As hunters, we put a lot of effort into honoring the animals we kill by making trophy meals out of them. But you can take that respect for your quarry to the next level by utilizing more than just an animal’s meat. Mounting antlers or a turkey fan on the wall looks great but fur, feathers, hide, bones, claws, and teeth from small and big game can all be used to make something useful. Whether it’s a turkey wingbone call, a beaver pelt hat, deer leather gloves, or jewelry made from elk ivories, game animals are more than just meat.
Since I’m a fly fisherman, I’m always on the lookout for fly tying materials sourced from wild game. In fact, many of the commercially sold tying materials can be easily substituted with fur, hair, and feathers from game animals. For instance, I haven’t needed to buy elk hair or pheasant tails for many years. This past September in Alaska when Steve killed a caribou bull, its mane immediately caught my eye. The long, straight, white hair on the bull’s mane was even better than the highest grade bucktail found in the tying section of any fly shop. Later in the fall, Steve gifted me with the tanned mane of a musk ox bull. The musk ox guard hairs were dark, long, supple, and shiny- an idea for a new fly pattern was already forming.
Using these materials, I wanted to create a fly pattern that would work for big, predatory fish like northern pike and sheefish, which live at the same latitudes as caribou and musk ox. The goal was to create a large baitfish streamer pattern with a long body, good action in the water, and an extra “stinger” hook to prevent missing fish that “tail bite” the fly. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with the MeatEater Muskibou. It’s a big fly meant to catch big fish in fresh and saltwater. But what I really like is this fly has a hunting story behind it, just like the caribou meat in my freezer. And I’m looking forward to bringing things full circle by eating the pike I catch this spring on the Muskibou.
MeatEater Muskibou Recipe:
#3/0 heavy-wire stainless saltwater hook
#1 stainless stinger hook
UTC Waxed 280 Thread
.035 Lead Wire
Pearl and silver Flashabou
80 mm articulated shank
Red saddle hackle
Grizzly saddle hackle
20 lb knottable wire
3D fish eyes
Fish Skulls Fish Mask or Z-poxy for head
Musk Ox bull mane guard hair (black)
Caribou bull mane hair (white)
After I’m done tweaking and perfecting the MeatEater Muskibou pattern, I’ll use the elk hide and snowshoe hare feet drying in the garage to come up with a good caddis dry fly pattern for this summer’s trout season. Besides making trophy meals, let us know how you utilize your game animals.
Brody Henderson is a writer, hunter, fly fishing guide, wilderness production assistant for the MeatEater television show, and MeatEater’s Editorial contributor.