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Across Mongolian Plains by Roy Chapman Andrews

For the nearest wapiti was fully eight hundred yards away


I

was entirely out of the race on the summit of the hill, for the nearest wapiti was fully eight hundred yards away. Harry's bull was somewhat smaller than the first one we had killed, but had an even more beautiful coat.

We were pretty well exhausted from the week's strenuous climbing and spent Sunday resting and looking after the small mammal work which our Chinese taxidermists had been carrying on under my direction.

Monday morning we were on the hunting grounds shortly after sunrise. At the first drive a beautiful buck roe deer ran out of a ravine into the main valley where I was stationed. Suddenly he caught sight of us where we sat under a rock and stopped with head thrown up and one foot raised. I shall never forget the beautiful picture which he made standing there against the background of snow with the sun glancing on his antlers. Before I could shoot he was off at top speed bounding over the bushes parallel to us. My first shot just creased his back, but the second caught him squarely in the shoulder, while he was in mid-air, turning him over in a complete somersault.

A few moments later we saw the two beaters on the hill run toward each other excitedly and felt sure they had seen something besides roebuck. When they reached us they reported that seven wapiti had run out directly between them and over the ridge.

The climb to the top

of the mountain was an ordeal. It was the highest ridge on that side of the valley and every time we reached what appeared to be the crest, another and higher summit loomed above us. We followed the tracks of the animals into a series of ravines which ran down on the opposite side of the mountain and tried a drive. It was too large a territory for our four beaters, and the animals escaped unobserved up one of the valleys. Na-mon-gin and I sat on the hillside for an hour in the icy wind. We were both shaking with cold and I doubt if I could have hit a wapiti if it had stopped fifty feet away.

Harry saw a young elk go into a mass of birch scrub in the bottom of the valley, and when he descended to drive it out, his hunter discovered a huge bull walking slowly up a ravine not two hundred yards from me but under cover of the hill and beyond my sight.

A little before dark we started home by way of a deep ravine which extended out to the main valley. We were talking in a low tone and I was smoking a cigarette--my rifle slung over my shoulder. Suddenly Harry exclaimed, "Great Scott, Roy! There's a _ma-lu_."

On the instant his rifle banged, and I looked up just in time to see a bull wapiti stop on an open slope of the ravine about ninety yards away. Before I had unslung my rifle Harry fired again, but he could not see the notch in his rear sight and both bullets went high.

Through the peep sight in my Mannlicher the animal was perfectly visible, and when I fired, the bull dropped like lead, rolling over and over down the hill. He attempted to get to his feet but was unable to stand, and I put him down for good with a second shot. It all happened so quickly that we could hardly realize that a day of disappointment had ended in success.

On our way back to camp Harry and I decided that this would end our hunt, for we had three fine bulls, and it was evident that only a very few wapiti remained. The species is doomed to early extinction for, with the advent of the railroad, the last stand which the elk have made by means of their extraordinary adaptation to changed conditions will soon become easily accessible to foreign sportsmen. We at least could keep our consciences clear and not hasten the inevitable day by undue slaughter. In western China other species of wapiti are found in greater numbers, but there can be only one end to the persecution to which they are subjected during the season when they are least able to protect themselves.


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