Processing Deer on Haida Gwaii
<This content may upset some readers. You have been advised>
Since moving to Haida Gwaii I've become a lot more comfortable with the idea of hunting. I guess it's because it's in my face a lot more - you hear about people hunting, it's in the local newspaper, it's talked about at Saturday night parties. And, well you eat wild game. A lot. Also, there is an overpopulation of invasive Sitka black tail deer on Haida Gwaii (which is a topic for another day), so hunting isn't as challenging as in other areas.
My partner Joe would hunt when we lived in Alberta. But I was so removed from all aspects of the process. I'd see the Elk on my plate a few days/weeks later, but that was about it. I would cringe my nose, and my stomach would flip when he talked about having to butcher it. A tear could almost be shed at the thought of hunting...Yet I would still eat Elk. Looking back that disconnect was a bit odd.
On Haida Gwaii, it's a lot more common for locals to hunt, fish, food gather and grow gardens. Nearly everyone does it in some shape or form. With it, there is an inherent need to protect the land so that we/they can continue to do so. It's actually interesting. I find that individuals who hunt, fish, or reap any food benefit from nature, to be more likely to respect nature in some degree. Many describe it as a meditative, sacred process.
Since being here, I've been on number of hunting trips with Joe. To be honest, I mostly make inukshuks on the beach. Though on these trips, and after the trips, I would see how Joe would process the deer. Even though my stomach was starting to be able to handle it, I always opted out of helping since still seemed a bit icky.
Recently Joe and a group of friends (I had to work) went on a 3 day hunting trip and came back with quite a few deer. Joe asked if I'd help process the deer since it's such a big job, and he thought I might be interested in learning about the process - finally. I thought it would be too, so I agreed.
The six of us spent nearly 13 hours processing 13 deer on a Wednesday. In the beginning I was sticking to the more fragile tasks, removing hair, and vacuum packing. But by the end I was helping to cut, and grind meat for sausage.
I have to say it was an incredibly educational, rewarding and memorable experience. I didn't think processing meat would be so bonding. One, with the people you're prepping the food with and two, the actual process. It might sound a little wishy washy. But I now have a wayyy better understanding of it, and have an overall greater appreciation and connection to hunting in general. If done respectfully.
It was also interesting to experience the need to want to salvage as much as we possibly could from the deer - everything from deer hides, to sausage meat, to bones for soup stalk. In the end, all 6 of us (3 couples) left with a bounty of processed, vacuum packed deer to fill our freezers for the year.
Here are a few photos I managed to snap on my iPhone. There wasn't much time to get out the camera, we had our heads down working most of the time. And, every time I took a photo, I had to somehow get my gloves on and off.