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Hunters reflect on moose season along the Nushagak

Mindy Heyano with a bull moose. August 2021.
Courtesy of Mindy Heyano
/
Mindy Heyano with a bull moose. August 2021.
Mindy Heyano with a bull moose. August 2021.
Credit Courtesy of Mindy Heyano
/
Mindy Heyano with a bull moose. August 2021.

“My mom was saying that the moose probably are timing us: ‘These guys come at 7 o’clock every morning and then again at 6 p.m.’ So they probably go into the woods and hide until they know we’ve left,” said Mindy Heyano, who got a moose early in the season.

On the first morning of the hunt, Mindy Heyano saw a bull.

“But it was still a little too dark for us. And then he actually sucked up some grass right when we saw him, ran in the woods," she said. "Didn’t even get a shot at it. And then I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ Usually you see one bull and that’s it. If you don’t get it you’re out of luck.”

But it turns out they weren’t. Five days later, they spotted another one.

“And again, ran straight in the woods, didn’t get a shot at it. I’m like, ‘That’s it you don’t see two bulls. And you don’t see a third, that’s for sure.’ But luckily we beached the boat, went out and walked a little bit, and then it came out and luckily showed itself to us and we were able to get it,” she said.

Heyano and two of her family members hunted on the Nushagak River, right below the village of Ekwok. Every morning, they would head out, boating up and down slews.

Moose meat hanging. August 2021.
Credit Courtesy of Mindy Heyano
/
Moose meat hanging. August 2021.

“My mom was saying that the moose probably are timing us: ‘These guys come at 7 o’clock every morning and then again at 6 p.m.’ So they probably go into the woods and hide until they know we’ve left,” she said.

Heyano said the bugs weren’t too bad, and while the water levels seemed a little low, they were nowhere near the lows of 2019, when the region experienced record-high temperatures and very little rain.

Back home, they processed the meat just in time for Heyano to take some with her to share with family in Washington state.

Further up the Nushagak, Mary Apokedak lives in Koliganek and goes hunting with her husband every year.

“We’re both working right now so we go out in the evening," she said. "Even if it’s raining, we just gear up with rain gear and go out and look. We haven’t been going out very far. But it’s been raining quite a bit.”

Apokedak, who is the environmental coordinator for the New Koliganek Village Council, said the water levels are low this time of year, so you can only reach certain places in a jet boat.

Moose meat. August 2021.
Credit Courtesy of Mindy Heyano
/
Moose meat. August 2021.

“We usually go to Cranberry Creek, too, but it’s too shallow now," she said. "People go downriver and hunt in Mulchatna. But we basically stay up the Nuyakuk and main river areas.”

Apokedak said moose fills their freezer for the winter, and is a big part of their subsistence food each year.

“We never, hardly ever, order processed meat," she said. "So we live off all of our subsistence throughout the year, whether it be moose, fish, our berries and everything else that we subsist on.”

The season ended Wednesday for the areas around Dillingham and to the north. Hunters in unit 17A around Togiak have until Sept. 25 to get a moose.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Copyright 2021 KDLG 670AM

Isabelle Ross