Tis the season for Polar reports- After 2 years of closures many have had the opportunity to finally hunt the High Arctic for bears.
I have a number of friends and acquaintances who had gone in the past and was inspired by their experiences. Also was able to get valuable information to prep.
I went through Shane Black at Canada North Outfitting. He has a number of options and prices for locations, but trusted him to put me in the best location and guides. He did not disappoint. One advantage is they are a complete all inclusive package. With my hectic schedule this spring and the pace of Arctic communications, We set a date for the hunt, to be out of Resolute Bay, Nun, CA.
Another hunter had cancelled last minute, and I got a discount on the hunt to go at those times. Right up to the hunt I had my hands full of puppies, our Black Lab had given birth to 9 pups on Valentines day!
First learning experience- travel to and from the High Arctic takes time!
Most all air traffic goes through Ottawa to Iqaluit. So east coasters have it a bit easier. So starting on Sunday, March 27 here is my trip-
Day 1- Anchorage to Chicago (red eye)
Day 2- Chicago- Toronto- Ottawa. Check into hotel booked by Outfitter, meet with representative who also supplied cold weather gear. Met up with another hunter who had already lost a day to a flight delay. Flights up North do not go everyday!
Day 3- Delayed flight Ottawa- Iqaluit, Change airplanes, Iqaluit- Pond Inlet- Arctic Bay- Resolute Bay
I sat next to the other hunter on the flights North. Part of the neat thing on these trips are the chance encounters you make with others. He has hunted the world, and shared many stories. We also talked teeth since he is an orthodontist and I'm a general dentist.
Day 4- That morning the wind was blowing, and visibility poor on the sea ice. Would be a weather day. The hotel was nice, food included. I ran into 2 bowhunters on their way to Grise Fiord. They had been delayed :) seems to be the theme here!
Resolute Bay- A brief history dates back to the Cold War- a weather station and an airstrip were built in 1947 to assert sovereignty for Canada in the region. In 1953 there were forced relocations of Inuit and a community was established there and Grise Fiord. Many modern Polar expeditions start from this location.
Another couple staying at the hotel were from Spain/Germany and had done many Arctic expeditions. They were planning to spend a month ski-touring self supported around Ellesmere island! talk about hard core, and they were in their 60s
Day 5- Hopes to go out were dashed again due to visibility issues.
The hunters going to Grise Fiord made it out- but their luggage didn't!
A rifle hunter was heading back and I got his recap. He passed up a great bear on his first day, because it was too early he said! Needless to say it took him 9 more days on the ice to find one as big again, a beautiful 9'+ bear! The good news he did see plenty of bears. He also got a nice Musk Ox.
I was not going to be nearly so picky. I had spoken to a recent super slammer who I met in Mexico on a Coues hunt, Ned. He had to make two trips to get his Polar bear. My other friends who went in 2019 took 10 days on the the ice to fill their tags on medium sized bears.
Also my research showed and my previous thread on Boone- and Crockett Polar bears revealed that it hasn't been done- the world record P&Y polar bear Does NOT qualify for B&C
During my down time I rigged up a target to test my shooting skills. Ned had recommended I bring a portable target. I decided not to pack one in my limited space since I didn't know how much space and weight the cold weather gear was going to take.
I opted for more gear, and a back up bow instead of the target. Turned out to be a mistake! I should have listened to Ned. I had extra gear I didn't use, and didn't shoot my bow as much as I should.
I rigged up a snow bank to shoot into, but over the course of the trip I lost a couple arrows.
Day 6 AM- I was getting antsy... loosing hunting days is never fun. I was on a self imposed timeline. For the first time in over 20 years my wife was a bit mad at me for taking off for a multi week hunting trip- the difference this time was 9 cute little poopies :) lots of poop and work, and she was planning a ladies trip and wanted me home.
I had promised her I had a good feeling about the hunt and to not worry, I would be back before she was to leave on the girls trip, and I would take care of our teenage kids and poopers.
With weather days piling up I was cutting it closer
Meeting the guides- I found out I would have an extra “apprentice “ guide this trip. I knew it was a good sign when he showed up in Polar Bear pants!
His name was Devon and at 21 was an awesome kid, very accomplished and professional. He has a team of dogs and will be guiding a couple hunts next year.
