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Trapping, Exploring, Hunting

The sales of furs, and the exploration of new routes to new lands, and finally the hunting of animals made a significant impact in the history of the modern world, and often the people living remote to civilization would have to take advantage of the ways of the native people and eat like them. In this way, they would be carnivores by need, as fishing, hunting, and eating trapped animals would be the best way to get a meal, and animals can be processed down into high fat pemmican to get the best bang for the buck when it comes to transporting fuel as weight.

Trapping, Exploring, Hunting

Recent History

June 1, 1586

The Private Journal of Captain G.F. Lyon, of H.M.S. Hecla

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Navigator John Davies is quoted as saying about the Inuit "The people are of good stature, well proportioned. They did eat all their meat raw."

Page 29-30

In drawing out this long account of one visit, my prolixity may be excused, when I state, that it is merely intended to amuse my own fire-side circle; yet, voluminous as it is, I have withheld any account of the stature, and general appearance of the people; or any description of their boats and instruments, being certain of seeing more of them. In the mean time, however, it may not be uninteresting to quote the brief but accurate description of them as given by that able old navigator John Davies, in the year 1586. 

“The people are of good stature, well proportioned, with small slender hands and feet, broad visages, small eyes, wide mouths, the most part unbearded, great lips and close teethed ; they are much given to bleed, and therefore stop their noses with deer's hair, or that of an elan. They are very simple in their conversation, but marvellously given to thieving, especially of iron; they did eat all their meat raw."

November 8, 1598

Record of the Marches by the Army, New Spain to New Mexico, 1596-98

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"On the 8th the sargento mayor came back from the land of the buffalo. He brought quantities of meat, fat, and tallow, although he was unable to bring any live animals. There were infinite numbers of them. Their hide is very wooly and thick."

On November 4 Captain Marquez arrived from New Spain and left Puaray for Acoma, following the governor.


On the 8th the sargento mayor came back from the land of the buffalo. He brought quantities of meat, fat, and tallow, although he was unable to bring any live animals. There were infinite numbers of them. Their hide is very wooly and thick. He traveled seventy leagues inland, as far as the pueblo which is nine leages long. Several times he found traces of Umana. 


On Wednesday, November 18, at noon, the maese de campo set out for the South sea, following the governor. 

June 1, 1782

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrell

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The daily allowance of a Man is eight pounds of fish, which is held to be equal to five pounds of meat; almost the only change through the year are hares and grouse, very dry eating ; a few Martens,' a chance Beaver. Lynx' and Porcupine." Vegetables would be acceptable but are not worth the trouble and risk of raising; every person with very few exceptions, enjoys good health, and we neither had, nor required a medical Man.

When Hudson Bay was discovered, and the first trading settlement made, the Natives were far more numerous than at present. In the year 1782, the small pox' from Canada extended to them, and more than one half of them died; since which although they have no enemies, their country very healthy, yet their numbers increase very slowly. The Musk Rat country, of which I have given the area, may have ninety two families, each of seven souls, giving to each family an area of two hundred and forty eight square miles of hunting grounds; or thirty five square miles to each soul, a very thin population. A recent writer (Ballantyne)° talks of myriads of wild animals; such writers talk at random, they have never counted, nor calculated; the animals are by no means numerous, and only in sufficient numbers to give a tolerable subsistence to the Natives, who are too often obliged to live on very little food, and sometimes all but perish with hunger. 


Very few Beaver are to be found, the Bears are not many and all the furr bearing animals an Indian can kill can scarcely furnish himself and family with the bare necessaries of life A strange Idea prevails among these Natives, and also of all the Indians to the Rocky Mountains, though unknown to each other, that when they were numerous, before they were destroyed by the Small Pox all the animals of every species were also very numerous and more so in comparison of the number of Natives than at present; and this was confirmed to me by old Scotchmen in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, and by che Canadians from Canada ; the knowledge of the latter extended over all the interior countries, yet no disorder was known among the animals; the fact was certain, and nothing they knew of could account for it; it might justly be supposed the destruction of Mankind would allow the animals to increase, even to become formidable to the few Natives who survived, but neither the Bison, the Deer, nor the carnivorous animals increased, and as I have already remarked, are no more than sufficient for the subsistence of the Natives and Traders.


