Where can I legally hunt in Winnipeg


A shaky film from a helicopter shows white dots in the sea. Here and there an ice floe. The camera zooms in and tries to show the objects more precisely. “It is extremely worrying to see so many polar bears in the open sea at once, as it can be a sign that the pack ice they normally live and hunt on is melting away. If climate change continues to destroy the Arctic, then the polar bears will be forced to swim further and further distances in order to find their food, "says the spokesman for an environmental organization into the microphone that the reporter holds for him." These and similar reports can always be found on TV again. One of these reports reported on the small town of Churchill in the Manitoba region in northern Canada. A place you would never have heard of otherwise. So I started to think about whether you can get there and what you can do there. Less than two years later there was a gap in our travel calendar for a Canada Quicky. While we were in Churchill, the once fancy travel destination made it into the November issue of GALA magazine with an article.

While Hudson Bay is slowly freezing over, many polar bears are bored on the beach.

About: Polar bears mate between March and June. The female is eight months pregnant. Eight weeks before the birth, the she-bear digs a birth cave in the deep snow. The temperature in this cave is around zero degrees Celsius. Too cold for people. However, ideal for polar bears. The bear stays in the cave with the cubs for up to eight months. The she-bear does not eat or drink while she is feeding her offspring. It only feeds on its fat reserves.
The number of polar bears in 2013 is estimated at around 25,000 animals. Polar bears spend the winter and, if possible, the spring on the pack ice. During this time they mainly hunt seals and eat large reserves of fat. When the pack ice begins to melt from the south and the seals also retreat, the bears follow them north as well. But mostly the bears are not as fast as the melting ice and then “strand” on islands or the mainland. They have to fast until next winter and they use up most of their fat reserves. During this time, they occasionally feed on small mammals and birds as well as grass, moss, berries, but also garbage from the vicinity of settlements.

In recent decades, the ice around Svalbard has withdrawn from the coasts and fjords very early and was already thin and brittle in winter. If the Arctic ice continues to shrink at the rate it has in the past ten years, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer in about 15 years. Polar bears are dependent on the ice, however, they hunt seals here in winter and eat fat in order to survive the summer on land. If the ice recedes, the bears cannot start hunting until later and have to stop earlier.
The polar bear has become the symbol of climate change in the Arctic. It is in line with the orangutans in Indonesia, the tigers in Asia and India and the panda in China. With all the symbolism, it is all too easy to forget that climate change threatens not just individual species, but the entire ecosystem.

Fight Club

Churchill - no road leads here. A railway line and an airport connect the city, which is actually none with Canadian civilization. In summer, trillions of mosquitoes dominate the air layers close to the ground and in winter it is so bitterly cold and windy that one wonders why people have lived in this wasteland for thousands of years who have made themselves more or less comfortable here. But six weeks a year the bear hits Churchill. Then Churchill becomes the "world capital of polar bears".

Hudson Bay in the Canadian state of Manitoba is one of the polar regions polar bears retreat to in summer. Two rivers that feed fresh water into Hudson Bay here help the bay to freeze earlier than the water in other locations. For this reason, many bears choose this place to “spend the summer”. Up to 950 bears wait here in November so that they can finally set out to hunt seals in the frozen bay. The town of Churchill is located directly on Hudson Bay. A military base that was built during World War II was located here. When the base closed in the late 1970s and there was no more money to be made from the fur of seals and polar bears, Churchill's economy went downhill. Many residents left the city that threatened to become a ghost town. But then the polar bears were discovered for tourism and the first trips for bear watching were organized. On the tours at that time, the tourists were driven to the garbage dump in Churchill. The stench of the dump attracted the bears, who were always hungry and foraging at this time of year. Thus, the polar bears indirectly saved the city of Churchill.

Churchill has retained the charm of a military base to this day. The town itself offers no variety apart from the souvenir shops and restaurants and a museum and does not need any further description. In the months of October and November, when the polar bears besieged the mainland, the residents leave the ignition key in every car and the front doors remain unlocked so that in the event of an encounter with a bear one can escape into a house or car or drive away. The city's hotels are getting a bit old and can be described more as simple guesthouses. The Tundra Inn where we stayed gets a star from us because it was warmer inside than outside and it didn't snow in.

Thundra Inn

The tourists who come to Churchill today are part of a perfectly organized tourism machine that tries to get as many people as possible through this area each season. Even the staff is so professionally friendly that it hardly seems fake. Huge tundra buggies with up to 40 seats are the companions with which you can go “bear hunting” for a slim CA $ 525 per day and per person on the paths of the former military area not far from town. Alternatively, you can rent a helicopter and spend the night in a "Fly Inn" lodge in isolation. During the short polar bear season, the restaurants are so busy that visitors have to eat in shifts. There is no time for individuality either when eating or on tours. In order to add variety to the process, the groups switch restaurants for dinner in a rotation system. Everything follows a strict schedule, which you only really feel when something goes wrong. Just like with us, when in just one day, including our buggy, three tundra buggies fell by the wayside. One of them broke into the ice with the rear axle, so that the passengers had to be evacuated. Another had broken down with technical problems and in the end we got so stuck in a depression that two tundra buggies were needed to pull us out again.

