Most of you know this September, I shot my first caribou. I have shot at one caribou before in what my dad calls a “bad scenario,” but really, it was my first time actually hitting the target.
We had traveled down a four-wheeler trail and arrived around late morning. Right away we spotted four big bulls feeding down in a grassy swamp. After a flurry of gun cases and meat bags, we headed toward the animals.
On the way over, I started developing second thoughts, as all hunters do. It wasn’t that I was afraid of killing the caribou, I just was concerned that I would wound the animal and it would run into the woods and we might not find it. My dad looked behind him because my steps became slower and I was lagging behind. I felt my face turning white, and my hands becoming clammy. After what seemed like a few seconds, we slowed and crouched down. All I could hear was the pounding of my nervous heart, the crunch of our footsteps, and the nonstop creaking of my dad’s pack. We stalked within a 100 yards of the animals and dad set up the tripod and I flicked the safety lever off.
Keeping my fingers away from the trigger, I waited quietly for a good view of a shoulder blade. Taking deep breaths, I tried to get ahold of my scattered emotions. Hunting wasn’t that stressful: it’s supposed to be jovial; it’s natural to be nervous, right? The caribou went from here to there snagging bits and pieces of tundra shrub. One caribou roamed from the group, and I kept the cross hairs on it for a shot behind the shoulder.
Congenial is not a realistic way to describe what I was feeling; in fact it was the total opposite. The caribou never really gave me a clear target, so I relaxed. By now the caribou had set off to search for some better tundra, so we looked elsewhere for game. We spotted another group and decided to find out if there were any bulls.
Staying low, we snuck up and climbed a small hill and set up the tripod to look for the bulls in the group. There were two, and they were about the same size. I carefully stood up and the caribou sensed danger. One by one they passed through a small clearing and disappeared. One bull went past, but there was a cow behind it, and I didn’t want to take a chance. The other bull started through; dad made a sound and the caribou stopped and looked at us. I knew this was my chance. Nonchalantly, I took aim. The shot echoed through my ears and the bull took off.
Dad didn’t know if I hit it right, so he loaded his gun. We strained our eyes to see the group. Then the caribou I had shot appeared in a small clearing. My dad shot at it and it laid down. A few seconds later it stood up again rather slothfully and dad shot it yet again. It fell down and didn’t move for a few minutes. I stayed on the hill and dad snuck up on it ready to make the final shot. The shot echoed through my ears.
The caribou itself was rather plump, and small. When dad shot it in the head, he dislodged an antler, so the rack was rather grotesque. The eyes, because it was wounded, were gawky in appearance. There’s is only one way to describe them: bulging. The eyes were sticking out of its head like one of those plastic toys that when you squeeze it the eyes pop out.
After the pictures it was time to get to work. I will spare you the details, but for people who understand, one of the shots burst the stomach, so it smelled like roses the entire time (grimace.) After doing the dirty work, we hiked back to the four wheeler. Dad must have packed it about one and half miles. It took two trips because dad didn’t bring an extra pack,( not that I was strong enough to carry or even lift one). It took a couple hours, but we made it.
This hunt taught me that hunting is exciting, but you should relax all the same. It’s the same with life. You need to take the time to enjoy it, but you also need to move on or you will miss out on the treasures life has to offer.