Current weather

  • Scattered clouds
  • 54°
    Scattered clouds

State program teaches new type of lesson

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Crowding into the cramped room, they surveyed the grizzly work before them.

In a few moments, the eight Ninilchik School students would be wielding sharp knives and hefty hacksaws, carving up more than 500 pounds of cow moose hanging in quarters from the ceiling.

For many of the youngsters, ranging from eighth grade through high school senior, this would be the first time they'd ever tried their hand at butchering a wanderer of the Kenai Peninsula wilderness.

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon, but they were inside Deep Creek Custom Packers staring at moose meat dead since Sunday.

There was little blood, but the meat was bright red as Safeway butcher Bruce Hall and Wally Martin, a former butcher turned fishing guide, both of Kenai, began demonstrating the proper technique for separating meat from bone, slicing fat from roasts, shaving properly thick steaks, and choosing what flesh would become hamburger and what would be discarded.

After a bit of instruction, Hall turned over his knife to 15-year-old Lezlee Morris of Kasilof, who set to work on a large chunk of shoulder meat. She has had some experience at butchering, having raised, slaughtered and carved up pigs. Tentative at first, she soon got the hang of it, shaving fat away from the lean like an expert.

Freshman Jonny Klapak took his turn at a bottom round -- the top section of a rear leg. Across the table, Eric Coleman, a senior, guided his knife through the flesh along the cow's back.

They spoke little, except to seek guidance from the butchers. They were intent on their labors.

At the end of the other table, Hall showed John Chihuly how to cut through a section of ribs with a hacksaw. Then it was John's turn. Grabbing the carcass in his hands, he put blade to bone, sawing his way across the rib cage.

The students followed the meat from kill to freezer, and eventually to their respective tables. The adventure meant a day and a half in the forests east of Ninilchik, skinning the animal and hauling its sections from the woods, and this lesson in meat preparation.

The program is called a Cultural Education Hunt. Sponsored by the Safari Club International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to hunting education, the hunt required a special permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Ted Spraker, a retired 28-year department biologist, and Richard Link, currently with the department, applied for the special permit.

Spraker, the permit's designated hunter, shot the cow early Sunday morning. The students did not carry weapons, but shared in all the hunting experiences save firing the bullet.

It was the sixth year for the cultural hunt program, but the first for Ninilchik School students.

Spraker said Kenai Central High School students have done it twice, as have students from Soldotna High School. Skyview High School students have participated once. School principals select the students.

"The kids get all the meat, generally," Spraker said. "In this case, we gave a front shoulder to the Ninilchik Native Association for the elders. That is part of this permit that Fish and Game demands that you do. It's a sharing."

About a dozen Cultural Educa-tion Moose Hunt permits are issued each year statewide, Spraker said.

"They're not just issued to anyone," he added. "It has to be issued to an organization that is willing to put kids through a hunter education program. There was a lot of interaction and education for the kids."

For some, this might be the only time in their lives they would follow the trail of wild game from a hoof in the wild to table scraps. For others, it may end up an annual event. The Safari Club's intent, as well as that of the Department of Fish and Game, isn't to turn young Alaskans into big game hunters.

"It's not primarily about teaching hunting, but about giving them a firsthand view of hunting, the rules, the ethics," Spraker said.

Armed with permission to use Native land extended by the Ninilchik Native Association and Cook Inlet Region Inc., the hunters had taken to the field off the 1200 Road, east of Ninilchik, early Oct. 18.

They searched for moose mostly from the truck, Spraker said. Traipsing through the woods with such a large group would make stealth a joke.

They spotted a couple of cows not far off the road. They passed them by. Though their permit allowed shooting any that were not with calves, the hunters were seeking antlers. The permit also allowed shooting a young bull.

"We saw nothing Saturday," Spraker said. "Then it started snowing, and the moose weren't moving, so we thought we'd go back and look for the cows. We couldn't find them. We hunted all day and the kids stayed with it. They really did a good job."

