The options for PB are fairly limited. For Non Residents, they are pretty much limited to Nunavut, Canada and originate mostly out of Resolute Bay, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay and Grise Fiord for the most part. There may also be some hunts out of Cambridge Bay. The total quota including residents in these areas is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 bears. Of the 80, around 22 are for non-residents. (Someone correct me if they have better numbers.) Currently, there are an estimated 17,000 PB in Nunavut alone and that number is growing. As most of you know, the PB is currently not importable into the US. IMO if the current administration does not get the import ban lifted, it may never get lifted. The fact that there is a ban at all is ludicrous, but we'll save that debate for another time.
At the sheep show in Reno in 2015, I decided to make this PB thing happen. An outfitter had a cancellation hunt out of Pond Inlet available for spring of '16 at an amazing price, but by the time I acted on it, I missed out. Canada North was going through ownership changes and I wasn't comfortable testing the waters with them. Frank Noska and Blake Patton had hunted out of Grise Fiord with great success, booking their hunts through Dan Fredrick America-Cana Expeditions out of Edmonton. (BSC also books some of their PB hunters through Dan). I placed a call to Dan for available dates and a couple days later booked his Jones Sound hunt out of Grise Fiord. (He also had hunts available out of Norwegian Bay, but the dates did not fit my schedule.) I booked for April 6-18, 2017.
I would have some "explaining" to do at home as not only was I going to miss another holiday at home in Easter, I was also going to be gone for my 20th wedding anniversary. My wife is AMAZINGLY forgiving of me and my hunting schedule, however, she is never thrilled about me hunting big bears with a bow. Something about BIG bears and archery equipment freaks her out. As most of you know, I have no problem taking the rifle on my hunts, so after serious deliberation I called Dan and changed the hunt to a rifle hunt. I know many of you here are archery only and that this is the Bowsite, so here is where you need to stop reading if you're offended or put off by rifle hunts. To be honest, I try not to post my gun hunts here, but the response of the other thread and several PM's had me reconsider. Most of all I hope this thread is beneficial to those wanting to hunt the Arctic in the future regardless of weapon choice.
The next day was clear, sunny, calm and unseasonably warm. (Around 0 degrees). We would be traveling by dog sled with an assistant guide riding snow machine, pulling all of our gear in a sled. After a 6 hour dog sled ride through some beautiful scenery we reached a 8x12 plywood shack out on the ice of Jones Sound right next to a beautiful huge iceberg. The plan was to spend the night and continue our trek across Jones Sound, eventually crossing Jones Sound and hunting the South shore of Jomes Sound, or North Shore of Devon Island.
The next day, we woke up to howling winds and snow. As anxious as I was to get going, there would be no traveling on this day. In fact, the next 4 days were a complete whiteout! I don't know about you guys, but spending 5 days in a 8x12 shack with two Inuit Guides that you just met isn't the way you like to start out a hunt. These guys were great guys though and assured me we have plenty of time and to just be patient. I started doing the math and with two more days of travel ahead and three days back to Grise Fiord, this had turned a 12 day hunt into a 3 or 4 day hunt! Panic started to set in, but Kavavow, my guide kept assuring me we were fine.
It had now been a week since I left home, and I really hadn't hunted yet. We woke up to day 6 to marginal conditions, but by noon, the sky's had cleared. We would be on our way. This travel day was fairly uneventful. We saw a couple sets of tracks but nothing to get excited about. We rode the dog sled from iceberg to iceberg stopping to glass at each high point. At about 10:30 pm we decided to stop and make camp for the evening. It was well below zero and we'd be sleeping in a 8x10 wall tent. The guys made short work of setting up camp and after a meal of Raman Noodles it was off to bed. I crawled into my -40 Mountain Hardware Ghost sleeping bag for what would be my most miserable night in my life. The "Ghost" is somewhat of a mummy bag and I'm a bigger guy. In the "shack" I was able to use the bag as a "quilt" just tucking my feet in the bag, but on this night it was so cold, I was going to have to squeeze into the bag. I got zipped into the bag just fine, but at some point in the night, must have unzipped it a little. I woke up shaking uncontrollably from the cold. I thought i was going into a state of hypothermia, but got resituated in the bag, got in a fetal position and warmed back up. I've never been so happy to see morning in my life.
