As the proud holder of a tag for a caribou, I have been quite disappointed as my daily calls to the hotline continue to be met with a recording telling me to stay home. Yesterday, I decided to drive over to Circle to see the agglomeration of caribou that must have been practically stopping traffic to keep the hunt closed for so long. I figured that if nothing else, I'd take some pictures and maybe stomp around and look for ptarmigan along the way.
Upon reaching a certain spot along the highway several miles from Fox, I did indeed encounter what appeared to be the entire herd of Fortymile Upland Caribou, heretofore to be known as FUC. Some caribou were munching on willow catkins in a creek bottom while others napped in the sun by the road. Two calves were rolling on their backs in the powdery snow. One old bull was leaning up against a guard rail smoking a cigarette with his fat belly hanging well over his belt.
Being a journalist by training, I parked the truck and got out to document the FUC in color photography. I had no more than snapped a couple of pictures, though, when the apparent leader of the FUC approached me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder with his hoof. I was scared, to say the least, but he gave me a smile and assured me that he would not gore me with his one remaining antler. However, he said, I was to immediately cease taking pictures because the FUC were quite happy with their location. He said that if I posted pictures of the beautiful scenery and did not show thousands of caribou in the foreground, F&G might wrongly interpret the picture to mean that the FUC had moved away from the highway. I told him that I would stop taking pictures immediately. He said, I know you will, then he kicked me in the knee with his hind hoof and snatched my camera. His cloven hooves kept him from operating the buttons to check my memory card, so he threw the Nikon on the ground, shattering it into a million pieces. Glad to have that out of the way, he told me. What else would you like to ask me?
What about the other members who lived along the Taylor Highway, I asked. The leader of the FUC told me that they had been invited here to the Valley of Many Catkins, but they had declined as apparently one calf had strep throat and a cow had a sprained ankle. Their families had elected to stay behind with them, which was commendable, he said, because in so doing, they had become the season's sacrificial caribou. He stared off at the mountains silently for a moment, then said "bless them," before telling me that he was due for a back rub down by the creek. Apparently the masseuse had hooves to die for. We bid each other farewell and I drove back to Fairbanks.