#Lookback: Sheep Trap & Buffalo Jump

    A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
    where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
    presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    Buffalo jumps are one of the most iconic elements of ancient hunting techniques in North America.  Sheep traps, while similar in concept, are not well known.  Both hunting strategies exist near one another north of Dubois, and despite surface similarity these two techniques very carefully capitalized on the individual behaviors of the animals that they aimed to trap.

    Both traps rely on the contours of the landscape.  For a buffalo jump, a large cliff or drop was selected, while a sheep trap requires a sheer stretch of rock with a level, slightly rising surface beneath.  Both traps are then created by making drivelines out of wood and rock, usually in rising heights toward the cliff or rise.  However, a sheep trap also requires a pen at the bottom of the rise, hidden by a ramp into it covered by leaves and rocks.  The pen was built with sides that sloped inward so the deft-footed Bighorn sheep could not escape.

    Once the trap was constructed or selected, the behavior of the animals influenced how they were trapped.  A small number of bison were likely separated from the greater herd, driven into a stampede by hunters on foot, and directed toward the buffalo jump site by hunters on foot and the drive lines that had already been built.  Once the bison fell off the cliff, they would die from the fall.  Some buffalo jumps used a smaller cliff, where a corral would be built at the base and bison that fell would be shot with bow and arrow.  Bison would be butchered on the site, meat dressed into more manageable chunks and taken away to the site where it would be prepared for eating.

    On the other hand, a small number of bighorn sheep would be driven uphill into the area of the drivelines.  They would then turn downhill, guided by the drivelines, into the narrow entry to the catch pen, effectively hidden from the bighorn sheep’s acute vision.  Near the catch pen a hunter with a club would kill the animals as they fell in.  Once dead, a sheep could be quickly dressed and moved back to the main camp.

    Both strategies rely on using the behavior of bison or bighorn sheep to effectively catch them.  A small number of hunters on foot with arrows or clubs could acquire a substantial amount of meat through sophisticated techniques developed with the animals and their behaviors in mind.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    April 29, 1-3pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Sheep Shearing Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    May 12, 10am at the Dubois Museum, “Kids Corner: Aquatic Insects” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    May 13, 9-1 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander Area Petroglyph Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    May 17, 7 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Gold Fever in the Atomic Age: Wyoming’s Uranium Boom” by Zach Larsen, Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

    Image Caption: From left to right: Sheep trap ramp and catch pen near Dubois, Wyoming.  View of Vore Buffalo Jump in Crook County, Wyoming.

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