Kavavow wanted the weather to clear a little before taking up the bear's trail. I paced the cabin as the guides drank coffee, had their morning smokes and finished up breakfast. I was getting excited and the guides knew it. Finally after what seemed like hours it was game on. We got the dogs ready to go and were off. We would ride through the rough ice toward the bear. There was an iceberg a couple km from the bear and the guides assumed he would head there when he heard us coming. Sure enough we broke through from the rough ice to the open ice to see the bear lumbering out towards the iceberg.
At midnight we "limped" the snow machine to the shack. We were tired and cold. We fired up the Coleman stove, had some tea and Raman noodles and made the decision to head for town. On a good day with one guy, this trip would take a little over an hour by snow machine. (6 hours by dog sled). Tonight, who knows how long it would take. After awhile we could see the lights of Grise Fiord in the distance. The scene reminded me more of Christmas than Easter, or maybe a Terry Redlin print. Due to rough ice, you can't ride directly in to town. You go through a series of zig zags and a maze for miles to finally get to town. The machine was running rough. Every time we stopped to check on the machine it was harder and harder to get going. Our final stop was a few km from town. It was two in the morning and the sled was running hot. We pulled the hood off the sled and slowly continued onward. At 2:30 am we pulled in to town. The boys dropped me off at the hotel and went about one block before the machine quit for good. It had a broken frame, broken shock, two bad bearings and the engine was overheated. BUT we made it!
In summary, this was an EPIC adventure. The logistics of a hunt like this are not easy to pull off, but between Dan Fredrick/America-Cana Expeditions and the committee members and guides of Qutsitumiut Outfitting it went off without so much as a single hiccup. The same cannot be said for the hunts out of Resolute Bay this year. The hunt coordinator and guides on my hunt look after every detail and try very hard to make your hunt as pleasingly successful as possible and their efforts show with a near 100% success rate over the last 20 years.
Great bear, story and pics!!!
If you don't buy yourself an InReach, I'm going to have your understanding Bride get you one for Fathers Day:)!!
Good for you
Good luck, Robb
I took three pair of goggles. My best investment for this trip were the Smith I/OX Goggles with the built in fan. Whenever my goggles would start to fog, I'd start the fan and it would clear them immediately. I never used either of my other pairs of goggles. My fan (like the snow machine) "gave up the ghost" and quit on the way in.
My feet were my only issue on this hunt. I wear a size 12 boot and the largest boots they had were a small size 13 which were too small. I tried them one day and frost bit my toes. I should've taken up Jakes offer to use his North Country Outfitter boots. The remainder of the hunt I wore original mukluks they provided with 4 pair of socks and my feet did "ok", but not without a couple Coleman stove warming sessions while on the sled.
My base layers were Sitka Merino boxers, with Sitka Heavyweight Long Johns and KUIU Puffy Pants. In lieu of the bibs, I wore my Sitka Blizzard outer pants most of the time as they were plenty warm and fit inside my mukluks. On my upper I wore First Lite SS Tee, Sitka Merino 1/4 zip and a Sitka Hoodie. On the cold days I wore my Sitka Blizzard Parka with the Canada Goose Parka. (Yes, 2 parkas)
An extra beanie was crucial for me for sleeping. I usually wore a set of long underwear, wool socks and the beanie to bed.
Like I said, overall my gear worked, with the exception of my footwear. Next time I would probably take my own. My -40 Mountain Hardware Ghost worked, but I am just not a fan of "skinny" bags. Next time I would arrange for the outfit to provide me one (be it a GOOD one), or pay the weight penalty and take a bigger Wiggy's or Cabelas bag for comfort.
On this type of trip it is imperative that you keep your electronics close to you for warmth at all times. I had my cell phone, SAT Phone and digital camera that I tried to keep warm at all costs. I usually stashed them in inside pockets of my parkas all day and put them in my sleeping bag at night.
