As a family, we eat quite a bit of wild fish and game. Salmon, trout, ducks, geese, ptarmigan, reindeer, moose, and musk ox are all a part of our diet. Some of this game we catch ourselves and some we receive from friends in the village.
On Monday, AnnMarie's father, Roger, and I went out musk ox hunting. It was 55 degrees, partly sunny, and very windy. I drove our Polaris ATV and Roger borrowed a machine from our friend Amy (who later forgot that we borrowed it and thought that it was stolen.) We drove north from town and made a circle around the Brevig mountains. We were out for about 10 hours and covered 16 miles.
The only animals that we saw for the first half of the day was a pair of swans and small herd of reindeer. About 2 pm we made our way to a valley behind the mountain that has a few willows growing in it. We took advantage of the willows by using them as a wind break while we had a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, ginger snap bars (that Cindy baked for us) and hot tea.
After our break we drove down the small side valley to where it joins a much bigger valley with a small creek at the bottom of it. At this point, we had to decide if we would go upstream for a much longer ride or follow the creek downstream back to Brevig. I checked my watch and noted that it was 3 pm, I thought that we wouldn't want to ride too much longer. We turned downstream and started making our way home.
We only made it a few hundred yards downstream when I spied a large bull musk ox walking toward us. I hopped off my machine, grabbed my rifle and waited for him to get closer. The bull noticed us, but was not alarmed at our presence. He continued to walk along the stream and I shot him when he turned broadside to me at about 60 yards. Luckily he dropped in the grass next to the stream and not in the ice cold water. A musk ox is much too big to move around, so you butcher it where it lays.
The time was 3:30, the shooting part is no big deal, the real work starts after pulling the trigger. We save the hide to be tanned later, so the first step is to carefully skin the animal. This was the biggest part of the butchering job. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get the entire hide off. We used ropes tied to the four wheeler to pull the legs out of the way while cutting. Once the hide was off, we separated the four quarters, remove the head, and dump the guts.
After washing everything off in the stream, we spread the hide out on the back of the 4-wheeler and used it to wrap the four quarters for the return trip. The ribs and backbone stayed in one piece and was strapped to the front rack. We managed to put all of the musk ox meat on one four wheeler. It was a big load, but we made it. It was about 7:00 when we were all packed up. We made it home about 8:00 p.m., tired out but thankful for a successful hunt.
The next morning we trimmed some of the waste off the pieces and hung them to age. In a few days the next round of work begins. We will cut the meat into steaks and roasts, grind some for burger, and can some for stew meat.