I had been working on my old Polaris 440, replacing the primary clutch and components, and shimming the secondary. I did a few more things to it and took off down the Chena and out on the Tanana to give it a good run. Everything worked perfect, so I turned for home.
I got back to the last island before the Chena, and spotted a big dog trotting up the trail in front of me. I hate to think about a dog running loose, and if able to catch them will do so and try to return them to the owner.
I closed the gap, and it started moving away, so I turned to cut it off. As I got closer yet, it turned its head and I got the shock of my life. At 2pm on a fairly warm spring day I was staring into the eyes of a gray wolf at 25 yards in the middle of the river! Whoa. Hold the phone.
I stopped, and called a friend to tell him the news. As I watched the wolf, it headed upriver, not toward safety in the trees. I hung up, and headed home as fast as I could get there, about a 3 minute run. I ran in, grabbed the .22-250 (new rifle in the bunch, custom built on a Mauser action w/ a 10X fixed Leupold scope) and some ammo. Back out I ran and headed downriver.
I got to the area I saw it last, and started to track. He was heading across some sandbars, so I took an angle and pinched the throttle wide open, struggling to gain speed in deep powder. At some point I hit the edge of sandbar so hard I flew over 2 snowmobile lengths in the air. The only thing that saved me was the deep powder I was wallowing through. This wolf was not worth dieing for, so I let off the throttle.
Still no wolf, and I was coming up on the tree line. I knew he would be on my left, and I had to beat him to the edge. There he was! He had been in a depression and he popped out heading hard toward cover. He too was fighting deep snow. I shut down, jacked a round in, rested on the snowmachine handlebars (not running, no forward momentum) and squeezed off a round. Ok, I jerked like I grabbed a hot skillet and promptly missed. Settle down! Breathe! New bullet in the chamber, gun on the rest, snugged in tight, crosshairs on him as he went up the bank. Everything looked good when I focused on a single spot behind his leg and I squeezed the trigger. After the shot, and realizing that I had my first wolf, I started to shake. I'll admit it. I shook so hard I had to sit on the snow machine or risk falling into the snow. I spent some time in the sun going over everything that happened. Somehow, I feel it was meant to be. That wolf had every opportunity to dissapear down a multitude of hard packed trails, yet he went the only direction that I even stood a chance.
His gray hair w/ black tips and orange/brown ears is not prime. He is not the biggest wolf in the wood at 75 lbs. But he is beautiful. What an amazing animal. What a very lucky guy I am to have had this opportunity.
Do I think every wolf should die? NO. I think wolves are an incredible part of our environment, and integral to a healthy land. Would I do the same thing in the future? I don't know. I just don't know. Guess I'll cross that bridge if it ever happens again.