An excerpt from Seerey-Lester’s new book, The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt. Available now from Sporting Classics.
For one reason or another, all of Theodore Roosevelt’s moose hunts had ended in failure . . . until he met an old trapper by the name of Hank Griffin while hunting in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana in September 1889.
TR, along with his ranch manager and friend Bill Merrifield, was experiencing his usual run of bad luck whenever he hunted North America’s largest antlered animal. Then he met Old Griff, who was trapping beaver in the mountains. The old-timer told TR of a place where he could guarantee they’d kill a moose. Roosevelt wasted no time in agreeing to go with the old man.
While Merrifield returned to the ranch, TR and the trapper headed into a high, marshy valley between two forest-clad mountains—ideal habitat for moose. The valley was studded with small ponds amid dense stands of willows, reeds, alders, and rank grass.
Shortly before sunrise the men climbed to a small outcropping from where they could watch the entire valley for any signs of moose. TR was impressed by Old Griff’s knowledge of the area and its wildlife, but he also found the trapper to be ornery and quite short-tempered. His guide also suffered from arthritis and had some difficulty keeping pace with the 31-year-old Roosevelt.
At dawn the men started to glass the valley, which was cloaked in a heavy mist. They had discovered moose sign when entering the valley, so TR was quite hopeful. As the sun gradually rose behind them, they spotted a large, dark shape moving among the distant tussocks and dwarf willows. It was a young bull calmly feeding alongside a small lake about a half-mile away.
After several minutes of browsing on willow tops, the bull began wading through the marsh to feed on aquatic plants. His great strides and splashing hooves could be clearly heard in the still valley air. As he marched confidently across the waterlogged meadow, the reeds could be seen bending in his wake.
Old Griff was more interested in watching TR’s expression than the moose itself. Roosevelt was obviously excited that his first moose was within his grasp. He was fascinated to watch the bull, and how it remained constantly alert to any danger. Every now and then the bull would stop and stand motionless, his ears pricked as he swiveled his head to survey his surroundings. Occasionally he would raise a long hind leg to scratch his neck. The bull proceeded to walk farther into the reeds, sometimes disappearing from view, then reappearing as he emerged on dry land.
The early morning sunlight glistened on the bull’s coat as he marched through the bog-stained water. The only sound was the sloshing and splashing of his long legs as he plowed through the marsh.
Finally, with his breakfast over and the day getting brighter, the bull headed to one of his bedding areas. The men watched the moose turn around a couple of times before settling down to rest at the foot of a rocky foothill about 200 yards away.
Between the moose and the men was a hummock grown up with small firs about 60 yards from the animal. Old Griff determined it would be an ideal spot for TR to take his shot.
TR and the trapper scrambled down the hill to a grassy area strewn with rocks, then walked through a small stand of trees until they reached a clearing. Just ahead of them was the hummock and, beyond that, the resting bull. The men dropped to their hands and knees, TR going first as they slipped across the wet grass so as not to make any noise. Where the ground rose higher, they crawled on their stomachs.
There was no wind to worry about as they stalked closer to the bull. When they reached the hummock, Old Griff came alongside TR, and the hunters peered at their quarry through the copse of fir trees. All they could see were his long ears. TR checked his Winchester .45-90 to make sure all was in order, then positioned himself for a shot. His next step was to get the bull on his feet.
Old Griff instructed TR to pick up a dead branch and snap it loudly. At the sound, the bull’s ears swung around, and he sprang to his feet with the speed and agility of a much lighter animal. For a moment he stood broadside, his ears twitching, his nostrils sniffing the air. When he turned his head toward the men, TR sent a bullet crashing into the animal’s massive shoulder.
The bull barely flinched at the impact, just trotted off through the trees as if nothing had happened. TR was confident it was a fatal shot as he watched the animal run about 30 yards before dropping dead.
Finally, TR’s bad luck with moose had come to an end, thanks to the crusty old trapper. Later that year TR would bag another bull only a short distance from the valley where he killed his first moose.
THE LEGENDARY HUNTS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
The much-anticipated third book in artist John Seerey-Lester’s “Legends Series” relives in words and paint the exciting outdoor life of Theodore Roosevelt. With his descriptive text and 150 paintings and sketches, Seerey-Lester provides a fascinating glimpse into the former president’s life as a rancher and his unrelenting passion for wildlife, hunting, exploration, and conservation.
The large-format, 200-page book covers Roosevelt’s most active years as an outdoorsman from the 1870s until his death in 1919. It also relives the hunting and exploratory expeditions of his two sons in the Far East.
It opens with Roosevelt’s first deer hunt as a teenager, then continues chronologically as he pursues such dangerous game as grizzlies, lions, and elephants in Africa and North America. In Seerey-Lester’s rich paintings, you will feel the danger, taste the dust, and smell the campfire smoke.
In the foreword for this landmark book, Tweed Roosevelt, TR’s great-grandson, writes: “Seerey-Lester has an extraordinary ability to bring to life the high drama of the hunt. TR, of course, could supply him with an almost unending series of opportunities for displaying his unique artistry.”
Both trade and deluxe editions are available. Get yours while supplies last!