Those who have experienced the Arctic know the Inuit culture, a very happy, soft spoken people, usually of little words, that move at their own pace. The head guide was David, and was a man of little words but lots of experience 30 yrs + of guiding. Jaime the long time assistant always had a huge smile and would tell us what the plan was. Devon is the modern Inuit with respect and mastery of the old traditions, but a more western pattern of speech and engagement, and technology. I was lucky he became the de facto photographer.
We need visibility to hunt bears. If we head out and can't see far, then we could move right past a bear without knowing its there. the advantage humans have over the bears is sight- you can glass them on the horizon before they know you are near. If its low vis, then they can smell or hear you and move away before you see them.
Day 7- later in the AM- Finally the weather clears and David says its time to head out. We ready the dogs and pack up the caravan- at times it felt like we were on a frozen desert. The dog team moves at a slower pace than the mechanized transport. We would leap forward and stop and glass from any vantage point for bears. The further we went, the more tracks we saw.
Day 7- Devon was a wealth of information and easy to talk to.
The bears are constantly moving hunting for seals. The seals lived under the ice and make breathing holes that they keep open all winter. Snow will cover the top so they are hard to see, but the bears can smell them some how. If its an active hole they may lay in ambush till they hear/smell a seal come up, then dive head first into the hole to grab the seal.
Also female seals will make dens or liars in the snow mounds to have pups (think of a beaver hut they access from under the water) That is why broken ice and pressure ridge areas often have bears. They are hunting for the hidden snow caves with baby seals in them.
Seal populations and subsequently the Polar Bears are doing great in this area.
We set about making camp for the night. Positioned the shanties for the prevailing wind. and started to get the dogs chained. Jaime and Devon decided to take a look west where we were planning to go the next day.... and said they think there was a bear.....
I got my spotter out and indeed, saw my first Polar Bear! I don't have a good picture of the Pants- this one shows them- seal skin waist and cuffs, said they were hot pants! All self made, hunted and dried.
I was out of breath, the dogs were milling around the bear- Then the bear started running away again! David says shoot! the bear wasn't going to stop! did not matter where. Needless to say quickly ranged and shot-- too quick! I didn't think to lead the moving bear....
My brain had switched into survival mode my aim and shot process out the door. My first shot hit back- low in the ham, but drew lots of blood. The dogs smelled blood, the bear visibly hesitated. I shot another- this time it was way low? My next two I don't even recall..... one missed and the other connected somewhere mid body.
The bear had stopped moving and the dogs finally keeping it at bay. I shed the outer coat and had time to compose myself. I made a good frontal shot, then the bear turned and another chest shot (which should have been my first) finished it off immediately....
(should have brought that target like Ned said, for more practice in the gear and cold)
It's not just a hunt....it's an expedition. GREAT job on the camera by Devon....you'll treasure those photos for the rest of your life. Was Devon able to film any of the actual hunt/chase? Can any of it be shared here? ....might have been too busy keeping an eye on the dogs. Thank you very much for sharing (text as well as the photos)......I know how much of a distraction it can be at times.....but it sure gets the blood pumping (and brings back memories for many of us)!!! Bojangles leaves in about three weeks for his bear hunt.....I'll bet that he has reread this thread ten times already!!!
Great photos and story!!! An adventure like no other! My most memorable hunt of many great adventures.
Looks like it wasn't that horribly cold?
David and Jamie have aged in 4 years since I was up there! You got the bear quickly...mine took until day 11 of the 10 day hunt. But those two guys were great to camp and hunt with! David was a pretty fair cook too.
I slept well that night! David said it would take about 2 days to get back to Resolute. We packed up camp and started the trek back.
Part of the mornings on the ice involves melting snow for our drinking water. I didn’t drink enough my first day out and got a headache. The cold is incredibly dry as well so I made sure to hydrate every morning.
We moved along at dog sled pace til I got a message from the Outfitter- if I could get back to Resolute sooner I could catch a flight out the next day.
As mentioned earlier there are only a few flights each week, and can be delayed. Devon talked with David and came up with a plan to take me back to Resolute then he would go back with an empty sled for the dogs. If all went well we could all sleep in beds that night.
Having a complete travel package was nice with the outfitter. The travel arrangements, hotels, flight changes were all Made for me.
