The Buffalo Hunters started with a combination of ideas.
One was an article from Harper’s Weekly—December 14, 1867.
Nearly every railroad train which leaves or arrives at Fort Hays on the Kansas Pacific Railroad has its race with these herds of buffalo; and a most interesting and exciting scene is the result. The train is “slowed” to a rate of speed about equal to that of the herd; the passengers get out fire-arms which are provided for the defense of the train against the Indians, and open from the windows and platforms of the cars a fire that resembles a brisk skirmish. Frequently a young bull will turn at bay for a moment. His exhibition of courage is generally his death-warrant, for the whole fire of the train is turned upon him, either killing him or some member of the herd in his immediate vicinity.
When the “hunt” is over the buffaloes which have been killed are secured, and the choice parts placed in the baggage-car, which is at once crowded by passengers, each of whom feels convinced and is ready to assert that his was the shot that brought down the game. Ladies who are passengers on the trains frequently enjoy the sport, and invariably claim all the game as the result of their prowess with the rifle. This solution of the case is, of course, accepted by all gentlemen, and a more excited party of Dianas it would be impossible to imagine.
The other idea was from a Native American legend of the “stiff-legged bear”, a deadly creature purported to be the size of an elephant. The creature is generally considered to be passed down memories of a mastodon, but I didn’t feel that was a very good explanation, so I put my own twist on the story.
Reprinted in Blazing Uncanny Trails 2, April 2020, Knight Writing Press