STRAIGHT ARROW: Bowhunting in the Arctic

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Straight Arrow

By Gene Culver

On Sunday morning, Aug. 13, I met Dr. Ron Shrewsbury and his wife at their home at 6:45 a.m., transferred my gear to their vehicle, and we were on our way to the bowhunt of a lifetime.

Ron and I were headed for the small Eskimo village called Ulukhaktok, (formerly Holman) in the Northwest Territories of Canada to bowhunt muskox, some 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. WHY?

To hunt muskox had been a dream of mine for 40 years, and during a dental appointment with Ron I asked him if he would be interested. When he said yes, I made a few calls and in March we booked the hunt and started getting everything ready. I even painted an old mountain goat target the colors of a muskox, and used a chainsaw to make a realistic-looking set of horns out of a hollow log to make my practice as realistic as possible. I was shooting four-inch groups with broadheads at 40 yards.

Our flight left Louisville at 9:38 a.m., and after 2 ½ hours we landed in Minneapolis, where we changed planes and were flying again at 11:45 a.m. for a three-hour flight to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. All of our luggage arrived OK and we got through customs with no problems. We had reservations at the Renaissance Hotel right at the airport. When we walked into our room, we were worn out and only about halfway to Ulukhahtok.

The next morning we were up at 4:45 a.m., got to First Air and Ron got checked through OK. He paid $37 extra for his bow case, then the girl asked him which checked bag did he want to get to Yellowknife. Seems they would only guarantee one piece of checked luggage to make it, so we chose our clothes and hoped our bows would at least make it the next day. I was going through the same thing, except the computer shut down on her and it took me a half-hour to get checked in. By the time we got through security we thought we were going to miss our flight, but when we got to the gate the same girls who were at the ticket counter were at the boarding gate. We thought that First Air might be so small an airline that the same girls may even be the flight attendants. They weren’t.

We finally walked out onto the tarmac and climbed a stairway to board the plane and flew to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In Yellowknife everyone got off the plane. We waited in the airport lobby for 20 minutes, then boarded a smaller twin prop plane and took off for Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine). There were 40 seats on this plane but only 13 passengers. We found out that two other guys on the plane were also muskox hunting, Jason, from Cody, Wyo., would also be bowhunting and Scott from Seattle would be hunting with a rifle, and we all became good friends.

 We were supposed to stop in Kugluktuk, but before flying over the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean, the visibility was so bad we flew directly to Ulukhaktok. They would try to stop at Kugluktuk on their way back.

As we approached Ulukhaktok, the ocean was full of floating chunks of ice. We landed on the gravel runway, stepped out into a cold, windy environment, and quickly got into the warmth of the airport, a building about 30x50 feet. The outfitter, David Kuptana, and several of the guides and assistant guides were there to meet us. Our gear was unloaded from the plane into the back of a pickup truck, and then brought around to David’s van. Once loaded, we all climbed in for the two-mile ride to town.

First we went to the Fish & Wildlife office to get our muskox license. It was $110 and another $40 for a fishing license. While there we took photos of several stacks of dried seal skins and talked to our guides. We also found out that David was waiting for some kind of license, so we would have to spend at least one night in a bed and breakfast next door to his house.

After getting settled in at the B&B, we walked through town and were going to try fishing, but the wind was so bad we gave up on that idea. On the way back to the B&B we stopped at the Northern (grocery store) to get warm. Milk was $8.99 a gallon, bread was $4.39 a loaf, a half-gallon of ice cream was $14.99 and a 12-ounce canned soft drink was $3.

Back at the B&B for supper we had fresh Arctic Char, mac & cheese, and bannock bread with coffee or orange juice.

Part 2 continues next week.


Local archer and outdoorsman Gene Culver operates the Bent Arrow Archery Shop (www.bentarrowarchery.com) with his wife, Bonnie. Contact them at 549-8119 with questions.