The US still required the negative Covid test to enter. I brought one of those free tests that you can pay to be certified online- except I didn’t read the instructions before hand. You are supposed to use a laptop or computer- no smartphone to do the video verification. I didn’t have one so luckily the travel coordinator already had me scheduled in Ottawa for the test.
I grabbed dinner across from the pharmacy at a food truck while waiting for the taxi. I like eating at local places and cuisine when I travel. Poutine was on the menu- my first time trying it.
The way that you were able to share the entire journey through photos really gave me a different perspective on arctic hunting adventures! Congrats and thanks for sharing! Now Eric will need to bring a professional film crew with him!
LOL! I'll be wearing a GoPro, one guide will have my camera and one guide will have my iPhone. I hope that covers all the bases. No way I'll top the photos in this thread! Seeing the chase and the bear from all the different angles was really cool.
Not sure on the taxidermy yet- leaning to just have the hide tanned and skull cleaned then stored at a friends lodge in BC. I have no hope they will become importable…..
The natives dislike the the ban as well- it really cuts into their fur trade. They kill lots of polar bears across the Arctic, populations are doing well.
As mentioned trophy hunting definitely supports locals and the traditional ways. Devon said there would be no way he could stay in Resolute and make a living long term without it, or afford the dogs and sled team.
Agree with BOWUNTER .... Outfrikenstanding ..... The pics / video, almost like Nat-Geo. Well done! The absolute best pics (for me) were the ones showing the bear and you guys with the dogs in the background - WAY beyond cool!
And yes, it DOES seem right .... truly (literally) life supporting to the locals.
I waited to read this thread until I could sit and do it all at once and it didn't disappoint! Very well told and entertaining with some of the best live action pictures I've seen on Bowsite. If I could get a guarantee to have weather like you had I would consider a trip like this;) Thanks for taking us along on the expedition. Congratulations!
The stories of adventures in pursuit of big game are just the best deal ever. It is truly what bowhunters dream and live for! Fantastic photos and great recap / details. Thanks so much for taking the time to show and share for all of us! It's great to hear the population of Polar Bears are doing well! Adventure awaits, dare to dream it!
altitude - never bear hunted there but two muskox trips end of march early april that were colder than those bear hunts it sounded like. did not de-oil anything, but we did make a point not to bring the bow into the shack at night for fear condensation woud freeze when it went out the next day and you'd be screwed. just left bows in hard case out in the snow. no issues.
what those temps due to kill batteries in cameras, phones, rangefinders, etc. is amazing. it can be almost instantaneous
Wow so incredible, and congratulations! Just had a chance to read this start to finish. Those pics are likely some of the best taken on an arctic hunt!! A guy can say he'll take lots, but when it's that cold and you're on the move with a bear, I'd imagine it's a heck of a lot easier to just focus on hunting. Those photos will be treasures for you in the future, thanks for sharing with us!!
In response to Altitudes question on equipment on the polar bear hunt:
I went in mid-February and it was a lot colder with extremely short days. -30* to -40* F or C. I did not winterize the bow itself…a Prime Rival. I did however take my Ripcord rest apart and clean it with carburetor or brake cleaner…forget which but it de-oils and cleans them. On rd-assembly I found it was stiff and sluggish so lubricated the bearing area very lightly with Breakfree CLP. It worked well then.
I tested the bow by putting it into the -15*F chest freezer. BC was in a deep freeze then as well so did some shooting with the bow out of the freezer into cold outside temps with a lot of clothes on. No issues so I went hunting.
I also took a spare bow…my old Mathews Drenalin that got similar treatment. Both fit in my Prime Rival soft case. When out on the ice the softcase with the bows never.came into the heated tent ,,,just laid out on the ice next to the tent for the 17 hour nights.
I never took the bow out of the case, put on the Tightspot quiver or pulled the arrows out of the tube until setting up to chase the bear on day 11.
Electronics were kept on the body in chest pockets…iPhone, InReach and spare battery. My phone froze in a knife or two taking bear pictures, as did my pinky finger. Only frostbite I got. Had to give it a jolt with the battery bank to get it going again….battery went from an indicated 80% to 0% when frozen. The guides camera and other guides phone did no better.