As a side note, I did run in to Halibutman in Iqualit, Nunuvaut on a layover. We had a nice visit and I wished him luck on his adventure. I think he has the same guide that Vance and I had! Can't wait to see how he turns out on his hunt. It never ceases to amaze me how one can travel to the top of the world on a hunt and meet not one, but two fellow Bowsiters, What a small world meeting Vance and Mathew. Apparently, it was the year for Bowsiters heading to hunt the Polar Bear of Grise Fiord!
*Parka (Provided) *Snow Bibs (Provided) *Boots (Provided) *Camp boots (Sorrels) *Warm Puffy *Puffy Pants *3 Long Underwear *3 Merino Tees *3 Merino Underwear *Merino Hoodie *Sitka Hoodie *Bomber Hat *Turtle Fur Balaclava *XL TF Neck Gaitor *First Lite Neck Gaitor *Thin Stocking Cap *Down Mittens *Shooting Gloves *4 Heavy Wool Socks *4 Light Liner Socks *2 pair of ski goggles *Sun Glasses *-40 Sleeping Bag *Pad? *Pillow *SAT or In Reach *Baby Wipes *Sunscreen *Binos/RF *Digital Camera *Disposable Camera *Knife *Multi Tool *Soft Case *Hard Case *Waterproof XL Duffle *Kifaru Duffle *Kifaru Pack (TarryAll) *Snacks *Nalgene Bottle *Weapon *Ammo *Knife/Blades *Headlamp *Multi-Tool *Toiletries *Hunt Info File *Passport *$$$ *Handwarmers *Taxi tags *Book(s) *Iphone *Goal Zero Charge
Thanks for taking the time write this story up.
ps- you have to be getting close to your Super slam, how many more and which ones?
Congratulations on your success, and I hope you did a journal while up there. Even if you did not....do one now from memory, while the details are sharp in your mind. You won't believe how many small details will slip as time goes by.....the journal will minimize that from happening....and it makes for an enjoyable review if you reread it every couple years...... BZ
Also, am I the only one wondering WTF you did for 120 straight hours in the 8x12 shack with 2 guys you just met? LOL Juggling? Booze? Dice?
I bounce off the walls and go bonkers on the weekend (after several hours) when it pouring rain, with my wife and 2 kids!
Jake...In my defense, they told me they had all the Northern Outfitter stuff! Otherwise, your boots would've went with me.
Jacob...Rifle is a custom .375 Ruger built by American Hunting Rifles. The scope is a Swarovski Z3.
My one regret is not getting a photo of the bear on the iceberg. I had all the time in the world, but the adrenaline was pumping, clouding my thoughts. The bear was 25 yards away on the iceberg and he kept mock charging. I had a firm grip on the rifle at the time.
I got to know those guys pretty well in the 5 days we spent in the shack. Took a lot of naps, read everything I had PLUS all the food labels. The anticipation each morning was crazy, only to look outside and see white. It was depressing.
Yes, the assistant guide (Mike) and one of his buddies rode out and got the dogs next day. The plan was to pull a couple "dog box sleds" out by snow machine and haul them back in.
I had to laugh to myself when I first saw the pic of you kneeling with the bear both facing head on. First thought was that pic looks like the one Rowdy hijacked and faked of that grizzly. Hope he doesn't repeat....hahahaha.
8 animals left with Sitka Blacktail as his "last hunt for the 29" scheduled for November 2018.
Cory, I can't wait to help you pack out your Sitka Blacktail to help you achieve this life long goal!!!
Zackman and I are already planning one heck of a celebration on the boat that night!!!
I've had a few guys PM me about why I didn't do a bow hunt, or could've I done this with a bow. The answer to the "could've part" is yes, the hunt is absolutely doable with a bow. In fact it is a perfect type of archery adventure hunt. In the end, I chose the rifle for a couple reasons. 1. My wife is much more at ease when I'm rifle hunting dangerous game vs. bowhunting. 2. I did not want to repeat a polar bear hunt so I wanted the best chance possible to harvest. To me this hunt is not at all about the weapon whether you chose the bow, rifle or harpoon, your chance for success is great if you find the right animal. There is a bit more "pucker" factor with a bow, but killing the animal with a bow vs. the rifle is a wash. If I knew now, what I knew before the hunt, I would've done a bow hunt as I don't see how a rifle ups your odds a whole lot on this hunt. But still I have absolutely no regrets taking the rifle.
