EXTERMINATING A SMALL BUNCH OF ELK
By S. C. Turnbo
In the early history of southern Missouri it was common to meet a small bunch of elks but this was when the settlers cabins were few and stood far apart. The intrusion of the hunters in Missouri soon forced these animals to disappear. Elk were shy and not so easily approached by hunters as deer were. I have collected a few brief accounts relating to these interesting and beautiful creatures as they were observed in the forests of the southern part of Missouri. One of these accounts which was furnished by an original settler is as follows. But we will first state that in the southeast part of Taney County, Mo., is a bald hill which was known by the old timers as the Five Oak Bald Hill. This low prairie hill or glade is on the west side of the head of Big Buck Creek and took its name from 5 Post oak trees that stood near together on the southeast slope of the hill in the edge of the timber. As time went on two of these trees were prostrated by a wind storm from the north. One was sawed down for wild bees. The remaining two trees are combined together from the ground to a few feet above the surface where they become separate and are the only ones left intact at the present writing. East of this bald hill is the bald ridge that was once called the Big Bald and it divides the head of Buck Creek and the Joe Eslick Hollow, the last named of which flows into Big Creek. The main wagon road leading from Protem to Dugginsville passes over the Five Oak Bald and by the Heater school house. One day in 1859 a buffalos horn was picked up on the head of Buck Creek. This horn had escaped the great forest fires that had swept over this section for many years since the buffalo had been driven from this region. In the summer of 1859 when I was 15 years old I passed some of my happiest days among these hills and hollows surrounding the Heater school house. This was while I was herding my fathers cattle that lived so well on the fine range that existed here then. When the cattle did not need rounding up I and my two brothers, Newt and "Bubby" Turnbo, Bill Riddle and the Jones boys, Rufe, Fate, and Frank, would assemble together and play fox and hounds by racing over these hills until the one who was acting the fox would go up a tree and those acting the dogs would bark vigorously until the fox would climb down and run and we would be off with more yelps and along hot race until the fox would tree again. In the early fall of 1851 while we lived on Elbow Creek I remember going to Charley Smiths mill with my father one day horseback. When we got to Shoal Creek we followed a dim trail that lead over the rive Oak Bald Hill and across the head of Big Buck Creek and across the Big Bald. I was 7 years old and I recollect that my sack of corn fell off of the horse just after we had crossed Buck Creek and while my father was putting the sack back on the horse I seen a bunch of deer feeding in the shade of a tree some 200 yards from us. Now to our story that we started out to tell. "During the early history of Taney County, Arch Tabor who lived on Big Creek and Leven T. Green who settled on Pond Fork near where Igo Post Office, Mo., is now while hunting together one day in this section discovered a bunch of 6 elk feeding on the Five Oak Bald Hill. Two of them were bull elk and both carried great expanding horns. It was an interesting sight to view these proud and wary animals while they were nipping the tender herbage that then grew so luxuriant on this low eminence. The hunters were not in gunshot range. The busy animals had not discovered the hunters or they would have run. The two men concealed themselves in the tall grass and crawled inch by inch toward the unsuspecting creatures until they had approached within shooting distance of the elk and they both stopped where the elk were in full view by parting the grass with their hands. One of the men took aim at one of the elk with his rifle and fired, which was followed instantly by the entire bunch springing away and ran toward the Big Bald Hill. As the elk were darting off the other man rose to his feet and fired his rifle at them as they ran. The hunters went to the spot where the elk were feeding and following their trail a few yards they found blood stains on the grass and saw briars which indicated that one of the beasts was wounded and after following the trail across the Gilbert Hollow to the crest of the Big Bald and to a long sink hole lined with timber and which is just over the rise toward the north where the two men were much elated at finding one of the elk lying dead on the solid rocks. After removing the hide and entrails of the dead beast, they taken the hide and meat to Arch Tabors and returned back on the following morning and followed the trail of the remaining elk to head of Pond Fork where the two hunters contrived in a few days to exterminate the bunch. I am told that this bunch of elk was the last wild elk seen in this part of Taney County.
Springfield-Greene County Library