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To the uninitiated, everyday life is quite different in the isolated hamlet of Baker Lake. Here in the barrens just short of the Arctic Circle, many of the comforts other Canadians take for granted are done without. And if the regularly scheduled flight from the south can’t land for a few days because of yet another blizzard, you can only shrug your shoulders. Temperatures regularly drop below –50°C, too, complete with a wicked windchill. And during the short summer, when clouds of vicious blackflies and mosquitoes rise from the muskeg, you long for winter again.
But in Baker Lake, where most inhabitants are native, hunting is a way of life, and that can make up for all the trouble. Barren-ground caribou from the Qamanirjuaq and Beverly herds—about 750,000 head—are the predominant game animals. Muskoxen are also found in the barrens surrounding Baker Lake, while barren-ground grizzlies wander east along the Thelon River and polar bears foray west from the Hudson Bay coast. Then there are the region’s widely abundant rock ptarmigan.
Until recently, most of the area’s hunting was done by boat, but the 108-kilometre Nuna Road that stitches north to the Meadowbank Gold Mine has provided additional access. Now for the bad news: It takes two years to qualify for resident hunting permits, and until you do, you need to book through an outfitter. So, get packing.