The purpose of this letter is to document the facts of a recent polar hear hunt. A series of mistakes plagued this hunt from the very beginning and continued until the hunt was terminated. It is my contention that the hunt was ill conceived, ill timed, and poorly managed at best. Here is the brief history and the facts about this hunt.
This polar bear hunt was booked through D and H Adventures (Dave and Heather Summers) at the Safari Club International hunting convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada in January or February 2000. At this convention, hunters and professional outfitters from all over the world come together and one of the major activities is professional outfitters promoting and selling hunts. This is where I met Dave Summers. Dave was promoting polar bear and musk ox hunts at his booth at the convention. I was interested in a polar hear hunt and asked Dave for information. My questions included, but were not limited to, information pertaining to available hunt dates, hunt location, outfitter information, costs included and not included in the hunt, success rate of previous hunters, what success rate I could expect, what would happen if I didn't get a bear, payment requirements, and more. At that time, Dave stated the success rate for a polar bear hunts was 100 percent and I could expect the same. Also, if I was unsuccessful, which he highly doubted, I could return for half price, but not to worry about that happening. He also stated that the hunt was to start on the day I reached the hunting camp. I subsequently gave Dave Summers a deposit of $5,000 US dollars to confirm a hunt date in the year 2002. At the time the price of the polar hear hunt was $17,050 US dollars. I informed Dave at that time, should a cancellation occur for a 2001 polar bear hunt, I would be interested in going earlier. Dave Summers then provided me the following hunt information (see attachment A).
On or about November 1st of 2000, I received a call from Dave and he informed me that a hunt had become available due to a cancellation, and he asked if I would be interested in going in 2001. I said yes, and Dave gave me the choice of two dates to start my hunt. He then asked me if I would be interested in adding a musk ox hunt to my polar bear hunt. He stated the price was $2,900 US dollars. He also stated that in the highly unlikely circumstance that I had not taken a polar bear by the end of my ten-day hunt I could use those days to continue hunting polar bear. He also stated that it usually only took one or two days to get a musk ox. At this point I agreed to add the four-day musk ox hunt, which would extend my hunting days to a total of 14. I also expressed a desire to take an arctic fox and wolf if the opportunity presented itself. Dave stated that should not be a problem, however I would have to negotiate the price of the animal at the time we took the trophy. On or about December 10th, 2000 I wired Dave the balance due on the hunt of $14,950. We agreed that I would arrive in Paulatuk, NWT on February 6th and would leave Paulatuk on February 22nd (see attachment H). When I saw Dave again at the Safari Club International convention held in late January 2001 in Las Vegas we again confirmed the details of the hunt. I was excited and ready to go to Canada.
Dave told me that when I arrived in Paulatuk I should be wearing my arctic gear and be prepared to travel six to eight hours by snowmobile to the hunting camp. I arrived on schedule and prepared to travel. At this point, things started going wrong. Bill Wolki met me at the airport and we collected my luggage and went to Bill's house. There he introduced me to his wife Francis. She informed me that we would not be leaving for hunting camp because the food they had ordered for the hunt had not arrived. According to Bill and Francis the food was supposed to be on the same flight as me. I was also told that there was no problem that the food should arrive on the next day's flight and the hunt would not start until we reached camp. I was surprised that they had scheduled the logistics of the hunt too tight as to not leave room for error, however there was nothing I could do now but wait for the food, which I was assured would arrive tomorrow, Wednesday, February 7th. The load did not arrive until the afternoon of Friday, February 9th. Three days late! Again I was told not to worry, the hunt did not start until we reached camp. We left Paulatuk approximately 6:30 the evening of Friday the 9th and traveled by snowmobile until approximately 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning, when we arrived at a cabin in the hunting area. Here, we spent the night. The next day, after a late breakfast, we again set out to our final destination. After a trip of approximately one hour, we pitched our tent and set up camp. In my opinion, this is the earliest date one could argue when the hunt officially started, late afternoon Saturday, February 10th. Interestingly, one hour after setting up camp we had to break camp and return to the cabin because Bill was concerned about the ice conditions where we had pitched our tent an hour earlier. Sunday brought a new day. After lunch we headed for our new campsite, which was approximately 45 minutes from the cabin, and about two miles from a D.E.W.S. (Defense Early Warning System) radar base. This essentially is a military radar base used to detect incoming enemy missiles. Computers presently remotely operate this radar sight however, maintenance crews, which are flown in by plane and/or helicopter to check and service the site, regularly visit the base. On the second morning at our new camp sight Bill spotted a very large bear moving directly towards camp. We spotted the bear when it was about two miles from camp. We prepared to intercept the bear and prepare for a shot. When the bear was approximately 750 yards from camp we heard a plane approaching. As polar bears do not like man or planes, the bear diverted course and headed for open water, away from camp and us. No doubt this was as a result of the twin-engine plane that flew overhead and subsequently landed at the D.E.W.S. facility just two miles away! Bill and Francis both acknowledged the plane was the cause of the bear diverting course and were very upset about the plane flying over the hunting area and they were upset that the maintenance crew had not informed them there would be planes in the area at that time.
