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James Otis

A Bear Hunt

We had not been troubled by the beasts during the winter, because of their not leaving their dens often when snow is on the ground; but as soon as we had pigs and sheep, as was speedily the case after the ships began to arrive with those who had agreed to settle in William Penn's city, the bears came out in great numbers.


One big brown creature seized a pig at which Jethro's father was looking, leaping into the pen and out again with the squealing fellow in his jaws, and made good his escape, owing to the fact that William Norris had nothing near at hand which would serve as a weapon.

Therefore it was decided that three full days should be spent in ridding the land of bears and wolves, and we lads made great preparations for the sport, thinking to prove ourselves heroes at the outset; but, unless I am much mistaken, we did nothing of the kind.

On the morning of the hunt, at early daybreak, thirty men were sent out to form a line straight across from one river to the other, and at the same time twice as many more were ordered to range themselves along the bank near where were our caves. Then the two companies marched in the line of a crescent toward the meeting place of the two rivers.

Back of these, and close in the rear so that there might be no danger from their fire, came all the others, Indians as well as white men, who cared to take part in the hunt, and I dare venture to say there were none who remained at home just then.

The line began to move forward about sunrise, and nothing was heard or seen of the bears until a full hour had passed, when three or four shots from the further end told that one had been brought down.

Of course, in thus sweeping the country we routed out rabbits, partridges, porcupines, and a host of small game; but the orders were that no powder should be wasted on anything except bears or wolves.

It seemed to me as if I saw on that day game enough to feed all the people in England for a full twenty-four hours; the earth was literally covered with it after we had been moving forward slowly three or four hours, and in that time, judging from the reports of firearms, more than one bear or wolf had been put past the power to do mischief.

Jethro and I counted on taking home at least two good skins that night, and yet, although upward of forty bears and twenty-two wolves were killed, we lads never had an opportunity of discharging our guns.

The Indians captured most of the game, and, save for our not being able to say that we had killed so many bears, we lads need not have been very greatly down at the mouth, for a pelt freshly taken from the animal could be bought of the savages for almost any trifling trinket.