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The Siberian Musk-Deer, or Kabarga

When we arrived in Siberia we had never even heard of this animal. Imagine our surprise when, on our second night out, Kika, one of our Tofalar guides, moved off a short distance from camp, blew eight or ten times into his birch-bark whistle, fired a shot, and returned in ten minutes with a kabarga!

Two of the kabarga’s distinctive traits: the hyperdeveloped canine and the musk sac.

Find an area rich in deer before using the whistle.

The kabarga is a small deer of twenty pounds or so that is found in all of southern Siberia, mainly in wooded and mountainous areas. Tofalar hunters kill a great many for their meat, but also for their musk, which they sell to the Japanese, who use it as a perfume base. The hunter attracts the deer by blowing into a whistle carved out of birch bark that imitates the distress call of the kabarga fawn. Both bucks and does run up to investigate, sometimes coming from considerable distances. They stop just a few yards from the hunter, who has only a brief opportunity to shoulder his gun and fire, since kabarga are very quick. The meat is rich and well flavored. In summer, the kabarga was our main fare. It was the perfect warm-weather game since we could polish one off quickly and didn’t need to store any leftovers.

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