Deer Hunting on the Au Sable (1878)

Deer Hunting on the Au Sable

W. Mackay Laffan

Scribner’s Monthly, April 1878, pp.     (October 1877)

An invitation to a few weeks’ deer-shooting in the wilds of Michigan was not to be foregone. There had been occasional rumors heard in the East of the winter sports of the Michigan backwoods; rumors that had lost none of their attractiveness by their journey from the West, and which served to make the opportunity, when it arrive, wholly irresistible. I was to join a party of gentlemen, who for several years had hunted upon the AuSable River in northern Michigan, upon one of their annual trips; and we were all to meet upon an appointed day at Bay City, which is at the head, if head it can be called, of Saginaw Bay. Our route thence was by steamer to Tawas, and from Tawas by teams to the hunting -grounds in the Michigan backwoods.

The steamboat wharf at Bay City was full of bustle and activity. There were piles of baggage and numbers of anxious owners. Conspicuous among the parcels were the gun-cases, some made of new pig leather or water- proofing, and evidently out for the first time, and others of weatherworn aspect telling of many a campaign and of much serious usage. Every object upon the wharf and about the freight office to which a dog could be tied had a dog tied to it, and all these dogs were rearing, and plunging, and tugging at their chains and giving vent to occasional sharp yells, in a condition of great excitement – a feeling more or less shared by the numerous higher animals who were present. The crowd was composed of hunting parties bound for the backwoods by way of the various settlements on the Lake Huron side of the Michigan peninsula; of lumbermen going to the camps; of farmers going home, and of the usual variety of more or less accentuated Western types. There was a good deal of confusion about it, and among it all our party met, and, after a few moments of spasmodic and pleasant welcome, and the interchange of hearty greetings, got on board the steamer. Our dogs, twelve in number, were safely bestowed between decks, and as remotely from the dogs of other people as possible; all our baggage was put away, nothing missing or forgotten, and we moved off from the wharf with that sense of entire comfort that is incident only to well-ordered and properly premeditated excursions.

We had a delightful run up Saginaw Bay on a beautiful October evening, on which the sun went down with one of the gorgeous displays of color which England’s most eminent art critic has told us are seen but very seldom in a life-time. It was an impressive and singularly beautiful spectacle, but one of which the West is prodigal, and which is not consistent with insular conditions of fog and moisture. A note of admiration sounded with the captain’s hearing had the effect of eliciting his practical valuation of it. Humph! he said, rain like blazes all day to-morrow. It was a matter of common regret that the barometric impressions of this worthy navigator were invariably correct. We made some stoppages at points upon the shore, where seemingly unaccountable wharves projected from the outskirts of desolation. At these we took off people who might have been fugitives from some new Siberia, and debarked people who might have been exiles going thither. But at half-past eight o’clock we reached East Tawas, where the boat came alongside, we were cheerily hailed out of the darkness by a mighty hunter of the wilderness named Curtis (Ebenezar D. Curtis), who had come down with his stout team to meet us and help to carry our multifarious traps. We disembarked amid a dreadful howling of dogs, who charged about in every direction, dragging their masters in the darkness over all manner of calamitous obstructions, regardless of kicks, cuffs or vigorous exhortation. In half an hour we were comfortably ensconced in an inn with an enormous landlord, whose mighty girth shook with unctuous premonitions of an excellent supper. He produced half of a deer slain that very day, and gave us an earnest of our coming sport in the shape of a vast quantity of broiled venison, all of which we dutifully ate.

Our captain, for we had a captain, as every well-constituted hunting party should, was Mr. John Erwin, of Cleveland, a gentleman at whose door lies the death of a grievous quantity of game of all kinds, and whose seventy years seem to have imparted vigor and activity to a yet stalwart and symmetrical frame. Hale, hearty, capable of enduring all manner of fatigue, unerring with his rifle, full of the craft of the woods and an inexhaustible fund of kindly humor, he was the soul of our party. We were under his orders the next day, and so remained until our hunt was over. He was implicitly obeyed; none of his orders were unpleasant; they simply implied the necessary discipline of the party. We left Tawas in the early morning. We had two wagons, one of which carried nine of us, the other, Curtis’s had the heavier baggage in it, and was accompanied by the remaining three on foot. They had the option of getting into the wagon by turns, if tired, but they were all good walkers. We had twenty-five miles to make to Thompson’s, where we were to halt for the night, and on the following day proceed leisurely to Camp Erwin, six miles further. As we left Tawas it rained, according to our nautical prophet of the previous evening, and it continued to rain during the entire day.

