BY MARGARET DONNELLY, Whitehorse
Setsko and I followed Barb and Dave over the rolling countryside below Sugarloaf on the Montana Mountain Massif.
It was a blustery, but warm, August day.
Periodically, Barb and Dave stopped to scan the bushes below with their binoculars. They were on a mission to find caribou. Setsko had never seen a caribou and they were determined to find one for her.
Finally, they spotted the dark dots moving in and out of the alders and dwarf birch below.
“Let’s see if we can get closer,” Barb said as she moved quietly and slowly down the hill.
As we followed I told Setsko the story of Tony and the Caribou:
“Three years ago, at Thanksgiving, I was in Atlin with a group of friends. We were hiking up McKee Creek when we came across a group of caribou – a big bull with magnificent antlers and 15 females.
“Most of us were content to watch quietly, but Tony decided that a little interaction would be interesting. He put his hands above his head and waved them back and forth. This immediately got the attention of the big bull.
“He lowered his head and began to paw the ground and snort menacingly. Tony put down his arms and the bull looked around in confusion as if to ask, ‘Where did that caribou go?’
“Tony raised his hands again and, again, the bull pawed the ground and snorted. The rest of us, sensing an imminent charge, cowered in the alders and tried to convince Tony to desist.
“However, you can’t tell a man anything, and he continued to raise and lower his hands. I’m sure the big bull thought Tony was trying to steal his girls. The rest of us did not want any part in this altercation. We finally dragged Tony away and carried on with our hike.”
As we drew closer to the caribou on Montana Mountain, they became aware of our presence and moved away over a small rise. We stalked them over the rise in hopes that since they could no longer see us, they may have stopped moving.
And so it was; we came over the hill and there they were: a bull, two females and one young caribou only 30 feet away.
A magnificent and marvellous sight for anyone, but even more so for Setsko, who had never seen a caribou.
They stood very still, staring at us. And then, as we stood watching each other, Setsko raised her hands and began waving them back and forth. Before we became caribou mincemeat, I whispered in an urgent tone: “Get your hands down!”
I am happy to say she did, and I am still here to tell the tale.
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