Mr. Hunter: That’s a trapper’s life. When you are on the line you are always looking for signs–where the animals are and where they go in order to set your traps. So your eyes are always automatically glancing from side to side. Nothing misses your notice. You don’t think about it. I think that’s why bushman’s eyes are always so good. Their eyes are continually exercising. The Indians, of course, are experts at that.
I remember when I was going up with Henry Courvosier the first time, traveling on the old Indian trail [to Fort Nelson]. Along about noon we came to a place where some Indians were camped. There was sign of fire and a little cache, containing some meat partly dried. They were away bringing in some more. We were out of meat, so we ate, but we left them some tea and things that they would enjoy, and went on and camped in a nice little meadow. Two Indian boys came in with their packhorses loaded with meat, on the gallop as usual. They never stop to spare the horses.
They brought some of their meat over to our campfire, roasted it a bit, and started eating. As they usually did then they took a bite, cutting it off with their hunting knife right at their nose–just like Eskimos.
While they were eating they were looking at the grass. Finally they asked Henry, who could understand a little of their language “Who went through here about ten days ago with horses?” Henry remembered that Joe Clark had come out with horses just about that time. Now those boys could tell by the ends of the grass — it dries up a little after it is cropped. Now these weren’t old hunters, they were just two young boys. You can see how early they learn to read sign–just like reading a book. That’s why an Indian never steals from another Indian. All the signs are there. They can’t get away with it.
“One time”, continued Mr. Hunter, ” I went out with an Indian, a man in his forties, a family man whom they called ‘Baby’, his white name. He was a very good moose hunter. In those days there weren’t very many moose around Fort Nelson. You didn’t just go out, see a moose and shoot it–you had to track it.
That time Baby had hair down to his shoulders, and he put a red handkerchief on to keep it out of his eyes. Five or six miles out he suddenly showed me a moose track and he was off. I had a hard time to keep up to him. He first went back a short way–then forward in the way it was going. In that short time he knew all about that moose, what size and kind it was and how it was going. Baby was sliding through the brush just like a snake–it kept me at a run to follow. He wasn’t making a sound. They are very supple–very active. He could tell, just by a piece of grass that was bent over or a leaf turned upside down–things like that. We followed quite a way. Finally we stopped. He showed me a little bush whose top was cropped off. The moose was starting to browse. “Pretty soon we’ll get him,” he said.
We went on very slowly and carefully until he thought the moose might have nearly eaten his fill. Then he wet his finger to find which way the wind was blowing. A moose, after feeding, makes a circle and then beds down—always down wind from its own track. That way if anything is following, he smells it, or maybe hears or sees it. So we started making half circles, and coming back to the track, until finally we saw the moose.
That’s how they got a moose in those days. It was no effort. Their life depended on their tracking. They are good at it. The white man learns to be the same.
“Yes, that’s why an Indian never steals from another Indian, he is sure to be caught. In my experience they never stole from a white man either.”