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Greenland and Food for the Gods

If you’re a beach-seeking, heat-worshipping wimp, then cease reading and move on!

If you like being spanked by mother nature, welcome pain, and crave having your nuts frozen off, then read on as Greenland might just be for you. 

A couple months ago me and a bunch of likeminded misfits embarked on a journey to Greenland. None of us really had any idea on how it would turn out, but in my experience, these adventures often end up being the best! Now I have spent plenty of time in the Arctic, and Greenland was not new to me either. Some years back I landed on its east coast with a small crew to attempt a first ascent on a couple unclimbed mountains. That excursion represents our Spartan ethos perfectly, as it was totally crazy and epic! We’ll dive into that story another time, so let's get onto killing things in Greenland, rather than me shitting myself thinking I was on the polar bear “good to eat” menu.

Luckily, I know plenty of mad people, so finding a crew was not the challenge. First up is Noah, the half Brit/ Viking who has been a lifelong buddy. We had the super cool Fin, Jukka, who turns up so well prepared it makes you feel sick to the stomach. Watching him create a cozy shelter on the mountain in his special outdoor bag makes you feel 10 degrees colder than you actually are. Bastard!

Then we had Viking Mel, a wonderful creature of complex makeup that never ceases to impress. Viking Mel makes really cool outdoor gear that even the Prince of Denmark wears. She's one stellar Viking lady. 

Every trip needs a solid background man. Ours was Will O’Meara, fresh out the Special Forces and living in the beautiful back woods of Ireland. He’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to shooting shit. Two young bucks, Max and Nick , also got to throw in their gear. These lads are up for anything, no matter the species or effort required to get it.

Something you must wrap your head around is the logistics of there being virtually no roads. You’ve got to have water transportation to get anywhere. Our boat Captain, Taatsi, had a fantastic sense of humor and loads of local experience. The unlikely cook was an attractive vegan from the Middle East. How she ended up in Greenland remains a mystery. To round out our team we needed a hunting guide. With a crew like ours, any guide would be put through the mincer, and no doubt the poor guide we booked felt the pressure. 

Getting to Greenland is not without its challenges. Throw in stringent Covid rules, and it makes the trek even more testing. Our troop met up in Copenhagen, one of the coolest cities on the planet. Trust me, if you are going to Greenland, make sure you have a night or two in Copenhagen. Our two young bucks, Max and Nick, had their eyes popping out their heads as all the ladies are stunning and love to talk. My theory on this is when the Vikings were still doing Viking stuff 1000 years back, they nicked all the tasty ladies. Hence, Scandinavia has more fine fillies than its fair share. 

A few hours on Air Greenland lands you at Nuuk, the capitol city. Three time the size of Texas, this country is one huge land mass. The Population is a scant 55K, mostly of Inuit descent.

Other than a few roads in Nuuk, most of the land is covered in ice. Our boat “Kisaq” was made in 1964, and looked every year of it. Like fine wine and bald men, some things just get better with age.

First, a word of warning about the modus operandi for hunting here. You’re dropped off early in the morning, and left pretty much on your own. This means you need to be fit and prepared to knock off some miles. Remember, there are no ATVs to help out. If the caribou is 10 miles inland and you shoot, you better be capable of carrying it out. The weather can go from 80° F to -20° in a day, so be sure to research and bring the right clothing. 

Simply getting to the mainland can be challenging this time of year. Ice builds up overnight, which can be too thick for the landing boats to handle, yet too thin to take your weight. Greenland waters during hunting season can run at a frigid 20°F. Fall in and you’re dead quick, and trust me it happens all the time, even amongst the locals. Treat the water like you think it's molten lava, and it keeps you aware of what you are dealing with.  

For my shooting equipment I trusted a Sig Cross, topped with a Nightforce NX8 optic, a Javelin bipod, and a Spartan Ascent tripod that could double as my trekking poles. I threw in a travel fly rod because Arctic char are in abundance. When you’re doing miles and carrying everything on your back, keep it light, because every ounce impacts how long you can stay afield.

We set off in small teams to cover as much ground as possible, remembering we needed some meat at camp. Frankly, day one was a struggle. The weather turned proper ugly, and torrents of snow made game keep their heads down. In a deep gorge I miscalculated the distance between the crosshairs and my bore, embarrassingly missing a ptarmigan at 20 feet. When you are in need of protein these screwups really hit home. Ascending out of the gorge, I ran into my son Max. He proudly showed off two ptarmigan he got with a shotgun, so I gave him top marks for recovering his old man’s blunder. 

