Monday, October 24, 2011

A buffalo hunt for the newsreels

When do you think the last buffalo hunt occurred in Kerr County?
A kind reader with a sharp eye sent me a clipping from the March 18, 1937 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun with a page one story with this headline: "1937 Buffalo Hunt Goes Into History Successful Event."
Odd, I thought, as I read the story.  I believed buffalo were gone from Kerr County by the mid-19th century.  There was a photo of a man in a white hat with his hands on the horns of a recently dispatched buffalo.  William ' Buffalo Bill' Blanton was the fellow's name.  The buffalo was not named in the caption.
"Arrayed in a big hat, big chaps, and the right attitude for a big time, manager William N. 'Bill' Blanton of the Houston Chamber of Commerce turned cowboy Monday and fulfilled the role of slayer in the buffalo hunt on the L. A. Schreiner preserve southwest of Kerrville.  It was the first buffalo hunt in this vicinity since the latter part of the past century and probably the last one to be held in Texas.
"Despite freezing weather and an occasional snowflake, everybody had a great time except the 700-pound, two year old buffalo that was slain." 
I'm sure that's probably right.
Blanton used a Remington .35 special rifle in the hunt. The entire hunt was filmed for a Paramount newsreel, to be released, according to the story, to "21 million motion picture patrons."
The story explains "the hunt was permitted through the courtesy of L. A. Schreiner, owner of the buffalo herd, and was sponsored by the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce.  The preserve owner not only consented to the killing of one of his seven remaining head of bison, but placed his riders and other facilities at the disposal of the hunter and photographers.  Blanton rode Mrs. Schreiner's favorite paint pony during the early warming up maneuvers, but later changed to a mount with more of a shock-absorbed pace."
The story includes information about Harry Juenke, an employee at the City Meat Market, whose task in the project was to "dress the carcass of the fallen bison," a job he performed by himself, after all of the cameras and cowboys had departed.
"At work alone, Juenke glanced up to see approaching one of the herd, which had faded away after the gunfire.  Showing fight and resentment at the sight of a man working over a fallen buffalo, the animal chased Juenke up a convenient tree.  Having nobody to call for assistance or succor, Juenke determinedly remained in the tree until the peeved buffalo went away.
"Down came the man to finish his job, but not without another interruption.  The same bearer of the herd's resentment returned to the carcass dressing, and again the man performed the tree-climbing act.  Still having no source of succor he could reach with an appeal, Juenke staged a tree-top sit-down strike while Mr. Buffalo sniffed and snorted on the ground below."
Juenke eventually finished the job, and steaks from the last great buffalo hunt in Kerr County were served in Houston at an "all-Southern products dinner for delegates to the Southern Chamber of Commerce Manager's Association convention."
On the whole, and considering the reaction of the other buffalo, I'm sure the slain buffalo would have much rather skipped the big honor.  Houston is no place for a Kerr County buffalo.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who recently noticed buffalo meat products for sale at a local grocery store. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 22, 2011.

UPDATE: After doing more research, I ran across a similar story in the Kerrville Times; it turns out the buffalo's name was "Esau," and his head was mounted as a trophy to be displayed at the Houston Chamber of Commerce.  Wonder what happened to that old, moth-eaten trophy?


  1. Interesting. I liked this.

  2. caged hunts even back then!


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