More than 40 years after his first polar bear hunt, lining up a huge predator in the sights of his rifle still deeply moves George Angohiatok.
“It’s something about that big polar bear, so much respect for him. Every time I see one I shake like a leaf and nothing else does that to me. I hunted everything all my life and there’s no other creature in God’s world that does that to me. It’s amazing. It just sends shivers through my body,” he said. “It just shakes me to my soul.”
Earlier this month, Angohiatok, his nephew and his nephew’s son travelled about 180 km north of Cambridge Bay to an area in the McClintock Channel where Angohiatok knows enormous bears feast on bearded seals.
Sure enough, he spotted one of the predators, 11 feet in length, on some very rough ice. It was impossible to traverse the area on snowmobile, so Angohiatok had to take make a long-distance shot and then the hunting party all trudged over the rugged terrain to skin the beast. Dragging the carcass back over 600 metres – at an estimated 350 to 400 pounds – was no easy feat, he acknowledged.
“Even though I’ve harvested a lot of bears in my lifetime, that one sticks out above all the rest just because of the fact that it was a lot of work. We really had to put in a lot of time and effort to do this one successfully. I couldn’t do it alone. It was too heavy,” he said. “It was challenging. It had a bit of everything. The excitement was certainly just overwhelming.”
On that same trip, his nephew brought down a 12-foot polar bear.
“My God it was huge. We were just blessed with perfect weather, perfect timing. Everything was on our side this winter,” said Angohiatok, who noted that he still holds a world record for hunting a 13-foot bear in 1994 that remains on display at a museum in Carcross, Yukon.
He also went on a successful hunt in early February, nabbing a 10-foot bear based on a tag his wife won in a draw.
He said the predators’ population is “really healthy” and the reason people see smaller bears around the community is because large bears are driving them out of the prime sealing locations.
Angohiatok’s father taught him his hunting skills and how to make use of the various body parts. He said he grew up eating bear meat and wearing clothing made of bear skin, although, as a retiree, he may also choose to sell the hides, which are in magnificent condition, he said.