Wild Animals And Men
( Originally Published 1921 )
WOLVERINE AND HUNTER
ONE evening, while sitting before the fire in Oo-koo-boo's lodge, we heard sounds that told us that Amik had returned, and presently he entered the tepee, full of wrath over the havoc a wolverine had wrought along his trapping path. The pelts of more dead game had been ruined; deadfalls had been broken; and even some of his steel traps had been carried away. There and then Oo-koo-hoo decided that he would drop all other work and hunt the marauder.
For its size being about three feet in length and from twelve to eighteen inches high the wolverine is an amazingly powerful creature. In appearance it somewhat resembles a small brown bear. Though it is not a fast traveller its home range may cover anywhere from five to fifty miles. It feeds upon all sorts of small game, and has been known to kill even deer. It mates about the end of March, dens in any convenient earthen hole or rocky crevice or cave that may afford suitable shelter; and it makes its bed of dry leaves, grass, or moss. The young, which number from three to five, are born in June. Whenever necessary, the mother strives desperately to protect her young, and is so formidable a fighter that even though the hunter may be armed with a gun, he runs considerable risk of being injured by the brute. It has been known to take possession of the carcass even of a caribou and to stand off the hunter who had just shot it. Also, it has been known to drive a wolf, and even a bear, away from their quarry.
The superstitious Indian not only believes that the wolverine is possessed of the devil for it is the most destructive animal in the northern world but he considers it also to be endowed with great intelligence. The wily Indian, however, knowing the animal's habit of trying to destroy what it cannot carry away, takes advantage of that very fact and hunts it accordingly.
All that has been said in relation to trapping the fox applies also to le Carca jou—i. e., the wolverine save that the trap chain should be doubled, and everything else made stronger and heavier in proportion to the wolverine's greater size and strength. That evening Oo-koo-hoo talked much of wolverines.
"My son, no other animal surpasses it in devilish cunning. For it is not content to merely spring a trap, but it will carry it away—more often for a short distance, but sometimes for miles and hide or bury it. Later on the wolverine may visit it again, carry it still farther away and bury it once more. The wolverine has good teeth for cutting wood, and will some-times free a trap from its clog by gnawing the pole in two. My son, I have even known a wolverine go to the trouble of digging a hole in which to bury a trap of mine; but just in order to fool me, the beast has filled up the hole again, carried the trap to another place, and there finally buried it. But as a good hunter is very observant, he is seldom fooled that way, for the wolverine, having very short legs, has difficulty in keeping both the chain and the trap from leaving tell-tale marks in the snow.
"Yes, my son, the wolverine is a very knowing brute, and if he thinks he may be trailed, he will sometimes without the slightest sign of premeditation jump sideways over a bush, a log, or a rock, in order to begin, out of sight of any trailer, a new trail; or he may make a great spring to gain a tree, and ascend it without even leaving the evidence of freshly fallen bark. Then, too, he may climb from tree to tree, by way of the interlocking branches, for a distance of a hundred paces or more, all the while carrying the trap with him. Then, descending to the ground, he may travel for a considerable distance before eventually burying the trap. I have known him even leave a trap in a tree, but in that case it was not done from design, for signs proved that the chain had been caught upon a branch."
"How many wolverines," I asked, "do you suppose are causing all the trouble on your and Amik's trapping paths? "
Only one, my son, for even one wolverine can destroy traps and game for twenty or thirty miles around ; and the reason the brute is so persistent in following a hunter's fur path is that it usually affords the wolverine an abundance of food. Then, when the hunter finds the brute is bent on steady mischief, it is time for him to turn from all other work and hunt the thief. If at first steel traps fail, he may build special dead-falls, often only as decoys round which to set, unseen, more steel traps in wait for the marauder.
"If a hunter still fails, he may sit up all night in wait for the robber, knowing that the more stormy the night, the better his chance of shooting the brute. Sometimes, too, I have found a wolverine so hard to catch that I have resorted to setting traps in the ashes of my dead fires, or beneath the brush I have used for my bed, while camping upon my trap-ping path." Then he added with a twinkle about his eye and a shake of his finger : "But, my son, I have another way and I am going to try it before the moon grows much older."
I asked him to explain, but he only laughed knowingly, so I turned the subject by asking:
"Does an animal ever eat the bait after it is caught?"
"No, my son, no animal ever does that, not even if it be starving, but it may eat snow to quench its thirst. Animals, however, do not often starve to death when caught in traps, but if the weather be very severe, they may freeze in a single night. If, however, the beast is still alive when the hunter arrives, the prisoner -will in most cases feign death in the hope of getting free. That is true of most animals, and, furthermore, it will feign death even when other animals approach; but then, more often, its purpose is to secure the advantage of making a sudden or surprise attack."
An Indian named Larzie, who was engaged to hunt meat for the priests at Fort Resolution, once came upon a wolverine in one of his traps that had done that very thing and won the battle, too. The snow, the trap, and the carcass of a wolf, silently told Larzie every detail of the fight. The wolverine, having been caught by the left hind leg, had attempted by many means to escape, even trying to remove the nuts from the steel trap with its teeth, as well as trying to break the steel chain, and gnaw in two the wooden clog to which the trap was fastened. But before accomplishing this, the wolverine had spied a pack of five wolves approaching. In an effort to save its life the wolverine worked itself down low in the snow and there lay, feigning death. The cautious wolves, on sighting the wolverine, began circling about, each time drawing a little nearer. Still suspicious, they sat down to watch the wolverine for a while. Then they circled again, sat down once more, and perhaps did a little howling, too. Then they circled again, each time coming closer, until at last, feeling quite sure the wolverine was dead, one of the wolves, in a careless way, ventured too near. No doubt it was then that the wolverine, peeping through his almost closed eyelids, had seen his chance that the nearest wolf was now not only within reach, but off guard, too for the snow gave evidence of a sudden spring. The wolverine had landed upon the back of the wolf, clung on with his powerful forelegs, and not only ripped away at the wolf's belly with the long, sharp claws of his free hind foot, but with his terrible jaws had seized the wolf by the neck and chewed away at the spinal cord. Then, no doubt, the other wolves, seeing their comrade overpowered and done to death, had turned away and left the scene of battle. Later, Larzie bad arrived, and after killing the wolverine and skinning both the conquerer and the conquered, had lighted his pipe and leisurely read every detail of the story in that morning's issue of the forest publication called The Snow.
Next morning, when I turned out before breakfast, I found that Oo-koo-hoo had left camp before daylight; and half the afternoon passed before he returned. That evening he explained that during the previous night, the thought of the wolverine having haunted him and spoilt his rest, he had decided on a certain plan, risen before (lawn, and started upon the trail. Now he was full of the subject, and without my asking, described what he had done. Securing a number of fish hooks trout size he had wired them together, enclosed them in the centre of a ball of grease which he had placed inside an old canvas bag, and fastened there with the aid of wires attached to the hooks. Then, carrying the bag to where he found fairly fresh wolverine signs, he had dropped it upon the trail as though it had accidentally fallen there. The wolverine, he explained, would probably at first attempt to carry away the bag, but on scenting the grease it would paw the bag about; then, upon discovering the opening, it would thrust its head inside, seize the ball of grease in its mouth, and start to pull it out. "If that should happen," commented Oo-koo-hoo, "the wolverine would never leave that spot alive; it would just lie there and wait for me to come and knock it on the head."
But now at last as later events proved Oo-koo-hoo, the great hunter, had encountered his match. Now it was no longer an unequal contest, for now two could play at cunning especially when both were masters at the gaine. Three times The Owl visited his latest wolverine trap, only to learn that twice the brute had inspected it and spurned it, for its tracks proved that caution had kept the animal more than five feet away. Later, as the winter wore on, the subject of wolverines was rarely mentioned as it did not add to the cheerfulness of Oo-koo-hoo's otherwise happy mood_
THE BEST FOOT-GEAR
About a week later, with a few days' outfit loaded upon our sled, Oo-koo-hoo and I were heading first for the Moose Hills where we were to hunt moose, and if successful, to cache the meat where Granny and the boys could find it; then continuing farther north we were to call upon The Owl's sister to deliver her a present from the children of Oo-koo-hoo. In the meantime, Amik had gone upon one of his trapping paths, and the boys were off to a swampy region to examine deadfalls set for mink and fisher. The boys had taken the dogs with them.
It was a fine, cold, sunny morning when Oo-koo-hoo and I set out upon our hunt, and with every breath we seemed to be drinking aërial champagne that made us fairly tingle with the joy of living for such is the northern air in winter time. As we snowshoed along I felt thankful for the excellent socks with which the old hunter had provided me. On the last hunt my snowshoe thongs had blistered my feet, but now, thanks to Oo-koo-hoo, I was shod with the most perfect foot-gear for winter travel I have ever known a natural sock that was both blister- and cold-proof. I had never heard of it before, but The Owl assured me that it had been long in fashion among the Indians. On each foot I was now wearing next my bare skin a rabbit pelt minus legs and ears put on, hair side out, while the skin was still green and damp, and then allowed to dry and shape itself to the foot. Over the rabbit pelts I wore my regular woollen socks, duffel neaps, and caribou-skin mitten moccasins. The pelts had been removed from the rabbits by simply cutting them between the hind legs, and then peeling them off inside out. With the inside of the skin next the foot blisters never form, nor does the hair wear off and ball up under the foot in such a way that it may hurt the wearer. Though the rabbit pelt is very tender and tears easily, it can be worn for five or six days of hard travel. For warmth and comfort it is unexcelled.
