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A Bit of History

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This is from 1988.

 

SHUFFLE OFF FOR BUFFALO

 

Copyright by Tony Mandile

 

Charles Jones roamed much of the West and Midwest during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. His earned the nickname "Buffalo" because of his skill at hunting the American bison during the time the big animals roamed the plains by the millions.

 

Although Jones isn't exactly a household name, his legacy to Arizona is still quite evident today. At the turn of the century, he decided to introduce elk and buffalo into Arizona, choosing the North Kaibab Plateau as the site for his experiment.

 

Jones planned to sell the hunting rights for both species. He also intended to crossbreed the bison with domestic cattle, winding up with a hybrid animal called either a cattalo or beefalo. Supposedly, these critters would provide the same benefits of beef cattle but would be much hardier, capable of living through weather and on land unsuited to domestic stock. Though the elk transplant never materialized, Jones did bring buffalo to Arizona.

 

Jones and his friend, lion hunter Jim Owens, had captured a herd of buffalo in the Texas panhandle in the 1880s and moved them to Kansas. Later, part of the herd wound up in Monterey, California. Jones transferred 35 from there by way of Lund, Utah to the North Kaibab in 1905. He brought another 87 from the Kansas herd to Arizona a year later.

 

Jones eventually became disenchanted with raising buffalo and rounded up as many as possible in 1909. He drove the buffs into Utah and sold them. Unknowingly, however, he left some strays behind. These became the property of the Grand Canyon Cattle Company, owned by none other than Jimmie Owens.

 

By 1927, when the state purchased the herd for $10,000, the stray buffs had increased to 98 animals. The herds inhabiting Houserock Valley and the Raymond Ranch, established in 1945, are the descendants of those.

 

According to the historians, the American bison might have existed in Arizona during prehistoric times. In contrast, estimates of their numbers living in the rest of the country during the 19th century often mention billions. In reality a truer estimate would be in the millions. When Lewis and Clark explored westward, they told of masses of buffalo, sometimes numbering more than 20,000 within sight of their wagons. The explorers also related how the huge herds darkened the Great Plains and seemingly made the land look like it was constantly moving. Other accounts tell of the concern the settlers had for their own safety as they occasionally used up several days moving their wagons through a single herd.

 

Before the white man began his move West, the buffalo's only enemy was the American Indian. For them, the big mammal meant survival. The meat from one could feed an entire village for days. The hides became clothing and shelter. Because the buffalo provided these basic necessities of life and were so numerous, the tribes depended on them. They followed a particular herd for months at a time and developed ways to harvest the beasts with the primitive weapons available to them.

 

Stampeding a herd to its death was a favorite technique. Indians on horseback drove the animals off a steep cliff or into dead-end canyons where they systematically dispatched them with spears or arrows. Some Indian hunters covered themselves with a buffalo hide and stalked into the herd or waited patiently for one to come to their imitation call of a calf in distress. Yet, while the Indians used the buffalo to survive, the white man was responsible for its downfall.

 

Expeditions, made up of hunters from eastern America and Europe, came out west with the express idea of slaughter in mind. To them, the final tally of dead bison on the ground was a sign of their success.

 

When train travel across the Great Plains later became a reality, the slaughter continued. While crews laid the tracks for the iron horses, hired buffalo hunters kept them supplied with meat. Usually, they removed only the choice parts and left the rest to rot or as food for scavengers.

 

Once completed, the railroads provided a new sport. Shooting the animals from a slow-moving train turned into the entertainment of choice for westward-bound passengers. Naturally, given the weapons of the day and inexperience of those shooting the large creatures, many buffalo died a lingering death after being wounded.

 

Finally, in the 1870s, a new boom helped put the American bison closer to extinction. With the advent of a revolutionary tanning process, the trade in buffalo hides expanded. The leather was far more durable than cowhide, and the grand buffalo population made it fairly easy to obtain. Both the white man and Indian quickly entered the hide-trading market. While the Indians continued to use the entire buffalo, the white hunters usually removed the hide and left the rest. Most were shipped off to Europe for tanning.

 

In 1884, congress finally passed legislation protecting the buffalo from further damage. Unfortunately, by then it was too late. The slaughter had taken its toll earlier. Already in 1883, few bison remained on the Great Plains. Some historians say the population in the U.S. had dropped below 800. Since than, the buffalo number has increased to about 30,000 in North America. Thanks to Charlie Jones, about 200 now live in Arizona.

