(Disclaimer: I just want to clarify that I hunt in order to feed myself and my family for the winter. I think hunting is less cruel than raising animals on crowded farms only to be slaughtered. Hunting is one of the most natural and pagan things I think one can do, and I do not do it for sport.)
Today I nabbed my first white tail deer. It was my very first time killing an animal. But it wasn’t my first hunt.
My first experience hunting was in Norrland, Sweden. I got to experience two hunting seasons in Sweden, and I’m sure there will be more in my future. So when I found out I would be living in Montana, I was ecstatic to hear hunting was even bigger here.
I had no idea how different it would be though!
First off, hunting is done in teams in Sweden. You work together to trap one animal, using cell phones if you have a signal, as well as dogs or walkers to try to push out the animal out but still on your land to get a shot.
In Montana? The opposite! You hunt alone. Individual. No teams allowed! And you are not allowed to use cell phones nor dogs nor people to push an animal on your land.
I think both of this as very revealing of both cultures. Sweden is all about team work. And the U.S. is all about individualism. Not surprising it is expressed in hunting!
Now, this doesn’t mean people in Montana don’t help each other. I went out this morning with two true Montanians, and they showed me a great place to wait, taught me how to set up my shot, and taught me a fabulous way to gut the game without cutting important parts (you don’t want gross things like stomach content on meat and you don’t want to cut the file).
But it is different.
Another difference? In Sweden, the amount of animals you can kill is based how much land your team hunts on. If you own enough land, it could just be your family. If you don’t own enough, you could combine it with your neighbour to get a whole moose and share it.
If you don’t have any land, then you join a team which rents land off of a forest company. This can be expensive, but you do get some moose to eat.
In Montana, again, different! The state sells tags, and you purchase a tag and then go hunt. You can hunt on public land, or you can ask a land owner to hunt on their land. They don’t have to let you though.
Education is also completely different. Sweden you have weeks and weeks of education, an intensive test, both practical and written. In Montana, you have a 2 week evening course (two hours each evening) along with a day training and some shooting. The exam is easy, and they barely touch a lot of the information in the Swedish exam (I finished studying half of the Swedish exam before I knew I was moving to Montana).
Oh. And in Montana, you can hunt at 12 (unlike the Swedish 18). Meaning that hunting course was full of 11 year olds!
People love to hunt here in Montana, but the hunting season starts later than even in Norrland. In Norrland, hunting was the first Monday of September. In Montana? We had to wait until the 20th of October! And guess what? Then new kids (yes, the 11/12 year olds) get 2 special hunting days just for themselves!
Bowhunting is also legal in Montana, and gets to start hunting before the rifles, at least for deer/elk (we don’t have much moose in Montana, so we hunt deer and elk).
Bowhunting is illegal in Sweden. They have been trying to get it legalized, but because of the potential suffering of the animal it has been hard. They have tried to petition having it legal for non moving boar and deer at 20 meters.
You want a clean shot, if the animal runs, you should find it to make sure it is dead and not suffering. You field dress (gut) the animal on site. And then in Montana you take it to a butcher or try to do it yourself. In Sweden, we did most of it ourself, which is great if you have a place for it.
Oh, and wolfs? Exactly the same. Controversial. Farmers and hunters don’t like them. Other people do. And it is legal to hunt wolves both in Sweden and Montana.
At least some things are the same!
Spring is here. We easily get some +6C days and the sun is shining. We still have tons and tons of snow and ice up here and Norrland, but quickly the roads are clearing, and slowly the snow is melting. Very slowly.
Besides watching the local hockey team play (and Skellefteå’s team SAIK is going to the finals!), another Swedish past time in spring is ice fishing. Not everyone enjoys this sport, and sadly I had a bit of trouble finding someone to take me. Luckily I have twitter, which the national (and local) paper follows closely. I tweeted my woes (@SwedishFreak), Norran wrote me back and was able to help hook me up with a guy at the local fish club who could teach me att pimpla*.
Sweet. I called Sven-Evert and we set up a time to take me. He asked me what I had for ice fishing. Nothing. He said he would bring everything. Double Sweet!
I had some heavy duty overalls from my Swede’s work, which he claimed, if I fell in the ice cold water, any Swede would survive for 1 hour. He said, for me, I’d probably survive 10 minutes. Great. What shoes do I wear? Well, I had some rain boots which is something I needed, something water proof. And I put 3 pairs of socks on to make sure I was warm (two being wool socks).
My far*-in-law brought some more clothes for me so I had choices, and he borrowed an ice fishing box from a family friend. This box is pretty cool. It has a place you can sit on (you don’t want to be sitting on the ice), a little hole to throw the caught fish in, and behind that a place to keep all your fishing supplies. Now I was set!
Sven-Evert came by to pick me up in the morning and off we went. He was a nice gubbe* and we had some small chit chat on the way. We headed to a lake not far from Skellefteå that he knew well. And it was a gorgeous day!
The first thing Sven-Evert gave me was a red safety thingy that went around my neck. This is in case I fall in the water. You can pull off the red plastic to get sharp metal that you can use to grab onto the ice and pull yourself up again. Safety always first!
Next I was surprised that Sven-Evert had a bunch of wood he took out. This, of course, was for our fika* break. You need to have fire while you are having a snack and some coffee in the middle of the woods!
