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Ten Days Among the Elk – A B&C Audio Adventure

By William D. Deweese
25th Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

The story on the following pages was written by William Dallas “Dall” DeWeese in 1888, over 115 years before his elk was ever scored for the Boone and Crockett records book.  It is not simply a recounting of the story of his hunt; It is also a priceless look into the past of our hunting heritage.  Everything in this story tells a tale, whether it’s the hunting slang of the day, the things they saw, or what common thoughts and acceptable practices were in that era.  

The year 1888 was amidst the infancy of conservation. The roots of the Boone and Crockett Club (North America’s oldest conservation organization) had been planted only one year previous. Game laws were noticeably absent, as were general public concerns for the future of our wildlife populations and welfare. Very few people in that era thought about “fair chase” or ethics in the field. Those concepts were all but non-existent. Hunting was a simple act—reduced to possession, cook, and eat.  


The fact that Dall DeWeese even took the time to write of his adventure is amazing in itself. It also shows, however, that even in that day, people had an appreciation for wild things and places. There are also references in this story that show evidence of the beginnings of people’s changing views. At points in the story, he references the fact that they waited for a clear shot, as to not wound cows and calves. He also mentions, “We saw dozens of fine fat deer at close range but killed none, as we were not out to see how much game we could slaughter and let lay in the mountains—as is too often done.” This exact sentiment is one of the founding principles of why the Boone and Crockett Club was established, as well as North American wildlife management as a whole.  

Some of the content of this story would be, by today’s standards, unethical and irresponsible. Back then it was not only acceptable, it was commonplace. We have chosen not to sanitize the story, nor correct the grammar. This story is an education, as well as a glimpse into past realities. It also shows that even in 1888, there was a true romanticism of wild places. The original words and language leave these pages authentic. Dall DeWeese’s story appeared in the Canon City Clipper on October 31, 1888.

Successful Hunters!

Ten Days Among The Elk, Bear, and Deer.

A Former Tipp Boy’s Successful Hunt After Big Game in The Rockies.

Camp Big Horns, Colo., Sept. 1888.

Messrs. Bowman, Clark Bros., Williamson, Hawver, and Huber:    

My Dear Nimrods – Your letters were received in due time stating that it was impossible for you to join me this fall in an elk hunt in the Rocky Mountains. I regretted much to receive this word and think you “tender-feet” will regret sending it after reading of our grand time.

Mr. J. E. Brown, Mr. L. E. Franck (county treasurer), both “old-timers” here, and myself took train September 3d, crossed the Rockies to the mouth of Eagle River where I had saddle horses and pack animals (jacks) awaiting us. There are no toll pikes in this country but simply a jack trail leading here and there up into the cedars and pinons, then up to the quakenasps, thence higher to the spruce-covered mountain tops and timber line peaks, and into the very heart of the Rocky Mountains. We soon packed our bedding and supplies on our jacks and took the trail leading up Sweetwater (Turret Creek.) We reached Sweetwater Lake the same evening and camped for the night. The lake is one mile long and half a mile wide, located in a canon between two great mountains; its waters are full of the beautiful speckled trout and our jointed rods, lines, leaders and flies were quickly adjusted and seventeen of the speckled beauties were landed and prepared for supper. 

The next morning the bright face of Old Sol found us in the saddle and two miles up the steep ascending trail. What fresh invigorating atmosphere and how grand the scenery of this forenoon ride! We climbed higher through groves of quakenasp and the grassy mountainsides until noon when we reached the “flat tops,” or summit of the range. I wish I could picture this landscape for you so you could imagine the grand surroundings of our camp, but I can only say that these flat tops are timbered with dense groves of the stately spruce and are broken here and there with open parks which are covered with a luxuriant growth of the tall gramma grass. Notwithstanding the altitude is 10,000 feet, fine springs, small streams and lakes are everywhere. Turret Peak and Shingle Peak tower up to 12,000 feet—1,000 feet above timber line—and on their North sides lays perpetual snow. From these peaks you can see forever! You can see into Egeria Park, the head waters of the Grand, Piney, Eagle, Roaring Fork, Muddy and Bear Rivers, and at their base heads the great White River. This was the Ute Indians’ paradise for summer and fall hunting, and here is the home of the elk, mountain sheep, silver tip grizzly and cinnamon bear, and the gamey black tail [mule] deer. Three o’clock p.m. found our jacks and horses unpacked and picketed out in the rich grass, dinner over, tents up, hunting equipments in place, and then we started out after fresh meat for supper, although we had a goodly supper of bacon.

We stared blankly into each others faces and wondered if it was possible to miss such a monster. Finally we decided to return to camp and pick up the trail early the next morning. We kicked ourselves back to camp and declared that if we had really missed that elephant we would fold our blankets, go to Canon City and never say elk again.