With the snow too thick to see very far, Saturday's hunt ended around 5:30 p.m.

They were back at it early Sunday.

"We thought, if we saw a cow, we weren't going to hesitate," Spraker said.

A little ahead of the main group, Spraker spotted a cow off the road. After stalking it for a bit and determining it was not mothering a calf, he dropped the creature with a single shot.

He figured the animal was 6 or 7 years old.

A few minutes later, the main group arrived and began cutting the animal into large sections, which they packed onto sleds or into backpacks to be hauled back to the trucks on the road.

It took several hours.

As the students labored Wed-nesday to butcher the meat, Spraker talked about the hunt and what he hoped students took away from the experience.

"One of the things we are teaching the kids is ethical hunting -- no long shots. None of this shooting in the brush. It was 67 yards away, a high-confidence shot. You don't take those running shots or those 500-yard shots."

At hearing the comment about it being 67-yards to the target, Chris Hanson, a Ninilchik High School science teacher who accompanied the students on the hunt, let out a laugh, and said something about Spraker being able to "range his moose down to the yard. Sixty-seven yards!"

Spraker chuckled.

"Actually," Hanson continued. "Ted said it was 90 yards until the guy showed up with a range finder!"

Spraker said he'd been on four of the six peninsula school hunts since the program began. He thinks the experience is invaluable.

"Alaska has such resources, it's a shame not to have a freezer full of moose meat every year, if you could possibly get it," he said.

Mostly, though, for him it was about being with the students. Now that he's retired, he has the time, he said.

"Anytime I can get out and hunt and be around a bunch of kids, well, it's really hard to pass up," he said.

Others students on the hunt included eighth-grader Charlie Mason; freshman Bartholomew Olson, whose father, Geoff Olson, also went on the hunt; sophomore John Chihuly; junior Alicia Oskolkoff, who missed the butchering session for volleyball practice; and Will Wheeler, a home-schooled student who attends some classes at Ninilchik.

Also joining the crew were Larry Lewis of Fish and Game and Ludy Link, another teacher.

BYLINE1:By HAL SPENCE

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Crowding into the cramped room, they surveyed the grizzly work before them.

In a few moments, the eight Ninilchik School students would be wielding sharp knives and hefty hacksaws, carving up more than 500 pounds of cow moose hanging in quarters from the ceiling.

For many of the youngsters, ranging from eighth grade through high school senior, this would be the first time they'd ever tried their hand at butchering a wanderer of the Kenai Peninsula wilderness.

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon, but they were inside Deep Creek Custom Packers staring at moose meat dead since Sunday.

There was little blood, but the meat was bright red as Safeway butcher Bruce Hall and Wally Martin, a former butcher turned fishing guide, both of Kenai, began demonstrating the proper technique for separating meat from bone, slicing fat from roasts, shaving properly thick steaks, and choosing what flesh would become hamburger and what would be discarded.

After a bit of instruction, Hall turned over his knife to 15-year-old Lezlee Morris of Kasilof, who set to work on a large chunk of shoulder meat. She has had some experience at butchering, having raised, slaughtered and carved up pigs. Tentative at first, she soon got the hang of it, shaving fat away from the lean like an expert.

Freshman Jonny Klapak took his turn at a bottom round -- the top section of a rear leg. Across the table, Eric Coleman, a senior, guided his knife through the flesh along the cow's back.

They spoke little, except to seek guidance from the butchers. They were intent on their labors.

At the end of the other table, Hall showed John Chihuly how to cut through a section of ribs with a hacksaw. Then it was John's turn. Grabbing the carcass in his hands, he put blade to bone, sawing his way across the rib cage.

The students followed the meat from kill to freezer, and eventually to their respective tables. The adventure meant a day and a half in the forests east of Ninilchik, skinning the animal and hauling its sections from the woods, and this lesson in meat preparation.

The program is called a Cultural Education Hunt. Sponsored by the Safari Club International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to hunting education, the hunt required a special permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Ted Spraker, a retired 28-year department biologist, and Richard Link, currently with the department, applied for the special permit.