Early that afternoon we came upon many lynx tracks, evidently there had been a "pass of lynxes" as the hunters call it, for lynxes have a way of gathering in bands of about four to eight and passing through the forest. Oo-koo-hoo stated that they migrated in that way from one region to another, covering many miles in search of game, especially during the years when the rabbit plague causes a great shortage of food; and had he known of their presence in time, he would have cut big heaps of poplar, birch, and willow branches to attract the rabbits, and thus furnish more food for the lynxes. Hoping, however, that he was not too late, he set what few snares he had; nevertheless, he regretted that the boys had gone off with the dogs, for, if they had not, he would have tried to trail and tree the lynxes.
The boys had taken the dogs because they wanted them to haul their sled. It was, however, against the advice of their grandfather, for he had admonished them that only white men and half-breeds would use dogs to haul a sled on a trapping path; that a good hunter would never do such a foolish thing, and for many reasons: the traps being usually set close to the path were apt to be either set off or destroyed by the swinging sled; besides, the dogs' tracks would obliterate the tracks of game; also the dogs might be caught in the traps; furthermore, the smell of dogs always inspired fear in animals, again, the noise of driving dogs frightened the game away. So, according to Oo-koo-hoo, the wise hunter either packs his load upon his back, or, by himself, hauls it upon his sled. But one must remember that The Owl was an Ojibway and that those Indians as well as the Saulteaux Indians prefer to haul their own sleds on the hunting trail and to keep their dogs solely for trailing game; though all other Indians of the Strong Woods use their dogs for hauling sleds. One advantage of the Ojibway custom is that hunting dogs when running loose never have to be fed.
Amik, however, being a rather shiftless fellow, often spoilt his boys as much as the average white father spoils his, for he never thrashed them, though they frequently deserved it, and having given in to them on many previous occasions, he had now let them take the dogs. But speaking of parents' treatment of children, even an old she-bear could give many a civilized father or mother pointers on how to bring up children, for even among animals and birds one frequently finds a model parent.
According to the verdict of the old fur-traders, the best trapper is the uncivilized Indian. Though, apparently, he does not derive the same amount of sport from his work as the white man does, he never shirks his work and always takes great pains to prepare for and perfect the setting of his traps. Though he is slow, he is, nevertheless, sure and deadly in his work. Oo-koo-hoo assured me that the secret of successful hunting was intelligence, caution, and patience.
During December and January, or according to the Indians, Yeyekoopewe Pesim "The Rime Moon," and Kakisapowatukinum—"The Moon When Everything Is Brittle," there is always a lull in the trapping, for the reason that then the days are shorter and the weather colder, and on that account and also on account of the fact that the sun and winds of March have not arrived to harden the deep soft snow, the forest creatures prefer to remain more at home.
In approaching the Moose Hills we saw many moose tracks, but they were old, the freshest having been made two days before. The age of these the hunter was able to determine from the amount of newly fallen snow in the track, as well as from other conditions; for he well remembered how much snow had fallen each day for the last week or two, when and which way the wind had blown, and when the sun was strong and the cold severe. Now selecting a two-day-old trail as the best for us to follow, he decided to camp for the night, and we spent the interval between supper and bedtime discussing not only the hunting of moose, but also their range and habits.
The extreme range of a moose covers from five to fifteen miles. More often it is confined to a much smaller area that merely includes the low-lying river and lake valleys that afford him the choicest of summer food the pineapple-like roots of waterlilies and also affords him protection from flies while he is wading and delving for those very roots; and the higher lands among the hills, where he spends the winter in the denser forest.
But it is in midsummer that we can study the moose with greatest case, for then he spends the sunrises and sunsets wading among the lily pads, and if we are careful to observe the direction of the wind to guard against being scented, and also careful to cease paddling or any other motion before the big brute looks at us, we may, with the greatest ease and safety, propel our canoe to within from a hundred yards to fifty or forty feet of the great beast as he stands looking at us with raised head and dilating nostrils trying to catch our scent. If he catches it, he suddenly tosses his ponderous head, drops back slightly on his hind legs as he swings round, and is off with a grunt. Nevertheless, he or she will pause long enough to leave the sign that all deer leave upon the ground when suddenly startled by to them the dreadful smell of human beings. Or if happens to be moonlight: and the moose is a bit mystified by the steady, but silent, scentless, and motionless approach of our canoe, he may at first stand gazing at us, then grunt at us, then back out of the water up on to the bank and there stand, not fifty feet away, towering above us for he may measure from six to seven feet at the shoulder and weigh three quarters of a ton shaking his great antlers and grunting, or perhaps, more properly speaking, barking at us while he stamps his big fore hoofs until he shakes the very river bank.
How children love to take part in such sport! How they thrill over such an experience! Many a time I have taken them right up to even the largest of bulls until the little tots could look into the very eyes of the greatest of all living deer. What fine little hunters, too, they made, never speaking, not even in a whisper; never moving save only their eyelids. In fact, I have been so close to wild moose that on one occasion I could have spanked a huge bull with my paddle. He was standing belly-deep in the river with his head under water, and so close did my canoe glide past him that I had to turn it to prevent it from running in between his hind legs_ It was the sound of turning aside the canoe that brought his head up, and when he beheld the cause, he lunged forward and trotted away leaving a great wake of surging foam behind him. His head, crowned with massive antlers, was a ponderous affair. His body was as large as that of a Shire stallion and his back just as flat, while his legs were very much longer. He was the largest moose I have ever seen and yet, by leaning slightly toward him, I could have spanked him with my paddle! One such experience with a great, wild animal, is more adventure-some, more thrilling and more satisfactory, than the shooting of a hundred such creatures. It is more than the sport of kings —i t is the sport of men of common sense.
On another occasion, at Shahwandahgooze, in Quebec, in broad daylight, I paddled a friend of mine right in between three bulls and a cow, and there we rested with moose on three sides of us. They were standing in a semicircle and no one of them was more than fifty paces away. They were unusually fine specimens and had the bulls been triplets they could not have been more alike even to the detail of their antlers. The cow paid little attention to us and went on feeding while the bulls, with heads held much higher than usual, stood as though in perfect pose for some sculptor. There wasn't a breath of wind and the wondrous spell must have lasted from eight to ten minutes; then a faint zephyr came and carried our tell-tale scent to them and they wheeled round and trotted away. Yet the head hunter from the city, who usually stands off at long range and fires at the first sight of game, will argue that killing is the greatest sport; when in truth it requires greater courage and greater skill to approach, unarmed, so close to game that one may touch it with a fish pole, and the reward is a much greater and a more satisfactory thrill than the head hunter ever gets from lying off at long range with a high-powered rifle and utterly destroying life. Furthermore, think of how much better one can study natural history by observing live animals in action, rather than motionless ones in death! An artist, in his effort to render a perfect portrait of a human being, never murders his sitter, as the so-called "sportsman-naturalist" does. It seems to me that if sportsmen were more active, more skilful, and more courageous, they would give up slaughtering animals and birds for the sake of the unbounded pleasure and adventure of observing wild game at closer quarters; but in truth, long experience has taught me that the average hunter from the city is something of a coward never daring to walk alone in the forest without his trusty, life-destroying machines.
But if those same huniers would only take a little more interest in nature, pluck up a little more courage, and re-member that the wild animals of the northern forest are less vicious when unmolested than are many of the tame animals of civilization, how much more sane they would be. Remember, it is much safer to approach the great bulls of the forest than it is to approach the smaller bulls of the farmers' fields. Likewise, when tramping along the rural road one runs a much greater chance of being bitten by the farmer's dog, than one does, when travelling through the forest, of being bitten by a wolf. Then, too, it is just the same of men, for the men of the cities are much more quarrelsome, dishonest, and evil-minded than are those of the wilderness, and that, no doubt, accounts for the endless slandering of the wilderness dwellers by fiction writers who live in towns, for those authors never having lived in the wilderness form their judgment of life, either as they have experienced it in cities or as they imagine it to be in the wilderness.
THE OUTLAW AND NEW YORKER
Now, in order to confirm my statement, I shall go to the very extreme and quote what Al Jennings, the notorious outlaw, says upon this very subject. The quotation is taken from Jennings' reminiscences of his prison days, when he and the late lamented William Sydney Porter the afterward famous author O. Henry formed such a strong friendship. In the following dialogue Jennings is in New York City visiting Porter —whom he calls "Bill "—and Porter is speaking:
"I have accepted an invitation for you,, Colonel." He was in one of his gently sparkling moods. "Get into your armor asinorum, for we fare forth to make contest with tinsel and gauze. In other words, we mingle with the proletariat. We go to see Margaret Anglin and Henry Miller in that superb and realistic Western libel, 'The Great Divide.' "
After the play the great actress, Porter, and I, and one or two others were to have supper at the Breslin Hotel. T think Porter took me there that he might sit back and enjoy my unabashed criticisms to the young lady's face.
