I know that many of us have either read, dreamed or actually been to the frozen north on some type of hunting adventure. There are also many people who wouldn't even think about a trip to the cold Arctic tundra. My friend Mark soon found this out for himself when he decided to go Musk Ox hunting.
Mark and I had hunted together a few times in Texas but never out of state or out of the country for that matter. One day back in 2001, Mark called me and said he was looking for a hunting partner for a Musk Ox hunt the following March. He had called several hunting buddies but everyone had laughed and turned him down saying no way, that's way too cold for me. So when he shared his frustration with me I said, “I will go with you, just put the trip together and tell me where and when”. Mark chuckled, saying somehow he knew I would say yes.
Details of the trip
A few days later Mark called with details of the trip. We would be hunting in March of 2002, in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Canada, which is above the Arctic Circle, and the only settlement on King William Island. Incidentally, our trip was scheduled only six months after 9-11 and many people were afraid to fly. We made several calls checking on the new flight regulations that had been put in place in the travel industry as many things had changed, and we wanted to be prepared.
What to wear
The next step was to research the type of clothing and gear needed for this hunt. Neither of us had hunted in these extreme conditions before. I did live in Alaska for eleven years but never experienced -40 degree temperatures. After much research we decided to purchase our clothing from Northern Outfitters. When it arrived we were anxious to try it out to answer two very important questions: how warm would we be and could we shoot our bows while wearing the extremely bulky clothing. I remember having to wait a couple weeks for a northern to blow through Houston, Texas so I could somewhat test my gear. While living in such a warm climate this was the best I could do.
Shooting a few Goldtip arrows
Finally a cold front arrived in Houston and the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees at night. I dressed in my Arctic clothing, grabbed my bow and went out on the deck to shoot a few Goldtip arrows with the Muzzy broadheads that I would be using on this hunt. After shortening my draw length a little to allow for string clearance on my bulky sleeve, I began shooting. This was going to be a challenge but I seemed to be hitting the bull’s eye. Now for the second test. I sat in a lawn chair while enjoying the cool night air. After a short while I fell asleep while gazing at the stars. Hours later my daughter came outside and woke me while laughing and muttering "You’re crazy Dad".
The first two legs of our trip
It seemed like March arrived rather quickly and it was time to go Musk Ox hunting. At the end of the first day of traveling we stayed overnight in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Then the next morning we had an early start for a second full day of flying in order to reach our final destination of Gjoa Haven by nightfall.
The final leg of our journey
The third day, for the final leg of our journey, the method of transportation was to sit in a sled being pulled over the snow and ice by our guides on a snow mobile. Although you might think riding on snow would be soft and smooth, let me assure you, it was not. At minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 20 MPH on the sled, this was the absolute worst ride I've ever experienced in my life. We traveled for several hours before stopping for lunch. Mark and I had top ramen and tea while the Indian guides used a machete to chop small pieces from a frozen Arctic Char. Of course I tried the fish but I think I will stick to my soup.
After lunch we had another 4 hours of travel before reaching the hunting area. Right away upon arrival we spotted a small bull Musk Ox. Mark decided to take the shot, but when he reached for an arrow, he discovered it was frozen in place in his quiver. Needless to say this Musk Ox got away. Later that night when it was time to set up camp we put two Coleman stoves in each tent for warmth. After a couple hours of warming up in the tents, both Mark and I removed all of our arrows from the quivers. Problem solved!
The next morning I asked our guides how far we were from town, and I was told about 100 miles. I quickly did the math on how much fuel we had left and how much fuel the snow mobiles burn per mile and determined we had a big disaster on our hands. Not only did we not have enough fuel to hunt, but we couldn't even get back to town. One of the other hunters insisted his guide take him out to hunt anyway, and sure enough later that day the hunter and his guide came walking back to camp after having to leave their snowmobile miles away.
The guides called back to town and requested someone to make the 100 mile journey to bring us more fuel. We waited two days for the fuel to arrive. We were finally able to leave camp and unsuccessfully hunted our way back to town. During the return trip our guides offered to take us into a closed area, saying they took a previous hunter there and he was successful. I quickly declined saying that would be illegal. Once we arrived I called a meeting with the town mayor to voice our many complaints with this hunt. The next day Mark and I boarded our flight and began the two-day return trip to Houston after a very disappointing hunt.
Mark and I were new and inexperienced at hunting out of the country and using a booking agent for our hunts. This was only the second time I had hunted outside of the country and therefore I relied heavily on Bow Hunting Safari, our booking agent to secure a qualified and trusted outfitter.
This obviously did not happen and because of the freezing temperatures of 40 below zero our lives could have been jeopardized. When considering your hunt you should use a trusted and qualified booking agent to avoid similar life-threatening situations.
A few days later Mark and I decided to try another hunt together and return to the frozen Arctic for Musk Ox. This second hunt was scheduled for the Spring of March 2003. We planned to begin our hunt from the town of Holman, Northwest Territories, Canada. Fortunately, our second trip to the frozen Arctic was a completely different story and a completely different outcome. Both of us were very successful and had a great hunt. Mark took two Pope and Young Musk Ox, while I took one Pope and Young and one Boone and Crockett Musk Ox.
Choose the right outfitter
This hunting story has a good ending, but not all do. When planning the next adventure, please be sure to choose your outfitter carefully. It can make all the difference in the world. Hunting can be a dangerous sport and all precautions should be taken in order to avoid disaster!