Sundown found us all back in camp with three deer packed in and hung on the spruce [in] back of the tent. I killed a big buck that weighed 260 pounds, fat an inch thick over the rump, horns in the velvet which makes for a fine trophy.

Having all the camp meat necessary the next day was spent in looking for elk sign through the spruce forests on the North and shady sides of the breaks on the flat tops. Our notes compared favorably on our return at night, and after camp-fire stories we retired fully convinced that we were in the land of the “wapiti,” and believing that our desire to kill a bull elk would soon be gratified.

The next day we discovered quite a chain of small lakes about six miles Northward, with no end to elk and bear sign in their vicinity. We saw dozens of fine fat deer at close range but killed none as we were not out to see how much game we could slaughter and let lay in the mountains—as is too often done. We returned to camp early that day, boned our meat, salted it down in the hides under the spruce trees where the sun never shines and covered it up with boughs. Then we folded our bedding, packed some supplies on our jacks, saddled our horses and made a branch camp at one of the newly discovered lakes by 8 o’clock the same evening.

After we had retired we heard a bull elk “bugle —probably a half mile distant—and he came nearer and nearer until he was within 200 yards of the camp. Here he bugled and repeated, striking every note in the staff in a loud, clear, shrill, whistling tone that echoed from park to woodland. It was indeed a grand serenade, but we were so eager for a crack at his elkship that we did not await its conclusion. Hastily kicking aside the blankets we hurriedly dressed and tried to steal a march on him. There being no moon it was quite dark, and we stole along the edge of the spruce near the open park that he was crossing. We could hear him coming and down we crouched near a clump of willows. All was still as death save the rustle of the tall grass at his feet and occasionally a musical bugle, but he was going at right angles from us and passed within 80 yards—close enough to hear him breathe. But alas! We could not make out the outline of his “darned old carcass,” and he gained the shelter of the spruce and bugled again. I tried to answer him but my “bugle” was evidently a sad failure, or else he heard one from a more congenial mate, for he bugled us a loud “good-bye” or “some other evening” that grew fainter and fainter, and shivering with cold we crept back to bed muttering an emphatic good-night to bull elks. 

In the morning we were out early and all keeping together we followed along a high ridge near the lakes. Fresh sign was seen on all favorable ground and we kept a sharp lookout. Presently the splashing of water near at hand attracted our attention and looking down we discovered a band of elk in a little lake just beyond a grove of spruce. The wind was against us, and silently we stole around to the opposite edge of the timber. Here a grand sight met our eyes—a band of forty elk, all cows and calves except on fair sized bull. Some were in the water and others were in an open park. The distance was 300 yards and it was impossible to get a shot at the bull to kill. However we chanced it, and, taking care not to hit the cows and calves, we singled him out and fired together. Off they went like a flash under cover of the spruce, and we followed, finding blood on the trail. After following the trail half a mile we concluded it was a flesh wound and returned to camp—thinking we might have done better and feeling like shooting eight or ten deer we saw while coming back.

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Next morning before sun up we were off in different directions. At this season of the year the elk are beginning to band together, the velvet has just shed from the antlers of the bulls, and the bark can frequently be seen off of spruce trees eight feet from the ground where they have been rubbing their antlers. I made a long trip and struck the fresh trail of a band of elk, mostly bulls as the tracks were large. I followed the trail a mile or more somewhat toward camp and saw they were headed for a large body of spruce timber. As it was about noon and being close to camp I concluded to go in, get something to eat and then ride my horse over to the location of the elk and take my evening hunt, for one hour at sun down is worth the balance of the day in elk hunting. On reaching camp I was joined by Mr. Brown who asked if I had moved the jacks from where he had picketed them out in the morning. I had not and went to the park where they should have been. Gone? Yes, gone! Our Rocky Mountain Mocking Birds had “broke” camp and struck out for home, their pace doubtless accelerated by the scent of a gray silver tip. Mr. Franck and myself, after lunch, saddled our horses and rode over in the direction I had tracked the elk. After going a mile we rode out of the spruce on a point to look over the country. The sun was half an hour high and the shadows of the spruce groves were stretching out over the parks—and this is the hour for the elk to come from the forests and feed in the parks. Sitting quietly in the saddle, our gaze roving over the beautiful landscape, we sighted a band of elk a mile away just emerging from the spruce. We counted eleven; all were large, one in particular, and we remarked that there was an “Old Towser.” He stopped and looked square at us—then moved on. Now was our opportunity. Slipping away from our saddles and leaving the horses for a “blind,” we started on a run through the spruce groves, open parks, up, then down the ravines, across another park and finally reached the last spruce grove that separated us from the game. Stealing quietly through this we reached the edge that fringed the park. Peeping out I saw a great bull elk lying down in the tall grass 140 yards away and looking right at us. I saw he was a monster, and we gave him a double shot. Over he went—then he was up and off into the spruce like a flash! The others fled to the top of the hill and were gone in a second. We followed their trail in a forest of spruce twenty miles wide, found no blood, and the sun went down. We stared blankly into each others faces and wondered if it was possible to miss such a monster. Finally we decided to return to camp and pick up the trail early the next morning. We kicked ourselves back to camp and declared that if we had really missed that elephant we would fold our blankets, go to Canon City and never say elk again.

