I’ve always maintained that hunters are a passionate lot. Far more passionate about their pursuits than even the most ardent hobbyist. But within each individual hunter those passions are quite often divided. While we each love the entire hunting experience, we also have an individual species we love to hunt that much more than any other. The vast majority of us are species passionate so to speak. For me, and I dare venture the majority of Alberta hunters, our passions lay with white-tailed deer. But every now and then you come across a hunter whose passion for a certain species goes beyond the realm of the avid hunter. These guys take hunting to the next level, doing what most of us only dream about—because they have to.
Enter moose hunters, Pierre Frigon and Gord Trenholm.
|Gord Trenholm and Pierre Frigon.
- photo Gord Trenholm
Born in Shawinigan, Quebec, Pierre grew up in a moose hunting household. His father, Marcel Frigon, had been hunting moose for many years and he loved to hunt the big bulls of northern Quebec. For young Pierre, he couldn’t wait to reach the age of twelve—an age mom had set down as to when he could accompany his father to his remote moose camp on the Canadian Shield near Lac Ste-Jean. Much of the journey to dad’s camp was by canoe, but that only added to young Pierre’s excitement.
“I couldn’t wait to go,” exclaimed Pierre, remembering back to his younger years. “I remember dreaming when I was just a little kid about moose hunting. My dad had Field & Stream magazines and I remember I couldn’t read them because they were in English. But I remember the photos of guys with great big bull moose and I wanted to be just like those guys in the photos.”
Finally Pierre reached mom’s set milestone and he was at last allowed to accompany his father moose hunting.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday; dad calling and moose coming to his calls. It really was quite frightening when I was that age because of the thick bush we hunted. You could hear them but you couldn’t see them until they were right on top of you. It was exhilarating to say the least.”
At 15-years-old Pierre was finally given the opportunity to carry a rifle—a .303 Savage with open sights—and hunt the big bulls himself, along with dad of course. His first time with gun in hand, Pierre connected.
“That was something else. I’ll never forget it. We killed two big bulls... and they were great big bulls!” said a bubbling Pierre, who has also refined the art of cooking wild game to an extent most could only hope for.
Today, Pierre’s father Marcel is 76-years-young and still hunting moose in northern Quebec from a portable camp he built himself.
In 1975 Pierre travelled to Jasper, Alberta and immediately fell in love with its beauty. He still resides there today, married to wife Ginette with three young daughters. He is now the Director of Marketing for the Sawridge Inns and Conference Centres as well as a Director for Travel Alberta North—two positions he pours as much passion into as he does moose hunting.
Gord Trenholm was raised in Kentville, Nova Scotia, the son of a veterinarian, Wes Trenholm, who also came from a long line of hunters. For Gord, the game was mostly birds and small game such as rabbits, but he refined his skills and by an early age he was proficient enough with a gun to tackle white-tailed deer—an elusive quarry in Nova Scotia.
|Gord with a load.
- photo Gord Trenholm
Like Pierre, the call of the West came at an early age and he found himself headed for the Rocky Mountains and Jasper National Park where he also still resides today with his wife Trish. Gord is a freelance photographer and a free spirit, living in paradise.
By happenstance, in 1985, Gord and Pierre connected. The two were working for the Jasper Park Lodge, holding down menial jobs while living in a true wilderness setting. Hunting soon became a topic they shared in regular conversation—Pierre always talking about calling and hunting moose.
“I didn’t believe in this whole moose calling thing,” Gord said remembering back.
But Pierre was persistent and by 1991 he had Gord convinced to give it a try.
“The first time we went moose hunting together was at Grande Cache near the Simonette.
“We got set up on this ridge looking over a big basin and Pierre started calling. Within a minute I saw this moose coming from about a mile away. I couldn’t believe it,” said Gord, still astonished by the memory. “We watched him work his way towards us for about an hour... and then we were gutting him.
“After that, I was hooked!”
A few years later while at the wedding of a mutual friend, Pierre and Gord listened to the story of a fly-in moose hunt an acquaintance had been making to northwestern British Columbia for several years.
“We were both just amazed by Jody and Bob’s stories,” said Gord. “And the next year, they called and invited us along.
“We were thrilled at the opportunity.”
|Another northern Alberta bull.
- photo Gord Trenholm
Flying out of Dease Lake into northwestern British Columbia to hunt big bull moose was a dream come true for both Pierre and Gord. And on that first trip they each killed a big bull, leaving them both wanting more.
“Two years later we went with them again and it was the same thing. We were calling in big bulls... it was extremely exciting to interact with moose like that,” said Gord, who also has a ton of video footage of several moose hunts both he and Pierre have taken.
The British Columbia moose hunts had set the wheels rolling. They both realized there was no reason why they couldn’t do the same type of hunt in Alberta. What started next was the beginning of an annual trip that still takes place today, ten years later.
