During the 3rd week of August, 2015, I will be traveling by myself up to the High Arctic of Alaska to hunt Caribou. That's the plan.
Of course there are a great deal of details involved in organizing a solo caribou hunt in such a remote part of the wilderness and I have been working hard to research and learn all I can about the area and the caribou I will be hunting. I anticipate that all the research in the world is not going to prepare me for what it is actually like on the ground.
I do not want to be cavalier, foolish or naïve on this journey so I am working to be as proactive about my own safety as I can while still moving forward to follow my path. There are three main potential dangers that I may encounter: Grizzly bears, Weather and mechanical injury. There is also a great deal of "letting go" that I must practice regarding the dangers I could potentially face.
I simply can't control the weather. The weather in Alaska, where I will be reports lows at 20 degrees and highs at 60 degrees with storms that can be upon you in minutes and last for a week. That's just the way nature is, and nature is the boss. I have warm layers, lots of merino wool and very heavy duty rain gear.
I will be in the same habitat shared by a high population of inland Grizzly bears. Although, I will have my hunting rifle, I have no intention of harming a bear. Frankly, it would break my heart to have to kill a bear. I will also be bringing bear spray in the hopes of ending conflict without bloodshed (the bear's or mine).
Lastly, mechanical injury can happen to anyone. Because I will be alone, I plan to carry an SOS GPS locator beacon (which I have been referring to as the "save-my-arse" button) to be used to call in a chopper and get me to medical care. I will also have long range, waterproof walkie talkies. I will carry one with me in the field and leave the other at base camp with a volunteer who will listen for my distress call, should things go sideways.
Outside of that, I have put a lot of thought into packing and re-packing my gear, making sure I have the right layers and all the equipment I need for proper meat care if I am so fortunate to harvest a caribou. The rest of this trip is about letting go.
I have no control over the caribou's migration path or where the grizzly bears wander. I have no expectation of harvesting a caribou. If I am given an opportunity to harvest a such a blessing, I will be taking every piece I can home with me.
There are so many wonderful uses for game animals, and it's not just about the meat. For example, I will be using the hide from the forelegs to start working on a pair of winter mukluks. The sinew can be used as very strong thread. The small intestine can be processed to be used as sausage casing. The organ meats like the heart and tongue are absolutely delicious from a deer, so I imagine I will also enjoy them from a caribou. The liver, I save for my trusty three-legged dog, Sydney. He is always found by my side during my backcountry adventures but because of the dangers and long travel distance, he will have to sit this one out. I will also be saving the bones to make stock when I get back home. (see below for my Roasted Bone Stock recipe) As for the antlers and the hide, I will be tanning the hide and using the antlers for knife handles, scrapers and awls.
Roasted Bone Stock
several bones from a deer, elk, moose or caribou (I usually use the bones from the neck)
2 celery stalks
6 cloves garlic
1 whole small onion
2 bay leaves
hand full of fresh parsley
teaspoon celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
(you will be straining these ingredients out later so there is no need to finely chop anything)
In a roasting pan, put all of the ingredients into a large roasting pan and add enough water to come half way up the side of the roasting pan.
Roast at 350 degrees for 3 hours (be sure to check on this regularly and add more water if too much evaporates out.)
After you've finished roasting the ingredients, add all of the contents to a large stock pot. Add water to fill the pot nearly to the top. Bring it to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. Let it simmer at least for a few hours. I generally leave it on a low setting all day while I do other chores.
At the end of it's simmer time, taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
Then strain out all of the liquid into another container. Discard the solid content from the pot.
What you are left with is liquid gold! Enjoy!