Food has so much more value if you get it yourself and few things taste better than fresh game meat. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

Food has so much more value if you get it yourself and few things taste better than fresh game meat. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Freezer full of fun

My wife added a little sugar, but not so much that the caribou tasted like standard breakfast sausage mix with maple syrup flavoring. I am sure there are other things more overrated, but I presently can’t think of anything more overrated than maple syrup-flavored mixes. I like breakfast sausage and if some maple syrup floods over from the pancakes or French toast then so be it. I don’t want it in the mix.

Anyway, the dominant ingredient in my wife’s latest breakfast sausage iteration is sage and it made for a tasty breakfast when combined with eggs. For dinner we had ground caribou again, but this time it was hot Italian sausage mixed with vegetables from the garden.

Caribou, two different ways in the same day. I felt happy. Full. Few things compare to the moment when the freezer is nearly full and everything is available. Chorizo? Got it. Regular ground for burgers? Yep. Tenderloin, backstrap steaks, roasts? All waiting either in the kitchen freezer or the chest in the garage.

The problem, of course, is when things get buried and while looking for some king salmon, you have to dig down under the recent additions. What a great problem to have!

But it’s hard not to see little gaps where more could fit.

For the second year in a row our berry picking was underwhelming, almost entirely my fault, and I don’t think we pressure cooked enough fish. I think there will be a time in the next few months when I want to grab a jar and take it to work for lunch, but will realize how close we are to running out. It’s often an all-day affair to brine, smoke, pressure cook and store fish. It’s always worth it, but it seemed like all the fish processing days fell on beautiful days that were perfect for fishing or hunting.

So at this point we Alaskans have what we have. With the exception of whatever tags we have remaining, freezers are about as full as they will get during the year. Despite my wife’s desire to tag all of her bucks in the alpine because she’s not a huge fan of the cold, wet, rut program, we have zero deer in the freezer. That’s a rough reality for me to handle too, but I can’t say that I would choose a buck over the mountain goat or caribou experiences we had. In a place where we have a buffet of species to hunt or fish for, it seems bratty to complain too much.

But there is that ever-present feeling that no matter how hard you went during the summer and early fall, it wasn’t enough. There weren’t enough days, wasn’t enough energy, or when things aligned and you did get out there, the fish or game didn’t cooperate. The only way perfection can be achieved would be if you had unlimited time, unlimited resources and a string of luck the likes of which have never been known. Of course all of those things would dilute the sacrifice and thus the experience. If there is no pursuit, no sacrifice, no decisions about what to do on a day that would be both good for trolling for fish or glassing for game, then the value of the experience and the success would suffer.

Alaska makes sure that the best one can do is be content. A summer will never be perfected. It can be “crushed” but there will always be gaps.

Hopefully not too big, and hopefully not in the freezer.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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