Hamish Mamgark’s week went from big-time disappointment to over-the-moon joy in a matter of days earlier this month in Arviat.
Mamgark had been hoping against all hope his name would be drawn for one of the 12 polar bear tags available in Arviat this past month, and he was wondering if there was any way he’d get a second chance when his name wasn’t pulled for the tags.
It was all Mamgark could do not to break into a jig on the spot when he found out his name was pulled as the first alternate in the tag draw.
One by one the lucky hunters who names were drawn headed out on the land after nanuq and Mamgark started to get hopeful once again when he heard a number of them had come back to the hamlet empty handed.
Mamgark, 20, said he wasn’t listening to the radio when they started pulling the names and, when he was told his name had been pulled as an alternate, he hoped and hoped he had enough luck on side to finally have a chance to go out after a polar bear.
He said as he understood it, the first 12 people who went out on Oct. 30, had until 5 p.m. on Nov. 1 to either get a bear or return their tag.
“I was like the first alternate, or however you say it, so when Sunday finally came, which seemed to take forever, it was finally my turn to go. It all happened so fast and the next thing I know we were headed out to a spot about 12 miles south of the community,” said Mamgark.
“When I first saw the bear out on the land I was like holy s—, would you look at that. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe the size of him.
“The bear saw us and took off running toward the sea. He just took off. He didn’t raise up on his back legs to challenge us or anything like that. He just ran.
“We chased it for about 30 seconds, I’d say, and then I had a good shot and was able to bring him down. I don’t know what to say to describe how I felt. I was just so excited and so happy.”
Polar bear season was also in full swing in Rankin Inlet, with that community also having 12 tags in total — six for males and six for females, with nine of the tags being open and three that were drawn.
As of press time in Rankin, five tags had been used with three male bears and two females being harvested.
The Arviat quota has been met and many folks in the community are not happy about the fact Arviat, which has more polar bears than most communities in Nunavut, is only allowed 12 tags.
Mamgark said Arviat definitely should be allotted more tags but he’s more than happy with how things turned out for him, getting his first polar bear this year.
He said it took him a little bit to calm down after he landed the bear and then it was right to work on the hide.
“We skinned it right away and then took the samples you can return to wildlife and get some money for them ($45 for lower jaw, $100 for the baculum, $40 for lip tattoo(s), etc.).
“I kept the bear’s head and its fur, but we left the meat out there because nobody eats it out here.
“I think my mom’s going to make the hide into a rug for me.
“I started going hunting alone when I was about 15 and getting my first nanuq was one of my happiest days as a hunter. Getting that bear kind of really made me feel like a man.”