Eighteen-year-old Olive Duval’s pink BB gun may not pack a huge punch, but it gets the job done.
On most days when the weather is good, the Baker Lake hunter can be seen stalking her favourite prey on the outskirts of town.
Her target of choice? Ptarmigan.
“It is fun to use but it’s not the most effective,” Duval told Kivalliq News. “I’ve got a be sharp shooter and hit the head or the neck.”
Ptarmigan is not usually the first menu item that comes to mind when thinking about country food.
But for Duval it is a delicacy that she has been hunting since she was 13.
“Before the BB gun all I had was my arm strength and rocks to hunt,” she said. “A lot of kids do that growing up.”
She may have only had a gun for a short time but she has been cooking ptarmigan for herself ever since she could kill them.
“The first time I tried them I baked them in the oven and they were pretty good,” she said.
Over the years she has experimented with new ways to cook the bird. She has made ptarmigan stir fries, roasts and even cooked them on the open fire, which is one of her favourite methods.
Another is to marinate ptarmigan with Montreal steak spice, then cover it with bacon and add vegetables before baking it in the oven.
“I like it that way,” she said.
An unfortunate run-in with RCMP
Although she enjoyed harvesting ptarmigan with rocks, Duval said getting the BB gun has made her love hunting even more.
“It’s my first weapon – any kind of weapon I’ve owned,” she said. “I’m really adjusting to this one gun and learning to use it.”
Unfortunately her first weapon also ended up drawing some unwanted attention from a qallunaat teacher who tried to tell Duval that it was illegal to hunt with a BB gun near town.
“The first thing she said to me when she saw me was I couldn’t use my BB Gun in town. But the next day I went out hunting. I told my dad. He told me not to care about what she says because she’s just that kind of person.”
But it didn’t end there. RCMP were called to investigate Duval and her gun twice that week. Duval said she was always aware that her gun might raises eyebrows in town. Nonetheless the encounter with RCMP left her upset.
“It did bring me to tears but that’s how my anger comes out,” she said.
The bright side of the story is that after RCMP were called a second time, the police told her she was free to use her BB gun to hunt ptarmigan in town.
“That was really surprising too. The teacher said it was against the law and the law turned around and told me it was OK,” Duval said.
Duval said she usually likes to hunt near the airport early in the morning before most people are awake.
“I try not to shoot it in town. I try to be away from people,” she said. “I don’t even know how to drive. I just walk myself everywhere.”
Despite the caution Duval takes, after RCMP were called a second time her mother, Karen Duval, ended up making a Facebook post on Baker Lake’s community page to inform the public about her daughter and her pink BB gun.
“I had to step in as her mother,” she said. “Now she’s free to do what she enjoys without anyone thinking she’s a person walking around with a gun.”
Her mother added that she is proud to see her daughter our hunting and putting food on the table.
“She chose on her own and I support her way of thriving,” she said. “Our young people are so stuck in the cyber world that they forgot there are still people who lived the way our ancestors have for centuries.”
Aside from the teacher who tried to discourage her, Olive Duval said the community has been largely supportive of her hunting.
“If a lady goes out hunting and she posts her catch on Facebook, people are equally supportive whether it’s a girl or a man.”