 The trading Houses over the whole country are situated on the banks of lakes, of at least twenty miles in length by two or three miles in width; and as much larger as may be, as it is only large and deep Lakes that have Fish sufficient to maintain the Trader and his Men, for the Indians at best can only afford a Deer now and then. Some Lakes give only what is called a Fall Fishery. This fishery commences in October and lasts to about Christmas; the fish caught are white fish and pike. Whatever is not required for the day is frozen and laid by in a hoard; and with all care is seldom more than enough for the winter and a fish once frozen loses it's good taste unless kept in that state until it is thrown into the kettle of boiling water. Fish thawed and then boiled are never good; We who pass the winter on fish, and sometimes also the summer, are the best judges, for we have nothing with them, neither butter nor sauces ; and too often not a grain of salt. The best Lakes are those that have a steady fishery; and according to the number and length of the Nets give a certain number of White Fish; throughout the winter. The deep Lakes that have sandy, pebbly beaches, with bottoms of the same may be depended on for a steady fishery.


 The Fish on which the Traders place dependance are the White Fish, in such Lakes as I have last described. It is a rich well tasted, nourishing food; but in shoal muddy Lakes it is poor and not well tasted; and when a new trading House is built which is almost every year, every one is anxious to know the quality of the fish it contains for whatever it is they have no other for the winter. These fish vary very much in size and weight, from two to thirteen pounds and each great Lake appears to have a sort peculiar to itself, it is preyed upon by the Pike and Trout; and also the white headed, or bald, Eagle. 


The seine is seldom used, it is too heavy and expensive, and useless in winter. The set Net is that which is in constant use; those best made are of holland twine, with a five and a half inch mesh but this mesh must be adapted to the size of the fish and ranges from three to seven inches; the best length is fifty fathoms, the back lines, on which the net is extended and fastened are of small cord; every thing must be neat and fine: Instead of Corks and Leads, small stones are tied to the bottom line with twine at every two fathoms, opposite to each on the upper line, a float of light pine, or cedar wood is tied which keeps the net distended; both in summer and winter the best depth for nets, is three to five fathom water; in shoal water the fish are not so good. In winter the nets being sheltered by the ice, the fishery is more steady, not being disturbed by gales of wind. In some Lakes in Spring and Autumn there are an abundance of grey and red Carp; the former have so very many small bones that only the head and a piece behind it are eaten ; but the red Carp are a good fish though weak food. 


