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December 2001 Issue
Moose Tenderloin & Onions With Hash-Browned Potatoes and Corn
by Deana G. McAuley
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Greetings from Alaska!

Hunting is a way of life here, and living off the bounty of the land is an integral aspect of an Alaskan lifestyle for many of its residents and visitors. We left off last month as Denny our guide departed and two local hunters from Anchorage, Gene and Andy, arrived. After everyone settled in, we set off down valley to spot where Denny had informed Gene he heard a moose the night before, but, alas there was no sign, not even a caribou. By mid-September they have passed on, but for a few stragglers. It is always so amazing to me how you can see hundreds of them for days, then nothing. The weather is distinctly colder with a bite in the air. I am always ravenous now. I've lost at least ten pounds in the past 8 days, and getting enough fat and protein is a top priority as far as my body is concerned. I feel like the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors... "Feed me Seymour!" I sure am glad I have lots of those charcoal activated foot and hand warmers. Not for me, but for my camera batteries as they will not work in the cold. I put the spares in my pocket with a hand-warmer, and use the sticky backing to put a foot warmer right on the battery on the back of the camera, and it works like a charm. Ok, I'll admit that I put my hands in the pocket with the batteries!

These guys are serious. This is meat for the table to feed their families and we spend the next two days hunkered down on various hillsides spotting the valleys to the left of our mountain as the ones to the right closed to moose hunters the day they arrived. But again, we see or hear nothing. We can't reach the lodge to send for more supplies and macaroni isn't cutting it any more. I need fresh meat; I'm always hungry and cold. The world is strangely silent, and I worry that there have been no planes going to other camps flying overhead. We finally hear some other people talking over the radio on Gene and Andy's 4th day, and my 12th. America is at war and we are in a no fly zone. I worry about my family and I start estimating in my head how many weeks it will take us to walk to the lodge where we will be safe for the winter. We decide to try tomorrow to raise the lodge again, and mid-morning the next day we hear the supply plane. He has peanut butter and I eat a few big spoonfuls, but the tragic news is that terrorists have demolished 3 passenger planes full of people, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Towers. I am appalled, and getting a bear just doesn't seem so important now. We are instructed to continue to hunt as scheduled. The next day Mike, the pilot, returns with more food including an onion, which I hoard in hopes of fresh meat soon. The following morning it happens. I came back over the mountain from checking last week's caribou kill site for any sign of a grizzly bear and Gene is waving me frantically over to the other slope. Andy has spotted a good size bull moose heading our way and we need to be in position farther around the mountain to get a shot when he goes through the pass. As we come down the slope I get into position to shoot some video and the guys continue down into the valley floor. I watch and record as Andy prepares to shoot. I zoom out and pan to the left...there he is! As I zoom in on him a shot rings out, the moose turns to look at his side, and another shot goes off. The moose struggles to remain upright and slowly sinks to the tundra. I run, scrambling through the blueberry bushes to reach the kill zone for the heap big hunter video accolades and the guys are jumping around and marveling at the fact that the moose only has one antler. We get the necessary video for advertising and examine him more closely. He has been in a fight and Andy's first shot got him right in his injured hind leg, where he had been gored. The injury looked to be a couple of weeks old. We would have to cut out any meat tainted by infection during the butchering. It's an all-afternoon job and we wearily haul two loads apiece up the mountain. The wind is vicious; I am almost blown off the mountaintop as I crest the final ridge heading for the windsock to dump the meat. I can't find it, it has blown over and my eyes are all teary from squinting into the wind (we were told later it was gusting up to 50 miles per hour). There it is! I collapse gratefully to the hard ground and struggle out of my pack. I lay there catching my breath for a few minutes as the guys arrive. We secure the meat and trudge back to camp to have some real food for a change.