As we walk to on the frozen lake I notice there are already many ice fishing holes in the ice frozen over. They are so small, the nice thing is if you do trip on one, probably the worse that will happen to you is you will fall on your face, not in ice cold water.
Now I’m getting really excited! Let’s start ice fishing!
First, we need a new fishing hole. Sven-Evert gets to work and in about 30 seconds we have a new one. He is a pro at this!
Once the hole you made is ready, you sit down and start fishing!
Now the fishing rod is very simple. It isn’t a casting rod, and you don’t pull the fish out with the rod itself. Where the fishing line winds is a screw. The line goes out on a piece of plastic that is a little bendable so the line bobs a bit when you pull it. You have a silver weight, and then the colorful hook.
To ice fish, unscrew the screw to loosen the fishing line and let it drop to the bottom of the lake. Next, wind the line up two full circulations, and tighten the screw. Every 10 seconds, give the line a little jerk up to try to hook the fish. When you have a fish, simply pull the line out with your fingers. Do not wind it up with the rod.
Once you have the fish, remove the hook, kill the fish, and throw it in your box! For me, the first hole I fished in I got 4 fisk*! While they are small bass, they are fish none the less and keepers!
However, if after 5 minutes you are not getting any bites in a hole, just make a new one! At least that is what Sven-Evert did. I’m not sure if the fish don’t move around much or what, but you just move a few feet away and start a new hole and try again. You can also go back to old holes to try your luck a second time.
It was a lot of fun. But my feet were FREEZING! Definitely need to get some winter water proof boots. Rain boots do not work, even with 3 pairs of socks. Oh, and highly recommend sunscreen. Yes, I got sun burned in the face ice fishing!
But hey, I was happy with my catch! And my new pimpelkompis*!
This blog post was from my experience last week. Today I went fishing again today with Sven-Evert and this time a report and camera man from the local paper Norran followed. They are starting a fabulous section called “Mission Possible”, and Missfoster ice fishing was the first completed mission! What an honor!
Later we headed to a different lake not far away. The cool thing is that I got to see a motorized ice drill!
att pimpla – to ice fish
en fisk – a fish
en gubbe – an old man, but used more like “dude”
pimpelkompis – ice fishing friend
fika – coffee break with food
far – father
Today was the first day of the moose hunting season in Sweden! So of course, we got up at 3:45 am to go moose hunting.
Now, I was warned that this would be extremely boring. It consists of hours upon hours of sitting around waiting for a moose. But it is the experience that counts, right? So I thought I’d be late to work today (Monday) and try sitting around for a few hours looking out for moose.
4:30 am is when the hunting season officially starts. So we start out at that time to head to our spot for the next few hours.
We drive around the back of Johan’s land, park the car, and start our long walk up to the tower. Not after 10 minutes of walking do we come across a full grown male elk standing in an open field!
It is still dark out and we can just see the silhouette of the moose. He is facing us, which is one of the worse positions for the shot (aim for the lungs). I hold my breath, so afraid if I move it will scare the moose away.
Johan aims. And waits. Later I found out he was waiting to see if the moose would turn around – it didn’t. Finally, he takes his first shot. BOOM!
A bird a few meters in front of the moose flies away. The moose does not move. Did he even hit it? Johan aims for his second shot. BOOM! Suddenly a dust cloud rises from the moose as if it was an old rug getting a beating. The moose turns, and runs! The chase is on!
Or is it? The moose collapses a few feet away from where he originally stood. Johan aims ones more time to get a final shot. BOOM! Now lets go get that moose!
Johan saw a moose behind the one he shot at, which was running away. But that is ok, that one can get away today, for today we have our moose!
I must say the land where the moose fell was NOT easy to get too. In the excitement I managed to fall flat on my face and step in a pool of water. All ok, we found the moose! It looked dead when we got there – it flinched once, but that was it. I thanked Mr. Moose for sacrificing himself in order to feed us for the winter – the moose meat Johan’s family shares and eats all year long.
Later Johan’s father and sister came – 5am, the sun is now coming up. Now it is time for the show off shots!
So, this supposedly extremely boring activity that takes hours upon hours ended up taking only 30 minutes. This year, Johan kindly reminds me.
Now for the gross part – not for the light of heart! So please do not read further if you don’t want to see the inside of the moose…
Ok, first thing is to is bleed the moose out. Just make a small incision and let the blood go!
Then it is time to move the moose to flatter ground.
Next, we need to gut the moose. As fun as it looks! Luckily Johan and his dad did this part.
All of the guts are scraps… except for the heart, that is delicious smoked!
Once it is gutted it is time to skin and hang it! So off to Drangsmark to do this. When we got there, another hunting team had a moose hanging. So we started working on ours, waiting for them to finish.
Skinning the moose was a lot of work but not as gross as I thought it would be!
Once complete, Johan was very happy with his moose! The finish product ended weighing a whopping 235 kilos!
Johan and I take the head to the trailer (he will save the antlers). It is surprisingly heavy!
So everything is ready. We leave the moose in the green bag for one day (the bag is to make sure flies don’t lay any eggs in the meat. Once it is cool, it will be moved to a fridge where it will hang for 7 to 10 days before the meat will be cut in pieces and frozen so we can eat it all year round!
Yummy! I have to say it was a fabulous first hunting experience. And not boring at all!!