Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dakota Nakota Lakota / Livelihood

Article: Hunting Deer

As described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 117-118 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

Moose, elk, deer, and antelope-among the larger game ani-mals-were not hunted as extensively as the buffalo. They were hunted mostly in winter, when they could be tracked.

After roaming the prairie from early spring until late in the fall; the tribe, when winter came, camped along the large, heav-ily wooded rivers where there was fuel and shelter. Occasion-ally, there was a buffalo hunt when buffaloes were found near camp. But usually the people had plenty of dried buffalo meat and tallow packed away, so the hunters devoted themselves to the pursuit of smaller game for fresh meat.

They watched for the white-tailed deer, which browsed about during the night and towards morning looked for a bedground in this way:
When the deer had decided to bed down, it was its habit first to double back on its tracks for some distance, then make several broad jumps to one side and land with its four feet held closely together. It traveled a short distance, then bedded down.

When a hunter saw that the tracks had doubled back, he made a large circle around the supposed bedground. If no tracks were found when the circle was completed, the deer was sure to be somewhere within its circumference. The hunter continued to circle around the bedground and kept a close lookout for the deer. Each time the circle was made smaller until the deer was spied and killed.

It is said that several white-tailed deer could be killed, one at a time in the same bedground providing the hunter continued to circle the place after each shot. If there was more than one deer there the rest seemed to become paralyzed in the bedground.

During the summer, hunters hid near watering places and killed deer in the evening when they came to drink.

Some hunters used a device to call the deer. It was made of thick bark, shaped like a boat, pointed at one end, and cut square on the other. The piece was about one inch by two and three -fourth inches thick. It was hollowed out, with the square end taken out so that it was like a shell when finished. A piece of very thin gristle or membrane, pressed and dried, was cut to fit over the entire top of the shell. A band of wet sinew was wrapped around the middle to hold the two parts together and allowed to dry. The device was placed halfway in the mouth, point first, and with both hands cupped over it, was blown twice for each call. It sounded something like woo-wa, woo as in "wood," wa as in "warp."

During the full moon, the hunter sat in a thicket. He called twice and waited for an answer. If a doe was near enough to hear the call, it usually answered, at the same time coming nearer by several broad jumps. At each stop the deer waited for the hunter to call before it answered and came closer. Finally, when the deer was brought close enough to be seen and was within range, it was shot.