Three of us were armed, though barely. Steve, Rhett, and I chugged across the river with our guide, Kerry in the camp’s little homemade plywood boat. We scraped up on angular rocks at the rivers opposite edge behind some brushy bogs. The three of us followed the guide as he moved with stealth behind rocks and areas of higher brush until we were two hundred yards from the group of caribou with the two biggest bulls. They were far beyond the range of Steve’s bow. Rhett still eyed the ancient rifle in his hand with distrust and I became the shooter by default.
We carefully glassed the bulls to make sure they were decent. I lay prone on a sloping rock which hid my silhouette from the herd. I took careful aim at the slowly moving lead bull and squeezed off a shot. The big bull jerked up his head, the reaction of all big game animals when a shot is high above the neck, but close.
“Rhett?” my voice was icy, questioning. I had turned my face to him my check hugging the sun warmed basalt.
“I sighted it in dad, I really did. It was two inches high on the paper”.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or strangle him. “Did you by any chance follow my recommendation to back up to shooting distance after sighting in at fifty feet?” The nervous bob in his adams apple and lack of response was my answer.
I muttered an expletive under my voice and returned my eye to the scope. I aimed for a point just below the bull’s ear. I was now unsure of the rifle, and a shot that either misses or kills is the only respectful thing for the animal in that situation.
Minutes later we clambered up the slope to pay respect to and quarter the great animal. Steve also got a fine bull that afternoon using the antiquated .303, but that is yet another tale.
It had been quite the first day in the sub arctic. The boat, loaded with hunters, meat and antlers, puttered back across the river as the sun set, the crimson gold of the dusk reflected from the liquid glass of the river surface disturbed only by our wake. The wild smell and vastness of the tundra mingled with the musk odor of the caribou. The moment permeated our senses with the brilliant gift of the dusk and the promise of tomorrow.
To be continued…..