Every fall hunters take to the Alaska bush in search of animals. For many, it’s about feeding the family for the year. I fall within this category and prefer to feed my children wild game over store-bought meat. It’s a complicated tapestry of wanting to remain connected to our food source, avoiding hormone-infused, commercially-farmed animals and satisfying the intrinsic need to hunt and gather.
On one end of the spectrum, there’s the subsistence hunter, for whom hunting is both a necessity for survival and a strong connection to traditional customs, which includes respect for all living things. For these people, virtually every piece of the animal is used and in many cases shared among members of the community. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the hunter in pursuit of trophies. While I personally don’t hunt something that I won’t eat, I think I understand the thrill and some of the reasons why hunters do this. When I look at a set of horns from an animal that I have taken, even many years removed from the hunt, it brings back a flood of memories of the event and helps to keep the memory alive.
One thing that can be improved upon by trophy hunters is the use of the meat. In many communities across the state, local peoples would readily take well cared-for meat. Not only would this help families in need, as there are always elders, single moms, disabled people and others who want and need meat, but to see it wasted produces a divide between locals and hunters. Donating meat that you don’t intend to eat is a good solution. Check with the local village closest to your hunt about the best way to donate your well cared-for meat. There are over 200 village corporations across the state. See the bottom of this post for a list of contact information for those corporations.
Here’s a reminder on the basic steps of meat care in the field:
1) Kill the animal as quickly as possible, preferably with one shot that drops the quarry. That means adequate practice at the range and insuring that scopes are sighted and rifles are zeroed. Check before your hunt to make sure that your scope has not been jarred since you last used it. Also, avoid taking difficult or long-range shots. Good stalks result in closer shots that often produce clean kills.
2) Cool the meat as quickly as possible. Gutting and caping immediately will help.
3) Keep the meat clean, dry and cool. We prefer synthetic game bags to keep debris off the meat and to keep flies from laying eggs in it. Erect a meat rack in the shade with a tarp above it as a roof to keep the meat dry, and to also let air flow to keep the meat cool. Be attentive to avoid getting hair, dirt, grass and other materials on the meat as you field-dress the animal.
4) Avoid taking an animal in hot conditions when you are not able to get the meat out of the field quickly. If you can’t get the animal out of the field by the end of the next day, avoid shooting it.
Otherwise, get out there and enjoy everything the Alaska bush has to offer, and at the end of your hunt, whether you’re providing meat for your family or others’, appreciate and utilize the gifts nature has provided.
And for another good solution, check out this video from friend and loyal subscriber Louis Cusack: