3 hunts, 3 hours, 3,000 pounds of moose

Thirty-three years ago — just about the same time that Francis “Frank” Roy began applying for a Maine moose permit, he gave his two sons gifts that neither have ever forgotten.

“He had an Ithaca double-barreled shotgun and took it to a gunsmith in Winn,” one of his sons, Travis Roy, explained. In exchange, Frank Roy took home two .20-gauge shotguns. One for each boy.

“But they came with a note,” Travis Roy said on Monday, recalling the special gifts he and his brother, also named Frank, received that day. “In the note, it said, ‘These are your guns forever. You cannot sell them. You cannot trade them. You can only hand them down to family, or give them to other family members.”

Today, both Roy boys still have those guns. And they still love to hunt with their dad.

Alas, until Sept. 23, their father was still among those prospective moose hunters who had never had their own names drawn for a permit.

Three groups of hunters enjoyed memorable moose hunts while hunting out of Camel Brook Camps in Fort Kent, with each party tagging a moose that weighed in at more than 1,000 pounds field dressed. All three moose were shot in the first few hours of opening day, Sept. 23, 2013. Jesse Hersom (left) and his dad, Gary Hersom of Lee, bagged the moose on the left, a 1,010-pounder with a 54 1/2-inch rack; Frank Roy of Prentiss Plantation (third from left), Gary Hersom’s brother-in-law, poses in front of his 1,008-pound moose, which sported a 50-inch rack. Roy was hunting with his sons Travis Roy of Old Town, Frank Roy of Hermon, and friend Greg Sullivan. The moose on the right weighed 1,071 pounds and had a 55-inch rack. The hunters were Kevin LeBlanc and Brian Gallant of Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Craig Rideout)

“The last few years, on the day of the drawing, my wife has left,” Frank Roy said. “She won’t listen to me. After the drawing, I might have been a little bit negative about it, at times.”

In June, his luck finally changed. His name was drawn, for a permit of his own.

Travis Roy said the day was one he sometimes doubted would ever come.

“What probably made this so awesome is that we almost lost him to cancer a year and a half ago,” Travis Roy said, softly. “He was originally diagnosed with something that was incurable. It was going to be quick. And it was going to be over.”

For four or five days, the Roys grappled with that reality. Then the reality changed. New tests were done. New options were explored. And although Frank still faced some tough days, he’s proud to tell you that for more than a year, he has been cancer-free.

Not that his diagnosis ever slowed him as much as it would some. Two years ago, with the opportunity to tag along on a family moose hunt, he decided that his chemotherapy treatments would have to wait. At least, that’s the way he tells it, between chuckles.

Three moose weighing more than 1,000 pounds apiece hang from the game pole at Camel Brook Camps in Fort Kent on opening day of the 2013 moose season. (Photo courtesy of Travis Roy)

“I said, ‘Well, the doctor’s going to have to change the chemo treatment so I can go on the hunt,” he said. “I said it kind of tongue in cheek. I knew there was no way my wife or the doctor would allow that to happen. But luckily enough, the hunt [took place during] the week between my chemo treatments. Travis drove me out … and at that time, you’ve got to think: ‘How many of these am I going to get to go on?’”

This season, the extended Roy family has fared well in the moose permit department. Frank, the patriarch, received one for the recently completed September season. So, too, did his brother-in-law, Gary Hersom of Lee. During the October season, two more family members or friends will be hunting for moose.

And on opening day, Frank, along with his two sons, was in the woods of Wildlife Management District 2, in northern Maine. Hersom was hunting with his son and future son-in-law in adjacent WMD 1. It didn’t take long for each group to fill their tag, in impressive fashion.

At 6:45, the Hersoms cashed in with a hefty bull that weighed 1,010 pounds and sported a 54½-inch rack. Just 45 minutes later, and miles away, the Roy party shot a 1,008-pounder with a 50-inch spread. And upon their return to Jean LeBlanc’s Camel Brook Camps in Fort Kent, they found that the biggest bull of the day — a 1,071-pounder taken by Kevin LeBlanc and Brian Gallant, both of Massachusetts — had also been tagged.

“He kept saying, ‘We’re not picky. We’re not after a trophy,’” Travis Roy said. “But Monday morning when that one walked in front of us? Man, oh man.”

The moose that the Roys shot was a familiar one to them: Family friend Greg Sullivan had taken a cell phone photo of the same moose at the same woods road intersection the day before the season began.

And when the three successful hunting parties hung their moose on a single game pole, there was a bit of trepidation.

“[I asked Jean LeBlanc, ‘You ever had three 1,000-pounders up there?’ He said, ‘I’ve been at this for 15 years and I’ve had one 1,000-pound moose in the camp. And you’ve got three up there right now,” Travis Roy said. “We said, ‘Is it rated [to withstand] that?’ He said, ‘I guess so.’”

Word traveled fast in Fort Kent, where the tagging station was crowded with moose hunters and spectators.

“Once you hit town and hit the tagging station, the word flies all over Fort Kent,” Frank Roy said. “Gossip. It’s amazing. It’s all about moose up there during the season.”

With 3,000-plus pounds of moose on the game pole, the Roys could have been forgiven if they’d packed up and headed home. But that’s not the way the family operates.

A hunt is hunt. It is to be enjoyed. And that holds true no matter when you fill your tag.

“The thing that I’ve always said, it’s not really about the moose,” Frank Roy said. “It’s more about family and friends than anything else. We shoot moose on Monday, we still stay until Friday. We help out. We skun seven moose in camp that week, just helping others. That’s what it’s all about.”

And that ethic is one that he has shared with his sons, and which they practice as well.

After the Monday successes, Travis Roy touched base with a friend from Milford, who was hunting nearby.. Travis had offered beds to Kevin Gastia and his sons, and said that he’d be glad to help the Gastia party after his family’s hunts were completed.

Three hours into opening day, the Roys were free, and the Gastias joined in on the fun.

On Tuesday, Travis Roy and Sullivan took the Gastias back into WMD 2 in search of another moose.

They found one — a 548-pounder with a 37-inch rack — at about 3:25 p.m.

The moose was smaller than the others. And hunters being hunters, they might have had some fun at Kevin Gastia’s expense. But Travis Roy said his friend had just the right comeback when he received some good-natured ribbing.

“He said, ‘Mine is gonna be a tenderloin. Yours is gonna be beef jerky,” Travis Roy said. “And he might be right.”

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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.