Planes and/or helicopters continued to fly over our camp and the hunting area on almost a daily basis. Needless to say, we never saw another bear! Of course, I was upset and so were Bill and Francis. We decided to visit the D.E.W.S. facility and ask how long the flying was to continue. The people at the facility stated that this was a routine scheduled maintenance visit that had been planned for some time and there would be aircraft coming and going for approximately ten days! There was nothing we could do but precede to hunt anyway and hope for the best! I repeat: we never saw another bear! On Saturday, February 17th. Francis and I were at the cabin discussing the hunting plans and I was shocked when Francis informed me that the polar bear hunt would be over the next day and we would start musk ox hunting. Surprised, to say the least. I asked Francis how she came to that conclusion and she stated that 10 days had passed since I arrived in Paulatuk and tomorrow would be the end of 10 days. I stated that at best the hunt did not start until last Friday, February 9th and that she herself and Bill had stated the hunt would not start until we arrived at camp. I asked what happened to that agreement. She stated that they could not be responsible for the food not arriving on time and that the hunting days would start when I arrived in Paulatuk. She also stated that they had to get back to Paulatuk on Monday, February 20th to prepare for another hunter that was coming in to hunt. What about the hunter they had with them! After further discussions with Francis, it was clear she was not going to change her position. Larry Ruben was in the cabin at the time this conversation took place. This is a complete reversal of what they said earlier and, what I was told when I booked the hunt. It gets worse! Much worse, I haven't even got to the worst part yet!
At this point I decided it was probably most productive to stay where we were and continue the polar bear hunt, rather than pack up our gear and spend a day traveling to a new area to hunt musk ox. I told Francis that I wanted to use my musk ox hunting days to extend my polar bear hunt. I had been assured by Dave Summers that this was perfectly fine prior to me booking the musk ox hunt. I was upset because I felt as though I was already due at least an additional three days of hunting due to the outfitter's poor planning. Francis replied that I could not use my musk ox hunt days to continue hunting for polar bear and that we would be leaving for Paulatuk on Monday, February 19th. I stated that this was not what I was told by Dave Summers and she responded by saying he should not have told me that. At this point, it was clear to me I needed to shift into damage control mode. After a few minutes, Francis said that maybe I could use those days if was willing to pay the difference in the daily hunting fee between polar bear hunting and musk ox hunting. I was dumbfounded; I felt I was due at least an additional three days due to the outfitter's poor planning. She presented me with a written calculation of the price difference, which according to her, meant I was to come up with an additional $3,900 US dollars, if I wanted to continue the hunt. This was extortion, I was shocked and I refused and declined the offer. She then stated that she would be willing to negotiate that price and would continue to polar bear hunt for 50 percent off that price. Again, I was shocked and declined the offer. Where I stood they owed me at least three hunting days plus the four days of the musk ox hunting. I could not believe what I was hearing. Francis then went outside the cabin to talk with Bill. When she returned a few minutes later, she was happy to inform me that since we had enough food and Bill didn't mind, we would continue to hunt polar bear at no additional cost. I knew there would be no resolution to our disagreement until all parties, i.e. myself, Dave Summers, and the Wolkis could all get on a conference call and attempt to straighten this mess out. We hunted Saturday and Sunday morning. Here is where the situation gets even worse!
