As part of the, members of the North Road Rangers learned how to field dress and process a moose.

As part of the, members of the North Road Rangers learned how to field dress and process a moose.

North Road Rangers take part in educational moose hunt

  • By Cassandra Rankin
  • Saturday, January 17, 2015 12:23pm
  • LifeCommunity

Some people believe that when an animal is hunted and harvested, that animal has given itself to the hunter. When Matt Rankin, of Nikiski, shot a cow moose as part of his 4-H club’s State of Alaska Educational Moose Hunt on Dec. 2, 2104 he said that is exactly what it felt like.

“If I would’ve come by any later, she would’ve been gone. We spotted her on the trail, watched her for about ten minutes to make sure there wasn’t a calf with her, then she headed into the woods. I wouldn’t have seen her if she had been in the woods. It was almost like she was there waiting for us.”

Rankin and his children spotted the cow moose on Dec. 2 around 10 a.m. as they were out scouting for a cow with no calf. They’d been out the morning before and had only seen bull moose.

The permit is very specific in its requirements that groups harvest only a cow moose and the cow must not have a calf. The permit also dictates that an adult Alaska resident with a current hunting license be the shooter for the group.

The North Road Rangers 4-H Shooting Club chose the first week of December for their hunt since that week worked best for Rankin and John Heft, the two listed shooters. The optimum situation for the group was that Rankin would be able to scout and harvest a moose at the beginning of the week to allow for the group to be able to take part in the field dressing, hanging and butchering, and that it would coincide with school schedules, work schedules, and a jury duty schedule. The hope was to have the moose taken no later than Wednesday and have the whole operation completed by Sunday.

And that’s exactly how it happened.

Once the cow moose was down, Rankin alerted the rest of the club members via cell phone, and within an hour, all twelve members of the North Road Rangers were in the field. Elora Reichert, 12, Corbin Reichert, 9, Daniel Boatright, 16, Matthea Boatright, 14, Michael Boatright, 11, Henry Heft, 14, all of Nikiski, joined Rankin and his kids, Colton Rankin, 12, Gracie Rankin, 11, and Ella Rankin, 9, in the field. The club also has three young members, Nathanael Boatright, 7, Evelyn Reichert, 7 and Levi Rankin, 6 who joined in the hunt as the club’s Cloverbud members. Parent Katie Reichert brought her dad along who served the club well as club grandpa and guide as he and Rankin gave instruction and led the group in field dressing the moose.

Club leaders John and Marie Heft volunteered the use of their buggy to help haul the moose out of the woods and once it was trailered, all club members commenced at the Heft’s shop in Nikiski for a pizza party and hanging the moose to cool.

Butchering took place over the weekend, and with the help of dads, moms, grandpas and sharp knives, the cow moose was butchered and processed by the end of the day Saturday. Each of the four families involved took a portion of the moose’s hide and are working on projects in preserving and tanning and sewing.

A potlatch was held on Dec. 29 where each family brought a moose meat dish to share.

The actual hunt is a culmination of educational meetings and presentations on the amazing resource Alaskans enjoy, the moose. The total time of meetings and events involved in the hunt span three months, and each member of the club researched, compiled and presented information on various topics related to the moose including anatomy, habitation, nutrition, reproduction, communication, senses, shot placement, cuts of meat, meat preparation, and creating bone tools.

Each member completed a public presentation on the project, and will enter a project related to the hunt in the Kenai Peninsula Fair. One family is currently working on leather bracelet construction, another has bones drying in order to create a bone knife.

The hunt came about as the result of parents and club members agreeing in the spring that it would be an amazing club opportunity, and after months of paper work, research and permit requests completed by club leader Marie Heft, the club received the go-ahead in late-Fall from Alaska Department of Fish and Game to complete the hunt by the end of the year. Four meetings were held prior to the hunt, with public presentations being given, traditional Native Alaskan strength-building games being taught and hunting videos viewed that were obtained from ADFG. After the potlatch, one last meeting was scheduled to give the youth further opportunity to present to the club what they’ve learned and to hear from a Native Alaskan on the traditional ways of hunting and preserving moose.

In addition to just the excitement of simply harvesting the moose, club members felt an even deeper kinship for the cow after butchering and finding bird shot in one of her legs, buck shot in another, BB gun pellets scattered throughout her body, a pellet in her heart, an abscessed wound in her head and extremely worn teeth. It was apparent she was an old cow, and her wounds and her long life brought about even more respect for her life from club members.

North Road Rangers, based out of Nikiski, has been an active 4-H shooting club since 2012. Under leadership and instruction from Marie Heft, John Heft, and Matt Rankin, the twelve members have learned how to properly handle and shoot a gun based on 4-H’s national shooting standards. They have competed in local shoot-outs, have hosted competitions at the Kenai Peninsula Fair, and have enjoyed many hours of shooting on the range at the Snowshoe Gun Club. This was the group’s first organized hunt.

— Submitted by Cassandra Rankin

Members of the North Road Rangers 4-H Shooting Sports Club participated in an educational moose hunt in December. (Submitted photo)

Members of the North Road Rangers 4-H Shooting Sports Club participated in an educational moose hunt in December. (Submitted photo)

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