Spraker, the permit's designated hunter, shot the cow early Sunday morning. The students did not carry weapons, but shared in all the hunting experiences save firing the bullet.

It was the sixth year for the cultural hunt program, but the first for Ninilchik School students.

Spraker said Kenai Central High School students have done it twice, as have students from Soldotna High School. Skyview High School students have participated once. School principals select the students.

"The kids get all the meat, generally," Spraker said. "In this case, we gave a front shoulder to the Ninilchik Native Association for the elders. That is part of this permit that Fish and Game demands that you do. It's a sharing."

About a dozen Cultural Educa-tion Moose Hunt permits are issued each year statewide, Spraker said.

"They're not just issued to anyone," he added. "It has to be issued to an organization that is willing to put kids through a hunter education program. There was a lot of interaction and education for the kids."

For some, this might be the only time in their lives they would follow the trail of wild game from a hoof in the wild to table scraps. For others, it may end up an annual event. The Safari Club's intent, as well as that of the Department of Fish and Game, isn't to turn young Alaskans into big game hunters.

"It's not primarily about teaching hunting, but about giving them a firsthand view of hunting, the rules, the ethics," Spraker said.

Armed with permission to use Native land extended by the Ninilchik Native Association and Cook Inlet Region Inc., the hunters had taken to the field off the 1200 Road, east of Ninilchik, early Oct. 18.

They searched for moose mostly from the truck, Spraker said. Traipsing through the woods with such a large group would make stealth a joke.

They spotted a couple of cows not far off the road. They passed them by. Though their permit allowed shooting any that were not with calves, the hunters were seeking antlers. The permit also allowed shooting a young bull.

"We saw nothing Saturday," Spraker said. "Then it started snowing, and the moose weren't moving, so we thought we'd go back and look for the cows. We couldn't find them. We hunted all day and the kids stayed with it. They really did a good job."

With the snow too thick to see very far, Saturday's hunt ended around 5:30 p.m.

They were back at it early Sunday.

"We thought, if we saw a cow, we weren't going to hesitate," Spraker said.

A little ahead of the main group, Spraker spotted a cow off the road. After stalking it for a bit and determining it was not mothering a calf, he dropped the creature with a single shot.

He figured the animal was 6 or 7 years old.

A few minutes later, the main group arrived and began cutting the animal into large sections, which they packed onto sleds or into backpacks to be hauled back to the trucks on the road.

It took several hours.

As the students labored Wed-nesday to butcher the meat, Spraker talked about the hunt and what he hoped students took away from the experience.

"One of the things we are teaching the kids is ethical hunting -- no long shots. None of this shooting in the brush. It was 67 yards away, a high-confidence shot. You don't take those running shots or those 500-yard shots."

At hearing the comment about it being 67-yards to the target, Chris Hanson, a Ninilchik High School science teacher who accompanied the students on the hunt, let out a laugh, and said something about Spraker being able to "range his moose down to the yard. Sixty-seven yards!"

Spraker chuckled.

"Actually," Hanson continued. "Ted said it was 90 yards until the guy showed up with a range finder!"

Spraker said he'd been on four of the six peninsula school hunts since the program began. He thinks the experience is invaluable.

"Alaska has such resources, it's a shame not to have a freezer full of moose meat every year, if you could possibly get it," he said.

Mostly, though, for him it was about being with the students. Now that he's retired, he has the time, he said.

"Anytime I can get out and hunt and be around a bunch of kids, well, it's really hard to pass up," he said.

Others students on the hunt included eighth-grader Charlie Mason; freshman Bartholomew Olson, whose father, Geoff Olson, also went on the hunt; sophomore John Chihuly; junior Alicia Oskolkoff, who missed the butchering session for volleyball practice; and Will Wheeler, a home-schooled student who attends some classes at Ninilchik.

Also joining the crew were Larry Lewis of Fish and Game and Ludy Link, another teacher.



CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS