Moose Hunting For Dummies

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Sarah Palin has not only buoyed John McCain's poll numbers — she's brought a bright, shining light to one of Alaska's most enduring pasttimes: moose hunting. Joe Dilley, owner and operator of Joe's Guide Service in Soldotna, Alaska, says the fun in moose hunting ends when you pull the trigger.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. All the attention being showered on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has also cast a spotlight on her state and one pastime in particular, moose hunting. In Alaska, it's not just a sport, it's a way of life. Just listen to the beginning of her biographical video from the Republican convention.

(Soundbite of Palin biographical video)

Unidentified Voiceover: Mother, moose hunter, maverick.

NORRIS: Hear that? Moose is the second word out of the narrator's mouth. References to moose hunting seem to be everywhere in Alaska. Palin's husband, Todd, told Fox News that the meat is, quote, "excellent." And when some Alaska lawmakers voted last week to issue subpoenas in the Troopergate investigation, one of them showed up for the vote still wearing camouflage. Hunting season began just a few weeks ago. For more on the moose mystique, I'm joined by Joe Dilley, owner and operator of Joe's Guide Service in Soldotna, Alaska. Welcome to the program, Mr. Dilley.

Mr. JOE DILLEY (Owner and Operator, Joe's Guide Service): Well, thank you very much.

NORRIS: So just how popular is moose hunting in Alaska?

Mr. DILLEY: Well, moose hunting is a very popular pastime. It's kids that are out moose hunting and their parents and stuff. You don't call in sick for school. You don't call in sick for work. You call in, hey, I got a moose. And your bosses say, OK, great. Don't cut yourself, and bring me a steak in the morning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: So, most of us don't encounter moose, if you - particularly if you're city folk and you're down in the Lower 48. What's the hunt like?

Mr. DILLEY: Hunting moose is very difficult. You can have great hunts and get lucky and find one in your yard. Or you can, you know, go out in the bush and spend 10, 12 days just doing nothing but hunting, and you come across one, and it is very fortunate.

NORRIS: Now, I understand there are a few things that someone needs to keep in mind before they actually set out to try to kill a moose.

Mr. DILLEY: Once you pull the trigger, that's the end of the fun. You have to walk it out on your back, on a pack frame and...

NORRIS: So, you have to dress the moose, immediately, right there where you took him down?

Mr. DILLEY: Yeah, you're talking a hindquarter weighing anywhere from 135 to 170 pounds.

NORRIS: Once you actually get the meat back, what do you do with it?

Mr. DILLEY: This is going to sound a little off the wall, but you let a little bit of white mold grow on it. The natural enzymes in the meat start breaking it down from being a tough chunk of muscle, and you break that down so it gets to be a little bit tender. Then what we do is peel the very outside, as thin as you can little layer off of it where it's dried. And underneath the meat is just absolutely wonderful red meat that when it reaches that stage where you decide that it's OK to butcher up, we make it a family affair.

NORRIS: Now, Mr. Dilley, I appreciate your candor, though I imagine that it might be a little bit difficult for some of our vegetarian listeners. But I'm going to ask you, what does moose taste like?

Mr. DILLEY: Moose is a very excellent, very healthy meat. The meat is absolutely wonderful, and it's not marbled like any of the beef that you get in the store. And it's very good for you, because my uncle had heart conditions, the doctor says cut out beef. And we asked him about, you know, can he eat moose? He said, eat all the moose he wants. One of my favorite meals is in the crock pot, start a pot of, well, we call it moosegetti.

NORRIS: Moosegetti?

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Instead of spaghetti, you have moosegetti?

Mr. DILLEY: Yeah, it's moosegetti.

NORRIS: Now, Joe Dilley, it has been a pleasure to talk to you. But I understand that in order to attract the moose, that you use specific moose calls. Before I let you go, do you mind giving us an example of how you might try to call the moose?

Mr. DILLEY: Well, no, I don't mind. A bull, when they are coming in to gather up cows, they make a small guttural - it's almost like a burping noise.

(Soundbite of Mr. Dilley imitating moose call)

Mr. DILLEY: And then a cow calls. When she is calling and she's in estrus and ready and trying to get bulls to come over to her, she makes a long drawn out...

(Soundbite of Mr. Dilley imitating cow call)

Mr. DILLEY: I did that the other day, and those moose came at a dead run from 500 yards away. They got in to 20 yards of us.

NORRIS: Well, Joe Dilley, it has been a pleasure to talk to you. All the best to you.

Mr. DILLEY: Well, thank you very much.

NORRIS: And you can hear why we chose Joe Dilley as our guide to the world of moose hunting. He's owner and operator of Joe's Guide Service in Soldotna, Alaska.

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