A Gift From The Pembina

 Matt and I sat down on the bank of a flooded river to enjoy the setting sun of our last night of hunting. In the previous five days we had been rained on and wet more then we were dry and had not seen so much as a track or scat. We had given up on the hunt and decided a quick sip of Alberta Premium was what the doctor ordered. We talked about hunts of the past and plans for the coming fall, when I noticed a log floating down the river. I mentioned to Matt how great all the debris drifting by would be for quick aim shooting.
Sam-"Matt that log actually looks like a bear swimming."
Matt-"Sam, that IS a bear swimming."
After a quick check of the time/legal light and sight posts, its decided we can make a legal and ethical 75m shot when he makes it to the far bank and out of the water.

When the bear pulled himself onto the bank he was perfect broadside and after a slow exhale the shots were released. Certain of hit, a celebratory yell and high five is exchanged. This is where the fun ends and the "fun" starts. We have to make it across this river, in the black of night, track and skin the bear, and swim back across the flooded river with the bear.

We head to our camp and set a plan into motion. I strip down and take the goretex shell of my sleeping bag and place my rifle, my skinning knife, and raincoat inside, tie off the top and with Matt, jump into the churning muddy waters. My feet arent able to touch bottom and we begin to get swept downstream. Using the shell filled with air as a flotation device we make it across safely, but 300 meters downstream of the intended landing spot. With our feet now on the muddy bank and daylight all but failed, we take a moment to collect ourselves and start looking for tracks.
After a surprisingly fruitless 30 minutes, Matt shouts over to me that he has found the tracks but no blood. We continue to scour the ground, and it continually takes us deeper into the forest. We are now doubting a hit from the absence of blood but motivated by an evident drag in one of the paws on his right side. For which ever reason, the tracks run out and we start a long zigzag with the same vector that the bear was on. My hair stands on end instantly when I hear a few branches break and then Matt yells,  "ON ME NOW." I ploughed through the forest and over to him and froze as in the light of my headlamp, two eyes  glowed and stared at me. The beast had not yet bled out and as we studied him to decide our next move, we saw his hind quarter blood soaked. It was evident the shots had landed too far rearward on the beast for a quick kill. We jockeyed for a final dispatch shot placed in the neck, and the boar had such heavy muscle tissue that even from point blank, the round did not pass through.

Now skinning started and thunder clouds rolled in to ensure we would continue to be wet for the entire duration of the task. Still wearing just our boxers and a rain coat, a painful (what seemed like) hour had past, and the bear was skinned out, less the paws and skull. We folded the fur and strung it over a branch to be carried out over our shoulders. After a brief period of getting myself lost in the dark, Matt pointed me in the right direction and we found the riverbank. It was the darkest night I could remember and I think a lot of people use that term sparingly... There was no silhouette of the trees against the night sky and the other side of the river was not visible, neither was my hand at arms length. We were now contemplating whether to make the trip in absolute darkness, during a flood, through a slurry of debris or wait until morning. Without a fire, waiting almost definitely meant hypothermia as the air was only 3 degrees above freezing and the volumes of rain that had fallen made it out of our abilities to start one matchless. We would make the trip at night... Policing up our gear and stowing it into the goretex shell, along with the blood soaked fur, we waded out until the current sweept us off our feet. The opposing bank was a different story, it was steep and cliff like and had deep water that made it impossible to find a place to get to ground. It seemed like forever I drifted downstream, all the while my "flotation device" took on water. I was now struggling to keep it afloat and finally a tree that had fallen in offered itself as a hand hold. I Turned back and Matt was nowhere to be seen. Panic set in as I scanned the water. Suddenly he was in front of me, his hand just inside the light of my headlamp and moving by me fast, however out of reach of the same tree I had used to get to safety. I reached my arm out and he muckled onto it and the current then pushed him into the bank. We pulled each other up and out and rolled the shell with its cargo up the bank(cliff) inch by inch until it was on flat ground, then used a couple of fallen trees as a skid to carry it the rest of the way to camp... All that was left at this point was to dry off and sleep. It was 01:00 in the when we completed our return trip across the river and 02:00 when we were finally sleeping. This story will take its place, along with a few from my time in the military, in the book of "Best Shitty Times Of My Life".