Anti-trappers have a vision of what makes a trapper. They see a large, loutish, brute—unshaven and dirty, crude and dispicable—ravaging the countryside to tromp on innocent, warm and fuzzy critters who only want to sing “Kumbaya” around some secret meeting place. Every negative which fantasy can create is molded around our image. That is what the antis invent and promote.
We trappers often have an image problem to those who do not understand what we do. Part of that problem is within ourselves. Because of uncertainty in how to express ourselves, pride, or even embarassment, we can be lax in how we express our killing of a furbearer with the tempering of how we love those same animals. We can present a very confusing picture to non-trappers.
My wife, Kristen, and I both attended Minktoberfest in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in early October. With approximately 140 in attendance, it included trappers from all over the nation—many which in the trapping world could be called celebrities. This year’s attendees included such well-known names as Red O’Hearn, Major Boddicker, Russ Carman, Rusty Johnson, Bill Duke, Pete Askins, Trent Masterson, Mark Steck—and I know I’m missing others.
This was Kristen’s first Mink-toberfest. One of her observations was how these big, tough guys, with gnarled hands and weathered faces can be such softies. Yep, that was her take-away!
I won’t name who it was. Those who were there know. One of the campfire stories was by one of the most famous names in the industry. His past includes incredible feats and saturation in the pursuit of canines and other furbearers. It was, and is, his life.
His tale was of having to take care of a nuisance beaver complaint in warm weather. I believe it was in June. He didn’t want to trap beaver then because of the odds of catching a beaver with young. It was his job, though, and he had to do it.
The first beaver was a large female, and yes, she obviously had young. Armed with a .22, the lodge was watched until two young beaver surfaced. They were quickly dispatched. When the third and last one surfaced, this seasoned trapper just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t put it down.
Instead, he captured it and placed it in his shirt. It was certainly a small beaver. The beaver was named Cleaver.
“Tough Trapper” took care of Cleaver. He took it on other nuisance jobs. He fed it a milk mixture every two hours. Cleaver grew and prospered. Cleaver and Tough Trapper bonded.
Cleaver wasn’t as close to the wife who didn’t approve of the castor Cleaver sometimes put on the livingroom rug. Dispite this, Cleaver spent three years with Tough Trapper’s family.
They all learned to recognize the different vocalizations Cleaver made. They knew from his meows when he was hungry or angry, or had some other need. Shoot, he even got excited every Saturday morning and hung in front of the television to watch the Roadrunner, his favorite show.
Finally, when the household felt it was time for Cleaver to go back to his roots, he was transplanted to a pond at John Denver’s ranch where he had a long life.
Picture this. Over a hundred trappers are gathered around three fire rings to keep warm on a windy, cold October day. These trappers routinely trap mink, raccoon, fox, coyote—and beaver. A famous Tough Trapper was standing and telling his tale of Cleaver. Cleaver was his buddy. For three years Cleaver was Tough Trapper’s companion and trapping partner. He was carried everywhere.
Do you picture this scene?
Did you notice that Tough Trapper broke down and had sobs while telling how much he loved that little flattail and how he missed him.
Tough Trapper had a soft spot! For one of the animals he trapped! What anti-trapper would believe it?
This really impacted my wife. My wife has hunted and fished all her life, so she understands. We all do.
Trappers develop their craft to become better at capturing furbearers, to be as humane as possible. The actual kill is a part of this process, but it’s not the reason we trap. It is a necessary component.
The reason we trap is for love of the outdoors, the solitude of Mother Nature, the viseral need to be part of this larger universe. We love the animals we trap. That statement seems like a baldface lie to the antis and to many non-trappers. Yet it is the truth. It is that truth that we have difficulty expressing to non-trappers.
It is critical the scientific need for trapping and the efforts to keep trapping as humane as possible are promoted. That fur is a green, renewable resource is very important. Keeping any furbearer species from overproducing and causing serious nuisance problems needs to be shown. Amongst all these very important facts we present as trappers, we also need to package what recreation trapping provides—and how we also love those same furbearers.
Trappers aren’t crude brutes. We are ranchers, technicians, computer geeks, lawyers, bankers, and housewives. Yes, we get grubby when out in the wilds—everyone does. But, we are multi-faceted as most all humans are. We love to trap. We love a great catch. We also love the animals we trap. They hold a special spot in our hearts.
Tough Trapper is also an old softy. •