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Deline hunts for tourism growth

John Curran
Northern News Services

Fort Franklin (Jan 10/05) - Great Bear Lake is famous the world over for its monster lake trout.

Deline residents are now hoping to build the same reputation for the region's abundant game - especially the muskox.

Leroy Andre shows off the skull from a muskox he harvested last winter -- the first such animal taken on a tag near Deline since a 1910 hunting ban was lifted a couple of years ago. - John Curran/NNSL photo

In 1910, a hunting ban was placed on the animals in the Sahtu when they were almost wiped out. But after a 1997 study showed the herd was doing well at about 2,700-3,500 head, the ban was partially lifted and the territorial government now grants 25 tags for the region annually.

"I'm a sport hunting guy," said Leroy Andre, project co-ordinator for the Deline Land and Financial Corporation. "The muskox we've got here are larger than the ones further North - they've got less competition for food."

He points to one taken two years ago by Craig Scott near Norman Wells that has been documented as a world record.

"That's the same herd as the ones we have around Deline," he said.

Andre knows a thing or two about muskox. Last year he shot the first animal on a tag around his community since the quota system began.

"The meat was amazing. It's so wonderfully marbled," he said. "I caught it about five miles down the river from Deline."

The community has been working hard to build a sport hunting industry to generate jobs and revenue at about $4,000 a hunt, but it's an uphill climb.

"It's been tough with other markets like Cambridge Bay in Nunavut already so established," he said, adding Deline isn't about to give up.

It has invested about $70,000 into training eight guides, having them learn about different hunting techniques, weapons, field dressing, customer service and cooking fancy meals in the bush for large groups.

Deline also has a joint-venture in place with Plummer's Lodge. So far, the first two years of test hunting have been encouraging. In 2003, seven hunters signed up for the service and this fall there were 10.

"In 2004 we had a 100 per cent success rate," he said.

The community's Great Bear Lake Outfitters - part of the Grey Goose Lodge - is looking to grow its market share, whether that's with hunters or otherwise.

"The fishing and the arts and crafts in Deline are also huge opportunities," said Annette Hastie, former general manager of the operation.

In 2004, prior to her taking over her post, she said only three fishing parties visited the lodge. She thinks a reasonable turnaround in 2005 would be 10-12.

"We already have one fellow in Germany who is close to signing up a party of 10 for a week of fishing," she said.

While the lodge relies heavily on government and business travellers to keep occupancy rates healthy, it's the foreign tourists who think nothing of spending $2,000 on arts and crafts in the community while they are there to fish.

"(Deline has) a world-class lodge and world-class fishing," she said.