ARCTIC HUNT 2007
I'd like to relate to you a story about one of my Polar Bear Hunters, Mike West, NY, who has just returned from NWT with his trophy. And, as it turns out, a very lucky man!
Mike booked his hunt in early 2006 for his April 2007 date. He told me that he would be using his Thompson Center, .50 Muzzle Loader. Not being intimately familiar with Muzzle Loaders, as I am with modern arms, I asked him if he taught the rifle would function OK in extremely cold temperatures, after all, it was a hunt for dangerous Game as well as a very expensive expedition.
He said that he hunted a lot in Northern, NY in very cold, and he assured me that the rifle would be fine. However, Northern NY is not the same as Northern NWT, consistently 15-40 below F, 24-7.
As it turns out, they had problems with the rifle from the start that easily could have resulted in injury or death. Riding behind the dogs on a sled or Snow Machine, over rock hard, windblown snow & ice is like running across a washboard. After a few hours of this Mike found that the Minnie-Balls would slide part way back out of the Gun Barrel. To shoot the rifle, the bullet had to be checked and then the bullet re-rammed back down into the breach each time.
The guide was skeptical about this rifle's performance and asked Mike if he could shoot it and check it out for himself. The hunter agreed and handed the rifle to the guide for his inspection. When the guide asked the procedure to fire the rifle, Mike told him to re-ram the bullet and then simply cock, aim and then pull the trigger.
The guide tried but then asked "well, where's the trigger" and Mike replied, "in the Trigger Guard", where else? However, there was no trigger. Evidently, the trigger, made of a very brittle alloy, had shattered in the cold and had simply fell off and disappeared.
Now to shoot the rifle the bullet had to be re-rammed and then the hammer cocked to just before locking into the sear and then the hammer held back and manually released by thumb. Not a good situation, especially if an accurate shot at distance was required!
After 5 days hunting they spotted a very big bear (10'3") in an area of rough Pressure Ridges. They stalked as close as possible and then the bear spotted them and began running away, over the Pressure Ridges. Both the hunter & guide jumped off the sled and began scrambling over the ridges chasing the bear. The hunter was in the lead scrambling over the ridges and trying to get the ramrod and ram home the bullet. The guide was behind trying to take movies.
As the hunter topped a ridge, the bear "turned the tables". He was standing facing the hunter at 18 yards and as soon as they made "eye contact" the bear charged from 18 yards. At this point the ramrod was still in the gun barrel. Because of the very close proximity and the speed of the attack, Mike had time only to lower the rifle, point and fire with the ramrod still in the barrel.
The rifle then blew up. Mike was knocked silly by the concussion, almost out, his head was covered in blood and he was stumbling about the ice. The bear was also hit and was stumbling around too.
The ramrod had gone clean through the bear and was sticking in the ice on the other side. The bullet had also hit the bear and was found in the skin on the bears butt.
After the initial shock of the exploding rifle, excitement and charge, Mike was tickled to death with the hunt and his trophy and realized how lucky he was.
Of course, the moral of this story should be obvious. Your equipment, firearms, clothing & gear must be the best quality, tried & tested. Your gear will affect your hunt, first class gear will be an asset, untried or low quality clothing and gear a liability. Be sure of your equipment it could determine the outcome of your hunt, or even your life.
Please feel free to contact me through Rick Herscher with any questions that you may have.
Notes on Polar Bear Hunting in the Arctic from Ivor
Alaska Hunting Safaris; Rick Herscher. Rick is from the old school of Alaskan guides; he is true to his word and does not try and cram through lots of hunters. He offered me various alternative polar bear hunts, I followed his advice and went with his recommendation for the best chance of getting a good size bear, and I am pleased that I did. I later met Rick at the S.C.I. Convention in Reno during January of 2006. I recommend Rick as an excellent choice and I will book future hunts with him. I have actually booked a brown bear hunt with him in the spring of 08. He delivered everything that he had promised.
Ikie Naqitarvik. Ikie operates out of Arctic Bay which is located on the north/western tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. He works together with his father Olayuk who has been guiding sport hunting parties for polar bear since the mid 1970's. Their equipment is in good shape and they run an excellent outfitting operation. They rely on various outfitters/agents based mainly in the U.S.A. for their bookings. Having operated out of the same base for so many years their local knowledge is exceptional and they will go that extra mile (in my case 200 miles) to ensure that you get a good bear. I was impressed when I heard that Ikie was taking his next client to the same area that we had hunted irrespective of the fact that it was so far away, this shows me their commitment. Ikie is a compassionate person who goes out of his way to ensure the well being and comfort of his clients. I would strongly recommend Ikie as being your best possible choice for a Polar Bear hunt.
Clothing & equipment.
This is one of those hunts where you definitely must not take too much gear along; it will spoil your experience. There is not enough space on the sled or room in the tent. The outfitters are fully equipped and you need not take any equipment with, besides your personal clothing and firearm. The secret to keeping warm in such cold conditions is to wear numerous layers of clothing. Although I took along a wide variety of alternatives for the various layers I will only list those items which I finally chose as working the best for me.
Wool briefs By Justin Charles, a division of Mathews Inc. Made of 100% super-fine Merino wool: www.justincharles.com
Cold gear Apparel By Under Armour purchased from Cabelas. Top Mock Zip-T: Code HF-98-0011. Bottom HF98-0009 This armourblock product worked exceptionally well as the first layer. My skin felt cool compared to the sweaty feeling that I experienced with the other arctic grade under wear that I took with me.
