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A Trek Out West - Part 7

[Dr. Ferber] 28th. Our pack-horses were well loaded, and then we started at 9 a.m. and camped at Sage Hen Creek, about fifteen miles north. Alter having taken a late dinner, we took our guns and rifles and tried to bring to camp some meat for next morning's breakfast. I bagged two cotton-tails and a sage hen, while Frank lulled two mallard ducks. Our bed was made up among high sage bush, and soon after we lav down a rabbit crossed our bed, running over Frank's face, disturbing him in his soundest sleep.

[Otto Franc] Wednesday Aug 28 - Travel northward, leave the Mountains & enter the open Plains, make 15 miles & camp at Hen Creek; it is here a clear swift-running stream 4 feet in width & 1-2 feet in depth, 1 mile below here it disappears in the Land, a fate which most all small streams in this part of Wyoming share. Dr. kills some sage hens & rabbits with the shotgun, I kill 2 ducks with the rifle.

[Dr. Ferber] 29th. Had an early breakfast, and started at 8. Rode about eight miles, where we put camp up on Horse Creek, a nice little stream running along the foot of Rattlesnake Mountains. The water coming out of the mountains was cold and clear, but no fish. Not a living animal was to be seen in it. The camping ground was first-rate. Very good grass for the ponies, several kinds of ripe berries, as currants, red and black, strawberries, and gooseberries. The creek was lined on both sides with willows and birch, a good hiding-place for deer. Although we had taken a good quantity of preserved fruit with us, we picked in a little while two large cans full of currants and gooseberries, which, with sugar, we boiled into a fine preserve for our evening flap-jacks. At about 3 p.m., every one of us went on his own hook hunting. I strolled down the stream to kill a duck or sage hen. Following a trail along the brook, I found fresh tracks of a pony; and going a little further, I perceived the head and neck of a white horse in the bush, within fifty yards of me. This startled me not a little, thinking of a possible Indian camp. I retreated to our camp and saw Jack at a distance. Gave him a sign, and he came down. After I had told him what I saw we both went there again, to find an old white mare, which, very likely, was left there by a party, being in such a condition that they could not take it along. We drove her to our camp, where she joined our ponies for twenty-four hours, only to run off again. Jack left camp again and came back with a black-tail yearling. This evening we turned in very early, and after a sound and refreshing sleep, we got up in a splendid humor.

[Otto Franc] Thursday Aug 29 - Rabbits were playing in & around the camp at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountains all night, & one actually ran across my face while I was asleep. After a short march through barren hills, we reach Horse creek & make camp in a lovely valley; berries of all kinds abound here we find red & black currants, gooseberries & strawberries, we gather great quantities of gooseberries & steam them which make an excellent sauce. We al1 go out hunting in the afternoon in order to get some meat; I go into the Mountains & after a little wandering see two enormous males of mountain sheep 1000 yards off on a barren hill & no way to approach them, I reluctantly leave them to their fate & proceed farther, in a little while I see some more sheep a great distance off & I try to get within shooting distance they are feeding away from me & travel quite fast. I follow them for about 1 hour through the rocks & mountains & finally get into a gulch with a little stream of water & there I find myself in close vicinity of at least 100 mountain sheep; I have good shelter behind some rocks & can inspect them closely while they cannot see me at all, they have come in here for the evening drink; I now begin to look around for a ram but not one is to be seen, I scrutinize every animal in the herd & find that they are all ewes & kids, not wishing to kill one of those I amuse myself by seeing the young ones play, suddenly a small band comes over to where I laid & almost, runs over me, they catch of me & scamper off, alarming the larger herd which scatters in all directions, close in their wake followed a little band of deer with a fine young buck amongst, I send a bullet after him but do him no harm. Jack killed a doe deer; Dr. went down the creek in search of ducks when a mile from camp he saw a horse standing amongst some willows which did not belong our herd thinking of Indians he quickly returned to camp & finding Jack there the two start out to investigate, they approach the horse very cautiously & find it to be an old animal of little value which perhaps has been left behind footsore by a party of Indians or hunters; they drive him towards camp and he joins our herd.

