight.

The Finn thought that, as a rule, the cow bear comes on at a gallop and a bull rises on his hind legs when getting in close. When wounded the bear usually strikes the injured spot, or if it is a cow and cubs, the old one cuffs her young soundly, thinking them the cause of pain. The nose is the main source of protection, as, like all bears, these are followed to their very dens in the fall by the keenest of hunters, and their only restful sleep is the long winter one. Fortunately some excellent game laws for Alaska have been passed, and by making a close season for several years, followed by severe restrictions, we may yet hope that the perpetual preservation of this grand brown bear will be assured on the Kadiak group, which, from its situation, fitly offers him, when well guarded, his best chance of making a successful stand against his enemies.


The fact that the natives make a profit from the bear skins, and that his flesh furnishes them with food is not to be considered, as at the present rate of extermination there will soon be no bear left for discussion.

The natives certainly could and should be helped out in their living, as competition in the fur trade of late has so exterminated fur-bearing animals that hunting and trapping bring them in little, and their diet is indeed low. One of my hunters during last fall only secured one bear, one silver gray fox, and two land otter.

A good way to help out the food question, and compensate the native for his loss of bear meat, would be to transport a goodly number of Sitka deer to the three islands, and allow them to multiply. There has been a Sitka deer on Wood Island for several years, and he has lived through the winters without harm, as his footprints scattered over the island testify. Afognak and Wood Island are especially suitable for such a purpose, being well wooded and furnishing plenty of winter food for deer in willows, alders and black birch. The clement winters make the plan feasible, and it ought not to be an expensive experiment.

[Illustration: A KADIAK EAGLE.]

We had a very bad time of it on the night of April 30, which showed me what I had long felt, that the dangers of Kadiak were not centered in the bear, but in the tremendous wind blows and tide rips in its fjords. A strong wind came on from the east, and fairly howled through the ravine opposite our anchorage, catching our little sloop with full force. We could not change our position, as we occupied the only anchorage. Vacille, who had turned in, felt the anchor dragging, and we found ourselves being blown out into the large bay, where we could not have lived for any time in the big seas, and, should we continue to drag, our only chance was to try to beach her on a sand shore some half mile away.

When the boat was not dragging she was wallowing in cross seas, and being hammered by the otter boat, which was difficult to manage. The anchors held firmly, much to our relief, and after a disagreeable night of watching we beat back to our mooring at the head of the little cove. The mountains being covered with fresh snow in the morning, there was nothing to do but eat and sleep.

The bear meat improved with age, and hours of boiling rid it of its bitter flavor. The whole cabin–and its occupants–smelled of bear’s grease. The thermometer registered 30.

On May 2, as the wind was unsuitable for bear hunting, we made a photographing trip to a cliff across the bay, where two bald-headed eagles had built their nest. Merriam and I had a very interesting stalk with a camera. We landed near the cliff, and the eagles, becoming disturbed, flew away. The men were sent out in the boat, and we kept in hiding until signalled that the birds had quieted down. We gained the top of the cliff, a mere knife edge in places, where we worked our way along, straddling the rock. The birds had selected a splendid place, straight up from the water, where they had built their nest firmly into a bush on the side of the cliff.

I stalked the eagle within about 75 feet and caught her with the camera, as she was leaving her nest. The earth forming the center of the nest was frozen and three eggs lay in a little hollow of hay on top. The big birds circled about us all the time, but did not offer to attack. Bald-headed eagles are very common on Kadiak, and are always found about the salmon streams later, during the run, being good fishermen. It seems they, of all the birds here, are the first to lay their eggs, and their young are the last to leave the nest.

We secured some eagle eggs on these trips, of which we made several, and found the cliff nests much the easier to approach, as it was very difficult to get above nests built in trees.

In connection with the eagle, the magpie should not be forgotten. Of these black and white birds there were many about, and there seemed to be a bond of sympathy between the widely separated species of marauders. Bold enough we knew the smaller bird to be, but to believe that he would actually steal an eagle’s fish breakfast from under his very nose one must sec the act. The eagle appeared to mind but little, occasionally pecking the thief away when he became offensive.

