Hunter Gatherer – Hunting Reindeer and Ice Fishing in Iceland and Greenland

Food Facts

Equipment: Bring your gun for the deer and outdoor wear, and hire or buy specialist ice fishing kit and protection against cold and hypothermia
Taste: Reindeer meat is very beefy, the fish are hardy eats like the Pike
Top treats: A raw little stinking fish

Out in the most northern points of Europe, imported foods are a rare and expensive commodity, so your best bet is to catch your own, and hunting and fishing form a huge part of the social experience as well as the major industry in these cold and icy lands.

Don’t Look Now, Santa…

Reindeer along with seal is a staple food in Iceland and Greenland. The herds run wild and out in the Arctic wilderness there is little else to eat. However, it has become an increasingly fashionable leisure sport, attract small groups of western tourists where you can book on 3 or 5 day hunting tours. The season for Reindeer hunting is August to early September.

Reindeer live on Iceland’s east coast. Rain wear, thermals, hiking boots and a 6.5 – 8mm hunting rifle are needed for a successful shooting spree.

After killing the reindeer, you need to slit the throat to let the blood run out and the tie the oesophagus. This brings up the food the reindeer has been eating which is partially digested. An accumulation of gas starts inside the intestines so this needs to be tied this before the animal is slaughtered. This needs to be done to ensure a good quality of meat.The butcher would probably drag the carcass to clean snow to do the butchering. In the olden days when the people in Greenland didn’t have any vegetables, eating the undigested grass from the stomache of the reindeer was a form of vitamin source of green, Vitamin C.

In winter the reindeer graze on lichens, in summer time they graze on everything green that grows. Then finally they are grazed upon by man, the last predator in the chain.

Ice Fishing

Traditional Inuit ice-fishing is easy to do but you need to buy a non-resident licence from a tourist office, hotel or police station.

The gear you’ll need to ice fish is quite specialist and expensive, and you will almost certainly need to hire or buy an Auger (large drill to cut holes in to the ice), a Spud (wedge shaped ice pick), a chain saw, a Split shot (lead weight), a jigging rod (simple fishing rod), and a tip up ( a hook which’ll set you back around $5). If you’re after bigger fish, you’ll need more heavy duty specialist gear to cut bigger holes in the ice.

The sort of fish you can expect to catch in the sub zero waters include Perch, Pike, Walleye andBlue Gill. A unique fish to be hooked is called nipisek nipisek which means “the one that is stinking”. It is caught only in the spring and eaten raw, so it makes a great lunchtime snack . It doesn’t actually stink but it is very tasty and healthy and it thought to give you a long life.

Ice fishing is a hardy and gruesome sport, very different from fly fishing. Take care when ice fishing, hypothermia carries a high risk of death if you fall in the icy waters where survival times are estimated between 20 mins to 90 mins and hands sieze up in around 2 minutes. Carry an ice auger or long fishing pole to attempt a rescue and make sure anyone who falls in the water is given warm clothing and warm drink straight away (but never alcohol which dilates blood vessels).

More Information

The Icelandic Hunting Club
PO Box 806
128 Reykjavik

Beginners Guide to Ice Fishing
Carl Benson takes out ol’ Joe for is first expidition ice fishing with plenty o’ hi Jinx in store.

By Susi O’Neill