Mark...That's a lot of pressure man. I've got a long ways to go to make the Sitka Blacktail #29. One thing is for certain...The Sitka Blacktail WILL be my 29th species hunted. Time will tell whether or not it will be the 29th harvested. If you don't start being nice to Zack, the Sitka Blacktail may not come to fruition either! (I HATE giving one man that kind of power) :) I can't think of anything better than sharing this accomplishment with some great friends met right here on Bowsite on Kodiak Island in 2018.
We chatted for awhile about our chance meeting when he stated, "Paul, Good men with similar interests, are attracted to great and beautiful places."
Sounds like you had similar meeting with Bowsiters. my best, Paul
Interesting, the "hot flashes". I have read those bears have a unique chemical makeup, I seem to recall reading somewhere the liver is actually poisonous?
Great job Cory. These hunts do so much for the community..... And the liberal anti hunters do all they can to halt them. You could see how much is cobbled together, and how hard that environment is on everything. To have some means of repairing or even replacing a snow machine is huge.... even the simplest thing like an old 2x4 has a value. Incredible.
The Inuits are very resourceful people. Everything has a use. Parts of the sled were used for the tent. The harpoon doubled as a frame for the snowmobile for God's sake! So many things with double uses.
What an adventure. Thanks for the tale and info.
1.) the silence out on the ice is unprecedented in my life. There is nothing to make noise, not even the wind.
2.) it's cold out there, so equipment matters. I didn't over think it too much and just drug along my basic cold weather stuff. I did buy a new set of bibs and some mittens, but that was because I "outgrew" my bibs and lost my mittens in a cabin fire. I never felt cold until the ride home when I used my first hand warmers of the trip.
3.) I came to this hunt with no reservations or demands, which is how you have to land in the arctic. Go with the flow, stay open to everything and max out your take away. The Inuit culture is rapidly vanishing and in and of itself is worth the price of at least one trip for muskox or bear in Nunavut. It's the last place where you can meet people that lived in igloos and hear their stories. They'll all be gone really soon, so best hurry for a visit.
4.) I shot my bear at 30-35 yards and could've easily killed him with a bow. I used a gun because I'm a gun hunter. I have a mountain of respect for guys that choose archery equipment and I "lurk" here often to pick up ideas, tactics, and outfitter recommendations. I stopped using a bow after I wounded a coues deer in Mexico and never recovered him. It sat really heavily in my stomach and still does. The other hunter with me in GF, Hugues Marcotte, used a bow and killed a bear. He is still on the ice now, on his way home.
5.) I paid for this hunt in installments. It cost half as much as the house my wife and I live in. I don't own a business, and I'm sure as heck not wealthy. I'm as proud of this trip as any, and all I've got for my money are photos and memories.
6.) It was worth it. Totally, completely worth it.
I repeated the words over and over again in my best Texan laced French after learning how to say "I'm here to hunt for polar bear" from my Quebec comrade in the Ottawa airport. Hugues Marcotte and I were bound for Nunavut to hunt for Nanuq on the frozen ice of Jones sound.
I am a hunter for moments like that. I want to experience everything and go everywhere. It's a rough addiction for those of us afflicted and certainly hasn't helped me to build a portfolio or plan for retirement any time soon. That tug of the far away just grows stronger when you're on the cusp, as we were in the airport at our last chance to abort while amid civilization. We didn't abort.
Plane after plane, village after village, we made our way north to Grise Fiord where the dog sleds awaited us.
Our arrival was met with a prompt departure onto the ice, with just a couple of hours to double check equipment and fit borrowed gear. The outfitter provided Baffin boots, mukluks, and heavy "Canada goose" parkas for our use. Everything fit well, and we were off.
