March 2006

written by Kathy Sarns Irwin ~ photos by Kathy and Pat Irwin

7.Hunted like a Moose

Hours later I was concentrating on how to make certain body parts not ache or be bothered by the repetitive motion of cycling about 4-5 miles an hour over constantly changing snow conditions. We no longer stopped to eat. It was too bloody cold. We'd walk the bikes while eating our frozen snack after we had put it under an arm pit to warm it enough so as not to break our teeth.

We heard the noise first then we saw a shape far ahead zig zagging towards us. We zigged back towards the trail to meet this person. He slowed down and zig zagged some more. We wondered what he was doing. Then he went faster and drove up to us.

He stopped a few feet from us and turned off his machine. Two freshly killed caribou in his sled and the largest dead white rabbit I'd ever seen. He had a large rifle strapped across his blood stained chest.

No one said anything for a few seconds.

Then he said
"I thought you were moose."
He stared at us in silence ... trying to figure out what in the heck we were.. moose would make more sense.
"I was deciding how to approach. But then you did not act like moose, so I decided to come see what you were."
"I have never seen bikes out here "
'Whew' I was sure glad we did not act like moose.

He was hunting for his family in Kotzebue. Folks out here rely on subsistence hunting to survive. He looked like a tough and seasoned Inupiat Hunter, except I noticed he had a pink Barbie doll back pack strapped to his steering wheel.

When I asked about the Barbie pack he laughed-"I could not find my pack early this morning so I borrowed my daughters pack to put my lunch in."

We had the usual conversation of 'did we have a radio and what are we doing on bikes and how far to Buckland'. He said the shelter cabin had a stove and it was not too far from here. (it would take us another 7 hours to get there) he wished us luck and he was gone.

After that we would turn on our head lights when we saw snow machines.

And we would try not to 'act' like moose. So they would not think we were animals to be hunted.