It’s a Viking thing

On the hunt for tiur in Norway

Photo courtesy of Ottar Nord Ottar Nord of Roa bagged a large tiur with the aid of his dog Lara.

Photo courtesy of Ottar Nord
Ottar Nord of Roa bagged a large tiur with the aid of his dog Lara.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

In the late 70s and early 80s, hundreds of Norwegians flocked to the U.S. to raise money for Ski for Light and Vinland National Center and ski in local ski-a-thons. Among them were Ottar and Marit Nord, a police officer and nurse from Hakadal, whom I had the privilege of housing. Over the years, we have remained dear and close friends. One thing is sure, when my husband and I are in Norway, we always are treated to the best wild game and fish, delights about which one can only dream.

Ottar, now retired and living in Roa, is an avid hunter of most game. Recently he hunted tiur. With the aid of his very old hunting dog, Lara, he was able to bag a 10-pound bird. Lara is one-quarter American Irish setter. Her grandpa, Brutus, was raised specifically for hunting in cornfields, and his tail was long enough to be seen above the corn, which assists the hunter in locating the fowl. Lara follows her family tradition. The tiur will become a stew and be served to the whole Nord clan.

Photo courtesy of Ottar Nord The bird will become a very tasty soup for his family.

Photo courtesy of Ottar Nord
The bird will become a very tasty soup for his family.

The tiur, or capercaille, is the largest species of poultry and looks much like a very large grouse. The male can be nearly three feet long, weigh up to 13 pounds and live as long as 20 years. They usually are found in Norwegian forests, where they feed on seeds and plant, especially from pine, although berries and herbs are summer fare.

Although it is illegal to hunt tiur in parts of Norway, some landowners open up their property during tiur season. Landowners then also determine how many birds a hunter may take. However, nowhere in Norway may a hunter kill a female, which would result in in the loss of his or her hunting license.

Human interference in the tiur’s habitat is one reason that this bird’s population has diminished. Modern forestry practices have been a negative factor. However, in recent years, forest owners have changed some methods, such as leaving field pines and not draining swamps, which has improved the environment in which tiurs live. Because there is a greater focus on environmental concerns, it is expected that the tiur population will increase.

So, how does one prepare these birds? Ottar Nord suggests that you first fry the breasts in a pan for four minutes and then put them in a warm oven (350 degrees) for three minutes. They should be ready if the meat looks red, not gray. According to Nord: “The oldest way to prepare the bird is to brown it in melted butter, then boil water, place the bird in the water and keep it cooking over a low to medium heat for five to six hours. Then add sour cream and brown Norwegian goat cheese, salt and pepper. Turn the bird from time to time. When the meat falls off the bones, it is done.” [See Nord’s stew recipe on page 14.]

“Next month,” says Nord, “I am off to Dokka in Valdres to hunt moose. We hope to shoot five. We need to keep them off the highways, you know. It’s pretty dangerous to meet one with your car! Perhaps we’ll partake in the old tradition of drinking the moose’s blood. I used to do that with my uncle when I was only 12-13 years old. He used to dilute it with moonshine so it tasted better. Legend says that by drinking the blood of the moose we capture its strength and its ability to smell and hunt. What can I say? It’s a Viking thing.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 17, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.