It was in the northern Texas panhandle in the spring time of 1874 and small bands of buffalo hunters were gathering at the famous Adobe Walls to initiate the beginning of the great slaughter that would, in four years, decimate the southern herd of bison into near extinction.
In the early 1870′s it was estimated that some 3.5 million bison grazed the plains of Texas but by 1878 so few bison remained that hunters began leaving the plains and directing their efforts at ranching or heading to the cold buffalo ranges in Wyoming and Montana where the herds there had survived due to Indian hostilities in that region.
Due to the urging of his first wife Mary, Charles Goodnight decided to capture and place on his ranch about 200 head of wild bison from the surviving few left on the open Texas range. After about 133 years of running free on the ranch land of the historical J.A. Ranch , Andrew Sansom , the Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife decided that it would be in the best interest of Texas and to the bison legacy to stage a capture event and restore the animals to a safe haven on the Caprock Canyon State Park land near Quitique, Texas. Here it was hoped that they would be protected from being killed off by hunters and eventually propagate to a healthy number.
November 1997 will be a month I shall never forget. The capture crew and I were gathered at the old J.A. Ranch Headquarters to begin the historic capture of the last remaining nucleus of southern plains bison on earth. About 40 animals were running wild on the sprawling ranch and I was designated the only non-employee of TPW to document the capture.
For the next four months the great buffalo hunt was again reborn on the immense Texas plains although this time the goal was not one of death and destruction. By the end of the capture approximately 30 bison made it through the capture and genetic test procedure and were moved on to the safe haven of Caprock Canyon State Park. It was truly one of the great historical events of our 20thcentury and I thank Andrew Sansom and all of the men and women who participated in this great endeavor. Years
have passed like water flowing to the sea and today, unfortunately, we have seen the passing of at least two of the original capture team members. Thus so, I would like to take this opportunity to salute all the members of this intrepid team of contemporary buffalo hunters whose professionalism in the capture and handling of these wild and dangerous creatures was second to none. And a salute to the fine pair of men who have slipped the surly bonds and no doubt are viewing us from a better place, nodding their head in approval that the herd is well and now proclaimed the Official Bison Herd for the State of Texas. A job well done my friends…