The Haunts of Wild Beasts by C. A.
IN crossing the forests which lie about
that singular system of ponds and
lakes that occupy the northern interior of
the State of Maine, the tourist and hunter
will often come upon well-beaten paths,
running through the woods, trodden hard,
as if by the passage of myriads of feet;
and this in a region rarely, or never, entered
by man. They are the paths of
wild beasts—bears, lynxes, wildcats, the
moose, and the carribou,—along which
they pass from lake to lake, in pursuit of
their food, or upon hostile forays. When
two lakes adjoin each other, with no more
than a mile or half a mile of forest between
them, there will nearly always be
found, across the narrowest part of the
isthmus, a path of this sort, more or less
worn, according as the locality abounds
with game, or the lakes with fish.
THE GRIZZLY BEAR.
One of the widest and most used of
these that I have ever seen, led from the
bank of Moose River up to the low shores
of Holeb Pond, in one of the not yet numbered
townships near the Canada line—so
near that the high, dingy summit of
the “Hog’s Back” was plainly visible to
the north-westward. Starting out from
between two large boulders on the stream,
which at this point is broken by rips, it
runs crooking and turning amid clumps
of hazel and alder, till lost to view in a
wide flat, covered with “high bush” cranberries,
but lost to sight only, however;
for its tortuous course still continues beneath
the thick shrubs, until at a distance
of two hundred rods it emerges on the pond.
Happening to cross it a year ago last
autumn, in company with Rod Nichols
(my comrade on these tramps), the idea
suggested itself that a good thing might
perhaps be done by setting our traps along
the path. For where there were so many
passing feet, some of them might without
doubt be entrapped.
Rod thought it was the “beat” of some
bears, or “lucivees,” while I inclined to
the opinion that otters or “fishers” had
So we brought up our traps,—half a
dozen small ones, which we used for sable
and otter—from the dug-out (canoe) down
on the stream, and during the following afternoon
set them at different points in the
path, between the border of the cranberry
flat and the river. Then drawing our canoe
up out of the water, we encamped on the
stream about a mile below the path, and
waited for the game.
Our stock of deer meat had got out.
We had to content ourselves, both for
supper and breakfast, the following morning,
with a couple of hares—lean as usual.
Who ever saw a fat hare?
Old hunters are always telling the young
sportsman about the marvellous properties
of shaving-soap made from hare’s
tallow and cedar ashes. The flesh has
about as much taste and nutrition in it as—so
much paper pulp, for want of a better
comparison to express its utter lack
of flavor. But during the forenoon we
managed to shoot four partridges. These
we first parboiled in our camp kettle, then
broiled on coals. They made us a comfortable
dinner; and towards sunset we
again paddled up the stream, to visit the
Coming near where the path strikes
out from the river, we drew up the dug-out,
and followed in to the place where
we had set the first trap. It was gone;
but the grass about the spot was beaten
down, and the bushes broken. And on
looking around, we discovered a trail
leading off through the weeds. Following
this for ten or a dozen rods, we
came to a large, rough stone; and near
it lay the trap, shattered and bent, with
the springs broken, and the jaws gaping
and powerless. The stone, too,
looked newly scratched, as if from heavy
blows. The trap had evidently been
“Some large animal,” said I.
“Bear, probably,” said Rod. “They
will frequently smash up a small trap to
get it off their feet.”
Whatever it was, the creature had freed
himself and gone. Rod picked up the
broken trap, and we went back, and on
to the next.
This one was just as we had placed it—not
sprung. So we kept on to the
third, which was sprung, but empty, with
little clots of hair clinging to the teeth.
The hair looked like that of a sable; but
he, too, had escaped.
The fourth was sprung and drawn out
of the path. We crept cautiously up, and
lo! we had a contemptible little musquash
(muskrat)—skin not worth a shilling.
He was busy as a bee gnawing at
his leg. In a few minutes more he would
have been at liberty—minus a foot. If
left any length of time after being caught,
they will frequently gnaw off the leg in
the trap. For this reason, those who
make a business of trapping them set
their traps under water, well weighted.
