Wednesday, April 11, 2007
9:00 am - Left Columbus on Northwest Airlines for connection in Minneapolis. Snowing in Minneapolis. 1 ½ hour layover. Then flew Northwest again to Edmonton where I had a long six hour layover. 8:30 pm - flew on First Air to Yellowknife, NWT where I was met by Adventure Northwest agent Glen Walsh. All flights basically on time. More importantly, all bags and gear arrived in Yellowknife. Temperature in Yellowknife was 30 degrees. Spent the night at Chateau Nova hotel. It was ok.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Light snow in Yellowknife. Left Yellowknife at 9:40 am on First Air to Holman (Ulukhaktok). Flight arrived on time and all my gear was on board. Good news! Weather at Holman was clear at 30 degrees. Met my guides at the airport. Louie Nigiyok and Ross Klengenberg. Purchased my polar bear license (#53) and reviewed my clothing and boots with Louise. Stayed in community hotel. Louie said we would leave around 9 am tomorrow to start the hunt and showed me on a map where we were headed. Got to bed early, full of anxiety and hope.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Breakfast at hotel with some locals who were very friendly and wished me luck in getting a polar bear. Early weather was overcast and about 0 degrees. Louie and Ross showed up at 8 am and said for me to get dressed in my warmest gear as we were leaving on our hunt at 9 am.
We drove out to where the "huskies" (sled dogs) were kept - they live out on the ice in the snow. Louie drove one snowmobile, pulling behind him one sleigh in which the nine dogs rode, which was followed by another sleigh full of gear, food and gas. Ross drove the other snowmobile and he pulled another sleight which contained me, our gear, and more food and supplies. We took off about 9:15 am as Louie's parents waved good luck and good bye. It was about 5 degrees but the sun was out so it was not bitter cold. No wind. I was warm and quite comfortable and riding in the sleigh was not bad - not too bumpy. My goggles kept fogging up. We stopped about 11:30 am to re-fuel the snowmobiles with some gas that had been brought out there two days earlier. We had stopped on the shoreline of Armundsen Gulf, as the rest of our journey this day would be over the ice cap. Had a brief lunch - tea, noodles and cookies. About noon we started out over the ice cap. Saw three seals sitting beside their holes. About 4:30 pm we completed our 73 mile journey. Great news - we are staying in a small cabin (nothing fancy) but with a heating stove and a roof and walls. With the stove going it was very warm and comfortable a lot better than a tent out on the ice. The "huskies" were stuck out again on the ice. Ross took my spotting scope and looked to the west of our small inland - saw lots of seals but no polar bear. Steaks for dinner and then to bed.
Ramsey Inland Coordinates:
N 71.32.980 Elevation is 39 feet W 119.08.999
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Up at 6:30 am after a good night sleep. Temperature inside the cabin was 29 degrees as our heat stove ran out of fuel during the night. Temp outside was - 12 degrees. Sky was very clear; sun rose very beautifully. It promised to be a beautiful day. We left the cabin and started hunting about 9:30 am. Headed out onto the sea-Amundsen Gulf - where polar bears will be hunting seals. After traveling about 1 ½ hours (about 36 miles into the Gulf on the ice cap_. Ross quickly brought his snowmobile up to yell he has seen a polar bear off to the right on a pressure ridge. The bear had seen or heard us and had taken off. Much excitement. The chase was on. We followed tracks for 3 or 4 miles without actually seeing the bear. Then, after another mile we spotted the bear which was tired and slowed down. We carefully checked the bear out - Not a monster bear, but over 8 feet. Louie and I talked it over and concluded it was big enough to shoot and "who knows we might not see another bear or the weather might close in. We all three agreed it was best to take this bear. So I did - two shots. Game over on the first day of real hunting. Nice bear. Female.
Coordinates: N71.12.532 W 119.24.508
We celebrated our success and proceeded to skin the bear, followed by a light lunch of tea, noodles and cookies. At lunch the weather was still beautiful - about 22 degrees, bright sunshine.
We started back to the cabin after lunch - retracing our own tracks. Saw several groups of bearded seals on the way home. Arrived back at cabin at about 4:30 pm, having traveled 67 miles in total.
