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TEXAS BEAR HUNT, 1906 BY L. L. KIENE L. L. Kiene, a reporter and feature writer on the TOPEKA STATE JOURNAL, came down to Texas and the Big Thicket in July of 1906. On this trip he was accompanying a Santa Fe purchasing agent who was buying poles and ties in Southeast Texas. In those days they hunted the year around, and Kiene got in with Ben and Bud Hooks on a summer deer and squirrel hunt. Ben killed a bear on this hunt, and Kiene got the fever; so Ben invited him back down for a full-scale bear hunt that winter. The 1906 hunt that Kiene describes is a chronicle of some of the chief bear hunters in the Thicket. Ben Hooks was Hardin County's leading bear hunter at that time. They had struck oil on the Hooks land in 1901, and after that Ben and Bud settled back to en;oy life. Hunting was first on their list, and Ben Hooks' camp in the heart of the Thicket was the starting place for many a bear and deer hunt. Of all the old-timers who made the 1906 hunt, only Carter Hart survives. He doesn't get around like he used to, but he can tell a story that includes all the details of total recall. He knows a lot of hunting tales and he tells them with an eye to accuracy and truth. He was telling how one time he was hunting in the Hurricane, following a course parallel to the dogs, who were taking a bear 123 124 47. L. L. Kiene (Photograph by John Strickrott; Courtesy Thomas Sidney Hooks). through the matted second growth. He said it finally got so thick that he couldn't walk any farther, so he got up on an old downed log that tcas left over from the storm that had given that area its name. The brush had grown up on each side of the log and had ioinecl together at the top to form a long covered alley that a man could cratc:l through. Carter headed up the log and met the bear coming dOten the log from the other direction. He cut down on him with his .44 carbine when the bear was six feet off, and the animal hit him as it went down. Beniamin Lilly tcas on the hunt with Kiene in 1906. Lilly was the top bear alld panther hunter in the United States then and was a woodsman without equal. He had an uncanny sense of direction, 48. Ben Lilly (Photograph by John Strickrott; Courtesy Thomas Sidney Hooks.) day or night, and couldn't be lost in any kind of woods. He lived three years in the Ben Hooks hunting camp but he always slept outside, no matter what the weather was like. The old-timers are still telling about how long he could talk without telling a lie or repeating himself, or how he could lump flat-footed out of a barrel, or how he would run a horse full gallop under a tree, grab a limb, swing up, and then climb the tree like a squirrel, chattering like one, all the way to the top. The legends of Ben Lilly are still going around in the Thicket. This story was published at the time in the TOPEKA STATE JOURNAL . It and the pictures are used with the permission of Thomas Sidney Hooks, Ben's son.-F.E.A. 125 126 TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET Kountze, Texas, December 15,1906 The Big Thicket of Texas is known throughout the South wherever there is a man who enjoys the chase of big game. It is now recognized as one of the few refuges for the black bear, and its dense thickets and open glades furnish places and feeding grounds for the white-tail deer. There are also wild turkeys and bobcats to be found within its depths; but when anyone speaks of the Thicket now, it is always associated with bear. The black bear of the Big Thicket is the ordinary black bear of North America. Sometimes a small full-grown bear is killed weighing as little as two hundred pounds and occasionally one that will tilt the scales at six hundred, but the average weight is probably about three hundred. Hunting bear is great sport but it requires endurance, patience, and persistence. The writer knows more about this than he did a month ago, and he got his...


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