"I feel greatly disappointed in you, Mr. Porter," Margaret Anglin said to Bill as we took our places at the table. "In what have I failed?"
"You promised to bring your Western friend that terrible Mr. Jennings to criticize the play."
"Well, I have introduced him." He waved his hand down toward me.
Miss Anglin looked me over with the trace of a smile in her eye.
"Pardon me," she said, "but I can hardly associate you with the lovely things they say of you. Did you like the play?"
I told her I didn't. It was unreal. No man of the West would shake dice for a lady in distress. The situation was unheard of and could only occur in the imagination of a fat-headed Easterner who had never set his feet beyond the Hudson.
Miss Anglin laughed merrily. "New York is wild over it, New York doesn't know any better."
Porter sat back, an expansive smile spreading a Iight in his gray eyes.
"I am inclined to agree with our friend," he offered. " The West is unacquainted with Manhattan chivalry."
That is the truth in a sentence; and while O. Henry and Jennings have spoken for the West, may I add my own experience of wilderness men and say that the North, also, is unacquainted with Manhattan chivalry.
LAW AND ORDER ENFORCED
Furthermore, while upon this subject, I wish to add to my own protest against the novelists' wild dreams of outlawry in the Canadian wilderness, a quotation from E. Ward Smith's "Chronicles of the Klondyke." Mr. Smith as you no doubt remember was the first city clerk, treasurer, assessor, and tax collector of Dawson City; and this is what he says:
"I want to say at the very outset that the Yukon was, in my opinion at least, one of the most orderly corners of the earth. Even in the early days of the boom, when miners and ad-venturers of all nationalities poured in, the scales of justice were held firmly and rigidly. The spell of the Mounted Police hung over the snow-bound land and checked the evil-doer. It may sound ridiculous when I assert that the Yukon that gathering spot of so much of the scum of the earth was better policed than Winnipeg, or Toronto, or Halifax; but, nevertheless, I believe it to be a fact.
"Of course, crimes were committed, some of which were never solved. Doubtless, also many deeds of violence occurred whose authors never came to light. But, on the whole, life and property were surprisingly secure. One day I visited the cabin of my friend Lippy, who made a million or so upon El Dorado. The door was partly open, so, on receiving no response to my knock, I walked in. The cabin was empty. On the table was a five-gallon pail heaped high with glittering nuggets of gold ! I glanced around the place. On the shelves and rafters, on chairs and under bunks, were cans filled with gold. There was a snug fortune in sight. Any one could have slipped in and stolen the lot. I took Lippy to task about it when he came in. Ile did not seem at all concerned, however.
" Pshaw," he said, "I always have quite a lot of gold about. But no one would steal it. I've never lost anything."
But as the Yukon and New York are a long way from where Oo-koo-hoo was hunting, let us return to his Moose Hills.
THE WAYS OF THE MOOSE
Moose mate in September and October, and during this period great battles between bulls frequently occur before the victor walks off with his hard-won spouse. The young either one or two, but generally two after the mother's first experience —are born in May, in some secluded spot, and the calves soon begin to follow their mother about, and they follow her, too, into their second year. Horns begin to grow on the young bull before he is a year old, but they are mere knobs until he is a year and a half old, when spikes form; by the third year he is supplied with antlers. The perfect antlers of a big bull sometimes measure seventy inches across, yet every winter in January or February the horns are shed. During the mating season moose are frequently hunted by the method known as "calling" The hunter, with the aid of a birch-bark megaphone, imitates the long-drawn call of the cow, to attract the bull. Then, when a bull answers with his guttural grunt of Oo-ah, Oo-ah, the Indian imitates that sound, too, to give the first bull the impression that a second is approaching, and thus provokes the first to hurry forward within range of the hunter's gun. But when the rutting season is over, the hunting is done by snaring or stalking or trailing. The moose derives its winter food principally from browsing upon hardwood twigs, and when the deep snows of midwinter arrive, he is generally to be found in a "yard" where such growth is most abundant.
A moose yard is usually composed of a series of gutters from one foot to eighteen inches wide, intersecting one another at any distance from ten to fifty feet or more apart, and each gutter being punctured about every three feet with a post hole in which the moose steps as it walks. The space between the tracks is generally nothing but deep, soft snow, anywhere from three to five feet in depth.
Beside the moose tracks that Oo-koo-hoo and I had seen that day was much silver birch and red willow, and from the signs of freshly cropped twigs we knew that the moose were not unusually tall, and we knew, too, from the fact that the tracks were sharply defined as well as from their ordinary size and that they were not deeply impressed in the snow, that the moose were those of about three years old.
THE OWL TRACKS MOOSE
That night, as Oo-koo-hoo was in a talkative mood, he told me much about the hunting of moose, as we sat before our snow-encircled fire in the still, silent, sombre woods.
"We hunters usually take moose by shooting or snaring them, and the first thing to do is to find a track, and if it is old, follow it up until new signs appear. And now, my son, as you may some day want to hunt moose on your own account, I shall tell you how to trail them and what to do when you find them. Listen to my words and remember: As soon as you find a fresh track, look toward the sun to learn the time of day; for if it is between eight and nine on a winter morning the moose will be feeding, as it seldom lies down until between ten and three. If feeding, the track will zig-zag about, and for a time head mainly up wind, until its feeding is nearly done, then if the wind is from the right, the moose will turn to the left and circle down wind and finally corne about close to its old trail where it will lie down to rest. So when you find a zig-zagging track about which the brush has been browsed, and when the wind comes from the right of the trail, you, too, should circle to the left, but, instead of circling down wind as the moose has done, or is now doing, you circle up wind until you either approach the danger point where the wind may carry your scent to the moose, or otherwise, until you cut the moose's track. In either case you should now retrace your steps for some distance and then begin a new circle, and this time, a smaller one.. If you now find a new trail, but still no sign that the moose has turned up wind, or is about to do so, you retrace your steps and begin a still smaller circle, then when you strike the trail again, you can judge fairly well without even getting a sight of it the exact position of your quarry. Then is the time to take off your snowshoes and approach with greater care then ever; but re-member, always keep to leeward of the track and always look up wind. Should you now come to an open space, watch carefully any clumps of trees or hushes; if passing through heavy timber, watch for an opening, and if there should be fallen timber there, scan it most carefully where the dead trees lie, for there, too, your game may be lying. Remember, my son, if you approach a moose directly he will either see or scent you, and in circling, you must understand that only the skill of the hunter in reading the signs can successfully determine the size of the circle sometimes it may cover a quarter of a mile.
"Then, too, my son, the seasons play a part in hunting. In winter, a moose, of course, does not go to water, but eats snow to slake its thirst. But whenever there is open water, a moose will go to drink about sunrise; in the fly season, however, all rules are broken, as the brute then goes to water night or day, to get rid of the pests, and it will even remain submerged with nothing above the surface save its nose. In stormy weather look for moose among heavy timber, and in fair weather search the open feeding places. But in bad weather, though the hunter gains one advantage, the moose gains another; for while many twigs and sticks are apt to be broken by the high wind and thus the sound of the hunter's approach is less likely to be heard, the eddying currents of air are then more apt to carry the hunter's scent to the moose regardless of the fact that his approach may be faultless.
"Also, my son, you must be careful not to disturb the little tell-tale creatures of the woods or success that seems so near may vanish in a moment; for a raven may fly overhead, and spying you, circle about just as the pigeons used to do and then crying out may warn the moose of your presence. Or you may flush a partridge; or a squirrel, taking fright, may rush up a tree and begin chattering about you; or a rabbit may go drumming into a thicket, and the moose, reading these signs of alarm, will surely look about to learn the cause.
"But, my son, should you spy a moose lying down, it is rather risky to fire at it in that position, as it is then hard to hit a vital spot. The better way is to stand with cocked gun covering the game, and then break a twig not too sharply though, or you may scare away your quarry. Watch its ears: if they flop back and forward, it has heard nothing, but if both ears point in your direction, keep still and be ready, for it has heard you, and now with one great spring it may disappear into a thicket. Instead of breaking a twig, some hunters prefer to whistle like a startled rabbit while other hunters prefer to speak to the moose in a gentle voice, always taking care to use none but kindly words, such as for instance: 'Oh, my lazy brother, I see you are sleeping long this morning.'
"For we Indians never speak harshly to so good an animal, nor do we ever use bad words, as bad words always bring had luck to the hunter.
" In winter, my son, a moose makes much noise in walking and feeding, for then he often breaks off the tops of little trees though some of the trunks may be as thick as a man's arm. The moose breaks down trees of such a size by placing his big shoulder against it, and curving his powerful neck round it, and then bending it over with his massive head. Then, too, he often rides down small trees, such as birch or poplars, just by straddling his fore legs about them and using his chest to force them over.
"In shooting a moose, remember the best spot is just behind the shoulder, and while the next best is in the kidneys, the head is not a good shot for a smooth-bore gun, for bone often deflects a round ball. A good hunter always tries to get a clear view of his quarry, for even a twig may deflect. his bullet. And re-member, too, my son, that as a rule, when coming upon a fresh track, it is wiser to back-track it than to follow it up at once, as hack-tracking will provide the hunter with about all the information he may require, as the back trail will tell him if the game was travelling fast or slow, whether it was fleeing in fright or feeding; and if feeding, whether it was feeding quietly or in haste; and if in haste, the twigs would be torn off instead of being clean cut. Sometimes a good hunter will back-track a trail several miles in order to assure the success of his hunt.
"My son, if a moose is badly frightened by man-smell it may at first go off on the gallop and then settle down to a steady trot for four or five miles before it stops to listen but not to feed. Then, turning its head this way and that, and even trembling with excitement, as it throws its snout into the air, to test if danger is still following, it may then start off again on another long trot, but all the time it will, as much as possible, avoid open places. Later it may attempt to feed by tearing off twigs as it hurries along, and then at last it will circle to leeward and finally rest not far from its old trail. Under such conditions, the distance a moose travels depends largely upon the depth of the snow. Two or three feet of snow will not hamper it much, but when the depth is four feet, or when the moose's belly begins to drag in the snow, the brute will not travel far. An old bull will not run as far as a young one, and a cow will not travel as far as a bull; but when tired out a moose sleeps soundly, so soundly, indeed, that a hunter can easily approach as close as he pleases. But don't forget, my son, that a good hunter never runs a moose at least, not unless he is starving as running a moose spoils the meat.
" Sometimes, my son, a hunter may use a dog to trail a moose, but it is dangerous work for the dog, as the moose may turn at bay and strike at the dog with any one of its chisel-like hoofs or may even seize the dog by the back in its mouth, carry it for a little way, then throw it into the air and when it falls trample it to death. So, my son, when hunting moose in that way, it, is best to have two dogs or more, as then one dog may attack while another is being pursued. But I warn you, if you are in pursuit of a moose and if he turns at bay for the first time . . . look out . . . for then he will surely attack you; if, how-ever, he turns at bay through sheer exhaustion or from overwhelming pain, he will not always fight; but under the first condition, the hunter is a fool if he approaches within ten paces of a bayed moose."
"THE OWL" MAKES A KILL
Rising early next morning we made a very small fire to cook our breakfast and were ready to start as soon as dawn came to light us on our way. Oo-koo-hoo took great care in loading his gun as he expected to come upon moose at any time. He placed a patch of cotton about the ball before ramming it in, and made sure that the powder showed in the nipple before putting on the percussion cap. And as he took his fire-steel and whetted a keener edge upon his knife, a smile of hunter's contentment overspread his face, because he well knew how soon he was to use the blade. That morning he did not light his pipe as usual because, as he explained, he wanted to have his wits about him; furthermore, he did not wish to add to the strength of his man-smell; and whispering to me he added with a smile:
"My son, when I smell some men, especially some white men, I never blame the animals of the Strong Woods for taking fright and running away."
And that reminds me that while we white people consider the negro the standard-bearer of the most offensive of all human body smells, the Indian always unhesitatingly awards the palm to the white man, and sometimes even the Indian children and babies, when they get an unadulterated whiff from a white man, will take such fright that it is hard for their mothers to console them a fact that has often made me wonder what the poor little tots would do if they scented one of those highly painted and perfumed "ladies" that parade up and down Piccadilly, Fifth Avenue, or Yonge Street?
After following the trail for about fifteen minutes, we came to where the moose had been lying down, and the hunter whispered:
"My son, I am glad I did not smoke, but I am sorry that we camped so near." Then he added as he pointed to the impression of a 'noose's body in the snow: "A moose seldom lies twice in the same place in the snow, as the old bed would be frozen and hard as well as dirty."
But as we had not made much noise, nor cut any big wood to make a fire, he was hopeful that our chances were still good; and at sunrise he concluded that it was time we should leave our sled behind and begin to track our quarry more cautiously. From then on there was to be no talking not even in a whisper. Soon we came upon yesterday's tracks, then farther on we saw where the moose had circled before lying down again for the night, with their eyes guarding their front while their scent guarded their rear.
At last we cane upon still fresher signs that told that the moose might be within a hundred paces or less. At a signal from the old hunter I imitated him by slipping off my snow-shoes, and standing them upon end in the snow, and Oo-koo-hoo leading the way, began to circle to our right as a gentle wind was coming on our left. Now our progress was indeed slow, and also perfectly noiseless. It seemed to take an age to make a semicircle of a couple of hundred paces. Again we came upon the tracks of the moose. The signs were now fresher than ever. Retracing our own tracks for a little way we started on another circle, but this time, a smaller one, for we were now very near the moose. Silent ages passed, then we heard the swishing of a pulled branch as it flew back into place; a few steps nearer we progressed; then we heard the munching sound of a large animal's jaws. Oo-koo-hoo rose slightly from his stooped position, peered through the branches of a dense spruce thicket, crouched again, turned aside for perhaps twenty paces . . . looked up again . . raised his gun and saying in a gentle voice : " My brother, I need . . ." he fired.
Instantly there was a great commotion beyond the thicket, one sound running off among the trees, while the other, the greater sound, first made a brittle crash, then a ponderous thud as of a large object falling among the (lead under-branches.
The hunter now straightened up and with his teeth pulled the plug from his powder horn, poured a charge into his gun, spat a bullet from his mouth into the barrel, struck the butt violently upon the palm of his left hand, then slipping a cap upon the nipple, moved cautiously forward as he whispered: "Its neck must be broken." Soon we saw what had happened. One moose was lying dead, the ball had struck it in the neck; it was a three-year-old cow the one Oo-koo-hoo had selected while the other, a bull, had left nothing but its tracks.
Presently The Owl re-loaded his gun with greater care, then we returned for our snowshoes and to recover our toboggan before we started to skin the carcass. On the way Oo-koo-hoo talked of moose hunting, and I questioned him as to why he had turned aside for the last time, just before he fired, and he answered :
"My son, I did it so that in case I should miss, the report of my gun would come from the right direction to drive the moose toward home and also toward our sled; and in case, too, that I hit the moose and only wounded it, the brute would run toward our sled and not take us farther away from it. Also, my son, if I had merely wounded the beast, but had seen from the way it flinched that it had been struck in a vital spot, I would not have followed immediately, but would have sat down and had a smoke, so as not to further disturb the wounded animal before it had time to bleed to death. Besides, a mere glance at the trail would tell me whether or not I had mortally wounded the moose whether the brute was hit high or low, and whether the blood was (lark or light. If hit high, the blood would be upon the branches as well as upon the snow; if the blood was black it would mean that an artery had been severed and that the moose was mortally wounded. If the latter had happened, then would be the time for me to get out my pipe and have a smoke."
As we were to be busy for the rest of the day, we made a suitable camp and started a fire and by that time the moose had stiffened enough for proper handling while removing the skin. As usual the hunter's first act was to cut the eyes, then to cut off the head, which he at once skinned and, removing the tongue, hung the head beside the fire to cook while we went on with our work.
But while we propped up the moose and got it into good position, three whiskey jacks (Canada Jays) came, as they always seem to corne at the first sign of smoke, to pay us a visit and partake of the feast. They are fluffy, heavily feathered little birds of gray, with wings and tail of darker hue, and with a white spot on their forehead. They are not unlike the blue jay in their calls and shrieks, though they have some note of their own that are of a quieter, softer tone. They are friendly little beggars that will at times come so near that they may occasionally be caught in one's hand; but while one likes to have them about for the sake of their companion-ship, they will, uninvited, take a share of anything that is good to eat. They are the most familiar birds to be seen in the winter forest, and they have a remarkable way of laying their eggs and nesting in the month of March when the weather may register from twenty to forty below zero.
In the forest there are several different ways of skinning animals: one is called "case skinning" and another is called "split skinning." To case skin an animal such as ermine, fox, fisher, lynx, marten, mink, otter, muskrat, rabbit, or skunk, the skin is cut down the inner side of each hind leg until the two cuts meet just under the tail, and then the pelt is peeled off by turning it inside out. To split skin an animal such as wood-buffalo, moose, wapiti, caribou, deer, bear, beaver, wolf, or wolverine, the skin is cut down the belly from throat to tail and also on the inside of each leg to the centre cut, and then the pelt is peeled off both ways toward the back. All split skins are stretched on rectangular frames all save heaver skins which are stretched on oval frames. All case skins are stretched over wedge-shaped boards of various sizes all save muskrat skins which are more often stretched over a hooped frame or a looped stick. So, of course, our moose pelt was "split skinned," but there is still another way to skin an animal that is too large for one man to turn over, and that is in case the animal is lying on its belly to split the skin down the back and then peel it off both ways toward the belly.
