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J.W. Anthony - Bear Hunter

J.W. Anthony - Bear Hunter

As James E. Perkins described it, a massive demon killer-grizzly bear roamed south-central Colorado in the closing days of the 19th century. He had a peculiar gait, sort of a moseying stride that gave him his nickname: "Old Mose." He was a bear that elicited fear and dread from every person in the area.

According to legend, Old Mose had mystical powers. He was smarter than a fox. He could tell if a man was armed with a rifle. He treated fence posts like toothpicks and walked right through them. He could pull down a running horse with a swipe of his paw, then kill it with one bite to the neck. He fed on livestock, and stockmen feared him.

Local accounts reported that two or three men had gone to the hills to look for him, but they never returned and their bodies were never recovered. Others said he killed four or five men. Some said he lived to be between 40 and 60 years old and that he killed some 800 domesticated animals, costing ranchers tens of thousands of dollars.

The Man Who Shot Old Mose Down

Old Mose was killed on April 30, 1904. The man who shot him down was a savvy professional hunter by the name of James W. Anthony. It took a month of tracking and searching and getting lucky.

J.W. Anthony was born near Evansville, Indiana, in 1861. His mother died within days of giving birth to him, and his father died during the Civil War when James was not yet three years old. He was raised by two uncles. Eventually, he was sent to college, where he studied law. He had inherited considerable land holdings from his father, but the lure of hunting called to him. Rather than pursue a career as a farmer, he traveled west and became a professional hunter. He hunted deer, elk, antelope, and bear. In fact, hunting bears with a dog pack became his passion. He developed an affinity for Winchester rifles and tried many calibers, including .45-70, .45-75, .45-90, .40-65, and .40-82. The .45-75 was his favorite.

Eventually, Anthony settled in Wyoming, and when Winchester brought out the high-power Model 1895 lever action, he had to have one. He bought serial number 775, and it was chambered in .30-40 Krag. In 1900 he moved to Boise, Idaho, and started a pack of bear dogs. They were successful, so successful that in 1903 he killed 16 black bears.


In late 1903 he decided it was time to move again and planned to head toward southern New Mexico. However, before making that journey, he learned of the good climate and abundant hunting near Canon City, Colorado, and traveled there to check it out. While there, he met with a rancher, one Wharton Pigg, who had been hunting Old Mose for years. They struck up a friendship, and Pigg invited Anthony to hunt Old Mose with him as soon as the beast awoke from his winter hibernation. Shortly thereafter, Anthony returned to Boise, packed up his things- including a brand-new Winchester 1895 carbine in .30-40 with a Lyman peep sight (serial number 38776)- and headed to Colorado. He arrived there in March 1904.

Anthony and Pigg rode daily for almost a month and never saw a bear track. It was too early. Then on April 27, 1904, Pigg picked up Old Mose's tracks. Pigg had hunted Old Mose for years and came to recognize his tracks because the big grizzly had lost two toes in one of Pigg's bear traps. Three days later, after tracking Old Mose for at least eight miles over dry grass, having lost the tracks and found them again several times, and after a brief snow storm that covered the tracks entirely, they lucked out, and the dogs caught Old Mose's scent.

Pigg and Anthony split up. Anthony soon found the dogs had Old Mose bayed in a thick stand of spruce and aspen. When he arrived at the site, Old Mose was standing broadside about 65 feet away. Anthony fired a shot, which struck Old Mose in the throat. It was not a fatal shot, and Old Mose turned and started walking away, dogs dancing around him. As he moved up a hill toward Anthony, the Winchester Model 1895 barked again. Unfortunately, Anthony missed. Moving in closer, Anthony put a bullet through Old Mose's shoulder which came out his breast.

Then, as Anthony wrote, "He faced me at 11 steps distance and came in with head low."

Anthony fired and struck the spinal cord where it joined the neck, and Old Mose sank down to the ground slowly. The legendary grizzly was finished. After dressing, Old Mose weighed about 900 pounds, but this was just after his spring emergence. Had he made it through the summer, he might have weighed as much as 1,500 pounds or more. His hide measured 10 feet, 4 inches long from nose to tail, and it was 9 feet, 6 inches wide.


The killing of Old Mose was the topic of several newspaper and magazine articles. With each telling, his legend got more sensational.

Anthony remained in Canon City for three more years, hunting mountain lions and black bears, but finally moved back to Indiana. He got rid of his dog pack and hung up his guns.


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