A LADY BOWHUNTER REALIZES A SPECIAL DREAM TO BE THE FIRST WOMAN TO TAKE NANOOK WITH BOW AND ARROW.
IT WAS APRIL 10, 2006, when my husband Jim and I left our home in Minnesota and traveled up north of the Arctic Circle to a very small Inuit town called Pond Inlet. We'd be spending the next 14 days hunting polar bears far out on the sea ice of Baffin Bay.
We flew from Minneapolis to Toronto, then to Ottawa, then on to Iqaluit, Clyde River, and finally to Pond Inlet. We'd never been so far north - nor did we ever think that we'd be taking one of the most exciting hunts in North America. We gazed in amazement out the plane windows at all of the snow and sea ice, and I think we both wondered, What are we doing? How did we get here?
It all began with a dream, my personal "mission" to experience life in the Arctic - and to become the first woman to take a polar bear with bow and arrow. Then, in April 2005, at the Pope and Young Convention in Springfield, Missouri, we spoke with Mark Buehrer from Bowhunting Safari Consultants about a bear hunt in Canada. We told Mark about my mission and that the Pope and Young record book had no such entries . After a lengthy conversation, we decided to book the hunt for April of the following year. My dream was becoming a reality.
Now, staring out the plane window to the endless white land of snow and sea ice below, I realized my mission was underway. I only hoped I was ready.
At Pond Inlet's very small airport, we were greeted by the six others who would be accompanying us on this adventure: my guide, Omik; our two helpers, James and Silas; our Inuit outfitter, Titus; his wife, Cathy; and their son, Devon. Overwhelmed with excitement, I could hardly believe that I was finally here, way up past the Arctic Circle. I just knew this was going to be an adventure. In a sense, it already had been.
The next morning, after getting my license and going over the necessary laws at the DNR office, we headed down to the ice where everyone was packing their sleds. Titus and Omik hooked up the dogs that would accompany us on this adventure, and then Titus took off on the dog sled to get a head start. About IS minutes later, Jim and I got into our kamotik, the others got on their snow machines with sleds attached, and off we all went, leaving little Pond Inlet in a small convoy.
After Titus arrived, we continued on and traveled into the afternoon, until strong winds, causing blizzard-like conditions, forced us to stop. We were out about 50 miles and just happened to be near an old trapper's cabin, tucked back in between two mountains (the scenery was breathtaking!). This would serve as our camp for the night.
Jim and I unloaded our bags and then stayed out of the way while the Inuits quickly set up camp. They started the Coleman stoves for some much-needed heat and brought in some pots and pans for cooking and for heating up the glacier ice for our tea. It was so neat to learn about Inuit traditions and way of life. For instance, the glacier ice is like gold to them - the ice has been frozen for thousands of years, and it's the purest water in the world.
My outfitter, Titus, gave the dogs a workout. This is how I traveled to go after my bear.
A Coleman stove kept me warm.
The dogs curled up in the snowstorm to keep warm.
Jim and I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind howling down through the valley. The next morning we discovered that the wind hadn't settled down and we wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. Though I was a little disappointed not to be heading out right away, I was thrilled to be experiencing life in the Arctic.
WHEN WE AWOKE the next morning, everyone was busy packing. Jim and I looked at each other and said, "We must be going!" We were on the sea ice by 7:30 a.m. Although a bear could appear at any time, Titus said the main hunting area would be about 100-150 miles out of Pond Inlet.
Our search came to a halt when Omik's snow machine broke down. We knew we'd have to set up camp so they could work on it. Quite a Ways ahead, we saw a high-pressure ridge, so we continued in that direction to set up camp there to protect us from potential high winds. Along the way, we spotted a big bear track.
Clearly, the bear had made the track sometime that day. We glassed around, but no bear was in sight. So we took up the track, which followed the direction we were going.
While we were setting up, we saw Jobie heading back our way. He'd spotted a big boar about six miles out, possibly the same bear that had made the tracks we followed. "We have to go now!" Titus yelled, and the guys rushed to hook up the dogs. With nervous hands, I retrieved my new Mathews Switchback XT, put on my quiver, and pulled the bow back twice. I was ready. Jim wished me good luck, and off we went.
As the dogs struggled to pull the two of us through the deep snow, we searched for the big boar. Looking back now, our two-and-a-half hour ride didn't seem that long, but the sun was setting, and I feared we wouldn't find the bear before dark.
After covering four or five miles, we came upon the bear's track. The dogs zoned in on the track and took off. Finally, Omik saw the bear up ahead - he was lying down about 500-600 yards away. I made Omik stop the team as I glassed the bear with my Nikon lOx42s. We watched him for about five minutes, and then he got up and slowly sauntered away.
Within 80 yards of my bear, Omik turned the rest of the dogs loose. They all ran to the bear, barked at him, and then went a safe distance away to lie down and rest I started moving toward the bear so I could get a shot, but Omik kept telling me to stay by his side, as he attempted to load what looked to me like a rusty, old gun. All I could think was, That thing isn't going to work if we need it, so it's all up to me! More on my mind, however, was how badly I wanted to get an arrow into the bear. Only three of the dogs stayed close to the bear, but none of them got between us. Nothing protected us from this nine-foot bear, except me and my Mathews bow and Omik with his frozen gun.
Edging to within 35 yards, I used my rangefinder to make sure of the distance. I had to get this right - no room for mistake. Because of the extreme cold (-25 F), my rangefinder didn't seem to work correctly. Neither did my eyes. Everything looked white, and it was difficult to judge the distance. The rangefinder read 27.5 yards. So I inched forward a few more steps, steadied my 20-yard pin, and released. I missed the bear completely.
I became overwhelmed as I watched the big bear roll over, knowing he was down for good. A lot of emotions come with a hunt of this caliber: excitement at having killed my first bear; amazement at the beauty of the bear; and shock at what I'd just done. As I stood there, shaking and crying, I realized that I'd accomplished my mission - I was the first woman to take a polar bear with bow and arrow.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Out of the five days we spent on the sea ice, my hunt lasted only about five or six hours. The experience as a whole was far more important to me than taking the bear ¬that was just a bonus. Living like the Inuits for those five days was very special to my husband and me - learning their ways, watching them work, listening to them talk, and learning how they hunt Nanook, the great white bear.
My equipment on this hunt included a Mathews Switchback XT bow, Carbon Express Edge 350 arrows, 100-grain SteeUorce HP Serrated Sabertooth broadheads, Whisker Biscuit arrow rest, N"lkon IOx42 Premier LX binoculars, Cobra Sidewinder sight, Northern Outfitters (Artie Clothing), and Justin Charles Merino Wool.
For more information about booking your own polar bear adventure, contact: Mark Buehrer at Bowhunting Safari Con-sultants, (419) 943-3743, www.bowhuntingsatari.com. To book a hunt with Adventures Northwest, call (8671 920-2196 or visit them online at www.adventurenw.com.
Photo taken by Cathy Allooloo (NARWAL)
© April 2008