Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Catch

Well I made it out of Toksook Bay and back to Bethel.

Myself and coworker Marc had schemed up a little Saturday trip to go up past Three Step, a mountain up river past Kwethluk, on a mission to put meat in the freezers.

I rose early that morning to get ready and have a good breakfast, and at 7:45 set out. It was a bit on the chilly side at -18F, so we were all dressed for the weather when we met at Crowley to gas up the tanks and jugs for the journey.

By the time we hit Kwethluk we were getting first light and it wasn't warming up at all. Towards Three Step we started to see tracks and sign so we knew we were getting somewhat close to the herd. The trail got fresher and eventually we spotted the herd about 4-5 miles in the distance, they were on the move.

We came up with a plan to get up ahead of them so as not to scatter them out on the run. I wish I had some pics or video of this huge group of caribou, it was pretty cool seeing and hearing them move through the draw. The sound of all the hooves in the ice crusted snow reminded me of the sound of a class II rapids in a small river, only a little crunchier. As it was, it was a bit cold to be digging out the camera, and plus I was kind of busy at the time.

Despite it never warming up, it was a gorgeous day in some pretty country. It was a bright day, with ice haze and the sun, as one friend once put it in their blog, had its mittens on. (sun dogs to either side)

Fortunately we found a good ambush point and Marc and I were each able to bag an animal.

I opted for this cow because she presented a decent shot where I wouldn't have an accidental hit on a 2nd animal, and the word was that a cow would have a bit nicer meat this time of year than a tired out bull. That wisdom proved true from what we saw cutting her up.

We set to work on the animals and then had a couple of hangups getting back to Bethel. First, Marc's snowmachine wouldn't start. Luckily there was another man with us, Glen, who could tow Marc back, and I hooked up the sled to mine. But then we got to the meeting place where we were to meet another friend who had gone up that way with us to go check his trap line. He didn't show and didn't show, and we were running out of daylight. At temps like we had yesterday, we were getting worried about him and decided he must have bagged it and headed home, so we did the same. We got him on the phone once we got near Kwethluk and had cell service, so all was well.

It all made for a long day out in some cool temps though. It was good to come back with a catch for the freezer.

Next up, I start teaching in Napaskiak this week, so I'll have the daily ice road commute, and my own bed to sleep in at night.

And some tasty caribou to eat up...