We returned to the cabin approximately 10:30 am Sunday morning for breakfast. At approximately 12:00 noon we received a radio message from Paulatuk from Tony Green's wife, the other hunting outfitter using the cabin the same time as us. Tony and his hunter, Bruce Keller, were using the cabin also and were there much of the time I was there. They were also present when the following incident occurred. During the radio message, Tony's wife stated that she had received a message that the hunter who was hunting with Bill and Francis needed to return home immediately. That the hunter's father was very ill and not expected to live! We asked again if they were sure it was the hunter with Bill and Francis and the response was yes. I was devastated. Can you imagine being 3,000 miles from home, 60 miles from the nearest village and being told you need to return home immediately because your father is dead or dying. I calculated that under the best of circumstances, it would be at least two days before I could reach my dead or dying father. Talk about a feeling of helplessness and emotional distress! Anyway, upon hearing that my father was dying I immediately asked if they would arrange a charter ski plane to pick me up out here at camp. Tony's wife got Marty Verbonnac on the phone in Inuvik and asked if he could find a plane to come pick me up. Tony Green and Francis both asked me if I was sure this is what I wanted to do, and I said of course, my father is dead or dying! They then told Tony's wife, via radio, to tell Marty Verbonnac (via phone) to charter a plane and get it out here as soon as possible. About 20 minutes later Tony's wife called us back on the radio and said a plane had been chartered and would arrive at the D.E.W.S. radar site (because the radar site had an abandoned airstrip safe enough for landing) at approximately 4:00 p.m. I was understandably very upset by the news of my father and was very grateful of everyone's cooperation and efforts in securing an aircraft at the last minute to come pick me up. If the plane did not arrive before dark, it could not land because the strip had no landing lights and it would delay my return by 1 more day.
It was now approximately 1:30 Sunday afternoon. Bill and Francis headed back to our camp, which was approx. 1 1/4 miles away, to pack my gear, and I was going to stay at the cabin in case we heard any more news concerning my father or the plane. Approx. 45 minutes later, Bill and Francis returned with my gear and by 1:30 we were heading to the D.E.W.S. radar site approx. 45 minutes away. Bruce Keller, the other hunter, agreed to keep my gun and bring it back to the United States as I did not have my gun case with me and would not be able to transport my gun on commercial airlines. I bring this point up because I am sure Bruce will incur extra expense as excess baggage in bringing my rifle home to Texas.
Approximately 2:30 we arrived at the radar site. We entered the facility and asked the maintenance people if I could use their satellite phone because of a family emergency. They were very kind and readily agreed and showed me how to use the phone. For the next hour I tried to reach my family to get an update on my father's condition, with no success. I finally contacted my best friend who agreed to help me locate my family and help assess the situation. Shortly afterwards I called my friend again and he had been able to find my brother who called my father (who was at home watching TV!) and verified that he was fine and there was no problem! I was elated...and very, very upset! After a moment of silent thanks, I re-assessed this situation. It was approx. 3:30 pm and the plane was due to arrive in thirty minutes. Francis called the village of Paulatuk, I'm not sure who she spoke with, and discovered I was not the hunter whom they were looking for. Bill Francis and I discussed our options. First, if we could identify and contact the hunter in question we were sure he would want the plane that was due to arrive shortly. However, there was no way at that time to be sure who the hunter was, where he was hunting, and if the plane could even land there to pick him up. We decided that was not a good option. Remembering that Bill and Francis were going to end the hunt the next day and return to Paulatuk on Monday afternoon and at this point I was going to have to pay for the chartered plane anyway! I decided to take the plane back to Inuvik and continue home to Austin, Texas. Even by their accounting of remaining hunting days, with which I vehemently disagree, I would only be cutting the hunt short by approximately 18 hours. Also, it was clear they were not going to take responsibility for the mix up and I was going to have to pay for the plane. While waiting for the plane to arrive, which it did at approximately 4:00 p.m., I decided to talk with Bill to determine his understanding of what happens when a hunter is unsuccessful. He told me it was HTC village policy that if a hunter was unsuccessful the hunter could return that year for 1/2 price and try again. Bill also informed me that about the latest you could hunt polar bear is the third week in April. I told Bill that due to prior commitments it would be impossible for me to return this year. Dave Summers told me when I booked the hunt that if I were unsuccessful I could return for 1/2 price, however he neglected to tell me it had to be the same year.
