Hunters harvest 250 muskoxen
Animals put to good use in Cambridge Bay

by Cheryl Leschasin
Northern News Services

CAMBRIDGE BAY (Mar 31/97) - Cambridge Bay hunters easily took their full quota of 250 muskoxen this year, reports Jimmy Hanilak of the hamlet's Hunters and Trappers Association.

The hunt combined the efforts of four hunters and 18 support staff to harvest, clean, test and package the meat, hides and horns.

The hunt was a lot of work, but very exciting," said Ikey Evalik, manager of the Hunters and Trappers Association.

"It was storming for the first two days,"said Evalik, "but we got our quota anyway."

Evalik said the harvest process is a long one, "You get up around 6 a.m. and head out to the hunting site right away," said Evalik.

By early afternoon, hunters and their assistants begin gutting animals harvested that day. Once gutted, the animals are loaded onto sleds and transported to the camp, 60 kilometres west of Cambridge Bay.

At the camp the animals are skinned and dehorned and their heads are removed. The on-site inspector takes the trachea (windpipe), heart and lungs from each animal to determine their approximate age, weight and health.

"Each muskox is then split in half, frozen and bagged for transport to the meat processing plant, Kitikmeot Foods in Cambridge Bay," said Hanilak.

Except the guts, all parts of the muskox are put to use. The meat is distributed by Kitikmeot Foods to destinations around the territories.

The hides are taken to the Hunters and Trappers Association in Cambridge Bay, where a staff of three women clean and dry the hides for resale. The horns are also cleaned and held for resale.

The animal heads and shins are brought into town for community members to use.

What to make of a muskox
It's not hard to figure out where muskox meat goes, but you might be surprised at what the other animal parts are used for.

Horns are a highly valuable part of the muskox. Not only can they be used for carving, they are also used for fishing spears and ulu handles.

Heads provide tongues and jaws for eating. The rest of the head is very bony and is given to dogs to chew on.

Entrails usually go to waste, but this year one Cambridge Bay hunter was on the ball. He found the entrails, heart, lungs and trachea make great, bone-free dog food.

Not many people have found a use for musk-ox xxfeet, but resident Doug Stern, who was involved in the harvest, thinks if properly treated, the tough, soft beige hide will make great mukluks. Although not common, one could make muskox foot lamps instead of deer foot lamps.

Hides are the most versatile part of the muskox. Hides can be used to make rugs, sled cushions, wall hangings, mitts and parkas. Instead of seal, the sturdy muskox hide can be used to make kamiks. Muskox wool is spun to make sweaters.

In the end, the only part of the animal that will be dumped at the land fill are the bones. That is, until someone finds a use for them.