They will then drown in a few moments,
and may thus be secured.
The last two traps were not sprung.
“A big thing this!” muttered Rod.
“Had our labor for our pains. Too bad.”
We were near the edge of the cranberry
flat; and just as Rod was bemoaning our
poor luck, a slight crackling out in the
thick cranberry bushes came to our ears.
“Hark!” whispered Rod; “something
out there. The bear, perhaps.”
Standing on tiptoe, we peeped quietly
over the tops of the bushes, now laden
with the green cranberries. Off some
seventeen or eighteen rods, something
was slowly moving. We could see it
plainly—something which, at first sight,
looked like the roots of an old dry
pine stump, a great mass of stubs and
“A moose!” exclaimed Rod, in an
eager whisper. “A moose browsing the
cranberries! Quick with your rifle! Together
We both fired. The huge animal, fully
nine feet in height beneath his antlers,
bounded into the air at the reports, with a
wild, hoarse cry, which I can compare to
nothing I have ever heard for hideousness.
In a frightful way it resembled the neigh
of a horse, or, rather, the loud squeal of
that animal when bitten or otherwise hurt—bounded
up, then fell, floundering and
wallowing amid the cranberries, uttering
As quickly as we could for the thick
and tangled bushes, we made our way
out towards the spot. The fearful struggles
stilled as we drew near. Our aim,
at so short a distance, had been thoroughly
fatal. A great opening in the
bushes had been smashed down, in the
midst of which lay the moose, with its
large nostrils dilated, gasping and quivering.
But its great ox eyes were set, and
rapidly glazing. The bushes were all besprinkled
and drenched with blood. One
bullet had struck and broken the skull into
the brain; that was Rod’s. Mine had
gone into the breast, striking the lungs,—probably,
from the profuse bleeding.
“A pretty good shot!” exclaimed
Rod, looking upon the slaughter from a
purely business stand-point. “Moosehide
is always worth something. So are
those antlers. A noble set—aren’t they?
All of four feet broad across the top.
Pretty heavy to lug; we can put them
in the canoe, though.”
“Then there’s the meat,” said I.
“That’s so,” cried Rod, smacking his
lips. “No more rabbit’s broth for us at
present. O, won’t we have some grand
moose steaks! Do you hear that, old
boy? How does that strike your fancy?
Come, let’s skin him, and cut him up. I
long to behold some of that surloin broiling!
Rabbit meat, indeed!” and Rod
whipped out his hunting-knife, and fell
upon the carcass with the zeal of a hungry
In a few minutes we had stripped off
the skin. Rod then wrenched off the
antlers, cut out the muffle (the end of the
nose), and also about a hundred weight
of what he considered the choicest of the
meat. The rest of it—nine or ten hundred
pounds—we could only leave where
it had fallen. It would be of no use to
us, so far from the settled lands.
To carry our spoils down to our canoe,
we had to make two trips; for the antlers
alone were as much as one could take
along at once. We had gone back after
them and the hide.
“Too bad,” remarked Rod, “to leave
all this flesh here to rot above ground.”
“I doubt if it be left to rot above
ground,” said I. “There are too many
hungry mouths about for that.”
“Right there,” said Rod; “and that
makes me think we might use it to lure
them, and to bait our traps with. Drag
it out to the path, and set the traps
The idea seemed a good one. So we
cut the remains of the carcass in two.
Whole it was too heavy to be moved.
Then, fastening some stout withes into
them, we dragged the pieces, one after
the other, out to the path, and left it at
the place where the path entered the
cranberry bushes. This done, we set the
traps about it,—the remaining five,—and
then went back to the canoe with the
antlers and skin.
“Made a very fair thing of it, after all,”
remarked Rod, as we floated with the
current down to our camp. “Tell you
what, old fellow, these steaks are not to
be sneezed at. More than ordinary pot
luck just at this time.”