I arrived in Inuvik at approximately 7:00 p.m. Sunday, February 18th. I checked into the Mackenzie Hotel and left a message for Marty Verbonnac, the manager, to call me first thing the next morning. Marty is Dave Summers' associate and takes care of the hunters when they arrive in Inuvik. Marty was also the one who called the village in Paulatuk to relay the message about the hunter's father being ill. I met Marty for breakfast and asked what in the world was going on and what was the sequence of events that led to me receiving the message I did in camp. He told me he received a phone call at 5:30 am on Sunday February 18th from the wife of Bob Lynch from Florida. She stated that Bob Lynch's father was very ill and not expected to live. Marty stated that he was not able to contact anyone in the village of Paulatuk until approximately 12:00 noon. When he did make contact, he spoke to James Ruben. Francis's father and village elder/minister, and told him that Bob Lynch's wife needed to talk with him and his father was deathly ill. Marty was adamant that repeatedly specified that the hunter was Bob Lynch. He also stated that he thought Bob Lynch was hunting with someone named Ruben. Somehow, somewhere between James Ruben and Tony Green's wife I became the hunter whose father was ill. Marty has no idea how they, the people at the village could have goofed up the message. At this point, with as much information as I could gather, I attempted to call Dave Summers. I tried several times and always received a busy signal. I tried to contact him up until 1:00 p.m. when Marty took me to the Inuvik airport where I took a flight to Edmondton, Canada. There I spent the night and caught an early morning fight to the States and eventual arrived in Austin, Texas at 7:15 p.m.
I have hunted worldwide on five different continents with dozens of different outfitters and nothing like this has ever happened. In addition to having a non-hunt, and being told my father was dying, I also incurred significant additional expenses. I estimate to be approximately $1,200 US dollars for the airplane charter. This is in addition to the $17,050 US for the polar bear non-hunt, $2,900 US for the musk ox hunt that never took place, over $1,954.68 US in airfare and over $250 US in hotel bills. This does not include the emotional pain I suffered. I hold Dave Summers and the Wolkis responsible.
Since returning I have called Dave Summers several times, he initially was as upset as I was regarding how this hunt was conducted. However, as I pressed Dave Summers repeatedly for a resolution to this fiasco, he has become exceeding hard to reach and those times when I have been able to reach him, he seems to shift responsibility from himself to other individuals I do not know. How Dave Summers and the Elders of the Paulatuk village, and the Resources & Wildlife and Economic Development Dept. resolve (or fail to resolve) this disaster of a hunt, will speak volumes as to their credibility as "reputable" booking agents, outfitters and government agencies. I look forward to hearing from anyone who can remedy this situation.
I have attempted for several months to resolve this matter with Dave Summers and the Resources and Wildlife and Economic Development Department, with no success.
To date their actions and lack of response have been completely unacceptable, to say the least. I would strongly advise anyone against doing business with Dave Summers, D and H Adventures, the village of Paulatuk and the Resource & Wildlife and Economic Development Department.
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Date: April 28, 2005 To: The Hunting Report From: Mrs. Frances Wolki of Wolki's Polar Safaris RE: Critical Report from Barry Krieger
I am writing this letter regarding Article #2617, a hunting report which had been submitted by a Mr. Barry Krieger, which took place here in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, Canada for a Polar Bear/Musk-ox hunt dated February 6th - February 18th, 2001 with my husband and myself which had been booked by D&H Adventures.
As you submitted, The Hunting Report is bias-free, and state that what The Hunting Report does contain is FACTS that will help find new places to hunt and assist subscribers in making better decisions and emphasizing quality hunts where and who to hunt with.
Apparently, if you say that you are Bias-free, then I would like this opportunity to explain our Big Game Outfitting Business, giving you both sides to this Article #2617. My husband Billy Wolki Sr. and I had done everything we could to assist Mr. Krieger in getting his Polar bear and Musk-ox. We had two Polar bear hunts set up back-to-back, both in February of 2001.
What we didn't know then, was when Mr. Krieger and Dave Summers (booking agent), made some deals together that we weren't aware of until Mr. Krieger arrived and began sports hunting. Only when the time came, Mr. Krieger had completed his Polar bear hunting days, and was left to hunt for his Musk-ox. Mr. Kruger then wanted to use up his Musk-ox hunting days to continue hunting or a Polar bear.