There is nothing particular exhilarating in driving in a drenching rain, even when it is done under particularly favorable auspices. There was some novelty for one, to be sure, in the great wastes of scrub-oak, the groups of stout Norway pines, the glistening white birch, the maples, the spruce-pines and the beeches; in the impenetrable jungles of tangled undergrowth and in the iteration and re-iteration of landscapes with no landmark or peculiarity whereby one might distinguish one from the other. All this was in one sense a novelty, inasmuch as one might never have seen anything like it before, but the enjoyment of it, were it really susceptible of being enjoyed, was marred by the steadiness with which the cold rain beat on our faces; extinguishing cigars and making pipes a doubtful blessing; drenching everything exposed to it, and imparting the peculiar chill to which mind and body are alike liable under such conditions. One of our party, a veritable Mark Tapley, who was sure to come out strong under the most discouraging conditions, whistled fugitive airs in a resolute way; but they got damp and degenerated into funeral measures, suggesting that possibly the Dead March in Saul was originally conceived in a spirit of inferior vivacity or sprightly insincerity and becoming wet has been recognized as a thing of merit, and had therefore been permanently saturated for use on occasions of public grief.

Another dispiriting element was the road of which a large part was what is known as corduroy, from some obscure resemblance, which does not exist, between its structure and a certain well-known fabric affected by horsey gentlemen. The jolting we got over this was painful to a degree which it is disagreeable to recall. It jarred every bone in one’s body, and embittered the whole aspect of life. It alternated with a series of diabolical mud-holes, into which we dived, and rocked, and swayed, and splashed interminably. Bunyan’s Slough of Despond is all very well in its way, but the possibilities of figurative description of that kind are as a closed book to one who has never ridden on a corduroy road in a wagon with inferior springs. At last we emerged on a higher plateau of sand, and left the marsh behind us for good. The rain had become milder and tolerable evil, compared to the swamp road. All was sand, but the wet made it pack beneath the horses’ feet and the wheels, and we went over it at an excellent pace.

Around us was the Michigan forest in all its wonderful variety of growth and richness, and in all its dreary monotony and desolation. Grass there was in tufts, and thin and poor. Thick gray lichens and starving mosses strove to cover up the thankless sand, but nothing seemed to prosper in it but the trees for which it held mysterious sustenance, where their deep roots could reach it. But even they made an unlovely forest. The great fires that sweep across this region leave hideous scars behind them. One sees for miles and miles the sandy plain covered with the charred trucks of fallen forest. Great lofty pines, whose stems are blackened from the roots as high as the fire reached, huge distorted and disfigured, stand gloomily above their moldering brethren, their white skeletons extending their dead and broken arms, in mute testimony of lost grace and beauty. Nothing could be more desolate than these burnings, as they are called. They present an aspect of such utter hopeless dreariness, and such complete and painful solitude as one might imagine to exist only within the frozen circle of the Arctic.

The rain continued to wet us until we began to get on good terms with it, as if we were Alaskans or Aleuts and rather liked it. Besides, we got stirred up over the deer tracks in the sand. They were very numerous and fresh, and one of two rifles were loaded in hopes of a shot at one on the wing. None came in sight however, and the undergrowth and scrub-oaks effectually kept them from our view.  At half-past one o’clock, after a few premonitory symptoms in the shape of fences, of which the purpose was obscure, since they hedged in nothing and looked as if they had only been put up for fun or practice, we came suddenly to the edge of a basin or depression in the plateau over which we had been driving, and there beneath us, lay Thompson’s. Here in the midst of the wilderness was a prosperous, healthy-looking farm, actually yielding vegetables and cereals, and having about it all manner of horses, cows, pigs, hay-stacks, barns, dogs to bark, pumpkins, and all the other established characteristics of a well-regulated farm.

