Before I decided to go moose hunting with a friend for the first time, it was important for me to highlight all the reasons why this could be a terrible idea.
The limits of my knowledge are too numerous to list, but when it comes to moose hunting, my limits begin where hunters often say “the real work begins” – my experience with moose has included processing meat more than finding a suitable one Animal.
The conversation started when a friend called to ask if it was my first moose hunt with her. Several people had promised to take her, but it never worked. She liked the idea of ââself-sufficiency and filling the freezer with organic meat.
In most cases, the idea of ââstepping out of your comfort zone with encouraging thoughts of success is something that you as a friend really want to support. I want to be the friend who says yes let’s do it! And off you go on a great adventure.
Instead, I wondered how much of my ignorance I should share. Would it be most helpful for them to know that I wasn’t one of those rare and tough people who single-handedly hunted and packaged an elk before spending a week in the barn alone to slaughter it for my winter meat?
When she asked if I was still on the line, I remembered a cartoon picture of me with a 1,500-pound moose on my backpack.
I am here, I said. I just thought moose hunting was serious business. I mean, it’s like raising a child. It takes a village.
She indicated that she knew we could do it, and I promised to think about it a bit and get in touch with her.
It’s been a couple of days and I’m still thinking about it.
My first thought was that sharing my wealth of inexperience and a collection of stories about things that could go wrong would be a good approach to convince them that we might want to add someone to our hunting team who actually knows more about it Elk hunt knows that it is to be euthanized again.
Another thought was to suggest that we sign up for the roadkill list. Our chances of catching a car hit moose through the Alaska Department of Public Safety program may be greater than the likelihood of two newbies finding a legal bull. Working on a rescue team can be a great experience handling an animal that often requires a winch, trailer, and battery operated reciprocating saw.
As I thought about my approach, I also thought about my motivations as a hunter. I have benefited from moose hunters all of my life, and I have given a remarkably small amount of help in the work associated with it.
But as a hunter, it is often much more difficult to get moose meat than you think, and I wasn’t sure my friend knew any less than I how hard it could be.
People might compare it as a healthy grocery store alternative, especially if it looks like a full freezer with meat individually wrapped in butcher paper. But the grocery store usually keeps its products in stock. And you won’t be billed for the opportunity to shop if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Perhaps she thought I would be a good hunting partner because I am an avowed “avid hunter”. It doesn’t matter that my hunting days during the year are mainly devoted to water birds and grouse. She doesn’t see those days when Steve and I just sit and watch ducks in a pond or wander through the mountains knowing where ptarmigan live and how they might fare in a given year. I haven’t spent the time building the same relationship with moose.
Hunters as a group of people are just as prone to generalization as any other group. Different stereotypes can exist within the group – a sheep hunter with mountains in the distance looks different from a duck hunter in waders or an elk hunter with elbows to knees in a camping chair.
I couldn’t help but think of Patrick McManus’ description of the “avid hunter”: “There are probably more avid hunters than all deer and elk hunters combined.” There is no such thing as an “avid” animal.
That thought made me wonder how my friend imagined our moose hunt. Did she think we’d take the bush plane to one place, load the ATVs and drive to an established moose camp, or spend the weekend exploring remote gravel roads or driving on a lucky chance?
I wasn’t sure I could afford a fly-in trip, and I don’t have an established moose camp – finding such a place is often the reward of years of dedication. Was she planning to do scouting and would she find it offensive if I asked a long list of questions that kept coming back to my mind about planning, equipment, and experience?
This summer I spent every day off with Steve in the field. We took the dogs we hunt with on trips to keep them in shape and to refresh their training. I’m really looking forward to taking Rigby, a young Labrador, on his first duck hunt this fall.
I count my days as a hunter like every moment I spend outside. These include hard times for animals and wild birds in winter and rich autumn times. Every bit of that time goes into the relationship. Just like belonging to a family or being a friend is not about individual actions or results.
It was not easy to share all of these thoughts with my friend as it was not a resounding yes or no to her suggestion to shoulder our rifles and bring the moose bacon home. It’s never fun being the one who says we should recognize our limits and be sensible in our approach. Let’s dive into this idea of ââmoose hunting and stand up for whatever it’s worth.
It’s not like going to the store and that’s the best part about it.
Christine Cunningham is a Lifelong Alaskan living in Kenai.