List Of Contents | Contents of In the Wilderness, by Charles Dudley Warner
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comparatively harmless but rather stupid life, with only such
excitement as his own timid fancy raises.  It was very seldom that
one of his tribe was eaten by the North American tiger.  For a wild
animal he is very domestic, simple in his tastes, regular in his
habits, affectionate in his family.  Unfortunately for his repose,
his haunch is as tender as his heart.  Of all wild creatures he is
one of the most graceful in action, and he poses with the skill of an
experienced model.  I have seen the goats on Mount Pentelicus scatter
at the approach of a stranger, climb to the sharp points of
projecting rocks, and attitudinize in the most self-conscious manner,
striking at once those picturesque postures against the sky with
which Oriental pictures have made us and them familiar.  But the
whole proceeding was theatrical.

Greece is the home of art, and it is rare to find anything there
natural and unstudied.  I presume that these goats have no nonsense
about them when they are alone with the goatherds, any more than the
goatherds have, except when they come to pose in the studio; but the
long ages of culture, the presence always to the eye of the best
models and the forms of immortal beauty, the heroic friezes of the
Temple of Theseus, the marble processions of sacrificial animals,
have had a steady molding, educating influence equal to a society of
decorative art upon the people and the animals who have dwelt in this
artistic atmosphere.  The Attic goat has become an artificially
artistic being; though of course he is not now what he was, as a
poser, in the days of Polycletus.  There is opportunity for a very
instructive essay by Mr. E. A. Freeman on the decadence of the Attic
goat under the influence of the Ottoman Turk.

The American deer, in the free atmosphere of our country, and as yet
untouched by our decorative art, is without self-consciousness, and
all his attitudes are free and unstudied.  The favorite position of
the deer--his fore-feet in the shallow margin of the lake, among the
lily-pads, his antlers thrown back and his nose in the air at the
moment he hears the stealthy breaking of a twig in the forest--is
still spirited and graceful, and wholly unaffected by the pictures of
him which the artists have put upon canvas.

Wherever you go in the Northern forest you will find deer-paths.  So
plainly marked and well-trodden are they that it is easy to mistake
them for trails made by hunters; but he who follows one of them is
soon in difficulties.  He may find himself climbing through cedar
thickets an almost inaccessible cliff, or immersed in the intricacies
of a marsh.  The "run," in one direction, will lead to water; but, in
the other, it climbs the highest hills, to which the deer retires,
for safety and repose, in impenetrable thickets.  The hunters, in
winter, find them congregated in " yards," where they can be
surrounded and shot as easily as our troops shoot Comanche women and
children in their winter villages.  These little paths are full of
pitfalls among the roots and stones; and, nimble as the deer is, he
sometimes breaks one of his slender legs in them.  Yet he knows how
to treat himself without a surgeon.  I knew of a tame deer in a
settlement in the edge of the forest who had the misfortune to break
her leg.  She immediately disappeared with a delicacy rare in an
invalid, and was not seen for two weeks.  Her friends had given her
up, supposing that she had dragged herself away into the depths of
the woods, and died of starvation, when one day she returned, cured
of lameness, but thin as a virgin shadow.  She had the sense to shun
the doctor; to lie down in some safe place, and patiently wait for
her leg to heal.  I have observed in many of the more refined animals
this sort of shyness, and reluctance to give trouble, which excite
our admiration when noticed in mankind.

The deer is called a timid animal, and taunted with possessing
courage only when he is "at bay"; the stag will fight when he can no
longer flee; and the doe will defend her young in the face of
murderous enemies.  The deer gets little credit for this eleventh-
hour bravery.  But I think that in any truly Christian condition of
society the deer would not be conspicuous for cowardice.  I suppose
that if the American girl, even as she is described in foreign
romances, were pursued by bull-dogs, and fired at from behind fences
every time she ventured outdoors, she would become timid, and
reluctant to go abroad.  When that golden era comes which the poets
think is behind us, and the prophets declare is about to be ushered
in by the opening of the "vials," and the killing of everybody who
does not believe as those nations believe which have the most cannon;
when we all live in real concord,--perhaps the gentle-hearted deer
will be respected, and will find that men are not more savage to the
weak than are the cougars and panthers.  If the little spotted fawn
can think, it must seem to her a queer world in which the advent of
innocence is hailed by the baying of fierce hounds and the "ping" of
the rifle.

