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Mule-Deer

by Isaac McLellan

Cariacus Macrotis

In the long-vanish'd years, this continent,
So vast extended from the sea to sea,
Water'd by rivers of majestic course,
Encrown'd with mountains of sublimity
Shadow'd by forests of supreme extent,
Inlaid with valleys rich with grasses green,
The wild game fill'd the woods, the boundless plains,
Their flocks, their herds enlivening each scene.
But now from those old haunts they disappear,
Though Indian shafts made little havoc there.
Yet when the white-men settlers and the hunters came,
Vast devastation thinn'd the wild game's lair.

The herds of buffalo that rang'd the plains,
The moose, the elk, the antelope, mule-deer,
That brows'd the grass of prairies and the mounts,
Hunted and slaughter'd, gradual disappear;
So, too, the wild fowl and the birds of song
No longer gather in such countless throng.

The mule-deer roams a realm of vast areas,
'Twixt Dakota, Nebraska and the Cascade Range,
A deer of mountain heights and rough plateau.
Yet haunt the pastures of the foot-hills low;
Its favorite haunts are summits of the mounts,
Where free from h arm a life secure is found,
Seeking their timber shelter in the day,
But at the eve, frequenting open ground,
Feeding on herbage that luxuriant grows,
Kept sweet and tender by the melting snows.

In such retreats where wolves may ne'er molest,
They, watchful, scrutinize the rocky scene,
Though weak of sight their scent is most acute,
Cautious forever of their foes' pursuit.
He that would stalk them must in silence move,
For their keen nostrils would a scent betray,
Then quick to hear a faint sound would alarm,
And swift in flight they vanish far away.
Whistling, careering through the lonely woods,
The female cries; the snortings of the male
Give life and animation to the scene,
Pleasing to hunters on the eager trail;
And if fire-hunting in the glooms of night,
He oftimes slays the stately stag and doe,
For then attracted by lamp-blaze or torch,
They fall an easy victim to the foe.

Not oft in Far West are they chased by hounds,
Due to the nature of their rocky home,
Their way of dashing to the mountain peaks,
Hiding in gulches where they safely roam,
For there the scent is lost in stony ground,
Defying the pursuit of baffled hound.
'Tis best to hunt when early winter snows
Force them to seek the foot-hills for their food,
For then they fly not to the craggy steeps,
Slow to forsake the coverts of the wood.