By PETE, THE GUNMAN
I PICKED up a likely eighteen months old dog one fall, down in Pennsylvania. A farmer owned him, and he was an ugly dog, with a good head, sunken eyes, large paws, strong legs, and a chunky body. He wasn't much of a breed. Some years afterwards, when I grew acquainted with Airedales, I remembered Kip, the dog I'm telling about. Kip had a greyish-black shaggy jacket with coarse hair, but his head and face were Airedale.
The farmer wanted a dollar for the dog, but he gave him to me for nothing, and when I led the brute back into my scrub oak camp, Kip nipped me two or three times in the leg, I suppose just to let me know he was there. Then I made him go ahead on the piece of chain I had him on.
I was a month making peace with Kip. He had been abused, being ugly to start with, but we grew acquainted, and as he had a first class nose, I tried him out, as soon as I could let him off the chain. Treating him right, he didn't have any hard feeling for me, and he grew right friendly.
I was shooting a 25 rim fire single shot that fall. Squirrels, rabbits, pheasant and quail were my meat, if I could catch them sitting still. Kip would tree a squirrel, run a rabbit and though it was against the law, he didn't mind that in taking up a deer track. I didn't encourage him a bit — did all I could to discourage him, for I was in bad country, with wardens and a private preserve outfit on the snoop all the time.
One day after about an inch snowfall, I was down on the green-water creek, looking over some traps, when Kip started something in some heavy hardwood, chestnuts and oak mostly, up an awful sidehijl. He circled, and when I reached his level, I found an eighteen pound wildcat treed as nice as could be away up in a leaning oak which grew on a kind of stone bench on the side
hill. When the bullet went into Mr. Cat's eye, he fell straight down about a hundred feet, and where he landed Kip was waiting for him, but didn't touch him, account of his being a dead Tom.
All through that part of the state there were deep gulches through stone, filled with brush and broken rock, trees and lots of old hemlock slash, everybody having cut hemlock for tanbark and poor lumber. It was great country for rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels, from chipmunks to once in a while a fox squirrel. Probably wild cats were as thick there as anywhere around.
Well, when I found Kip was a natural cat trailer, I went in for this kind of hunting. Take an average wildcat, and he or she scratches for the caves and holes. Kip seemed to understand this, and he had a way of heading them off, for he would tree them about three times out of five, which I felt was a good average. Then, having treed them, he waited around for me to come in and finish up. Both of us liked roast wild cat, too, so he was getting his reward, same as I was. But I had the hides thrown in extra.
Hardly anybody hunted in those parts. There was some good bottomland, which was farmed, and then away up on top of the country was level land, which was farmed. In the creek washes, and in the gulches, and valleys was a lot of miserable scrub country, where there was game, and these cats.
Hunting wildcats hadn't been my strong point. I had done a little tracking after them, but anybody who ever tried that knows how much luck a man has. Naturally, wandering around a lot, I would catch glimpses of them once in a while, but not often. I had killed two, both yearlings, when I took on Kip. Then we made a regular business of hunting them.
Wildcats slink around a lot on dry, dark days. When it rains they lay up. If there is a good dry snow on the ground, and it isn't too bright and sunny, they'll go wandering around, leaving their tracks. They like bright moonlight nights, when they swing wide and travel free. Take it these bright nights, and they do most of their chicken stealing. But this isn't saying they aren't out a lot on bright sunny days.
Kip could walk quieter than almost any dog I ever knew. He would leave me in an old hemlock bark road, or down in a creek bottom, in the edge of the brush, and he would work up wind. When he found where a wildcat was lying out on a big rock, or on a log, or anywhere where the sun was real warm, and there wasn't any wind, he would manage to squeeze himself between Mr. Cat and the cave, hollow log, brush heap, or whatever was the place the cat would jump for first. Kip could make an awful lot of noise, on such occasions, though he didn't bark much as a rule, and the cat would climb high and fast.