The magpie, on the other hand, seemed to have a warm feeling for his big friend, and once at least we saw him flying about an eagle’s nest and warning the old birds of our approach with his harsh cry.

One good day among many bad ones showed no more bear signs, so we soaped the seams of the otter boat, which leaked badly, and set sail for Three Saints Bay, named after Shelikoff’s ship. This proved to be a narrow piece of water running far inland, with snow-covered mountain sides, and by far the most beautiful fjord on the island.

There were no bear signs, however, and a favorable wind carried us eastward toward Kaluda Bay, where Kidder and Blake were hunting. On our way we stopped at Steragowan, an interesting little village, bought a few stores, and secured some interesting stone lamps, and whale spears, with throwing sticks.

Once in Kaluda Bay, we found Kidder’s and Blake’s barabara where they made headquarters, and their cook informed us that both sportsmen were many miles up the bay after bear.

Several years ago there was a flourishing colony of natives at the entrance to Kaluda Bay, but now there are only two hunting barabaras, a broken down chapel, and a good-sized graveyard. The village prospered until one day a dead whale was reported not far from land. All the inhabitants gorged themselves on the putrid blubber, and they died almost to a man.

The Kadiakers show a good deal of courage in whale hunting. With nothing but their whale spears tipped with slate, two men will run close up to a whale, drive two spears home with a throwing stick, and make off again. The slate is believed in some way to poison the animal, and he often dies within a short time. The natives go home, return in a few days, and, if lucky, find the whale in the same bay. Whales are plenty, and were sometimes annoying to us, playing too near our otter boat. On one occasion we tried a shot at one that was paying us too much attention, and persuaded the big chap to leave us in peace.

Bad weather held us fast several days, but we finally made the southeast corner of the island, and from there had good wind to Kadiak. On our way we passed Uyak, one of the blue fox islands. Raising these animals for their fur has become a regular business, and when furs are high it pays well. The blue fox has been found to be the only one that multiplies well in comparative captivity, and he thrives on salmon flesh.

At Wood Island, news came to us through prospectors, of a bear in English Bay, south of Kadiak village. This bay is well known as a good bear ground, and at the end of the bay there are some huge iron cages weighing tons which were used as bear traps, some years ago, by men working for the Smithsonian Institution.

We found bear tracks coming into the valley, down one mountain side, and leading out over the opposite mountain, and were obliged to return to Wood Island empty handed.

Merriam now decided to return home on the next boat, and after a few days I started off for the north side of Kadiak in an otter boat fitted with sail, picking up on the way a white man, Jack Robinson, and a native hunter, Vacille, at Ozinka, a small village on Spruce Island. My men proved a good combination, but we were all obliged to work hard for two months before a bear was finally secured.

We tried bay after bay, and were often held up, and for days at a time kept from good grounds by stormy weather and bad winds. The inability to do anything for long periods made these months the most wearing I have ever passed. Our little open boat went well only before the wind, but, as somebody has said, the prevailing winds in Alaska are head winds, and we spent many long hours at the oars.

Although we had a good tent with us, we used, for the most part, the native hunting barabara for shelter. These are fairly clean and comfortable, and are found in every bay of any size.

The natives inherit their hunting grounds, and are apparently scrupulous in observing each other’s rights. In fact, it is dangerous to invade another man’s trapping country, as one may spring a Klipse trap set for fox and otter, and receive a dangerous gash from the blade that makes these contrivances so deadly.

On the way to the hunting grounds Vacille pointed out to us a cliff where he once had an exciting bear hunt.

There were two hunters, and they were fortunate enough to locate an inhabited den in early spring. Two bears were killed through crevices in the rocks, but the men suspected there was still one inside, and Vacille crawled in to make sure. He found himself in a fair sized chamber with a bear at the other end, and a lucky shot tumbled the animal at his feet.

This story brought up others of bear hunting with the lance. Before firearms came into common use, boys were given lessons in fighting the bear with the lance, and became very expert at it. Their method was to approach a bear as closely as possible, without being seen, then show themselves suddenly, and as the bear reared strike home. The lance was held fast by the native, and the bear was often mortally wounded by forcing the lance into himself in his struggles to reach his enemy.