The daily allowance of a Man is eight pounds of fish, which is held to be equal to five pounds of meat; almost the only change through the year are hares and grouse, very dry eating ; a few Martens,' a chance Beaver. Lynx' and Porcupine." Vegetables would be acceptable but [are] not worth the trouble and risk of raising, and almost every small trading house is deserted during the summer, or only two men [are] left to take care of the place ; every person with very few exceptions, enjoys good health, and we neither had, nor required a medical Man. Formerly the Beavers were very numerous, the many Lakes and Rivers gave them ample space; and the poor Indian had then only a pointed stick shaped and hardened in the fire, a stone Hatchet, Spear and Arrow heads of the same; thus armed he was weak against the sagacious Beaver, who, on the banks of a Lake, made itself a house of a foot thick, or more; composed of earth and small flat stones, crossed and bound together with pieces of wood; upon which no impression could be made but by fire. But when the arrival of the White People had changed all their weapons from stone to iron and steel, and added the fatal Gun, every animal fell before the Indian; the Bear was no longer dreaded, and the Beaver became a desirable animal for food and clothing, and the furr a valuable article of trade; and as the Beaver is a stationary animal, it could be attacked at any convenient time in all seasons, and thus their numbers soon became reduced. The old Indians, when speaking of their ancestors, wonder how they could live as the Beaver was wiser, and the Bear stronger, than them, and confess, that if they were deprived of the Gun, they could not live by the Bow and Arrow, and must soon perish. The Beaver skin is the standard by which other Furrs are traded; and London prices have very little influence on this value of barter, which is more a matter of expedience and convenience to the Trader and the Native, than of real value. The only Bears of this country, are the small black Bear,' with a chance Yellow Bear, this latter has a fine furr and trades for three Beavers in barter, when full grown. The Black Bear is common and according to size passes for one or two Beavers, the young are often tamed by the Natives, and are harmless and playful, until near full grown, when they become troublesome, and are killed, or sent into the woods; while they can procure roots and berries, they look for nothing else. But in the Spring, when they leave their winter dens, they can get neither the one, nor the other, prowl about, and go to the Rapids where the Carp are spawning; here Bruin lives in plenty; but not content with what it can eat, amuses itself with tossing ashore ten times more than it can devour, each stroke of it's fore paw sending a fish eight or ten yards according to it's size; the fish thus thrown ashore attract the Eagle and the Raven ; the sight of these birds flying about, leads the Indian to the place, and Bruin loses his life and his skin. The meat of the Bear feeding on roots and berries becomes very fat and good, and in this condition it enters it's den for the winter; at the end of which the meat is still good, and has some fat, but the very first meal of fish the taste of the meat is changed for the worse, and soon becomes disagreeable. When a Mahmees Dog, in the winter season has discovered a den, and the Natives go to kill the Bear, on uncovering the top of the den, Bruin is found roused out of it's dormant state, and sitting ready to defend itself; the eldest man now makes a speech to it; reproaching the Bear and all it's race with being the old enemies of Man, killing the children and women, when it was large and strong; but now, since the Manito has made him, small and weak to what he was before, he has all the will, though not the power to be as bad as ever, that he is treacherous and cannot be trusted, that although he has sense he makes bad use of it, and must therefore be killed; parts of the speech have many repetitions to impress it's truth on the Bear, who all the time is grinning and growling, willing to fight, but more willing to escape, until the axe descends on it's head, or [it] is shot; the latter more frequently, as the den is often under the roots of fallen trees, and protected by the branches of the roots. When a Bear thus killed was hauled out of it's den, enquired of the Indian who made the speech, whether he really thought the Bear understood him. He replied, " how can you doubt it, did you not see how ashamed I made him, and how he held down his head;" "He might well hold down his head, when you were flourishing a heavy axe over it, with which you killed him." On this animal they have several superstitions, and he acts a prominent part in many of their tales.

January 2, 1790

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrel

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David Thompson discussed the presence of fish as a common food source while trapping. "The Trout to attain to a large size, they require to be in extensive deep Lakes. In this region they are from one to twenty pounds. They are as rich as meat."

The Rivers and Lakes have Pike, (the water wolf.) He preys on every fish he can master, even on his own species ; he seizes his prey by the middle of the back, and keeps his hold until it is dead: when he swallows it. It catches readily at any bait, even a bit of red rag. It is a bold active fish, and in summer is often found with a mouse in it's stomach. It's jaws are strong, set with sharp teeth, somewhat curved, it is of all sizes from one to fifteen pounds ; it is seldom found in company with the Trout, which last appears to be the master fish, for where they are found In the same Lake, the Pike are confined to the shallow bays. 


The Trout to attain to a large size, they require to be in extensive deep Lakes. In this region they are from one to twenty pounds. They are as rich as meat. The white fish is well known, their quality and size depends much on the depths of the Lakes. In shoal Lakes they are generally poor, and in deep lakes fat and large, they are almost the sole subsistence of the Traders and their men in the winter, and part of the summer : they are caught in nets of five to six inches mesh, fifty fathoms in length, and five to six feet in depth ; which are set and anchored by stones in three to five fathoms water, if possible on sandy, or fine gravel, bottom. They weigh from two to ten pounds. They are a delicate fish, the net ought not to stand more than two nights, then [it ought to be] taken up and washed in hot water, dried and mended.


