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Students train as hunting guides
Accelerated program geared toward growing tourism

Karen K. Ho
Northern News Services
Saturday, August 29, 2015

Coral Harbour is aiming to expand the number of big game tourists visiting its community with the training of five new hunting guides.

NNSL photo/graphic

Guide students on a break from classes in Coral Habour include, back row, from left, Jonathan Emiktowt, Matthew Netser, Greg Ningeocheak and instructor Wes Werbowy with, in the front row, from left, Sam Emiktowt and Clifford Natakok. - photo courtesy of Myra Nester

Currently, there are five students undergoing a five-week accelerated training program for big game hunting guides.

Economic development officer Myra Nester said Coral Harbour sees tourists from places such as Austria, Texas and Russia who come to hunt polar bears, walruses and geese.

"Outfitting is our main source of economic development," she said. "We're very fortunate to have certified outfitters."

This year, Nester has allocated $100,000, which represents all of her annual program funding, for the training programs being taught by instructor Wes Werbowy of Wilderness Consultants.

"There's also the outfitter course, which will take place in January," she said.

Students were accepted for the program based on whether they were active hunters and could fully commit to the program.

However, Nester said one person did drop out.

Werbowy, who is normally based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and is also teaching the outfitter course next year, said his courses cover topics such as safety, presentation, handling of animals, and camp setup and hygiene.

He also stressed the vast majority of the meat from the hunted animals is delivered to nearby residents.

"This is given to needy families, to single moms, you've got sort of a double-win," he said. "The hunter gets to give something to the community."

On average, a hunting trip is about 10 days in length, said Werbowy. And while he said polar bear hunts have declined in the last few years, the economic benefit can still be significant at approximately $25,000 per group.

"That's with no guarantee of a kill," Werbowy said. "And the waiting list is three to five years." With approximately 40 sport tags available, Werbowy estimates game hunting to be worth $1 million in economic benefits to Coral Harbour.

But training to become a guide certainly isn't cheap. Werbowy said costs of the program include transportation, rentals of items such as ATVs, fuel and groceries for cooking classes. He estimated the cost of an upcoming week-long trip was easily $2,000 to $3,000 just for food.

Still, demand for the guides is high enough that in addition to the five new students, Coral Harbour has three big game outfitters and one small game outfitter, according to Nester.

At the end of all the courses, Nester said one student from the group will be given an opportunity to establish his own business with her assistance.

"I will help them develop their business and expand it so they will be able to start taking people out," she said.

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