Rattlesnake Hills, Wyoming

[Dr. Ferber] 30th. F. and L. went out in the direction where F. had seen two rams the day before. They saw several herds of sheep, but could not get close enough to have a shot. Jack and I took ponies and followed the creek up to the head of it, and came through rough country. At the head of the creek, on an open plain, we saw seven old buffalo bulls. We tied our horses and crept through the grass within about 300 yards. We thought to be close enough to kill one of them and commenced to fire. Perhaps we wounded one or more, but it took no effect, and the buffaloes ran off, the distance being too great. Following the trail of the buffalo, we came within about 150 yards of an antelope herd with two large bucks. I succeeded in killing one of them. He had a fine pair of horns, which I took to camp. Jack butchered the animal and tied the saddle of antelope on his pony. Pretty hungry, we reached camp again at three o'clock, to take a hearty dinner. In the evening F. and L. tried the sheep again, but with the same result as in the morning.

[Otto Franc] Aug 30 - L and I go on foot into the mountains to look for sheep. We soon see with the aid of glasses 9 large rams on the side of a mountain, we crawl on our stomachs over open places, dodge behind rocks, run & jump when under the shelter of the same until we have scraped every bit of skin from our hands & knees & then see the rams disappear behind some other mountain where we cannot follow them. A little while after we see a ewe with a kid & ram come down a mountain in narrow gulch we get to leeward & then run as fast as we can to meet the game at the mouth of the gulch, we make some almost impossible leaps over rocks & sagebrush & see the sheep emerge from the gulch just too far to shoot; now we are exhausted, it being very hot, we find a cold spring where we lay down to drink & rest; while lying there we see 2 sheep & a ram on a high mountain opposite & we think there is enough shelter to warrant an approach, we climb the mountain cautiously but quickly & when we come out from behind the shelter to shoot we find the sheep gone; shortly afterward we see another band we try them with the same result as. above; it is now noon, we are tired & hungry & we make for the camp where we manage to get outside of a great quantity of venison, I find all the stories about the extraordinary wariness of mountain sheep verified but I am not disheartened & will try them again. During our tramp, we saw fresh signs of buffalo on the foot of the mountains & we think we will see some in a day or two. Shortly after us Dr. & Jack arrive in camp, Dr. has killed a large antelope buck & they report having fired into a band of 9 buffalos without killing one. An hour before sundown L & I went to a spring where we had seen a great many signs of game. We waited till after sundown but nothing came.

[Dr. Ferber] 31st. Removed our camp to the headwater of the creek, where we had found the buffaloes. Two hours had passed in riding when we reached this place. Camp was made near a little creek with good water. The little stream divided our dining and bedroom, preventing our tent from catching fire. Alter dinner we took a rest till 4, when Jack and I on horseback followed a buffalo trail, and soon we saw a black-tail doe with two fawns within ten or twelve yards of us. Of course, we did not shoot at them. After an hour's ride, we saw at a great distance a herd of fifteen or twenty sheep, which soon got wind of us and ran. Following them, we crossed a high ridge of rocks and looking down into a valley at the foot of this hill, there was a very large old buffalo bull. We crept along the rocks and tried to get as close as possible to him, but coming not nearer than about 200 yards. I fired and heard the bullet strike him, and while he was looking I gave him another; then he walked off about 100 yards. To get close up to him I had to slide down a steep rock, at least 200 feet, over sharp stones, and when I arrived below I fell as if all the bones of my back were broken. But I did not mind this much and creeping from rock to rock, I came a little nearer and gave him two more bullets, but without killing him. He ran again a hundred yards, and this time I crept up to him within seventy or eighty yards and finished him. He was a monster. I never saw a larger one since. Jumping upon his carcass, I felt proud and thought myself a great hunter, and how easy it is to kill buffalo. Now I think it is very poor sport. All we saved of him was the tongue and the mane and whiskers; the horns were split too much and not worth the while to be saved. Jack estimated his weight close up to two thousand pounds. We rode to camp, and half an hour later F. and L. returned, reporting that they had wounded a buffalo fatally, but getting so dark they left him with the intention to butcher him the next morning.

