For the past week and a half or so, we've been filling my 12 year old son's head with grand plans for catching his first Musk Ox...
"Oh son it will be great!"
"You can share the meat with elders..."
"We will fork the hide and sell the Qiviut to knitters!"
So, Dean, Koy and myself made plans to fly to Deering, a village about 100 miles away located on a one road spit near some beautiful bluffs.
The musk Ox are a burden to the community members, they knock graves down and won't move for the medevac planes on the runway. The community of Deering is oh so happy to see people come from Kotzebue to tag their subsistence Musk Ox.
We arrived around 10:00 am just in time for breakfast at Ron and Roberta's house. A typical hunting breakfast of bacon, pancakes and juice. Perfect for a full day of fuel.
Taking off on the four wheeler we borrowed from Ron, we rode on the runway and up a ways past the town into the hills. The musk ox herd was grazing near the runway, but far enough to build up a sweat walking in tundra uphill. We parked the 4-wheeler and made our way slowly up near the herd.
None of them really moved or minded that we were coming. Dean and Koy had plenty of time to witness the awesomeness of the herd. The long flowing hides and large pony-tail type horns. The babies running and romping with their uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters. It was magnificent to see them in their natural habitat, content on eating lichen and checking out the crazy people coming up the hill.
We didn't want to spook them, so we took our time. Like our ancestors taught us. Respect the herd, and they will give themselves to you. Disrespect and they will not.
Normally, if musk ox are spooked they will huddle into a circle, babies and elders in the middle, protected by the mighty horns facing outward, ready to fight. They never really even moved as we slowly made our way uphill.
Dean and Koy decided that since neither one of them had shot a musk ox before, that Dean would shoot first and see if the usual place he shoots caribou and moose would work on such an animal.
They were so calm that when Dean took his ONE shot, the animal slowly fell to the ground and layed down, dead. The other animals barely looked at him.
So, Koy and Dean got ready to get the second one. The Ox was in his sight and he was Koy's for the taking.
Which is when we heard the drone of a single-prop engine buzzing above us and the herd. They jumped out of the scheduled mail plane and placed their packs at the end of the runway. They caught theirs, and we caught ours. But, we were still disappointed in the fact that we had planned this, and planned that. We paid for gas and plane tickets, food and drinks.
It was then that my son, who was so excited to come to Deering. Excited to provide meat for his family, and qiviut to Honey, the knitter we knew in the valley, and a hide to keep warm under asked...
"So, does this mean I won't be getting one?"
So, now I'm torn. I want to like the hunters who come here to get their caribou, and moose, and musk ox. But when something like this happens, and it hits close to home (and it happens A LOT) where we pay $7-$10 a gallon for gas to catch our meat, and a gallon of water costs more than a case of soda, what do I do?
I'll tell you what I did. I told those beepin, beeps that they would take my son hunting with me and/or Dean so he could catch his musk ox and I could film it (cause I'm like that) or else. Or else what? I don't know yet, but deny me of meat, qiviut and hide, and I'll figure something out.
They agreed to bring Koy and I back on another weekend. But I doubt that'll happen. Once we told them what we were planning, they apologized, but I'm still disappointed. They were completely in compliance with all of our Alaska Laws so there's really nothing we can do, except complain. But...like we paid for gear, so did they. They paid for plane tickets, and food, and gear. And if only they had checked us out before shooting before us, we'd all have our quota, and NO ONE WOULD BE COMPLAINING! (including me) Such is life though. I'll take what we can get.
Tonight, we're having musk ox spaghetti. And Dean has taken his cousin and our friend out for a few days to search for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd for some caribou. Eskimo Beef!
Please, be courteous and respectful if you visit my country. I do that when I visit yours.