Curly is unlucky. He just happens to be the closest to you, maybe 30 feet, give or take. No problem, the Vector can take down a moose at 60 yards. Curly is the talking caribou who was preparing to let his antlers down in Part-2, if you have been paying any attention. He is a heavyset male – maybe a 300 pounder – with an 8-point antler, which means that his antler branches out into eight points. Your TenPoint Vector© crossbow gets its brand name from that.
The bow string is taut and quivering, held back by the latch, the butt of the Carbon Express shaft nestled in the front of it. Drawing the string and cocking it is difficult in the cold, but your TenPoint comes with an AcuDraw cocking device that works somewhat like a fisherman’s reel. You reel the string back until the latch catches it.
Curly is sniffing a doe’s butt, relaxed, ambling along. ‘How about it, Tina? Huh? Its mating season for C’s sakes,’ he seems to be mumbling to her. Remember Tina from Part-2 and how Curly is looking for her ta give?
Well, tonight, Tina won’t have ta give – Curly won’t be living that long. You look through the scope at a point slightly above Curly’s shoulders and hold your breath as your index finger feels for the SafeGrip trigger guard and snakes its way in and around the trigger. Never tarry at that point – deep breath, two seconds and then, let go.
‘Thungggg!’ – the arrow shoots out in a blur. You strain to hear the sound of the hit and sure enough, you hear the ‘thokk!’ as the titanium of the broad head meets tissue.
The first reaction of a caribou, hit by an arrow or a bullet, is a startled leap into the air, followed by a crazed scramble as it tries ta figure out just what the hell happened. That’s exactly what Curly does and in the twilight as he leaps up, you can clearly discern the broad head sticking out from slightly above his shoulder blades, buried right up to the fletch (the fins). You must have hit a vein – blood is spurting out in gushing pulses, no doubt keeping pace with his dying heart. As his hooves hit the ground, Curly breaks away from the herd and takes off into the wilderness, in the genera direction of a small snowbound copse of pines on a knoll around a mile from where you are.
Funny how quickly life returns back to normal in the animal world. Animals are nature’s ultimate fatalists. They know their time on earth is fleeting. They don’t hurry, plan, hoard, trick, deceive, conspire, no – perhaps they are way above us, spiritually, more ‘with it’, more accepting and more virtuous than us. Perhaps they are the ones who will eventually have the last laugh.
Not a tear is shed for a downed compatriot, there is not even a pause. The herd is already moving away, unaware of the sudden intrusion and the consequent assassination.
It usually takes a while to find the fleeing wounded caribou – sometimes maybe even a couple of hours. You pray it will fall somewhere you can access with your ski-doo or ATV, so you can rig it and tow it back to the shack. You can’t sling a 250lb caribou over your shoulder and walk back with it, no.
If Curly tripped over the edge of a ravine, you just lost your kill. You will have ta grit your teeth and go back to the shack and maybe try again tomorrow, though it might be difficult if the herd has moved on by then. There was a guy, over at the inn at Whapmagoostui, who had offered his drone at a hundred bucks an hour, but caribou had seemed so plenty, you had declined. You might need him, in case Curly can’t be traced.
Meanwhile Curly just keeps on going, disappearing in the snow weighted pines, the grey-white of his pelt the perfect camouflage in the mud and snow. Fortunately, the crimson of his blood stands out on the snow and you go after him. You track him for an hour and you finally find him lying on his side, still alive, chest heaving, his eyes wide open, as plumes of mist escape his flared nostrils. There is no indignation, no reprehension, no accusation, in those beautiful, guileless eyes. He doesn’t seem ta say, ‘Hey what the f–k did you do that for’. There is just acceptance – a simple innocent understanding, something that strikes you that only sages are known ta have. The SlickTrick Magnum broad head is sticking out between his shoulder blades, its gleam dulled by blood and tissue, but otherwise undamaged (broad heads are expensive but a broad head can be used multiple times).
As you sit on your haunches and watch the life ebb out of Curly, you note that the spurts of blood have waned somewhat, to just a trickle now – he does not have much time left, maybe seconds. You will be able ta extricate the arrow only after you have cut Curly open later on. You are filled with a strange melancholy as you regard Curly silently. No one likes ta watch a living being die right in front of his eyes, especially when that being you have despatched.
“I’m sorry it had ta end this way, Curly,” your voice is a muted whisper as you reach out to touch the fine silky down on his heaving chest,” I hunt for food. In my place, you would too. “ You immediately start feeling better. That’s of course a lie. You hunt for pleasure, for the thrill. But you are you, corrupted by the world you live in.
Suddenly you sense that you are not alone and you stiffen. Your time at the SOAS has given you, not just a sixth, but a seventh, eighth and a ninth sense. There is a shuffle in the snow behind you and at the same instant, your SOAS training kicks in, suppressing the impulse to immediately turn and look. In the world of carnivores, sudden turns can be fatal.
You gradually swivel your eyes and now you can see them clearly. Coyotes – you let out a sigh of relief, in the form of a blast of steam from your nostrils. Coyotes are cowardly, not known to kill unless they are certain the prey is incapacitated.
A pack of arctic coyotes have formed a U-shaped half ring behind you, low growls and snivels coming out of their bared teeth, along with clouds of steam from flared nostrils. Arctic coyotes are like their cousins, the wolves – cute, but cold and emotion-free. You could literally die trying ta cuddle one, trust me.
Remember the road runner cartoon that has a scrawny, dumb coyote called Wile-e-Coyote who gets outwitted by the road runner every time? Well, coyotes aren’t dumb at all. They are just dirty sons of bitches. They kill caribou but they don’t like the taste of venison. They find some sort of macabre pleasure in transforming the poor deer into chunks of flesh and leaving them there. (Coyotes are crazy about fowl, like partridge, grouse and wild turkey, not deer).
The coyotes had been there first actually and they were on the verge of tearing Curly apart, when they sensed your approach. Oh yeah, that is another lesson you have learned early in your life – always remain downwind. But this time, Curly had been downwind and you had no choice. The coyotes caught your scent and retreated behind some shrubs at the periphery of your vision. You know they are still there somewhere, just not exactly where.
You remove the outer glove from your right hand and ease the Glock out of your jacket pocket. In slow motion, you swing it up in the air and fire a round. Startled by the shot and dazzled by the gaudy orange and yellow hunting vest that you have on, the coyotes quickly melt into the snow.
The vest is important. You don’t want a Dick Cheney clone mistaking you for a caribou and drawing a bead on you inadvertently. There are assholes like Dick Cheney everywhere. In Quebec, fatal hunting gun accidents aren’t prosecuted. They figure that if you believe that the caribou had it coming, then you had it coming too.
(Don’t go away…Part-4 will be here, soon as I have had a chance ta refill my mug of Stella Artois)