[Otto Franc] Saturday Aug 31 - We shift camp a few miles to the head of Horse Creek on the northerly edge of Rattlesnake mountains; in the afternoon L & I ascend a hill close to camp to view the surrounding country, on arriving on top we see a large solitaire Buffalo Bull not very far off, we had to return to camp for our guns & then begin to crawl up to the Buffalo; it is a bad place for stalking he being in the open plain & the wind partly in his favor, when we are 250 yds from him he smells us & we have to shoot; we fire simultaneously & he gets both bullets, he only shakes himself & stops long enough to get two more bullets, this time he is hard hit, he swings wildly around & goes off as fast as his legs can carry him, he presents a curious almost comical sight as he goes with his clumsy yet fast cow gallop over sage brush & ditches; he cannot keep up his mad careen long & has to stop to blow this enables me to come up to 150 yds 8. give him another bullet this sends him on again & as it is getting dark & he is severely wounded we do not follow any farther but intend to hunt him up in the morning; when we get to camp we hear the Dr. has killed one.

[Dr. Ferber] Sept. 1. F. and L. left camp early for the bull, sure to bring the tongue and some other meal to camp, but were very much disappointed in not finding him. He was tickled, but not to death, and left this country. Jack and I went in another direction, where we found six buffaloes, of which I killed three) and finally had to kill a fourth that was badly wounded. I felt ashamed of what I had done and made a pledge not to kill any more buffalo, which I kept truly. We saved the tongues, one pair of horns, and whiskers and manes. The largest of these four, which was a great deal smaller than that one I killed the previous day, measured as follows:

Length of this buffalo without tail, 9ft 6½in.; length around the breast (haunch), 8ft. 8in.; length around the body. 9ft 4½iin.; length of head, 2ft 0½in; breadth of the front, 1ft 4in.

The afternoon we rested, but toward evening we took a little ride, and on the return, being close to camp, we saw a large grizzly coming down the hill toward camp. He must have seen us and changed direction when we heard the report of Lancken’s rifle from the camp. He wounded him, but at this great distance could not kill him. F. and L. were eating supper when they saw the ponies rushing around, snorting and excited; they looked around and perceived the grizzly at about 300 yards.

[Otto Franc] Sunday Sept 1 - L & I go on horseback to look for the Buffalo, we ride several miles but do not find him, the ground being broken & hilly; we then see 3 Buffalo 1 mile off & prepare to hunt them, while approaching them we see 3 remarkedly large Antelope Buck & I conclude to take him rather than the Buffalo, he is quietly feeding on the foot of a hill; I slip off my horse & get on the other side of the hill intending to go to the top of the same & to shoot the Antelope from there, L & the horses are perhaps 1000 yds away, while I am going up the hill the Antelope notices the horses & comes running up on the other side unbeknown to me to get a better view of the same. Antelope & I arrive on top at the same time from opposite directions & 10 yards between us; To say who is the most surprised Antelope or I would be difficult to say fortunately we both stopped in a second more there would have been a collision. I have often said when I hear the remarkable stories about buck & people forgetting when in close proximity to game all about their rifle that that could never happen to me & so in this trying instance I had my rifle up in a twinkling fire and - miss him, the buck makes off as fast as only an Antelope can run, I reload my rifle quickly before he is 50 yds off and take him this time & drop him stone dead; the shooting has frightened off the Buffalo so we stay here & rescue the horses & some meat of the Antelope. We then turn toward camp & meet the Dr. & Jack busy cutting out the tongues of 3 Buffaloes which they had just killed; L & I proceed & encounter a large band of Antelopes, by going around a hill I approach them to 200 yds I fire at a large Buck, the bullet went low & only breaks his foreleg, he makes off very fast on his 3 remaining ones & we go after him putting our horses to their best, we get within shooting distance of him after 5 minutes chase I slip off the horse & give him another bullet without slackening his speed any, we put the spurs to our horses & come with him again when I break him down with a bullet through his back; a chase like this is full of excitement & I return to camp with 2 pair of horns & 2 pair of loins hanging on my saddle well satisfied with this mornings sport. Dr. also kills an antelope Buck while on his return to camp. Dr. & Jack go out again in the afternoon, L & I stay home, feeling hungry we do not await their return but cook supper & are just about sitting down to eat when we notice a commotion among the horses which are picketed close by & find the cause of the excitement to be a large grizzly bear he is coming down the hill on the foot of which we are camped in a cluster of trees, we have our rifles ready in an instant & await his approach, he comes along on a slow walk not being able to see us on account of the trees; just then, unfortunately, Dr. & Jack return, the bear sees them, & stops, Lankin shoots at him but the distance being so great 300 yds, the bullet, although it reaches him, does him no harm, it only serves to send him away at the speed of a racehorse; thus we lost the only fair chance toward getting a grizzly which we had during the whole of our trip.

