Articles

How About a Sizzling Wapiti Steak?

Let’s raise wild game like cattle, restock our wilderness and put more meat in our larder

KERRY WOOD November 15 1948
Articles

How About a Sizzling Wapiti Steak?

Let’s raise wild game like cattle, restock our wilderness and put more meat in our larder

KERRY WOOD November 15 1948

How About a Sizzling Wapiti Steak?

Articles

KERRY WOOD

Let’s raise wild game like cattle, restock our wilderness and put more meat in our larder

NOW IS the time for Canadian farmers to start raising big-game animals behind barbed wire, so that you may soon be able to walk into a restaurant and say: “I’ll have the Wapiti Steak Special, please!”

Of course, under present laws it’s illegal to deal in big-game flesh of any kind because not long ago market hunters roamed our woodlands, systematically cleaning out our country’s heritage of wild animals and birds for private gain. But in my opinion the law should be modified.

Oh, everyone knows that our game animals and birds are less plentiful today than ever before. Moose, woodland caribou, Rocky Mountain sheep, and pronghorn antelope are all threatened with extinction except in national parks.

Bird game is also scarce. We have made some modest progress at increasing waterfowl numbers during the last dozen years by creating more sanctuaries in both breeding and hunting areas. But hunters are also on the increase. If every licensed duck-hunter in Canada and the United States was able to shoot and collect his season’s bag limit on waterfowl, our total duck population of some 60 million birds would be completely exterminated before the end of one season.

What has cleaned out our wild game? Settlement has been a contributing factor, naturally. Wild land areas have been drastically reduced, and while in a few cases settlement has actually helped our game ^driving off of predatory wolves and cougars has spared their natural enemies, such as the whitetailed deer every native species of game has slumped in numbers as

Canada’s human population increased.

A few hunters like to insist that the predatory animals are the true villains in the story. But in Banff National Park predators such as cougars, wolves, coyotes, wolverine, and bears, are protected along with the elk, moose, deer, mountain sheep and other game animals. And, instead of being cleaned out, some of the game animals even become too abundant. The reason is simple: that greediest predator of all —man—is forbidden to hunt within park boundaries.

The indisputable fact remains that we are overhunting our game wherever hunting is permitted. In addition to our home-grown Nimrods, increasingly large numbers of hunters from the United States and other countries are visiting Canada because this Dominion is the last large game preserve in the northern half of the western hemisphere.

Selling on the Hoof

That’s one reason why I say it is time to raise game behind fences, as a source from which to restock our “wilds.” In bald words, we have been retailing our game animals and birds to hunters in return for tourist dollars -—in license fees, transportation and outfitters supplies. And if we are to continue in this business, then it’s time to replenish our stock in trade.

I have advocated for years the starting of large government game farms for this purpose, located on some of the waste lands of our vast Dominion. With the exception of national park activities, no government has bothered to try out such a scheme, so why not allow farmers to raise game for such projects on an assignment basis? For in addition to replenishing our vanishing wild life, game farms could add to

our meat production at a time when more meat is not only a national but a world need.

But is it feasible?

Not in the case of some animals, such as the crag-scaling Rocky Mountain sheep, the far-ranging pronghorn antelope, or the moose, used to his solitary stete amid the muskeg of the fenceless wilderness. But some animals thrive on farm fields just as well as beef cattle.

The lordly wapiti — or elk — has always increased abundantly in every western park into which it has been introduced and we know now that elk meat can be raised, pound for pound, at less expense than beef.

The carcass of a two-year-old bull will yield over 500 pounds of dressed meat, while the yearling hull yields 350 pounds. Adult cows provide an average of 400 pounds apiece. And wapiti meat when used during its prime condition is one of the most delicious of all game meats.

A high barbed-wire fence is necessary to confine the high-jumping elk. But once that fence has been built, elk farming could he far more profitable than beef raising. One bull elk will look after a herd of 30 to 40 does or cows: there is a record of one magnificent hull in the Yellowstone Park rounding up a harem of 56 cows! Each cow calves yearly, and in almost 50% of wapiti births the cow-elk drops twin calves—a nice thing when you start figuring production expectations!

Game farms can make good use of waste lands which are totally unsuited to grain production or cattle raising, provided that fodder crops are used to carry the animals over the winter season. Such land can often still be bought for $5 an acre, despite today’s inflated prices. With supplementary feedings, one section of such land could support a wapiti herd of 100 animals.

The meat would have to he sold under strict government supervision, and game farm permits be subject to cancellation if any operator was convicted of buying and selling game flesh obtained by hunting.

In addition to wapiti meat, such farms could attempt to raise other game—not only gregarious animals such as buffalo and woodland caribou, plus experiments with venison production, hut it would he quite feasible for farmers to produce pheasants, partridge, grouse, and ducks.

Gourmet’s Delight

The meat of the wild game thus produced in captivity should find not only a ready market for Canadian household and restaurant consumption, hut should j add vital new zest to menus at holiday j resorts. For most of the tourists who ; come to Canada aren’t big-game ! hunters in the usual sense—they’re out j looking for Canadian color, from j Mounties to Rockies to Fundy’s giant tides. And as things are, about all they find on Canadian menus are the same ham and eggs, T-bone steaks and roast chicken they can order at home. Even that gastronomic exception, the famed : Winnipeg Goldeye, is becoming harder j and harder to come by since heavy exports across the line have almost fished it out.

If the government would modify the ban on trafficking in game meat and permit farmers to raise wild animals for sale, it shouldn’t be long before the summer visitor could walk into a resort cafe and pick up a menu that boasted roast haunch of wapiti or fricasseed pheasant. That is, if he could fight his way into the dining room past the I estimated 80%, of Canadians who have j never in their lives enjoyed a repast of ) this country’s own wild game.