Kelly Owlijoot is making up for his slow start as a wolf hunter in Arviat these days.

Isaiah Curley, from left, Kelly Owlijoot, Andrew Kuksuk and Jonathan Pameolik enjoy some time around the NWT border, where Owlijoot often heads to hunt wolves.
photo courtesy Kelly Owlijoot

The successful hunter recently returned from his third trip of the season with two others, trying to take advantage of the government bounty placed on the wolves this year.

Owlijoot, 44, said he’s somewhat of a late bloomer, getting his first wolf at the age of 30, but the experience had him hooked from that point on.

He said he’s gone annually ever since, and this year’s catch of 24 marks the most he’s ever landed in a single year.

“We went near the NWT border, which means a sleepover with a day and a half to get there,” said Owlijoot.

“We go well prepared with a GPS, which is my first priority, and I have an inReach satellite communicator that allows me to text anywhere.

“I usually have a grub box filled with food and there’s always lots of caribou out there, so I make sure I have butter and things so I can cook the caribou when I’m ready to eat.

“I also always bring extra parts for my snowmobile, like shocks and an extra belt, and I take a lot more gas then I really need to.”

The hunters use binoculars to spot the wolves out on the land, which usually travel in packs of between three and six, but once in awhile hunters will come upon a rare pack of up to 10 wolves.

Owlijoot said juvenile wolves that have never seem humans before seem to be curious about the hunters, but adult wolves take off running the minute they catch the scent of humans.

Kelly Owlijoot has his machine all packed and ready to go as he begins the long trip back to Arviat after a successful hunt near the NWT border this past month.
photo courtesy Kelly Owlijoot

He said as soon as they determine how many wolves are in a pack they start to chase them down on their snowmobiles.

“Some wolves are really fast runners and it takes a bit of time and effort to catch those ones, but the bigger ones tend to be a lot slower, so we try to maximize our efforts to get every wolf in the pack if we can.

“I prefer to get the slow ones first and then go after the fast ones because we remember the direction the fast ones ran in.

“I use a .223 rifle and we usually drive right up beside the wolf, brake and then start shooting from there.

“It takes about half an hour to skin a wolf, and we skin around its mouth first because that’s the area that’s going to freeze the fastest and become very hard to skin.”

Owlijoot said there’s a $300 reward in Nunavut from the Department of Environment this year for a wolf skull and a little piece of its skin that really helps hunters with their finances.

The government’s wolf sample collection program offers the reward with an aim to collect important scientific data in the service of wildlife management, according to the department.

He said the hunters average about $250 each when they sell their pelts.

“My brother, Andrew Kuksuk, broke his qamutiiq maybe a quarter of the way out, so we took his extra gas, sleeping bag and grub, and split it between me and our other hunting partner because you have to be prepared for anything out there.

“It’s better to be out there as a team to look out for each other because we’re hundreds of miles away from civilization.

“My first trip of the year I was gone for 11 days, then it was seven days my second trip and six days on my third trip.

“It takes a lot of learning experience from other hunters before anyone should decide to go out wolf hunting, and young hunters should take the time to learn properly from more experienced hunters before they head out on the land to try it on their own.”

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1 Comment

  1. Me and the late Louis Pilakapsi and John Tatty used to go out hunting wolves way back in ’78 to ’86. Then John Tatty use to hunt them all the time and now his son Eric Tatty have all the skills now to they used to hunt the wolves too and I mean hunting them down in all kinds of weather. So did Yevo Airutso, so did Tony Eecherk, Tagak Curley and then came along Charlie Inuarak from Baffin Island, one of the biggest names from Baffin Island, from Pond Inlet.
    All these guys and David Oolooyuk too are the big names that don’t need technology equipment like a GPS for navigating systems — just knowing the land and the time of the weather, the moon, the sun. These men hunted for their food and hunting supplies. Then me and the late Louis Pilakapsi would track down 25 to 30 wolves back then in the ’78 to ’86 and here John Tatty would get about 100 wolves in a year and that’s hunting them and been out every day and every day wasn’t always the case, it depended on the weather too.
    Too cold was hard on a snowmobile and these men knew when to hunt and travel then. John Tatty is still very active Hunter, so is his son Eric Tatty and the big name’s son, Roger Pilakapsi and then there’s David Oolooyuk and Harry Towtongie and not to forget there is Joe Kaludjak and his brothers too.
    Also one of the big names is Louis Voisey. These big names had respect for there Elders then for their older elders back then and in each communities they had there respected Elders. Repulse Bay and Coral Harbours they have big names there too passed on from their ancestors.
    But today the younger generation don’t have respect for each other’s at all. They’re just following the fast machines and the fast technology because their eyes are just glued on to the Facebook and aren’t looking at to what’s really going on in their young future. They’re just going too fast, going nowhere and they think they’ve gone places and have hunted and think they have done a lot. Here they haven’t seen nothing yet and haven’t been around yet or know what the wildlife movements are on land and sea and then in overnight they think they’re big-time hunters.
    Some haven’t heard much from there Elders and how they have hunted or hear the story from the older Elders of what and how the weather is affecting the movement of the wildlife in sea and land and the more the young are going out traveling and hunting on land and sea they’re going to wipeout some of the wildlife cause they chase the hell out of all the animals and the wildlife knows that they are being chased the hell off and that’s why they’re getting farther away and longer too because any person can go anywhere fast and chase the hell out of any animals away just to be a big-time hunter and shoot anything just for extra money. They have good-paying jobs and are able to get newer equipment every year to chase the hell out of the caribous and whales and aren’t aware of what they’re really doing for the future generations to come. They can’t see ahead for the future for their grandchildren and instead of having control of their wildlife conservation.
    The fast machines are making the younger generation look fast and cool, thinking they’re hunters having very good-paying jobs, not realizing what they’re doing for future Generations to come when times can get harder to live up in this nice cold climate off our land with our wildlife that makes us live on. The mines and other mines always do their best part so let’s do our part to keep our wildlife conservation in control with our young so-called friends — young hunters have better control in our hunting, our caribou and migrations and not to chase the hell out of the caribou migration when the herd migration comes around. Instead, let’s have better control of our younger generation of hunters to have control on the caribou migration and other wildlife and in the sea.

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