Article featured image

When Steve asked me to blog on backcountry tips and tactics, I doubt he suspected my first post would be about inhaling smoke emitted from burning feces. But if there is one trick, technique, or product I’m inspired to endorse these days, it’s moose poop incense. Indeed, recent weeks have had me espousing the virtues of smoldering moose shit to anyone willing to listen and sniff.  And although the holidays are a ways off, I’m already steadily increasing my stash so I can include a few pellets along with the customary jerky, sausage, dried fruit, and pickles that comprise my Christmas care packages. I’m thinking of this blog thing as the perfect opportunity to take my missionary zeal for moose scat incense to a broader audience.

I’ve always had a strong emotional response to particular smells. It’s as if my nostrils have secondary airways that shunt certain aromas directly into my soul. When confronted with these aromas, I sometimes have to fight back tears. My first experience with smoldering moose scat came this winter at a dinner party held by my girlfriend’s grizzled guru naturalist buddy. He has a woodstove, and for a time I thought something about the smell of the burning wood was responsible for the lump in my throat. It wasn’t until late evening that I noticed smoke emanating from a tiny bowl next to the woodstove, and he explained that the odor toying with my emotions was that of burning moose excrement. I started dissecting the smell. To me, it was the clean-burning smell of a hot campfire on a cold, still evening. But it was also a springtime aspen-y, willowy smell. It was the smell of November elk camps laced with the smell of May morel hunts. It was much more real and complex than the superficial, sickeningly sweet patchouli-jasmine garbage you find at Dead shops. I don’t like incense but I love moose scat incense. Most people I ignite moose pellets for say it smells like willow while some say simply that it smells good. There are some, however, who can’t get past what it is they’re actually smelling and to them, I suppose, it smells like, well, sh%*.

Moose scat incense is very easy to use. Simply ignite a thoroughly dried pellet and let it burn for several seconds. Then blow out the flame and let the pellet smolder in a shallow bowl or on another non-flammable surface. A single pellet will smolder for roughly 15 minutes. There are a couple things you should know before heading out to the nearest willow thicket to procure your own supply of unprocessed, organic, locally grown incense. First, you’re looking for football-shaped pellets of a rich brown color. Avoid pellets that are pale brown or grey. I think these are older pellets that have been infected with molds and/or bleached by the sun, and the odor they emit is much less pleasing. Finally, remember to use caution in the moose woods. Rubber-nosed swamp donkeys can be a little testy, especially bulls in rut and cows protecting young calves. I got charged by a cow several years ago, and the only scat I found that day was in my boxer shorts.