At least it wasn't cold, maybe a few degrees above zero. Last year, same week, same hunt, it was 40 below. My brother had a tag, but when he tried to chamber a cartridge, the bolt wouldn't slide over the pin on the side of the rail. Even though he stuck the rifle up under his shirt to thaw the pin spring and walked in circles until daybreak, there was nothing doing, so he said the hell with it and snowshoed 2 miles back to the road. He had to flag a trucker to jump his car. It was tough luck for him that day, and there wasn't much call for optimism on my part this morning either, with the slopes windswept and the snow old and crunchy. But then if you don't go, you never know. My hopes were resting on a knob of timber that might hold a small band or two under these conditions. The going was bad, and of course that's why they liked it. On the north slope of this place, I had never seen a boot track except for my own, and that's going back many years.