Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
The Deer Hunt
That evening they had a feast and turned in to sleep at the usual hour. The night passed without special alarm. Once about daylight Sappy called them, saying he believed there was a Bear outside, but he had a trick of grinding his teeth in his sleep, and the other boys told him that was the Bear he heard.
Yan went around to the mud albums and got some things he could not make out and a new mark that gave him a sensation. He drew it carefully. It was evidently the print of a small sharp hoof. This was what he had hungered for so long. He shouted, “Sam–Sam–Sapwood, come here; here’s a Deer track.”
The boys shouted back, “Ah, what you givin’ us now!” “Call off your Dog!” and so forth.
But Yan persisted. The boys were so sure it was a trick that they would not go for some time, then the sun had risen high, shining straight down on the track instead of across, so it became very dim. Soon the winds, the birds and the boys themselves helped to wipe it out. But Yan had his drawing, and persisted in spite of the teasing that it was true.
At length Guy said aside to Sam: “Seems to me a feller that hunts tracks so terrible serious ought to see the critter some time. ’Tain’t right to let him go on sufferin’. I think he ought to see that Deer. We ought to help him.” Here he winked a volley or two and made signs for Sam to take Yan away.
This was easily done.
“Let’s see if your Deer went out by the lower mud album.” So they walked down that way, while Guy got an old piece of sacking, stuffed it with grass, and, hastily tying it in the form of a Deer’s head, stuck it on a stick. He put in two flat pieces of wood for ears, took charcoal and made two black spots for eyes and one for a nose, then around each he drew a ring of blue clay from the bed of the brook. This soon dried and became white. Guy now set up this head in the bushes, and when all was ready he ran swiftly and silently through the wood to find Sam and Yan. He beckoned vigorously and called under his voice: “Sam–Yan–a Deer! Here’s that there Deer that made them tracks, I believe.”
Guy would have failed to convince Yan if Sam had not looked so much interested. They ran back to the teepee, got their bows and arrows, then, guided by Guy, who, however, kept back, they crawled to where he had seen the Deer.
“There–there, now, ain’t he a Deer? There–see him move!”
Yan’s first feeling was a most exquisite thrill of pleasure. It was like the uplift of joy he had had the time he got his book, but was stronger. The savage impulse to kill came quickly, and his bow was in his hand, but he hesitated.
“Shoot! Shoot!” said Sam and Guy.
Yan wondered why they did not shoot. He turned, and in spite of his agitation he saw that they were making fun of him. He glanced at the Deer again, moved up a little closer and saw the trick.
Then they hooted aloud. Yan was a little crestfallen. Oh, it had been such an exquisite feeling! The drop was long and hard, but he rallied quickly.
“I’ll shoot your Deer for you,” he said, and sent an arrow close under it.
“Well, I kin beat that,” and Sam and Guy both fired. Sam’s arrow stuck in the Deer’s nose. At that he gave a yell; then all shot till the head was stuck full of arrows, and they returned to the teepee to get dinner. They were still chaffing Yan about the Deer when he said slowly to Guy:
“Generally you are not so smart as you think you are, but this time you’re smarter. You’ve given me a notion.”
So after dinner he got a sack about three feet long and stuffed it full of dry grass; then he made a small sack about two and a half feet long and six inches thick, but with an elbow in it and pointed at one end. This he also stuffed with hay and sewed with a bone needle to the big sack. Next he cut four sticks of soft pine for legs and put them into the four corners of the big sack, wrapping them with bits of sacking to be like the rest. Then he cut two ears out of flat sticks; painted black eyes and nose with a ring of white around each, just as Sappy had done, but finally added a black spot on each side of the body, and around that a broad gray hand. Now he had completed what every one could see was meant for a Deer.
The other boys helped a little, but not did cease to chaff him.
“Who’s to be fooled this time?” asked Guy.
“You,” was the answer.
“I’ll bet you’ll get buck fever the first time you come across it," chuckled the Head Chief.