Some of the Lakes have only a fall fishery and another in the spring, in this case the fish are frozen, and lose part of their good taste. Fish do not bear keeping, the maxim is; from the hook or the net directly into the kettle of boiling water. Those who live wholly on fish, without any sauce, and frequently without salt, know how to cook fish in their best state, for sauces make a fish taste well, which otherwise would not be eatable. There are two species of Carp, the red and grey; the former is a tolerable fish; the latter is so full of small bones, only the head and shoulders are eaten. They spawn in the spring, on the small Rapids, are in shoals, the prey of the Eagle, the Bear, and other animals. The Sturgeon to be good must be caught in muddy Lakes, he is the fresh water hog, fond of being in shoal alluvials; in such lakes it is a rich fish; but in clear water not so good ; they weigh from ten to fifty pounds.

June 10, 1790

Recollections on Hunting in Kentucky, 1790-1791 by Hugh Bell

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A Kentucky hunter tells stories about the carnivore diet he survived on while hunting buffalo, just a few years after the foundation of the United States. "They always relied upon the forest for a supply of food - buffalo, bear, dear, elk & turkey. Stewed bear's liver, or roasted bear's kidney, made a good substitute for bread."

Mrs. H F Bell and the Indian cows were up -- the gate creaking, an Indian lay behind a log some 15 feet off, peeped up his head, which Mrs. B saw -- dashed to & fastened the gate, & escaped. The Indian knowing the alarm wd. be instantly give,  jumped up & ran off.


Wm. & Nick S. Baker & some few others from the settlement, living on McAdoe Creek, a few miles above Clarkesville, in the present county of Montgomery - went down Cumberland below Palmyra,  down the north shore hunting buffalo -  Wm Baker had wounded a old buffalo bull, & was following it close behind through the cane, it turned upon him; Baker turned & ran but was soon over taken by the enraged animal, run one of his horns through his leather pants & badly goring his thigh, threw him back entirely over his head -- the buffalo went on.  Baker was barely able to clear the other way & left the buffalo to go unmolested. This was in 1790. 


This same year Hugh F. Bell, his older brother John & Isaac Peterson went out hunting on Little River in Trigg Co - Ky-. John Bell was pursuing a gang of elk,  Hugh F Bell & Peterson got after a gang of buffalo, & each shot buffalo bulls. Bell went and sat down upon Peterson’s buffalo, & then proposed to go & skin his first - went; and on their return Peterson’s had gone! By the time John Bell returned, not having killed any of the elk, & aided the others in hunting up the lost buffalo. The grass in the river bottom there was thick & as tall as a man’s head - the two Bells clamped several feet up a fallen lodged tree & discovered the bull lying down some 15 paces off. Called  to Peterson to shoot it - he said he wd go & stick it - crept up behind a small blackjack pine nine inches through, close to which the buffalo lay - & as Peterson was within point of giving the fatal stab in the buffalo’s side, the animal suddenly bounded to his feet, & Peterson up the tree - clear of limbs for fifteen or 20 feet - would get some eight feet, & then from fear & exhaustion, wd. fail & gradually slip down until nearly in reach of the buffalo’s horns, - who all the while kept a warfare upon the tree, completely barking it with his horns -  Again Peterson wd make an effort & ascend about the old height, & again give way & slide down - begging the while for the Bells to shoot the buffalo; who, so full of laughter, could not - Seeing after his third ascension, that he could not stand it much longer, & had already rubbed the skin from his breast & face, - shot the buffalo, & rescued Peterson.


