On a warm cloudy morning we set out behind camp. There is a drawl we will post up beside, from there we can glass the hill above us and the valley below. It’s one of those electric mornings, you can almost feel the game moving. Within minutes of settling down Scott whispers, “Here some come!”. I turn towards him and scan the ridge to our east. I see a small group of caribou moving into the drawl. I quickly pick them up in the binos. Eight cows and calves! They disappear into the brush at the bottom of the drawl. Minutes later, they emerged 80 yards below us. With clacking hooves they meander past us not even 30 yards away. A calf looks straight at us crouched behind a clump of wind dwarfed spruce. Her nostrils flare and she runs past us head held high. The rest of the caribou notice and turn towards us but we are well hidden with the wind in our favor. They ignore the youths’ fear and continue on. I slowly turn towards Jeff and Scott. We all grin. “Pretty cool!” Jeff whispers.
An hour later I pickup a small band across the lake as they move onto the hill side. I swing the spotting scope and scan through them, there are three mature bulls. I crank the scope up to ×60 and take a closer look . The largest bull is magnificent with palmated tops with a plated shovel proudly thrust forward. I have both Jeff and Scott take a look through the scope. “Thats a nice bull! What’s the plan? ” Jeff asks. “Too far they’ll be across the hill face before we could even get to the lake, so we’ll watch” I respond. We watch as the caribou quickly move across the hill and into the timber on the valley floor.
Not 45 minutes later Scott spots a lone bull on the hill above us. He was moving quickly in and out of the timber. With the spotting scope cranked down I track him. “Decent bull. Want to try for him?” I ask Scott. “Let’s do it!” Scott says with enthusiasm. We quickly start up towards the hill in hopes of cutting the bull off. He doesn’t see us but is moving fast. When he drops into the drawl I know we only have minutes. We break into a hunched jog and cover another 100 yards towards the hill face. Dropping behind a clump of black spruce I set up the spotting scope and Scott lays his rifle on top. I scan the brush above us. Out of the corner of my eye I catch movement. “Right there, right there!” I hiss. The bull had dropped down a valley when he crossed the draw is about to walk past us within 30 yards. Scott pivots his rifle laying across scope and shoots as the bull moves broadside. The caribou spins once then falls dead. I give Scott a thump on the back. “Little closer than you were expecting?” I ask. “Yah!”Scott laughs.
” I thought he was going there!” I point 200 yards up hill. We quickly get to work on the caribou. Scott holds quarters up while I skin. Jeff is on bear guard and keeps watch for another bull. He points out several groups of cows and smaller bulls as they move into the valley below us. By 5:30 we are back in camp with the meat hanging in my makeshift smoke house.
That was the first day of the hunt. Over the next six days we watch as the leaves change color and fall picks up momentum. Over a thousand caribou, mostly cows, migrate through the valley. After patiently waiting for a big bull, on day 4 Jeff makes a great 330 yard shot on a splendid bull. He had begun to strip his antlers of velvet, bloody clumps hang from his splayed tops.
We go out morning and evening and watch the valley below us. We see a small sow grizzly 2 miles away. She is a vibrant blond with dark flanks. She flashes into sight when she turns broad side then blends into the brush when she turns away. We watch a large boar lumber towards the gut pile. He moves in quickly but leaves with the same speed before we are able to make a stalk. On the third day we watch a huge white wolf trotting along the lake shore. Over the next few days we see the white wolf and two greys. At one point we watch for an hour as the grey feeds on the caribou gut pile. At times the wolves howl, their long guttural voices hang in the valley. I howl and we talk back and forth. “I didn’t know they liked singing with a chihuahua!” Jeff jokes.
On a particularly cold morning we watch from camp as a big bull moose trots along the ridge line. I stop him with a cow call and he swings his massive rack in our direction. “54-56?” I think looking through the spotting scope. Steam rolls from his noose, water droplets catch the sun against his solid flanks. I study his rack, giant palmated fronts, with big chunks of velvet hanging from his tines. I smile, September is days away, I will be moose hunting soon.