Falling fur prices are a bummer, but there’s some positive news
By Jim Spencer
It’s just my opinion, but the recent downward adjustment in fur prices isn’t altogether a bad thing. Sure, it’s nice to sell green raccoons for $20 and muskrats for $14, but high fur prices lead to other things that aren’t so nice.
Increased competition, for one thing. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of trappers: those who trap regardless of fur prices, and those who only come out when prices are high. Admittedly, higher prices usually make trappers in that first category work a little harder, but even when fur prices are low, those folks are still out there stringing steel.
That’s not the case with the other kind of trapper. When fur prices rise, they eventually get wind of it and bring their equipment out of retirement. When the inevitable price rollback comes along, as it did this past season, they either hang their traps back in the barn or sell them. Either way, they won’t be out there next season. A few of them will catch the fever and join the ranks of permanent trappers, but most won’t.
It’s not that these bull-market trappers don’t enjoy the experience. I know quite a few of these folks, and they all like trapping just fine. It’s just that they lack the underlying drive or obsession or loose screw or whatever it is that makes the sure-enough trapper get out there year after year no matter what fur is worth.
For the bull-market trapper, the dollar is the primary motivator. Below a certain profit level, the game just isn’t worth the candle. They’re the polar opposite of an old-timer who used to trap the flooded backwaters of southeast Arkansas where I grew up. His grandson, a non-trapper, worried about the old man wading around alone in the flooded woods. He asked his Pop how many raccoons he caught in an average season and what they were worth.
“Oh, ’bout a hundred,” the old man replied. “They’ll probably average $10 or so.”
“OK, Pop,” the grandson said. “What do you say I pay you a thousand dollars and you don’t trap this year?”
“Boy,” the old man said, “You just don’t get it. I’d get out there and trap them ’coons if I had to pay somebody a dollar apiece to take ’em off my hands.”
Maybe that’s over the top, but if you’re one of those screw-loose folks like Pop and me with trapping woven into your DNA, you understand. And when you’re out there this season, you’re going to have a little more elbow room.
That’s a good thing for individual trappers, but not so good for the luremakers and trapping supply houses. Fewer trappers means less demand for equipment. The well-established dealers and luremakers will survive, but no doubt some of the newer, smaller suppliers will go under this year when demand for their products goes down. That’s unfortunate but inevitable.
Meanwhile, us screw-loose trappers will be attending local and national conventions, ordering supplies, tweaking equipment, gathering bait, scouting our traplines and waiting out that seemingly interminable stretch between trapping seasons.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.