January 24, 2008
The Best Day of All?
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
This fall will be my 40th season of big-game hunting. I've been lucky enough to do a lot of it. I have lots of memories, but there is one day in particular that stands out in my mind. It was a caribou hunt in Alaska, perhaps 100 miles east of Dillingham (population 2,468, plus 80 security cameras, bought on a Homeland Security grant in 2006 in case Osama should try to infiltrate through a fishing village) and took place in the mid-1990s. I was there with two other hunters and I had gotten a caribou the day before, so I got to stay in camp while they went looking.
I was all by my lonesome in the middle of true wilderness. No roads, no power lines, no planes, no contrails, no nothing, just me in a tent camp by a river whose name I have forgotten.
It was a beautiful day; blue sky, no wind, no rain, no bugs. I split some wood in the morning, and for lunch made a sandwich out of Argentine corned beef whose principle ingredients were salt, water, and horsemeat. For the rest of the time I simply sat by the river and watched the salmon roll.
Around 4 PM the clouds came in and after them a downpour with high winds. This was Alaska, after all. I went to our tents and started fires in the sheepherder stoves, and before long the others returned drenched, near-hypothermic, and caribou-less. (If there's anything that can bring joy to a hunter's heart it's being inside while your friends are catching hell outdoors.)
And that was about it. I don't know why I think of this unremarkable day so often, but there is a lesson here. We don't know how many days afield we are going to get, or which ones we will ultimately value the most, so it's best to appreciate all of them--good, bad, and ordinary.