walking in the skin of a moose

Hunting season is just around the corner, although the way the weather has been it almost feels as if you might have already missed it.

Hunting season is just around the corner, although the way the weather has been it almost feels as if you might have already missed it.

Freezers will get filled with moose meat and a new stock of tall tales will get swapped.

There is one item that normally gets discarded, but that some people might want to consider leaving off the gut pile: the hide.

It is true, it does not make an appealing throw rug for an easy chair, but with some time and elbow grease it can be turned into amazing footwear.

Plus there are endless uses for the less labour-intensive rawhide, from making chewy toys for the dogs to over stringing snowshoes and securely tying things together.

Rawhide can be made fairly easily by soaking the hide in water until the hair can be scraped off. Further scraping away of any clinging membranes and morsels of fat, followed by more washing, is almost all there is to it.

The most difficult thing is cutting out nice and even pieces, such as five-millimetre-wide strips, without wobbling around with the knife.

Brain and smoke tanning a moose hide for moccasins and mukluks is a much more time-intensive process, the details of which are beyond this column but can be found in numerous books and on the internet.

The rewards of going through all the lengthy work of softening the skin is a piece of lightweight, supple but tough leather that is extremely well suited for footwear.

I happened to receive an invitation to the wedding of a friend down south, in the city, while in the midst of sewing myself a pair of mukluks.

She jokingly suggested that I come decked out in a bush woman outfit, complete with homemade shoes. While it may look funny or quaint to people who have never worn handmade moose leather footwear, those of us lucky enough to own moccasins or mukluks swear by them.

It is thanks to Sam that I became interested in learning how to make them.

He has owned a pair of smoke-tanned mukluks for years and kept telling me how toasty his feet stayed in them.

Clumping along in my felt pack boots, which especially with traditional snowshoes turn walking into a weightlifting exercise, I could see the attraction of wearing something not much heavier than a pair of socks.

But how could feet stay warm in such a thin shell? A good liner, such as the army double-sock type made out of wool, is as crucial in mukluks as in normal winter boots.

Having secured a couple pairs of liners, I set about making a pair of mukluks for myself.

We did not have a moose hide handy for me to smoke tan, nor a brain other than the ones in our heads, and neither did I have enough money to buy such an exceptional piece of leather.

So I compromised and ordered commercially tanned moose leather, a bit thicker than what is often used for making moccasins.

Moccasins can be sewn in a variety of ways and are the first step on the way to mukluks, so it is just a matter of comparing patterns and methods and deciding on one’s preference.

Attaching knee-high pieces of leather and some loops and laces is all that is needed to arrive at a mukluk. To avoid slipping with the smooth leather on packed down snow and ice, it is a good idea to glue on a crepe-rubber sole.

I could hardly wait for the weather to get cold enough to wear my new mukluks. Since they are not waterproof, walking through wet snow or overflow will put a noticeable damper on the footwear experience.

When winter finally arrived, I eagerly put the mukluks to the test.

Because mine were not made out of smoke-tanned leather, they are quite a bit heavier than Sam’s, but still nowhere near as cumbersome as regular winter boots.

Snowshoeing in them is great. I’ve been unable to bring myself to spend more than $200 for a couple of pieces of plastic to strap on my feet, but much as I love my old battered traditional snowshoes, they are quite heavy.

Worn with mukluks instead of boots however, one is almost inclined to dance around with them because they feel so light.

To my delight, even despite the commercially tanned leather, my feet stay much warmer in the mukluks than in any winter boots I’ve ever owned — maybe because the feet are encased more loosely and can move around more.

Any condensation seems to find its way out, resulting in completely dry socks.

What more can a person ask for in the winter?

So when it’s time to go and hunt for moose, it might be well worthwhile not to leave all of the hide on the gut pile.

Walking in the skin of a moose is comfy, warm and quiet — and the way the weather has been, wearing mukluks in August looks like a definite option.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read