This class of native no longer exists on Kadiak, but it is said there is one famous old Aleut near Iliamna Lake on the mainland who scorns any but this method of hunting.

High above the den where the three bears were killed was a scoop out of the cliff called the shaman’s barabara. Here, before Russian times, the shamans or witches were buried, and here also were kept the masks used in certain ceremonial rites. The Russians removed the mummies and masks long ago.

The shamans were considered oracles. It was claimed they could prevent a whale from swimming out of a bay by dragging a bag of fat, extracted from the dead body of a newly born infant, across the entrance. Their instructions were unfailingly obeyed, as it was supposed they could cause death as a punishment for their enemies.

One evening at our first halting place beyond Ozinka, we found tracks in the snow on one side of our valley, and early in the morning came upon a two-year-old bear, not far from camp. The bear was grubbing about on the hillside, and we took our position so that he crossed us under a hundred yards. Unbeknown to me, and just as I was about to fire, my native gave the caw of a raven to hold the bear up. He whipped around and faced us, my bullet entering the brush on one side of him. Off he rushed into the woods with the dog after him. I followed, and on coming out into a clearing saw the dog being left far behind on the mountain side. Old Tchort was not in condition. This was sad and illustrated the fact that it is sometimes best to be alone.


We next tried Kaguiac Bay and here spent many days. Two bears had been killed by the natives near the barabara where we camped, and there was plenty of sign.

Before sunrise we were watching from a good position, and it was scarcely light when Vacille made out a big bear, two miles or more away. He was traveling the snow arete of the mountain opposite, and trying to find a good descent into our valley. One could see the huge body and head plainly with the naked eye against the sky-line as he made his way rapidly through the deep snow. Finally he found a place somewhat bare of snow and gave us a splendid exhibition of rock climbing. It took little time for him to get down into the alders, where he apparently dropped asleep. To our astonishment he woke up about 10 o’clock and worked down toward the bottom land. We stalked him in the woods and alders, which were very thick, within 300 yards, and here I should have risked a shot at his hindquarters showing up brown against the hillside, and seemingly as large as a horse.

We chanced a nearer approach, though the wind was treacherous, and coming up to a spot where we could have viewed him found the monster had decamped. All attempts to locate him again were fruitless.

The bear paths around this bay were a very interesting study. They are hammered deep into the earth, and afford as good means of traveling as the New Brunswick moose paths.

Sometimes instead of a single road we have a double one, the bear using one path for the legs of each side of his body. Again, on soft mossy side hills, instead of paths we find single footprints which have been used over and over, and made into huge saucers, it being the custom of the bear to take long strides on the side hills, and to step into the impressions made by other animals which had traveled ahead of it.

The red salmon were beginning to run, and some fishermen in another part of the bay supplied us, from time to time, from their nets. Especially good were the salmon heads roasted.

Bear sign failed, and Afognak Island, where Vacille shot and trapped, had been so much talked about, that I determined to see it for myself, and with a good wind we rowed across the straits and sailed twelve miles into the island by Kofikoski Bay.


Scattered along up the bay were small islands, and these furnished us with a good supply of gulls’ eggs, which lasted many days.

The Afognak coast is heavily wooded with spruce, while a large plateau in the interior is almost barren, and gave good opportunity for using the glasses.

During several days at the head of Kofikoski Bay nothing was seen, so we packed up and crossed a large piece of the island by portages and a chain of lakes, where our Osgood boat was indispensable. The country crossed was like a beautiful park of meadows, groves and lakes, and one could scarcely believe it was uncultivated.

The Red Salmon River of Seal Harbor, to which we were headed, could not fail us, for bear could scoop out the salmon in armfuls below the lower falls, so Vacille said, and he was honest, and now as keen as anything while traveling his own hunting grounds.

For a whole week a northeast storm blew directly toward the bay, and kept us in camp. It was fishing weather, however, and my fly-rod, with a Parmachenee belle, kept us well supplied with steelheads and speckled trout, which were plentiful in the clear waters of a wandering trout brook running through a meadow below the camp.

A calm evening came finally, and we paddled down the last lake, some three miles, to the famous pool.