A great day!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Out of bed at 6:45 am. Sun had been up for several hours already. About 19 hours of day light. Weather - bright sun, no clouds, no wind again. When I ventured outside about 7:30 am temperature was -17 degrees. Snowmobiles were frozen up - had to warm up engines with canned fire before they would start. A beautiful day was emerging. We packed up our gear into the sleds; then Louie went out on the ice to put the "huskies" into their sled. About 8 am we started the 73 mile trip back to Holman. About two hours out we cut the tracks of three polar bears. - One female, one cub, followed by a huge male - at least nine foot bear, maybe ten foot. Later we cut the tracks of another smaller bear. We had tea when we hit land and got off the ice pack. Arrived back at Holman about 2:30 pm - temperature was - 8 degrees. Checked into the Arctic Char Hotel again.
Since I could not fly out of Holman until Tuesday afternoon. I decided to book a one day Musk ox hunt for Monday. Larry would be my guide, and Jamie my assistant guide. Had dinner and went to bed. Noticed I had some frost bite on my face and under my chin.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Up at 6:30 am - weather overcast and, for the first time, heavy wind. Musk ox hunt was advertised as a quick and easy hunt - lots of musk ox not far from town. In hunting, not all goes according to plan or is as advertised. We left on two snowmobiles, with me in one of the sleds, about 9:30 am temperature was - 8 degrees and we headed out on the ice pack going south - dead into the wind. Larry said wind chill as about - 30 degrees. After about 1 ½ hours we were back on Victoria Island, traveling on a big lake (over 6 feet of ice) along some high rock cliffs. Larry stopped on one to look over the other side and in doing so spooked two bull musk ox which promptly ran off without me ever seeing them. Traveled on the ice over this very large lake for about 11 miles - ice on this fresh water lake was 6 to 7 feel thick. Remember no trees or bushes anywhere; only ice, snow, rocks and some rough high rocky bluffs. Saw one hare (rabbit) totally white. Traveled on for 3 or 4 more hours over rolling hills or frozen lakes. No musk ox! This was supposed to be easy and quick. Jamie's snowmobile was acting up and he kept falling behind.
After some tea and bannock (bread) on top of a hill with a huge vista, Larry spotted a group of musk ox about 4 miles away. Off we went. As we got close they started to run, then circle up for protection, then run again. Larry looked them over carefully, but there were no bulls in this herd, much to his disappointment. It was 4 pm by now and Larry was growing anxious. He did not want to return to Holman without a musk ox. We had probably traveled 100 miles already, having started south over the ice pack, turned east over land, and then north - doing a big circle around Holman. Sun was out now, partly cloudy, wind had subsided, but temperature was still - 5 degrees. We had a team talk and decided to press on northwest toward the ice cap north of Holman. Probably traveled another 1 ½ hours - no musk ox, getting really desperate now. Remember - this was supposed to be quick and easy.
Finally reach the coast and the ocean ice pack again. 5:30 pm. Getting colder. Stopped atop a hill with a large vista to look for musk ox. Bingo! About 3 miles off in the valley Jamie spots a herd of six musk ox - all bulls. Off we go - the chase is on. One old bull splits off as he cannot keep up with the others. His horns are broken off. We focus our attention on the other group of five. They keep running, but finally stop to circle up; I get out of the sled with my rifle (416 Remington Mag); Larry says the one in front is the biggest with good horns. I shoot, game over, one shot. Other musk ox run off. 6:10 pm.
Beautiful, old, large, hairy musk ox bull with great horns. A magnificent trophy. Larry and Jamie skin the animal and we load lots of meat into the sleds. Great joy and relief. Many hand shakes and hugs in the Inuit style.
It is 7:30 pm by the time we are loaded up and ready to head back to Holman. According to Jamie's GPs we are 37 miles north of town. Off we go. We arrive back in town about 9:30 pm. - sun still high, but colder. They drop me at Arctic Char Hotel, where I have a light dinner and to bed.
What a day; what a chase; what beautiful, but stark scenery. We had been out about 10 hours having traveled about 150 miles on snowmobiles towing sleds - with me riding in Larry's sled. We had completed a half circle around Holman. We had been successful.
I may be unique - my musk ox hunt proved to be harder, longer, and more of a challenge than my hunt for polar bear.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007'
Pay trophy fees, arrange for hides to be scraped clean, dried and eventually shipped to Yellowknife. Took some pictures of Holman including their 9 hole golf course. At 1:30 pm fly on First Air to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife, NWT, met Glen Walsh who I give all my hunting gear to, and I fly on that evening to Edmonton, Alberta. I am due back in Yellowknife to go wolf hunting on May 26th. But because I took my polar bear so quickly, I had 10 days to kill before my wolf hunt, so using NW free flight miles I decided to fly home to Naples, Florida for a week of sun and golf - then return to Yellowknife on April 26, 2007.