 

Moose Tenderloin Steaks and Onions with Hash-Browned Potatoes and Corn

  • 6 moose tenderloin steaks (substitute 6 beef tenderloin steaks)
  • 1 good sized onion
  • 2 cups instant hash-browned potatoes -- soaked for 20 minutes in 2 cups boiling water, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese -- sliced thin or grated
  • 1 clove garlic -- chopped extra fine
  • 2 T. butter
  • Small handful Mrs. Dash seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Pre-heat a large frying pan with 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic. Fry the potatoes until cooked but not brown yet. Push to the side; add more olive oil and place 3 of the steaks in the pan. Move the pan so the steaks are over the flame and sprinkle with Mrs. Dash, salt and pepper. Fry until brown and turn, along with the potatoes. Add 1/3 of the onion cut into rings, and dab 1 tablespoon of butter on the potatoes and cover with cheese. When they are well done remove and drain of any oil. Fry the remaining steaks in the pan with another 1/3 of the onion and heat the can of creamed corn in a small saucepan with the last 1/3 of the onion chopped very fine, and the other tablespoon of butter. All wild game should be cooked well done as they have parasites and blood-born pathogens not compatible with humans, the same as pork or chicken.
  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
 
We divvy up the victuals and devour our food, waiting for the last of the steaks to be done. We eat those too and sit around the stove sipping whisky, celebrating a successful hunt. I sleep warm and full until about 3am, when a fox scares me to death trying to get hold of the rest of the tenderloins aging in the tree beside my tent. I sure wish Jerry were snoring in his cot next to me (last week's hunter)! I drift back off to sleep and awake to the sound of Gene actually talking to the lodge on the radio. We have 3 more days to hunt, rise and shine. There's more steak for breakfast, cooked and eaten fast on the go. We get the last load of meat up topside by noon and start looking for a moose for Gene. We don't see anything for two days, but at least I'm not hungry or cold anymore. The last evening before I fly out, the guys spot three bears and one of them is heading for the moose kill site! Andy stays on the mountaintop to direct Gene and me with hand signals, and we race down the ravine to intercept her at the kill site. I can't believe how fast she is! She gets there before us and circles warily. We are in heavy wood about 350 yards out. She stops in a clearing just this side of the kill site and looks from side to side. I briefly get her on video before she moves into the trees. We spot her again. Suddenly she pounces up and down on her front paws and leaps about 15 feet over into the willows! I couldn't believe it, she moved just like a cat and, boy, was she fast. We head into the brush after her. That is a creepy feeling following a bear into heavy brush. We hit a clearing and spot Andy for directions. He waves us over the next ridge where there are some ravens doing aerial acrobatics, giving away the bear's position. She is long gone and we head back. Another long day sends me crawling into my bag by 10pm and I can't even keep my eyes open for a full chapter of my book.

The next morning, Gene rattles the side of my tent excitedly hissing, "Bear, Deana hurry, a bear!" I roll out of the sack and grab both shooting implements - my camera and rifle, a Wentworth 375. Gene is in his long johns and looking through his scope intently. No, it's not a bear, it's a wolf -- a huge black wolf! Gene drops to one knee, takes aim and fires! The wolf goes down and we all scramble to get warm clothes on as it is freezing! We head down the slope to claim Gene's prize.

Suddenly, we hear the plane and I scramble to haul all my stuff topside to fly out. We circle the camp and I get some aerial footage of them dressing the wolf. It is a beautiful day and the fall colors are popping in the sunshine. Not tree leaves so much as the tundra bushes like, blueberry, linden berries, and low bush cranberry. The lodge shines like a golden jewel in the spruce trees up on its bluff above the lake. I shower gratefully, washing my hair 3 times and loosing a good handful down the drain when I pick it out with a pick. I take one of the kayaks out with a fishing pole and catch and release 8 or 9 medium pike for fun. The sunset is spectacular. I help around the lodge until I fly back to Anchorage the following day. I can't wait until next year, as I am scheduled for one more video shoot, this one to encompass the full 30 days of September! I was only in the field for 20 days this year. Next hunt, I'm getting a caribou tag for myself, as I don't have nearly enough meat to last through the winter. I love a good caribou roast slow cooked in a crock-pot. I'll have to share that recipe with you some winter evening!



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