I think I saw a scared wildcat make about the longest jump, when he was surprised that way, that I ever knew about. There was a bunch of sumac on a side hill, and just below it a bare, level rock about ten feet wide, with just some leaves, grass and moss on it. Kip came down through the sumac, and saw the cat, or smelled him, and sneaking through the sumac, came out behind the cat, where it was stretched on its stomach. The cat made two short jumps, about six feet, and then taking hold the edge of the rock, jumped over my head, about forty feet up, and slanting down, sort of like a flying squirrel, landed on a leaning stub. As near as I could figure, the cat jumped about thirty-five feet horizontal and ten or fifteen feet down.
As he landed, he had to scrabble some to hang on, and in the second he was getting his balance, I threw a plain 25 caliber lead bullet through him from the underhand left side, and out above the right shoulder. It was a quick, snappy shot, but as good as aiming half an hour. The cat ran along down the snag. Kip came down into the hollow, ran up the opposite side, and chased the cat about seventy yards around up the side hill, and then down again. By the time the cat was coming down in the brush, he was an awful sick cat, and he ran himself dead just below me in some fireweed.
Some of the cats around there were just housecats gone wild; some were half breeds; but some were genuine stub-tailed natural wild cats, kind of dark reddish to striped grey. I didn't have out more than ninety traps, doing what they call spot-trapping these days, and the rest of time from tending them, I hunted with Kip.
Kip had a natural preference for hunting cats, I thought, and as it was good money killing them, besides the fun of it, I encouraged him. The cats were bringing from 75c to $3.00, and I averaged about two a day for more than a month, when we had them pretty well cleaned out. Nobody around there knew there was a wild cat pocket in just a little rough country, and nobody saw the skins which I took care of. I caught probably ten or twelve in traps, but the rest I shot.
Then Kip and I moved, and we struck into a pretty well settled country. It was a mild winter, with not much snow, and the streams had the still waters frozen, but the rifts were about all smoking. There was about twenty miles of stream, with some narrow bottoms, and some wide bottoms, like almost all of the mountain country of Pennsylvania where I worked through. I had an old railroad construction camp for my headquarters, and I had some work to do before I could look around. The big creek ran under a bridge, about forty rods away, and I was working when I heard Kip making a big fuss.
I grabbed my rifle, ran down the track and over the bridge fill to see what on earth he was up to. Luck had been with the natural instincts of Kip, for his old otter hound ancestry just naturally took up with a doe otter, which was coming up the creek. He slammed into her, in six or eight inches of gravel-bottom water, and they were at it. He had the otter cornered, in a way, and she was sitting on her tail, trying to get at him, only he knew enough not to close in. She'd eaten him up, if he had. • Course, I took a hand in, and the minute her head sank in the water, Kip nailed the back of her neck, and dragged her out to where I could reach her without wetting my feet. That was $15 worth of fur, first whack, which was good for a man of my usual poverty and need of something to eat.
I inquired around about the fur, in those parts, but everybody agreed it wasn't worth bothering with, just a mink now and then, a few skunk, and perhaps muskrats along the creek. I was satisfied to know they thought that. Everybody knows January and February trapping isn't much good, generally speaking, but I took mink and muskrats enough to make big day wages. This was just trapping, of course, and except I shot four or five mink, it was just ordinary.
Otter had come into those creeks, though, and I don't know how many were around there. I put down five traps, which I had, fit for otter. I caught two that way. But Kip was mostly otter hound — which made him look sort of like an Airedale, Airedales being otter-hound blood. I can't imagine now, how he happened to appear there m the Old Dutch country of Pennsylvania, but probably some Englishman visited there, and left or sent over a dog.
Kip's hair was oily and his fur heavy. He didn't mind water at all, cold or icy, or warm. He plowed right through it. He followed otter tracks up or down a creek, and where the otter swam, he would nose in under the ice, where the water had gone down, and he would cross from side to side. Twice I saw him take cold trails, and roust otter out from where they had nested up under tree roots in a bank, under the snow. Once he had an otter going, he would hunt him any where. I always had thought otter had under water entrances to their burrows, and I know they have, lots of times. But Kip had a way of hunting any otter that didn't swim from under the bank, that tickled me, and I had to make some big stretchers on that account.
