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Big game hunters arrive

The annual caribou hunt brings $4 million into Yellowknife

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 22/01) - Last week's opening of the annual big game hunting season means busy outfitters and charter yards. It also means $4 million to the Yellowknife economy.

Bob and Lynn Snauwaert from Detroit, Mich., anxiously wait at the Air Tindi float plane base to head out hunting at Courageous Lake. - Thorunn Howatt/NNSL photo

"The Northwest Territories is one of the last places where people can come and get a true adventure experience," said the North Slave region's Ernie Campbell. "The numbers are up this year."

The season opened Aug. 15 and ends Oct. 31. Ten outfitters worked during the off-season to promote hunting in the North and prepare for a flood of about 800 Americans. The U.S. tourists hope to bag black bears, wolves and wolverine, but most of all it's caribou they're after.

There are 1,656 caribou tags available. Many hunters will pay for two. Most years about 90 per cent of the available tags are sold -- mostly to Americans who are flown into Yellowknife by the 10 outfitters in the area.

"It stays busy until late August or early September," said Campbell. Even though the season is open after September the weather gets too cold to attract many hunters after that.

"When you go up North, you step off the plane ... it's not Florida," said Bob Snauwaert, a hunter from Detroit, Mich. who is drawn to the fresh air and adventure that an outfitted trip provides.

Bob, 41, and his wife, Lynn, 36, were waiting to board at the Air Tindi float plane base last Monday to head out to Courageous Lake for a five-day trip.

"I love hunting in Canada. The guides are great," said Bob. "It's the challenge, the outdoors.

"It's fun meeting people from all over the world," added Lynn.

In 1982 outfitters benefitted from changes made by a trophy hunting organization called the Boone and Crocket Club, which encouraged international hunters to chase the Barren Land caribou. The new interest in the Northern game created a niche for professional outfitters. Four companies even have second camps, two of which were added just this year, totalling 14 in the Slave region.

The Snauwaerts were picked up at the Explorer Hotel by expediter Jane Weishaupt, who had already pre-ordered licences and tags for the couple.

"We employ seven guides, three cooks and a taxidermist," said Weishaupt.

Each caribou bagged by an outfitted customer brings $3,400 into the NWT economy while outfitters and hunters paid about $962,000 in taxes, according to a report put out by the territorial government.

It says each hunter spends about $5,300 in the Northwest Territories.