We rattled down the declivity to the house and met with a hearty welcome, most of the party having known Thompson for years. He is a bluff, hearty backwoodsman, whom years of uninterrupted prosperity have made rich. He owns thousands of acres of timberland, and his house is known far and wide as the best hotel in Michigan. Mrs. Thompson is not exactly a backwoodswoman; indeed she is quite much of a surprise to one as is the place itself. She is an excellent lady, and her refining influence has been felt in a very marked degree in the wild region. She can shoot, though. Indeed, she handles a rifle with the greatest coolness and skill, – thinks nothing of knocking over a deer, and confesses to aspirations in the direction of bear. Mr. Thompson’s welcome in the course of an hour took a practical form, when we all sat down to a magnificent roast of venison, broiled chickens, and most delicious vegetables, for it seems that when one does get a bit of Michigan land which will consent to be cultivated, it turns out to be remarkably good land indeed. There were great glass pitchers of excellent milk upon the table, similar pitchers of real cream, and everything neatly served. The tablecloth was fine and of snowy whiteness, the napkins (this in the heart of a Michigan wilderness!) ditto, and everything just as it should be, and just as one would least expect it.

Thompson’s hands came in the evening, – Canadians for the most part, and talking an inexplicable jargon called French. Re-enforced by a few lumbermen and trappers, they filled the big, dimly lighted room which would be ordinarily called the bar-room, but which, having no bar, owing to Mrs. Thompson’s way of inculcating temperance principles, cannot so be called. They were noisy, well-behaved, and good- humored, and they crowded around the stove, and bedewed it pleasantly and copiously with infusion of Virginia plug. There was a great deal of talk about lumber; how many feet of such and such and one expected to get out; where such and such camps were about to be located; the prospect of sufficient snow to move the heavy lumber-sleighs, and a variety of topics that had more or less sawdust in their composition. They spoke with loud, individual self-assertion, and there was a curious touch of defiance in every sentence that involved a direct preposition. This quality of their speech, coupled with a degree of profanity which was simply startling in its originality, its redundancy, and its obscurity of purpose, made a stranger feel as if a fight might occur at any moment. But there is no danger of anything of the kind. They live it this atmosphere of exploitation and brag, with entire amicability and good nature, and only fight when the camps break up and the men are paid off. Then they congregate at the lake settlements and elsewhere, and get frightfully drunk for weeks, and shoot and stab with a liberality and self- abnegation that suggest that they ought to have a literature built of them like that which a kind and artistic hand has so deftly erected for the favored miner of the Pacific slope.

A curious effect which this native windiness produces upon the stranger who comes to hunt is, that after a week of it he finds himself impelled to the conclusion that he has shot the only small deer there are in the state. We could not meet a man in the country all about that had ever seen a small deer. The word, fawn, from desuetude, will be dropped from their language. It was always the blankest biggest buck! blank me! or the blank, blankest blank of a blank of a blank doe! running like blank and blankation for the blank river! That was all we could ever get; and when perchance one of these identical, peculiarly qualified animals happened to be shot, the speaker stood wholly unabashed and unconscious in the presence of his refutation. It must be in the climate.

We left Thompson’s hospitable place the next morning after an early breakfast. Curtis and his team carried all our traps, and after a tramp of two hours or so over the wet sand and through the desolate burnings, we arrived at Camp Erwin. It is a deserted logging camp. The building on the left in the little sketch I have made is a rickety old barn; that behind it is a blacksmith’s shop, and the remaining house is that in which we had our quarters. It contains, on the upper floor, one large and finely ventilated apartment; and below, the kitchen, dining and living room and two small bedrooms. One of these was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. William Bamfield, the latter of whom had engaged to cook for our party, while the former, a stalwart and extraordinarily powerful backwoodsman, chopper and blacksmith, assisted, and made himself indispensable by his general handiness and utility, his readiness to do anything and everything, his good-humor and his entire novelty. Recurring to my sketch again; the stream in the foreground flows a mile away into the AuSable (pronounced up here Sawble, the Au, too being generally dropped), and around the house, as far as one may see, is the everlasting burning. In summer all is dry, yellow sand; in winter, a mantle of snow sometimes covers it charitably, and conceals some of the blackness and deformity of the dead pines.

