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Thread: A calander of my life as a Subsistance Hunter/Fisher/Gather'r

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    Default A calander of my life as a Subsistance Hunter/Fisher/Gather'r

    I started writing this a couple days ago, and both times it was my internet going off and me loseing **** near the entire post. I had seen a simular thread and , so others can see, I figured I'd post about what I do in the scope of a year.........maybe one month , every day Im around, but Ill be adding 'em up here on this thread. This should entertain a few.

    Subsitance Hunting/Gathering/Fishing is defined by harvesting and utilizing the resources around you, be it Food, shelter , heat or clothing.
    Among those I live with and around there are places where my wife can point out her great grandmothers Tie off rock, for her Salmon net. The camp my wife owns is the place where here great grand parents put a sod house (a frame house is now built over the pit) and racks to place her sleds and her Umiaq, as this was their spring and Fall camp, a shotways up from the Inlet, and a good place to "freezeup (let the ice thicken safely), as well, when leading this kind of life, knowlage and placemnet in any given area is a must.Knowing where, when and with what is how you best harvest Plants, catch Fish and Game, and listening closely to others will let you expand your range and explore. I like to follow other and take others , pointing out features, danger spots, as well aas how to be the best at what You have come for, this knowlage isnt found in books, or taught in school. ITs passed down with words and arriving, working and living that way, makeing Subsistance a "Lifestyle" if you so engauge yourself. All over the state, alot of people supplement themselfs with Hunting and Fishing. they would rather eat natural healthy foods than store bought processed foods and this IS Subsitance, in one aspect.Some go further and heat with wood, others utilize the raw materials and make Arts, crafts, tools and implements that you cant buy from a store that would be consitterd "The Best", and when sucess or if your life is on the line, nothing less will do. If a person were so inclined, the need for $$can be entirely nagated, as trade/barter is still a major heavy weight in this Arctic economy.

    So to give you a good idea, the setting is a Inupiaq village in the Arctic, on a large river named "Kobuk'. Its a very short distance to the Ocean via the meandering lowland swamps that form our 15 mouthe'd delta. Trees galore, for heat and raw materials, as wll as all kinds of fish, birds and animals that roam the waterways, as well as those that cross the vally, mountains to mountains, as well as theose that pass on through a couple times a year.

    This is where the river meets the Sea, via 'Kobuk Lake" an inlet that is the confluence of the Noatak, Kobuk and selawik rivers. The lake is tide, shallow and very tempermental as almost any wind on it can smoothen or roughen it , depending on the Tide. Waves pitch almost straight up and the shallows can ground your boat to a stop while the next wave swamps you, so its a lake to be learned.
    Then as we get around or across the pennesula to the west or South, we encounter Kotzebue Sound, and all that the Ocean has to offer.
    Behind, to the East is a lone Mountain, Asagonik, meaning "Rocky top", and behind it is a set of sharp, short but jagged mountains that venture NorthEast called the Kivlukvuk' Mountains, or "Mammoth Mountains" and beyond them is the Selawk vally with its great many lakes, sloughs and meanderng river channels that make their way to Selawik Lake, which inturn, flows into Kobuk lake and on to the Kotzebue Sound. These lakes and rivers as well as the ocean were the Highways for thousands of years , with people in boats and the goods they carried into th einterior and back to the Ocean in trade, social activitys and hunting.

    My Wifes familyhas been moving around to the Ocean for a great many generations and our oldest son is the present owner of a lower river camp, near Kobuk lake, that the fatherinlaws grandparents used as a cache site and winter darkness camp. The would switch between their boats and sleds and used it as a centerialized hunting area in the middle of the Caribou migration rout, 5 kinds of salmon, Seals from the ocean quite regularly, and the brakish water fish "Shee fish" are plenty full as well as a nice big lake and the small (untill Spring Break up) creek that is a great place to net whitefish for drying as they are lean, and make great travleing food as the ice passes the camp and the water is high, its usually breezy and drying all the left over frozen meats from winter as well as the thinner meats caught in spring, fat Whitefish are awsome. So its a good camp.Firewood all around.....and I get along with all this, just going with the flow and nothing is the same twice, but a fairly predictalble pattern develops and knowing the alternatives when **** dont pan out is important.

