Wild Reindeer Hunt in the Viking Age
Everything has been prepared for the greatreindeer hunt. For several weeks, people from the village have cleaned and prepared the large trapping pits on the mountains and hillsides, covering them with twigs, leaves and peat. It had been a substantial task, and everyone, regardless of gender, age or size, had done their share of the work. The larger sites contained hundreds of pits, arranged in close and even proximity. The hunt was organised as a drive catch into the pitfalls. Between the pits, new fences had been constructed and old ones repaired. The deer were forced to cross the pits and fall into them. In the bottom of the pits they had built a wooden box which pinned down the legs of the animal, preventing it from escaping. The large trapping sites overlapped, crossing the migration routes of the reindeer. A simple and effective idea. All traffic was closed.
The extensive rows of fences and scare poles had also been set up in the mountains between the bow rests. The deer did not like the scare poles waving in the wind and making noise. They tried their best to avoid coming too close, circling around and straight towards the bow rests, where hunters lay waiting to get within firing range with their bows and arrows.
They had been up in the mountains and seen the herds. This year would bring a good catch! Everything was ready. Now they just had to wait.
The mountains and valleys of Oppdal contain many different types of trapping sites and evidence of elk and reindeer hunting. The many large and varied big game trapping sites, each one containing hundreds of pits, as well as the large number of bow rests along the reindeer migration routes, indicate mass trapping of wild reindeer and elk during the Viking and Early Middle Ages. Big game hunting provided great wealth to those in charge. Reindeer and elk provided resources useful both for domestic use and for bartering and trading purposes. Furs and antlers were sought after further south in Europe. The exporting of fur from Norway across the North Sea began in the Early Iron Age more than 1,600 years ago. Several Viking Age artefacts made from reindeer antlers have been found on the British Isles. When written documentation on trade becomes available in the 1300s, customs documents show that the trade was very well organized.
Hunters still come to the mountains of Oppdal every autumn, looking for reindeer. A vibrant tradition, thousands of years old, relating to the hunting of reindeer. The mountain landscape remains very much the same as when the majority of the trapping sites were in use. And the reindeer they hunt are from the same tribes who migrated to what later became Norway once the Ice Age ended more than 10,000 years ago.