Ever since I decided to live in Cordova year round I have been slowly delving more into the subsistence lifestyle. Picking berries, freezing salmon, graciously accepting any moose meat made available. For a lot of us in Cordova it is part of life. When you stay here year round you put in for the moose drawing, you pick berries and mushrooms and you go deer hunting. Hunting for us is a community effort as it's not always entirely accessible. The deer near town are wary - and hard to find. Most people hunt the islands, taking a boat across and cruising the beaches, or wandering through forest and meadows in search of the prized meat. When you don't have a boat you are at the mercy of your friends. For weeks I had been subtly hinting, and not so subtly asking my friends and acquaintances to take me along. Too many people isn't a good thing for a hunting party so I use the shotgun approach - ask everyone. For this particular trip, our friend Spencer let us come along on his deer hunt.
Spencer is a character. "I'm from Vermont, I do what I want," he says. My sweetheart, Taylor met him in his EMT class, and we got to know him through a group sea shanty we sung at the local Ice Worm variety show. It was well into doe season and I asked Spencer if he would shoot a buck this time of year. "I'll shoot anything, even if its got spots on it," he tells me. “The little ones are the best - because they are easy to carry. You just tie their feet together and wear them around your neck like a purse.”
We loaded onto Spencer's boat on Wednesday afternoon and headed to Hawkins Island. Without so much as a plan we deployed on the island and wandered in different directions. Ice covered the little ponds in the muskeg, the ground had a crunch sounds to it. Bog cranberries distracted me from looking for deer. All afternoon I wandered about the meadows, trying my best to be quiet, stopping for breaks, and changing coarse with the wind. Eventually, the sun sunk behind the hill and it got cold. I started to head down. A single gunshot fired from above us. I hoped it was Spencer. As I slowly worked my way back down I heard a whistle. I called back and moved towards it. Taylor was in the meadow where we had last seen each other. I was surprisingly exhausted for how little ground I covered. We chatted in whispers and browsed on the bog cranberries. Neither of us had seen a thing. We made a quick descent, hoping to hunt the beach at low tide before it got too dark. We missed the mark and sat huddled on a log as twilight set in - waiting for Spencer.
Finally we hear him coming up the beach "Is that you guys." He got a nice doe, drug her down to the beach guts and all. "If I had gutted her up there it would have been O dark 30 by the time I got down here." He pulled his knife out and started to cut her open by the light of our headlamps. The gutting part is the only part I was nervous about so I was glad to see the process. In real life it looked much easier than the guy on Youtube made it seem. We rinsed her in salt water and start shuttling back to the boat. The ride back to town was exciting. Flying into the dark at full speed, Spencer masterfully maneuvered the boat, occasionally putting her hard over to avoid some unseen obstacle. Town sparkled in the distance. Home sweet home.