Dispatch #2 From the Alaskan Moose Hunting Grounds: Counting the Costs, Defining Success

By , October 4, 2009

The end of the Tier II Subsistence Moose Hunt looms, and I have yet to bag my moose. You would think that I’d be feeling a bit desperate by now.

And—you’d be right!

However, it’s absolutely vital to keep the whole process in proper perspective. While I aspire to bag a tender young bull with a handsome rack, I have to keep the realities involved firmly in mind.

Hunting can easily become expensive. Were my hunt to cost us very much at all, it would negate the whole reason for hunting. A neighbor recently returned from a successful big game hunt in the Brook Range, far to the north. Her husband figures the meat taken cost $100 per pound!

This makes me cost-conscious in my own hunt. The cost-per-pound must be below $3.00 to make it cheaper than store-bought meat (ignoring, for the moment, our preference for wild game over factory grown). If I can reduce cost to free, so much the better!

The main question remains where to hunt. The farther I range, the longer and harder the pack back. Butchering an animal the size of a horse is serious business for the skilled, much less a neophyte like me. I have the tremendous responsibility to salvage all usable meat and transport it out of the kill zone before it spoils, becomes contaminated, or attracts bears.

The trade off becomes clear: either I restrict my hunting close to home, where moose might be less plentiful, or I strike out cross country where more moose may be found. The former ensures easier and more complete recovery of the meat, with help from neighbors. The latter earns an exhausting, gargantuan solo effort, and risks losing the entire animal. Additionally, the moose are all around us—or not—at any given moment. I could range far and find fewer moose than I might discover in our immediate surroundings.

Frugality also dictates that any kill be legal. An illegal kill must be butchered and hauled to the authorities. If one does that, they might reduce one’s fine. On my income, any fine would be disastrous, as would be processing a winter’s worth of meat, only to turn it over to someone else.

Hunting on foot means no transportation costs. I’ve owned my rifle for 16 years. The cargo pack and its load of gear accumulated for other purposes around the homestead, so their cost doesn’t count. My camouflage clothing, “silent” raincoat and pants, two undershirts, and a pair of cargo pants, all purchased new and on sale, cost approximately $60. This is my second season for most of it. Time is the only other expense. Being my own, it costs nothing.

Success in this hunt is, ultimately, bagging a moose. However, I will consider this hunt successful as long as I persevere in the effort, while keeping in mind the restrictions within which I must operate.

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