The first day in camp was devoted to unpacking our traps and provisions, filling our ticks with straw, disposing handily of our various knickknacks, overhauling the rifles, and wasting ammunition under excuse of getting one’s hand in. My share being accomplished at noon, some of us started down to take a look at the AuSable River. After a walk of fifteen minutes or so, we came out of the forest abruptly on the edge of a high sand bluff, and there it lay about one hundred and fifty feet below us. It came around a short bend above; it swept around in front of us, and below us it wound around a third. Its waters were the color of dark brown sherry, and its current was silent, swift and powerful. Beyond, the bank was low, and the forest stretched back over successions of slightly rising plateaus to the horizon. Here and there one could see the scars of the fires, and a sinuous track of the darkest foliage revealed the tortuous course of the AuSable…Save that the river gains in volume as it travels, its scenery throughout almost its entire length does not vary. It is a succession of interminable twists and turns past high or low bluffs of sand, long reaches of “cedar-swamp,” and “sweepers” innumerable. This singular river is one that knows neither droughts nor freshets, which is always cold, but never freezes, and which will always preserve its wildness and its desolation, since, in the future, the wilderness through which it flows will be even wilder and more desolate than it is now.

The first evening in camp, around the council-lamp, was spent in discussing the prospects of the morrow, in shooting over again all the deer that had been shot upon previous occasions, in comparing the target shooting of the day, and in the assignment by the captain of each man to his position on the river. Curtis [a guide] and two of our party were to put out the dogs, and the rest were to be stationed at the different runways. This explains the method of hunting. The river [AuSable] for a certain number of miles was divided into runways or points at which deer, when hard pressed by the dogs, would probably take to the water and afford a chance for a shot. The dogs, twelve in number, were divided among those who were to have charge of them for the day, and they took them in various directions into the forest. When a fresh and promising track was discovered, a dog was let loose upon it, or perhaps two dogs, and the deer, after a run of greater or less duration, took to the river in order to elude pursuit. If it went in a guarded runway, it stood an excellent chance of being shot; but, of course, a large majority of the deer driven in entered the river above or below, or crossed it shortly after reaching it.

A tick filled with straw and laid upon the floor makes an excellent bed, and sportsmen’s consciences are always good, for they sleep with exceeding soundness. The ventilation of the apartment was generous to the extreme. The roof was tight, but all around were the open chinks between the logs, and through these the stars could be seen by anyone that had nothing better to do than look at them. Up through the middle of the floor and out through a big hole at the ridge-pole went the stove-pipe, always hot enough to worry an insurance man, and an excellent spot to hang wet clothes. Elsewhere it was as cold as charity, and I supplemented my blankets with my heavy frieze ulster, and went asleep to dream of giant bucks and a rifle that wouldn’t go off.

The Michigan forests abound in a variety of game, but the animals that are valued for their fur have been thinned out by trappers, who, in turn, have disappeared to newer hunting- fields. One still finds the beaver, marten, fisher, lynx and others. Bears are quite numerous, and there are plenty of wolves. Rabbits and Arctic hares and ruffed grouse exist in great numbers. The elk has almost wholly disappeared from the peninsula, but I heard that some were occasionally found in the extreme northern portion, and I saw a magnificent pair of antlers, having a spread of nearly six feet, which a half-breed had found imbedded in the truck of a cedar-tree. The skin of the head and greater portion of the skull were attached, the remainder having been torn away and scattered by wolves. The deer of the region is the Cervus virginianus, or common deer of America, which is distributed over such a large area of our continent. It probably attains its greatest weight in Michigan. I learned from credible sources of bucks which weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds. Judge John Dean Caton, in his admirable work on the deer and antelope of America, speaks of having killed a buck in Wisconsin that was estimated to weigh two hundred and fifty pounds, and adds that the largest common deer of which he had any authentic account was killed in Michigan and weighed, dressed two hundred and forty-six pounds. Of the deer killed in our party, there were no less than three that weighed over two hundred and twenty-five pounds. It is the most beautiful of the cervidae, and in its graceful carriage, its exquisite agility, and the delicacy and symmetry of its form, on other animal approaches it. It varies somewhat, of course; but the buck with the shorter legs, the rounded and compact body, the tapering nose and the well-erected, open antlers is the proudest and handsomest animal of the forest.

The eye of the deer is large, and has the softest and most tender of expressions. The marked convexity of the ball, the deep, calm and gentle radiance of the iris, and the length of the shadow- line from the larmier to the posterior angle of the lids make up the more obvious anatomy of this amiability. In the rutting season, which occurs during the earlier part of the winter, the bucks discard their gentleness in a great measure and fight in the fiercest way. It is doubtful if they ever kill or seriously injure each other, formidable as their antlers are when they have sharpened and polished them by persistently rubbing against the bark of young trees. They charge each other, head down, and meet with a crash, and then stand or walk round and round in a circle with interlocked antlers swaying to and fro and moodily watching each other’s every movement. They continue at this sort of thing for hours, and superior prowess is more a matter of endurance and pertinacity than anything else. It would seem that the buck that holds out the longer completely wears out and exhausts his antagonist, who then withdraws and leaves him victor, – Mr. Darwin holds that in the stronger and more favored males carrying off the females and begetting offspring possessed, by heredity and otherwise, of the same characteristics, we find an explanation of the origin of species. The argument finds a strong illustration in the case of the deer, and backwoodsmen any that the younger and weaker males go unmated and are constantly being pursued and driven about by the stronger older bucks.

Some of the combats between the bucks result in mutual disaster when the antlers interlock and they are unable to withdraw from each other. They probably could if they made the effort at once, but they butt and push each other, and each so studiously avoids giving the other an opening that both are too exhausted to make the effort at separation, and there they remain until the wolves arrive on the scene and close the drama. Our backwoodsman had recently found two bleached skulls with antlers fast in each other’s embrace, mutely telling a dark tale of love, jealousy, and a wedding unavoidably postponed. The fawns, betraying by their spots a former characteristic of their species, are timid, pretty little things. They do not seem to have the instinct which leads the adult animal to the water when pursued, and consequently when a dog gets on the scent of a fawn, he will hunt it bootlessly for hours, to the great annoyance of his master. A young fawn, just born, knows no fear of man. If picked up, fondled a few minutes and carried a little distance, it will, when put down, follow one just as it would its mother.

A tremendous uproar awoke me at the moment when for the hundredth time my rifle has exasperated me. It was Mr. B., shouting, Breakfast! breakfast Turn out for breakfast The captain’s up and waiting! It was half-past four, and everybody woke up at the summons, as indeed unavoidable. There was a scratching of matches and a discordant chorus of those sounds which people make when they are forcibly awakened and made to get up in the cold, unusual morning. Down-stairs there was a prodigious sizzling and sputtering going on, and the light through the chink in the floor betrayed Mrs. Bamfield and her frying-pans and coffee-pot, all in full blast. Somebody projected his head through an immature window into the outer air and brought it in again to remark that it rained. A second observation made it rain and snow, and rain and snow it was, – a light, steady fall of both. We were all down-stairs in a few minutes and outside making a rudimentary toilet with ice-water and a bar of soap. Breakfast was ready, – plenty of rashers of bacon, fried and boiled potatoes, fried onions, bread and butter, and coffee, hot and strong. These were speedily disposed of. Coats were buttoned up, rubber blankets and ammunition belts slung over shoulders, cartridge magazines filled, hatchets stuck into belts, rifles shouldered, and out we allied into the darkness through which the faintest glimmer of gray was just showing in the east.