Wool Bottoms and top. Wool zip T neck expedition Wool pants bottom expedition Supplied by Justin Charles details as above
Polartec Classic 200 special ops series Purchased from Cabela's; code numbers: Top HF-90-2372 Bottom HF-90-2374
Over pants & Jacket. Product supplied by www.wiggys.com The over pants and jacket is a lamilite insulated jacket & pants which worked extremely well between my Parka and the Polartec layer. When I felt too warm I would remove the Fossil Ridge Parka and keep the over jacket on.
Fossil Ridge Parka and Bib. Top class product supplied by Wiggy's, outperformed all of the other products that I tried. www.wiggys.com
Extreme Arctic mittens. Supplied by Wiggy's. My hands never felt cold at any time. These mittens are very bulky and you will need to remove the outer mitten if you need to do anything with your hands. It is a pity that they are so bulky, but they do keep your hands warm. I wore a thin fleece glove below the mittens which worked well, especially for shooting.
Predator Extreme Pac Boots Supplied by Cabela's. Code HF-83-0435 This was the only piece of clothing that failed me, my feet got cold while sitting in the back of the sled. I unfortunately did not have an alternative pair of Pac boots. In fairness to the boots I never felt cold during periods of activity. The problem with this type of hunt is that there are long periods of sitting on the sled while traveling. I have already placed an order for new Pac Boots from Wiggy's.
Overboots. Fortunately I had ordered a pair of Mukluks from Wiggy's and they pretty much saved the day for me although my feet did still get cold.
I ordered a pair of lamilite insulated booties from Wiggy's and slept with them as socks on the two occasions that my toes were cold in my sleeping boots. They have a thin rubber sole and work well for stepping out of the tent for a moment. I however did find that they slipped off my feet easily and I have asked Jerry Wigutow (Mr. Wiggy) to try and develop a system of fastening them around the ankle.
Outfitter series socks. Supplied by Cabela's. Liner socks HF 81-2207 Heavy weight sock HF-81-2209
Head & eye protection:
Mad Bomber Rabbit fur hat. Supplied by Cabela's. Code HF 90-1323 Balaclava. I used a Polartec 200 hood that when pulled up and tensioned (with the toggles on either side of the face) covered my face and nose. The area around the nose and mouth freezes up during the day due to the condensation of your breath. It quickly thaws in the evening when draped over the cooker. A bit more research should yield a better solution to protecting the nose and cheeks, maybe a vented breathing area? Ski goggles and good quality sun glasses. I did not use these as much as anticipated!
Wiggy's is famous for his high quality sleeping bags. There are a variety of models to choose from depending on your body size. I used the Hunter FTRSS system which consists of an overbag as well as an inner bag. It is rather bulky due to its large dimensions and plenty of insulation. It is imperative to be warm while sleeping and this bag never failed me. The pillows worked well but I do suggest that you cover them with pillow slips as the material that they are made from is slippery.
Accept that conventional bathing is impossible on this type of hunt. I discovered a lineup of products from a company called "No Rinse Laboratories" These products were developed for the care of people who are bed ridden or convalescent. It is apparently also used in the space programs. Their products are awesome; you wash your body with this liquid soap and then dry off without rinsing. It does not leave a soapy feeling and you really do feel clean. I have a very sensitive skin and it did not affect me at all. They also have a shampoo that works equally well. I would also recommend that you take a few packs of baby wipes for your wash room visits. Remember that everything freezes so you have to keep your toothpaste and No-Rinse in your sleeping bag before use.
I suggest that you take a single rifle as well as a soft case. You will leave your heavy weight travel case in Arctic Bay and use the soft rifle bag for the duration of the hunt. I kept my rifle on the sled with me. Remember that you must winterize your rifle before departure for the Arctic, otherwise it may freeze up.
Binoculars & Knives:
Due to space constraints I feel that a good pair of binoculars is preferable to a spotting scope in this situation. A single folding pocket knife is more than enough. If you insist on skinning your own animal then you will obviously have to take along your own skinning and caping knives. The outfitter did a great job of skinning my animal.
Little John; A convenient, spill-proof portable urinal. Cap screws on tightly to prevent spills. Constructed of durable plastic and is reusable Holds 32 oz. and can be used with the Lady J Adapter. Perfect for use during a blizzard or for when you do not want to step out of the tent into -40º Remember to tighten the cap screw and to keep it in your sleeping bag otherwise it will be frozen solid the next morning. Available from Pilot Accessory stores at most smaller airports.
Available from off road motorcycle stores. Helps tremendously while bouncing around on the rough ice.I have attempted to cover the main items of clothing in this suggested list; I hope that I have not left out any major items. I am sure that you will fill up your bag with various bits & pieces but please ensure that your bag does not exceed 40" in length otherwise it will not fit into the tent.
I hope that you enjoy your Arctic experience as much as I did. Please feel free to contact me through Rick Herscher with any questions that you may have.
PLEASE CONTACT RICK FOR AVAILABLE OPENINGS AND PERMITS
Alaska Hunting Safaris
Alaska Hunting Safaris
Phone - (907) 357-8206