Travis Kuptana and his father Robert have converted many years of subsistence hunting into an outfitting business, creating jobs in the remote community of 400 people.
“We decided, hey why not work hard and turn this into a business… with the knowledge and the experience we already have and use on an everyday basis,” Travis said. “And (we) generate more income not only for ourselves but for other subsistence hunters in the community.”
Arctic Outfitting and Adventures officially launched on April 1. Establishing the venture was “kind of complicated” due to plenty of paperwork, but the GNWT Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment was helpful by providing funding, Travis said.
Three Canadian clients have been taken out on guided hunts. With the sport hunting season winding down, Travis is already responding to inquiries for fall and spring hunts, including from American hunters. They go out in pursuit of muskoxen, wolves and polar bears – although the majority of hunting tags still go to harvesters from the community.
Travis is also planning for the summer tourism season.
“Filming, taking pictures or just sight-seeing by boat, ATV or snowmobile,” he said of the services they’ll offer, adding that they’re also training a dog team for winter tours.
Robert taught Travis on-the-land skills and took his son on his first successful hunt for a seal at age eight.
Travis, who will soon turn 36, has logged close to 15,000 km travelling the land over the past two years alone, he estimated.
He’s passing on his knowledge to his own 14-year-old son.
“It takes a lot of listening to people who have done it years before you and are still doing it today,” Travis said. ”
So you take what you can from the people that are experienced and you use the best of what they can tell you.”
Safety is something he takes seriously.
He always leaves with a satellite phone and carries a first aid kit, double-checks his equipment before departing and has a stash of food.
“Even if it’s not far, just for a day or a few days, you take all the necessary gear and equipment that you need, just in case something happens,” he said.