This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
This was the last shot at ducks on my outing, and the longest remembered by me. Harry, having to return home, took the birds along with him, while Ready and I went to try our luck on prairie chickens. We came to a ravine, the banks of which, some 25 feet high, were covered with small poplars. As I walked along the bottom of it, I noticed at the foot of quite a tree, what had the appearance of a pile of beach-stones, which I thought most singular. It was about 20 feet from the path, but my eyes were on the look out for chickens, so I did not examine this closely, and Ready was on the opposite side, working the bank. After I had passed it, I was not satisfied, as it seemed such an unusual occurrence for beach-stones to be there, and I returned to further investigate. I had no difficulty in reaching the spot, and as the ground had just been hunted over, knew there were no chickens near, and was not so careful about the noise. So soon, therefore, as I turned off the path to go to these stones, they became invested with life. A veritable cayote (prairie wolf) sprang up and started for the upper bank, with a surprised hunter after him. The old adage was never truer, " The more haste the worse speed,' than when I was trying to find a cartridge of large shot. Every other kind but the one wanted came to my hand. In the mean time the cayote was making the most of the delay, so that when I was ready to speak to him he was 80 yards away, going like a streak. I did not expect to stop him, and didn't, but merely let him know he had been seen. Had Harry been with me, that cayote would have been ours, as he would have known at once what my pile of stones was, and stopped him right there.
Ready flushed several chickens before leaving the ravine, of which I shot a brace. Another cover was in sight, to which I went, and there found the game abundant, Ready starting birds in all directions.
I had fired five shots, securing as many birds, when suddenly my attention was aroused by a stentorian voice wanting to know who gave me authority to shoot his birds. " Your birds !" I replied. " This is the first time I knew or heard the fowl on the North-West prairies belonged to any particular individual until they were shot." "Well, sir," he replied very moderately, "I claim that any and all birds that are found within the limits of my lines belong to me." " Are you a sportsman yourself ? If so, I will not shoot at anymore." "No," he replied, "I never fired a gun, but preserve the birds for my sporting friends from Calgary." " Well, then, have a brace of my chickens for your dinner. I'll have all I want by the time I get home." This generosity on my part struck the right chord, and was in line with the sentiment, " Throw a sprat to catch a mackerel," for the English gentleman, for such he was, persuaded me to go to his house and partake of lunch a most generous repast, which my appetite, then keen, fully appreciated. He then showed me round the place, and we separated with the wish that I might have fine sport in the afternoon, and the assurance that I was always welcome to shoot on his grounds, so I returned to the grove, feeling much stronger for the repast and happier for such a pleasant termination to this peculiar acquaintance. I secured ten on the same ground I got the five in the morning within a couple of hours.
These prairie chickens are larger than the birch partridges; but the meat, which is very delicious, is as dark as the spruce partridge. The darkness of the flesh gave me a great sell before I knew this characteristic of it. Just before freezing weather I shot several of them, which were frozen for winter. Some weeks later I plucked a pair for dinner, but v noticing this dark colour, concluded they were spoiled, and threw them away. My neighbours, when they heard of the sell, had a hearty laugh at my expense. On my way homeward, I swerved towards the lower end of Red Deer Lake, expecting to find the geese back from the feeding-grounds. I was desirous of testing their tolling qualities, especially the wavies, as they had never been in sight of Ready. There were some hundreds sleeping, washing, and swimming about, so, with the dog at my heels, I crept as near to those in the water as I could safely do, then put Beady out. For some time they took apparently no notice of him, but a curious old gander, a very large one, began to investigate these movements by swimming around in a large circle, a long distance out of harm's way. He continued this circling, each time drawing nearer, and each time being joined by some of the geese, until there were upwards of twenty curious ones. When he approached within 40 yards, he appeared to hesitate, so I concluded to "draw a bead" on him, and try a shot. When he had passed a little beyond a direct front shot, several of the geese with the old fellow were under the line of my eye. Then I pulled, and laid over two geese and wing-broke the gander with the left barrel, and tumbled another with the right, which was not dead," so Beady took after him, and soon brought him to the shore. Then he spied the wing-broken gander, now fully 80 yards away, and working off shore very fast with the aid of his legs and wings. The water was not deep enough for the dog to swim, as it was only up to his back; therefore he had to plunge constantly to make any headway. His eye was on that gander, and the further he went the fiercer he became, until he fairly whined with eagerness. Not till they were 300 yards distant could it be decided how the struggle would terminate, for neither seemed to falter, nor did the dog gain any, and I feared that exhausting effort of plunging with no solid bottom to jump from would eventually tire him out, and the bird escape. However, after a time it was very noticeable that the distance between them was lessening rapidly, and that Ready would be the winner. When within 15 yards of him, the gander spread himself on the water and faced the dog, making a vicious plunge at him with his beak as he came to him, which sealed his doom, for Ready jumped, seized him by the neck and soon despatched him.