Pure Timber Wolf Female: In Captivity, To Improve Breed Of Sled-Dogs.
The total fish caught in this way varies. If a complete freeze-up does not set in over-rapidly, one man may have 8,000, another 4,500, another 3,000-which is sometimes governed by the number of dogs to feed, and sometimes by the ability and energy of the fisherman. Also there is good luck and bad luck.
The following are some carefully kept, strange old records of the autumn fish-catch at a Far North Post in 1880-almost forty years ago !
Nov. 2 .
Caught with six nets to each man-four men fishing. Twenty-four nets in all.1
Nov. 2-Heavy snow fall; weather mild, ice still weak.
Nov. 9 .
Caught with eight nets to each man, four men fishing, thirty-two nets in all. Nov. 23, Whitefish, finished spawning and leaving river. Nov. 25, took nets from river and set at usual winter fishing-ground. Fishing in river never failed so early before.
1 Half the total number of nets are set each day. Meanwhile the other half-that have been lifted with the fish-are being disentangled and dried and prepared for resetting the following day.
Nov. 11, 1880-Ten above zero, north wind.
Nov. 13, 1880-Ten below zero, waiting news of Caribou.
Nov. 14, 1880-Strong gale from west, and thawing all day, few drops of rain-a wonderful occurrence. Next day four below zero.
Nov. 19, 1880-First real bitter weather this Fall. Twenty-nine below zero.
Nov. 27 .
- Visiting nets every second or third day.
Dec. 13-All nets lifted-no more fishing. Total catch, 12,181 fish.
Trailing over Ice and Snow
It was a starlit morning, about an hour from daybreak, and cold as the very devil. I had got my five dogs into their harness in the awkward, persevering fashion of a man with numbed, half-frozen hands working amongst frozen collars and traces in the biting cold, while circulation is yet asleep. And now my team whimpered to be off on the trail, while they shivered and looked miserably cowed with cold.
But there was a hitch this morning, one sled was not ready to start. Mistewgoso was groping about the tree-bottoms and bushes of the forest, trying to uncover a lost dog that was buried and hidden in the snow and not inclined to turn out, being, no doubt, overtired with the hard travelling of the past few days and comfortable where he was. The Indian had circled closely around camp without success, then set out upon a wider circle, and that unavailing he tried still another, calling Natcheleaze-the dog's name-ingreatimpatience, and voicing the while his disapproval of the dog's conduct. Suddenly a yelp-Mistewgoso had un-snowed the culprit! Fully one hundred yards from camp the Indian's hawk-eyes had detected the dog, though he had had to search so widely to find its snow-lair, and had not overlooked it in the dark.
We were now ready to go. The dogs stood or lay, one before the other, in their harness-harness made up of long, continuous side-traces connected to saddle, and belly-band around their middles, and to head-collars which rested on the foreshoulders and received each dog's pulling weight. But, having been left standing, of course some of the dogs had got mixed up in their harness : they invariably do, as that is accomplished by merely turning round or getting a leg or two over the traces. Some mix-ups can be righted in a second; others take minutes and the undoing of many buckles or thongs. However, traces were soon straightened out this morning, while impatient dogs gave voice to their wolf-howls in eagerness to start. Then each driver called out to the leaders and we were off, while it was " Mush, Toyfayr ! Mush, Corni! Tuok ! Tuok ! Tuok ! . . . Ge-kook ! Ge-kook ! " (to incite them to break into a gallop and warm up). Then, " Ah ! . . . Peesu! " in reproachful tones, as you note the traces of that particular dog slacken, and how he is not pulling his share. Again, when it is desired to change your direction, the cry is " Hu, Corni (leader), Hu ! " if the lead-dog is wanted to turn to the right, or " Chac, Corni, Chac! " if to the left.
There were three dog-trains on the trail, for two Indians were with me-Mistewgoso and J'Pierre. We had been out a week, and were still heading north.
North, always north, even against the stirring warnings of the voices of the vast unknown, and the threatened overpowering grip of the giant elements of heartless Arctic cold. At times it seemed preposterous that against those forces such little things as we, mere dust-specks in such mighty company, should dare to go on, and go on.
Ah ! there is power in the North, an almost overwhelming strength of surroundings. You know you are up against it; within you you are almost sure it will get you in the end, if you go just a little too far, or are contemptuous for an hour of its antagonism.
On this occasion we were travelling far and travelling fast. Those long, speedy-looking sleds, running lightly on the surface, contained but a few "sticks" of fish for dog-feed, our rifles, axes, snow-shoes, cook-cans, and deerskin sleeping-bags. We carried no freight, though, if necessary, the sleds could be loaded up to 100 lbs. per dog.
Light-fashioned those sleds looked ; narrow, flat-boarded things with curling, upturned prows, rear upright back-rest, rope side-rails from back to front, and thereto attached the coffin-like body of tough parchment skins which were laced up the sides and across the bottom. But into such sleds an astonishing load can be packed. When fully loaded the bundles of freight are piled to a height of two feet or thereby, particular care being taken to have the whole well balanced over the sled-boards ; then all are laced into final position with vice-tight ropings to prevent the load from slipping when the sleds slew at turnings, or jar as the dogs lead overland, between lakes, and the sleds dip into hollows, and over hillocks and fallen tree trunks.
In weather we were fortunate, for there had been no deep snowfall recently, and the powdery snow had drifted and packed and the surface on land or lake was everywhere firm. Snow-shoes had been discarded. No trail required breaking. Overland between lakes (for it was altogether a country of alternating lake and land) we sped, light-footed in our duffel-lined moccasins behind ever-nimble dogs, alert to keep the sled-head from being dashed against upright stumps or dead logs that lay in our path