An image from a 1914 Majo Ranch hunt in the Thorofare. Pictured are wrangler Carl Johansson (from left), camp cook Ed “Phonograph” Jones, New York hunter Charles Foster, game warden Carl Hammitt and hunting guide Joe Jones.

Explore 1900-1930 hunting in the county with Park County Archives curator Brian Beauvais at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. This presentation at the Cody library explores the heritage of guided big game hunts in the Absaroka Mountains and the evolution of early hunting regulations in Wyoming.

Beauvais has collected photographs of area camps, pack strings, local outfitters, and lots of trophies. He has also assembled numerous narratives of early hunting expeditions in the Cody area. Through images and stories, Beauvais will explain how hunting laws and practices developed. 

Big-game hunting in the Cody Country has had a long and colorful history. Native Americans have hunted the Absorakas for millennia, and many assisted the first fur traders navigate the seemingly impassable mountains in their fanatical pursuit of beaver fur.

Next the market hunters arrived seeking buffalo hides and game meat to supply the burgeoning mining settlements in southern Montana. These men devastated once abundant game herds and their actions drew the attention of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature, which in 1875 imposed the Territory’s first hunting season and restriction on the commercial sale of game meat.

Occasionally wealthy trophy hunters from the East made their way into the Absarokas in the days before the settlement of Cody or the Big Horn Basin. They were pursuing game at a time of non-existent bag limits and inadequate enforcement of game laws. Many boasted of this remote section of Wyoming containing the best hunting and most scenic topography they had ever encountered. In 1895 non-residents were finally required to purchase hunting licenses and regional game wardens were appointed by county officials.

The new century brought an onslaught of development to what had so recently been a largely unpeopled landscape of sparse homesteads and sprawling cattle ranches. At this point visiting hunters were required by law to employ resident guides. These circumstances fostered the development of a flourishing guiding industry in the region, with Cody as its hub. 

By 1910 over twenty professional outfitters were leading guided hunts into the Absarokas and surrounding foothills where non-residents could pay $50 outright for a license to shoot two elk, two deer, one mountain sheep. An equivalent license for Wyoming residents cost a paltry $2.50.         

So it was that hunting laws and practices developed, although they have continued to evolve as circumstances change. 

These and many other facts and anecdotes about the early days of hunting in Park County will be shared at this free public program.

Refreshments for the program are made possible by the Friends of the Cody Library.

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