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