Get In The Canoe: Brook Trout and Bear Deterrents in Labrador’s Upper Kanairiktok

From the beginning, Chris Sinclair questioned my insistence that we forego more lethal bear deterrents. He’d been a hard nut to crack when it came to convincing him to come along on our expedition into the Labrador wilderness, maybe because he was the youngest and least experienced in prolonged backcountry camping, or maybe because he made his living in Labrador guiding wealthy “sports” to guaranteed—and much more easily accessible—honey-holes. Why give that up for two weeks of hard bushwhacking, canoeing and portaging, chasing after a nearly two-decade old rumor of giant brook trout in Labrador’s upper Kanairiktok watershed? The older guides he worked with had teased him for even considering joining a trio of Americans—me, my wife Aimee and our friend Dylan Markey—on their first trip to The Big Land.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in them parts without a gun, b’y,” they’d warned. “Lots of bear… wolf, too.”

In spite of his colleagues’ warnings, I’d spent weeks emailing him statistics and anecdotal testimonials in favor of nonlethal repellants. None of us were crack-shots, and I’ve always favored my odds of effectively discharging a canister of deterrent compared to a well-placed kill shot under pressure—though in the back of my mind I knew if it came to that, we’d need more than good aim on our side…

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