“I called anybody and everybody I could think of,” said Pierre. “I talked with biologists involved in the most recent aerial moose surveys, Fish and Wildlife... I even talked to three or four pilots that were flying those areas we wanted to hunt. I had about 10 different lakes picked that looked promising.”
Soon they had a plan.
“It was Wentzel Lake,” said Pierre. “All the information we had collected pointed to this spot.”
Wentzel Lake is a remote lake in north central Alberta in the Caribou Mountains. The area was perfect for moose and only accessible by float plane. The plan was coming together.
“We hired Little Red Air and they agreed to fly us in and drop us off for 10 days.”
According to Gord, that is exactly what they did.
“The pilot flew over the lake and said ‘there’s a nice spot’ and then he set us down on a nice beach and said, ‘see you in 10 days.’ I think he picked the spot because it was a good place to land the plane,” laughed Gord.
But luck was with them.
“That trip we only had one tag and we killed a huge bull the first morning.”
After the success of their first trip the duo were already planning the next one before they arrived back home in Jasper. They had learned what they were lacking as far as equipment and supplies were concerned and made notes in preparation for the next season.
|- photo Gord Trenholm
The following year they were once again back at Wentzel, but their luck had changed, and not for the better.
“We never even saw a moose,” chuckled Pierre. “And we only caught one trout the whole time we were there. That was one expensive fish!”
But hunting is hunting and both Pierre and Gord knew this. Hunting the remote regions of northern Alberta where moose densities are low is never a guarantee. But if you want the big bulls that Alberta has to offer, this is where you hunt. According to Pierre, your odds of killing a bull go down, but your odds of killing a “big bull” go way up. It was a trade off they were willing to make.
The following year they were once again pouring over maps. Pierre was looking for something closer to what his father had in Quebec, and according to Gord, he found it.
|Two of their many big Alberta bulls.
- photo Gord Trenholm
“Pierre said ‘why not the northeastern part of the province’ it looks almost like northern Quebec?”
On the phone once again, they contacted Glen Wetlauffer of Andrew Lake Lodge and Camps. All they wanted was to hire a pilot to drop them, a canoe, and their camp off on a remote, unnamed lake that held good moose habitat. After a few conversations, Glen told them he had the perfect spot.
The deal was cut.
“We knew right away it was a good spot,” said Gord. “There was a good burn at the far end of the lake and everything looked perfect. But our camp was on the wrong end.”
Because of the distance to the burn across big water by canoe, they mainly hunted the end of their new “Secret” lake near camp that first year, only making one trip to the other end. That one trip told them everything they needed to know. It was perfect. Until the wind picked up and the waves rolled in.
“We were coming back in these three-foot waves that were threatening to capsize us at any minute,” said Pierre, “and all of a sudden, we could see Glen flying over us. He must have known we were in trouble because he circled over us about five times before he was confident we would make it. After that, we knew we had to get a boat and motor flown in.”
They went home that first year from their new-found lake empty-handed, but they knew they had something. The lake held some great moose habitat. There just had to be some big bulls residing in the area and to top things off, the fishing had been tremendous.
The next year, complete with boat and motor flown in, they were set. By now they had all the nuances figured out, camp was complete with a makeshift sauna, sturdy 20-foot high meat pole and electric fence to keep marauding bears out of camp. Things were starting to get exciting.
“We were set,” said Gord. “We finally believed we had our spot.”
And they were right.
To this day Pierre and Gord continue to fly-in to “Secret Lake”. For four consecutive years now they have come home with some of the biggest bulls Alberta has to offer. This year is their 10th anniversary flying in to remote locations to hunt big moose, their fifth in a row at “Secret Lake.” Their trip has become tradition and their passion for hunting big moose has only grown stronger. They have only one dream yet to conquer.
|Camp at Secret Lake
- photo Gord Trenholm
“We want to hunt a Yukon moose yet,” said Pierre. “Those are the biggest bulls. I would give anything to do that trip. But we want to do it the way we are now...”
You can almost see his eyes glaze over as if he’s in another world when he talks of big bull moose. Both he and Gord have a passion for calling and hunting moose like few others and you just know that as long as they can physically hunt, big bull moose will be their quarry.
Note: Fly-in hunting for big moose in northern Alberta is not a trip for the faint-hearted. It requires a tremendous amount of skill and preparation. But if you want to experience a part of this province without oil rigs, cutlines, quads or other hunters, then this is the one place you can do it. The Canadian Shield offers the adventurous hunter the opportunity to explore a part of the world where few have ever set foot.
If you would like to learn more about preparing for a fly-in moose hunt, watch the Alberta Outdoorsmen website where both Pierre and Gord will soon have a first instalment providing you with the valuable information they have learned over the years hunting Alberta’s most remote locations for Alberta’s biggest moose. ■
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