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Kicking It during moose hunting season


Last updated 9/23/2021 at 5:15pm

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

It is moose season in the boreal forest around McGrath, Alaska. The first day of September marks the opening day of the hunt. For 30 days, hunters fly in and out of this wee village in north central Alaska stalking the woods for this gigantic herbivore.

But, in order to bag one of these antlered giants, each hunter must individually fly into the village of McGrath, show up in person at the Alaska Fish & Game desk carrying their picture I.D. in time to procure one of an unknown quantity of tags before they sell out.

Yes, ya wanna shoot a moose in McGrath, you first must go there in person. No online requests. So, in person, each hunter hands over the $25 to the Alaska Fish & Game agent in order to get the elusive moose tag before they sell out. This protects the residents allowing them to get their tags in time for winter meat.

Here’s the kicker. A non-resident flight from Anchorage to McGrath on one of the two airlines is about $700 roundtrip per seat. The seats are small. The plane I flew on was a King Air with nine seats counting the copilots where I sat on one trip back to Anchorage. I forgot to mention, air freight back to Anchorage runs about a dollar a pound. That doesn’t count the air freight cost of getting the moose meat down to the lower 48.

As you might guess, there are fewer airplane seats than hunters. As it happens there are two companies flying this route, one is primarily for cargo but has added a few very expensive seats and the other, Reeve Air, which is primarily for passengers.

Of course, once you’ve skinned the moose, it needs to go to one of the two meat packing facilities in McGrath, cause let’s face it, the only way to get a moose home is in a box.

An Alaskan bull moose is the largest of the deer family. He’s an impressive looking fella. To better imagine his size, think of a really big ugly horse standing on huge feet with gigantic flat scooped antlers. The average bull moose weighs about 1,400 pounds and stands at the shoulder over 6 feet tall with the head rising even higher still with antlers spanning another six feet across. Who knew a vegan could get so large?

The largest moose is rumored to have weighed in at 2,300 pounds, yet the biggest recorded in the Guinness Book of Records was 1,800 pounds in 1898.

My daughter got her moose tag while I visited last August. It requires a trip to the grocery-liquor-Alaska Fish and Game-tag store. It’s all-inclusive shopping. To get an idea of the pricing at the market, I paid $11 for a loaf of gluten free bread.

The multi-purpose market is also one of the few places in the village with internet, although not very reliable since the Fish & Game website could not be accessed the day she went and therefore she had to return later that afternoon to buy her tag.

One must wonder why any woman, as a professed vegetarian/vegan, would desire 1,400 pounds of moose-meat. Naturally, I wondered. Then she explained that in the spirit of the village culture, her moose would be butchered and shared with the elders in the community to provide subsistence through the long winter months.

During my visit to McGrath, I did eat a moose burger. It wasn’t Harris Ranch, but it was tasty. I did, however, decline moose steak. I figured it was better to save it for someone who really liked it than someone who might not like it. That someone being me.

The reason I’m reminded it’s moose season in McGrath is simple. I’ve been waiting expectantly for days now to get a call from my excited daughter. This is the third year I have made her service dog Sally another kerchief for her September birthday.

This year I upped the ante by making Sally an ensemble. I made her a matching grey and white flannel-checked-coat with lace ruffle plus a matching neck scarf, both, of course, lined in pink Ralph Lauren gingham.

As it turned out both of these two items fit perfectly in one of those small prepaid postal boxes. And, according to the tracking details, I was assured it would arrive from here to McGrath in a matter of a few days. Or so it said circled on the receipt.

The U. S. Postal service promised it would arrive by now.

Apparently, even Priority Boxes (doesn’t the name of the box say it all?) go space available to McGrath. Let it be said this box is no bigger than a Grisham novel and should have fit in the tiniest spot in any cargo hold.

But, according to the U.S. Postal website, my box is still in “transit.”

And that is when it dawned on me. It’s moose season in McGrath.

Apparently, while even in the olden days when dog sleds delivered the post across the frozen tundra, during moose season, only moose-related cargo flies. Who knew?

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]


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