    Heres a few pictures to explain a bit further, and I figure by the time I get back to Feb, itll be me, next week


    So Ill start with March.......The Sun is up , the temp is usually below zero, and Hunting, Travleing and Fishing is out there for those who have places to go , things to do.
    March is when Female Caribou have an apreciable ammount of fat on them, while bulls have been skinny all winter, with Rut having stripped the most powerfull and prolific studs into pathetic Wolfbait.
    I like to pick a fat Female by looking for a Wide Heart shaped Butt, as well as look for Fur among the various bands of the WACH , 375,000 strong. My winter living area has Caribou in abundance this year, but the places where I go in Winter FREKING abound in Caribou, and those of us that Hunt....and I hunt them too. I return to this area in winter, sometimes for weeks, sometimes only days and get what I need to make ends meet and still do it again. Hides and Meat are the goal, as Caribou Meat can be barterd and hides can be tanned and made into stuff. In March, a good sleeping bag or tent floor of the warmest kind ever can be had from the hides of 6 Caribou, or Muckkluks of the warmest type made from their leggins, as the hair is long and supple and sheds only a little, so the trip easily pays for its gas, parts and we go home with lots of food.
    So for the month of March , with lots of long daylight hours, mostly -20f below,we mostly persue
    Caribou





    Fur



    Shee Fishing begins too



    And back when it was teir II we used to get a Fat Muskox, in March, which is sooooo very nice during this time of years 'leaness"



    And my wife, her family and my sons get Seals, also for more Fat and oil , as all the Seal oil from Fall and the fat Caribou meats are all ate up by now. Small ringSeals are what they mostly bring home this timma year. This requires some seriously good shooting, as busting the neck bone or the brain bone will keep the animal from flipping forward to the hole they clawed through the ice to bask on the upper crust...


    Rabbits and Ptarmigan are a great change of diet , and in the long days, hunting and snareing them is fun, fairly easy and tatsy in the end





    And the ever present need for heat, a hard workou for sure, deep snow, short trees and frozen everything, unless we get 'em...

    This is generally how March dumps into April, though April is warmer for sure, it comes with the wind, and in Aprl, the winds of Change Blow Hard.........
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Thanks Stranger. We all enjoy your tales and many of us dream of your way of life. Keep the stories coming.

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    Extremely interesting . . thanks.

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    Really neat post Stranger!! Thanks, that really opens my eyes at just how tough, yet rewarding a subsistence life can be!

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    Awesome post Stranger, keep those pictures coming man!!

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    Oh, this is going to be good... can't wait to see an year of your life through your eyes!
    English is an odd language. It can understood through tough thorough thought, though.

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    So we move on into April.
    This month is a big change over from what weve had as weather and conditons since freeze up. Now the sun is up 24 hours a day and the water is softening. It ranges from 0 to 40 above, depending on the day and the way. "Spring arrives when the West wind blows" is a common saying, and it too is true. Sometimes it blows hard and stedy for weeks.
    Camping for The "Campers" is full on and many of these wont go home till after freeze up. Weather fishing or Hunting, these folks are most respected among those who hunt and fish because they dont go home till darkness comes, or if possible, freeze up, and then theres the Winter Campers, 'Best of the Best' , and a high compliment around here.... We get tetherd a bit closer, as we have kids in school, but when we homeschooled, we too just stayed 'out'......Nowdays, most young folks want to and do , sleep at home in bed, and do not hunt very far from home.
    We like a nice windbreak, and some heat at night to dry up by.






    Thick rivers and Ocean ice will remain, but the hillside start to melt and all things wet flow to the sea.The biginning of the month sees us hunting, we will still catch Fur and a few caribou, though mostly Bulls for drying as the Cows are now advancing in pregnancy. The Bulls are lean but the marrow is Fat, and boiled out bones will balance a diet lean in fats. The hide quality is Zip with shedding hairs flying off with ease, often in clumps and the holes from Warbel fly hatching from the Caribou backs , the hides are useless.
    Meat and sinews for drying and later use, theres no flys out yet to spoil the drying in the long days and cold breezes.







    Rabbits and Ptarmigan are still great eating too



    In mid April, Seals are up on the ice, Bears come out when the first drips drip all day, and sure enough, around here its fairly true, as far as Ive seen. The fat that a Seal or Bear brings at that time of year gos a long way to keeping us on a healthy diet , as most all the other meats are very lean by then








    Later in the month Seagulls arrive, usually about a week or so before the first Geese and Ducks. I like to catch two or three Geese when they first come, but I also make ready and hunt them hard about a week after they show up and get a bunch to munch and jar up. They are most desirable now, as they are very fat, both males and females before the nest. knocking off geese now lets them pair up for nesting inna couple weeks, right after break up, usually in early May now, but still the Geese are eating at the mud spots and feeding on last years berrys from the open spots that have melted on the Tundra.Also , Sheefishing contenues all April, in the brackish lakes and inlets, and Whalers and Walrus Hunters, as well as Oogruk Seal Hunters are out in the Packice, after dragging boats to the ices edge.Here too Dolly Varden are caught, King Crabs are fished for and Sea Ducks about in huge numbers, and I like to fill my boat/sled with Sea Scoters, my personal favorite Duck to eat.




    Boiled down for Fish oil if theres no other oils around, and for a different flavor if you do...



    And you do what you can to keep moving forward, getting ready for the 'Break up" of May and all the Hunting/Fishing opprtunitys, with the family busy storeing and busting out "stuffs" for spring and Summer, as well a putting away foods for travles to come.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    envy, envy, envy

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    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to strangerinastrangeland again."

