Photos by Jennifer Bilott
Trapping skills can be taught early, often and firsthand. There is a learning curve, but many trappers will tell you it is addictive.
Pass down the trapping tradition
Hunters have trapped as far back as 5000 B.C. and it was a widespread practice in the early days of North American settlements. Native Americans also trapped. Trading posts were established where European companies traded guns, pots, pans, knives and other accessories for furs from trappers.
Instead of learning it from a history book, trapping traditions can be taught firsthand and passed down through generations.
Back in the day
When I was young, my father had interesting metal contraptions hanging in the garage. I wondered what they were. When he was a boy, he trapped muskrats and would check his traps after school. At that time, trapping was a popular sport. It was a good pastime for a boy and an excellent way to put extra money in his pocket. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who trapped except for my father, and he didn’t do it anymore. In my eyes, it was a dying trade.
My husband and I decided to take up trapping eight years ago and it has become an obsession. There is a significant learning curve, but we improve each season. Trapping takes a lot of preparation and can be challenging, but the rewards are worth the effort. Since we started we’ve gotten our kids involved and they have taken to it beyond our expectations. One commented that, “Every day is like Christmas.” Maybe the excitement is part of the addiction. For others, it’s the game. You’re matching wits with animals that are more intelligent and wary than you might have imagined. Many times they visit your set and evade capture, often with your bait in tow. It’s your challenge to dissect the crime scene and capture the perpetrator on its next visit.
Trapping has myriad benefits. Practicing wildlife management and pest control helps the environment. Trapping teaches respect for animals, especially predators. It’s challenging. Outsmarting an alpha male coyote will help you sharpen your problem solving skills, and when you trap them, it’s rewarding. Most states require trappers to check their traps daily, a law that teaches youth responsibility. Families can trap together. And selling your furs can be profitable, which may be all the motivation kids need to get started, especially older children.
Walking trap lines and making memories with friends and family members keeps kids interested. Memories are made even if the traps are empty. Trips to the fur post to share stories and learn tricks of the trade will be remembered for years to come. These visits can help you acquire some of the basic knowledge you need to get started. You must know the different types of trapping, equipment, and how to set on water or land. There is also a wealth of knowledge written over the years in books and magazines that will help you get started. There are plenty of online articles and videos on YouTube that can help you polish your skills. But, like anything else, all the articles and videos in the world can’t replace hands-on learning through trial and error.
You aren’t going to get rich, but you can earn enough to pay for any start up costs and then some. And kids can turn their pelts into something useful to remind them of their experience. — Jennifer Bilott