Few outdoorsmen are more dedicated than trappers
By Jim Spencer
What is it about trapping that brings out such dedication?
Few deer hunters are as passionate and dedicated as the average trapper. Likewise, few turkey and waterfowl hunters are as dedicated to those activities as trappers are to trapping. Fishermen, ditto.
But your average trapper has the commitment and dedication of a cheetah chasing an impala. It makes no difference whether the trapper is a dozen-sets-before-work “hobby” trapper or a pedal-to-the-metal longliner running several hundred sets across four counties. For both, the level of commitment is the same. Their only real difference is volume.
At various times of my life, I’ve been all of the above-mentioned types of outdoorsman. I’ve killed a fair number of deer over the years, a few nice ones in the mix, but deer have never turned my crank all that much. I’ve been a dedicated turkey hunter for the past 35 years, though, and in my younger days, I was just as dedicated to duck hunting, squirrel hunting and rabbit hunting. And I still like fishing as well as anybody I know.
But all those passions, even my ongoing passion for turkey hunting, pale beside my drive to trap. I’m glad spring turkey season and trapping season don’t happen during the same months, but if they did, I’d quit turkey hunting. From thousands of conversations with other trappers over the years at hunting camps, conventions and campfires from northern California to western Maine, I know I’m not alone. Most of us feel that way.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I think I finally understand. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I’ll try:
For lack of a better word, it’s a matter of connection. More than any other type of outdoorsman, the trapper is intimately involved with his prey. A deer hunter, sitting in a tree with a minute-of-angle rifle only needs to get within a couple hundred yards of his quarry’s line of travel. A turkey hunter, only needs to get within 45 yards or so. Likewise with fish and small game. You have to get close but not all that close.
Conversely, trapping requires that you put yourself in the precise spot where your target animal is going to be. Further, you must then decide, down to the inch, where that animal will put its foot or its head, and make the set accordingly. Guess right and you catch the animal. Guess wrong by just a smidgen and you don’t.
No other form of hunting or fishing requires such precision. If you can’t bring the whole process down to that tiny portion of the universe, you’re not going to bag the animal.
Another thing at work here is the simplicity and directness of trapping. Oh, sure, there are more gadgets, tools, lures and scents out there than you could cram into the new World Trade Center, but those aren’t necessities. In the final analysis, only one piece of equipment is absolutely necessary — a trap. No calls, no guns, no shells, no tree stands. Just a trap. The only way to make it simpler or more direct would be to hide behind a bush and grab your critter by the neck as it comes by.
That’s why I think trapping brings out such passion and dedication. It requires us to get inside the heads of our quarry, then get down in the dirt with them and position the piece of machinery that will render them to possession with our own hands. Nothing else in the outdoors requires that degree of intimacy, and that’s why we love it so.
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.
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