My young packer, Reno, and I had been spiked out in the mountains chasing Dall sheep for nearly month by the time our final grueling hunt came to a close. We were fixin’ to bed down for the evening when Big Dog, the pilot, soared in and landed on our tiny patch tundra. “There’s a big storm movin’ in,” he advised, hoping out of his single passenger Husky aircraft with a determined speed I hadn’t seen him use in all the years I’d known him. I thought about pointing out the fact that snow was already flying and he was flirting with the legal minimums of ceiling and visibility as it was, but I could see he was in real hurry because he didn’t even stop to roll a cigarette. “Get the hunter ready and send out any extra gear you don’t need. I’m gonna try to come back to get you guys, but if I can’t make it back tonight, I’m gonna need you two to be as light as possible. This strip is too short to haul any kind of load out of if it’s covered in snow.”
I sent out crusty socks, an old book, my tripod, and spotting scope. Reno sent out little more than his rifle. I thought about lecturing my under-study about the importance of having a weapon on hand in the wilds of Alaska, but Big Dog always seemed to come through, and besides, I had my 44. Magnum.
We stuffed Russ, our hunter, all his gear, his tent, and our excess stuff in the airplane and Big Dog roared for base camp. With visibili