Spending the past year connecting with my food has been revolutionary for me. I have spent time with the chickens and pigs during their life on the farm. And I have been there during their quick and stress-free harvest. I have been there as salmon are pulled from the river, as rabbits are snared, and caribou are harvested. I have witnessed the care and respect the farmers show their livestock both during their life and at the time of their dispatch. I have participated in the transformation from animal to the cuts of meat that are neatly packaged for us, disconnecting us from their original form. And after a year of wasting no morsel of precious food, I have learned that there are many more parts of the animal that are edible beyond the steaks and roasts.
Animal-based protein is essential to food security in the North. The alternatives just don’t grow here. This year, as moose hunting season approached, I had a great desire to make a similar connection with the moose that year after year provides the staple meat for our family. So I volunteered to accompany Gerard on his week-long, river based moose hunt. I now have a new respect for the moose hunt.
It’s not as simple as I thought it was — Gerard going for a week long camping trip with the guys and coming home with a year’s worth of meat. In fact it’s amazing to me that anyone ever gets a moose at all! First of all you have to actually see a moose. There are more moose than people in the Yukon, but with a territory larger than California and only 35,000 people, there is a lot of wilderness for those 65,000 moose to wander through. It’s not like 65,000 moose are standing on the river bank just waiting to feed your family.
The moose along the river were not coming to the call, so luring them out of the wilderness was not an option. If you are lucky enough to see a moose, then you have to be close enough to determine whether it is a cow moose or a bull moose. Only bull moose can be hunted in the Yukon. And it is amazing how a 1000-pound animal can simply vanish into the willows completely silently. Whereas I, a 130 pound woman, can’t seem to step into the forest without snapping branches under my feet.
If you are lucky enough to see a bull moose that waits by the river bank long enough for you to be in range to take a shot, you’ve got just a couple of seconds to shoot before he bolts. Add one more challenge: you are shooting from a moving boat in a river with a 6-knot current.
Seven days we searched and called – the majority of which we saw zero moose and zero fresh tracks. In the end I find it best to consider our week on the river a moose conservation trip. All points for the moose. Zero points for us. Plus one forest fire staunched (more on this in the next post).
We stayed on the river until the boat’s steering cable froze up from the cold weather and then reluctantly came home. For the first time ever, there will be no moose in our freezer. But we do have lots of local pork, chicken, turkey, and chum salmon, so we will be okay. And Gerard now has his sights on February’s buffalo season. All I can say is, thank goodness it’s not last year! And well done moose!