 

The first state-authorized buffalo hunt occurred in 1927 at Houserock. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), the new custodians for the animals, handed out 17 special permits and took the lucky hunters onto the buffalo range to kill an animal. Every year until 1961, the department allowed the state's sportsmen to cull the excess animals in this way.

 

Although most fully grown bison average between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds, some can weigh 2,500 pounds or more. Consequently, killing one in the field was merely the beginning of the hard work to follow. The animal had to be skinned, quartered and transported back to the ranch headquarters. Considering the weight and bulk of the buffalo, this sometimes was difficult. In 1962, no doubt to ease some of the post-kill chore, the AGFD drastically changed the hunting method. The result was a hunt more appropriately called a "shoot."

 

Each hunter who drew a permit also received a date and time for the "shoot." The department then rounded up the excess animals for culling and placed them in a large corral. Here, the "hunters" waited in three-man relays to shoot in the order their permits specified.

 

The first hunter took his choice of three animals that were moved into the shooting pen. The second killed one of the remaining two buffalo, and the last hunter wound up with the third. A top shooter from the game department served as a back-up if a hunter only wounded his target.

 

For the price of the permit, the AGFD provided the skinning and processing and gave the hunter the head, hide and one quarter of the meat. He also had the option of buying the rest of the meat for the same price per quarter as the permit fee. If he passed, anyone willing to pay the price could buy the meat.

 

In 1973, the corral shoot became the focus of much controversy when the movie "Bless The Beasts And The Children" showed in America's theaters. The AGFD had allowed the filming to take place during one of the hunts. Unfortunately, the filmmakers had shrouded their intentions in a bit of mystery. The final editing made the hunt appear like an inhumane slaughter and raised the hackles of people across the nation.

 

In reality, though truly not a hunt, the procedure was efficient. Dispatching a wounded buffalo was easy, permit holders had a 100 percent success and the harvesting of surplus animals was exact. Because of the criticism, however, the department reacted by returning to the earlier method.

 

Another change came about in 1981. The price of a permit went up, and hunters kept the entire animal. The "Catch 22" was each hunter was responsible for taking care of his trophy; no longer did the department provide skinning and processing.

 

A year later, the first REAL buffalo hunt occurred at Houserock Valley. A permit holder no longer would have a game department employee holding his hand in the field. The entire process of killing a buff and getting it out of the field became the hunter's responsibility.

 

Because fences surround Houserock Ranch to keep the buffalo from roaming across northern Arizona, the hunt sounds quite easy. In fact, it can be very difficult. The ranch encompasses about 60,000 acres, including some rugged hills, deep canyons and large stand of trees. To make matters worst, the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 changed a large chunk of the ranch into part of a national wilderness area --- closing it to vehicle use. Thus, a hunter within the wilderness boundaries must either ride a horse or walk. Of course, when he kills a buffalo he must get it out the same way.

 

At Raymond Ranch, the first hunt occurred in 1950. Because of its size --- about 14,700 acres --- all hunts remain like the original one at Houserock; an AGFD employee goes afield with the hunter to help him harvest a buff.

 

Beginning with the 1989 season, nonresident hunters may take part in the state buffalo hunt for the first time. The new regulation limits the number of nonresident permits to 10 percent of the total available in any calendar year. It also stipulates no more than 50 percent or two tags for a hunt number will go to out-of-staters.

 

Fortunately for residents, the nonresident fee might discourage some applicants. The price for an adult bull or any buffalo is $3,750. One specifically for a cow will cost $2,250, and a calf permit will be $1,200. In comparison, a resident pays $750, $450 and $240 respectively.

 

The odds of drawing a tag are not as bad as some people believe. Although the permits usually average about 50 a year, first-choice applicants have about a one-in-six chance of being drawn. Compared to some of the elk and sheep hunts, those are pretty decent odds.

 

Arizona's buffalo population averages about 200, about equally divided between the two ranches. The number of permits normally reflect how many animals must be harvested so the herd remains within the limits their habitat can support.

 

In 1987, the department authorized 41 permits --- 26 at Raymond Ranch and 15 at Houserock. First choice applications numbered 217. Last year, about 300 hunters vied for the 61 permits available for the October season.

 

Although the buffalo population and present day hunting pales compared to what they were a century ago, we should be thankful the magnificent animal still survives. We should also be thankful to Charlie "Buffalo" Jones. Without his folly, the bison, in all probability, never would have set foot in Arizona.

 

----- 30 -----

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In talking about AZ buffalo I believe there needs to be mention of how in resent years, some people with the Grand Canyon park service are arguing that these historical buffalo don't belong. And have been taking steps to press that issue.

