Friday, February 7, 2014

Prelude to a Bison Hunt

Last June I started thinking about a Buffalo hunt on the prairies of the great plains.  Research about the animal to be hunted would provide an understanding about habitat, hunting methods, and time of year when the hunt would be best.  With that in mind, the research started and one of the first places to review was on Wikipedia.  Excellent information was available and a list of references was available that would give me everything needed.

These majestic animals once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds. They became nearly extinct from the commercial hunting done during the 19th century and the movement of the settlers onto the American plain. The animals now exist mainly in National and State Parks throughout the country.  In recent years ranchers have undertaken the job of raising and marketing the animals much the same way as raising beef cattle.

Their coats vary from winter to summer with a long dark brown winter coat to a lighter weight brown summer coat.  After visiting with outfitters, they all recommended hunting in the cold months of December to January to harvest the best thickest and heaviest hide.  The animal is not small.  Head and body range from six to eleven feet with weights up to as high as one ton depending on the age and whether it is a bull or cow.  The buffalo are herbivores and graze on native grasses of the prairies.  Their day will consist of a couple of hours of feeding and then having a rest period of lying down and chewing their cud for a couple of hours.  Then they move on.  Not a bad life, especially if you live on a private ranch where life expectancy can reach 25 years.  Wild buffalo in the parks of the country generally have a life expectancy much shorter. I did not research why, but discovered that periodically a white buffalo will be born.  This condition is extremely rare and these are considered sacred by the Native Americans.

I found it interesting that the animal can jump almost six feet and when running, can reach speeds of up to 35 to 40 mph.  This is something to keep locked in my mind when the time comes for the hunt.  I can't out run it.  They have been described as having a wild and ungovernable temper, and for this reason they are very difficult to control and manage as a domesticated creature.   Since my wife is from Sidney, Nebraska, we had the good fortune of visiting a rancher that raised buffalo.  His fences were very stout and high.  He told us they took very little care.  Just turn them loose and they look after themselves.  We drove out to see part of the herd and were instructed not to leave the truck.  The rancher took a bucket of some commercial feed, shook it, and they came running.  He got back into the truck, pronto.

In the winter when the snow is deep, the buffalo will continue to graze by clearing the snow away from the grass land with their big heads.  This is done by moving the skull back and forth.  When their water supply is frozen, they will eat the snow.  This animal is totally self sufficient. 

The big males will stay to themselves away from the herd.  The herd will be comprised of mostly cows with some adult males.  When the mating season starts, the big bulls will re-join the herd and display their dominance.  A noisy bellow or roar is the method the big bulls do to attract the cows and show their dominance.  The big bulls mate in the first several weeks of the mating season.
If you write about Buffalo, nothing is more fitting than to have a picture of the man himself, Buffalo Bill Cody.

With a feel for the animal, the next step is to plan a hunt with an outfitter either on government property or with a private ranch.  The research continues.


Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank

Click on the links above for great buys.


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