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My days hunting bison


December 06, 2001|By Al Kalin, Special to this newspaper

Only a short distance more and I would be in position for a perfect shot. I still had another 50 feet to crawl before I made it to the safety of a large sage bush without being detected by the brute as he grazed on prairie grass in front of me. It would be the most difficult part of my stalk.

The morning air had a sharp bite and the last frost had just melted from the yellow grass that rustled in the wind. The bison raised his head and scanned in all directions while using his nose to test the scents of the prairie for unseen dangers.

For eons the American bison had relied on the wide-open safety of the plains, an excellent sense of smell and speed to escape his enemy. I was the enemy today and my goal was to reach the sage bush, only a few feet away, so I could make the shot.


The Plains Indian had relied upon his lance and arrows to slay the buffalo for thousands of years and spent countless hours constructing those weapons so they performed to perfection. The arrowheads and spear points required equal time to knap correctly from flint or obsidian. If done right, the sharpness of the points would exceed even the finest quality of surgical knives used by doctors today.

The bison was the Indian's lifeblood. Without this noble beast, the Indian would certainly have perished. Every part of the huge slain bison was used in one form or another to make it through the tough winters.

Before the explorers introduced horses to North America, the Indian relied upon his cunning ability and skills to sneak close enough to make a kill.

Early that morning I had rubbed fresh sage and dried buffalo dung over my body to hide my human odor. A mixture of different colors covered many of the exposed parts of my body, so I blended with my surroundings and become invisible to the bison.

Today I was an Indian, using the same cunning techniques the Plains Indian had used for centuries to provide food for his clan.

As I slowly slithered through the grass, pushing my bow and quiver ahead of me, I could smell the bison. That was good. It meant the wind was perfect and there was no chance he would catch a whiff of my disguised odor. My heart was pounding in my chest and my body shaking from the cold and excitement when I finally reached the safety of the sage bush. It took a full minute to catch my breath and calm my nerves.

The wooly beast was grazing straight toward me. My chance at a shot came soon, as the bison swung his massive head back toward his rear hocks to swipe at the deer flies with his tongue.

In one slow, fluid motion, I silently rose, while bringing my bow to full draw. Quickly sighting down the shaft, I held my breath and released the arrow. It flew true and imbedded itself between the bison's front legs with a resounding "thunk," while slicing through the main artery at the top of his heart. As the large bull staggered and stood shaking, his life giving fluid gushed out and formed a large pool around him.

"Li'l Al, what in tarnation you do'n outside?" screamed my nanny, Ruthie Mae, coming up behind me. "Turn my head for one minute and you end up in the back yard practically buck naked with nothin' but yo underpants on," she said.

"I'm a Plains Indian and I just killed a bison …. we're set for the winter," I replied.

"Is dat mud or your body?" she continued as her voice rose an octave higher. "How come you smells like citrus and dog dookie?"

"I was masking my odor so he wouldn't smell me," I said. "Well I sho enough can smell you. I'm gonna have to hose you off before you go inside for a bath," she replied as she bustled around picking up my bow and quiver.

"Where's your arrow?" Ruthie Mae asked, looking in the hibiscus bush with the broken limbs from where I had taken the shot.

"It's in the bison," I calmly answered.

"Oh lordy, lordy, have mercy," Ruthie Mae moaned, looking over the fence. "You done shot one the new cars in Mr. Keith's storage lot," she wailed as green liquid continued to gurgle out of the radiator and pooled around the brand new 1954 Chevrolet.

I was still whimpering and it was painful to sit by the time Shorty Keith, from Keith and Womack Chevrolet, knocked on our door, holding my arrow with green liquid still dripping from the arrowhead.

The whipping I received is blurred in my memory. Psychiatrists tell us that the brain tends to hide catastrophic events in our life.

It was many years later, while I was away at college, before I felt it was safe enough to buy a bow, but that's another story.

>> Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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