Half an hour or so later, by the time we had gotten to our runways, the dogs would be put out. Off we trudged over the wet, packed sand of the tote-road, the gray dawn breaking dismally through the wilderness. Leaving the road, we struck into the pines, and a walk of a mile through the thick sweet- fern, which drenched one to the waist, brought us to the edge of the cedar swamp by the river. The narrow belt of low bottomland on each side of the river is called Cedar Swamp. It is a jungle through which it is extremely difficult to progress, and in which one may very readily lose one’s bearings. Great cedars grow in it up to the water’s edge and as thickly as they can well stand. Among the lie fallen trees in every stage of decay, heaped one upon another in inextricable and hopeless ruin and confusion. There are leaning cedars that have partly toppled over, and rested against their stouter fellows, and there are cedars that seem to have fallen and only partly risen again. Their trucks run for several feet along the ground and then stretch up toward the light, in a vain effort to become erect once more. These trunks and all the fallen giants are covered with a thick carpet of the softest moss; everything, in fact, is covered with it, and here and there it opens, and down in the rich mold is a glimpse of a bright little, wine-colored, trickling stream stealing in and out among the cedar roots and losing itself in miniature tunnels and caverns on its way to the river outside. One’s foot-fall is noiseless, except when a branch beneath the moss breaks, and the sunlight struggles but feebly down through the trunks and dense foliage above. Sometimes the walking is treacherous, and the giant forms that lie about are hollow mockeries and deceptions beneath their pretty wrapping of green. Standing upon one of these and whether to adventure a leap or more circumspectly climb to my next vantage point, I executed a sudden disappearance, much after the fashion of a harlequin in a pantomime. A hole opened beneath my feet and I shot through that hollow shell into the swamp beneath, leaving my broad- brimmed hat to cover the aperture by which I made my exit. 

After a couple of hundred yards of climb, carl and tumble through one of these swamps, my companion took his place under the shelter of the cedars and indicated mine at a little distance up the river. It was one of the best of our runways, – a long stretch of open bank, where the cedar swamp did not reach the river’s edge. I got there, took my stand, and indulged in expectation. The exertion of getting through the swamp had warmed me uncomfortably, but I soon ceased to regard that as an objection. The place was exposed; there was not shelter; the cold wind and the driving snow and rain had it all their own way with me. My hands became numb, and the metal of my rifle stung them. I did not put on my heavy gloves, lest a deer should come and they should prove an awkward impediment. I stood my rifle against a tree, stuck them in my pockets, and watched the river, while my teeth chattered like miniature castanets. The wind howled down through the trees, and clouds of yellow and russet leaves cane sailing into the river and hurried away upon its surface. It was undeniable, miserably cold.

But hark! I seized my rifle. Yes, there it was, sure enough, the bay of a dog in the distance! I forgot the cold. Nearer it came, and nearer and nearer, and each moment I thought would bring the deer crashing through the thickets into the river. Nearer and nearer the dogs came, until their deep bays resounded and echoed through the forest as if they were in a great hall. But no deer appeared, and the dogs held their course, on, down, parallel with the river. Better luck next time, I said to myself, somewhat disconsolately: but I was disappointed. Presently the sharp, ringing crack of a rifle rang out and reverberated across the forest; another and another followed, and as I began to get cold again, I tried to console myself by meditating on the luck of the other people. I stamped my feet; I did the London cabman’s exercise with my hands and arms; I drew beads on all manner of objects; but steadfastly I watched the river, and steadfastly I listened for the dogs. The snow and rain abated, and the hours went by; and stiff and chilled was I when; at half-past twelve, young Curtis’s canoe came poling up the river to pick up deer if any had been shot above and had lodged in the drift-wood, instead of floating down to his watching place, three miles below. The dogs were all in, he said, and the doctor had shot a big buck and a fawn.

At camp the doctor was the center of an animated circle. He was most unreasonably composed, as I thought, and told us, with his German equanimity, how Jack and Pedro had run in a large buck which immediately swam down the middle of the river. He fired from his place on the side of a bluff and missed. At the second shot he succeeded in hitting the deer in the neck just below the mastoid something or other. As if this was not sufficient, there presently appeared and crossed the river a very pretty fawn, whose young hopes were promptly blighted. They said it was not always that the first day yielded even one deer, and it was an excellent augury. During the afternoon, Curtis brought both deer up to camp and dressed them. The buck was finely antlered, and was estimated to weigh over two hundred pounds.

The next day I was appointed to the same runway, and I took my stand and, acting on the advice of others, built a brave little fire. Deer being driven into the river or swimming down it pay no attention to a small fire, and the making of it and the keeping it alive furnished excellent occupation. Indeed, there is something quite fascinating about building a fire in the woods, and it is quite inexplicable what a deep concern all the little details of its combustion create in even really thoughtful minds. My fire burned cheerily and blew lots of sharp smoke into my eyes, with the aid of the fitful wind; but I was not called upon to shoot any deer. I did not even hear the dogs, and at two o’clock I went home to camp persuaded that I had not yet learned to appreciate our style of hunting. Our captain had a handsome young buck and was in a wholly comfortable frame of mind.

