The Bear Hunter
T HE crocketts moved to their new home. Again their most prized possessions were carried on the two pack horses. Again Elizabeth and the children walked with Davy over hills and waded through swamps and streams. Often the trail was so narrow they had to walk in single file. Davy led the way. He carried the baby of the family on one arm and his rifle on the other. The dogs barked and ran after small game.
Elizabeth liked the new cabin. "Davy," she said, "this cabin is larger than any other we have had. It will not take long to make it very comfortable. We are going to be happy in our new home."
"Tomorrow morning I am going to hunt for bear," said Davy. The family were gathered about the open fireplace. Elizabeth was busy at her spinning wheel. Little Polly wound the yarn. "I must hunt and kill as many as I can so we can salt them for winter use."
Davy arose and went over to the wall where he kept his guns. Several guns hung from their wooden pegs beside the bullet molds and Davy's coonskin cap. He held up a rifle and looked at it carefully. "No," he said, "this rifle is too light." He put it back on the pegs. "I will take this one," he said as he examined another rifle. He found some old pieces of cloth and a small can of oil.
"Never go out with a gun unless it is in good condition," he said as he looked at his sons. "Some of the men say that I take better care of my guns than I do of myself." He sat down near the fireplace and slowly but carefully oiled and polished the rifle. The boys watched every move. Davy explained to them why it was so necessary to have hunting equipment in good condition. "When a bear looks you straight in the eye," he said, "it's good to know that you are ready for him."
"When I grow up," said William, "I am going to be a good hunter, too." The boys tried to talk and act like their father. Davy threw his head back and laughed. "If you really want to grow up and be a great hunter, you must go to bed and to sleep right now."
Elizabeth blew out the candles. The soft mellow light from the fireplace grew fainter and fainter. Outside the cry of wolves could be heard. The Crocketts were soon sound asleep.
Early the next morning Davy was up and about. Elizabeth cooked a hearty breakfast. She packed some dried meat and corn bread for him to take on the hunt. In a short time he was on his way. Two of his favorite hunting dogs followed close behind. With his rifle over one arm, a sharp hunting knife in his belt, and his powder horn over his shoulder, Davy, the hunter, strode into the forest.
"I will find plenty of bears in the canebrake," Davy said to himself as he walked along. He looked for signs. The dogs were ahead. Davy could hear them barking as they chased a frightened animal. "Chief!" he called. "Chief! Blazer!" The dogs came back to him. "We ar out for bears!" he said to them. "Bears!"
Davy made his way through the tangled canebrake. His keen eyes watched for signs of a trail. He stopped quickly. "That tree can tell me something!" he said to himself as he walked over to a big black oak. "Just as I thought. The tree is hollow and there is a bear inside. His tracks lead up to that big hole."
In Davy's day, a good hunter knew how to follow a bear's trail. There were many brave, and skillful hunters, but the hunter who could trail and kill bears was looked up to and envied. A bear hunter had to know how to follow the faintest signs. He had to know when a bear was in a tree by just looking at the bark of the tree. A bear can climb a tree quickly leaving few signs. When he comes down the tree his claws dig into the bark deeper and more plainly than they do when he goes up the tree. The bear leaves long scratches in the bark as he makes his way down the tree.
"That bear is in there," said Davy. "Now to get him out." Davy started to chop at the tree with a small ax. He looked about for his dogs. They were barking up another tree. He threw his ax down and picked up his rifle. "They have treed a bear. When a dog knows that he is out for bear, he will not bark at anything else," he said as he ran along the narrow trail. When he came to the dogs he looked up in the tree that they were jumping about. There high in the tree was a fat bear.
"He will be easy to get," said Davy. He aimed his rifle carefully and fired. The bear fell to the earth with a crash. Davy waited to see whether the bear was killed, or only wounded. He reloaded his rifle and again took aim but did not fire. The dogs ran over to the bear and barked. The bear lay still. "He is dead," said Davy to himself. "I will dress him." Skillfully Davy skinned the animal. He made a crude scaffold of small trees and brush. He carried the meat to the scaffold. "The wolves will not be able to get up here," he said as he put the last piece on top. He placed the shaggy bear skin on the scaffold, too. "Another warm blanket for us this winter," he said to himself. "Now I will go back to the bear in the oak tree."
To the right the dogs were barking again. Quickening his pace, he hurried on toward them. "Chief and Blazer are in great form today," he said. They had treed another bear. Davy walked away from the tree to find a good position from which to fire at the bear. He fired and the bear fell to the ground. Quickly Davy tried to reload his rifle. The dogs ran to the bear which was trying to get up. With a furious thrust of his great paw the bear struck at Chief. Chief was sent flying through the air for about thirty feet. Davy heard him fall with a heavy thud. Chief lay whining where he had fallen.
"Here he comes," said Davy as the bear started toward him. Carefully he aimed his rifle and fired. The angry bear was hit but he still came on. Blazer jumped on the bear's back. The bear shook his great body and Blazer fell to the ground. "He is wild with anger," said Davy as the bear raised himself on his hind legs. "I'll have to use my hunting knife." Davy reached for his knife but it was gone. "I have lost it in the canebrake," he said. "What will I do now?"
Davy stepped quickly aside as the bear tried to grab him with his great paws. Furiously the bear turned back to him. Davy picked up his rifle and ran toward the canebrake. He tried to reload his gun. He had to stop to put the powder in the barrel. The bear caught up with him. Quick as a flash, Davy dodged and ran in another direction. The crazed bear still tried to catch him. "One hug from you," said Davy as he dodged, "will be all for me. That was a close call."
With a sigh of relief he succeeded in reloading his rifle. The bear was coming toward him. This time Davy did not run away. Carefully he took aim and fired. The bear fell dead.
Davy ran back to where Chief lay whining. "You are not hurt very much," he said aloud as he examined Chief. "A few days rest and you will be ready for another bear hunt. Come here," he said to Blazer. "Stay here with Chief." He sat beside the dogs to rest. Then he looked about for his hunting knife. He found it on the trail he had taken from the canebrake. He went back to the dead bear and skinned and dressed it. "This bear must weigh six hundred pounds," he said as he carried the meat to the scaffold where the other bear meat had been placed.
"Now for the bear in the oak tree," said Davy. He looked at the bark. "He is still in there," Davy said as he picked up the ax. As he chopped he looked up at the hole. "Hello there, Old Bear," he laughed as he saw the bear's head sticking out of the hole in the tree. He was looking down at the hunter who was chopping at his hollow tree. "Come on down," Davy called to him. The bear opened his mouth and showed his big white teeth.
Davy started to chop at the tree again. The bear pulled himself through the hole. Davy picked up his rifle. "I don't want another fight today," he said as he aimed his rifle. With the flash of the rifle the bear let go of the tree and fell to the ground dead.
"Tomorrow the boys and I will come out and take the meat and skins back to the cabin. We will ride out on the horses," he said. When it was almost dark Davy started home. He went back to the spot where he had left the dogs. "You can walk," he said to Blazer, "but I will carry Chief."
When Davy arrived at the cabin, Elizabeth met him at the door.
"How did things go today?" she asked.
"Very good for me," answered Davy, "but bad for the dogs. Here, William," he called to his son. "Take Chief and feed him. A bear almost finished him."
"How many bears did you get?" asked Elizabeth.
"Three," Davy answered. "Three in one day is good, don't you think so? This country is a hunter's paradise."
1. Tell all you can about the Crockett log cabin.
2. How did Davy take care of his guns?
3. Why couldn't Davy hunt bears during the winter?