1920 Gus D’Aoust, Barren Land Trapper
In the years following the First World War the price of fur was high and when many areas down south were trapped out southern trappers headed to the Northwest Territories. In 1920 a young trapper named August (Gus) D’Aoust came north from his home in Manitoba to try his luck at trapping around Fort Smith (map). He was reasonably successful and convinced his brothers Phil and Hughie to join him in the north.
After ten years of trapping south of Great Slave Lake, and competing with many other trappers, the brothers decided to move their trapping operation to the barrens northeast of Great Slave Lake and to concentrate on trapping white fox. They established a base of operations on the extreme eastern end of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake at Fort Reliance. From there, in the autumn, they would travel over Pikes Portage, across Artillery Lake to their trap line on the upper Thelon River.
With a combination of skill, knowledge and the right area, a barren land trapper could earn a lot of money and over the years Gus and his brothers did very well. In his best year Gus claimed he made eleven thousand dollars. This was during the Great Depression when a good job down south would pay only a couple of thousand per year.
After 46 years as a barren land trapper 70 year old Gus D’Aoust retired to Fort Reliance where for a number of years operated a small trading post.