[Dr. Ferber] 2nd. F. and L. started early in the morning, at 5 o'clock, F. very anxious to get in possession of a bighorn. Jack and I thought of hunting after grizzly and repay his visit, but as three of our ponies had run away, Jack came back too late to make an early start, so we did not leave before 8½ o'clock. Riding and walking alternately among these steep and rocky hills, we found quite fresh tracks of sheep, and following them, soon got sight of a herd, but very far off. We tied our ponies and crept, very cautiously, from rock to rock coming within about 300 or 400 yards. We could not come any nearer, so we tired at one of them, what we thought a ram and while they were running through a valley at a distance of about 300 yards, Jack killed one, but a ewe. A young buck took the lead, and at last he stopped. Now was my time to shoot, I rested my rifle on a rock, fired, and saw him tumbling; got up again, and finally laid down, stretching his legs out. We both thought he was dead. I had to cross a deep ditch with high sage bush, and when I came out of it I saw my dead ram disappearing over the hill. The spot where he was lying there was a large pool of blood. I followed his track a short distance, but then I lost it. Sitting down on a rock, I looked up and saw almost above me on a high rock two sheep, one was a ewe and the other, whose head was behind a bush, I thought to be a buck, appearing larger than the other. I fired at this one, and rolling down the precipice came a large—no ram—but ewe, which disappointed me badly. Jack butchered both animals, and we took a good quantity of fine mutton to camp. Here I found Frank very jolly, excited about a large mule deer, with a fine pair of antlers, which he had killed in the morning. Our camp was now well stocked with the choicest meat, as deer, buffalo, mountain sheep, and antelope.

[Otto Franc] Monday Sept. 2 - L & I start before daybreak towards the mountains; come up close to an Antelope Buck & just as I was going to shoot L whispers not to shoot as there is a Buck Elk close by, so we abandon the Antelope & go towards the Elk, he notices us & trots off; we then see another Elk, a perfect giant, he is standing on a little rise & sends forth his calls for Does or for some other big Elk to come on & fight him; it is not quite light yet we stoop low to the ground and approach him cautiously through some bushes, he notices us but cannot make out what or who we are, he comes slowly towards us bellowing and stamping the ground & apparently ready for a fight, he will not come closer than 500 yards & when we try to go to him his courage deserts him & he runs off. A little while after I severely wound a buck Antelope but lose him in the high sagebrush; we now enter the mountains & look around for sheep, while being so engaged a very large Buck Deer comes running out of a canyon & we knock him down; he proves to be the largest Mule Deer Buck I have ever seen & has a beautiful pair of antlers with the velvet just stripping off; his hams are so heavy that we cannot carry them but have to return to camp & get a packhorse in order to bring in the meat; We are going to lay in a stock of meat as we intend to start for the Big Horn mountains in 2 days, our journey will take us through the badlands where we hardly expect to find any game. Dr. and Jack killed 2 female mountain sheep. In the afternoon we ascended the highest point of the Rattlesnake Mountains & found the elevation to be 8500 feet.

[Dr. Ferber] 3d. I went to the same place again, where I wounded and perhaps killed the ram, but, not finding him, I saw several herds of sheep without a buck. We returned to camp without firing a shot; so did Frank. Tomorrow we intend to move through the Bad Lands, in a northerly direction to the Bighorn Mountains; but our plans were crossed by Jupiter Pluvius, At about 8 p.m. it commenced to rain, and toward midnight we had a heavy rainstorm, for which our tent was not tight enough; I, having the weather side, was almost floating in my bedding.

[Otto Franc] Tuesday Sept 3 - L & I do 5 hours of the very worst kind of mountain climbing trying to get a sheep, we get within shooting distance of a little band, we are favored by our usual luck there is no ram among them so we do not disturb them. At noon it begins to rain & grow cold, it keeps it up all day & we cannot do anything but hug the fire.

[This story will continue, following the summer trek of Texas Jack, Otto Franc, and Dr. Ferber in Part 8.]

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