This is Ted Bartsch again with more of my reminiscing about those days long gone and incidents that seemed and still seem important and interesting to me.
I presume that hunting fever is still raging through this country, and that’s the main reason for going back to those days when we hunted meat in this country, which was really necessary in many cases to keep starvation away. If my memory serves me right it was back in 1930 — the first year that my mother came here — that this story took place.
I had found a moose-lick and a real good one. For anyone who doesn’t know what a moose-lick is, it was a spot where there was salt and other minerals that moose and deer liked mixed in the mud. The stuff leaked out of the ground and mixed in the soil. It looked just like mud and real dirty mud at that, but animals liked it. This lick was about four miles west and one mile south of the present Tomslake store which was a part of the old Gundy ranch at that time. I had no one to help me put up a perch that I thought would be a big improvement if not a necessity. At least I had no one until my old dad and mother arrived at the ranch, where they stayed for several years. I immediately approached my mother to help me.
There were two big spruce trees about eight feet apart near where the critters approached the lick. My idea was to put the perch about thirty feet up between these two trees. The idea was, of course, to get up high enough that the animals would neither see nor smell me. I was to trim all the brush off the one tree, and make it into a ladder using the limbs as rungs. Then we could easily climb to the perch where we could sit in comfort while choosing the kind of moose or deer we wanted. I had counted as many as sixteen at the lick in a two-hour period.
However, I am getting ahead of my story, which is the erecting of this perch, by me, with my mother to help me. We rode in by saddle horse. Our first job was to cut and trim about thirty poles ten feet long, and three inches in diameter, and drag them to the two spruce trees. We were prepared with an axe and lots of rope with a pulley. I got above the place we wanted the perch to be; ready to lash them to the tree with moose hide strings we had cut and dried for this occasion.
After I got the rope through the pulley and back down to my mother, her job started. She was to tie the poles on one end of the rope, and tie the other end on a little horse we called Zip. By driving Zip she would hoist the pole up to me, where I would lash it to the tree with the fresh cut moose hide strips. It took us a good three hours but eventually it was up to our satisfaction. It was used many times by many people.
Not many years ago my wife Florence and I walked out there. The perch was still there just as we had left it many years ago. I don’t think it is used much, because it didn’t look like the meeting place for many wild creatures that it had been. It was worn as bare as any corral, and so were the many paths leading to it.
My mother always claimed that was one of the hardest jobs she was ever asked to do, but any of you that knew her remember that at the age of sixty-five, as she was then, she was still game to try anything.
She had certainly earned the right to be the first to use the perch, so she and I went hunting the next day. She climbed the tree and waited on the perch. It was almost a success, except for one thing — she wouldn’t stand for me to kill anything. It was just a case of “look”. We did see several moose and several deer, and one black bear and two cubs.
My wife Florence and I made many trips on saddle horse around the old lick, and many other parts of the old ranch, which was thirty-six sections big or small, whichever you like. We certainly saw many wild things, but she, like my mother wouldn’t kill, but just “see” and now I do too.
One little story about that old lick would always make me chuckle. One neighbour we had lived at Tupper creek along Swan Lake. Somehow he found out about the moose lick and perch and decided to try his luck by himself. His luck would have been good but he made one mistake causing himself some real embarrassment plus some painful memories. All went well at first. He found the site; he found the tree and got real comfortable on the perch and had just time to have himself a cup of coffee from a thermos he had with him. He heard something coming in and prepared himself for a shot at a moose.
Unfortunately it turned out to be a big old sow black bear with two cubs. This was a real big disappointment to Einar. After about fifteen minutes when she was still there and showed no sign of leaving he made a big mistake.
He decided to scare them out with a shot. Well, he scared them all right! He also confused them, so that they didn’t know where the shot came from or the best way to make a retreat. However, they saw the tree that Einar had gone up. It looked like pretty good climbing, so up they went! Einar got so excited that the first thing he did was drop his rifle. Einar was only fifteen years old. He was so startled at this turn of events that he didn’t know what to do, but he started down the tree that hadn’t been cleared off. The limbs were mighty thick. Between climbing and falling part way, he got back down to the ground.
According to Einar’s story, which he told me many years later, the last he saw when he looked back was the two bears sitting on the perch with his thermos bottle, and lunch kit. All Einar had was a mess of scratches on his face and hands. His pants and shirt were pretty nearly all torn off and his dignity shot all to _____. As far as I know he never went back there.
The lick and perch were used many, many times when I wanted game in a hurry. We eventually got it down to a science — drive a mile from the lick with a team of horses and wagon with a tripod and endless chain. After shooting and bleeding the animal, I’d drive up with the wagon, set up the tripod and lift the moose high enough to drop into the wagon. I would then take it home hide and all because I didn’t want to make a slaughterhouse out of such a beautiful spot as that was.
On arriving home, my dad, who had been a butcher in his younger days, would soon have the carcass skinned, cut up, and in the meat house. Our meat house was generally full with a beef or a moose, a pig and probably some prairie chickens and partridge as well. They were all plentiful and a good thing they were as there were generally at least twenty-five of us eating out of it.