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Sheep Camp, Alaska



Chased by Grizzlies


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A dispatch from Gen. Hardin, in the United Service
Published in The New York Times / May 21, 1882

AFTER GRIZZLIES -- I was out with Cadott. Toward sundown, leaving me near a swamp, he went off on the prairie, hoping to scare up some game, which would probably seek refute in the swamp. He was about half a mile away when I saw him motion me to go toward the boats. I started at a walk in that direction, watching him as I advanced. Soon I saw him run rapidly toward the boats, then suddenly stop.

As he stopped I saw what I took to be an Indian on horseback come over a swell in the prairie. I struck across at a run, so as to cross Cadott's trail to the boats, in such a direction as would bring us together about half a mile from them. When I cam near him I saw that he was pursued by two grizzlies. He kept ahead of them by running until he saw the one nearest lift himself to gallop, then Cadott would stop and face the bear, when the grizzly would stop to a jog-trot or walk. In this way we kept ahead of them until we came within hail of the boats. (Cadott was armed with an old-fashioned round-ball patch rifle, I had a cavalry carbine; neither gun would kill a grizzly outright.)

As soon as officers and men perceived us they came running out to meet us, but they made so much noise the grizzlies were alarmed, turned, and ran down the river into a thicket, where we lost them.

A few days after, one of our young officers and the chief engineer of the large steam-boat returned form a hunt, looking tired and dirty. They were very quiet about their day's sport. As they had brought in no game, we were quite curious to learn about their hunt. At last we got them to talking, when it appeared that, after hunting some hours without finding any game, they sat down under a small tree to rest. Happening to glance toward the river, which was about half a mile away, they saw what they took to be a couple of buffalo coming toward them at a lope. Bot prepared for a shot: but when the animals came close enough to distinguish them the hunters recognized them to be two full-grown grizzlies making for their position.

An animated discussion arose between the officer and the engineer as to what they should do. The engineer was for "lighting out" at double-quick, but the officer, being armed with a Sharp's breech-loading rifle, was for a stand. As he prevailed, the engineer slipped off his boots and made ready to climb the tree. When the bears came within range he, forgetting his gun, made haste to mount the tree. The officer prepared to shoot, but being unable to determine which bear to kill, or possibly attacked with the "bear fever," he, so the engineer said, dropped his gun and made good time up the tree.

The officer claimed that he took his rifle up the tree with him. However that may be, the two monsters came on at a lope, and without so much as casting a glance up the tree, went on into the brush beyond. As these two gentlemen had been very severe on Cadott and myself for not attacking two grizzlies on the open prairie, we being armed with a small game rifle and a carbine, we thought that our valorous friends, armed with a Sharp's breech-loading rifle and an army musket, might at least have tried a shot from their safe perch in the tree.

Before the invention of the destructive breech-loader, now in common use, the hunter never attacked a grizzly unless he had some great advantage, such as being on horseback on the prairie.

 

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