‘Forty-four Years of the Life of a Hunter’, Meshach Browning 1859. Lots of wonderful books are available free below (if you look for them). This is from Chapter 6: ‘Whitetail Hunting in 1810’. What a treasure! Six deer taken in a single day with a muzzle-loader. Great hunting!
‘Shortly after returning to my home, three hunters and myself agreed to go to the glades to hunt deer. We all started for what was called the piney cabin and met at the place, but it was too late to hunt that evening, and there was no snow on the ground.
A light snow having fallen during the night, I said in the morning that I would bet any man a gallon of whiskey I would kill two deer that day.
“I’ll take that bet,” said a man by the name of James.
It was agreed on; and I told them to pick their course, and I would take the ground that was left. So they all made choice of a locality for that day, leaving me the very ground I wished for.
Everyone set out in great spirits, but while going to the place assigned me, I heard a buck bleat, which they will do in mating-time when they smell other deer. I walked quickly to the leeward side of him in order that he should not smell me. In doing so, I crossed a number of deer tracks.
Knowing that the buck was after them, I stood close to the tracks, where I could still hear him bleating and every time the sound was nearer. In a short time, I saw him following the tracks. I let him come within eight steps, and then stopped him by bleating as he did, when I shot him in his tracks.
I skinned him very rapidly and went on, but I had proceeded only a short distance when I saw a small buck trot along the top of a steep hill, then disappear down the opposite side.
I ran to the top, and looking down, saw him going leisurely along, whereupon I snorted like a deer, which I could do very naturally. As soon as he heard the snort, thinking it came from the other deer, which he expected to see, he stopped to look round for them.
I had with me a deer’s tail, which I showed him from behind a tree, and then exposed a small portion of my clothes which were about the color of a deer. Uncertain what to do, he stood there, occasionally stamping his foot on the ground, all the while holding his head as high as he could. Then I would show the tail quietly, and as if I was not scared, and at last seeing him lick his mouth, I knew he would come to ascertain what was there.
He came on little by little, still stamping his feet on the ground, until he came within range of my rifle, when I shot at his breast and broke his shoulder. I set my dog on him, and when the deer soon turned to make fight, I shot him again.
I then skinned him, and as I was in the glades without a hat, and it was blowing and snowing as fast as the snow could fall, I started to run across a glade, out of the storm.
As I ran through the ferns, about half-a-leg high, up sprang a large buck, which, after making two or three jumps, stopped in the middle of the open glade. He had scarcely stopped before my rifle sent a ball through him. He jumped forward a few yards and fell over dead.
The storm was so severe that I was obliged to seek shelter in a grove of thick pines. After it abated, I started for camp again, still looking for deer.
I was about halfway in when I saw approaching what I took to be another buck. I stood still, but the deer saw me too, though it could not make out what I was. Each stood perfectly still, looking at the other, until I became tired.
There was between us a large fallen tree, which hid the body of the deer, so that I could see nothing but the head. Finding no other chance, I raised my gun and fired at the head. After the report, seeing nothing of the deer, I hurried forward, and there lay as fine a doe as I ever killed, with her brains blown out.
I commenced skinning her as fast as possible, as it was getting late, and I was quite ready to leave for the camp when I saw on the entrails so much tallow that I stopped to save it. As I was picking off the tallow, it occurred to me that it was a wonder a buck had not been on her track, for she was in that peculiar condition when the males will follow them, wherever they find their track.
So I raised my head to look, and there stood a stout buck within ten steps, staring at myself and the dog as I was sitting at my work, with the dog licking up the blood and eating the small pieces which fell to his share.
I dared not rise to get my gun, which was standing against a tree out of my reach. Finally, I began to creep towards it, all the time being afraid to look at the deer, lest the sight of my face should scare him, for I knew it was not pretty.
When I had secured my gun, I looked around and saw him walking off, and as I did not wish to spoil his saddle, I delayed shooting until I could get his side toward me.
All of a sudden he stopped, turned round and came walking back to look for the doe, stopping at the same place where I first saw him. That moment I pulled my trigger, and the ball, striking in the middle of the breast, killed him at once. He never attempted to jump, but reared up so high that he fell flat on his back. I skinned him, put him on the same pole with the other, and then started off for the camp.
When I arrived there, all hands seemed astonished at my good luck, but James disputed the fact, saying that I had been there the week previous and had hid those skins in the woods. But a Mr. Frazee, who had hunted with me all the previous week, during which time I had killed some eight or ten deer, told James that my boys and his had come out the last of the week with horses, and carried in all the meat both of us had killed, together with the skins. James was satisfied that there was no foul play in the matter. I told James that I could kill a deer yet that night. He was anxious to take another bet, and in order to give him a chance for his whiskey, I closed with him, for when I left the camp in the morning, I had observed a spot where a great many deer had been feeding on thorn-berries, and I knew that they would be there again at dusk after the berries.
Seizing my gun, I made for the leeward side of the thorn nursery in order that the deer should not smell me. The dog scented the deer, and therefore I crept along very cautiously, though I could see no game. Presently, a very large buck made his appearance, and I said to myself: “That will make the sixth deer, beside two gallons of whiskey, and the reputation of being the best hunter in the woods.”
It will be seen that my vanity began to rise. The buck gradually drew nearer, but the pine trees stood so close together that it was a hard matter to secure a good aim, and beside, I found I was becoming so much excited that my hand was growing unsteady.
So I waited till the buck came opposite the space between two trees, when I called to him to stop, which he did, but not until he had so far passed the open space that his ribs were hid from my view. I tried to take aim, but as I could not hold my rifle steady, I waited to get rid of the shakes, though to no purpose, for the longer I delayed, the worse I became. At last, observing the buck’s tail beginning to spread, I knew he was about to make off.
As this was my last chance, I put my gun against a tree, thinking thus to brace myself, but my gun absolutely knocked against the tree. As I was then compelled to shoot or to let the buck run off unharmed, I fired at his hips, at a distance of not more than 20 steps, without ever touching either hide or hair of him.
At any other time, I could have sent 20 shots into a space the size of a dollar, but the idea of a great reputation gave me the ague; and through my vanity, I lost both the buck and the whiskey.
When the report of my gun was heard at the camp, Mr. Frazee exclaimed: “There, James, you have another gallon of whiskey to pay for, as Browning never misses.”
But when I returned empty-handed, the whole company enjoyed a hearty laugh at my expense.’
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