I Have A Lot Of Respect For Trappers

This past Saturday I attended a small trapper gathering and I must say I always walk away from these events having learned a great deal.

Most years the big take-away is learning about the habits and activities of various furbearers and man’s attempt to catch them.   Honestly, you can tip your hat to the bowhunter who ends their season with a nice new mount for the wall, but I will always have more respect for the trapper who knows the ins and outs of his passion so much that he can fill a pickup load of beaver…or coyote…or some other crafty, wary species.

Trappers gather around to learn the finer points of fur handling and preparation.

Indeed, in the outdoors world for my money the accomplished trapper is the real rockstar deserving the utmost respect.   This person has to know his sport so well that he can predict that a critter will step on a few square inches of a trap pan in order to achieve success.   Certainly I’m not discrediting the hunter in any way.   Instead, if you’ve never been closely aligned with someone who traps to learn what it takes…you’re missing a truly wonderful outdoors experience, in my opinion.

Now, some might say trappers do it for the money.   To that I would say GET REAL!   The money?   Oh, sure there’s the money element involved with preparing and selling furs, but very few trappers I know make much more money then they end up spending on supplies, on gas to run their line…not to mention the hard work involved with catching and putting up fur in preparation for auction.

I’ve been a recreational trapper since the age of 15 so I know what it takes.   Commitment.   Ambition.   Discipline.   Positive attitude.   Those are just a few of the many qualities that goes into a successful trapper.   And while money can help motivate a person to get out of bed each morning to check the lines…it simply does not very often make a living for many people.

Hide preparation through fleshing the fat and gristle off the leather-side is an important and challenging skill.

As I watched Leon Windschitl from the Minnesota Trappers Association give his demonstration showing the finer points of fur handling, it suddenly occurred to me how much work is involved with trapping.   First off, there’s the work phase where you need to outsmart the animal.   Specialized tools, techniques and tactics might work in some areas, but then not in others.   There’s no guarantee for success in trapping, just like there isn’t in hunting or fishing.

Stretching the hide showing good size and conformity to accepted standards will bring top dollar at the market.

Now, some trappers might stop right there and simply sell the animal in the carcass to the fur house.   I’ll admit, this is what I often do because my process for skinning and preparing is not a streamlined operation.   Others, however, realize the work is only beginning.   Skinning the critter (depending on your skill level) might take five to ten minutes or more.   Then comes the fleshing and stretching aspect…not to mention the combing and cleaning that is often necessary to make the fur look its best.   Even the stretching and the drying demands time and lots of attention.

All in all that $30 raccoon is hardly easy or quick money for the trapper’s pocket.   As a trapper, to do things the correct way takes lots of time, patience and effort often when weather conditions are less than ideal.

Especially this year.   Preliminary fur markets are looking somewhat depressed so trappers will likely have less competition on their lines.   That also means less money in the pocket when the seasons end.   Indeed, this year when you see trappers out tending their traps realize how this year more than others the folks setting steal in the river ways and fence lines are doing it for a true love of the sport…and not for a means to get rich in the pocketbook.

Yes, I have a lot of respect for trappers and the sport of trapping.   Always have and always will.

Why You Don’t Want To Deliver To A Trapper

I suppose every United Parcel Service driver has his day.   Today appeared to be just such a day for my local area driver.

Poor guy, I’m sure his day started out much like any other day.   He probably received morning instructions from his manager.   Completed some office work as required.   Then hopped into his pre-loaded truck to begin the daily route.

It’s about the time the driver stepped into his truck he probably first took notice this was not going to be just an ordinary day.   Nope, no longer.   You see, this driver has a sportsman on his delivery route.   Oh, and not just a regular sportsman either, mind you.   It was today that my UPS driver painfully realized that he delivers packages to a trapper.

Yesterday I placed an order online for some trapping supplies.   Usually I buy stuff locally at a trapping supply house, but there are just some things you have to order from other sources.   In this case, I opted to order some red fox and coyote urine.

You can probably guess where this post is going…but I would expect you to be wrong in those assumptions.   No, the urine did not bust out of its container en route to my location.   No, from what I could tell not a single drop escaped into the very secure packaging.   Truth is, the reason I buy these fluids from this particular supplier is they have the good stuff.   It absolutely reeks…and that is exactly how a trapper likes it.

Unfortunately, that is not how a UPS driver likes it.   He jumped out of his truck carrying my package faster than I had ever seen him move before.   Had this been a cartoon he most assuredly would have had a clothespin pinching his nose shut to provide some relief from the overpowering stench.   I’m sure that thought had crossed his mind several times earlier in the day.

I stuck my head out of the house and informed him to set the package near the garage.   As payback he wanted to bring it to the house…I said “no way.”   Honestly, I was 20 yards away and I could already smell his pain.   A good animal urine purchased from a reputable trapping supply house will always be pungent, especially in confined spaces.

Indeed, it’s days like this my delivery guy really earns his keep.   All joking aside, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for him to ride around for several hours in a truck that smelled more like a predator scent post.   His complaining was well disguised as some joking banter back and forth.

