An eagle, a bear and a three-toed dinosaur

man with a short beard

Norman Wilkins, early 1980s

Monday, September 1, 1980—I saw a large bull and cow, but it was too far to shoot. Charlie saw a cow and a calf but didn’t want to shoot those. We sighted in his rifle. It rained and blew hard and then a few flakes of snow. It’s pretty cold up in these mountains tonight.

Tuesday, September 2, 1980—up early and hunted off to the north. We walked up a creek there quite some distance. Brought our lunch with us. Saw a pinnacle of rock—an outcropping quite tall and it had lots of white eagle pooh on it. An eagle was sitting up there looking the country over. We walked a little farther and there was an esker (gravel esker) sticking up not too awfully high and it had a really sharp peak on its top. I decided to walk down this. Charlie followed me. We were walking along and I saw this interesting rock—it’s been broke in two. It was a three-toed dinosaur track. This rock was made out of mud, water and pressure at some time in the distant past. I picked up the two pieces that make the dinosaur track and put them in my pack.

We ate our lunch and headed south and east. We saw some more caribou that were too far away to shoot. We shot some ptarmigan, boiled it up and ate the meat. We boiled everything on this ptarmigan, all the little bones and we drank the broth from that—really was good.

One day when we were out hunting ptarmigan, I had a 12 gage shotgun and Charlie carried a rifle. We’d switch off shooting. When I shot a ptarmigan, why then I’d give him the shotgun and I’d take his rifle and he’s shoot the next ptarmigan and so on. We were walking up through the willows and we came upon a six foot grizzly. All I saw at first was just his head. He had heard us coming and was looking at me. Then he stood up and I said “Bear!” to warn Charlie that there was a bear close by. Charlie couldn’t tell from that whether or not the bear was coming at us, so he was backpedaling. When the bear stood up and saw there was two of us, the thing reeled and ran. Charlie said afterwards he was concerned that he was handling a strange gun and was wishing he had his familiar .30-06 in his hands when I hollered “bear”. Here I am holding his .30-06, not familiar with it—and I wished I had my shotgun! But nothing came of it and we got back to camp and dressed out the ptarmigan and had our supper.

Wednesday, September 3, 1980—Charlie had breakfast and walked out to the strip on the Little Nelchina to meet Whitey, the pilot. Whitey will fly him out to the highway. He’s sorry to have to leave us, but he must. I hunted ptarmigan and got five. Mike came back in the early afternoon. He had made arrangements to have a fellow with a swamp buggy bring the welder to us.

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Overflow on lake ice

white ptarmigan

A winter ptarmigan

Tuesday, December 11, 1979—got up at 3:45 a.m. and got to Cal’s at 5:00 a.m. He has invited me to ride in his snow track with him and his son Ernie on his trapline. It was such a day that trappers don’t like. We didn’t get any fur. I did get two ptarmigans and when I shot these ptarmigans, I walked over to pick them up and lo and behold there is overflow on the ice! The snow is about a foot deep and the overflow wasn’t obvious when I started for the ptarmigan. I got out on it and broke through a thin crust of ice and not knowing how deep the water was, I didn’t want it to go over my Sorel boots and get my feet wet. It’s very cold so I laid down on top of the snow which held my body in that manner and then I rolled off the area of the overflow—I did take the ptarmigans and rifle with me.

We saw quite a few other ptarmigans but we didn’t shoot any more. Saw some caribou and lots of moose, but we didn’t see any bulls. There may have been moose that had lost their horns and at a distance, it’s hard to tell a bull from a cow and be positive about it—for me anyway. I really enjoyed the trip. It was fun and I thanked Cal for taking me along. His trapline is 73 miles out, and the temperature was -25° to -35° depending on the elevation of where we were at the time.