There were the salmon swarming below the fall, and many constantly in the air on their upward journey, but the eagles perched high on the dark spruces, closing in the swirling water, were all they had to fear. There were no bears and no fresh bear signs. It was an ideal spot, this salmon pool, but a feast for the eyes only, as the red salmon will not rise to a fly. Even Tchort looked disconsolate on our track back to Ozinka.

About July 10 there is usually a run of dog salmon, and not much later another of humpbacks. The dog salmon grow to be about twice as large as the red salmon, and often weigh 12 pounds. They are much more sluggish than the red fish, and as they prefer the small shallow streams, become an easy prey for the bear. The humpback fish are fatter and better eating even than the red salmon, but are somewhat smaller.

The red fish never ascend a stream which has not a lake on its upper waters for spawning. The dog and humpback, on the contrary, are not so particular, and are found almost everywhere. In September there is a run of silver salmon, which, like the red salmon, will only swim a stream with a lake at its head. They run up to 40 pounds, and the bears grow fat on them before turning into winter quarters. The skeletons of this big fish, cleaned by bear, are found along every small stream running from the lakes.

The large canneries, like the one at Karluk, on Karluk River, near the western end of Kadiak, put up only the red salmon. They are not nearly as good eating as the humpback or silver salmon, but are red, and this color distinction the market demands. The catches at Karluk run up into the tens of thousands, and one thinks of this with many misgivings, remembering the fate of the sea otter and bear. Good hatcheries are constantly busy, keeping up the supply, but it appears that though one in every ten thousand of these fish is marked before being set free, so far as known no marked fish have ever been captured.

On our return to Kadiak Island, we found the streams still free of salmon, and the vegetation had become so rank as to interfere a good deal with traveling and sighting game. The whole party looked serious, and the strain was beginning to tell, no game having been seen for seven long weeks. This, with the swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, made time pass heavily.

Other places proving barren, we finally brought up at Wesnoi Leide, half an hour’s row from Ozinka, and found the dog fish just beginning to run up stream, at the head of the bay. Better still, there were fresh bear tracks.

The wind was favorable, and we stationed ourselves the first evening on a bluff overlooking a long meadow, on the lower part of the stream. Hardly had we sat down, when Vacille said: “If that brown spot on the hillside were not so large, I would take it for a bear.” The brown spot promptly walked into the woods, half a mile away. We were keen enough again, but our watching proved fruitless, as nothing came down on the meadow, showing that there was good fishing well up the stream.

We rowed back to Ozinka, and left the country undisturbed, determined to get well into the woods the following night, before the bear came down to feed.

The next evening we made an early start, and walking up the stream into the woods found plenty of fresh tracks, and finally halted by some big trees. The men placed themselves on some high limbs, where they could watch, and I stood in deep grass, some six or eight feet from a well-traveled path used by the bear in fishing the stream. The magpies were calling all about, and seemed to be saying, _Midwit, midwit_, Aleut for bear. The air was dead calm. Hardly were the men on their perches, before they saw a bear walk into the brush on one side of the valley. We waited quietly, in the midst of mosquitoes, but nothing came in sight. It was already after 10 o’clock, and so dark that the men gave up their watch, and came down to join me. Suddenly we heard a sharp screech up the stream, and when it was repeated, Vacille said it must be a young bear crying because its mother would not feed it fast enough. Here Vacille did some good work.

We walked rapidly up stream, through the thick brush, and before we had gone 100 yards heard a large animal, just ahead, moving about in the brush, and making a good deal of noise. I started ahead to get a view, thinking we had disturbed the bear, but Vacille held me back. We walked on noiselessly to a little bare point in the stream, and just then the bear appeared, bent on fishing, thirty feet away. She lumbered down into the stream, and when I fired fell into the water, the ball just missing her shoulder. She was up again, and this time I shot hurriedly, and a little behind the ribs. She ran, crossing up about forty feet away, and a trial with the .30-40 scored, but made no impression.

Tchort caught up with her just as she fell, after running a hundred feet or more, and gave us to understand that he was the responsible party. We tried immediately to capture the cub, which would have been a rare prize, but had no success at all in the thicket. The old one, though of considerable age, was not a large specimen, and, with the exception of the head, the hair was in bad condition. Length about 6 feet 4 inches; height at shoulder 44 inches; weight 500 pounds. The stomach was full of salmon, gleaned from the fishing beds made all along the stream. The Ozinka people did not enjoy my killing a bear just outside the village.

