The caribou in this painting are ones I saw on three separate occasions on my WREAF trip to Labrador in 2008. The group I am working on now and the three on the far left side of the piece are from one very exciting day.
We were eight artists flown into a remote section of Labrador on Lake Kamistastin the end of September. I spent most of my time with two of the artists, Cole Johnson and Steve Oliver.
Early one morning, Cole and I headed off to the back country to find caribou, prepared for a long day of hiking. About 5 or 6 hours into our strenuous hike in quite hilly terrain I spotted several dozen caribou on a ridge to our right. Cole devised our plan. We were on a ridge overlooking a bowl which had a spruce forest. He thought once the caribou started moving down their ridge if we went down ours and positioned ourselves in the forest, we would be in a perfect spot to grab photos as they moved past us.
The caribou starting moving down their slope...fast. We ran down ours and entered the forest trying to move as fast as we could so we would be in place when they arrived. It wasn't long before Cole and I were separated. (Cole and I had made a plan to meet back at the ridge in case we were separated. Always good to have a back-up plan in remote country.)
Not wanting to yell to find where he was, I just kept moving, stopping every now and then to listen for hooves.
Nothing. Had the caribou gone past? stopped? turned in another direction? I kept moving, hurriedly but quietly, stopping every few minutes to listen. How much time had past? I had to take a peak to see if I could spot the caribou. There was a small slope to my right and I got down and crawled up to take a glance. Inching up I just reached the crest when the brush exploded to my left. The caribou! They were streaming past me.
Caribou are not huge animals but they sure seem fairly big when you are flat on your stomach and they are moving right next to you. They are curious creatures and would often stop and look at this idiot in camouflage on the ground who whipped out her camera to photograph them. Cows, calves, young bulls, but no huge bulls.
Wave after wave passed me and then more sound in the brush and a large bull almost ran over me before moving by on my right side. Now they were running past me on both sides. What a thrill!
It was over before I knew it. Now, where was Cole? Did he see any of it? I chanced a quiet call out for him and to my surprise he answered right away. He was just below my little mound behind some trees and had seen the whole herd. We were giddy as we told each other our encounters and shared our digital photos.
By the time we arrived back at camp it was dark. We'd been gone 11 hours and were beat. But, not too tired that we didn't want to share the excitement of being in the midst of a herd of migrating caribou.