Travel to a cabin on the ice was done by snow machine. Cory's name was above the door in blue ink relaying his desperation while trapped there for days on end. I reflected on our brief meeting in Iqaluit and how he'd seemed relieved to be headed home. The jagged handwriting scrawled into the wood served as confirmation of my assessment.
Hugues and I said our goodbyes as his team left the cabin for a different hunting area. I was now with Kavavow and Chris and we were officially hunting polar bears.
An iceberg 3 stories tall was near the small cabin and served dual purposes as an elevated vantage and a water supply. The guides seemed to prefer to melt ice for drinking water as opposed to snow and believed the water refroze with different properties depending on the source as well.
Day 1 yielded no bear sightings and renewed anticipation.
Day 2 we went "east" on a different course than Cory took but still en route to Devon Island where he killed his bear. We slowly squeaked our way across the ice at a snails pace, glassing at every stop searching for bears. It was nearly time to make camp when we hit a dead end. The "rough ice" was unusually bad this year due to extreme tides induced by the "super moon" during freeze up. We all just kind of stood around waiting for Kavavow to give orders when he said "there's a bear" as calmly as if he were asking to pass the salt.
It was a sow with two big cubs and they really put on a show. I ranged them at 866 yards and they held my gaze completely until their disappearance 15-20 minutes later. We were polar bear hunting!
Kavavow decided to return to the cabin for an over night.
The next day we followed the proven trail they had taken to "catch" Corys bear. We spent all day crawling south and made camp on the ice. Kavavow saw a bear from the iceberg, but it wasn't there when I put the 15s on it....
We woke up in the tent on day 4 and I made Kavavow and Chris say out loud that today was the day we would find my bear.
Again we snail squeaked our way towards Devan Island in the bright sunshine. It was late afternoon (8PM or so) when we stopped at a tall iceberg to glass and have tea and noodles.
"Bear. Two bears. One big bear"
Up popped those 15's again and what I saw sent a charge through me. There were two bears alright.... and you might say they were having the best of times out there on the ice. Clearly, it was a big boar and a sow, ahem, based on their behavior.
"We go quickly"
Off we went. Chris was really worried about the noodles getting cold when Kavavow and I opted to leave behind him and the noodles.
It really seems like it happened in an instant.
We got closer and the bears went up on some high semi-rough ice. The boar was over twice as big as the sow and seemed ready for a fight. The sow ran like hell as he stood his ground.
"Good bear. 9, maybe 10 feet"
"Nobody passes on that bear"
It was an anticlimax and still feels like a dream. The shot was close and devastated the bear. I gave him another round and he dropped at the shot. My old .375 Ruger had claimed another victim.
We took some "as he lays" pics and then all three of us rolled him into a more traditional pose for more photos.
We skinned the bear and I noticed how huge the hind quarters were. Every bit as big as a big bull elk, likely bigger. The hip ball was as big as a moose's. The meat was a deep, dark shade of red and started to freeze immediately.
I was trying to just enjoy the whole moment and take in details. I realized (like Cory) that I could've easily photographed/filmed the bear up close. It never even crossed my mind. I regret that, since I'd sure enjoy getting to share that.
In the end, I'm a hunter. I'm not a photographer and I'm dang sure not a writer. I hope y'all enjoy this thread and that the two of us can inspire a couple of you to take the leap of faith and book a trip like this one. It's an adventure you'll never forget.
As a side note, I've hunted with dogs a whole bunch and I've never seen anything react like my bear. It was more like he was distracted than bayed up. He was like a lion up a tree without the tree. King of the ice.
Chris boiled up some of the bear after our return to Grise Fiord 2 days later. I tried it and it was absolutely revolting. In fact, his entire apartment smelled like a dirty sock. I would not recommend it as a good dinner option.
The hide on my bear squared 9-1/4 feet. I haven't ever measured a bear skin before, even though I've shot several. The difference with this bear is that I can't point to it or show it to anyone, so I figured I'd need to be capable of describing it in detail. Regardless of how he ranks, I couldn't be any prouder of our team and the result of our expedition.
I'll post some scenery shots later.