    Dang It!!!

    Amazing stuff stranger....Phenomenally Amazing!
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    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    I think I'll pull a chair up for this one. Should be a Strange one.
    Live life and love it
    Love life and live it

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    True meaning of it takes a village..Hard but enjoyable way of life for sure
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Stranger, this is outstanding. You live a life that many envy, but most would have a hard time surviving. Great job, and I look forward to more of your great insight of the substinance life style. Knute

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    I agree, fantastic post. It is a life i envy.


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    strangerinastrangeland,

    Thanks for the awesome story and photos. I will show it to the people that ask me why I lived in Barrow for 18 years. Although I did not live a subsistence life style I did spend a lot of time with families that did. Your post is bringing back a lot of wonderful memories! I did not have the smarts to photograph most of my Arctic adventures so I will be using your stories and photos to show our boys what it was like when I participated in similar activities. You should write a book!

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    Cool Post Stranger - you have our attention for sure!

    Curious, how does an outsider manage to get "into" a village and marry a local gal? I would think an "outsider" may have a challenge getting into the trusted circle I am thinking these people must obide by???
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    I have never operated on a 'Plan' for sure. I must say that as 'oportunity' arose, I took the best way I could.
    Getting into a Village requires either being a Teacher and arriving to a good paying job and housing, being related or marring in, as the wife has a huge family, I have a lotta inlaws from other villages, and in other villages, so I go among them, I flow in and out as well. I have safe places to stay without a word or warning, I must only show up and its like my own home.
    There are alotta temporary workers that show up, and the occassional drifter, but they all leave. Of 635 people, Im one of 5 Whites + our own Samoan,who live in and among the village, the rest non Inupiaq are teachers, , and about 1/3 of the population here are from other villages.
    Fact is, the Fatherinlaw didnt want me to even talk to him, thought I'd make babys and leave, but I didnt, so after a couple years,he basicly sat down over the course of a long time and showed me/told me how to employ myself and be self sufficent, and he took the time to point out how to supplement my needs with locally gatherd materials and go forwrd. Kept me from being cronicly broke, unemployed, hungry or at the bottom of the social ladder.
    Jobs are few, and of those few, most are often seasonal, high paying, dangerous and short, Mining, Wildlands fires,Commercial Fishing and such.

    With Subsistance, I have a 'job' that provides all I need, as long as I do the work, I am in charge of my doings, and fail or suceed is entirely up to me.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

  17. #17
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    Kudos to you Sir.. Best wishes for a fruitful year!
    Quote Originally Posted by strangerinastrangeland View Post
    I have never operated on a 'Plan' for sure. I must say that as 'oportunity' arose, I took the best way I could.
    Getting into a Village requires either being a Teacher and arriving to a good paying job and housing, being related or marring in, as the wife has a huge family, I have a lotta inlaws from other villages, and in other villages, so I go among them, I flow in and out as well. I have safe places to stay without a word or warning, I must only show up and its like my own home.
    There are alotta temporary workers that show up, and the occassional drifter, but they all leave. Of 635 people, Im one of 5 Whites + our own Samoan,who live in and among the village, the rest non Inupiaq are teachers, , and about 1/3 of the population here are from other villages.
    Fact is, the Fatherinlaw didnt want me to even talk to him, thought I'd make babys and leave, but I didnt, so after a couple years,he basicly sat down over the course of a long time and showed me/told me how to employ myself and be self sufficent, and he took the time to point out how to supplement my needs with locally gatherd materials and go forwrd. Kept me from being cronicly broke, unemployed, hungry or at the bottom of the social ladder.
    Jobs are few, and of those few, most are often seasonal, high paying, dangerous and short, Mining, Wildlands fires,Commercial Fishing and such.

    With Subsistance, I have a 'job' that provides all I need, as long as I do the work, I am in charge of my doings, and fail or suceed is entirely up to me.

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    neat thread stranger! you live a rarely parralleled lifestyle...

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    Great post as usual Chip thank you!

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    Great to hear your stories again and pics are very cool and help get point across. I truely enjoyed your presense while hunting and this refreshes my memory. I think you are also accepted there because you accepted the lifestyle and way of life. Very interesting and hard to take it all in a few days. I can picture everything in my mind as you reading what you described in first post. I can visually see the rivers and lakes, especially from the top of the mountain behind the village. Great times for sure. Kudos for you though, even Brian said he doesn't think he could there year round when we were there.

    Awesome bear pic, I just love those big bear pics you got of those two monsters, even though they don't get that big up there, LOL! Sounds like you guys are having a blast and great the girls are getting out there with ya. I also thought it was cool your kids would ask you how to say something in eskimo. You spoke it very well and remember you learning the meaning to place where you hunt often, kulgarock, I know that ain't right but meant saining fish. I learned a lot and was humbled by your understanding of the different villages and hunting styles, way of lifes, it really explained a lot to me. That is a good job for you, not every man could do it, and kudos to you!

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