British Columbia

Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline provides inside look at trapping and sustainability

Robert Grandjambe Jr. grew up learning to trap. It was his childhood dream to become a bushman.

Absolutely Canadian documentary film follows young Cree trapper's way of life in northern Alberta wilderness

The wilderness' quiet beauty is captured throughout 'Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline,' directed by Rio Mitchell and produced by Chris Hsiung. ( Danny Cox )

The documentary Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline follows a young Cree trapper, detailing his way of life.

Robert Grandjambe Jr. of the Mikisew Cree First Nation ​grew up learning to trap. It was his childhood dream to become a bushman. Today, Grandjambe has traplines near Fort Chipewyan in northeastern Alberta where he was raised.

But his world is changing.

Encroaching industrial development may limit Grandjambe's ability to trap in the wild.

Fox Chaser producer Chris Hsiung told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay that the film's director, Rio Mitchell, was instantly intrigued by Grandjambe.

"When Rio met him, she just found him to be this incredible person who knew so much about trapping and living this lifestyle, when no one else was doing it for a living," said Hsiung.

Grandjambe uses every part of the animals that he harvests, honouring his ancestors' traditions. 

Robert Grandjambe Jr. in his trapping cabin, a few hours from Fort Chipewyan, Alta. He spends half the year out in the wilderness, harvesting animals for a living. (Danny Cox )


Grandjambe is also a millwright who works in the oil and gas industry, spending half the year in Fort Chipewyan.

"He just has that perspective of seeing that side of the industry, but also seeing the impact of the industry on the environment," said Hsiung.

In the film, Grandjambe says he's noticed there are fewer bushmen in the wilderness areas he frequents than there were four years ago. He says there used to be more cabins and trappers.

While he works as a millwright for half the year, spending the other half trapping is extremely important to him.

"I'm reminded every day that this environment is changing, and changing fast," Grandjambe says in Fox Chaser. "And it's not going to last forever. So I don't have the time to sit back and work at a plant for 25 more years. My existence in the bush is now or never." 

Watch Fox Catcher: A Winter on the Trapline on CBC Gem:

The film shows Grandjambe driving past oil and gas industry plants, watching smoke billow into the air.

"[Grandjambe] is in that duality, which I think all Albertans are in. We want to protect our pristine, beautiful environment. But at the same time we also depend on having that industry that can also damage that environment," said Hsiung.

Filming the wilderness

The filming team captured the winter landscape around Fort Chipewyan, Alta., often in  –30 C weather.

Fox Catcher shows Grandjambe in his cabin, going out onto the trapline, clearing the line and setting traps.

"He loves this lifestyle … he's somebody who grew up with it. He sees the beauty in that kind of lifestyle," said Hsiung.​

Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline is part of the CBC documentary series Absolutely Canadian available on CBC Gem.



Laura Sciarpelletti

Journalist & Radio Columnist

Laura is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories and host of the arts and culture radio column Queen City Scene Setter, which airs on CBC's The Morning Edition. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. Laura specializes in human interest, arts and environmental coverage. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at