Reindeer hunting in Norway
In Norway, we are lucky to have the wild reindeer. There are several tribes with wild reindeer and almost all the tribes are in the middle of Norway. These wild reindeers are one of the reasons we survived the ice age. The people followed the reindeer herds during the ice age and reindeer was an important resource for them, both for food and clothing. Today, when we hike in these mountains, we can find trapping pits that are over thousands of years old.
This hunting season, I applied for a reindeer permit and I got really lucky, and drew a free card. A free card means that you can shoot one reindeer and you can decide what age and sex. These free cards are the only ones that give you the chance to shoot a big reindeer bull. The management of the reindeer population is done through hunting. However, many resources are used to count the reindeer and to track how big the population is and how many reindeers we can shoot. The population needs to be managed because the area is not big enough for a big population and the effect of it will be that the population doesn’t get enough food.
The hunting season starts on August 20, and I was able to get vacation from work on August 28. Some days earlier, a herd of 100 animals had been seen in the area, but the wind direction had changed since then. The reindeer has an incredible nose and the herd always walks towards the wind to be able to smell any danger. It’s difficult to tell how far the herd travels when the wind direction changes, and it also depends on how disturbed the herd gets by hunters. I was determined and made the decision to still go to the area in which the herd had been seen. There was a small chance that they might still be in that area, and you can’t know if you don’t check it out.
Finally, the hunting day arrived and I packed my 125L backpack and started walking. It was raining and the fog was low in the terrain. I didn’t have a good feeling, but my mindset was that I had to try. You don’t get anything by staying home. As I walked uphill, the fog raised over the hilltops. The wind was blowing, and the sight was terrible.
I followed a trail up to an area where I found some droppings, a couple of days fresh, and some remains from a reindeer that had been shot and from which all the meat had been removed. This gave me some hope.
I stayed on the same elevation and walked towards the wind. It’s a fine line when hunting for reindeer because you need to get a good overview but at the same time don’t walk on top of the mountain. The reindeer has good eyes and a person in silhouette is easy for them to see.
As I moved, I often stopped and used my binoculars to scout for reindeer. Whenever I came across new areas, I had to scan the area. I was now a few kilometers from a huge flat area that was between two mountains. This is a good area for the reindeer and old skilled men say that there are reindeer in that area often.
As I got closer, I could suddenly smell the reindeer. It’s almost as sheep smell, but a little different. I could now see the whole area and decided to sit down for a minute and scout the area. On a small elevation, I could see something that looked like a reindeer herd. I stabilized my binoculars and yes- it was a small herd of about 30 animals laying down. I couldn’t see any big bulls, I had to get closer.
The area was flat and open, but I had to give it a try. I walked slowly towards them and used the small changes in the terrain to my advantage. It was impossible to stay totally hidden, but I moved slowly and hoped that they would let me get closer.
I was now 600 meters away and many thoughts went through my head. Was this maybe my only chance? Don’t let a chance slip away that you would have taken if it was the last day. Maybe this was my only chance? And maybe I wouldn’t get any other opportunities to go hunting because of work.
I stopped and scouted toward the herd and around it to see if there maybe was a big bull in the area. There was nothing around the herd, so I moved my eyes toward the mountain I came from. Suddenly, on the hillside some hundred meters from where I had just walked, I could see some huge antlers against the sky. In my binoculars, I saw several huge bulls!
Now I had to get back the same way I came from without scaring the herd of small animals who had noticed me and started to graze.
On my way, I came across some sheep who were grazing and started to run. For each step I took, I felt that the reindeers would be spoked. However, I was lucky and the reindeer herd with the bulls was still calm and grazing. After some 100 meters, I was able to use the terrain and move unseen towards the herd. The herd was in a position that made me have to walk around them and sneak up on them from the top of the mountain. The wind was perfect and when I laid down and crawled over the top, I could see that the herd was still calm.
I was now at a distance of 240 meters, but I wanted to get closer. The terrain was quite open between the herd and me but there were some rocks that I could use to my advantage. I crawled towards them and kept my face and body as low as I could. My clothes got wet and I got cold, but I had to get closer. After many meters of crawling on my knees, I was finally in a good position. However, the bull that I wanted was too close to the other reindeers so I could not shoot.
After a while, the whole herd started to move and soon my chance was blown. The bull walked slowly and every time he stopped, there was an animal in front or behind him. Soon the whole herd was gone but there was a small gap between two rocks that I could shoot trough. The bull was the last in line and, with my luck, the bull stopped at the right place.
I pulled the trigger and the bull fell straight down. The bullet hit exactly where it was supposed to and my shoulders got many kilos lighter! What a great feeling. I was no longer cold!
The herd ran and the other herd with the small animals ran too. Another hunter started to shoot at the herd and got a small buck. There are often several hunters in the area and then it’s important to stay calm and lay down after the shot so you don’t spoil other hunters’ chances.
The herd was several kilometers away now and I could finally get to the bull. It was an amazing feeling, and some sort of feeling inside me told me that we humans have done this for thousands of years, and it felt completely right!
The bull was old and majestic. I gutted the bull and had to sit down and just enjoy the moment. The sky got clearer and the sun showed up. I felt lucky to have these opportunities just a few kilometers from where I live, and now I got plenty of exclusive meat too!
The really hard work started after my break, since all the meat must be carried down the mountain. Lucky for me a friend came by and helped me carry it. We weighted the meat and it was a total of 52 kg of pure meat. We estimated that the bull weighed approximately 76 – 80 kg. Lucky for us it was only 4,5 kilometers to the car and after some hours of hard work we could finally take off our backpacks.
Since the meat was boned out and I didn’t have a cold room to hang the meat in, I vacuumed the meat and put it in the cooler. After a few days the meat gets tender and is ready for the freezer. This meat will come good in hand for good dinners with family and friends!
In some way I feel that I was too lucky and that it went too fast, but I wouldn’t have changed it for something else!