A Productive Season: There are trapline profits beyond dollars and cents

By Jim Spencer


Except for spring beaver and rat trapping, mostly in the northern states and Canadian provinces, we’ve pretty much wrapped up another season—the worst one, price-wise, most living trappers have ever seen. The jury’s still out on what cats, otters and a few other “exotic” furs are going to bring at the spring auctions, but judging from the performance of other species during the earlier sales, nobody’s hoping for any miracles.
No matter. At least, not all that much matter. From a personal perspective, my wife Jill and I had one of our most enjoyable and productive seasons ever. Productive, at least, if you leave dollars and cents out of the equation. I won’t give you actual numbers because those are, well, personal, but suffice it to say we had our best year ever on cats and gray foxes, without working at it hard enough to ever get past the point where we were having fun.
I think this was due mostly to the fact that we had virtually no competition within the big chunk of national forest where we live, and somewhat less to our surging abilities as trappers. After all, I’m an old dog, and I resist new tricks. But Jill is much newer to the trapping game, and she’s getting better each season. I especially enjoyed this season trapping with her because on several days—and sometimes for several days on end—she rubbed my face in it when it came time to compare individual tallies at day’s end. One memorable day, we ended with the following score: Jill: two foxes, two bobcats, one coyote. Jim: one rabbit.
The only retort I could come up with to all her trash talking that day was, “Well, at least we can eat the rabbit for supper.” Which we did, but it didn’t stop the trash talk. Secretly, I’m very proud of her development as a trapper, but I’ll poke you in the eye if you tell her I said that. She says she never reads my Editor’s Call in these pages since she works mostly for that “other” trapping magazine put out by that old fart from somewhere up in the frozen northland, so unless somebody spills the beans, my secret pride in her growing abilities is safe. (Unless, of course, she’s lying to me, which I suspect happens from time to time.)
So, at the end of this bottom-of-the-market trapping season, Jill and I find ourselves sitting on what would in a normal market year be a pretty valuable pile of fur. We’ll sell some of it regardless of price, of course—what else are you gonna do, make fur soup? But we’re also going to tan a few of the better furs and furnish some pelts at rock-bottom prices for several of our friends who want to have fur garments made while the fur market is down. If you have some decent furs you don’t want to sell at fire sale prices, you might consider either or both of those alternatives. Tanned pelts make very attractive wall decorations, and making it possible for friends to have fur coats at affordable prices makes for good interpersonal relations.
And those two things can put a positive spin on what I hope and pray is the worst season for making a trapline profit any of us will ever see again.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.

This column appeared in the March 2016 issue of Trapper & Predator Caller.

You can pick up a copy of the digital issue on www.ShopDeerHunting.com.

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