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The legend of ‘One Shot’

April Wadland shoots first polar bear of her life, on the last tag of the season
The three-metre (nine-foot) polar bear April Wadland shot has been sent to a taxidermist in Edmonton. Photo courtesy of April Wadland ᐱᖓᓱᓂᒃ ᒦᑕᓂᒃ ᑕᑭᓂᓕᒃ (ᖁᓕᖏᓗᐊᖅᑐᓂᒃ foot-ᓂᒃ ᑕᑭᓂᓕᒃ) ᓇᓄᕋᖅ ᐃᐳᕈ ᐅᐊᑦᓚᓐ ᓇᓐᓄᓚᐅᖅᑕᖓ ᐊᐅᓪᓚᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᕿᑐᓕᓴᐃᕝᕕᖕᒧᑦ ᐃᐊᑦᒪᓐᑕᓐᒥ.

Rankin Inlet’s April Wadland will forever go down as ‘One Shot’ after hunting her first polar bear on the last tag of the season with a single, perfectly placed bullet.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Wadland. “I can say I did it, and I never want to do it again.”

She had tried hunting a bear about a decade ago with no luck, which made her swear off the pursuit for years. Last fall, her husband threw her name in for a tag right at the Oct. 31 deadline.

Wadland had the last tag of the season, with the dates of her hunt to be March 14 to 17.

Her brother, Randy Eecherk, took her by snowmobile in the direction of Whale Cove on March 15. They saw a bear close to the water, but they weren’t able to hunt it at the time, so they returned home after a long day of travel – about 215 km in total.

The next morning, “I was tired, I was grumpy, I was done,” said Wadland, barely wanting to get out of bed.

They enlisted friend Fabian Tatty to join them that day and this time went toward Marble Island off of Rankin Inlet, something Wadland was very concerned about, as she didn’t want to go near the floe edge.

“I told my brother, ‘I don’t know how to swim,’” she said.

Still, they found evidence of a bear going into seal dens and knew one was close.

“At first, I was really scared and I kept crying,” said Wadland. “The further we got from the land, getting closer to Marble Island, I kept crying and was like, ‘God I promise I’ll never put my name in for a bear ever again. Don’t let me go on Marble Island.’”

They continued to follow the bear tracks and then finally spotted one, a large female in the distance.

Wadland grabbed her husband’s gun and looked to Eecherk for guidance – he decided they needed to get much closer and hit the gas on the snowmobile.

“I was telling him to stop,” said Wadland, recounting the soaring adrenaline rush. “He said just one more mile. My brother’s a racer, so he has no fear. I was holding on for dear life and here he is, holding two guns and going really fast.”

Now parked and ready to shoot, Wadland followed instructions and put the barrel of her gun on the windshield to steady it.

“(Eecherk) said as soon as you see the bear, just shoot,” recounted Wadland. “I never said a word. I saw the bear and I just shot. I instantly started crying, like oh my God, I shot a bear. And I was telling my brother to take the gun, and he was just laughing. He was like, ‘One shot! You killed it with one shot!’”

Through her tears and adrenaline, Wadland remembers her brother yelling “One shot!” repeatedly.

After cleaning the predator’s carcass on the land – during which they were approached by a younger male polar bear that they had to chase off – the group brought the three-metre (nine-foot) female bear home and prepared it for taxidermy. In about one year, it’ll make for a very special new rug.

Wadland has recovered from the excitement and doesn’t plan to do it again, but the legend of her aim will surely live on.

“We keep saying if we had cancelled our trip that day, I’d never have caught a bear,” she said. “And me and my brother, that was the best experience we’ve ever shared together.”

Women gather to clean the pelt of April Wadland’s first polar bear catch. From left, are Lisa Airut, Connie Kalluk, Judy Eecherk, Esther Powell and Natalie Dion. Photo courtesy of April Wadland ᐊᕐᓇᐃᑦ ᑲᑎᑦᑐᑦ ᓴᓗᒻᒪᖅᓴᐃᔭᖅᑐᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᓇᓄᕋᕐᒥᒃ ᐃᐳᕈ ᐅᐊᑦᓚᓐ ᓇᓐᓄᒋᐅᕈᑎᒋᔭᖓᓂᒃ. ᓴᐅᒥᖅᖠᕐᒥ, ᓖᓴ ᐊᐃᕈᑦ, ᑲᓂ ᑲᓪᓗᒃ, ᔫᑎ ᐃᑦᓯᖅ, ᐃᔅᑕ ᐸᐅᓪ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓇᑕᓕ ᑎᐊᓐ.