It was a bit surprising that a lot was said about polar bears on our tour, but the precarious situation of animals in the Arctic was not discussed. Only when specifically asked and in private, the researcher gushed off. Perhaps an intact polar bear population in Manitoba is to be played to the visitors. But even if it may seem like that to the visitor, the world has been out of order here for a long time. In Hudson Bay, the polar bear population has declined by 22 percent in the past 10 years. Even the US government, not exactly known for environmental protection, has included polar bears as an endangered species in its national wildlife law because of global warming and melting polar ice caps. The main reason for the decision was the fear that the animals could be before extinction in 45 years. Marine pollution, increasing shipping, more tourists and the exploration and production of oil and gas in the Arctic are also endangering the existing polar bear populations. Since 2006, the polar bear has therefore been included in the “endangered” category on the IUCN's Red List.

Welcome ceremony among bears

Travel report: “Did you pack your suitcases yourself? Were the suitcases unattended on the way to the airport? Where did you book the flights? What did the flights cost? Have you had contact with someone infected with Ebola or do you have symptoms yourself that indicate Ebola? ”These and many similar questions have long been part of the reality of travel. But I will never understand Is there anyone in some agency who really believes that terrorists answer these questions honestly? "There are no bombs in our suitcases, but I have a box knife in my pocket and we will fly to the World Trade Center and go down in world history". Would Mohamed Atta have answered this if these questions had been asked before 9-11? As a possibly Ebola infected person who knows about it or not, would you show yourself to the isolation ward at the entry or exit counter?

From Berlin Tegel from 6:00 a.m. we fly to Amsterdam Shipol at 7:30 a.m. From Amsterdam Shipol 10:05 / delay 10:30 a.m. then to Minneapolis at 12:55 p.m. Central Time. The scheduled transfer time would have been 1h59 minutes. But since two hours are required, a chimpanzee or a computer program decided to book us on the next connecting flight. That was why we sat in Minneapolis for five hours. We fly from Minneapolis at 5:25 p.m. with an Embajer ETJ 145 to Winnipeg, where we arrive at 6:55 p.m. We meet the tour group at the Hotel Sheraton Airport, receive the rented winter boots and spend the night there.

Inexperienced bears sometimes mistake the lenses of the camera lenses for gun barrels.

11/9/2014 Today will be waiting day, which at least doesn't surprise me, because I don't expect anything else when traveling with groups. . After a really good breakfast at the Sheraton, we wait in the lobby to be driven to the airport. We are scheduled to fly from Winnipeg to Churchill with a NOLINOR Convair 580 at 7:30 a.m.
It is an ash gray, frosty morning on the airfield of Winnipeg Airport when the engines of the old Convair 580 start up. The machines built in the 1950s are still used by NOLINOR in Canada in daily passenger and cargo air traffic. Analog flying that you can still experience it! The machine rolls over the runway, but somehow we are not fast enough. Then the aborted start. Minutes later we get out again. A problem with an oil pump that has to be checked by a mechanic while we are waiting in the “Presidental Lounge”. After an hour, Convair does a test lap. After it has been refueled, we are allowed to get back on the boat. This time it works with the start and after an hour and fifty minutes we land in Churchill. The two hours late do not set us back in any way, because now lunch follows, for which an hour and a half are allotted. Then the bus takes you out of the city to the “Wakutsi Adventure Farm”. About 40 people look forward to driving sled dogs here. But first everyone has to go to the Big Dog's hut and listen to a lecture about him and his sled dogs. After all, he drove his sled dogs from Winnipeg 1200 miles to Churchill, which is an achievement worth mentioning.
Then it's time to wait again. Three sledges drive two tourists about a mile through the tundra. It takes about five minutes. That's it! Then there is collective puppy petting before heading back to Churchill. In Churchill we stop at the souvenir shop that Big Dog built for his wife. In order to be able to move at least ten minutes, we walk back to the hotel where we check in and then wait for the clock to read shortly after six and for us to be allowed to cross the street to the Tundra Inn restaurant. We'll wait there for dinner.

"IDIDAMILE" - I made a mile - "Every Touri Dog Sliding Quicky"

I was really surprised that there were fresh strawberries, pineapples and various types of melon for breakfast at the Tundra Inn in Churchill. We hadn't expected the huge selection of toast, croissants, rolls, jams, muesli, cakes, potatoes, sausages, bacon and eggs in all preparation variants either.

