Norman watches a wolf feed on caribou

dead caribou mostly eaten by wolf

A wolf fed on this caribou killed by a bear

Monday, August 25, 1980—finished getting ready for the hunting trip. Mike and I left at 3 p.m. We got to Crooked Creek and the Little Nelchina confluence at 8 p.m. and camped for the night. I got stuck and had to winch out once. We saw a caribou, but it was so early in the hunt, we didn’t want to shoot it. We expect to be out here hunting for about three weeks.

Tuesday, August 26, 1980—up at 6 a.m., broke camp at 9:00, reached Flat Creek at 11:00 and went on to McDougal creek. Went up McDougal 3.5 miles, prospecting on the way and glassed for sheep and camped. Saw one caribou.

Wednesday, August 27, 1980—went up a mountain of rotten rock, held together with very little moss. We got up on the shoulder of that mountain and sat down to rest for a while. We were looking the country over and we saw a wolf—this wolf had a white tail tip, much like that of a red fox. We watched this wolf and he seems to be going somewhere, but he’s hunting as he goes along. Pretty soon we see him get very cautious and he circles around, finally he goes in to feed on a caribou that a bear has killed—but he’s always looking around in fear that the bear will come along, but it doesn’t show up. He fed for a while until he took the antlers in his teeth and dragged them off for a ways and kind of worked at that. The last we saw of him that day he was going off to the north. Then we went on up the mountain.

We had to cross—I guess you’d call it a slice or crack in the mountain. The rocks are rotten here. This kind of rock, when exposed to oxygen, gets rotten, and it’s so steep there, it rolled down this chute. We crossed on the upper end of it on snow and we get over to the other side and crawl up there. We can see a lot of country out there. All we saw was ewes and lambs, no rams. We decided there was no sheep to hunt here, so we back off and get back to this chute and we want to cross it but the snow is no longer frozen and it’s soft from the heat of the day. We had a little trouble getting around it and we got across it to the other side and we climb out and we go over to the shoulder of this mountain and we start to go down that shoulder and it does not feel good to us. The rocks are rotten. Didn’t give us any trouble climbing up but, going down—and it’s so far down that if one of us slipped and fell, we’d roll for a long ways.

So we went back up on top of the shoulder to decide what to do. We went back over to this chute and I tested the rocks along the side we were on. I could pull them loose and drop them and they’d roll down this chute. But out in the middle of this chute there was solid rock. I told Mike, “I’m going out on that and see what it looks like from out there.” I went out on that and it was solid and after a few minutes of mulling this dilemma over, I told Mike I thought we could go down this chute (the loose rock was something like a couple feet deep or so) and I thought I could walk down it, sliding all the time, of course, and the rock’s going to be moving and we’d have to keep our feet moving and not fall. It took Mike some time to decide he wanted to do that and we decided to go. I started down in the center of this. I would pull my foot up and take a great big long step and then the next foot and all the time sliding, a pack on my back and a rifle. It went really well and I could see down there that there was a bulge out from the mountain and this chute makes a slight turn there and I aimed my downward movement to come to that bulge so I could stop there and look things over. Mike, he’s coming down and when I got to that bulge, why it looked good from there on down so I continued on down. Then Mike came down. It turned out fine.

Thursday, August 28, 1980—this day we decided to go through the pass to the west and, by gosh we saw this gray wolf with the white tipped tail again. He was hunting on a mountain over in that area. We got out to the end of the pass and it’s a vertical drop to the little creek on that side. We didn’t go down—no way for a man to get down there. We glassed for game for a while and watched the country, really nice there, but we didn’t see any game—no sheep.

Friday, August 29, 1980—we got the dredge off the top of the swamp buggy and put it to work in two places on McDougall Creek. We got some gold, but it’s fastened to a darker material–tried a magnet on it and decided it was mixed with iron and could be magnetized. We did catch one grayling.

Saturday, August 30, 1980—Mike and I dredged again in McDougall Creek and today again, we had poor luck finding any gold. The gray wolf fed on the bear kill again. Charlie had a pilot fly him over us. They landed down at the confluence with the Little Nelchina where the pilot let Charlie off. Mike and I went to meet him. I broke a wheel on the swamp buggy at Flat Creek. It was pretty dark by the time we got Charlie to our camp—good to see him.

Sunday, August 31, 1980—Mike left for Gunsight Mountain to get my welder so we could fix the wheel on the swamp buggy. Meantime, Charlie and I hunted caribou. Saw three and didn’t shoot.

