Blom, his girlfriend Runhild Gjelsvik and photographer Sverre Hjørnevik were in the wild and beautiful landscape of the Lærdal-Årdal area in western Norway’s Sogn og Fjordane county hunting wild reindeer. “The fog came and went, and then Runhild suddenly spotted two bucks at a distance of about a kilometer. We sat down and watched. After a while, we lost sight of the animals because of the fog. But then, suddenly, one of the bucks was standing right in front of us, just 15 meters away. Runhild was ready to shoot, but then the fog came back. Plus, the buck was standing on the horizon in front of us, so we couldn’t be 100-percent sure of what was behind the reindeer. We couldn’t fire when we didn’t have a so-called ‘bullet catcher.’ So we didn’t shoot. Right then, the reindeer spotted us and disappeared. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any more reindeer on that trip”, Blom says.
Reindeer (rangifer tarandus) are members of the deer family and live in the northernmost land areas on Earth, where they are well-adapted to the extreme cold and snow that prevail during the winter. Reindeer differ from other deer because both males, or bucks, and the females, or does, develop antlers. Reindeer normally stand 82-120 centimeters at the shoulder. Slaughter weight for bucks is usually 70-100 kilograms, while it is 40-60 kilograms for does. “The mountains between Lærdal and Årdal are probably among the most picturesque areas for hunting reindeer”, says Blom. “It’s genuine wilderness up there. You get a real feeling of being high up in the mountains when you see the Sognfjord, some 1 200-1 300 meters below you. At the same time, finding the animals is challenging. The reindeer herd in the area is quite small, only around 250 animals”. Blom says reindeer hunting is demanding, in general. You have to head out and hike in rough terrain, often walking great distances. It’s all about making it up to a strategic point on the mountain, and studying the landscape with binoculars. “A major challenge is to get within a gooshooting distance without being spotted”, he says. “And if you are lucky enough to shoot a reindeer, you have to butcher it on the spot. That can be a hurdle for many. In the end, you have to cut up the animal and fill your pack with meat. It can, of course, be a heavy load on the way home”.
But Blom prefers to focus on the positive aspects of reindeer hunting. “I have been doing this since I was 16, and before that I had gone along for many years and watched other hunters”, he says. “I really like reindeer hunting. First and foremost, it offers a completely unique experience. It is a very exciting form of hunting, and is very demanding physically. Finally, I must say reindeer meat is a wonderful food. It’s not by chance that reindeer is on the menu at so many Norwegian weddings!”
|Facts||Welcome to Reindeer hunting in Norway|
|Where||In general, you hunt deer in western Norway, moose in eastern Norway and
reindeer in the high mountains. There are 19-20 different wild reindeer areas in
Norway, some on public lands and some on private property. For this story, Martin Blom and his girlfriend Runhild Gjelsvik went hunting in the mountains between Lærdal and Årdal in Sogn og Fjordane county.
|How||To hunt reindeer, Norwegians must pass the national hunting proficiency test, and
take an annual shooting test. Some start big game hunting as soon as they get their first license, but it can pay to start with small game. Those hunting reindeer should know how to clean and butcher a carcass, something best learned through other kinds of hunting, or by going with more experienced reindeer hunters. Foreigners wanting to hunt in Norway must document that they meet the requirements for hunting in their home country. They also have to purchase a Norwegian hunting permit in advance, and weapons must be cleared at customs.
|Season||The reindeer hunt starts Aug. 20. That’s when the bucks tend to be alone, while
the does and calves stick together in herds. The rutting season starts in late August
to early September, when the males and females get back together.
|Guides||Numerous operators can organize reindeer hunts and guiding in specific hunting
areas. That includes Martin Blom, who also produces hunting films and does hunting journalism (www.jakt-dvd.no).