IGA butcher Gordon Pugmire demonstrates how to trim up moose meat Nov. 27 to Kenai Alternative students, from left, Gabriel Cazares, Samuel Cazares, Matt Wall and Jonathan Wheeler.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Kenai Alternative High School students got to the meat of a lesson this month that resulted in 400 pounds worth of practical knowledge and dinners.
Students went on an educational moose hunt Nov. 17 with local Safari Club International members and biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The program has happened each fall for more than 10 years and involves education in all aspects of hunting.
"We started doing it to give local youths who wouldn't necessarily get to hunt a chance to get out and learn about it," said Joe Hardy, with Safari Club.
This year four Kenai Alternative students and some Young Marines were involved in the hunt. 4-H Club members also have participated in the past.
The program starts with a hunting safety and ethics class as the school. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge gives special permission for the hunt, which usually happens off Marathon or Swanson River roads.
A Safari Club member shoots a moose and Fish and Game takes over instruction from there. This year biologists Jeff Selinger and Larry Lewis were on hand to dissect and disseminate information.
"The kids get a biology lesson," Hardy said. "It's more than just how to field dress a moose, they're explaining body parts and physiology of moose. I learn something new every year."
On Nov. 27, the meat and a cadre of volunteers arrived at the school to continue the lesson. Safari Club members, a 4-H representative and butchers from Safeway and IGA in Kenai were on hand to create steaks, roasts and hamburger.
Their mouths were working as much as their knives, explaining cuts of meat, relaying tips on how to tell if meat has spoiled, and pointing out everything from how to end up with flavorful hamburger to which scraps pet dogs would be particularly happy to receive.
Wheeler and Gabriel Cazares said the most interesting thing they'd learned through the hunt is about a parasite in moose lungs that can be deadly to a wolf or dog feeding on the carcass.
"Oh yeah, that was interesting. It's like a vicious cycle," Cazares said.
All the meat about 400 pounds this year goes to the students, some of it stored at school in a new freezer donated by the Safari Club. Kenai Alternative Principal Bob Ermold said some of the meat may be kept for school cookouts, but other than that it goes to the student hunters and their families.
Wheeler was looking forward to his first taste of moose meat, but Gabriel Cazares already knew he liked it. He and his brother, Samuel, had taken the moose tongue home after the hunt.
"I love it (moose). I ate it with ketchup," Gabriel said.
A freezer full of free food is a bonus in itself, but the real benefit of the hunt is the education students may not get otherwise.
"I think it's great," Ermold said. "We've got a lot of kids that don't necessarily have a strong father figure that's going to take them out and teach them a lot of this stuff, so it's great in that respect."
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