If the skin is to be used as a robe, the hair is left on, and the animal's brains are rubbed into the inner side of the pelt, after the fat has been removed, and then the skin is left to dry. That softens the pelt; but traders prefer skins to be sun-dried or cold-dried. If the skin is to be used as leather, the hair is cut off with a knife, and a deer's shin-bone is used as a dressing tool in scraping off the fat; both sides of the skin are dressed to remove the outer surface. It is easier to dress a skin in winter than in summer, but summer-made leather wears better, for the reason that the roots of the hair run all through a summer skin; whereas in winter the roots show only on the outer side; that is why a fur-trader when looking only at the inner side can tell whether a skin has been taken in
winter or summer. In dressing leather the inner side is rubbed well with brains which are then allowed to soak in for three or four days; then the skin is soaked in a vessel filled with water but not in a river for about two days more; then it is stretched again and let dry, then scraped with a bone, shell, or steel scraper if it is a moose skin, only on one side, but if it is a caribou skin, on both sides. The object of scraping is to further soften the skin. After that, it is taken off the stretcher and rubbed together between the hands and pulled between two people. Then it is stretched again and smoked over a slow fire that does not blaze.
Woodsmen hunt moose for food and clothing. Townsmen hunt moose for the satisfaction of killing. But should the townsman fail in his hunt, he may hire a native "Head Hunter" to secure a head for him; and that reminds me of one night during the early winter, when a strange apparition was seen crossing the lake. It appeared to have wings, but it did not fly, and though it possessed a tail, it did not run, but contented itself with moving steadily forward on its long, up-turned feet. Over an arm it carried what might have been a trident, and what with its waving tail and great outspreading wings that rose above its horned-like head, it suggested that nothing less than Old Beelzebub himself had come from his flaming region beyond to cool himself on the snow-covered lake. But in reality it was just Oo-koo-hoo returning with a fine pair of moose horns upon his back, and which he counted on turning over to the trader for some city sportsman who would readily palm it off as a trophy that had fallen to his unerring aim, and which he had brought down, too, with but a single shot . . of $25.
While at work I recalled how Oo-koo-hoo had surmised, before Jae had examined the carcass, that he had broken the moose's neck with his ball, and on questioning him as to how he knew, he replied:
"My son, if an animal is hit in the neck and the neck is broken, the beast will collapse right where it is; but if hit in the heart, it will lunge forward; if hit in the nose, it will rear up; if hit in the spine, it will leap into the air. Yes, my son, I have seen a great bull buffalo leap lynx-like, into the air, when it was struck in the spine."
Knowing that the hunter had wanted to procure more than one moose I asked him why he had not at once pursued the other? And he explained:
"For two reasons, my son: first, because I don't want a bull, I want the tenderer meat and the softer skin of a cow; and secondly, even if I had Ranted him, I would not have pursued him at once as that. would cause him to run. I f a moose is pursued on the run, it overheats, and that spoils the meat, because the moose is naturally a rather inactive animal that lives on a small range and travels very little; but it is quite different with the caribou, for the caribou is naturally an active animal, a great traveller, that wanders far for its food, and to pursue it on the run only improves the flavour and the texture of its meat."
After supper, as we sat in the comfortable glow of the fire, we talked much of old-time hunting, for in certain parts of the Great Northern Forest many of the ancient methods are practised to-day. Fire is often made by friction; many hunters still use the bow and arrow, while others use the flintlock gun; frequently, too, they rely upon their spears; bone knives and awls as well as stone axes are stiIl applied to work; fish nets are yet woven from the inner bark of cedar; and still today wooden baskets and birch-bark rogans are used for the purpose of heating water and boiling food. Notwithstanding our far overrated civilization the natives in some sections are dressed to-day in clothing entirely derived from the forest.
One of the most ancient methods of hunting and one which is still in vogue in some remote localities is the "drive." Two famous places for drive hunting in olden days were Point Carcajou on Peace River, and the Grand Detour on Great Slave River. The former driving ground was about thirty miles long by about three miles across, while the latter was about fifteen miles long by about three miles across. The mode of hunting was for a party of Indians to spread out through the woods, and all, at an appointed time, to move for-ward toward a certain point, and thus drive the game before them, until the animals, on coming out into the open at the other end, were attacked by men in ambush. At those driving grounds in the right season even if a drive of only a few miles were made the Indians could count on securing two or three bears, three or four moose, and twelve or fifteen caribou. But in later years, a number of the drivers having been accidentally shot from ambush, the practice has been discontinued in those localities.
THE BEAR IN HIS WASH
It is not an uncommon occurrence for a hunter, when travel-ling through the winter woods, to discover the place where a bear is hibernating; the secret being given away by the condensed breath of the brute forming hoar frost about the imperfectly blocked entrance to the wash. The Indians' hunting dogs are experts at finding such hidden treasure, and when they do locate such a claim, they do their best to acquaint their master of the fact.
One day when Oo-koo-hoo was snowshoeing across a beaver meadow, his dogs, having gained the wooded slope beyond, began racing about as though they had scented game and were trying to connect a broken trail. So The Owl got out his pipe and sat down to have a smoke while his dogs were busily engaged. Presently they centred on a certain spot, and Oo-koo-hoo, going over, discovered the tell-tale hoar frost. Twisting out of his snowshoes for an Indian never has to touch his hands to them when he puts them on or takes them off he used one of them for a shovel, and digging away the snow, he came upon a bear's wash. It was quite a cave and dark inside, and as the dogs refused to enter, the hunter crawled into the entrance and reaching in as far as he could with his hand, felt the forms of two bears. Making sure of the exact position of the head of one of them, he then shoved his gun in until the muzzle was close to the ear of one of the bears and then he fired. The explosion aroused the other bear and as it crawled out Oo-koo-hoo killed it with his axe. The latter was a brown bear while the former was a black.
When a bear in his den shows fight and threatens danger, the hunter may wedge two crossed poles against the opening of the wash, leaving only enough space for the brute to squeeze through and thus prevent it from making a sudden rush. Then when the bear does try to come out, the hunter, standing over the opening, kills it with the back of his axe. Sometimes a second hole is dug in order to prod the beast with a pole to make it leave its den. The white hunter frequently uses fire to smoke a bear out, but not infrequently he succeeds in ruining the coat by singeing the hair. It requires more skill, how-ever, to find a bear's wash than it does to kill him in his den. The Indians hunt, for bear washes in the vicinity of good fishing grounds or in a district where berries have been plentiful.
One winter when I happened to be spending a few days at Brunswick House an old Indian woman came to call upon the Hudson's Bay trader's wife, and, while she was having afternoon tea, she casually remarked that while on her way to the Post she had espied a bear wash. Digging down into its den with one of her snowshoes, she had killed the brute with her axe, and if the other guests would care to see her prize, it was lying on her sled, just outside the door. What a contrast to the way the Wild West movie actors would have done the deadly work with the aid of all their absurd artillery! Nevertheless, that kindly spoken, smiling-faced, motherly old lady, did the deed with nothing but her little axe.
But while the men of the wilderness laugh over the serious drivel of most fiction writers who make a specialty of northern tales, nothing is so supremely ludicrous as the attempts made by the average movie director to depict northern life in Canada. Never have I seen a photoplay that truthfully illustrated northern Canadian life.
THE WOLVERINE AND GILL NET
Next day we again set out on a moose trail, but, as ill luck followed us in the way of a heavy snowstorm, we gave up the chase and continued on our way. It was hard going and we stopped often. Once we halted to rest beside a number of otter tracks. Otters leave a surprisingly big trail for animals of their size. A good imitation could be made of an otter's trail by pressing down into the snow, in a horizontal position, a long, irregular stove pipe of the usual size. The reason the otter's trail is so formed, is that the animal, when travelling through deep snow, progresses on its belly and propels itself principally by its hind legs, especially when going down hill. When making a hillside descent an otter prefers to use an old, well-worn track and glides down it with the ease and grace of a toboggan on its slide. It was the sight of the otter's trail that set Oo-koo-hoo thinking of his younger days.
"Years ago, my son, I very nearly killed a man. It happened at just such a place as this: a little lake with a patch of open water above a spring. It was on my father's hunting grounds, and late one afternoon, after passing through heavy timber, I came out upon its shore, and there I discovered two men robbing one of my otter traps. One man was holding up the otter by the tail and laughingly commenting on his gain, while the other was resetting the trap beneath the ice. I raised my gun and was about to fire, when it occurred to me that, after all, a man's life was worth more than an otter's skin; so I let them go, and left it to the Redcoats (Mounted Police) to settle with them. I knew them both. They were half-breeds from near Montreal, and were well learned in the ways of the whites."
But before setting out on our way I forgot to tell you we cached our mode meat in a tree as was previously agreed upon with old Granny, who, with the boys, was to come and take it home; and in order to prevent wolverines from stealing or spoiling the meat, the hunter wrapped round the trunk of the tree an old bag to which were fastened many fish hooks, all with their barbs pointing downward and ready to impale any creature that tried to climb the tree. Needless to say, as that tree stood alone, no wolverine touched that meat.
That day we covered about twenty miles, and by the after-noon of the second day we had arrived at the lake on the far shore of which lived Oo-koo-hoo's sister, Ko-ko-hay The Perfect Woman with her daughter and her son-in-law and four granddaughters. As we drew near the camp we found the women about a mile from shore fishing through the ice for salmon trout. There were a number of holes each of which was marked by a spruce bough set upright in the snow and the fishing was being done with hook and line. The hook dangling below the ice about a third of the water's depth, was held in position by a branch line to which was attached a suitable sinker. The trout they had caught ran from ten to thirty pounds each as near as I could judge and as the women had already gained a good haul, they loaded their catch upon their sled and returned home with us.
