It is such a pleasure to sit outside this morning, coffee close at hand. Quigley roaming over the still brown grass. The last signs of snow slowly melting away. Mrs Robin singing of her delight at what is soon coming. The winter has not been a hard one by any means but it has been long it seems. The first snow appeared in mid October and here we are the end of March and people are beginning to appreciate leaving their bulky coats indoors, walking, riding, jogging or simply walking hand in hand enjoying a new awakening.
I have been asked many times by readers of the books I have penned and on various writing sites if I have ever hunted. I certainly have as it was a mainstay of living in the north where beef was far to expensive. Hunting and caring for meat as a food source became a part of life.
Please gather around and follow along as I write of the methods of caring for the game a hunter takes. Maybe not the most pleasant subject on such a beautiful morning. I do hope you find this interesting as it has been going on for many generations. In my opinion it is part of life. Pull up a chair and gather around. Allow the sun to warm you… hugs are always a part of any Fireside Chat.
Moose or Latin Alces alces
Today let me introduce you to the most common of hunted animals in Northern Canada. Their meat is a very lean meat, depending on how the animal is taken and the meat cared for will determine the taste.
Depending on age a Moose can be as tall as 7 feet from the ground to the top of its shoulders. It can weigh as much as 2000 pounds and has life span of 15-25 years.
After many years of hunting this giant of the forest I have come to that place in life where I would just as soon sit and watch it. The hunter who has experienced the hunt will tell you once the fatal shot has been taken that is when the real work begins. As I have stated how you take the animal will determine the quality of the meat. A bad shot will put the animal into a state of flight, thus its heart pumping copious amounts of blood through it’s muscles and body.
For me my preference was always the most effective shot was directly into the brain where the animal died immediately. Care of course was needed when approaching the animal, most times a second shot to the brain insured its painless death. A simple slice of the jugular would bleed the animal out and insure quality meat.
The Cree Indians believe a prayer of thankfulness is to be spoken over the animal and its spirit. It is a solemn time of reflection knowing you have taken a life. Your prayer is your way of thanking the Creator for the food and asking Him to guide and direct the animals spirit.
Next comes the hard work I have mentioned. The entrails of the animal must be removed. The hide must be removed to allow the animal to cool quickly preserving the meat. For the true hunter the one who meets the animal in his surroundings means you are a distance from your vehicle. The animal has to be carried out to the vehicle.
Care and Cleanliness
The amount of care taken will determine what you eat. Once the animal has been skinned and quartered each piece can weigh anywhere from 200-300 pounds. It is a long arduous task to make trips with that kind of load. One has to keep in mind if you are in bear country they have the most powerful sense of smell and will seek out a fresh kill. Thus the task must be done quickly.
The Cree believe all parts of the animal are to be used. Thus the Tongue, liver and heart are taken. All that is left behind nature has its way of feeding many other creatures. Come back to a site a few days later and there will be very little left. Many hunters will leave the hide behind. I was taught tanning methods by the Cree often I would have hides as throws on beds. Nothing will keep you warmer in cold weather. As well a properly tanned hide offers up much leather to be turned into valuable articles.
Hanging, Butchering and Cooking
I generally left my meat hang for 21-28 days in a cool location for the tissue to break down slowly and naturally. My shop was equipped with all the tools I needed and I did all my own butchering as well. This is where you called on good friends to lend a hand wrapping and labeling the different cuts. It was also a time of having a large cookout as your way of thanking people. As well they were sure to reap the rewards of a successful hunt by leaving with several meals themselves.
Many people have condemned the practice of hunting as being cruel to animals etc. The entire time not really considering where their meat or foods come from. What happens behind and out into the slaughter house is not much different than hunting. I have worked in some of these places and if I were to compare it to my method of hunting I can assure you I prefer my ways preferably.
Hunting and caring for the meat has always given me the assurance I have seen the animal and the products that grace my plate from start to finish. Can the consumer do the same. All of the hard work and preparation it takes offers the rewards of the best the animal has offered.
I certainly have not wanted to offend anyone in writing on this subject. I do hope though you as a reader have come to better appreciate the respect and consideration shown to nature and all she provides.
© Rolly A. Chabot