- Full speed ahead! A deep roam rises from the normally silent four stroke engine. The bow rises and the 17 feet rib takes off towards a dark shiny ball surrounded by an increasing blood pool some 100 meters away. We are in the commune of Askvoll in the western part of Norway. The great ocean thunders towards the majestic mountains a bit to the west of our position. Where we are, in the relative shelter of the outer islets and mountains, King Neptune have provided fine conditions for today'sī seal hunt.
- Got it! The gaff hits the one year old in the neck. After picking up the shooter, we lift the seal on board and head for the nearest islet to slaughter. This youngster is approximately one meter long and has had a rich diet. 6 centimeters of white fat is revealed when we cut open the seal. The young seals taste better than the larger ones. But to prepare the meat for the human taste, we most importantly have to free the seal from it's under skin fat as soon as possible. This is where the undesired taste is located, and it quickly sets taste to the meat if not removed instantly. It's quite similar to all of the sea birds that also eat maritime food like fish and shells. When hunting these we also have to remove the under skin fat soon, preferably before the bird gets cold.
While slaughtering we observe another curios head swimming past us only 50 meters away. We keep focused on our slaughtering task, as we know that many more opportunities will appear throughout this day. We have found two different colonies with fjord seal and will head over to hunt these after we finish this youngster.
It is not a large load of meat on such a small seal. Even though it may weigh 30 kilos, the only meat worth bothering with is found along the back of the seal and some on the shoulder and thighs. The physics resembles other big game apart from the limbs. These are obviously shorter and end in flippers rather than in hoofs. We cut the filets from the outer and inner spine and some off the limbs, than the task is finished. From this year old seal we get perhaps 2-3 kilos of meat. There is surely a lot of fur and fat on these creatures.
The fur is another story. We have preserved some skins throughout the years of hunting. If you want to take care of the skin you have two options. The first is to deliver it to a professional tanner. The second is to do it all by yourself. We have only done the job ourselves, and we can assure you it can be a really huge mess (wifey will not talk to you for quite a while after you drag the stinky lump of fur into the garage for further processing).
Anyway, either way you will have to do the basic work right after shooting the seal. First is the cutting. You begin cutting on the underside of the seals snout and all the way down to the back of the animal. Then you have to free the flippers and skin the head without damaging the fur. We have described the whole process of skinning the seal in our DVD. When finished it is essential that you don't expose the fur to the sunlight. This will make the fur catch a yellow tint. It helps to cut away as much of the fat from the skin as you can without poking any holes. There are some special half-mooned shaped knives you can use for this purpose. When transporting the fur we usually throw it in a black plastic box together with some sea water and cover it with meat, a bag or something else to prevent the sunlight from getting in touch. If done correctly the fur will be a soft, shiny and nice reminder of the seal hunt.
The larger grey seal are not especially valued as human food (at least do we not like it). It is however great and healthy food for our hungry dogs. The fur of the adult grey seals are often damaged after fighting and not always suited for skinning. Some of the grey seals are however really beautiful with a lot of different shades to their fur. The youngest grey seals are also soft white colored and exceptionally nice. We usually cut out the skull and jaws from the grey seal. The teeth and skull are impressive and looks just like a large predators. Actually the grey seal is a serious predator that not only prey on fish. These seals have been seen taking swimming dogs and also sea birds. After removal of the skin and fat, and some bleaching, the skull makes a nice collectable for seal hunters.