During winter, when the snow was too deep to pursue them on horseback, the Red River Ojibwe and Metis hunters would often approach a group of buffalo by crawling to them on the snow, often disguised with a dun-colored cap furnished with upright ears to give the appearance of a wolf (which the buffalo did not generally fear). This disguise allowed the hunter to get close enough to take an animal at close range.
Towards spring, when the deep snow was covered with a hard crust which supported a hunter walking or crawling, it was even easier to ambush a buffalo. When the time came to strike, the buffalo would struggle to escape the hard snow crust and it was possible to easily run the helpless animals down and dispatch them – even by using a knife to do the deed if necessary.
During other times of the year, a person could ‘still hunt’ if a small amount of meat was needed. This method was something that only a skilled hunter could do. A skilled man could sneak up on a herd using stealth and cover, to approach to within gunshot range. The chief precaution necessary when hunting this way was to keep to the wind blowing your scent away from the herd. Buffalo didn’t have the best eyesight, but had a keen sense of smell and the scent of a man was enough to cause a stampede.
On an open plain with short grass it was almost impossible to get within 1,000 yards of a herd, but with tall grass and shrubs a good hunter could get within a hundred yards. If there were ravines and tress, a skilled man could creep to within twenty or thirty paces. When a good shot could be taken the animal would be killed. The others would run away and the hunter could process his animal.
Some hunters claimed that hunting buffalo like this was actually easier than hunting deer or pronghorns, as these animals feared a solitary man while the buffalo generally did not.
American Bison (1865). Illustrated catalogue of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, at Harvard College / published by order of the Legislature of Massachusetts.
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