Gill nets are also used in the winter time. They are strung under the ice beneath a series of holes by means of which the net is passed under the ice with the aid of a pole. The lines being then secured at either end, the net can be readily drawn back and forth for the purpose of emptying and resetting. Of course, floats and sinkers are used to spread the net and keep it in proper position. In some localities where the water is muddy the nets are occasionally boiled with willow bark to keep them from being destroyed by worms.
Gill nets, however, are frequently injured by animals, not only amphibious ones such as beaver and otter, but even by such animals as wolverines. Some years ago, a Yellowknife Indian hunting near Fort Resolution had an experience of that kind. Ile having set a gill net beneath the ice, failed to visit it for several days. When, however, he did arrive, he saw that it had been tampered with, and found no difficulty in reading the story in the snow. A wolverine, happening by on a mild day when the fishing holes were open, began sniffing about one of the poles to which the end lines of the net were secured; then scenting the smell of fish, he began chewing the pole; and incidentally his sharp teeth severed the cords that held the net. Then, for the want of something better to do, he went to the other end, to which were attached the lines of the other end of the net. Again scenting fish, he began to chew the second pole, but this time finding it give way, he hauled it out of the hole; and with the pole came part of the net; and with the net came a few fish. In trying to free the fish from the tangled mesh, he hauled out more net which contained more fish; then, in an effort to feast royally, he ended by hauling out the whole net. The following day the Indian arrived and reading the story in the snow, set a trap for the robber. Again the wolverine came, but so did the hunter, and much to his delight found the wolverine caught in the trap.
Such an incident, indeed, is not rare, for the same thing has happened in other parts of the forest.
THE PERFECT WOMAN
The Perfect Woman's daughter was married to a half-breed by the name of Tastowich and the four granddaughters were nice-looking girls ranging in age from fourteen to twenty. Though very shy, they were bubbling over with quiet fun and I enjoyed my visit. That evening, among other subjects, we discussed the various hunting caps worn by Indian big-game hunters, and The Perfect Woman offered to make me one if I could supply her with the needed material; but when she saw that I had nothing but a double "four-point" Hudson's Bay blanket, she offered to make me a complete suit from that article and to lend me, for the rest of the winter, a rabbit-skin quilt to take the place of the blanket. I accepted her kindly offer, but of course paid her for both the work and the quilt.
So the older women set to work with nothing more modern in the way of tools than a pair of scissors, a thimble, and a needle and thread; and by bed time I was well rigged in Indian fashion, for the hunting trail. The cap they made nie was the same as Amik wears in my picture of the lynx hunter. The suit consisted of a coat and hip-high leggings, and though I have worn that suit on many a winter trip, and though it is now over twenty-five years old, I have never had to repair their excellent hand-sewing.
When the work was finished the father and the mother crawled into a double bunk that was surrounded by a curtain; Ko-ko-hay wound herself up in a blanket and lay down upon the floor, and Oo-koo-hoo did likewise, yet there were two bunks still unoccupied. But I was informed that I was to occupy the single one, while the four girls were to sleep in the big double one. As I had not had my clothes off for several days and as I was counting on the pleasure of sleeping in my night-shirt, I planned to sit up late enough to make my wish come true, though I knew that the intended occupants of those two bunks would have to rely solely upon darkness to form a screen, as neither bunk was provided with a curtain. After a little while, however, it began to dawn upon me that the girls were counting on doing the same thing, for they made no move to leave the open fire. But the Sand Man finally made them capitulate. At last, rising from their seats, they piled a lot of fresh wood upon the fire, then climbing into their big bunk, they took off their shawls and hanging them from the rafters, draped them completely about their bed. Now my opportunity had arrived, and though the fire was filling the one-room log house with a blaze of light, I made haste to discard my clothes for now the older people were all sound asleep. In a few moments I was in the very act of slipping on the coveted garment when I heard a peal of merriment behind me. On looking round f discovered that the shawls had vanished from around the bunk and four merry young ladies, all in a row, were peering at me from beneath their blankets and fairly shaking their bed with laughter.
INDIANS AND CIVILIZATION
Tastowich's home was built entirely of wood, deerskin, and clay. The house was of logs, the glassless windows were of deerskin parchment, the door-lock and the door-hinges were of wood, the latch string was of deerskin, the fireplace and the chimney were of clay, the roof thatch was of bark. The abode was clean, serviceable, and warm; and yet it was a house that could have been built thousands of years ago. But consider, for instance, Oo-koo-hoo's comfortable lodge; a similar dwelling, no doubt, could have been erected a million years ago; and thus, even in our time, the pre-historic still hovers on the outskirts of our flimsy civilization. A civilization that billions of human beings for millions of years have been struggling violently to gain; and now after all that eternal striving since the beginning of time what has been the great outstanding gain as the Indian sees it? "Baldness and starched underwear for men, high-heeled shoes and corsets for women, and for both spectacles and false teeth." Is it any wonder the red man laughs?
But some of you will doubt that the Indian laughs, and more of you will even doubt whether the red man possesses a sense of humour. A few days ago my Toronto oculist you see I have been justly rewarded for hovering around civilization and I were discussing Indians. The doctor quoted his experience with them. Some years before he had taken a trip into the forest where he had met an old Indian chief whose wife had had her eye injured by accident. The doctor told the old man if ever he contemplated taking his wife to Toronto, to let the doctor know of their coming, and he would see what he could do to repair the injury. A year or so later a letter arrived from the very same Indian reservation. Though it was hard to read, the doctor made out that the Indian intended to bring his wife to Toronto so that the oculist could fulfil his promise; but as luck would have it, the doctor had not only forgotten the Indian's name, but he had great difficulty in reading the signature. After much study, however, he decided that the old Indian had signed his naine as "Chief Squirrel" so thus the doctor addressed his reply. A couple of weeks later the postman arrived with a letter he was rather loath to leave at the doctor's house. The oculist, however, on seeing that it was addressed to his own number on Bloor Street West, and that the name was preceded by the title of Doctor, believed that it was intended for him. On opening it he found it was from the old Indian whom he had addressed as " Chief Squirrel." Now, however, he realized he had made a mistake in giving the red man such a name, for another glance at the outside of the envelope not only proved that the Indian was indignant, but that he also possessed a sense of humour, for " Chief Squirrel" had, in return, addressed the noted oculist as "Doctor Chipmunk."
While spending a couple of days at Tastowich's house the subject of hunting was never long omitted from the general conversation; and upon learning from the half-breed that caribou were plentiful about a day's travel to the westward, nothing would do but Oo-koo-hoo must take that route on his return home; though of course it meant many more miles to cover. The excursion, however, was inviting, as a good trail could be followed all the way to the caribou country, as the Tastowichs had been hauling deer meat from that region.
By the evening of the first day, as good fortune would have it, we halted among many signs of caribou, and not only were fresh caribou tracks to be seen, but also those of wolves, for the latter were trailing the deer. The incident reminded Oo-koo-hoo of a former experience which he told as we sat by the fire.
WOLVES RUNNING CARIBOU
" It happened years ago. For weeks, my son, I had had ill luck and my family were starving. For days I had hunted first one kind of game and then another, but always without success. Then, as a last resort, 1 started after caribou, though I well knew that I should have to travel a long distance before falling in with them. But in the end I was rewarded. The going was had, mostly through a dense growth of small black spruce, where the trees stood so close together that I had difficulty in hauling my sled, being compelled, at times, to turn on edge, not only my toboggan, but also my snowshoes, in order to pass between. After several hours' hard work the forest grew more open and, about noon of the third day, I discovered a band of caribou quietly sunning themselves on a large muskeg.
"Some were feeding, others were lying down, fawns were scampering about in play, and young bulls were thrusting at each other with their prong-like horns. There were over a hundred in all. I watched them for some time before I was discovered by seven young bulls, and as they were nearest me, they stopped in their play, left the others, and came down wind to investigate the strange two-legged creature that also wore a caribou skin.
"With heads held high and expanded nostrils quivering in readiness to catch scent of danger, they carne on very slowly yet not without a great deal of high stepping and of prancing, with a sort of rhythmical dancing motion. Every now and then they threw their heads down, then up, and then held them rigid again. They were brave enough to come within sixty or seventy paces and even a little closer. But as ill luck ordained, while I was waiting for a better chance to bring down one of them with my old flint-lock, they caught scent of me, and suddenly falling back almost upon their haunches as though they had been struck upon the head, they wheeled round, then fled in alarm to the main body. Then, as caribou usually do, the whole band began leaping three or four feet into the air much as they sometimes do when hit by a bullet. Then, too, with tails up they swept away at full gallop and, entering the forest beyond, were lost to view.
"It was a great disappointment, my son, and I became so disheartened that I made but a poor attempt to trail them that day. That evening, when I lay down to rest upon the edge of a muskeg, the moon was already shining; and by midnight the cold was so intense that the frost-bitten trees went off with such hangs that I was startled out of my slumber. It was then that I discovered a pack of eight. wolves silently romping about in the snow of the muskeg just like a lot of young dogs.