Mercifully, the weather turned warm and we actually felt some much-needed heat on our backs. I checked out a small river that cut through a granite plateau, as if some giant had used his axe to split it. Spying from above, I could see the axe cut was loaded with char (the best tasting fresh water fish on the planet). Trouble was, the gorge was too deep to cast a fly. I followed the cut and scaled around a sizeable waterfall to reach some calmer water. Everything in Greenland is bloody huge, and it makes you aware of how insignificant we are. Below the waterfall was an open pool, so clear it appeared as if the water wasn’t even there. 30 minutes and I had a dozen fat, rich beauties on the bank. I excitedly caught up with Max and our Viking lady, and we got ready for food fit for the Gods. 

Building a fire to heat some rocks enabled us to cook the birds and fish to perfection. We first removed the organs and ate them raw, something I learned from a Canadian Inuit. Sitting on the side of that river, I would not have rather been anywhere else. Places like this make you realize it isn’t about killing stuff. It is the people, environment, suffering, and providing your own food that sear these rewarding experiences into our minds.

A new day and the teams broke off again to cover separate mountains. Our Viking lady was the first to hit the jackpot. She knocked over a caribou calf that was without Mum, probably shot by a passing Greenlander. We were all pleased as punch not only for her, but for our growling stomachs. More birds and fish were on the success list for the day, but she deserves the credit for bringing home the “caribou” bacon.

Day three and we really started getting into the swing of things, better understanding the terrain and likely game locations. Will and Jukka made up our most elite team, and these lads soon proved their worth by making excellent long-range shots to bag some big animals. Caribou walk constantly, and deceptively don’t appear to be covering much ground. Don’t be fooled, because unless you’re a marathon runner, you are not going to catch up. Find a spot with a good vista and glass would be my words of advice.

Hunting takes on a new level of almost insane intensity when you are shopping for the evening meal. Truthfully, I love that pressure, as it's exponentially more exciting than a mundane supermarket run. I had every confidence we wouldn’t go hungry, but to say there was not going to be a polite competition would be a lie. Besides, my meat was surely going to taste the best!

Guides can be interesting, and can make or break a trip in my experience. They need to be an entertainer, with exceptional local knowledge of both the game and landscape. Beyond that, I am really not interested, and actually prefer to journey free and solo. This was easy in our case because he lost us on top of a mountain, and hell, that worked for me. By the time he located us, Max and Noah had bagged three caribou. Sometimes good shit just happens.

We quickly discovered that shooting caribou is the easy part. Carrying them back to the ship when it's 6 miles away proved to be no stroll in the park. There are no paths, and the terrain can be monumentally tough. The packing method in Greenland is to remove the skin, take out the guts, and cut them in half. Then tie the legs together to form a pack. Three hours of torture and we were back on the coast, waiting for our pickup. This hard-earned meat did not disappoint. Our vegan chef did a tremendous job with the tongue and organs, which topped us up with much needed minerals.

The lads wanted to do some deep-sea fishing, so our captain took us to a deep point where he believed we would find success. I have gone sea fishing all over the world and had some great catches, but nothing came close to this for sheer results. 

Our Cap instructs, "Remember, we’re after the tasty redfish, so you need to get down to 300’ fast, otherwise you will hook into cod on the way down". 

In addition to slaying the redfish, our lads hooked up on cod so big they would have ended up on the cover of "Cod Fisherman's Wet Dream Monthly". To our delight, the redfish tasted like Dover sole in steak form. Yet again, Greenland provided food fit for the Gods.

So far everyone had bagged a caribou, save for yours truly. Jukka, Noah and I trekked off together in search. It started as a great morning, but this means nothing in Greenland. One hour later the temperature had dropped 20 degrees, and we were properly freezing our genitalia off.

As I said before, no point running after caribou. You sit and wait, or attempt to intercept their trajectory if the wind is in your favor. We spotted a small band up on a ridge about 3 clicks away. The problem, there is always a problem, is they were on the other side of the valley. We would need to descend in elevation, and periodically lose sight of them. These guys move surprisingly quick, and there was every likelihood they would be gone by the time we got to them. 

Like a ribbon of ants hopped-up on Red Bull, we hastily covered ground, only to find our quarry a few hundred yards from where we first spotted them. We climbed a series of ledges to get in line with them. My Sig Cross is chambered in the painfully ordinary 6.5 Creedmoor, which I love by the way, and the whole rig attached magnetically in two seconds atop my Ascent tripod.

Caribou are inquisitive because they just don’t see many people. Knowing I had the advantage of time, I lined up the Nightforce on a unique looking animal. A few moments later and I had shot my first unicorn. Truly, a one antlered reindeer. It wasn’t huge, but the best part was we were only 6 clicks from the coast. The “Viking Gods” had looked after us on that one!

This was an incredible trip with an epic landscape and wonderful friends. I would encourage anyone fit enough to try an expedition to Greenland. You be will be left with a lifetime of memories, some scars, and a dash of regret when leaving this gritty country.