Bear in camp and a rollover

trees-300pixFriday, August 31, 1979—in the morning, we heard pans rattling outside the tent where we’d been cooking. Jerry, he rolled out of his sack. His tent has a zipper on the door and It had been raining and snowing and had frozen during the night and the zipper was frozen shut. Jerry wiggled it until he finally got it opened a little bit and he looked out at this grizzly bear and yelled, “Bear in camp!” I got out of my sleeping bag and grabbed the shotgun and looked out the window from my end. It was just getting light outside and I’m looking out the tent window just in time to see the bear come and pick up a chunk of ham and gobble it. He was standing about twelve feet away looking me in the eye. He was really a beautiful bear. He looked to be about three years old, didn’t have the large head yet, and he appeared to have a long neck. (That tells a person that he’s not a mature bear.) I’ve got every confidence in the 12-gage. Jerry yells at him and tells him to get out of there and he bounds over the hill towards Tyone Creek.

I take the radiator out of the buggy and draw a picture and measure it and Jerry fixes breakfast—he’s a good cook. I take a small lunch and a raincoat and start walking out to the highway (It’s about 26 to 27 miles out there). I say so long to Jerry, from the top of the first hill. He has the flu and I tell him to sleep in the buggy in case the bear comes back. Flushed ptarmigan from off the trail and two miles later, two nice caribou bulls at about 200 yards. Then at three miles, a snow track, pulling a trailer, he had the tongue broke out. They planned to chain the tongue and the trailer and the snow track all together and continued to the hunt. I walk on to Little Nelchina and get a good drink of water and I tie my pant legs tight to my boots (loosened the boot strings and tied the pants tight to the boots) and then wade the river as fast as I can. That keeps most of the water from getting in my boots. It works real well. I get across the river and there’s more bear droppings and the more along the river I walked, I see more. Two miles later the trail over Monument Mountain, I eat half of my food. Two thirds up the mountain, I smell carrion. I talk out loud and move on. (Talking helps avoid the possibility of startling a bear that might be in the vicinity.) No water here—small dip with snow and it doesn’t taste good. I stop and rest a little coming down the other side of the mountain. Get a drink at Crooked Creek and I’m getting quite tired now.

I’m 4 ½ miles from the highway when a fellow gives me a ride. He’s got a brand new Ranger track hunting vehicle and he’s got a new trailer behind it. The guy is really thorough; he has built a ROP on it (rollover protection). When we come to the top of a big hill, I ask him if he wants me to get off and walk down the hill and he says, no, he thought it would be alright. We get down the hill about a third of the way and all of a sudden, the trailer hitch comes unhooked from the Ranger. It’s a new outfit and he hadn’t snugged up the bolt that keeps the hitch fastened to the Ranger and it ran ahead into the track and threw the track off of the Ranger. The Ranger went over on its side and on up on its top and is sliding down the trail, upside down. We didn’t slide so awfully far, but it finally got stopped. He had safety belts on the seats and we were both strapped in and hanging upside down off of the seats. He asked if I’m all right. I told him yes, I was not hurt. So he undid his belt and dropped out and got out of the frame and I got mine unhooked and got out of the Ranger. We’re standing there looking at it and telling each other how lucky we are we aren’t hurt and I look at my rifle—it’s got 4 inches of mud on the muzzle from where it had dragged in the trail coming down.

There was nothing left to do but try to get the Ranger up on its tracks. He had a come-along with him and a really good strong rope. Luckily the rope reached some willows that were big enough to use as an anchor. It was a nylon rope and the darned thing stretched quite a bit. We had to unhook the come-along and re-hook and hook and re-hook. I’d hold the rope tight as I could while he would be changing it. We finally got the Ranger rolled upright—and it’s crooked in the trail. We have to get it pulled around and blocked so it won’t roll on down this hill. We get it jacked up off of the ground and we loosen the adjustments for the track and we get the track on there and then readjust the tracks. We discover what caused the accident when we went to hook it up to the Ranger; it was obvious that this bolt had gotten loose and let the whole thing happen. So we tightened that bolt. When he went to try to start the motor then, it wouldn’t start. On closer inspection, we find that when the Ranger was rolling down the hill, it got to going really fast and he was using the gears and its compression to help with the brakes. It was going so fast that the pressure stretched the bolts that held the head on the motor. He did have a toolbox with all the tools he needed to work on it, so he re-tightened the head bolts. Then it started and ran well and we got out to the gravel pit at the highway (what everyone calls the trailhead).

He had a vehicle there and gave me a ride to the Nelchina Lodge and then all that was left for the evening was to eat, drink and sleep. I was really tired.