Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

Hunting Buffaloes

It was a difficult matter to restrain the hunters who were bent on starting off on the instant, believing they could kill a buffalo with but little effort, if one came within range.

To bring a buffalo down, one must shoot him in the lungs. To hit the skull is much like sending a bullet against a rock, for it has no other effect than to excite the animal, and oftentimes even then not very much. Of course if a hunter can send a ball through the brute's heart, that settles the matter, but it is a difficult shot.

I did my best to explain how they ought to shoot in order to kill, and then, finding they were not inclined to heed my words, I proposed that we set off, each going his own way and doing the work after his own fashion.

It caused me to smile when I saw those men creeping up on some old bull, whose flesh was so dry and tough that none save a starving man would eat it; but they seemed to think it was size that counted.

Knowing that now was the time when I could again profit by my experience as a hunter and trapper, I went off in chase of a couple of young cows, and within thirty minutes had them stretched out on the prairie. Meanwhile I believe that no less than a hundred shots had been fired by the other members of the company; but I failed to see that any of them had been successful.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

John Mitchell and one of the men who went out with him succeeded in killing an old bull, and although during three hours of that forenoon there were hundreds of buffaloes in sight, all our company took from that vast herd were the two cows I had killed and the tough old fellow that had fallen under John Mitchell's rifle.

Because Susan's father did not call upon me for advice as to how his share of the game should be cut up ready for cooking, I held my peace, but set about taking the flesh from each side of the spine, from the shoulders to the rump, of the two animals I had killed. Afterward I cut out the tongue and the hump ribs, while those two men were hacking at their game, apparently believing his flesh should be treated after the same manner as that of a stall-fed ox.

While I was making ready some of the hump ribs for roasting, my mother came to my side, saying, as she pointed to our companions:—