catching a reindeer

catching a reindeer

Mika Lappalainen | Friday, 27 January 2023

We are locating last reindeers from wild and trying to get them home for winter, when spring is coming they can go back to their natural home. Satu's last female has been on my mind few weeks. We marked baby for her also but haven't seen couple after marking.

This summer all Satu's reindeer got gps so we could track them, reason was that we moved them to totally new and different area for summertime. This one had been spending her past weeks in one smaller area with rocky hills and deep forest. Good area to have food and dangerous also. Monday morning I saw that it made long move and came closer to roads and houses. First thought was that something has disturbed her and maybe calf has been eaten. So in the evening I had car trip and went to see footprints to get idea what to expect on Tuesday when my plan was go to catch them.

Two footprints, bigger and smaller, so calf should be with her. Tuesday started with lot of other things than catching reindeer, it was day off and yet plenty of work at farm before going after reindeer. I packed snowmobile, some reindeer moss, hay etc and suopunki. Suopunki is our version from lasso. 

It was way after 14.00 when I was close to area where gps showed reindeer, I had maximum 2 hours day light to track and get them. I took snowmobile and sleigh out from trailer, load all the stuff needed and started approaching, first fast part with snowmobile on trail and then off from trail to the forest.

Now I have to drive slowly and track, deep spruce forest. I found footprints and start follow, slowly and carefully, I didn't want to spook them. If they would be spooked it would be game over from today. After short while I saw them, female and baby, both in good shape. I drove as close I dared without that they jump. Baby jumped few meters and female started watch, what she would do. I took some moss and throw it. Female came start to come right away and eat. I throw some more to see how they will behave, how to catch them. I left sleigh on that place and drove big circle around them, same time I was also able to herd baby that he would leave from female. I came back, stopped little bit more far than earlier and start to watch what baby is doing.

I need to get baby first and then female. If I would take female first baby would spook for sure and game would go much more harder and difficult, besides, female has gps so I can track her anytime. Also females normally won't leave far from place where you catch a baby. Moms are always worried.

So baby came to eat also moss, he is more careful than female. I put some hay, add some pellets, some more moss and made a "trap". Trap is basically suopunki which I place on top snow with loop. It is placed before food, that when reindeer comes to eat it step inside loop, foot will "sink" in snow little and then I can pull suopunki and loop will tight around foot. End of suopunki I take as long I can, between two big spruce and kind of behind one. Everything is ready, I drove around same track I just did and arrive my fishing spot. Game is on, this is patience now, stay calm. 

Female comes to eat food fast, moss is their chocolate. Baby follows but much more carefully. He is eating also moss, but kind of after mom. Shit, baby changed his behaviour, earlier when observing he ate little bit separately from mom but now he came to same food, my trap is little bit wrongly. I talk to reindeers and go to fix it. New set up, some moss, round with snowmobile and back on business.

Now it looks like it will work, mom eats, I got baby with moss to come around one big pine and he has to come to trap if he wants to eat. Baby comes to eat, now I just stare his foots, when they are inside, so I can tight the loop. He is eating, legs are just little bit out, not even one in which would be enough for me, now he steps in, wait, wait... He needs to concentrate for eating so I have reaction time on my side. Fuck, now he put  other foot on top of rope.

I have to wait, it has to be clear pull, otherwise he will spook and my life go much harder. I move little bit and talk, I try get small move for baby, female is eating behind so she doesn't mind anything. Now baby turns against mom, front legs are going out from trap and same time back foot in. Is it in, yes, I take my shot. Shit, too slow, I hope he didn't felt it. Female jumps some also. I made trap again, new circle with snowmobile, yes they are coming, baby seems to walk straight to eat where he was and my trap is ready. 

Just before baby steps in female comes and pushes baby on the side, what the fuck, did she realize that there is trap and she tries to protect baby or what the hell is going on. No, she probably wants to protect but not because trap but because of me, now female is between me and baby. Female is in the trap but I can't do anything, I just wait if they move. Now female has messed the loop, I have to go and fix it, at the same time I re-place it little, I saw that baby likes to eat hay, and female is more after something else. New round with snowmobile and game is on. Now baby is more carefully, I have walk behind of him, and give some courage to go with mom.

Time goes, slowly baby approach my trap, female is now on the other side. Foot is on top of rope, one more step, come on, front leg in, now move the one from top of rope.... Finally one more step, now it is clear, I tight suopunki, I see that it is aroud leg, baby haven't understand that yet that he is caught. Then I keep suopunki tight and pull little bit more, on that point he understand that he is caught. He starts to jumping and trying to get away. I need to keep rope that, if he gots any loose loop will open and he is gone. My gloves are little bit wet and rope is slippery, when baby jumps and pulls rope is slipping little thru my hands, shit, needs to keep rope tight. I get closer and now baby fell on snow, I just one step away, so fast jump and I'm top of baby.

Okay, now I need to get headstall from sleigh and pack the baby. So I pull him to the sleigh and put headstall on, using with rope, I make package, baby on sleigh and ride back to car. Female really took off when I caught baby so let's see if she is coming back. I lift baby in the van and go back. Female has returned on place, so I made new trap, light is getting off so I have use headlight to see where the loop is, in the beginning female jumps little when I use light. I see barely without light where the loop is. We make few dance moves, just like with baby. Now she has foot in the loop, pull, reindeer on, female realize right away that she has caught. I have luck, her front leg from right side is in the loop, and when I pull she fell in the snow, this time I don't have gloves so I have better grip, I get faster to reindeer and jump her back. I have headstalls inside of my jacket, I put those. Make a package and get her to car.  It is dark all ready, it was last minute catch, 10 -15 minutes later it would been too dark to see trap and loop.

I drove back home, Satu's all reindeer are at home. Do you find any similarity about catching reindeer and fishing? I found and a lot, especially if you compare it with sight fishing and how you place your fly, when you can make your move that you don't spook the fish.

Have a nice weekend and go fishing