 

But on the other hand, some also like them because it is a major tourist attraction. So they are having a delima there.

Some argue that the buffalo are eroding the park. Besides the fact that I guess we would hate to erode the largest erosion hole in the world. There is much more evidence of forest mismanagement and the millions of visitors each year doing more damage to the park than the cloven hoof buffalo.

 

Some are arguing the excuse that Arizona is not traditional buffalo range to push the extermination of this historical House Rock herd.

And I guess that would be OK if you were to ignore all the facts.

"The Earliest written record of bison in Arizona is the sighting of a small herd in Northern Arizona by a Spanish Conquistador in the 1500's, with archaeological evidence from the 1200's. Native Americans left pictographs of bison in Kanab creek just north of the Arizona-Utah border and at 18 other locations in Utah. The sighting by conquistadors and the pictographs suggest bison have occurred at least occasionally in northern Arizona"

I guess maybe it comes down to how far back you want to look? I'm sure there were no Buffalo around here with the dinosaurs, if one wants to call that traditionally.

 

They also argue that they are not "Pure Buffalo" and that they have small traces of cattle in them from "Buffalo Jones" experiment, and that we should get rid of them because of that. If that is the case some people might suggest that we start by culling the non genetically pure wolves first. Studies and records show that only about 10% of the bison in the world are genetically "pure". And recent studies also show that there WERE buffalo found in Arizona with "Pure" Buffalo genetics.

 

Reality is that AZ buffalo, as one of only 3 free ranging herds in the world, are here to stay and deserve to stay.

 

The true dilemma is not "How do we get rid of these buffalo" it lies in "how to keep the buffalo numbers managed" and keep them from over populating. These buffalo are very smart and know exactly where the Park line is at.

In the end the answer lies in the Park Service realizing a way to let more of these buffalo be managed by the Game and Fish. Meaning to be managed by the public.

 

 

Besides, If they got rid of all the buffalo, they would have to change their National Park symble. lol! ;)

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Tony:

 

Were you aware that AZGFD maintained a herd of bison at Fort Huachuca for a while?

 

Here's what I wrote in my book, "Sixty Years A Hunter," about that herd and the way the hunts used to be held on House Rock:

 

 

I drew an Arizona bison tag the first year I applied. By then, I had graduated from the University of Arizona and was working as the advertising manager for Levy's, Tucson's largest department store at the time. My boss was the sales promotion manager, a man named Ulysses Charles Drayer, a short, gruff man and my mentor. I had been a student in the marketing course he taught at the University of Arizona and he'd hired me to assist him under the university's work/study program. I'd attended classes with Charlie's son, Gary, who was more interested in learning about hunting than in following his father's footsteps in business. When I drew my tag to hunt a bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon I invited Gary to accompany me.

 

Coincidentally, the turkey season was scheduled to open on the same weekend as my hunt. In those days turkey hunters could buy their tags at sporting goods stores, which Gary and I did.

 

I was only only twenty-two or twenty-three years old, and no one had told me how Arizona's bison hunt was conducted before we arrived at the corrals in House Rock Valley on the date and time specified in the letter that arrived with my tag. I expected to have to spend a day or two, just trying to find a herd. What I hadn't known was that this was a shoot and not a hunt. Game and Fish Department employees rounded up the buffalo they wanted removed from House Rock Valley and drove them into a corral. Two tag holders at a time were positioned in the middle of a large enclosure and a chute was opened, releasing two bison into the arena. The first shooter (selected by a coin toss) chose an animal and shot it. The second shooter got to shoot the remaining animal. The dead bison were hauled to a skinning shed and two more shooters were brought in. I was horrified, but I was young and wanted to collect a bison. I now wish I'd refused to take part in what was happening.

 

The game department required tag holders to attend a pre-hunt indoctrination lecture on site where we were told that we would ruin too much meat if we shot our bison behind the shoulder. Instead we should aim for a two-inch spot below the ear and behind the base of the horn. If we hit that spot we would break the animal's neck and drop it instantly, a Game and Fish Department employee claimed.

 

“Bless the Beasts and Children,” Glendon Swarthout's book* about Arizona's bison shoot, had been released a few months earlier. It told about a group of juvenile misfits who ran away from a summer camp and attempted to stop the “hunt.” I'm ashamed to say that at the time I sided with the Game and Fish Department and the state's major sportsmen's groups in believing this was the most efficient and humane way to manage the herd. Besides, bison could be seen and enjoyed by the public in Arizona only because hunters paid to keep them around. I was young and foolish enough to believe that if the “experts” at Game and Fish said the best way to “hunt” bison was to shoot them in a pen then they must know what they were talking about. What they meant, however, was that it was easier for them to manage the “harvest.”

