Hunting with the Tonkewas


Historic Accounts of Life in South Texas

From "Early Times in Texas" by J. C. Duval – Published 1892
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The Young Explorers

The next morning after our arrival at Goliad, the Tonkewas to the number of fifty or sixty, mounted upon their mustangs, rode into town, and invited any of the citizens who wished to do so, to go with them on a big deer hunt they intended to take that day. As I was anxious to see the hunt, I mounted my horse and fell into line in company with several of the citizens of Goliad. Mr. Pitt declined going, as he was still rather weak to take a hand in such fatiguing sport. The Indians carried no arms, neither guns nor bows, but each had a long lariat or cabresa tied to the horn of his saddle.

Leaving the town in "Indian file," the Tonkewa warriors started off in the direction of the rolling prairies to the southwest, where they knew the game they sought was to be found in abundance. We followed them closely, as we were curious to see their method of lassoing deer, which we had heard of but never witnessed.

After traveling five or six miles, we came to a locality where deer were more numerous than I had seen them elsewhere. Large herds, sometimes as many as eighty and a hundred in a herd, could be seen in every direction on the prairie. Here the Indians halted and separated themselves into squads of eight or ten, each squad being under the control of a leader. Holding their lariats in their hands, each squad then singled out a particular herd from those in sight, and slowly advanced towards them until the deer began to show signs of alarm, when, whooping and yelling, they charged at full speed upon them.

My companions and I followed on after one of the squads as fast as our horses could go. The race was an exciting one, but it was soon ended, for the deer were fat, and the Indians quickly overtook them. Then the lassos began to whiz amongst the herd, and every now and then a deer was caught by the leg or horns and speedily dragged to the ground, and as speedily dispatched by the scalping knife. In less than an hour after the chase began, nearly all the herd we followed was captured and killed, none escaping except those in poor condition,.which of course were not wanted. It was the most wholesale butchery of game I had seen.

When the Indians had killed as many deer as they wished, they dismounted from their horses and stripped the hides from the deer;—occasionally cutting off a haunch or other choice piece, leaving the rest of the carcass to be devoured by wolves and vultures, I took but little pleasure in witnessing the destruction of so many deer merely to get their hides, and before the Indians finished skinning all they had killed, we started back to town, each with as much venison strapped to his saddle as could be conveniently carried.

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