We had a larded saddle of venison during the afternoon for dinner. It was flanked by a dish of steaming bacon and cabbage, and quantities of mealy potatoes and fried onions. The fragrance that filled the air of the cabin surpassed the most delicate vapors that ever escaped from one of Delmonico’s covers and we fell upon the table with appetites like that of the gifted ostrich. The air of the Sable would be worth any amount of money in New York.

The next day I passed in meditative fashion on my runway. I was not disturbed by any deer but Mr. M. and Mr. B. each scored one. The next evening, one of the dogs, foot-sore and worn out, remained in the woods. His master and one other sallied out into the inky darkness to look for him at points near which they deemed it probable he would have lain down. They took a lantern, without which it would have been impossible to walk, and after a fruitless search, extending to a distance of three miles or so, turned back. Suddenly they heard light footfalls in the tote-road, and with two or three beautiful bounds, a young doe alighted within the circle illuminated by the lantern, approached it in wide-eyed wonder and almost touched it with her nose. A young spike-horn buck followed her and both stared at the light, their nostrils dilated and quivering, and every limb trembling with mingled excitement and fear. There was an exclamation that could not be suppressed, a vain effort to shoot, and the deer were gone like a flash into the darkness. It was curious to hear both gentlemen, on returning to camp, protesting that to have shot deer under such circumstances would have been wholly unsportsmanlike.

It was my sixth day, when a dozen deer were hanging in the barn and I, quite guiltless of the death of even one of them, had gone to the river. The hours passed tediously up to noon, when I heard a splash and saw a deer take the water 300 yards or so above me. She was a large doe, and came down the middle of the river swimming rapidly, and looking anxiously from side to side. I felt unutterable things, and just as she got abreast of me I brought up my Winchester and fired. She sank, coming up again some distance down, and floating quietly away out of my sight around the bend. This performance produced a sense of pleasant inflation. All my fears were dispelled and I felt a keen desire for the presence of others to whom to impart the agreeable fact. It was one of those things about which one always feels as if he could not, unaided, sufficiently gloat upon it.

At half-past twelve, the canoe came around the bend, and I prepared to be indifferent, as should become a person who could shoot deer every day if only he were so minded. Strange, I thought, that the legs do not project over the side of the canoe, and how is it that – At this moment the canoe gave a lurch, and I saw young Curtis’s coat with painful distinctness lying in the bottom of it, nothing else. I immediately inferred that he had missed the deer among some drift-logs as he came up. He protested he had not, but agreed to go back and search. I went with him and just a few yards around the bend we found in the oozy bank tracks which indicated that the animal had fallen to its knees in leaving the water, and up the bank to the top a trail marked with blood. The remarks of Mr. Curtis, though fluent and vigorous, were inadequate to the occasion. I was in a condition of unbounded exasperation. For a little distance through the grass and the bushes the marks could be seen plainly enough, but there they disappeared and that was the last I saw of my deer. The captain put two dogs on the trail that afternoon, but the wounded animal had probably died in some dense thicket, for they soon returned without having run any great distance. Four fine deer were killed the next day, without any participation upon my part, and in the evening some of us with lanterns went down to the river to secure one that had lodged somewhere in the drift-wood. We found it by the light of the birch- bark, our backwoodsman would pick out here and there a large white birch and apply a match to the curling ringlets of bark at the foot of its trunk. In a minute the whole stem of the tree was in a roaring blaze that lit up the river bank all round about and made the great cedars look like skeletons. Each birch was a brilliant spectacle, while it burned in a crackling, sparkling column of flame, sending showers of sparks through the forest and then dying out in an angry red, and a cloud of murky smoke. Our deer was found, dressed, and hung up on a dead cedar, out of the reach of predatory animals, and we went home to camp by the light of our lanterns.

