With spring harvest underway, many hunters are feeling the pinch of high fuel prices.
For those who rely on hunting for their livelihood, the high fuel costs are more than just an annoyance.
Inuvialuit hunter Scott Kasook said the high cost of gas was severely limiting his range this spring. As a consequence, he wasn’t having a very successful spring hunt.
“Feels like I’m on a deadline for how much gas I can get to do what I love to do,” he said. “Everything has increased – all but the wages we make.
“It sure limits how far I can go and how long it takes to find what you want to harvest. A lot of times come home empty handed because I can’t go as far or long as it takes to find what I’m looking for.”
Kasook’s not alone. He noted many hunters were having to rethink how the harvest will fit into their lives this year.
Expenses are high enough, Kasook said he was considering skipping muskrat hunting this year, noting not just fuel costs but also ammunition, oil and food effectively made it not cost-effective. Kasook said if the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation wasn’t helping bankroll the industry with Harvester Assistance programs, he would not be able to afford to hunt at all.
Consequentially, hunters wanting to pass on their traditions were getting fewer opportunities to do so. Kasook said he was teaching his kids the lifestyle but was concerned it was still fading away
“It feels like my livelihood and instinct to harvest is cut in half,” he said. “It ain’t what it used to be. Growing up we used to pack up and go for weeks. Now we can’t.
“Bills and cost of everything limits our means to go. I think that’s a big factor in our way of life as harvesters who want to keep the tradition strong.”
Another problem Kasook noted is desperate hunters can sometimes be less conscious of their prey.
For example, with caribou the protocol is to only take bulls, since hunting cows and calves could endanger future population numbers.
“These things have impacted how people hunt,” said Kasook. “(Some are) no longer looking to harvest just bulls but shooting anything they see because it costs so much to go out and hunt respectfully.”
Hunting isn’t just a livelihood for Kasook, it’s also vital to good mental health for himself and many others.
But he is concerned about others who, unable to get out on the land and hunt, may turn to alcohol or worse to fill the void.
“It’s like my piece of mind, my place to go and recharge,” he said. “But I can’t just go when I need to and for some they look else where for that get away and some turn to substance abuse.
“And that’s hard on me.”