Their antics interested me and it was some time before I fell asleep again.
"In the morning, though a heavy rime (frozen mist) was falling and though it was so thick that it obliterated the surrounding forest, I set out again in search of game tracks, and having crossed the muskeg, not only found the tracks of many caribou, but learned, too, that the eight wolves were now trailing the deer in earnest.
"About half way between sunrise and midday I came upon a lake, and there I discovered not only the same herd of caribou and the same wolves, but the deer were running at full speed with the wolves in full chase behind them. My son, it was a fascinating sight. The caribou were going at full gallop, covering twenty feet or more at a bound, and all running at exactly the same speed, none trying to outstrip the others, for the fawns, does, and bucks were all compactly bunched together. It was as exciting and as interesting a sight as one may see in the Strong Woods. Though the wolves did not seem to be putting forth their utmost speed, they nevertheless took care to cut every corner, and thus they managed to keep close behind, while their long, regular lope foretold their eventually overhauling their quarry.
"Protected by a gentle southwest wind and a thick screen of underbrush, I watched the chase. Three times the deer circled the lake, which was about half a mile in length. For safety's sake the caribou carefully avoided entering the woods, even rounding every point rather than cut across among the trees. On the fourth round I saw that the wolves had set their minds upon running down a single deer, for as they now suddenly burst forward at their top speed, the herd, splitting apart, allowed the wolves to pass through their ranks. A few moments later an unfortunate doe, emerging in front, galloped frantically ahead with the wolves in hot pursuit; while the rest of the herd slowed down to a trot, then to a walk, and finally halted to rest in perfect indifference as to their companion's fate.
"Round and round the lake the frightened creature sped, with the determined wolves behind her. Presently, however, the wolves one by one turned aside, and lay down to rest, until only two continued the pursuit. But as the deer came round the lake again several of the now-refreshed wolves again entered the chase, thus they relieved one another. The ill-rated doe, in a vain hope of throwing aside her pursuers, twice rushed into the very centre of the caribou herd; but it was of no avail, for, as the wolves relentlessly followed her, the other deer wildly scattered away to a safer distance, where, however, they soon came together again, and stood watching their enemies running down their doomed comrade. Now first one wolf and then another took the lead; closer and closer they pressed upon the exhausted doe whose shortening stride told that her strength was fast, ebbing away.
"My son, perhaps you wonder why I did not use my gun? I was out of range, and, moreover, while I was afraid that if I ventured out of the woods I might frighten the game away, I knew I had but to wait a little while and then I should be sure of at least one deer without even firing my gun. I did not have to wait long. With a few tremendous leaps the leading wolf seized the doe by the base of the throat and throwing her, heels over head, brought her down.
"Realizing that I must act at once, I rushed out upon the lake, but in my haste I fell and broke the stock off my gun just behind the hammer. But as I still had my axe, I picked up the broken gun, and charged in among the wolves that now began to back away, though not without much snarling, glaring of angry eyes, and champing of powerful jaws. As one remained too near, I let drive at it with a charge from my almost useless gun; and though I missed my aim, the report relieved me of any further trouble. Cutting up the deer, I feasted upon it for several hours, then loaded my sled and hurried home with the meat for my starving family."
There are three principal species of Canadian caribou: the smallest living on the Barren Grounds and taking their name from that region; the largest frequenting the Rocky Mountains west of the Mackenzie River and known as Woodland or Mountain caribou; and the intermediate size inhabiting the Great Northern Forest and called Woodland caribou.
In comparison with moose, wapiti, and other deer of North America, the Woodland caribou ranks third in size. In colour its coat is of a grayish brown with a white neck and belly. In winter the heavy growth of neck hair really amounts to a mane. Of the three breeds, the Woodland caribou have the smallest horns, the Barren Ground the slenderest, while the Mountain caribou have the most massive. Record antlers range from fifty- to sixty-inch beams, with a forty- to fifty-inch spread, and possessing from sixty to seventy points. The does are usually provided with small horns, and in that way they are distinct from all other Canadian deer.
On account of its wide-spreading and concave hoofs the Woodland caribou does not have to "yard" as other deer do in winter time, for thus provided with natural snowshoes, the caribou can pass over the deepest snow with little trouble. Also, throughout the year it is an extensive traveller, and as its food is found everywhere within its wide range, its wanderings are determined chiefly by the wind. Indeed, so great a traveller is it that, when thoroughly alarmed, it may cover from fifty to a hundred miles before settling down again. Rivers and Iakes do not hinder its roaming for it is a powerful and a willing swimmer. The mating takes place in October and the calves are born in June.
The following morning while at breakfast Oo-koo-hoo discoursed upon the game we were about to hunt:
"My son, everything that applies to hunting the moose, applies to hunting the caribou, except that the hunter never tries to 'call' the caribou. But now I recollect that there is one thing about moose hunting that I forgot to tell you and it applies also to hunting the caribou. In some localities barriers are still in use, but nowadays they seldom make new ones. In the old days whole tribes used to take part in barrier hunting and sometimes the barriers would stretch for fifteen or twenty miles and were usually made from one part of the river to another, and thus they marked off the woods enclosed in a river's bend. Barriers are made by felling trees in a line; or, in an open place, or upon a river or lake, placing a line of little trees in the snow about ten paces apart. Small evergreens with the butts no thicker than a man's thumb were often used; yet an artificial line of such brush was enough to turn moose or caribou and cause them to move forward in a certain direction where the hunters were hiding. Even big clumps of moss, placed upon trees, will produce the same effect. Frequently, too, snares for deer are set in suitable places along the barrier, and while the snares are made of babiche the loops are kept open with blades of grass.
"There is still another thing I forgot to tell you about moose hunting my son, I must be growing old when I forget so much. While my Indian cousins in the East use birch-bark horns for calling moose, my other cousins in the Far North never do, yet they call moose, too, but in a different way. They use the shoulder blade of a deer. Thus, when a bull is approaching, the hunter stands behind a tree and rubs the shoulder blade upon the trunk or strikes it against the branches of a neighbouring bush, as it then makes a sound not unlike a bull thrashing his horns about. Such a sound makes a bull believe that another is approaching and ready to fight him for the possession of the cow, and he prepares to charge his enemy. At such a moment the hunter throws the shoulder blade into some bushes that may be standing a little way of, and the enraged bull, hearing this last sound, charges directly for the spot. Then, as the brute passes broadside, the hunter fires.
"But, my son, to return to caribou hunting, you probably know that those deer are very fond of open places during sunny weather in winter time, such places as, for instance, rivers and small lakes where the wind will not be strong. There they will spend most of the day resting or playing together in big bands of perhaps fifty or more. Sometimes, however, when a high wind springs up, they have a curious custom of all racing round in a circle at high speed. It is a charming sight to watch them at such sport. Most of their feeding is done right after sunrise and just before sunset, and at, night they always resort to the woods.
"Then, too, when caribou go out upon a lake they have a habit of lying down beside the big ridges that rise three or four feet above the rest of the surface, where the ice has been split apart and then jammed together again with such power that the edges are forced upward. They lie down there to avoid the wind while resting in the sun. There the hunter sometimes digs a trench in the snow and lies in wait for the unsuspecting deer. When he shoots one, he immediately skins it, hut takes care to leave the head attached to the skin; then ramming a pole into the head at the neck, he drapes the skin over the pole and getting down on all fours places the skin over his back and pretends to be a caribou. Thus he will approach the band, and should he tire of crawling along on his hands and knees he will even lie down to rest in sight of the deer, but he always takes care to keep down wind. In such a guise it is not hard to come within gun-range of the band.
"A very good thing to carry when hunting deer in the woods is a hunch of tips of deer horns, each about four inches long and all suspended from the hack of the hunter's belt; as the horn tips will then tinkle together at every movement of the hunter, and make a sound as though the horns of a distant band of closely marching caribou were striking together. In that way, my son, it is easier to approach, and when you are ready to fire, look carefully for a large, white, fat doe, and then let drive at her; for bands of deer are never led by bulls, hut always by does and usually by a barren one. If you shoot the leader first, the chances are the band will stand waiting for one of their number to lead the way. Remember, too, that deer are never so frightened at seeing or hearing you as they are at scenting you, for the merest whiff of man-smell will drive them away. When they first scent you they will take two or three jumps into the air with their heads held high, their nostrils extended, and their eyes peering about ; then swinging round, they will gallop off and later settle down into a great high-stepping, distance-covering trot that will carry them many miles away before they halt. There is still another good way to hunt caribou on a lake and that is to put on a wolf skin and approach on all fours, but it is not so successful as when the hunter wears a caribou skin."