The next morning we were up with the stars and rode over to where we had left the trail. Staking our horses we were soon tracking the “Monarch of the Glen.” Although the dense spruce forest was tracked by elk, we could easily follow the right one as it was almost an inch deeper and much larger than the other tracks. After tracking 200 yards we saw that one of us had our brand on him for occasionally we found a drop of blood. He kept in the heaviest timber, and I knew that was a good sign for the Indians say, “Heap hurt when go through heap brush!” We tracked him a mile into the heart of the forest to where the ground and logs were covered with a rich, green, velvet-like moss, and where the sun never penetrates. Here we “jumped” him and away he went; we fired five shots after him, and then I ran to the left about forty yards and gained a higher spot of ground from where I got a broadside shot, the ball breaking his left shoulder and down he went! We rushed up to him; he still struggled, shook those massive antlers and eyed us with vengeance. A merciful shot through the heart ended his career. We then gazed in astonishment at his gigantic size. He measured 15 feet and 4 inches from the point of horn to the hind hoof, and girted 9 feet. His antlers are the largest I ever saw; the beams are six feet long and are five feet between the points, having nine perfect points on one beam and eight on the other—hence the name of our camp, “Big Horns.” Old hunters came to see him and they say he is the biggest elk ever killed in this country. He dressed over 700 lbs. of meat. We found that one of us had hit him in the neck the evening before, and on cutting out the bullet, which was imbedded in the neck-bone, it proved to be a Winchester—and my comrade used a Sharps. 

After dressing him we returned to camp, taking some of his meat with us for supper, and as we kindled our camp-fire that night we gave three cheers for the Monarch Bull Elk, Harrison and Morton, and the boys of Tippecanoe.


The next day Mr. Brown returned with our “mocking birds” and we packed in our elk and boned the meat. The next morning we started to move camp again; our animals were packed and we were in the saddle at daylight. We struck a trail and had only gone half a mile when I caught a glimpse of three silver tip bears on the opposite side of an open park we were just entering. Hastily notifying Mr. Brown, who was just behind me, we slipped out of our saddles and started for the game. I gained a bunch of willows between the bears and myself, and Mr. B. kept to the right along the trees. I opened fire and down went a bear. I advanced and continued firing to keep him down. Mr. B. got into position and began shooting, while the other two bears slowly retreated up the hill snarling and stopping occasionally to snap viciously at us. I expected them to come at us, for the one I had shot lay kicking on the ground and squalling terribly; and so I filled the magazine of my gun with cartridges as I ran, expecting a dozen more bears to appear at any moment (I am glad they did not for I was out in the open park with no trees handy.) Mr. Franck, who was some 300 yards behind us fixing his saddle when the rumpus started, came riding into the fight on the dead run, and the first shot from his old Sharps rifle hit a bear in the neck and silenced him forever. The other bear carried off our lead and escaped. I tell you there was music in the air for a few minutes, the constant bang! bang! bang! of our rifles, the snapping and squalling of the bears, the bray of our jacks as they rushed terror-stricken from the scene, and our shouts to each other to “stand your ground and give ‘em h—l!” made up a scene at once exhilaratingly exciting. But it was over in half the time it takes to write it. We came out without a scratch and got two bears out of the three. Their robes are fine and we will have them made into rugs to keep as mementos of a most thrilling experience.

After a close search for an hour we found our jacks huddled together with a part of their packs off and frightened nearly to death. We were soon on the move again and came down to our first camp, satisfied with our day’s sport.

In the early morning we were up early and rode six miles to another locality, and then swung around to a “salt lick” where we had seen a band of mountain sheep several days before. It was sundown when we reached the ridge in front of the “licks,” and we dismounted and quietly crept to the top. Three hundred yards distant was a band of eleven elk standing around the lick. It was too dark to see the antlers, but we were satisfied several of the larger ones were bulls, and singling out our targets we fired. At the first round they rushed up the mountain which was very steep. This gave us an advantage, although we were firing a distance of over three hundred yards. We continued firing until each of us succeeded in killing an elk—Mr. Brown bringing down a fine bull. We dressed them and returned to camp, arriving at 11:30, where we prepared a meal from the fat of the land. 

In the morning we decided that the swelling was out of our necks, broke camp and started for home. We reached the railroad on the 16th and sent eight pack animals and two packers back to camp to bring out the balance of our game. Reached home on the 17th ready for business and feeling that we have a new lease on life which could not be had only through an elk hunt in the Rocky Mountains.

Dall DeWeese
Canon City, Colorado 

The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.



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