“Maybe I will, but you’ll all have a chance. Now you fellers stay here and I’ll hide the Deer. Wait till I come back.”
So Yan ran off northward with the dummy, then swung around to the east and hid it at a place quite out of the line that he first took. He returned nearly to where he came out, shouting “Ready!”
Then the hunters sallied forth fully armed, and Yan explained: “First to find it counts ten and has first shot. If he misses, next one can walk up five steps and shoot; if he misses, next walks five steps more, and so on until the Deer is hit. Then all the shooting must be done from the place where that arrow was fired. A shot in the heart counts ten; in the gray counts five; that’s a body wound–and a hit outside of that counts one–that’s a scratch. If the Deer gets away without a shot in the heart, then I count twenty-five, and the first one to find it is Deer for next hunt–twelve shots each is the limit.”
The two hunters searched about for a long time. Sam made disparaging remarks about the trail this Deer did not leave, and Guy sneaked and peaked in every thicket.
Sappy was not an athlete nor an intellectual giant, but his little piggy eyes were wonderfully sharp and clear.
“I see him,” he yelled presently, and pointed out the place seventy-five yards away where he saw one ear and part of the head.
“Tally ten for Sappy,” and Yan marked it down.
Guy was filled with pride at his success. He made elaborate preparation to shoot, remarking, “I could ’a’ seen it twicet as far–if–if–if–it was–if I had a fair chance.”
He drew his bow and left fly. The arrow went little more than half way. So Sam remarked, “Five steps up I kin go. It don’t say nothing about how long the steps?”
“Well, here goes,” and he began the most wonderful Kangaroo hops that he could do. He covered about thirty feet in those five steps, and by swerving a little aside he got a good view of the Deer. He was now less than sixty-five yards away. He fired and missed. Now Guy had the right to walk up five steps. He also missed. Finally at thirty yards Sam sent an arrow close past a tree, deep in the Deer’s gray flank.
“Bully shot! Body wound! Count five for the Great War Chief. All shooting from this spot now,” said Yan, “and I don’t know why I shouldn’t shoot as well as the others.”
“Coz you’re the Deer and that’d be suicide,” was Sam’s objection. “But it’s all right. You won’t hit.”
The objection was not sustained, and Yan tried his luck also. Two or three shots in the brown of the Deer’s haunch, three or four into the tree that stood half way between, but nearly in line, a shot or two into the nose, then “Hooray!” a shot from Guy right into the Deer’s heart put an end to the chase. Now they went up to draw and count the arrows.
Guy was ahead with a heart shot, ten, a body wound, five, and a scratch, one, that’s sixteen, with ten more for finding it–twenty-six points. Sam followed with two body wounds and two scratches–twelve points, and Yan one body wound and five scratches–ten points. The Deer looked like an old Porcupine when they came up to it, and Guy, bursting with triumph, looked like a young Emperor.
“I tell you it takes me to larn you fellers to Deer hunt. I’ll bet I’ll hit him in the heart first thing next time.”
“I’ll bet you won’t, coz you’ll be Deer and can’t shoot till we both have.”
Guy thought this the finest game he had ever played. He pranced away with the dummy on his back, scheming as he went to make a puzzle for the others. He hid the Deer in a dense thicket east of the camp, then sneaked around to the west of the camp and yelled “Ready!” They had a long, tedious search and had to give it up.
“Now what to do? Who counts?” asked the Woodpecker.
“When Deer escapes it counts twenty-five,” replied the inventer of the game; and again Guy was ahead.
“This is the bulliest game I ever seen” was his ecstatic remark.
“Seems to me there’s something wrong; that Deer ought to have a trail.”
“That’s so,” assented Yan. “Wonder if he couldn’t drag an old root!”
“If there was snow it’d be easy.”
“I’ll tell you, Sam; we’ll tear up paper and leave a paper trail.”
“Now you’re talking.” So all ran to camp. Every available scrap of wrapping paper was torn up small and put in a “scent bag.”
Since no one found the Deer last time, Guy had the right to hide it again.
