The Hunt of a Lifetime

Part 1: Preparing for Departure

The Taloyoak team is gearing up to head to The Gulf of Boothia for a bowhead whale hunt. This is the first time that Taloyoak will participate in a bowhead hunt since the government legalized it in 1996.

On Saturday they expect to begin the 35-kilometre trek over the Boothia Peninsula. They aim to arrive at the Gulf on Monday.

The first step to going on a whale hunt is forming the Bowhead Hunt Committee. This committee is made up of 8 prominent community members, usually elders and/or experienced, non-participating hunters. Abel Aqqaq, an elder and a Canadian Ranger, sits on the committee for Taloyoak’s hunt.

Abel Aqqaq smiles for the camera.

The committee’s job is organize the hunt. Aqqaq says the first step is raising money for the supplies and travel expenses. The Taloyoak team received funding from the Regional Outlet Organization and the Local Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO), among others.

Two thumbs up from David Nanook.

Next Aqqaq and the other committee members choose the best hunters from the community to be part of the team. Each hunter is assigned a position on the crew. The Bowhead Hunt Committee voted for David Nanook to be Captain. Nanook is also a Canadian Ranger and has a lot of hunting experience.

Nanook will give the go-ahead for the kill. He and the co-captain are in the two boats with the harpooners. They work together to make sure the whale does not escape.

Last week Nanook went to the HTO to get the whaling license and the hunting tools approved. Afterward he confirmed everything with the committee.

Aqqaq and the other committee members then began to hire people for the rest of the process. “We need a team of about 50 people,” he said in a phone interview. There are cooks to make sure everyone is fed, butchers to cut the whale into manageable pieces and haulers to take those pieces back to the community. These people will also help lug all of the supplies, including tents, stoves, hunting gear, etc. to the site.

The bowhead whale was downgraded from threatened to a species of special concern a few years ago, allowing the number of licenses handed out to be upped to three annually. Artic Bay and Repulse Bay were the other two communities chosen for 2012. Both have completed a successful harvest.

Check back in a couple weeks to learn how the hunt pans out for Nanook’s team.