WEDNESDAY. Made the best of yesterday afternoon by watching the sheep on the other side of the river until dark. By the time we got back to camp Curley had finished off everybody's liquor. He was in quite a state about snakes and threatened all kinds of reprisals if we say one word about them when we get out. Eventually he fell asleep.
Curley was still snoring at 8:30 this morning, when we heard the first roar of the helicopter coming down the canyon. We grabbed as much gear as we could carry and charged to the knob above camp. The ceiling was still minus zero, and visibility was less. The chopper circled in the fog for almost an hour, at times sounding so close that we actually ducked. The noise finally awakened Curley, who ran up the ridge yelling, "Fire! Fire!" We were not sure whether the camp had gone up in flames or he wanted the copter shot down in same. Just then a break opened in the fog, the pilot spotted us, and the copter sideslipped onto the knob.
Lyle, the party's trophy hunter, was determined to find his trophy on that side of the river, so he and one of the hardier teen-agers stayed behind. The chopper made five trips to get the rest of us and our gear across. We could not see more than 25 feet in any direction, and once the rotors clipped the top off a pine tree. I made the hop with Bud, who continued on out because his knees have gotten still worse. He was also having trouble with an ulcer that was responding to Spam and beans.
With only one day of the hunt left for me, Curley decided we could cover more ground by hunting toward one another from opposite mountains. He dropped me about three miles south of the new camp and went on with the chopper.
About a century ago a band of outlaw Indians, who called themselves the Sheepeaters, are supposed to have hidden out here and hunted these peaks. They managed to keep one jump ahead of U.S. troops for years and in their spare time collected the scalps of a respectable assortment of soldiers, settlers and, presumably, sheep.
It is hard to believe that the front that fashioned this canyon thousands of years ago could create two sides of a river so different. Here, at the same altitude we hunted this past week (6,500 to 9,000 feet), the meadows are green, bright patches of wild flowers grow in the rocks and there are tall trees and an abundance of food and cover for game. This is obviously the side of the river we should have been on from the start. It is infuriating to realize that we had worked so hard and were so close the whole time. There is game sign everywhere here, and tracks and trails at every step.
Around 3:30 one of the pinkish rocks I had been watching turned into a sheep. As it rose lazily to its feet and moved across a distant meadow, I could see that it was a ewe. I was still watching her when one of the teen-agers whistled from the next ridge. I asked what had happened to Curley. He shrugged and said, "You know."
Too late, I did. Along with steaks, which we had ordered over Curley's mumbled protests, the helicopter had also brought in a fresh supply of liquor. The reason for the separate hunts was all too clear. By the time I had reached camp around 6, Curley had finished off half a fifth of vodka and half a fifth of bourbon. Astonishingly, he apparently chased these with Scotch.
I said, "What did the helicopter do, bring open bottles?"
He looked blank and said, "Guess Bob, Bill and Dan came back."