The morning started out with a really hearty breakfast after a great night of sleep. Hiking over the tundra took it’s toll on my body, but a good night’s rest corrected all the pain and I was ready to go. It was two hunters per guide. Since I came alone, I was teamed up with a gentlemen from San Diego. He was a very nice outdoors man with a lot of hunting experience. He was also in great shape and considerably younger than I, but moving at my own pace did not get me too far behind.
What did happen was a heavy mist formed and there was a lot of fog and wind. The weather just could not have been more miserable. We moved up some hills to the top of ridges where the caribou had been seen only to find nothing. The fog made it really difficult to glass the top of the ridges and the mist now seemed to come in sheets. We would be in dry air except for the fog, then a sheet of mist would descend on us and come in waves. Staying dry was no problem as I was wearing a waterproof shell consisting of top and pants that were purchased years ago and were resurrected for this trip. It pays to buy and hold on to our hunting gear. We must also remember, we cannot have enough gear.
After climbing several hills and slogging through ground that looked like it had been plowed, the iron in by blood had turned to lead in my backside. We found another place to park the boat and we marched up to a small hill that overlooked a beautiful valley. The guide told me we were heading for the ridge about a mile or two away and asked me if I was up for it. My answer was,” No.” He recommended that I stay right in the immediate area and they would be back in a couple of hours. There was so much mist that only one picture was taken of the hill behind me. I was told the caribou might come down the ridge and then to the lake below to drink.
|There was so much mist that I did not want to get the camera wet, and this initially was the only picture taken looking back over my right shoulder.
What I saw was a valley about one half mile wide with a stream running down the middle. Behind me was hill with rock and tundra, in front was the valley with marsh and tundra. Beyond was a grove of pines that paralleled the valley. The guide indicated that caribou would migrate to the valley and recommended a couple of places to hide.
While I waited a couple of hours, caribou moved up and down the valley, but none came within gun range. A group of five came out of the pines opposite my position, started toward me, then moved going upstream away from me. They might have been 400 to 500 yards out, but with the wind, it would be a bad shot and presented the chance of wounding one. That was not wanted.
Soon the guide and my fellow hunter came trudging across the tundra and it was plain to see a really nice caribou was harvested. The antlers were carried on his back behind his head with his hands hanging on to them. My partner had made a 200 yard shot and dropped a really good size animal. As they reached my position, they noticed up on the ridge behind me about six animals. We all got down, binoculars were pulled and their direction was studied. It looked at first like they might be coming directly toward us. Then they moved back over the ridge. The guide said to me, “Drop you pack, hunker down low, and stay right behind me.”
Up the ridge we moved, until we got to the top. It appeared they were going to go by us, and one really small animal did, but was not worth shooting. Then we moved back to the top of the ridge. I need to point out that when I got toward the top of the hills or ridges, the walking became much easier than slogging my way across the swampy marshland and tundra. Still, I was huffing and puffing. Then I broke my shooting sticks. The shot would have to be made without them.
At the top of the ridge came the small herd of caribou with a decent size one in the front. At about 100 yards, a round was sent and the animal folded and went down. The guide said he dropped like a sack of bricks. The herd only moved off about 50 yards and stopped and stared. They may have never seen a human being before. Up close the animal looked good.
|My first Caribou.
The meat on the animal was then removed from the bones and packed into large plastic bags. The guide then packed all the bagged meat into his back pack and off we walked to the boat. The antlers were put over my shoulders, and I carefully made my way to the boat.
Back at camp, the meat was then removed from the bags and hung outside along the side of the lodge. It was then allowed to drain and start the aging process.
As each boat came back to the lodge, there were a number of animals harvested, and it was a successful day on the tundra.
Dinner never tasted better, and the bed never felt better as everyone turned in for the night.