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Hunting for hunters

Deline wants to turn royalty cash from non-renewable resources into tourism dollars

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Fort Franklin (Oct 21/02) - Deline is ready to play the big money game of big game sport hunting.

"Our major focus for growth areas and economic development is tourism," said Daniel Walton, executive director of Deline Land Corporation. "Being that we are on Great Bear Lake, we have that geographical advantage."

Deline rests on the shores of Great Bear Lake -- known for the best lake trout fishing in the world. The boreal forest surrounding the lake is famous for its natural beauty. Muskox and caribou are plentiful.

The sport hunting tourism sector is growing quickly throughout the NWT and Nunavut. American hunter-tourists are known to spread cash around freely, so the community invested in professional-level guide training as well as a world-class outfitting lodge. Now it's ready to hunt for hunters.

The community's focus is to sell professionally guided muskox and caribou hunting trips.

Last spring the first step was taken toward the business goals when six Dene hunters went through a gruelling and specialized guide course. Four of them passed the training where they learned to identify trophy animals and skin the kill for taxidermy.

"Now we have four guides to become level two hunting guides and that's the foundation we are going to build on," said Walton. "As we develop, we are going to train some more.

The lodge wasn't promoted as a tourism destination since the community organization took it over.

"But that's something that's changed. We are now starting to advertise for tourism and fishing through the explorers guide and tourism magazines," said Walton, who added a Web site is also being designed and aimed at tourists.

"Then we are going to start promoting our lodge at sports shows on the road."

The first outfitters' convention on the list is in Reno in January. Walton said he hopes to make it to six trade fairs in total.

Earlier this year the community organized its first "test" hunt. They took a group of six Americans out muskox hunting. The trip was promoted through a joint venture with another lodge, but next year Deline wants to attract and organize its own hunters.

The Grey Goose Lodge has about a 50 per cent vacancy rate. Its usual customers are mostly government workers. The goal is to fill the hotel to capacity.

"The direction of the Grey Goose Lodge is to increase our occupancy through fishing for eight weeks during the summer and then develop hunting for at least another month," said Walton.

The Deline Land Corporation has about 25 people employed full-time through its projects.

Four years ago the Deline Development Corporation (DDC) got $100,000 from the NWT Development Corporation to build the Grey Goose Lodge, a log inn where it plans to house the hunters. The Deline group also bought its competition -- another hotel in the community. Last week it paid back the $100,000 to buy out its shares on the 12-room, 18-bed hotel business.

It got the cash from oil and gas royalties it receives through its land claim.

The DDC, now known as the Deline Land Corporation, is a financial arm of the community's land claim. It manages royalty cash coming from the region's resources.

It wants to turn money from non-renewable resources like oil and gas into long-time business ventures.