"John Bull" on Bears


by Faunce Rochester

ONE of the guides for the Red River expedition of 1852, called "John Bull," was a famous bear-hunter and regaled the officers with many stories. One of the officers in his journal says that the guide's statements were repeated to him by several Indians, in whose veracity he had much confidence. He adds, "I have no doubt they are strictly true."

The guide said the black bear had greater sagacity than almost any other quadruped. Before making a bed the bear always goes several hundred yards with the wind, the officers were told, "at a distance from his track." Any enemy approaching along his track must come with the wind and be detected by the animal's keen nose.

When a black bear hides in a cave in earth or rocks and a hunter tries to smoke him out the bear will not rush forth to be shot, but, masked from view by the smoke, will come as far as the smoldering fire, put it out with his forepaws and then return to his hiding-place.

John, it must be admitted, rather weakened his case when he described the behavior of the bear on being pursued by a hunter into a cave.

The hunter in addition to his rifle of course carried a torch. Instead of being a very dangerous adventure for the hunter, John insisted the bear, on beholding the light, would sit upright and hold his paws over his face and eyes and remain motionless so long as the torch burned. Without risk the hunter approached close and slaughtered the foolish fellow.

Why a hunter should bother to "smoke" out the bear when he can so conveniently crawl into the hole and kill him without risk John is not recorded as saying.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.

The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.