TRAILING IN THE SNOW
Breakfast over, we slipped on our snowshoes and set out to follow a mass of tracks that led southward. It. was easy going on a beaten trail, a blind man could have followed it; and that reminds me of something I have failed to tell you about winter trailing in the Northland. In winter, the men of the North-land don't trail human beings by scent, they trail them by sight or sometimes by touch. Sight trailing, of course, you understand. Trailing by touch, however, when not understood by the spectator, seems a marvellous performance. For instance, when a husky dog, the leader of a sled-train, will come out of the forest and with his head held high, and without a moment's hesitation, trot across a lake that may be three or four miles wide, upon the surface of which the wind and drifting snow have left absolutely no visible sign of a trail, and when that dog will cross that great unbroken expanse and enter the woods on the far shore exactly where the trail appears in sight again, though no stick or stone or any other visible thing marks the spot it does seem a marvellous feat. But it is done, not by sight, sound, or scent, but by touch the feel of the foot. In winter time man, too, follows a trail in the same way, not-withstanding that he is generally handicapped by a pair of snowshoes. Some unseen trails are not hard to follow even a blind man could follow them. It is done this way:
Suppose you come to a creek that you want to cross, yet you can see no way of doing it, for there is nothing in sight neither log nor bridge spanning the river. But suppose someone tells you that, though the water is so muddy that you cannot see an inch into it, there is a flat log spanning the creek about six inches below the surface, and that if you feel about with your foot you can find it. Then, of course, you would make your way across by walking on the unseen log, yet knowing all the time that if you made a misstep you would plunge into the stream. You would do it by the feel of the foot. It is just the same in following an unseen trail in the snow it lies hard-packed beneath the surface, just as the log lay unseen in the river. What a pity it is that the writers of northern tale so rarely understand the life they have made a specialty of depicting.
But to return to the caribou we were trailing, and also to make a long hunt short for you now know most of the interesting points in the sport I must tell you that we spent a full day and a night before we came up with them. And that. night, too, a heavy fall of snow added to our trouble, but it made the forest more beautiful than ever. It was after sunrise when we picked up fresh tracks. A heavy rime was falling, but though it screened all distant things, we espied five caribou that were still lingering on a lake, over which the main band had passed.
They were east of us and were heading for the north side of a long, narrow island. As soon as they passed behind it, Ookoo-hoo hurried across the intervening space, and ran along the southern shore to head them off. The eastern end of the island dwindled into a long point and it was there that The Owl hoped to get a shot. Sure enough he did, for he arrived there ahead of the deer. Though he had lost sight of them, he knew they were nearing him, for he could hear the crunching sound of their hoofs in the frosty snow, and later he could even hear that strange clicking sound caused by the muscular action of the hoofs in walking a sound peculiar to caribou.
Oo-koo-hoo cautiously went down on one knee and there waited with his gun cocked and in position. The air was scarcely moving. Now antlered heads appeared beyond the openings between the snow-mantled trees. The hunter, taking aim, addressed them:
"My brothers, I need your . . ." Then the violent report of his gun shattered the stillness, and the leader, a doe, lunged forward a few paces, staggered upon trembling legs, and then sank down into the brilliantly sunny snow. But before Oo-koo-hoo could reload for a second shot the rest of the little band passed out of range, and, with their high-stepping, hackney action, soon passed out of sight. So, later on, with our sled again heavily loaded, and with packs of meat upon our backs, we set out for home.
THE MAN WHO HIBERNATED
Next morning, soon after sunrise, while I was breaking trail across a lake, I espied a Iog house in a little clearing beside a large beaver meadow. As it was about the time we usually stopped for our second breakfast, 1 turned in the direction of the lonely abode. It was a small, well-built house, and with the exception of the spaces at the two windows and the door, was entirely enclosed by neatly stacked firewood suitable for a stove. Beyond, half built in the rising ground, stood a little log stable, and near it a few cattle were eating from haystacks. Going up to the shack, I knocked upon the door, and as a voice bade me enter I slipped off my snowshoes, pulled the latch string, and walked in. Entering from the dazzling sun-light made the room at first seem in darkness. Presently, however, I regained my sight, and then beheld the interior of a comfortable little home the extreme of neatness and order; and then I saw a human form lying beneath the blankets of a bunk in a far corner. Later I noticed that two black eyes beneath a shock of black hair were smiling a welcome.
" Good morning," I greeted. "May I use your stove to cook breakfast?"
"No, sir," replied the figure, then it sat up in bed, and I saw that it was a white man. " I'll do the cooking myself, for you're to be my guest."
"Thanks," I returned, "I'm travelling with an Indian and I don't wish to trouble you; but if I may use your stove I'll be much obliged."
"If I have what you haven't got," my host smiled, "will you dine with me?"
"All right," I agreed.
"Potatoes," he exclaimed.
"Good," I laughed.
"Then sit down, please, and rest while I do the cooking." Oo-koo-hoo now came in and at the host's bidding, filled his pipe from a tobacco pouch upon the table.
The accent of the stranger suggested that he was an English gentleman, and it seemed strange, indeed, to discover so re-fined and educated a man living apparently alone and without any special occupation in the very heart of the Great Northern Forest. Curiosity seized me. Then I wondered was this the man? . . . could he be " Son-in-law" ?
But I refrained from questioning him. So I talked about the woods and the weather, while Oo-koo-hoo brought in a haunch of venison from his sled and presented it to the stranger. But with my host's every action and word the mystery grew.
The stove, which was fireless, stood beside the bed, and reaching for the griddle-lifter, my host removed the lids; then picking up a stick of pine kindling from behind the stove, he whittled some shavings and placed them in the fire-box; and on top of this he laid kindling and birch firewood. Then he re-placed the lids, struck a match, and while the fire began to roar, filled the kettle from a keg of water that stood behind the stove, and mind you, he did it without getting out of bed. Next, he leant over the side of the bunk, opened a little trap door in the floor, reached down into his little box-like cellar, and hauled up a bag containing potatoes, which he then put in a pot to boil, in their skins. From the wall he took a long stick with a crook upon the end, and reaching out, hooked the crook round the leg and drew the table toward him. Reaching up to one of the three shelves above his bunk, he took down the necessary dishes and cutlery to set the breakfast table for us three. While the potatoes were boiling he took from another shelf the one upon which he kept a few well-chosen books a photograph album and suggested that I look it over while he broiled the venison steak and infused the tea.
When I opened the album and saw its contents, it not only further excited my curiosity regarding the personal history of my host, but it thrilled me with interest, for never before or since have I seen an album that contained photographs of a finer-looking or more distinguished lot of people. Its pages contained photographs of Lord This, General That, Admiral. What's-his-name, and also the Bishop of I've forgotten and many a Sir and Lady, too, as well as the beautiful Countess of Can't remember.
Breakfast was served. The potatoes were a treat, the steak was excellent, the tea was good, and there we three sat and ate a hearty meal, for not only did we relish the food, but the company, the wit, and the laughter, too. But all the while my healthy, jovial, handsome host remained in bed. I studied the blankets that covered his legs apparently there was nothing wrong with that part of him. I could not fathom the mystery. It completely nonplussed me.
I glanced round the room; there were many photographs upon the walls, among them Cambridge "eights" and "fours"; and sure enough, there he was, rowing in those very crews; and in the football and tennis pictures he also appeared as one of the best of them all. And how neat and clean was his one-room house ! Everything was in order. A water keg be-hind the stove to keep the water from freezing. A big barrel by the door in which to turn snow into water. A woodpile across the end of the room enough to outlast any blizzard. Then when I glanced at him again, I noticed a crested signet ring upon his left little finger. Breakfast over, smoking began, and as he washed the dishes, I wiped them but still I pondered. Then, at last, I grew brave. I would risk it. I would ask him :
"Why do you stay in bed?"
First he responded with a burst of laughter, then with the question :
"Why, what's the use of getting up?" and next with the statement: "I stay in bed all winter . . . or nearly so. It's the only thing to do. I used to get up, and go for my mail occasionally . . . at least, I (lid a few years ago, but too many times I walked the forty miles to the Hudson's Bay Company's Flying Post at Elbow Creek only to find no letters for me . . . so I chucked it all. Then, too, the first few winters I was here I used to do a little shooting, but I get all the game I want from the Indians now, so I have chucked the shooting, too. Now the only thing that gets me out of bed, or takes me out of doors, is to watch which way the wind blows. Two winters ago, when I was away from here a week, the wind blew steadily from the north for five days or more, and my cattle ate so far into the south sides of the hay stacks that two of the stacks fell over on them and in that way I lost five head they were smothered."
Oo-koo-hoo, knocking the ashes from his pipe, began to tie his coat; apparently, he thought it was time we were going. I opened the album again, and glanced through it once more as I sat upon the edge of my strange host's bunk. I stopped my turning when I came to a photograph of a charming gentle-woman whose hair was done in an old-fashioned way so be-coming to her character and beauty. She must have been twenty-three. He, then, was nearing forty. I thought his hand lingered a little upon the page. And when I commented on her beauty, I fancied his voice tremored slightly anyway his pipe went out.
But Oo-koo-hoo, getting up, broke the silence.
I invited my still-unknown host to pay me a visit. We shook hands heartily, and as I turned to close the door, 1 noticed that he had lain down again, and had covered up his head. As a pleasant parting salutation a cheering one as I thought I exclaimed :
"Perfectly stunning! . . the most beautiful lot of women I have ever seen!"
And then from beneath the bed clothes came
" Y-e-s . . . the blighters ! "