Updated: Sep 15
By Dave Jackson
Our group of three, myself my friend and a respected Elder, left early on the morning of July 30th for Mount Nanson which is located 70km outside of Carmacks. This early in the morning and not being a coffee drinker, my eyes were barely focused but we worked together as a team and kept our eyes on the lookout for wild game such as Ptarmigan and Caribou. We traveled all the way to Caribou Mountain at the end of the road not seeing much other than gophers we turned around and headed back.
Our group of three, myself my friend and a respected Elder, left early on the morning of July 30th for Mount Nanson which is located 70km outside of Carmacks. This early in the morning and not being a coffee drinker, my eyes were barely focused but we worked together as a team and kept our eyes on the lookout for wild game such as Ptarmigan and Caribou. We travelled all the way to Caribou Mountain at the end of the road not seeing much other than gophers we turned around and headed back.
We were not feeling lucky and to make things worse our tire on the vehicle went flat. This wasn’t quite the way I had pictured the trip going but we were fortunate enough to get the flat near a remote miners’ camp. The staff there were very generous and were able to help us get the tire changed. During the time we were waiting for the tire to be fixed, we spotted a flock of ptarmigan and I took the opportunity to take a shot, managing to shoot one. The elder from Carmacks who joined us showed me how to pluck and clean a ptarmigan. This was a great learning experience and I was so excited to have taken my first kill even if it was small. I quietly thanked the ptarmigan for giving its life. After our tire was fixed, we thanked the workers and headed back towards town.
Just 20km up from the miners’ camp we spotted a caribou. Our luck had changed and the Elder took the opportunity to shoot it. The Elder showed me how to skin, gut and clean the animal which was another opportunity to learn. I once again thanked this majestic and powerful creature for giving its life. It was around 2am the next morning when we arrived back in Carmacks, where we hung the meat to dry in the cache located at a community member’s house. It was really important to keep the meat in the cache so other animals and birds did not eat it. After a well-earned sleep we came back later that day to smoke and cut up the last of the meat. The smoking process would take a day before I could enjoy the caribou meat. That evening we enjoyed ptarmigan for dinner. Delicious and satisfying. When the caribou was ready the next day, we shared our catch with the community. This is the way of the First Nation, some of each kill is always shared.
The following day our group went to the fish camp at Little Salmon 20km outside of Carmacks where the Elders at the camp helped me catch my first salmon, showing me how to clean and smoke it. I was very interested in the traditional teachings of how to set a salmon net. Usually a salmon net can catch 5 to 10 salmon at a time but can be up to 20. This year though because of the low salmon count the number of salmon caught were monitored closely. The First Nation people are very conscientious in preserving this food source. Patience is important as it is often a couple of days before salmon may be caught but this provides an opportunity for the Elders to teach and spend time with other community members out on the land. It is a tradition that occurs every year but could disappear if over fishing continues and fish populations continue to drop. I truly hope that this does not happen and by catching the salmon I ate it makes me appreciate my food even more.
Overall, during this time of pandemic, with my mental health being challenged, I was thankful to have the opportunity to travel out on the land. It is amazing to me how much the North has to offer and how respect and appreciation is a huge part of being on the land. I have to thank the Elders of Carmacks who’s knowledge I will cherish for many years. The North is a majestic place to visit offering her wilderness and tranquility to anyone who travels upon her land. I am thankful that my time was blessed with good weather, warm friendship, and a few laughs.
I will return again and thank the Elders for all they offer.