I caught the boat about a week later, after a few pleasant days with Kidder and Blake, who had turned up at Wood Island, after a very successful hunt on the mainland.

A word in regard to the Kadiak bear. Dr. Merriam has proved that he is distinct from other bear. That he ever reached 2,000 pounds is doubtful in my mind, but, by comparing measurements of skins, we can be sure he comes up to 1,200, or a little over. Whether the Kadiak bear is bigger than the big brown bear of the mainland is doubtful. At present the growth of these bears is badly interfered with by the natives, and they rarely reach the old bear age, when these brutes become massive in their bony structure, and accumulate a vast amount of fat, just before denning up.

_W. Lord Smith_.

The Mountain Sheep and its Range

The mountain sheep is, in my estimation, the finest of all our American big game. Many men have killed it and sheep heads are trophies almost as common as moose heads, and yet among those who have hunted it most and know it best, but little is really understood as to the life of the mountain sheep, and many erroneous ideas prevail with regard to it. It is generally supposed to be an animal found only among the tops of the loftiest and most rugged mountains, and never to be seen on the lower ground, and there are still people interested in big game who now and then ask one confidentially whether there really is anything in the story that the sheep throw themselves down from great heights, and, striking on their horns, rebound to their feet without injury.

Each one of us individually knows but little about the mountain sheep, yet each who has hunted them has observed something of their ways, and each can contribute some share to an accumulation of facts which some time may be of assistance to the naturalist who shall write the life history of this noble species. But unless that naturalist has already been in the field and has there gathered much material, he is likely to be hard put to it when the time comes for his story to be written, since then there may be no mountain sheep to observe or to write of. The sheep is not likely to be so happy in its biographer as was the buffalo, for Dr. Allen’s monograph on the American bison is a classic among North American natural history works.

The mountain sheep is an inhabitant of western America, and the books tell us that it inhabits the Rocky Mountains from southern California to Alaska. This is sufficiently vague, and I shall endeavor a little further on to indicate a few places where this species may still be found, though even so I am unable to assign their ranges to the various forms that have been described.

For this species seems to have become differentiated into several species and sub-species, some of which are well marked, and all of which we do not as yet know much about. These as described are the common sheep of the Rocky Mountains _(Ovis canadensis_); the white sheep of Alaska _(Ovis dalli)_, and its near relative, _O. dalli kenaiensis_; the so-called black sheep of northern British Columbia (_O. stonei_), described by Dr. Allen; Nelson’s sheep of the southwest (_O. nelsoni_) and _O. mexicanus_, both described by Dr. Merriam. Besides these, Mr. Hornaday has described _Ovis fannini_ of Yukon Territory, about which little is known, and Dr. Merriam has given the sheep of the Missouri River bad lands sub-specific rank under the title _O.c. auduboni_. Recently Dr. Elliot has described the Lower California sheep as a sub-species of the Rocky Mountain form under the name _O.c. cremnobates_. For twenty-five years I heard of a black sheep-like animal in the central range of the Rocky Mountains far to the north, said to be not only black in color, but with black horns, something like those of an antelope, but in shape and ringed like a female mountain sheep. From specimens recently examined at the American Museum of Natural History, I now know this to be the young female of _Ovis stonei_. That several species of sheep should have been described within the last three or four years shows, perhaps as well as anything, how very little we know about the animals of this group.

The sheep of the Rocky Mountains and of the bad lands (_O. canadensis_ and _O. canadensis auduboni_) are those with which we are most familiar. Both forms are called the Rocky Mountain sheep, and from this it is commonly inferred that they are confined to the mountains, and live solely among the rocks. In a measure this belief is true today, but it was not invariably so in old times. As in Asia, so in America, the wild sheep is an inhabitant of the high grass land plateaus. It delights in the elevated prairies, but near these prairies it must have rough or broken country to which it may retreat when pursued by its enemies. Before the days of the railroad and the settlements in the West, the sheep was often found on the prairie. It was then abundant in many localities where to-day farmers have their wheat fields, and to some extent shared the feeding ground of the antelope and the buffalo. Many and many a time while riding over the prairie, I have seen among the antelope that loped carelessly out of the way of the wagon before which I was riding, a few sheep, which would finally separate themselves from the antelope and run up to rising ground, there to stand and call until we had come too near them, when they would lope off and finally be seen climbing some steep butte or bluff, and there pausing for a last look, would disappear.

Those were the days when if a man had a deer, a sheep, an antelope, or the bosse ribs of a buffalo cow on his pack or in his wagon, it did not occur to him to shoot at the game among which he rode. I have seen sheep feeding on the prairies with antelope, and in little groups by themselves in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, and men whose experience extends much further back than mine–men, too, whose life was largely devoted to observing the wild animals among which they lived–unite in telling me that they were commonly found in such situations. Personally I never saw sheep among buffalo, but knowing as I do the situations that both inhabited and the ways of life of each, I am confident that sheep were often found with the buffalo, just as were antelope.

The country of northwestern Montana, where high prairie is broken now and then by steep buttes rising to a height of several hundred feet, and by little ranges of volcanic uplifts like the Sweet Grass Hills, the Bear Paw Mountains, the Little Rockies, the Judith, and many others, was a favorite locality for sheep, and so, no doubt, was the butte country of western North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, this being roughly the eastern limit of the species. In general it may be said that the plains sheep preferred plateaus much like those inhabited by the mule deer, a prairie country where there were rough broken hills or buttes, to which they could retreat when disturbed. That this habit was taken advantage of to destroy them will be shown further on.

To-day, if one can climb above timber line in summer to the beautiful green alpine meadows just below the frowning snow-clad peaks in regions where sheep may still be found, his eye may yet be gladdened by the sight of a little group resting on the soft grass far from any cover that might shelter an enemy. If disturbed, the sheep get up deliberately, take a long careful look, and walking slowly toward the rocks, clamber out of harm’s way. It will be labor wasted to follow them.

Such sights may be witnessed still in portions of Montana and British Columbia, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, where bald, rolling mountains, showing little or no rock, are frequented by the sheep, which graze over the uplands, descending at midday to the valleys to drink, and then slowly working their way up the hills again to their illimitable pastures.

Of Dall’s sheep, the white Alaskan form, we are told that its favorite feeding grounds are bald hills and elevated plateaus, and although when pursued and wounded it takes to precipitous cliffs, and perhaps even to tall mountain peaks, the land of its choice appears to be not rough rocks, but rather the level or rolling upland.

The sheep formerly was a gentle, unsuspicious animal, curious and confiding rather than shy; now it is noted in many regions for its alertness, wariness, and ability to take care of itself.

Richardson, in his “Fauni-Boreali Americana,” says: “Mr. Drummond informs me that in the retired part of the mountains, where hunters had seldom penetrated, he found no difficulty in approaching the Rocky Mountain sheep, which there exhibited the simplicity of character so remarkable in the domestic species; but that where they had been often fired at they were exceedingly wild, alarmed their companions on the approach of danger by a hissing noise, and scaled the rocks with a speed and agility that baffled pursuit.” The mountain men of early days tell precisely the same thing of the sheep. Fifty or sixty years ago they were regarded as the gentlest and most unsuspicious animal of all the prairie, excepting, of course, the buffalo. They did not understand that the sound of a gun meant danger, and, when shot at, often merely jumped about and stared, acting much as in later times the elk and the mule deer acted.

We may take it for granted that, before the coming of the white man, the mountain sheep ranged over a very large portion of western America, from the Arctic Ocean down into Mexico. Wherever the country was adapted to them, there they were found. Absence of suitable food, and sometimes the presence of animals not agreeable to them, may have left certain areas without the sheep, but for the most part these animals no doubt existed from the eastern limit of their range clear to the Pacific. There were sheep on the plains and in the mountains; those inhabiting the plains when alarmed sought shelter in the rough bad lands that border so many rivers, or on the tall buttes that rise from the prairies, or in the small volcanic uplifts which, in the north, stretch far out eastward from the Rocky Mountains.

While some hunters believe that the wild sheep were driven from their former habitat on the plains and in the foothills by the advent of civilized man, the opinion of the best naturalists is the reverse of this. They believe that over the whole plains country, except in a few localities where they still remain, the sheep have been exterminated, and this is probably what has happened. Thus Dr. C. Hart Merriam writes me:

“I do not believe that the plains sheep have been driven to the mountains at all, but that they have been exterminated over the greater part of their former range. In other words, that the form or sub-species inhabiting the plains (_auduboni_) is now extinct over the greater part of its range, occurring only in the localities mentioned by you. The sheep of the mountains always lived there, and, in my opinion, has received no accession from the plains. In other words, to my mind it is not a case of changed habit, but a case of extermination over large areas. The same I believe to be true in the case of elk and many other animals.”

That this is true of the elk–and within my own recollection–is certainly the fact. In the early days of my western travel, elk were reasonably abundant over the whole plains as far east as within 120 miles of the city of Omaha on the Missouri River, north to the Canadian boundary line–and far beyond–and south at least to the Indian Territory. From all this great area as far west as the Rocky Mountains they have disappeared, not by any emigration to other localities, but by absolute extermination.

A few years ago we knew but one species of mountain sheep, the common bighorn of the West, but with the opening of new territories and their invasion by white men, more and more specimens of the bighorn have come into the hands of naturalists, with the result that a number of new forms have been described covering territory from Alaska to Mexico. These forms, with the localities from which the types have come, are as follows:

_Ovis canadensis_, interior of western Canada. (Mountains of Alberta.)

_Ovis canadensis auduboni_, Bad Lands of South Dakota. (Between the White and Cheyenne rivers.)

_Ovis nelsoni_, Grapevine Mountains,
boundary between California and Nevada. (Just south of Lat. 37 deg.)

_Ovis mexicanus_, Lake Santa Maria, Chihuahua, Mexico.

_Ovis stonei_, headwaters Stikine River (Che-o-nee Mountains), British Columbia.

_Ovis dalli_, mountains on Forty-Mile Creek, west of Yukon River, Alaska.

_Ovis dalli kenaiensis_, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (1901).

_Ovis canadensis cremnobates_, Lower California.

The standing of _Ovis fannini_ has been in doubt ever since its description, and recent specimens appear to throw still more doubt on it. Those most familiar with our sheep do not now, I believe, acknowledge it as a valid species. It comes from the mountains of the Klondike River, near Dawson, Yukon Territory.

What the relations of these different forms are to one another has not yet been determined, but it may be conjectured that _Ovis canadensis, O. nelsoni_, and _O. dalli_ differ most widely from one another; while _O. stonei_ and _O. dalli_, with its forms, are close together; and _O. canadensis_, and _O.c. auduboni_ are closely related; as are also _O. nelsoni, O. mexicanus_, and _O.c. cremnobates_. The sub-species _auduboni_ is the easternmost member of the American sheep family, while the sheep of Chihuahua and of Lower California are the most southern now known.


At many points in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas the Indians were formerly great sheep hunters, and largely depended on this game for their flesh food. That it was easily hunted in primitive times cannot be doubted, and is easily comprehended when we remember the testimony of white observers already quoted. In certain places in the foothills of the mountains, or in more or less isolated ranges in Utah, Nevada, Montana, and other sections, the Indians used to beat the mountains, driving the sheep up to the summits, where concealed bowmen might kill them. On the summits of certain ranges which formerly were great resorts for sheep, I have found hiding places built of slabs of the trachyte which forms the mountain, which were used by the Indians for this purpose in part, as, later, they were also used by the scouting warrior as shelters and lookout stations from which a wide extent of plain might be viewed. The sheep on the prairie or on the foothills of such ranges, if alarmed, would of course climb to the summit, and there would be shot with stone-headed arrows.

Mr. Muir has seen such shelters in Nevada, and he tells us also that the Indians used to build corrals or pounds with diverging wings, somewhat like those used for the capture of antelope and buffalo on the plains, and that they drove the sheep into these corrals, about which, no doubt, men, women, and children were secreted, ready to destroy the game.

Certain tribes made a practice of building converging fences and driving