Brett French reports: Ancient bison hunters
By angelamontana

Posted: December 15, 2022

Roughly 12,000 years ago there were bison roaming this region that were much bigger than today’s hefty mammals seen in Yellowstone National Park and the Bison Range. These ancestors of our national mammal had horns stretching three feet across. They were 15 feet long and stood 7.5 feet tall at the shoulder. Imagine hunting them with atlatls and spears. Yet in Wyoming, bonebeds have been found from that period near Cody showing several of these big animals that had fallen prey to human hunters. Anthropologist Larry Todd has long studied bison and early hunters. He recently gave a presentation on a couple of archaeological sites near Cody. He believes today’s bison – smaller and more agile than their ancestors – evolved because humans were such great hunters. The Paleoindians occupying the ancient campsite near Cody were so attuned to their prey, Todd said, “They could probably go outside and look at the sky and the wind direction and the temperature and tell just exactly what those animals were going to do that day.” Instead of a bison jump, the site is a bison climb, where the animals walked up from the Shoshone River. Archaeological research also shows later Native American winter camps in Wyoming’s Sunlight Basin. Research at the site shows they were hunting bison all winter long in this remote, high-elevation area. To read more about early North American hunters and Todd’s fascinating talk, check out my story at

Written by Brett French | Outdoors Editor | Billings Gazette

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