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Hunting in Dakota Territory


Hunting in Dakota Territory days wasn’t much different than it is now, except hunters these days probably have it a bit more comfortable. To give you an example, The Bismarck Tribune ran a story, in September 1879, titled: A DEER HUNT – Bedsteads Without Blankets and a Bottom Without a Top.

It reads: “Last Saturday was a good day to hunt and a number of Bismarck nimrods started out,” the story began. “The party was composed of Col. Baker, the well-known wing and dead shot; J. M. Carnahan, who has won the enviable cognomen of ‘buckshot’ Carney; J. J. Jackman, the pioneer hunter and sure shot; J. C. Barr, president, secretary and treasurer of the humane society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and ‘the stranger,’ also a humanitarian.

“Agard's bottom was the coveted spot chosen to camp for the night. Driftwood served to make a respectable fire, and a grand lunch of bacon, coffee and raw beefsteak was served. It was not until dark that it was discovered that as a commissary sergeant, Col. Baker was not a success. Six iron army bedsteads were rolled out, but only one pair of blankets for five people.

“Iron bedsteads are not good heat generators, as each of the party will readily testify. It is sufficient to state that the night was passed,” the story read.

“The tent was taken down and assumed the role of blankets, but heaven's dew fell fast by the light of the pale moon. Sleep was out of the question and a dream of rest would have been a luxury. In the morning the ground was white with frost and Mr. Barr, who had tried in vain to extract warmth from a coarse canvas, was heard to remark that if God would only forgive him for this, he would never, not hardly ever, do it again.

“Breakfast [was] served and the party turned homeward. Several ducks and chickens had already accidentally fallen in range of the shower of shot and lost their heart’s blood.

“A poor, innocent, scared deer was seen skipping over the prairie. Stop! ‘Let’s slay the festive fawn,’ cried the hunters. The fawn sized the party up from afar and ventured within 50 feet [where] he halted and sniffed the atmosphere in defiance.

“The pioneer hunter fired and buckshot whistled through the air. ‘Buckshot’ Carney fired twice and a perfect show of shot deluged the hillside. A snort, a bound and the disgusted fawn disappeared in the distance. A council was held and it was decided that the animal was copper bound and brass mounted as Carnahan assured the crowd that he distinctly heard the shot [bounce off its] ribs.

“‘The stranger’ had a short gun and did not bring it forth on this occasion as he wished to sustain his reputation of ‘fetching’ every time he fired.” The story’s parting shot read, “It is understood that nothing was said about the hunt coming home except that mutual agreement was made not to give the deer away.”

Written by Merry Helm

Source: The Bismarck Tribune. Fri, 12 Sep 1879: 1.