The Bison of North America are described. "And it also requires experience to enable him choose a fat animal the best looking Buffaloe is not always the fattest and a hunter by constant practice may lay down rules for selecting the fattest when on foot which would be no guide to him when running upon horseback for he is then placed in a different position and one which requires different rules for choosing. The cows are fattest in Octr and the Bulls in July."
January 4, 1843
Journal of a Trapper
THE BUFFALOE OR BISON
This animal has been so minutely described by travellers that I have considered it of little importance to enter into the details of its shape and size, and shall therefore omit those descriptions with which I suppose the public to be already acquainted, and try to convey some idea of its peculiarities which probably are not so well known. The vast numbers of these animals which once traversed such an extensive region in Nth. America are fast diminishing. The continual increasing demand for robes in the civilised world has already and is still contributing in no small degree to their destruction, whilst on the other hand the continual increase of wolves and other 4 footed enemies far exceeds that of the Buffaloe when these combined efforts for its destruction is taken into consideration, it will not be doubted for a moment that this noble race of animals, so useful in supplying the wants of man, will at no far distant period become extinct in North America. The Buffaloe is already a stranger, altho so numerous 10 years ago, in that part of the country which is drained by the sources of the Colerado, Bear and Snake Rivers and occupied by the Snake and Bonnack Indians. The flesh of the Buffaloe Cow is considered far superior to that of the domestic Beef and it is so much impregnated with salt that it requires but little seasoning when cooked. All the time, trouble and care bestowed by man upon improving the breed and food of meat cattle seems to be entirely thrown away when we compare those animals in their original state which are reared upon the food supplied them by Nature with the same species when domesticated and fed on cultivated grasses and grains and the fact seems to justify the opinion that Nature will not allow herself to be outdone by art for it is fairly proved to this enlightened age that the rude and untaught savage feasts on better beef and Mutton than the most learned and experienced Agriculturists now if every effect is produced by a cause perhaps I may stumble upon the cause which produces the effect in this instance at any rate I shall attempt it - In the first place, the rutting season of the Buffaloe is regular commencing about the 15th of July when the males and females are fat, and ends about the 15 of Aug. Consequently the females bring forth their young in the latter part of April and the first of May when the grass is most luxuriant and thereby enables the cow to afford the most nourishment for her calf and enables the young to quit the natural nourishment of its dam and feed upon the tender herbage sooner than it would at any other season of the year. Another proof is that when the rutting season commences the strongest healthiest and most vigorous Bulls drive the weaker ones from the cows hence the calves are from the best breed which is thereby kept upon a regular basis. In summer season they generally go to water and drink once in 24 hours but in the winter they seldom get water at all. The cows are fattest in Octr and the Bulls in July The cows retain their flesh in a great measure throughout the winter until the Spring opens and they get at water from whence they become poor in a short time So much for the regularity of their habits and the next point is the food on which they subsist The grass on which the Buffaloe generally feeds is short, firm and of the most nutritious kind. The salts with which the mountain regions is much impregnated are imbibed in a great degree by the vegetation and as there is very little rain in Summer Autumn or winter the grass arrives at maturity and dries in the sun without being wet it is made like hay; in this state it remains throughout the winter and while the spring rains are divesting the old growth of its nutricious qualities they are in the meantime pushing forward the new - The Buffaloe are very particular in their choice of grass always preferring the short of the uplands to that of the luxuriant growth of the fertile alluvial bottoms. Thus they are taught by nature to choose such food as is most palatable and she has also provided that such as is most palatable is the best suited to their condition and that condition the best calculated to supply the wants and necessities of her rude untutored children for whom they were prepared. Thus nature looks with a smile of derision upon the magnified efforts of art to excel her works by a continual breach of her laws The most general mode practiced by the Indians for killing Buffaloe is running upon horseback and shooting them with arrows but it requires a degree of experience for both man and horse to kill them in this manner with any degree of safety particularly in places where the ground is rocky and uneven. The horse that is well trained for this purpose not only watches the ground over which he is running and avoids the holes ditchs and rocks by shortening or extending his leaps but also the animal which he is pursuing in order to prevent being `horned' when tis brot suddenly to bay which is done instantaneously and if the Buffaloe wheel to the right the horse passes as quick as thought to the left behind it and thereby avoids its horns but if the horse in close pursuit wheels on the same side with the Buffaloe he comes directly in contact with its horns and with one stroke the horses entrails are often torn out and his rider thrown headlong to the ground After the Buffaloe is brought to bay the trained horse will immediately commence describing a circle about 10 paces from the animal in which he moves continually in a slow gallop or trot which prevents the raging animal from making a direct bound at him by keeping it continually turning round until it is killed by the rider with arrows or bullets. If a hunter discovers a band of Buffaloe in a place too rough and broken for his horse to run with safety and there is smooth ground nearby he secretly rides on the leward side as near as he can without being discovered he then starts up suddenly without apparently noticing the Buffaloe and gallops in the direction he wishes the band to run the Buffaloe on seeing him run to the plain start in the same direction in order to prevent themselves from being headed and kept from the smooth ground The same course would be pursued if he wished to take them to any particular place in the mountains - One of the hunters first instructions to an inexperienced hand is "run towards the place where you wish the Buffaloe to run but do not close on them behind until they get to that place" for instance if the hunter is to the right the leading Buffaloe keep inclining to the right and if he should fall in behind and crowd upon the rear they would separate in different directions and it would be a mere chance if any took the direction he wished them - When he gets to the plain he gives his horse the rein and darts thro the band selects his victim reins his horse up along side and shoots and if he considers the wound mortal he pulls up the rein the horse knowing his business keeps along galloping with the band until the rider has reloaded when he darts forward upon another Buffaloe as at first A Cow seldom stops at bay before she is wounded and therefore is not so dangerous as a Bull who wheels soon after he is pushed from the band and becomes fatigued whether he is wounded or not. When running over ground where there is rocks holes or gullies the horse must be reined up gradually if he is reined at all there is more accidents happens in running Buffaloes by the riders getting frightened and suddenly checking their horses than any other way. If they come upon a Gully over which the horse can leap by an extra exertion the best plan is to give him the rein and the whip or spur at the same time and fear not for any ditch that a Buffaloe can leap can be cleared with safety by a horse and one too wide for a Buffaloe to clear an experienced rider will generally see in time to check his horse gradually before he gets to it - And now as I have finished my description of the Buffaloe and the manner of killing them I will put a simple question for the reader's solution -
If Kings Princes Nobles and Gentlemen can derive so much sport and Pleasure as they boast of in chasing a fox or simple hare all day? which when they have caught is of little or no benefit to them what pleasure can the Rocky Mountain hunter be expected to derive in running with a well trained horse such a noble and stately animal as the Bison? which when killed is of some service to him. There are men of noble birth noble Estate and noble minds who have attained to a tolerable degree of perfection in fox hunting in Europe and Buffaloe hunting in the Rocky Mountains, and I have heard some of them decide that the points would not bear a comparison if the word Fashion could be stricken from the English language It also requires a considerable degree of practice to approach on foot and kill Buffaloe with a Rifle A person must be well acquainted with the shape and make of the animal and the manner which it is standing in order to direct his aim with certainty - And it also requires experience to enable him choose a fat animal the best looking Buffaloe is not always the fattest and a hunter by constant practice may lay down rules for selecting the fattest when on foot which would be no guide to him when running upon horseback for he is then placed in a different position and one which requires different rules for choosing.