Fly on Northwest from Edmonton to Minneapolis to Naples - landing in Ft. Myers at 5:46 pm. Great hunting adventure so far.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
After a week of fun in the sun in Naples, Florida, I returned to the Arctic to finish my scheduled wolf hunt on Wednesday, April 25, 2007. I flew on Northwest Airlines to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada that evening. All of my gear was still in the Arctic, so I was traveling very light.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
About 10:00 am I flew on First Air from Edmonton to Yellowknife, NWT, arriving around 11:30 am. Met with my outfitter - Adventures Northwest - to get departure time and final details for the wolf hunt. We were to depart about 1 pm on a "bush plane" (two engine Otter). Friday morning, April 27, 2007 for Pellatt Lake Camp which is an established hunting and fishing camp with permanent cabins run by Adventure Northwest on the boundary between Northwest Territories and the Nunavut Providences in Canada. With plan set, I checked into Chateau Nova to get some much needed sleep.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Breakfast at 8 am at hotel Chateau Nova. A beautiful, warm spring day in Yellowknife - at noon about 50 degrees F with sunshine and broken clouds. Snow was melting. 11 am charter flight on Lindi Air was delayed until 2:30 pm (maybe) because of bad weather and poor visibility at Pellatt Lake - our destination hunting camp. Lunch with Boyd Warner - owner of Adventure Northwest (my outfitter), and Mike is age 71, a serious worldwide hunter, very intelligent and worldly, and a nice guy. Boyd was equally as interesting.
About 2 pm. I and my gear are taken to Tindi Air for an hour and a half for flight (240 miles) to Pellatt Lake in a twin engine De Havalin Otter equipped with skis - not wheels, and not pontoons. An Inuit family (Susie - the mom, Shane - male age 14 and Bernice - female age 10) is on our flight to meet their husband/father (Sam) who is a guide for Adventure Northwest.
We took off about 3 pm off of the ice covering Great Slave Lake. One and half hour flight at low altitude (2000 to 3000 feet), upon arrival, I realized we were now about the tree line (no trees or bushes), just frozen tundra, lakes, ice, snow and rocks. Everything was white - land, lakes and sky. You could not distinguish land, lakes from the sky. Everything was white. Also, winter still had a solid grip on Pellatt Lake, about 22 degrees F with a strong wind out of the north. Back to Arctic winter again.
The airplane had landed on the frozen lake (6 foot of ice), using skis, and we taxied up to the camp. Unloaded lots of gear, provisions, and 50 gallon gas/fuel cans for the camp. Met four Germans who were leaving the camp - chatted briefly - each had shot a wolf, but they had lost two days of hunting due to bad weather. The plane took off about 5 pm to return to Yellowknife.
Met my guides - Peter and Ben - showed me around camp. Dining tent, shower tent, outhouse, and then ushered me into cabin #2. I was the only hunter in camp that week - the other hunter had cancelled. I had licenses for three wolves, and a small game license (hare and ptarmigan) and a fishing license.
We had dinner and retired. Still daylight at 10:30 pm.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Pellatt Lake, Nunavut Territory, Canada - 2,953 miles from Naples, Florida N65.01.772 W109.38.241
Up at 6 am for breakfast. 20 degrees - a total white world with strong northerly winds. Very poor visibility. Probably no hunting today.
Sat around dining tent. Talk with Sam and his family who were grounded also. They were going on a two day snow mobile trek, pulling big, fully loaded sleds, to Barthurst where Adventure Northwest maintains an eco-geological center all summer. Sam and his family run the center, and host tourists, until late October.
During the afternoon I read a book in my heated cabin. The rest of the group built an igloo (snow house) out of snow blocks. Bad weather continued all day (no hunting). A lone wolf, more or less the camp pet, showed up at the garbage dump and we watched it for awhile. Went to bed.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Slept well, up at 6 am. Not much wind. Temperature 20 degrees. Still a total white world. No sun, poor visibility. Too poor to hunt. We were waiting for sun to appear out of clouds and visibility to improve.
