On the third day of the hunt, we encountered far fewer animals than on our previous outings. We had hiked far from the river, perhaps five or six miles, to a high rocky ridge that overlooked a drainage and countless water bodies, swamps and bogs. You could see bands of caribou on the move for miles upon miles. Rhett’s binoculars picked up a respectable bull about three miles away back towards the river.
With a grin Kerry said, “Go get em’, eh? Run, run, run”. Kerry laughed for at least five minutes after Rhett took off at double time.
Age being the better part of wisdom, Kerry and I found some cover high up on the ledge and glassed caribou scattered in ones, twos, or relatively small herds across the landscape. There was no bull worth getting excited over.
We perched up in the rocks and watched Rhett, now three miles away and still at almost a trot, through the binoculars. We shared some snacks, and swapped some stories. Every few minutes would swing our glasses from the entertainment Rhett was providing to specs of far off caribou that had materialized somewhere in the three hundred and sixty degree vista. Kerry was busy glassing a small herd four or five miles away when my eye detected an almost imperceptible movement a half of a mile out. It had been just been a motion behind the silhouette of a rock. I felt that familiar surge of hunter adrenaline when I picked out a third of a monstrous caribou rack moving as if suspended, the body of the bull hidden by a roll in the landscape. I needed only a second to know that this was the bull for which I had waited.
I simultaneously collected my gear and rifle, jacked a shell in the chamber and patted Kerry on the shoulder. “Big bull, I am going after it”. Kerry riveted his attention to where I pointed.
“That is a dandy, eh, go, go, go, go get it”. There was excitement in his voice.
I was already on the move but I shot back a laugh over my shoulder, “At least you didn’t say run, run, run”. Kerry broke out in gales of laughter.
“I’ll stay here and keep him in sight, keep your radio on”, He called out.
I moved as fast as I could in the uneven terrain mindful of my back, and wanting to avoid becoming winded. It is tough to steady your rifle if you are breathing hard after moving fast over a mile of tough topography. My mind reflected on the land features we had hiked through to get to our vantage point. Years of big game experience and instinct told me the big bull would try and follow the low areas and I set my course for an intercept two hundred yards from where I felt he was headed.
I reached the knob that had been my goal and settled into shooting position behind a particularly large rock. I glanced back at Kerry. He was on his feet frantically waving both arms in the air. I took it from his gestures that I should go further. I hesitated, quite sure the bull was going to come up the swale below me, but Kerry had hunted far more caribou than I. I decided to split the difference and moved crouched and alert to a smaller rise a hundred yards down the ridge.
To be continued…