 

Because of the furor the book raised, and despite the fact that House Rock Valley is a long way from anywhere, Life Magazine and at least one other national publication and every large newspaper in Arizona sent reporters and camera crews there to cover the shoot that year. When it was my turn in the arena I walked out slowly. I didn't want to screw up with thirty or forty people watching and photographing me.

 

I'd retired my lever-action .303 Savage and now was carrying a J.C. Higgins .270 Winchester with a 4X scope. I'd bought it and two boxes of ammunition on sale at Sears for $80. Since then, I'd had written and designed a brochure and an advertising campaign for a Tucson gunsmith named Harry Lawson, swapping my work for his. Harry did some minor metal work on the FN Mauser action and restocked my Sears rifle with what he called his “Cochise Thumbhole” stock using a highly figured blank of curly maple. My bison would be my “custom” rifle's first victim.

 

When the chute was opened two bison dashed out and ran around the perimeter of the arena. They stopped suddenly when they reached a spot where several other bison had died that morning. I was the first shooter, so I shot the one with the largest horns when it dropped its head to smell the blood in the sand. A cloud of dirt erupted where I'd aimed below and behind the horn as instructed, but the bison only shook its head and didn't go down. I could hear the gallery say “Ooooooooh” while I worked the bolt, brought another round into the chamber, and quickly shot again. More than half of the people watching from outside the corral applauded when my bison collapsed without kicking. Gary photographed me with my “trophy” before a truck drove into the corral, winched up the animal, and drove it to a shed where Game and Fish employees gutted, skinned, and quartered it. I was allowed to keep only the head and hide and one quarter of the meat. The remainder was sold to raise funds earmarked for maintaining the herd.

 

I was not proud of what I'd done that morning, and I'm still not.

 

"Bless the Beasts and the Children -- the book, film, and song -- did what hunters should have done years before Gary and I drove to House Rock Valley. It put pressure on the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission to make our buffalo hunting a true hunt. Hunters who draw tags on House Rock Valley now go out by themselves and search for bison that are roaming vast unfenced areas. They may draw only one bison tag in their lifetimes. If their hunts are unsuccessful (as some are) they cannot apply again.

 

 

Gary and I left House Rock Valley the afternoon I shot my bison, drove to Jacob Lake, and then on to a place called “Turkey Springs.” Neither of us had been on the fabled Kaibab Plateau before that day but we'd found the springs on a topographical map and figured that any place with a name like that had to be a good spot for hunting turkeys. We were about six hundred yards from the springs when we parked our car and loaded our shotguns. We'd walked only a few yards when we saw the heads of a hen turkey and her nearly grown poults moving rapidly through the grass in front of us. Gary and I shot at about the same time, and then ran to where our birds were flopping.

 

As I would learn over the next half century, turkey hunting is seldom that easy.

 

 

Arizona's bison were brought here by a remarkable man named Charles Jesse “Buffalo" Jones, a flamboyant former buffalo hunter, showman, and wild animal capture expert. Jones rode in the Great Land Rush, and was appointed the first game warden at Yellowstone National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt. He also roped a lion, rhino and various antelope in Africa, and captured several young muskoxen in Canada, but he was best known as one of the saviors of the North American bison. Arizona's herds are descended from animals he bought from private owners in Texas and Canada and shipped to a railhead in southern Utah, where he and two cowboys on horseback drove them overland from the railhead at Lund, Utah, to his ranch in House Rock Valley on the North Rim of Grand Canyon. His attempt to cross bison and domestic cattle to create a hardier meat animal was a failure, however.

 

Some of his animals wound up at Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army post on the Mexican border about ninety miles southeast of Tucson. The post was closed when the bison were released there, and when it was reactivated the army asked the game department to remove them. Some were rounded up and shipped to the agency's two bison ranches, and a few were shipped to Mexico in a wildlife trade, but all the others were shot by hunters chosen by a lottery -- all but one bison, that is.

