A trapper begins his journey through the Rockies, killing his first buffalo, other particularly fat buffalo, and even a grizzly bear, "we butchered him as he was very fat"
August 12, 1834
Journal of a Trapper During the years 1834 to 1843
The next day Mr Wyeth departed for the mouth of the Columbia River with all the party excepting twelve men (myself included) 10 who were stationed at the Fort. I now began to experience the difficulties attending a mountaineer we being all raw hands excepting the man who had charge of the Fort and a Mullattoe: the two latter having but very little experience in hunting game with the Rifle: and altho the country abounded with game still it wanted experience to kill it. On the 12th of August myself and 9 others (the Mullattoe included) started from the Fort to hunt Buffaloe. We proceeded up the stream running into Snake River near the Fort called Ross's fork in an East direction about 25 miles, crossed a low mountain in the same direction about 5 miles and fell on to a stream called Portneuf: here we found several large bands of Buffaloe we went to a small spring and encamped. I now prepared myself for the first time in my life to kill meat for my supper with a Rifle. I had an elegant one but had little experience in useing it, I however approached the band of Buffaloe crawling on my hands and knees within about 80 yards of them then raised my body erect took aim and shot at a Bull: at the crack of the gun the Buffaloe all ran off excepting the Bull which I had wounded, I then reloaded and shot as fast as I could untill I had driven 25 bullets at, in and about him which was all that I had in my bullet pouch whilst the Bull still stood apparently riveted to the spot I watched him anxiously for half an hour in hopes of seeing him fall, but to no purpose, I was obliged to give it up as a bad job and retreat to our encampment without meat: but the Mullattoe had better luck he had killed a fat cow whilst shooting 15 bullets at the band. The next day we succeeded in killing another cow and two Bulls, we butchered them took the meat and returned to the Fort. On the 20th of August we started again to hunt meat: we left the Fort and travelled abot 6 miles when we discovered a Grizzly Bear digging and eating roots in a piece of marshy ground near a large bunch of willows. The Mullattoe approached within 100 yards and shot him thro. the left shoulder he gave a hideous growl and sprang into the thicket. The Mullattoe then said "let him go he is a dangerous varmint" but not being acquainted with the nature of these animals I determined on making another trial, and persuaded the Mullatto to assist me we walked round the bunch of willows where where the Bear lay keeping close together, with our Rifles ready cocked and presented towards the bushes untill near the place where he had entered, when we heard a sullen growl about 10 ft from us, which was instantly followed by a spring of the Bear toward us; his enormous jaws extended and eyes flashing fire. Oh Heavens! was ever anything so hideous? We could not retain sufficient presence of mind to shoot at him but took to our heels separating as we ran the Bear taking after me, finding I could out run him he left and turned to the other who wheeled about and discharged his Rifle covering the Bear with smoke and fire the ball however missing him he turned and bounding toward me - I could go no further without jumping into a large quagmire which hemmed me on three sides, I was obliged to turn about and face him he came within about 10 paces of me then suddenly stopped and raised his ponderous body erect, his mouth wide open, gazing at me with a beastly laugh at this moment I pulled trigger and I knew not what else to do and hardly knew that I did this but it accidentally happened that my Rifle was pointed towards the Bear when I pulled and the ball piercing his heart, he gave one bound from me uttered a deathly howl and fell dead: but I trembled as if I had an ague fit for half an hour after, we butchered him as he was very fat packed the meat and skin on our horses and returned to the Fort with the trophies of our bravery, but I secretly determined in my own mind never to molest another wounded Grizzly Bear in a marsh or thicket. On the 26th of Septr. our stock of provisions beginning to get short 4 men started again to hunt buffaloe; as I had been out several times in succession I concluded to stay in the Fort awhile and let others try it. This is the most lonely and dreary place I think I ever saw; not a human face to be seen excepting the men about the Fort.