The Adventures of Fur TrappingBy David G. Duncan
A young trapper guides his canoe down a wild stretch of river, feeling the tug of the current, as it carries him along. He is glad to be out on the river, checking his traps, on such a beautiful fall day. The day before he had carefully made sets for his favorite furbearers, the muskrat, raccoon and mink. He has now checked over half of his sets and is pleased with his catch so far. The two muskrats and a small raccoon are lying in the front of his canoe, so he can both admire them and allow their fur to dry in the warmth of the mid day sun. He dips his paddle deep into the clear cold water, as he picks up the pace, because he is approaching a special mink set. This set had danced around in his head for the longest time the evening before, as he tried to fall asleep. It was a baited pocket set, which was made along a grassy over hanging bank, where a mink had left its unique sharp clawed prints in the soft mud. So, he had high hopes that this set would produce a greatly prized mink. As he jumps out of the canoe and quickly ties it off to a branch, his thoughts flashed back to the very first mink he had ever caught. It was five years earlier, when he was only 12 years old. His two best friends were also experiencing their first season of trapping and were anxious to prove their trapping skills, by catching their very first mink. He and his boyhood friends had all caught several muskrats, but the secretive mink had managed to elude all of them, so far that season. Every morning, before classes started, these fledgling trappers would religiously meet to compare notes about their recent trap line experiences. Inevitably, the main topic was always about how to catch the sly and secretive mink. Each had their own ideas about what it would take to catch this mysterious furbearer, which at that time brought a big price and was highly sort after by both men and boys alike. One of the boys, whose father had trapped as a young man, had been taught that mink were so smart, that they would avoid any set; where there was too much human scent. Therefore, he only checked his traps once each day. However, our young trapper had decided to break this rule and had convinced his Dad to take him to check his trap line, both before and after school. So, on that faithful morning, as he shined his flashlight into the early morning darkness, he came face to face with his first very alive female mink! The water in this small creek culvert, where he caught his first mink, was very shallow; which accounted for why the mink was still alive. (Now, he knows that every set for mink and muskrats should only be made where the water is sufficiently deep to allow for an effective drowning set.) He was very lucky, indeed, to have decided to check his traps early that morning. For the mink had been caught by only a couple of toes in his # 1 long spring trap and surely would have escaped, if he had waited to check his trap line after school, like the other boys were doing. So, it was with great pride that he shared his success with the other boys, on that eventful morning. He had proved in his own mind that checking his mink sets both morning and night was not all that bad of an idea, after all! He was discovering that mink probably weren’t all that afraid of the scent of us humans, after all. And by this observation was taking his first steps along a life long path of discovery; which would provide him with valuable insight into the habits of all those wonderful creatures, we call furbearers. Many mink had since been put on the stretching boards over the past five years by young trapper. But he still gets the same sense of pure excitement every time he approached one of his mink sets. Eureka! There in the deep water in front of the pocket set he could see the telltale dark black fanned out tail of a very large buck mink! Now, his day was complete! He could proudly paddle his canoe homeward; with a feeling of great satisfaction in knowing that he has again proven he has what it takes to be a successful trapper. Trapping, like hunting and fishing, is an ongoing validation of an individual’s most basic and engrained instinct to venture out into the wilds; in order to bring home something of value to his family. The rewards of pursuing the adventures of trapping are many and varied, involving much more than the harvest of furs and food. Trappers provide landowners with assistance in controlling predators, timber damage and pond embankment damage. Added to these benefits are the intangible rewards….like the scenery, wildlife sightings, solitude, connecting with our historical roots, developing and applying woodsman ship skills. The woodsman trappers of years-gone-by were typically individuals of few words. They kept to themselves, and did not share their secrets. This was most likely because trapping then was an important way of supplementing their income, rather than a means of recreation. Trapping methods, lures, trapping areas were closely guarded, in order to increase an individual trapper’s competitive advantage over the other trappers in his area. Thankfully, those days of secretive trappers are long past and now our modern-day trappers are eager to share their hard won knowledge about trapping and the habits of all the wildlife they encounter. This cultural transformation of trappers into mentors may very well be the best way for us sportsmen to ensure that the sport of trapping will survive. It is hard to imagine any other outdoor sport that hones a woodman’s skill more keenly than that of trapping. In order for a trapper to be successful, he must first be able to observe and interpret the most subtle of signs left by a furbearing animal. Therefore, the word “trapper” also becomes synonymous with the word “tracker”. It may well be true, that only a few individuals are ever called by burning desire to become a trapper. But it would be truly a shame, if the young men and women of our age were denied the right to pursue the path of a modern day trapper and woodsman, which is such a wholesome, beneficial and rewarding pursuit. Let me introduce you to Fur Trapping. So, if you have a pent-up desire to test your mountain man skills and/or know a youngster that always seems drawn to the wilds, then trapping might be the sport for you! These are the words of a good friend of mine and very talented trapper by named of Bill Parlin, who took up trapping, only after 25 years of serious hunting and fishing. “Trapping offers unlimited levels of challenge, as we pursue the goals that we set for ourselves. But even more important to me, it provides a continuous education. No matter how many years you’ve been in the woods, the animals and the environment will teach you something new. Animal sign is everywhere, but often goes undetected because we’re so conditioned to a world of neon signs and loud music. The average person looks for animal sign with this same intensity. Therefore, they miss a lot. Trapping will teach you to detect things that relatively few individuals, other than a trapper, will ever see.” We trappers want to encourage you to give trapping a try, or enable a youngster you know to experience the “Adventures of Trapping”, because there is no healthier or more constructive pastime that a young person could pursue. And fortunately, today there are plenty of experienced trappers willing and able to give all new trappers a helping hand.