So, once again......we hit that time of year where we make the horses earn their pay (hay) for the year. This year's story is a little different than in the past, for several reasons. It seems, as time goes on, it gets harder to set aside time that is not already booked up with other priorities that begin to intrude more and more. Not so much my time, but more so with Mal. She's driving these days, got a job, and has a pretty seriously heavy school schedule, with a couple of AP classes thrown in the mix (one of which gave her a fair amount of homework to do over the summer). And......as any good teenager will do, she procrastinated most of the summer on the homework, and had to cram it in during the last two weeks of summer break, which meant she brought books on the caribou hunt... So, on to the hunt. We packed into our traditional camp the day before the season opener. Ran into a couple of groups of 4 wheelers going in and out, as well as other assorted vehicles which were associated with the mine or some sort of geotechnical survey that was also going on. The weather was pretty nice, with only a couple of showers to break up the sunshine. We set up camp, and the horses eat the large amount of hay and oats that have established themselves at our camp site. Opening morning breaks with a very nice sunrise
and I make coffee and look around for some caribou while the girl sleeps in a bit. We had some folks set up camp about a mile or so below us, in the same place they set up last year, and it appeared that they chose to sleep in on the opening morning also.....as I watch a cow caribou spend about an hour milling around their camp, at some points, being as close as 60 yards from their tents....caribou......crazy animals. Eventually, the girl gets up and has her coffee. I had seen a couple of cows and small bulls around, but nothing larger. Mal decided she was horn hunting, so the animals seen were safe. After breakfast, the horses were saddled up and we begin roaming around looking for something worth shooting at. Weather was still pretty sunny, with a nice breeze to keep the bugs down. We move up and down the valley for most of the day, had a lot of cows and small bulls try to commit suicide, but they had no takers with Mal. We watched the folks below us shoot a couple of cows and then a young bull, but had seen nothing big. Next morning rolls around, the weather is now much more grey, and it looks like rain is in store. I looked up the hill and seen a few cows and a young bull, but still no takers on those. So, breakfast down, we move up the hill to do some glassing. I ended up spotting 3 bulls about 2 miles up the valley, and she says "lets get em" So, we move their way, keeping an eye on them so we know where they are. We stopped by camp to gather up our rain gear, as its now starting to rain, and then continue on our way. Now, we spent a total of less than 5 minutes in camp for the rain gear, and took our eyes off of them......and could not find them again. We moved to the small draw they were feeding in, and nothing.....open hill side on both sides of the draw...but nothing....they were gone. So, we moved back to camp, and spent the rest of the day moving and looking, covering some really nice country.
Around Thursday afternoon, it started raining.....and it didn't quite till Saturday morning. I still hate hunting in rain....especially that kind of rain. But, we continued to search, but in the end did not find a bull that she wanted to put her tag on.
So, as I write this and think back on all the years prior.....as well as this past week, I think of how much Mal has grown. I was amazed at her positive attitude on this hunt, with the lack of bulls seen, as well as the weather. She always remained positive, and smiling. And then it hits me....she has matured as both a hunter.....as well as a young lady....much more than I was really wanting to realize. I got to spend 5 uninterrupted days on this hunt...and know that value of being able to do that, as I know the days of me just taking her out of school and taking off are over....and will only become more difficult as she moves on through high school and then into college....then her own life.
We will give it another shot, whenever I can catch a break with her either this fall or in the winter hunt, but look back on this hunt with good memories, and maybe a little sadness as I know she's not my little girl anymore..dang it, she grew up on me and turned into a beautiful young woman.