Lots to tell, not much time...
This will be another short update while I am eating lunch. It is an amazingly bright clear spring day here in Haines Junction, no wind and at noon,-2.3c. As Heather and I discussed yesterday, these are the days that make up for the long darkness in December.
As per my previous post, the St. Elias School Group did, in the end, have a successfull bison hunt at 4:20 pm on Friday while travelling to their rendevous point on the Aisihik road. Successfull, to me, in hunting is enjoying the wilderness you are travelling in and coming home safely, it is a bonus if you have the privelege (and I firmly believe it is a privelege) to come home with the animal you set out to hunt. My guess is that many of the participants in this hunt had a good lesson in just that, "the bonus of bringing home an animal you had set out to hunt". When they broke camp on Friday morning, I would suspect that many of them were either dissapointed or had just resigned themselves to not being "successfull". Having hunted for the last 17 years, I can remember hunts that lasted 8 days without even seeing an animal that was legal to hunt and the mixed emotions I have had about coming home "skunked or empty handed". (My hunting partner put it quite succinctly one time after such a hunt when he said"That's why they call it hunting Sean"). I have since learned to remind myself of the gift I have of living in such a beautifull, majestic place and the privelege of just being able to participate in this activity. Not surprisingly, I have enjoyed hunting much more after every time I "tune myself up" with this lecture.
I was correct about some of the information in the first post, the bison were split into four groups in the 1980's to be moved to separate areas. The rationale behind this move was that if the original herd was infected with disease, there would be some "brood Stock" to replace them. The bison actually came from Elk Island National Park and their number in the Aishihik area is believed to be less than a thousand animals. The area is believed to be able to sustain 400 animals.
Reports from various group members all have differing individual accounts of how the trip went, but one important comment is constant, "the kids were a fantastic group to work with". They all worked hard, did their share of the work and participated fully in cleaning the bison once it was shot. Heather was somewhat dissapointed that she had come out by truck rather than going with the group on snowmachine when she found out that they had actually shot a bison. However, she was elated that she had been given a bison hide from another hunt which the hunter did not want. It is approximately 6 feet by 8 feet in area and by all accounts was very carefully skinned and cared for. The Conservation Officer who gave it to her was glad that it would be taken by someone who would appreciate it.
Heather found that the snowmachine riding was a tiring part of the whole trip, but from what I can tell, she did remarkably well to travel as far as she did with little prior practice. This is a characteristic of hers which I saw shortly after meeting her, namely, to accept new challenges and adapt remarkably well to totally new circumstances and lifestyle. Saying that I am proud of her accomplishments is an understatement.
The Bison meat will be divided up amongst the participants and a community feast held at the school sometime in the near future. Some will also be made into sausage for this feast. As far as I know, the students who participated will now learn the art of butchering and sausage making. My guess is that some reading this will have mixed thoughts about the value of such a program in the public school system, but in my opinion it is one of the best life skills challenges these students may ever receive. I am sure they have all learned a considerable amount about living and working in group situations which hopefully will stand them in good stead in the working world as well as just in their day to day lives.
I hope to have some pictures to post in the near future, so tune in again soon.
Labels: Bison Hunt update #3