So, now we finally want to know how exactly the polar bear tours work? At 8:00 am, 50 people, more or less dressed like spacemen, board the well-heated bus that takes them from Churchill to the "Tundra Buggy Dock" about 20 kilometers away. Here people are divided among the tundra buggies. It is important to survive the 20 meters between the bus and the tundra buggy in the extremely hostile environment of -13 degrees Celsius. The tundra buggies are oversized buses, specially built for polar bear spotting, which cross the grounds of the former military base at rarely more than walking pace. The tundra buggies have an improvised pantry, a toilet and a gas heater that heats up the buggy so much that you could have survived the day in a bikini or swimming trunks. Most of them, like us, were dressed much too thickly. The vehicles are effectively on the road for six hours for polar bear observation on the site. On the way there is lunch, coffee or tea and biscuits. Good prerequisites for gaining a few kilos depending on the length of stay, because there is hardly any opportunity for exercise. From the five possibilities to explore this area more or less intensively, we choose the “Churchill Town & Tundra Specialist” tour - 4 days tundra buggy and accompanying program, but with a limited number of participants and guided by a professional photographer. 14 participants shared the space in our tundra baggy with 40 seats. At 3:00 p.m. the buggy slowly starts its return journey to arrive back at the tundra buggy dock around 4:00 p.m. Then the bus journey back to Churchill begins. Back in Churchill you will be driven to dinner in an organized manner, but you may also choose to walk.
We were in the tundra buggy for four full days and sighted 10 polar bears on day 1, 13 polar bears on day 2, 14 polar bears on day 3 and 19 polar bears on day 4, albeit many from further away. Duplications in the sightings are eliminated.

Walk like a polar bear

On the last evening in Churchill we wanted to buy something in the souvenir shop, but decided against it. The souvenirs, if handmade, are totally overpriced and not necessarily needful, but mostly from China.
As we walk to the hotel, a cutting wind whips us against us and we walk wrapped up and stiff like Pinoccio the few hundred meters to the hotel. It has become noticeably colder at -23 ° Celsius.
Bikini in the tundra buggy was the day before yesterday. Today everyone flocks around the stove in the tundra buggy and the windows are frozen over from the inside. After a beautiful sunrise, it is now not only bitterly cold, but also covered with horizontal snowfall, optionally from the right or left, depending on which side you are looking from the buggy.
Hudson Bay is now completely frozen over and the bears are now starting to go onto the ice to hunt seals. Little by little, everyone has a certain polar bear saturation. In the drifting snow, the shadowy landscape of the tundra passes the windows of the buggy as we drive back. We are already shivering when we look out the window. Polar regions are just not ours. Will we ever see the bears again?

Healthy bear world

I really like Nolinor Historical Transportation. Railways anyway, buses, cars, ships and planes. But with the latter I sometimes get insecure. For example the Convair 580, which was built in 1954 and is now in service with the local Canadian airline NOLINOR. We had to get out of exactly this machine before the outward flight in Winnipeg because we had to work on the technology for an hour before we could finally do a test flight. Before the return flight from Churchill, we sit in exactly this plane and wait eagerly for the engines to start and for us to arrive in Winnipeg in one go. However, due to a technical problem, the engines cannot be started and a little later we are back in the tinny airport building, waiting for the problem to hopefully be solved. If I were one of the stewardesses who look like they're barely older than 20, I would quit my job before the next start. We reached Winnipeg that same evening. When we left Winnipeg, the Convair was still at the airport, the gangway folded down, the start time missed over an hour. Maybe that's part of the program? A bit of adrenaline for the elderly guests, who can then share an adventurous story at home.

For how much longer? NOLINOR's Convair 580 in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg At the special request of a single person ... No, that's it: At the individual request of a special person, we have made a stopover in Winnipeg. So there were a few more highlights to wrestle from the capital of Manitoba. "The Forks" is the name of the area at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River, where you can most likely pass the time. A park and a shopping mile have been created on the site of a former marshalling yard, which the residents of Winnipeg use as a meeting point. In the park you can go for a walk, skate or row around the river in a boat. In winter you can go snowboarding in the park or scratch the frozen river with runners. You can also shop and snack on Osborn Street. Except for the goods in the “David Rice” store, most of the goods seem to come from China or India. The “Cornerstone” restaurant is probably the most popular due to the lack of alternatives. The zoo has an attraction to offer that cannot be found anywhere else. Anyone who has been to Churchill or not can see polar bears swimming above them from a tube underwater. Unfortunately this tube was closed when we visited. Finally we were in Polo Park, which turned out to be a shopping mall. My rating: "Have seen one, have seen all". If you don't find time in your life to visit Winnipeg - you haven't missed anything - promise.

Impression from Winnipeg

Sources: www.diewelt.de
My travel diary