Hunting and Fishing

Yokuts men spent much of their time making hunting and fishing tools. Bows and arrows were built carefully to make them accurate. Young boys used a simple wooden arrow with the end sharpened to a point. With this arrow they could hunt small animals like birds and rabbits. Older boys and men made stone or bone points to put on their arrows. With them they could kill deer, antelope and other large game. The older men of the tribe taught the boys how to make their own weapons. They also taught them to aim correctly and how to fix broken weapons. Besides bows and arrows, the Yokuts used spears, traps, and nets to catch and kill wild game and fish. The meat was shared with the tribe, and the skins of the animals were used to make clothes. The bones were used to make tools like awls and needles.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Snares were used to capture many different animals like elk, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and pigeons. A twig or limb was bent down and fastened over a trail by a trigger. A loop made of waxed string or heavy cord was attached to the trigger. The loop was placed where the animal usually walked. When the animal came by, one of its feet would be caught in the loop. When the animal tried to get loose, the trigger released, and the animal was lifted off the ground.

Yokuts hunters stalked deer and antelope to get close enough to shoot them. The men went into the sweat lodge before hunting to get rid of their scent. Then they quietly sneaked up on an animal until they got within shooting distance.

Once or twice a year, several tribes would meet in the area where the antelope lived. One or two of the men would hide in the tules near the antelope. Then they would lie on their backs and kick their feet around in the air to move the tules. The antelope would get curious and come closer to investigate. The other men would begin to circle around behind the antelope. Then the men in the grass would jump up and yell. The antelope would panic and try to run away, but the hunters surrounded them. Each family was allowed to kill one antelope. If too many people tried to kill the antelope at the same time, the animals stampeded and escaped.

In the spring the Yokuts would move to the banks of Tulare Lake. There they would catch fish and many ducks, geese and other birds. They would make boats and rafts out of the tules and spear fish through a hole in the middle of the rafts. The children would swim and play games in the water.

The Yokuts ate almost anything that moved, but they never ate coyote or grizzly bear because these animals were sacred to them. They caught crayfish in baited traps and gathered clams along the banks of the Kern River. The Yokuts even gathered grasshoppers in the summer and cooked them for a tasty treat.

–Adapted from research by Mary Ann Brensel