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NNSL Photo/graphic

Jacob Pokiak, kneeling left of his father James Pokiak and hunter Sam Pingo,right, said polar bear hunting is a unique adventure. - photo courtesy of Pokiak family

The great journey

Philippe Morin
Northern News Services

Tuktoyaktuk (Nov 27/06) - Jacob Pokiak knows polar bear hunting can be a dangerous game.

But the 28-year-old man from Tuktoyaktuk said it's not the bears that will get you - it's the two day snowmobile ride, travelling in the

howling wind at 40 below for almost 200 kilometres.

"I wear my mother's home-made parka, wolf-fur mittens, a fur hat and my 'moon boots'" he said. "You travel two days and you set up camp."

As a guide in his father's business, Pokiak Guides and Outfitting, Jacob helps take visitors to the north-east of Tuktoyaktuk, to places as far as Baillie Island at the mouth of Liverpool Bay.

He also escorts the company's sled dogs, which are used for hunts.

Once the camp is set up and the dogs ready, Pokiak said he meets his father and guest hunters who arrive by bush plane.

"It keeps the traditional alive, and it gives the bears a fighting chance," Pokiak said of using husky dogs, who are brought to the site in a snowmobile trailer.

"Besides, if you used a (loud) snowmobile there wouldn't be any bears."

Having grown up around his father's business - his father James said he was nine when he first started hauling supplies - Pokiak said he has killed one bear himself and been on at least 25 runs where the bears were shot and skinned.

"It's a thrill, a unique experience," he said.

And while the life of an hunter might seem adventurous, Pokiak said it also has quiet moments.

For instance, he said he sometimes spends days waiting at the hunting camp, holding his .300 Winchester magnum.

"We travel, take the dogs and find a high ridge. Then, we sit there all day long and wait for the bear to come to us," he said.

"Sometimes it takes a day. Sometimes it takes three weeks."

But while Pokiak has stories of losing dogs through the ice and other hardships, he said the payoff is often worth it.

He said polar bear fur can often fetch $1,600 for a raw hide, and that many visitors will pay for the privilege of seeing one of nature's great beasts.

"I grew up around it, so it's always been a part of my life," he said.