We left on two snowmobiles (with me in a sled behind Peter) around 11 am. Weather continued to improve - sun was out, clouds were breaking up. We traveled northwest over barren tundra and large ice covered lake, and as we went the new snow from yesterday's storm got up to 6 to 8 inches. We went about 35 miles, stopping to gaze on top of several small hills. We saw no tracks - guides were surprised. Saw one lone caribou that had gotten separated from the herd - wolf bait for certain. Stopped for tea and cookies about 3 pm. Beautiful out - bright sun, few clouds, and no wind. We could see for miles and miles over the open tundra, but still saw no animals or tracks! None! The guides really liked my powerful Leica spotting scope. Advantage hunters.
We went another 30 miles or so. Still nothing. Saw one red fox out on the ice. About 6 pm, as we turned back toward camp (over 40 miles away) the weather changed quickly - lots of heavy low clouds and fog. The sun disappeared totally. Extremely flat light. A totally white world again. Zero differentiation between snow covered land and lakes versus the sky. Visibility deteriorating rapidly. Temperature about 25 degrees - not cold, not windy.
We stopped for tea. My GPS indicated 26.1 miles Southeast to Pellatt Lake camp. We headed off again - almost zero visibility. At times you could not see 20 feet ahead. The clouds were on the deck and it was a total white world. We slowed down but kept moving. We arrived at camp about 8:50 pm - had traveled well over 100 miles, saw no wolves. A quick dinner of camping pasta and orange drink, then to bed.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Rose at 6:30 am. Temperature about 24 degrees. Little wind, but low clouds - too low to start hunting. Weather needs to improve a bit before we start out.
No hunting at all today. Heavy fog layer could be seen south of camp where we were going to hunt. About noon the fog moved into our area. I spent the entire day reading, working with my Garmin GPS and sleeping.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Up at 6:30 am. Weather - socked in: low clouds and/or fog. No wind. Temperature 25 degrees. Looks as if no wolf hunting at least early today.
After breakfast, Peter suggests I go Ptarmigan hunting - during arctic winter an all white grouse type bird. Borrowed a 20 gauge shot gun and off we go behind camp. Walking is tough in the snow drifts. I shot six ptarmigan - three for dinner and three more for mounting.
About 11 am weather clears - beautiful day - now we can see forever. Off we go - south into Northwest Territory. See lots of tracks - wolf, wolverine, caribou and fox. But, do not see any wolves at all. See some diamond explorers in the distance. We travel 103 miles that afternoon. No wolves - we are discouraged. Dinner of ptarmigan and musk ox, then to bed.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Temperature 19 degrees - broken clouds and sun - but lots of low fog. We have to wait again. Hopefully fog will lift. Out of books to read. Frustrated. Bored.
10:00 am - 32 degrees. Fog still around. Light snow.
1:00 pm - partly sunny; partly foggy - but we decide to go hunting wolves anyway. We traveled about 55 miles NW and ran into heavy fresh snow the further we went. The weather cleared - a perfect afternoon weather rise - bright sunshine, clear skies, and 4 to 6 inches of fresh snow that is excellent for tracking wolves. My guide Ben said, "It's a bad afternoon to be a wolf."
We turned NE and traveled on - but no wolf tracks at all. We stopped for tea and musk ox tong about 4:00 pm. Ben worked a bit on his snowmobile as it had been acting up.
We moved on, going SE/S but saw no wolf or caribou tracks yet. About 5:30 pm. Ben stopped and worked on his machine again - "bad bearings". We moved on - but not far this time. Peter and I came along to Ben who was ahead and Ben's machine was stopped and he had his thumb out to hitch a ride. His machine had died. We took GPS coordinates on the exact location of the abandoned machine 17 miles from camp about 6:10 pm.
Now the fun begins! We have two men on Peter's snowmobile pulling me in a big towing sled, weighted down with lots of gear, gas and some food and water - through heavy wet snow. The temperature was above freezing as the sun was out brightly - no clouds - no wind.
We moved slowly for about another six miles - then Peter's snowmobile could not pull all of us anymore - it was dying too. We stopped and the guides worked on that machine - tightening belts and chains. It was after 7 pm and we were 11 miles from camp. We had a crisis.
The snowmobile could not pull all three of us plus the sled any further. Definitely, no way! So we were going to now abandon the sled and most of our gear, while Ben walked in, as Peter and I rode the limping snowmobile hopefully to camp. It was getting colder now and fog was developing. There was another abandon camp. "Bobie's Camp" five miles from where we were, so the plan was for Ben to walk through the heavy wet snow to that camp. Peter and I would head for Bobie's camp on the snowmobile, and if we made it ok, get the door open and some heat on for Ben. Then Peter and I would try to go on to our own camp (over 6 miles further) where the radio was.
