As we left the Motel Six and headed in the direction of what we hoped would be our final hunting destination in western Canada, the first thing I noticed was that despite the snow the night before, the high winds had kept the snow from sticking on the roads. The second thing was a giant sign that said, “We love Westmoreland Coal Company.”
Yep, a company that bankrupted in the United States is still running wide open, three shifts a day, just across the U.S. border. That we found out as we stopped to get a cup of coffee and fuel. As we drove the 450-plus miles to finish our journey, I noticed that both Carl Jr. and Carl III where just as quiet as could be, both trying, I surmised, to get over the shock of being stuck in the elevator earlier in the morning.
Our current plan was to only stop when it was urgent. Of course, Carl III knew he had an advantage, as anytime we stopped he got to light up. Then came the question, that I am always asked, “How many years have you hunted with this outfitter? How many years have you known him?”
Those questions are usually asked of me before we leave for hunting trips, not after those going to hunt with me have made a $4,000 deposit and are within 400 miles of the lodge. When I answered it was another shock for them when looked at Carl Jr. and answered, ‘Well since this is my first moose hunt, I have never hunted with them and I have never met our outfitter.”
I sometimes do meet outfitters at hunting and fishing shows, but not this time. I knew it was a good thing my doors where locked, as they would have jumped out. After my words soaked in and they could speak, the questions started up again. How do you know we can trust this outfitter? What if we get there, and he has taken our money and run? What if? What if?
I drove on, trying to cover the miles we still needed to travel so we would still be there on time. At 2 o’clock, western Canada time, we pulled into the two neighboring Saskatchewan communities known as The Battlefords. It would be the last city would see before reaching the First Nations reservation. We were 36 miles from the lodge, and it looked as though we would make it. We had hoped to avoid fueling up with gas in Canada except twice, as its gasoline is $4.50 a gallon. I was driving, so I pulled in to fuel up. I looked around, but I didn’t see Carl Jr. or Carl III.
Unable to find them, I walked to the next nearest restaurant, and again they were not there. I looked at the far end of the shopping center, and there was a Burger King. I thought surely they didn’t go there, but drove into the parking lot anyway. As soon as I cleared the Burger King door, there they stood.
“Man, I’ve looked everywhere for you,” I said to no response. I then asked, “Have you ordered?” They both answered yes, but then said it would be a few minutes because their order was being fried.
I looked at my watch; it was 3 p.m. by now, and we had been an hour waiting to move ahead for our 36-mile trip to the lodge. We got our orders, ate, and of course, Carl III had to burn one more while I was trying to get them to move on. We pulled into the lodge at 3:53 p.m., the last of 10 hunters to get there.
Now things really get exciting, and this is where we will pick up next week. At least we are now at the lodge, a 2,400-mile trip complete.