At first we explained that we would have to come up with a financial agreement that would be suitable for all parties. Then, he did not agree with us, because he had said that he and the booking agent had decided, without our knowledge or input, said htat he could continue hunting for his Polar bear. When we as the outfitters explained that this was not mentioned to us before the hunt commenced, told Mr. Krieger that we as the outfitters should have been informed of this decision and disregard the lack of communication that involved all parties in this particular hunt.
So, I then took my husband outside of the cabin and decided together that we agreed to continue hunting for Mr. Krieger's Polar bear with no extra charge, just to keep our clientele satisfied. Then, there was the unfortunate incident, where we had our firearm targets set on a 14 foot bear that was coming into our camp. Mr. Krieger wasn't sure if his .375 caliber rifle would take the polar bear down, so then he asked my husband if he would help him to take the bear down with him. This was the hugest polar bear that we had ever seen, and knew that this one would give us World Wide recognition as Big Game Outfitters for the polar bear.
Although, to our misfortune, this was when we did not need the aircraft co. coming in over our camp. This was when we had the Big One. Still to this day we wondered. The last unfortunate mishap was when we got a mistaken call of identity. Word was that Mr. Krieger's father was in the hospital and in critical condition, and not sure how long he had. He wanted to charter an aircraft out of Cape Perry to where the landing strip was. I asked if that was what he wanted to do, and when he replied yes, we had made arrangements for him to get a plane in to pick him up.
We then took Mr. Krieger to Cape Perry, at the DEW-line site where a different company had een to use the phone for him to call home, by this time the aircraft was well on its way. To Mr. Kriegers' surprise, he managed to get a hold of his brother, who relayed the message that the last time he saw their father, who was sitting on the sofa watching TC. By this time it was too late to cancel the flight. The mistaken identity was that it was not Mr. Krieger's father who was ill, but another hunter to see if Mr. Krieger could pick him up and split the charter costs. To no avail, we could not make contact with the other hunter. When the aircraft finally arrived. Mr. Krieger shook my husband's hand and said despite all the unfortunate mishaps, none of the incidences was ours to blame, an handed my husband a five hundred dollar American tip. He then hugged me and thanked me also for all the effort we put into the hunt.
At the beginning of the hunt our groceries for the hunt did not come in on the same scheduled flights that Mr. Krieger flew in, even though the aircraft co. assured us that this was to happen. Then stormy weather kept us in, and kept the planes out for 2-3 days.
I faxed a letter to our chairperson, of the co. which was a major shareholder of the Aircraft co. explaining of the unfortunate delay. Within the hour, we received an apology letter from a Mr. Ken Dalton who is the Base Manager for the aircraft co. explaining of the unfortunate delay.
We wrote up a 3-page report on the hunt and faxed it to our booking agent, who then faxed it to Mr. Krieger's lawyer. Then, at first, kind of steamed, we refused to take Mr. Krieger out on another return hunt for ½ the price of a season later. He himself confirmed that he could not return within the same hunting season because of employment matters at home.
I have the apology letter from the Base Manager of Aklak Air Inc. which confirms that all was not our fault. Also, we have found another booking agent who advised me to write you this letter to request that we have our names cleared of Article #2617 in The Hunting Report.
Our booking agent had tried to contact Mr. Barry Krieger and mentioned that to no avail could he make contact with Mr. Krieger given all the information that we gave of him. We had wanted to make amends to this unfortunate hunt by offering him a ½ price return hunt even though it was a different hunting season. Our booking agent checked through The Hunting Report to reply to Mr. Kreiger's report submission, and through various other hunting clubs.
So in all honesty, if Mr. Krieger had not passed on, then maybe we would be able to contact him through you and The Hunting Report. Ourselves as Big Game Outfitters have a success rate of about 97 percent and have excellent recognition from many past polar bear hunters/musk-ox hunters.
A response would be greatly appreciated regarding this utmost delicate matter on behalf of ourselves in the outfitters world. This article has done much damage to a well worked on recognition of great outdoors adventures hunting for Polar bear, and has been much of what we rely on for our livelihood. Your response could bring much resolution to what was a great misunderstanding.