Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 16, 2012 - 5:28 am

Big game sports hunters turning to Nunavut muskox

With few restrictions on muskox, CamBay outfitter’s hopeful

JANE GEORGE
You don't have to look hard to find some of the 50,000 muskox that roam around Victoria Island. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
You don't have to look hard to find some of the 50,000 muskox that roam around Victoria Island. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
George Naikak Hakongak's muskox hunting camp is located at Bryon Bay, a place with a long history. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
George Naikak Hakongak's muskox hunting camp is located at Bryon Bay, a place with a long history. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
Here's George Naikak Hakongak with a client and his muskox. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
Here's George Naikak Hakongak with a client and his muskox. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
Outfitters and hunters prepare a muskox for butchering. There are no restrictions on the export of muskox trophies or meat. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)
Outfitters and hunters prepare a muskox for butchering. There are no restrictions on the export of muskox trophies or meat. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. HAKONGAK)

As the polar bear sports hunt in Nunavut faces more restrictions — and international criticism — many big-game sports hunters have turned to another large, and plentiful Arctic animal, the muskox.

With about 50,000 muskox roaming around Victoria Island in western Nunavut, you don’t have to look hard to find the animals, says George Naikak Hakongak of Cambridge Bay, who started an independent muskox outfitting company in 2010.

The muskox, known as omingmak in Innuinaqtun, are plentiful, Hakongak says.

His main challenge now is to get the word out that he’s open for business.

To that end, Hakongak visited the Safari International annual conference for hunters held in Las Vegas this past February.

And he also travelled to the Nunavut Tourism conference held last month in Iqaluit.

But Hakongak hasn’t yet been able to tap into the help he needs to market his outfitting business— such as help setting up a website or tips on booking clients, the kind of expertise that Visit Greenland and its website provides to outfitting operations in Greenland.

Despite the challenge of building an independent tourism operation in Nunavut, Hakongak sees room for growth. He’s set up a Facebook page and he already has bookings for the 2012 fall muskox hunt.

The clients hosted to date by Hankongak include hunters from the Outdoor television channel.

For now, personal recommendations continue to send Hakongak new clients, hunters who are willing and able pay $5,500 plus travel to Cambridge Bay to hunt a muskox.

Hakongak’s muskox camp is located at Bryon Bay, at the mouth of the char-rich Lauchlan River, about 140 kilometres from Cambridge Bay by boat.

That’s a place steeped in history, with many traditional camping places and a former DEW line site nearby.

From the camp, Hakongak takes his hunters out onto the land, where they can scout for muskox.

“Most want the biggest one,” he said.

But sometimes they’ll see many in a large herd, so they have to choose the one they plan to harvest.

And while you might think you couldn’t miss hitting a target as big as a huge muskox, Hakongak says the hunt can be challenging, depending on the terrain.

You must pick your spot and aim for a clean shot, with a rifle or crossbow.

After the hunt, Hakongak and his team clean and butcher the muskox.

They salt the hide and package the horns so that these can travel safely back home with the sports hunter to be mounted. Hunters can also count on taking more than 100 kilograms of packaged muskox meat with them.

Muskox aren’t considered to be endangered or listed for trade restrictions on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, so there are no problems exporting muskox trophies or meat.

Hakongak isn’t alone in offer muskox sports hunts in Cambridge Bay — Canada North Outfitting and the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization are among the other outfitting companies which also offer muskox hunting trips.

The Kitikmeot now sees a total allowable harvest of about 400 muskox a year, with about half that going to the Kitikmeot Foods commercial harvest in Cambridge Bay.

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