I have been suffering from moose anxiety. I suspect this might be a diagnosis particular to northern Canadians, with variations such as caribou anxiety and seal anxiety depending in which part of the North you call home.
Every October when the first snow falls, I look out at a woodshed full of wood and a freezer full of moose meat and feel the tremendous comfort of knowing that, come what may, we will have heat and food through the winter. “It’s like money in the bank”.
This year is different. This, the year we are eating only food local to Dawson City. The name ‘Murphy’ comes to mind. Gerard has been hunting for almost 2 weeks and had yet to even see a bull moose. Very unusual. Lots of tracks, but no moose. Unfortunately, you can’t eat tracks.
It has been a surprisingly warm Fall this year in the Yukon. Perhaps the bull moose are waiting for colder weather before going into full rut. Whatever the reason, they have not been interested in the call of a pseudo-cow (i.e. Gerard). Perhaps he should have shaved.
On Oct 1st, after re-stocking his food (3 dozen local eggs, 2 pounds of local cheese, 20 pounds of local carrots, 10 pounds of local potatoes and the remnants of last year’s moose — 3 pounds of moose burger and 15 moose sausages), Gerard headed out on the river again for one last hunt.
I’m sure I had given him the strong impression that he was not to come home again until he had a moose. But as the days passed this week, I began hoping that he wasn’t taking that literally. He is hunting alone.
And then, late last night, the phone rang.
It was a call from a satellite phone. And it was Gerard’s voice at the other end of the line. He was still alive. And one bull moose wasn’t. Phew! A relief on both accounts.
It has not just been the moose that have been affected by the weather this year in Dawson. A late frost in mid June seemed to have destroyed many of the wild berry blossoms resulting in an unusually poor year for wild berries. A very dry summer affected the wild mushrooms such that mushroom foragers have been scratching their heads to find any at all – worst year for wild mushrooms in 25 years!
It is another poignant reminder on our dependence on the forces of nature. And the importance of diversity (if not moose, at least we have some local chicken and local pork in our freezer). And the importance of community.
Despite the slim pickings, Dawsonites have been generously sharing their precious supply of berries with us this year and I am sure that if this was to be Gerard’s first ever unsuccessful moose hunt, those who had more luck would have been sharing their moose as well. Moose anxiety has now been lifted.
Mähsi Cho Jejik. And thank you Gerard.