Next morning I was at my place, still unsubdued and hopeful. I heard a shot fired on the river below me; I heard the baying of dogs and listened to it as it died away in the direction of some other runway. But I watched steadily. And as I watched I saw the brush about some cedar roots open, and out there sprang into the shallow water a noble buck. He was a stalwart, thickset fellow, his legs were short and compact, his fur was dark in its winter hue, and his antlers glistened above his head. He bore himself proudly as he stood in the water and turned to listen for the bay of the dogs he had outrun. I hesitated a moment, doubtful if I should let him get into the stream and swim down, or shoot at him as he stood. I chose the later, aimed quietly and confidently, and fired. He pitched forward; the current seized him, and he floated down with it and past me, dead. In eight minutes, by my watch, Mr. M’s Jack came to the bank, at the spot where the buck come in and howled grievously over the lost scent. He was worn out and battered, and he came to me gladly when I called him. I had brought some luncheon down with me that morning, and I must confess that I was weak enough to give Jack every bit of it.

That afternoon when I reached camp, I found that I was the last to come in, and that my buck had already been seen and his size noted. I was received with acclamations, and a proposition to gird me, as a measure for affected precaution, with the hoops of a flour-barrel, was made and partly carried into execution. There were sung, moreover, sundry snatches of the forester’s chorus from As You Like It:

“What shall he have that killed the deer?”

Of the Au Sable as a navigable river, I am pained to state that I cannot speak in a way calculated to allure people thither for the purpose of sailing upon it. Three of us were induced by our backwoodsman to embark upon a raft and make a run of fifteen miles to Thompson’s. We did so, and failed to acquire upon the journey any marked prejudice in favor of that particular form of navigation. Cedars growing at the water’s edge have their roots more or less undermined, and some of them fall gradually outward over the river, their branches hanging in the current and becoming denuded of their foliage or dying. The trunk or stem of the tree is in some cases parallel with the water’s surface, and in others it dips below it or inclines gradually upward from it. These trees have been named , with a nice sense of the fitness of terms, sweepers. We found them such. Our raft was guided by poles, one aft and the other forward. A vigorous use of these might have had something to do with determining the course of the craft, but one was dropped and another broken, and she forthwith proceeded to work her sweet will of us. She seemed possessed of a mischievous intelligence, and if an obstruction came into view, made directly for it. There was generally room for her to pass beneath a sweeper. which she always did; but it was different with the passengers, who, with a couple of unhappy dogs, were rasped for one end to her to the other, sometimes into the water, and sometimes only half into it, but always holding on to the logs with grim desperation. It was only by a united effort the runaway was ultimately turned into the fence, so to speak, and held there long enough for us to jump off.

When the day arrived for breaking up camp, we had hung up in our barn twenty-three deer, my buck being accorded the place of honor at the head of the line. Our dogs were in, looking, it is true, rather the worse for wear, but all there, which is something unusual at the end of a hunt in this part of the country. The fact is, the natives discourage hunting with dogs, if not, indeed, all hunting in which they themselves do not participate. They place meat which contains strychnine on the deer- paths and also, when occasion offers, shoot the dogs. A party of gentlemen from Bay City came into our neighborhood, a few days later than we did. They contemplated a three-weeks’ hunt, but during the first three days had two dogs shot and three poisoned. They were discouraged, and left their leader, Colonel Fitzhugh, offering three hundred dollars reward to any one who should afford him a few minutes conversation with the individual that had done the mischief. Colonel Fitzhugh is a gentleman with whom a conversation of the kind would be preferable for being conducted vicariously. Some years ago a party of Ohio people lost their dogs the same way, and unluckily for the active toxicologist, they found out who he was. When I passed that way he had rebuilt his barns and various out-buildings, and it was thought that until the region commanded the services of a reliable insurance company he would abstain from the use of strychnine. The immunity our party enjoyed had been gained somewhat as an ancient proprietary right, they have hunted there for so many years. Besides, they had in various ways rendered themselves popular with the natives; no visitor ever left the camp hungry – or thirsty, ant the Herr Doctor’s periodicity was a matter of importance to a widely spread, if not numerous , community. they saved up fractures of six months’ standing for him, and events of a more strictly domestic nature seemed to happen adventitiously during his hunting sojourn.

We brought out our venison safely and in good condition, – a ton and a half of it or thereabouts. At Detroit we went our ways, ending an expedition which had in it, luckily, no mishaps to mar it, but plenty of wholesome recreation to make one’s recollection of it wholly pleasant.