Hunting the deer in the Adirondacks is conducted in the most manly
fashion.  There are several methods, and in none of them is a fair
chance to the deer considered.  A favorite method with the natives is
practiced in winter, and is called by them "still hunting."  My idea
of still hunting is for one man to go alone into the forest, look
about for a deer, put his wits fairly against the wits of the keen-
scented animal, and kill his deer, or get lost in the attempt.  There
seems to be a sort of fairness about this.  It is private
assassination, tempered with a little uncertainty about finding your
man.  The still hunting of the natives has all the romance and danger
attending the slaughter of sheep in an abattoir.  As the snow gets
deep, many deer congregate in the depths of the forest, and keep a
place trodden down, which grows larger as they tramp down the snow in
search of food.  In time this refuge becomes a sort of "yard,"
surrounded by unbroken snow-banks.  The hunters then make their way
to this retreat on snowshoes, and from the top of the banks pick off
the deer at leisure with their rifles, and haul them away to market,
until the enclosure is pretty much emptied.  This is one of the
surest methods of exterminating the deer; it is also one of the most
merciful; and, being the plan adopted by our government for
civilizing the Indian, it ought to be popular.  The only people who
object to it are the summer sportsmen.  They naturally want some
pleasure out of the death of the deer.

Some of our best sportsmen, who desire to protract the pleasure of
slaying deer through as many seasons as possible, object to the
practice of the hunters, who make it their chief business to
slaughter as many deer in a camping season as they can.  Their own
rule, they say, is to kill a deer only when they need venison to eat.
Their excuse is specious.  What right have these sophists to put
themselves into a desert place, out of the reach of provisions, and
then ground a right to slay deer on their own improvidence?  If it is
necessary for these people to have anything to eat, which I doubt, it
is not necessary that they should have the luxury of venison.

One of the most picturesque methods of hunting the poor deer is
called " floating." The person, with murder in his heart, chooses a
cloudy night, seats himself, rifle in hand, in a canoe, which is
noiselessly paddled by the guide, and explores the shore of the lake
or the dark inlet.  In the bow of the boat is a light in a "jack,"
the rays of which are shielded from the boat and its occupants.  A
deer comes down to feed upon the lily-pads.  The boat approaches him.
He looks up, and stands a moment, terrified or fascinated by the
bright flames.  In that moment the sportsman is supposed to shoot the
deer.  As an historical fact, his hand usually shakes so that he
misses the animal, or only wounds him; and the stag limps away to die
after days of suffering.  Usually, however, the hunters remain out
all night, get stiff from cold and the cramped position in the boat,
and, when they return in the morning to camp, cloud their future
existence by the assertion that they "heard a big buck" moving along
the shore, but the people in camp made so much noise that he was
frightened off.

By all odds, the favorite and prevalent mode is hunting with dogs.
The dogs do the hunting, the men the killing.  The hounds are sent
into the forest to rouse the deer, and drive him from his cover.
They climb the mountains, strike the trails, and go baying and
yelping on the track of the poor beast.  The deer have their
established runways, as I said; and, when they are disturbed in their
retreat, they are certain to attempt to escape by following one which
invariably leads to some lake or stream.  All that the hunter has to
do is to seat himself by one of these runways, or sit in a boat on
the lake, and wait the coming of the pursued deer.  The frightened
beast, fleeing from the unreasoning brutality of the hounds, will
often seek the open country, with a mistaken confidence in the
humanity of man.  To kill a deer when he suddenly passes one on a
runway demands presence of mind and quickness of aim: to shoot him
from the boat, after he has plunged panting into the lake, requires
the rare ability to hit a moving object the size of a deer's head a
few rods distant.  Either exploit is sufficient to make a hero of a
common man.  To paddle up to the swimming deer, and cut his throat,
is a sure means of getting venison, and has its charms for some.
Even women and doctors of divinity have enjoyed this exquisite
pleasure.  It cannot be denied that we are so constituted by a wise
Creator as to feel a delight in killing a wild animal which we do not
experience in killing a tame one.

The pleasurable excitement of a deer-hunt has never, I believe, been
regarded from the deer's point of view.  I happen to be in a
position, by reason of a lucky Adirondack experience, to present it
in that light.  I am sorry if this introduction to my little story

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