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Welcoming spring in Sachs
Young hunters ready to hit the land

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 31, 2011

IKAAHUK/SACHS HARBOUR - Springtime in Sachs Harbour is a busy season for everyone, whether you’re in town or on the land like Christina Esau.

NNSL photo/graphic

Chelsea Elanik and Christina Esau are just two of the many people in Sachs Harbour who are frequently on the land hunting. Here, the duo prepares to return from a hunting trip last month. - photo courtesy of Christina Esau

The warm weather and snow conditions make it ideal for Esau to travel to hunt and fish around Banks Island.

“It’s always fun and you get valuable experience by being out (on the land),” said Esau.

Born in Inuvik and raised between there and Sachs Harbour, 20-year-old Esau is no stranger to being in the wild.

“I’ve been doing this all my life, cutting meat and skinning furs,” she said.

News/North was able to talk with Esau days before she left the coastal community for a weekend camping trip.

She tries to get on her Ski-Doo and travel a few times a week, and the trips vary in length from a day, to three or four.

On average hunting groups range from three to four people, and Esau said each person has their own mode of transportation.

Even if the weather conditions aren’t ideal for travel, Esau said that doesn't stop her from experiencing life in a traditional sense.

Although hunting and fishing for sustenance is a major reason for being on the land for any Northerner, Esau said she is always vulnerable to a sunny afternoon of joy riding on her Ski-Doo.

“We’ll just go across the bay to enjoy the scenery,” said Esau.

Muskox, polar bears and rabbits are the highest in demand for hunting in Sachs, according to Esau. She said caribou are also hunted, but it’s rare to see any near the community.

“You have to go out for days to get caribou,” she said. “As a hunter you’re lucky to see any. You are allowed one per year.”

The only restrictions on local hunting is on caribou, and polar bears are given a grace period before hunting season is open on the white giants.

“We’re told to wait on hunting the bears until March,” she said.

Even now, there are areas of open water that attract bears on the prowl for seals.

Aside from keeping traditions strong, there are other advantages to hunting wild game.

“You get a lot of exercise, being out there all the time,” said Esau. “Also, we’re eating healthy. You get good food and it saves so much money at the store.”

CJ Haogak, a 21 year-old living in Sachs Harbour, was also born in Inuvik and raised in both communities.

While he has plans to continue his education, he also enjoys his spring time activities on the coast.

“We had a pretty cold winter here this year,” said Haogak. “We’re finally seeing some warmer weather.”

Haogak said the length of a hunting trip depends on what animal is being sought, and a bit of luck.

Polar bears can be found in many areas of the region. Haogak said the bears can be seen near open water sources on the ice, or just roaming naturally.

“Sometimes you find what you need close to town, other times you’re out for days at a time,” he said. “Some people travel for days to get a big bear, and others stick close to open water to wait for them."

A big appeal for hunting polar bears is the recent increase in price for their furs.

“Fur prices went up from $250 per square foot, to $350 per square foot,” said Haogak.

While there are profits to be made hunting, there are costs to incur as well.

“A full jerrycan at the Co-op is about $35,” he said. At the January 2010 Fur Harvesters Auction -- the most recent sale to include Polar Bear skin -- the furs fetched an average of $2,186 maxing out at $4,900.

Although he admits to spending a fair share of his free time lounging with friends at the local drop-in complex, he said he will always be a man of the land.

“I grew up this way and I like that we can still live off the land,” said Haogak.

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