He made a very crooked trail and a very careful hide, so that the boys nearly walked onto the Deer before they saw it about fifteen yards away. Sam scored ten for the find. He fired and missed. Yan now stepped up his five paces and fired so hastily that he also missed. Guy now had a shot at it at five yards, and, of course, hit the Deer in the heart. This succession of triumphs swelled his head nearly to the bursting point, and his boasting passed all bounds. But it now became clear that there must be a limit to the stepping up. So the new rule was made, “No stepping up nearer than fifteen paces.”
The game grew as they followed it. Its resemblance to real hunting was very marked. The boys found that they could follow the trail, or sweep the woods with their eyes as they pleased, and find the game, but the wisest way was a combination. Yan was too much for the trail, Sam too much for the general lookout, but Guy seemed always in luck. His little piglike eyes took in everything, and here at length he found a department in which he could lead. It looked as though little pig-eyed Guy was really cut out for a hunter. He made a number of very clever hidings of the Deer. Once he led the trail to the pond, then, across, and right opposite he put the Deer in full view, so that they saw it at once in the open; they were obliged either to shoot across the pond, or step farther away round the edge, or step into the deep water, and again Guy scored. It was found necessary to bar hiding the Deer on a ridge and among stones, because in one case arrows which missed were lost in the bushes and in the other they were broken.
They played this game so much that they soon found a new difficulty. The woods were full of paper trails, and there was no means of deciding which was the old and which the new. This threatened to end the fun altogether. But Yan hit on the device of a different colour of paper. This gave them a fresh start, but their supply was limited. There was paper everywhere in the woods now, and it looked as though the game was going to kill itself, when old Caleb came to pay them a visit. He always happened round as though it was an accident, but the boys were glad to see him, as he usually gave some help.
“Ye got some game, I see,” and the old man’s eye twinkled as he noted the dummy, now doing target duty on the forty-yard range. “Looks like the real thing. Purty good–purty good.” He chuckled as he learned about the Deer hunt, and a sharp observer might have discerned a slight increase of interest when he found that it was not Sam Raften that was the “crack” hunter.
“Good fur you, Guy Burns. Me an’ your Paw hev hunted Deer together on this very crik many a time.”
When he learned the difficulty about the scent, he said “Hm,” and puffed at his pipe for awhile in silence. Then at length:
“Say, Yan, why don’t you and Guy get a bag o’ wheat or Injun corn for scent: that’s better than paper, an’ what ye lay to-day is all clared up by the birds and Squirrels by to-morrow.”
“Bully!” shouted Sam. (He had not been addressed at all, but he was not thin-skinned.) Within ten minutes he had organized another “White massacree"–that is, a raid on the home barn, and in half an hour he returned with a peck of corn.
“Now, lemme be Deer,” said Caleb. “Give me five minutes’ start, then follow as fast as ye like. I’ll show ye what a real Deer does.”
He strode away bearing the dummy, and in five minutes as they set out on the trail he came striding back again. Oh, but that seemed a long run. The boys followed the golden corn trail–a grain every ten feet was about all they needed now, they were so expert. It was a straight run for a time, then it circled back till it nearly cut itself again (at X, page 298). The boys thought it did so, and claimed the right to know, as on a real Deer trail you could tell. So Caleb said, “No, it don’t cut the old trail.” Where, then, did it go? After beating about, Sam said that the trail looked powerful heavy, like it might be double.
“Bet I know,” said Guy. “He’s doubled back,” which was exactly what he did do, though Caleb gave no sign. Yan looked back on the trail and found where the new one had forked. Guy gave no heed to the ground once he knew the general directions. He ran ahead (toward Y), so did Sam, but Guy glanced back to Yan on the trail to make sure of the line.
They had not gone far beyond the nearest bushes before Yan found another quirk in the trail. It doubled back at Z. He unravelled the double, glanced around, and at O he plainly saw the Deer lying on its side in the grass. He let off a triumphant yell, “Yi, yi, yi, Deer!” and the others came running back just in time to see Yan send an arrow straight into its heart.