by Allison Sayer for Seward City News-
I have lived in Alaska a long time, and was starting to think I’d seen it all. Until one day in Cordova. I was walking back into town from the grocery store and I encountered an entire family skinning a moose behind Napa Auto Parts! The natural window formed between bones and tendons in the moose’s lower leg had a chain running through them. The chain was attached to the tines of a forklift. The forklift operator lifted and lowered the hindsection of the moose as needed for family members to access the legs.
A whole group of men, women, and children with small knives expertly separated the skin from the meat. An older gentleman in bloodstained hip waders greeted me and my friend and said, “It’s a lifestyle,” before firing up a chainsaw to remove the lowermost portions of the moose’s legs.
I called the Cordova Napa a few days later to find out more about this practice and spoke with Jim Kacsh. Jim told me he is a member of a large extended family descended from John and Trish Wilson. The Wilsons started the Cordova Napa two years before the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He went on to say the Napa is “a family owned business and we’ve been living off moose since they started. So when someone in the family gets drawn, we have a forklift so that makes it easy… It’s pretty much our family but we’ve been known to help anyone who needs it.”
Jim told me the Napa is not the only business that helps hunters to deal with their formidable catch. AML (Alaska Marine Lines) keeps a cooler van running at all times that is labelled for “community service.” Community members can use it as a clean, safe place to hang and dry their meat. Jim explained most people let their moose hang for 3-7 days to let enzymes break the meat down before butchering it.
Several warehouses in town are also generous with their space and their heavy lifting equipment for local hunters. Airboat owners are often willing to help residents move moose into town. An average bull moose weighs 1,000 pounds, with large bulls weighing up to 1,500 pounds. Access to equipment is a huge help when dealing with an animal of that size.
I asked Jim if he had anything else to add about his family’s moose hunting experience. He replied, “I don’t know if you noticed there were half a dozen kids running around. They all participate. They all help keep the place clean and help skin the moose. It really is a family thing. The youngest one there was probably ten and he had a knife in his hand helping skin. The more people you have to help, the faster it goes.”
Finally, he wished to emphasize that “Ours is not a unique story- you’ll see that all over town. Ours just happens to be in the public eye.”