Hunting at Green Lake
by Richard Dart1
In the early years of our coming to Green Lake, there was plenty of small game — ducks, pigeons, and prairie-chickens. Deer were plentiful, except when they went south in winter to escape the cold. There were likewise wild turkeys and plenty of geese. Elk and moose were found upon Willow River, and occasionally around Green Lake. Shed elk and moose horns were then often found here; some weighed from sixty to seventy pounds. We saw no buffalo, but their wallows and chips and horns were visible, and seemed recent. Le Roy said that he had seen these prairies black with buffalo. The elk and moose soon went north, or disappeared. In cold, dreary winters, game was scanty.
Green Lake was much resorted to by Indians, but Lakes Rush and Puckaway more so, because of the abundance of wild rice, ducks, and fish. In winter, when these lakes had frozen over, and Green was still open, the latter would be visited by immense flocks of big mallards.
In tracking game, the Indians relied on stealth and skill, rather than marksmanship. They were generally indifferent shots, and had very poor "agency" guns. But they stole noiselessly upon their game, made no noise when they walked, and displayed remarkable sagacity in getting close to their prey unawares. They took no chances with dangerous game; many of them would shoot at the same animal simultaneously, to make sure.
One afternoon, late in the season, we saw a lonely deer stalk past our camp, and down the lake valley, where we lost sight of him. That evening, an Indian came along. We told him of the deer. He said, "I get him." "Oh," we said, "you can't. He's far away by this time." "Yes," he replied, "I get him tomorrow," and he lay down near our camp to sleep. We laughed at him, but he was as good as his word. Rising early, he did not follow the track of the deer, but started across-lots, down the valley, and got around the animal, which, as he anticipated, had, after a long journey, laid down tired, for a night's rest. The Indian shot him, almost before he waked. We boys followed the trail closely, next day, and proved that it was the same animal we had seen.
Notes to the Text
1 The following narrative was secured by Rev. Samuel T. Kidder of McGregor, Iowa, in 1906, when president of Ripon Historical Society. Mr. Kidder had several interviews with Richard Dart, and much of the narrative is in the latter's own phrasing. Afterwards, when in manuscript, it was carefully revised by him. Richard Dart, son of Anson and Eliza Catlin Dart, was born May 12, 1828 in New York city. His removal with his father's family to the township of Dartford, Wis., is herein narrated. Mr. Dart still lives in the vicinity in excellent health, and with a remarkable memory for his early Wisconsin experiences.
Commentary. "Green Lake" – "Rush" – "Puckaway" — the proximity of these lakes to one another can be seen on this map:
|Lake Puckaway, Green Lake, and Rush Lake|
From the farthest shore of Lake Puckaway to the farthest shore of Rush Lake is about 26 miles.
|The Greater Prairie Chicken|
"prairie-chickens" — called kšó in Hocąk, a bird that is now rare due to habitat loss. "[It was] estimated that the original breeding range extended north to a line from what is now River Falls east to Green Bay, then south — east to Lake Winnebago — to Milwaukee."1
"Le Roy" — in an earlier footnote, Dart says, "Pete (probably Pierre) Le Roy was a half-breed trader-farmer, whose plantation lay four or five miles south of us, three miles due south of where the Centre House now stands. Le Roy had a big spring on his place, the source of a creek that bears his name (43.766738, -88.972003, the center of Section 16, 1901 Green Lake Township map). He was a son of the Le Roy at the Portage, mentioned in Wis. Hist. Colls., vii, pp. 346, 360; see also Mrs. Kinzie, Waubun (102, 110, 121-122, 131-132, 275), for whom Pierre Roy acted as guide in 1831. He was in Pauquette's employ, and moved on as the country settled. One of his daughters, a pretty girl, went insane, to Le Roy's great grief."2
Notes to the Commentary
1 Samuel D. Robbins, Wisconsin Birdlife: Population & Distribution Past & Present (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991) 234.
2 Dart, The Settlement of Green County," 256 nt. 8.
Richard Dart, The Settlement of Green County," Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at it Annual Meeting, Volume 57 (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1910) 252-272 [260-261].