Kip, too, was good at hunting mink, but I never had much luck getting mink that was chasing. They were so. small, they could just duck into a crack or hole, and he couldn't get at them. But by putting down traps where he was nosing, and calling him off, I took some good hides that way. It was the same with muskrats.
I wasn't intending to write about Kip, but about shooting game; but the 25 rim fire was sure a nice little rifle to shoot game with. I had good sights on it, three of them, front, barrel and breech sight. I did some good shooting with it, and when I shot an otter through the head, it sure paralyzed him. I shot one through the neck, one day, and he was a big one. He died mighty slow, throwing blood all around him, while he fought Kip. But just hung back, till the otter tried to run, and then he'd rear in. By and by the otter leaked so much he just keeled over. Another time, Kip chased a dead otter down the creek over thin ice, and brought the carcass in, when I'd sure lost it, but for the dog knowing what to do.
I figure Kip was about the best dog for a trapper I ever saw. He didn't care much for rabbits, or soft game like squirrels. He wanted fur, and traveling with me, he had what he wanted. He was a fair fox dog, and it took a good one to fool him, but he would leave a fox for a wildcat track any time, and he would leave any track, to run up and down a creek looking for otter tracks.
He was a young dog, too, but seemed to know what he wanted to do better than most pups. Probably he matured young. I kept him two years, and then I had one of those fool notions which a man gets once in a while. Muskrats were bringing ten cents, skunks seventy five, mink a dollar or two, and the market was all shot to pieces. Trapping wasn't any good, and of course, it never would be any good again. I was so blamed disgusted I said here's where I quit trapping, and hunting, and all those foolish sports, and take on something that is sensible and has money in it.
I reckoned that if anybody could take up a line that would reach people's stomach good, it would be money in a man's pocket. I met an old fellow who was turtle-hunting. He was getting $1.25 a dozen for turtles, and I saw him ship sixty-three dozen one week. That was a good business for me, I thought.
Accordingly, I sold my outfit to two fellows who were seeking outdoor experience. They paid me a good price, practically retail rates. I had Kip left over, and Kip and I went into the turtle business in Pennsylvania. It was all right business, too. I didn't lose any money by it at all. I made good wages. I fished right up into the freeze up, too, and worked off south, and for a year or two I was a turtler. I had a nice line of restaurants, sporting clubs, and there was a horseman who used to give big dinners, and I supplied him with freshwater terrapin for his dinners, and his friends, too, bought of me. It was a good business.
I've been sorry, though, that I ever met that horse racer. He was a shooting sport, and when he asked me about game, I put him in line for hunting coon, wildcats, grey squirrels, and a lot of that sort. Naturally, he grew acquainted with Kip, running around with me and the dog. Kip went crazy over that man! Never saw a dog act the way Kip did about the man. And after we'd hunted two or three days, and the sport had to go to New Orleans, or Havre de Grace, and around, Kip would get the blues and mope for a week.
The sport took the same shine to Kip that Kip did to him. Probably I was just shack-woodsman, and the man was a he-sport. Anyhow, one day the sport handed me a roll of bills, and just heaved Kip into an express car, and carried him away. I never saw him again.
But that is how I came to have a 30-30 seven shot carbine. The sport bought the carbine for a bear hunt down in Louisiana, and he didn't find any bears. The time he took Kip, he had come over into southern Pennsylvania, bringing his 30-30. We hunted over east of Cumberland, but north of the Maryland line. Kip brought a nice big buck down to the sport, who lammed him three times behind the shoulders, long and short ribs both. Then he took the deer with him and when he went away, he left the gun with me.
It was quite a gun.
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
|Are you aware that Google is offering +1 to Everyone? Share your +1 with Every One of Your Friends by looking for the +1 on websites everywhere!" |
If you liked this site, click
Order Online 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week, 365 Days a Year