The next year, 1791, Hugh F. & Wm Bell over Little River on the Barrens - they went so far, became less dangerous than nearer the settlements - hunting; came across two buffalos,  Hugh F. Bell shot one of them - & William took buffalo & Elk after the other -  the buffalo took after Bell, who mounted dashed away around a large sink hole of some ten acres, & the buffalo in hot pursuit, went around twice, & the buffalo gained & had got within 20 steps when Hugh F. Bell came up & shot him down. They both thought the buffalo had no evil design, but in its fright mistook  Bell’s horse for its mate & thus followed. At a subsequent hunt, Hugh F. & John Bell & John Newell were again out together, in the old range on Little River, came upon a gang of 3 or 4 elk - the dogs took after & overtook him, some seizing him by the nose, others by the ears, while one of the dogs bounded upon his back & took post between the large antlers that lay up behind, & the dog clung to his place all the while gnawing into the flesh of the neck of the elk - & the elk ran several rods with the dog upon his back; took post in a spring, & there took his stand, & remained until H.F.B. came up & shot him. The hunters wd take with them some pack horses, to convey home the meat. When they had it, they wd take with some salt & pepper & sage - a camp kettle; these with their knives & rifles, tomahawks sufficed. They always relied upon the forest for a supply of food - buffalo, bear, dear, elk & turkey. 


A buffalo hide per adventure wd be stretched across poles overhead for a covering from the damps & rains - other skins, with the hair side up, wd be placed upon the ground before the fire to be used as a kind of rug & for the bed at night - & sometimes with another hide for a covering. When upon the hunt by day they wore a kind of moccasin made of buffalo hide, the hair side turned in - these would not easily saturate; at night these were taken off & thrown one side & away from the fire that they might freeze if the weather shd be sufficiently cold to congeal water - for the buffalo moccasins were all the better for being frozen. While in camp, the hunters wore the light tanned deer skin moccasins. 


 Now for the mode of living.  The stew was a common and favorite mode - the choicest bits of buffalo, deer, elk, bear & turkey, part or all of these as the case might be - put into the kettle, with the proper seasoning would furnish a nice dish, leaving each of the company to choose as to kind. Stewed bear's liver, or roasted bear's kidney, made a good substitute for bread. When hunters had a roast turkey, they had a way of cutting numerous small incisions in the body, & putting in them bits of fat bear meat & proper seasoning - this was excellent. But when a luxurious meal was to be provided it consisted of one or all of these articles, roasted beaver tail, buffalo tongue, or marrow bone. 


Take a large beaver tail, some 8 inches long, and 4 broad, well seasoned, & wrapped up in a coat of wetted oak leaves & put into a bed of embers & covered up over night, wd be elegantly cooked by morning. 


To cook properly after hunter's style a fine buffalo tongue - first scorch it a little & peel off the outside coating, then stick it upon a spit made of spice bush, with the lower end inserted in the earth & left to roast before the fire all night - the spicebush wd give it a very agreeable flavor. 


Cooking a buffalo marrow bone was the work of a few minutes - simply lay one end upon the live coals, & in a few minutes the other - then cut the bone in two with the hatchet, then split or hew off one side to the marrow - what rich delicious eating! Neither this nor bear's oil in any quantity even produces the least injurious effect - tip up the kettle after cooking bear's meat, & sometimes tip off a pint!

Ancient History

Books

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrell

Published:

January 8, 1916

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrell

The Savage Country - A history of the men of the North West Company and the lands they conquered

Published:

January 2, 1960

The Savage Country - A history of the men of the North West Company and the lands they conquered

Trappers and Mountain Men - American Heritage Junior Library

Published:

January 1, 1961

Trappers and Mountain Men - American Heritage Junior Library

Man the Hunter

Published:

January 1, 1968

Man the Hunter

Omnivorous Primates: Gathering & Hunting in Human Evolution

Published:

January 1, 1981

Omnivorous Primates: Gathering & Hunting in Human Evolution

Thirty Years in the Arctic Regions, or, The Adventures of Sir John Franklin

Published:

September 9, 1988

Thirty Years in the Arctic Regions, or, The Adventures of Sir John Franklin

Arctic Memories: Living with the Inuit

Published:

March 1, 1994

Arctic Memories: Living with the Inuit

The Steak Lovers' Diet: How to Lose Weight While Eating All The Meat You Want

Published:

January 2, 1998

The Steak Lovers' Diet: How to Lose Weight While Eating All The Meat You Want
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