 

That animal, a big bull, escaped and wandered around the San Rafael valley and into Sonora, Mexico, for a couple of years until nearly everyone had forgotten about it. When it reappeared, ranchers again began complaining about the beast destroying their fences. Alex Jacome and I were among those who went looking for it when the Arizona Game and Fish Commission declared it to be an unprotected animal, but it wasn't a hunter who found it. The bull walked into the courtyard at the Little Outfit Guest Ranch, fell into the swimming pool, and couldn't get out. The Game and Fish Department was called and the waterlogged animal was rescued and shipped to the commission's Raymond Ranch near Flagstaff.

 

Bill Quimby

 

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How fortunate we are to have Tony and Bill here on this site. I mean that seriously. They both are an encyclepedia at our disposal. Thanks guys for being part of cwt. :)

 

TJ

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wow

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Very good and informative reading! So is there any belief that only the northern part of the state had the buffs originally or are they believed to of been more dispersed amongst the state?? Always wonder how an animal like grizzly bears and the wolf gets so much love from the bleeding hearts but you never hear of restoration, reintroduction efforts for animals like the buffaloes, antelope. mule deer, etc, with the exception of hunter supported conservation groups.

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Food for thought as to when buffalo showed up in Arizona:

 

East of Bloody Basin, I have seen a petroglyph of a buffalo. If i can find the pic i took, I'll scan and post it.

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Food for thought as to when buffalo showed up in Arizona:

 

East of Bloody Basin, I have seen a petroglyph of a buffalo. If i can find the pic i took, I'll scan and post it.

 

 

I may have dreamed this, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the remains of a bison calf had been dug up near Casa Grande and that someone had speculated it may have been captured elsewhere, brought here and treated as a deity.

 

But I also may have read this in a novel. I simply don't remember.

 

If there actually was such a find, this could help explain your petroglph.

 

It also could have been made by someone who had seen bison in their known range. Some of those guys wandered all over the country, trading sea shells, flint, and other items where such things didn't exist. At any rate, bison are supposed to have been absent in Arizona long before our petroglyphs were made.

 

Do you have any photos of petroglyphs showing elk and javelinas in Arizona? I don't know of any, and that's strange. Merriam elk and javelinas should have been around in good numbers. I've found lots of rock art clearly showing deer, antelope, bighorn, and birds, but no elk or pigs. Weird.

 

Bill Quimby

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and grizzly bears, I have seen a few petroglyphs of BIG bears next to people, first one that comes to mind is the on the sandstone cliff between Maxwell Trail and Tramway Trail on West Clear Creek.....

 

I like thousand year old graffiti, just wish I could read it.

 

There was some rock art in Dinwoody Canyon on the Wind River Rez in Wyo and an old Shoshone with the last name of Bonatsi could read it. At least the stories he told seemed to connect with the pictures and made sense at the time. This was 40+ years ago and he was in his 80's then. Now that I am old I regret not getting the stories from these old timers, myths, legends and real life events they lived through.

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Bill.

 

Archaeologist that I have talked to have said that javalina did not move into the state until about the time the Spanish came in and that they do not find their bones in the Indian village trash piles. I know they didnot show up around Prescott until the 1960's and now they are at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Bill.

 

Archaeologist that I have talked to have said that javalina did not move into the state until about the time the Spanish came in and that they do not find their bones in the Indian village trash piles. I know they didnot show up around Prescott until the 1960's and now they are at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

 

Cabeza de Vaca reached this region in the very early 1500s and Coronado and his conquistadores got to Arizona about 20 years later. I was under the impression that many petroglyphs were more recent than that. For example, one of my clients has a winter home outside Santa Clara, Utah, and has rock art on his property that depicts the meeting of the local tribe with the Domínguez-Escalante expedition in 1776. How much later the early people were "writing" on rocks I can't say, but 1776 is only 235 years ago. I have relatives and knew people who hunted javelinas in Arizona Territory just 100 years after that.

 

It is a fact that javelinas have been moving north, though, and not entirely on their own. The Game and Fish Department released a number of them near Prescott and elsewhere in the 1960s and 70s. When I was a boy in the 1940s, hunters were saying they weren't found north of the Gila River. We now know that wasn't true, of course, but it was true that their primary range was south of the river.

 

What I'd really like to know is why there are few (if any) elk among many examples of Arizona rock art. Or, for that matter, why are there so few tools and jewelry made from elk bones and teeth in those trash piles? If there were Merriam elk here, shouldn't archaeologists be digging up piles of such stuff?

 

Bill Quimby

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Good points Bill.

 

Now I am going to have to find my book "The Rocks Begin to Speak" and see if there is any elk or javalina petroglyphs mentioned in it.

 

There may have been some type of taboo about making rock art about animals with nipples that stink on their backs.

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