The air was tense. Ben's hike would be hard. No one was sure if the snowmobile would continue to function, or if Peter and I would be walking too. Ben ate some food, drank tea and took my GPS and my .223 rifle "with two full clips for protection against wolves and grizzly bears". Peter and I said goodbye and started off as Ben began his trek. It was now about 9 pm with heavy fog building.
Going slowly, Peter and I make it ok to Bobie's camp and got things ready for Ben. Then we set out for camp six miles away.
Fortunately, we made it. We got on the radio/phone and reported our problems to Yellowknife - two broken snowmobiles and one man left walking 11 miles out. It was 11 pm with heavy fog blocking with little sunlight was left. Peter showed me how to use the phone and control the heat, then took off again on the broken snowmobile to get Ben.
I was left alone at the main camp with heat, food and communications - to wait. At about 12:30 am I heard the snowmobile. Ben and Peter walked in - all's well that ends well, a day we will remember forever. We went to bed tired but relieved. When picked up, Ben was still walking two miles from Bobie's camp.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
There would obviously be no hunting today. The hunting part of my trip had ended abruptly the previous afternoon. Peter and Ben tried to repair the broken snowmobile but after tearing it down declared they needed to get new parts flown in Friday, before they could get the two snowmobiles going again - the one at main camp and the other 17 miles out on the tundra.
We sat around, talked and slept all day. We did some target practice with my rifles. Shot three ptarmigan for dinner.
Friday, May 4, 2007
I am supposed to fly out of Pellatt Lake Camp early afternoon to Yellowknife - two other American hunters are coming in to hunt wolves on the plane that takes me out. That plane is also bringing another snowmobile as well as parts to fix the other two machines. Plane is supposed to arrive about 3:30 pm - weather permitting, but its beautiful sunny morning.
Weather starts to deteriorate about 2 pm - high wind, fog, warm. I pack up my gear and guns. Wait.
Weather continues to worsen. About 4 pm our plane is overhead but too foggy to land. They circle above us for awhile, but unfortunately they fly back to Yellowknife without landing. I am frustrated, bored, mad and so are the guides.
About 5 pm Peter asked what I wanted for dinner - chicken or musk ox steak - since it looked as if I was there until the next day. I, of course, said musk ox. He had started to organize dinner when outside we heard a snowmobile approaching the cabin. Certainly not one of ours since ours were all either broken or abandoned out on the tundra.
Hold on! Outside Glen Walsh was getting off the machine; Glen is Operations Manager for Adventure Northwest - my outfitter and owner of Pellatt Lake camp. In walks Gen who explains that the plane (a twin Otter) somehow had located the winter-time only, ice road over frozen lakes, followed the ice road at a level of 20 feet high until it entered the fog bank hanging over us, and then flown, still at 20 feet or less, down the snow covered road about eight miles down the frozen lake to where the road is only two miles from our camp. On the plane were two pilots (obviously veteran bush pilots), Glen Walsh, and two US hunters who were coming in to hunt, plus two more snowmobiles. They unloaded one of the snowmobiles which then drove the two miles to camp.
Much excitement when he arrived. We turn off the stove, put me and my gear and guns into a sled and head out to try to find the plane. Visibility is still zero because of the heavy fog and high winds.
We find the plane in about 20 minutes. They now unload the two new hunters and their gear, plus the second snow mobile. I and my gear, plus Glen, are loaded into the Otter. I yell thanks and goodbye out the hatch to Peter and Ben as we taxi away. The Otter taxis downwind, turns around on the road, guns the engines, and we take off after only about 150 yards of distance. At 1000' we break out of the total white-out of fog (and snow) into bright, clear blue sky. The flight back to "the knife" (Yellowknife) takes about 1 ½ hour. What an adventure - an exciting finish to my wolf hunting trip.
I flew home to the USA the next day. No problems.
Final thoughts - the first part of my trip, hunting polar bear and musk ox from Holman (Wukha Ktok) was totally successful and an awesome adventure. The wolf hunting part of my trip out of Pellatt Lake was not successful in terms of hunting - I, in fact, never saw a wolf, but the trip was nonetheless an incredibly interesting and exciting adventure. I would not have missed either portion. To borrow a famous quote: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away".