Early Hunting in Barnes County

The valley of the Sheyenne River was considered to be excellent hunting country by the Native Americans and the early French fur traders prior to settlement by white people.  Muskrats, mink, bob cats, bear, elk, moose and beaver were plentiful.  Buffalo roamed the prairie and annual hunts were carried on by the inhabitants of Pembina; sometimes as many as two hundred hunters forming a hunting party, complete with families and a Catholic Priest.

With the coming of the white man, the buffalo herds were decimated.  However, the first years of settlement of Barnes County were good years for the hunter.  In July of 1879, buffalo were found in the upper part of the county.  In November, Charley Walker and Cole Chapman shot two deer and a 500 pound elk, and in December, John Daily shot three deer with a muzzle loading rifle.  Trappers were busy with fox, badger, wolf, muskrat, antelope and deer and fur prices were good.

In February, 1880, four elk and three deer were shot at the Ashtabula Crossing, and in March, Mr. Dennett of Bald Hill Creek brought a very large elk to Valley City and sold it to Mr. Weiser, the general store owner.  That same month, E. W. Wylie shot forty three deer and an antelope within fifteen miles of the city limits.

Prior to the building of the mill dams on the Sheyenne, fish was exceptionally good and the paper reported the catch of a six foot sturgeon weighing seventy two pounds, some fourteen miles south of town.

Hunting parties from the East used Valley City as their headquarters and ranged as far north as Devils Lake.

By 1885 the hunting began to be scarce – the larger animals were either all killed or had migrated northwestward to the Devils Lake country where the pressure was not quite as severe.

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