In my second year as a resident, I drew a ballot license to hunt musk oxen on my own for the first time. It was a winter license, and it gave me the right to shoot three animals of my own choosing. However, the season only lasts a few weeks, at the coldest and darkest time of the year, with temperatures close to -40°C/°F. Luckily a weather window came, where it was possible to go hunting. After a long snowmobile ride through the artic wilderness for more than 175 kilometers (108 miles), my colleague and I arrived at a hostel, our basecamp for the hunt. As we entered the hostel, we were greeted by a wall of outerwear, gloves, and big winter boots. The air was dense, with a strong smell of sweat, exhaust from snowmobiles and, last, but not least, musk ox. It was clear that some of the other hunters had already been successful. On the next morning we started the day with high expectations. The temperature was below -20°C (-4°F), so even the door handle was frozen on the inside when we went out and drove into the darkness.
Already from our snowmobiles, we spotted several groups of musk oxen in the terrain above us. There were a lot of them around, but most of them were too far for a day trip like ours. However, after some time, we spotted a herd of bulls walking in an area not far from where we were. We left the snowmobiles behind and set off on foot.
As we approached the herd, the animals gathered on a small hill. They had clearly seen us, but trusted their instinct to stay together and face their enemy. We got into position at a distance of 100 meters (109 yards). However, it was no easy matter to get a clear shot on a bull. Every time a bull was broadside another was behind it. Finally, one stood free and I took my chance. The bull fell to his knees and my colleague also had the chance to take a safe shot before the herd split up. Two large, dark animals laid lay behind in the cold, white wilderness. There was not much time to let the experience sink in, as the daylight was disappearing. We had to start field dressing the big animals immediately, which was hard work for us. After preparing the snowmobiles, we placed the meat at the bottom and skins above to protect it, then we had a long ride home. Snow and bad weather conditions on the coast made the ride with the heavy sleds a difficult task. We had to lighten the load several times to get up the steep hills. By the time we arrived back home, every muscle in our bodies was sore. I must admit, hunting musk oxen was a different experience than I had imagined. A constant battle against cold and short days, with very little time to stop and enjoy the beautiful landscapes, or let the hunt sink in. Despite that, the trip still stands as an unforgettable first encounter with these prehistoric arctic beasts that I had dreamed of for so long.
Length: 250 cm (8 ft, 2 in) Height: 150 cm (4 ft, 11 in) Weight male: 350 kg (772 lbs) Weight female: 200 kg (441 lbs) Mating time: August – October, 1-2 calves are born in early spring.
Malte Nyholt is a Danish author and outdoor enthusiast. He has always had a great interest in nature and spent much of his childhood watching birds and wildlife. He started hunting at the age of 16 and has been hunting in most of northern Europe, as well as South Africa and New Zealand. He spent four years living in Greenland to follow his dream of hunting in the north. Malte works as a teacher and has been sharing his passion for the outdoors for over six years runs a smallthrough his project Nordica Outdoors, @nordicaoutdoors.