It is needless to say that we fully satisfied
our taste for venison that night, or
that our breakfast next morning was
merely a repetition of supper. Such
things are to be expected in the wilderness.
Suffice it to add, that we neither
overate nor overslept, but were up betimes,
and off to examine our traps considerably
before sunrise. We did not go
up in the canoe on the river, but walked
along the bank through the woods.
“We may surprise a bear or a lynx at
the carcass,” said Rod.
So, as we drew near the place where we
had left it in the path the evening before,
we made our way amid the brush with as
little noise as possible. A small hollow,
overrun with hackmatack, led up towards
the spot. We crept along the bed of it,
in order to approach unobserved. Pausing
a moment to listen, the clank of a
chain came faintly to our ears, then a
growling, worrying noise, heard when two
creatures, jealous of each other’s rights,
eat from the same piece.
“Game!” whispered Rod.
Climbing quietly up the steep side, we
peeped out from amid the green boughs.
We had got up within nine or ten rods;
but intervening bushes partially hid the
carcass. Something was moving about
it, however—something black. The trap
chains were rattling. Then a big black
head was raised, to growl; and as if in
reply came a sharp snarl from some animal
out of sight. The black creature
darted forward; and a great uproar arose,
growling, grappling, and spitting, at which
there flew up a whole flock of crows,
cawing and hawing; and the noise increasing,
there sprang into the air, at a
single flap, a great yellow bird, uttering a
“An eagle!” whispered Rod; “and
that black creature’s a bear, I guess.
Can’t see him just plainly. Growls like
one, though. Fighting with some other
animal—isn’t he? Some sort of a cat,
by the spitting.”
“Shall we fire on them?” said I.
“No; let ’em have it out,” said Rod.
“One of them will be pretty sure to get
chewed up, and the other won’t leave the
carcass. Besides, the cat’s in the trap, I
reckon, by the rattling.” For the jingling
of the chain could still be heard over the
howling they were making. But ere the
fight had lasted many seconds, a suppressed
screech, followed by a crunching
sound, told ill for one or the other of the
combatants. “The cat’s got his death
hug,” muttered Rod.
Presently the bear—a great, clumsy-looking
fellow—came out into view,
strutted along, scrubbing his feet on
the grass, like a dog, and went back to
the carcass. The eagle and the crows
had come back to it. They flew before
“Keep your eye on the eagle,” whispered
Rod. “I would like to get him.
It isn’t a ‘white head.’ Never saw one
The great bird circled slowly several
times, then stooped, almost touching the
bear’s shaggy back with its hooked talons.
At that the bear raised his ugly muzzle,
all reeking from his feast, and growled
menacingly. This was repeated several
times, the bear warning him off at each
stoop, and sometimes striking with his
big paw. Finding the bear not inclined
to divide with him, the eagle, with
one mighty flap of his wings, rose up to
the top of a tall hemlock standing near,
and perched upon it. We could see the
branches bend and sway beneath his
“I’ll have him now,” muttered Rod,
poking the muzzle of his rifle out through
the boughs. “You take the bear. Ready!
We blazed away. With a wild shriek
the eagle came tumbling down through
the hemlock. Rod ran out towards him,
and I made up to the bear. Old Bruin
was merely wounded—an ugly flesh
wound; and not knowing whence it
came, he had flown at the dead lynx,—for
such it turned out to be,—and was
giving him another hugging. Seeing me,
he started up, to rectify his mistake, probably;
but I had put in another charge,
and instantly gave him a quietus. Just
then Rod came up, dragging the eagle.
“Never saw one like it,” exclaimed he.
“I mean to take it down to Greenville.”
After skinning the bear and the lynx,
we gathered up the traps, and went down
to our camp. Together with the spoils
of the moose, we had now a full canoe
load, and stowing them in, went down
the river that afternoon. Two days after,
we arrived at Greenville, at the foot of
Moosehead Lake. There we fell in with
a party of tourists—from Boston, I believe.
They pronounced Rod’s “big
bird” to be a golden eagle.