I guess the timing just wasn’t right for me to share the other news with him.   Yeah, I forgot to order the fish oil…a substance more rancid smelling than predator pee.   Yup, that package should be coming later this week.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Stopping By The 2012 National Trappers Assoc. Convention

To those folks who have stuck with me on this blog over the years you’ll likely remember that it was trapping how I cut my outdoor teeth, so to speak.   Indeed, trapping is a very unique culture within our varied outdoor pastimes and I consider it one of the most enjoyable forms of outdoor entertainment available.

Imagine the challenge…you’re trapping an area hundreds, if not thousands, of acres in size hoping that some targeted animal will step its feet on an area 4 or 5 square inches in size.   Or you’re keen eye has discovered a game trail where you use a specialized trap or snare that swiftly puts an end to that particular animal’s travels through the wide open spaces.

No doubt about it, for over 35 years I have been fascinated with trapping and yearned to attend a trapping convention.   Finally, this year I had no excuses…in fact, the National Trapper’s Association annual convention was so close to my home in Owatonna, Minnesota  it would be a sin not to attend and share in the experience.

I could sit here and wax on in this blog about the experience, but I’ve chosen, instead, to give you a tour through pictures.   Perhaps many of my sportsman brethren have not been so lucky to attend a convention like this, either.   So, here goes…I will comment on the experience with each picture.

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Seminars are one of the most popular reasons to come to any trapper convention. Here seasoned veterans share their helpful tips with trappers of all ages and skill levels.

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The seminar area at this year’s convention was quite impressive with a man-made beaver dam and river constructed right in front of the bleachers. Instructors could give realistic demonstrations of techniques.

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Held at one of the largest county fair grounds in Minnesota, there was ample space indoors for vendors to showcase their wares and talk trapping.

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On display was devices of all kinds, like these cage (live) traps, for the attendees to consider purchasing.

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Known simply as “Trapper Art,” he is one of the good guys and most popular personalities to be found at many of these conventions. Trapper Art has a passion for helping younger trappers get into this wonderful outdoor pastime.

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As can be expected, there was lots of fur on display at a trapper convention, like these beaver pelts.

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There must have been at least 5 or 6 buildings like this with indoor displays for various vendors.

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Even more expansive was the large number of “Tailgaters” as they call them, who set up shop and sell their goods in a flea market fashion.

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The Minnesota DNR was represented with several Conservation Officers on hand to answer questions and to display their Wall of Shame trailer.

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While the main focus of this event was trapping, some vendors sold just about any type of stuff a person would expect to see at a garage sale.

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Interestingly, the convention expected 7,000 people in attendance. I will be shocked if that number isn’t shattered for a new attendance record. Most days the parking lot was nearly filled by 9am. Massive crowds.

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It was a common sight to see people using hand carts to carry boxes of traps and supplies to their cars. After all, this crowd came ready to get good deals and to get ready for a new trapping season.

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Two days of extremely hot, muggy weather followed by a third day of rain met most of the show attendees. Yet, trappers endure all sorts of weather and few complaints were being uttered.

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People would barter and or sell outright. The name of the game was interacting with other people to get what you need for your personal collection.

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One of the more popular activities was searching for and adding old traps to personal trap collections.

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About the only negative I can come up with about this convention was poor planning for food vendors. They hardly existed and where there was food being sold it was common to see extremely long lines during the mealtimes. Many commented on the large crowds simply overwhelming what existed.

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There were trappers from virtually every state. The first day I entered the grounds behind a guy with Alaska license plates. Many Provinces of Canada seemed to be represented, as well.

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Trapper conventions are family affairs with special attention given to the youth. Who needs to toss a ball at a dunk tank when trappers would rather “snap” a trap to prove they were winners. Youth got a free trap if they hit the mark.

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What would a trapping convention be without lures, baits, urine and scents of all kinds? I couldn’t help but think I hope none of these bottles get dropped on the floor. Steele County is having their annual fair in this building in another two weeks.

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Yes, there were traps available for just about any purpose. I even seen a guy carrying around an antique mouse trap that had to be over 100 years old.

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One of the ways trappers hone their skills is by watching instructional videos in the off-season. Many displays of videos were available at this convention.

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Many of the big fur buying organizations were on hand to educate trappers on the various pelt grades and how best to handle their fur. Here an official demonstrates to a trapper the nuances of what to look for in a quality beaver pelt.

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Another of the popular personalities on hand was Mark June, professional trapper and lure maker. He uses his master’s degree in wildlife management to assist trappers in putting more fur on the stretchers.

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But not everything was traps….there were t-shirts, artwork, jewelry, you name it. Almost everything in the outdoors was on display somehow.

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What appears as a mangled mess of steel was nothing more than a hands-on way for trappers to play with the tools before making the purchase.

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The hard part is…sifting through all the choices to discover the key to what will work for the trapper this fall.

I watched this vendor go through several pallet fulls of traps on a daily basis. Sales appeared to be quite good at this convention for nearly every vendor.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.