Thunder Butte

February 07, 2010

Hunting Wolves for Sport

Wolves long ago disappeared from the Thunder Butte area, driven to local extinction in their competition with area ranchers. I wrote here in this blog some time ago about the intense hunt for one of the last remaining wolves in the area, Three Toes, which locals thought was intent on visiting as much destruction against their livestock as possible. In the telling of the tale of Three Toes, the battle of man against beast used to take on epic proportions. Wolves were hunted in order to reduce livestock losses, which in later years took on controversy as the species came to be seen as endangered. I had never heard of wolves being hunted purely for sport, which somehow seems offensive, until I ran across the following account from a Canadian, Charles Prim, who passed through the area in 1902:

“It was on Standing Rock, T. R [Standing Rock Trail] in the Western South Dakota in the month of July, 1902. I have four stag hounds and will have an increase soon I expect, they are game all through. We left Evarts on the Big Muddy River with a light wagon, a pair of good bronks, the long legged kind, with a good camping outfit, my wife and I a hunting went. 125 miles west a friend of ours lived, George Darling by name. On our way out we got 4 wolves, one an old three legged one and it was a sight to see how she could run. On our way back we run into 9 wolves in a bunch. It was right at White Butte about 9 miles west of Thunder Butte. The first one we got all right after a short run and the rest run east about 3/4 of a mile, and when the dogs got up to them they were pretty well played out and we were so far behind the dogs. The wolves turned on the dogs and their [sic] was a fight like as I never want to see again if they are my dogs. It was a very hot day and water was scarce and the dogs were dry, but they must fight it out. Well the way we came down that draw was not slow, the wolves when we got their split up; but it seemed they had not enough of it. Then the dogs got after the old ones that led off to the south, and one they crippled, they would throw him, then his mate would help him, and as we came nearer the dogs were after the one that was not hurt. He led off and the dogs after. I gave my wife the lines and with shot gun in hand jumped out, ran around a little hill to get a shot at the one that the dogs had hurt. I got a shot and he cashed in, I looked up and away off to the south goes the hounds, wolf, team and wife doing well, wife was doing good driving and the dogs good running, they mix, all of 1-1/2 miles from where I was. I started to run but my shoes were thin and cactus very thick. I soon had enough and some to spare in my feet so I sat down and pulled cactus for a while. Over the hill the fight went on and after a little while the horses came over the ridge and a big wolf on the hind end of the wagon. My wife felt very proud as she took him alone with the dogs. That was three out of the nine and our dogs were pretty well tired out, so we loaded them all in and drove slowly off.

“At dinner time I went to get the lunch box out of the back end of the wagon, I said, "Chub what is the matter, it is light" and well I might. We had lost our frying pan, coffee grinder, canned goods, all but one can of tomatoes and one can of milk. As luck would have it we had bread in a sack under the seat, so with coffee, bread and meat we went the 35 miles, left back to town but the dogs did not like to run as their feet were sore and they were cut up quite a little.”

Prim’s account was published in the April 1904 issue (Vol. 8, No. 1) of Hunter-Trader-Trapper, on page 14.

--Mike Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, February 07, 2010


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