Full of adrenaline we were up early the next morning. The north latitude dawn reached out and stroked our senses. Mist tentacles rose like apparitions, ephemeral, silver and boiling from the myriad of water surfaces around camp. They writhed, pulsed and seethed along the shore lines of the river, played hide and seek in the stands of trees and bog brush, and softly sheathed the rising sun with magnificent surreal shimmers of halo.
A float plane had arrived late the previous afternoon. Everyone finally had their weapons, bow, string releases, and ammunition for the rifles. There was excited chatter over eggs, bacon, biscuits, and pancakes. Though frost lingered with the ground fog the day warmed rapidly. Miles away we could pick out small groups of caribou with binoculars. They moved without hurry, their distinct and purposeful wander bred of a million years of evolution and continual quest for feed, and warmth.
Rhett, Steve, and I piled into one boat with our guide Kerry, whom we liked and respected after the hunt of the day before. We had all brought gear and provisions suited to the typical fall in the far north tundra. Autumn in those environs is the equivalent of very wet early winters in other locations. Rain jackets and pants, warm outerwear, heavy socks, and woolen garments necessary to the anticipated extreme conditions were stuffed in everyone’s pack or duffels, but we lucked out. That day and the next three we enjoyed a pleasant exception to the normal weather conditions in that neck of the woods. There was virtually not a cloud in the sky, bright sun, and we hunted in shirt sleeves. There was no shortage of sweat as our waterproof boots plied the trampoline-like sub artic surface ten to fifteen miles or more each day. On this day we were to hunt about a twenty square mile area across the river from the camp. The other group, three hunters from Texas, Dave, Ryan, and Todd and their guide, hunted an equal sized patch of the planet several miles east of ours.
The Texans, great folks, were a grandfather, father, and son trio whose interaction was fun to observe. I am sure that the sparring between Rhett and I amused the camp too. Ryan, the grandson, had taken a beautiful caribou with deep rich chocolate velvet on its unusually symmetrical antlers the previous evening. The Texans had three more tags to fill. Our little band had four tags remaining. Following the excitement and success of the first day we were going to be very picky.
To be continued…..