My girlfriend wasn’t happy. Not one bit. She had told me time and time again that I was spending way too much time in the skinning shed with her dad. But I just couldn’t help myself. On those late fall evenings when we would visit her parents place, I naturally gravitated to the lights that would glow through the semi-transparent garage door of that marvelous building. Architecturally, it wasn’t anything more than your standard stick frame garage, but the contents of that structure and the knowledge of those residing in it captivated me.
Mike, the father of this now ex-girlfriend, was one of those people in that shed whom I learned a great deal about life and trapping from. To this day we still remain great friends, and I am fortunate that I have a lot to learn about trapping yet, and even more to learn about life.
When I first met Mike, I had never had any exposure to trapping. All of my hunting experience had been limited to feathered creatures taken on the wing. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to trap, but when the father of the girl you are dating asks you to hang out with him and try something new, you do it.
At the time of this first trapping experience, I was in my senior year as an environmental science student. My education had taught me the importance and value of trapping as a predator management tool. In fact, I had even done a presentation on Delta Waterfowl’s research on how trapping in Canada had a direct correlation to nest success. Some test sites saw jumps of 1% success to 70%. Obviously trapping was good for the ducks, and as a waterfowler, what was good for the ducks was good for me!
Putting my concerns aside, I decided to approach trapping with a very open mind, and directly weigh the benefits against the negatives. Positives included extra spending money for a poor college student from the sale of furs, less predation (on the local turkey, waterfowl and upland populations), and gaining a first-hand understanding of trapping and its role as a management tool. The only negative I could come up with was the fact that I would have to use a different method of dispatching an organism than I was use to.
After checking traps with Mike for a year, I warmed up to the idea and signed up for a trapper’s safety course in my home state of Wisconsin. The class was very beneficial – even for someone with a background in natural resources. Topics covered in my course material included history of the fur trade, trapping ethics, furbearer management principles, equipment handling and much more. There is an overwhelming amount of information one must know in order to become a trapper – and the books and materials provided show that there is no shortage of education and research behind the approved trapping methods. Many expert trappers have a close working relationship with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in order to establish Best Management Practices (BPM’s) for trappers across America. Quite frankly, I was impressed with the amount of time that people had invested in trapping, and it intensified my drive to learn more.
Sadly, the interest in trapping is declining compared to the growing interest seen in hunting and fishing. People are missing out on a great opportunity to learn more about the world that surrounds them through the attention to detail it takes to become a successful trapper. Raccoon, muskrat, and other small rodent populations go unchecked, and the effects of predation have soared, coupled with the devastation of habitat fragmentation.
Do yourself a favor and attend a trapping rendezvous, shadow a local trapper or just buy yourself a good book on the subject. There are so many benefits that derive from becoming a good trapper – from helping control the predator population, to learning about managing wildlife on a local scale. Your interest could help save a dying art that has the potential to be passed down to the next generation of sportsmen.