Editor’s Call: Riding the Bubble

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Whether fur prices are high or low, I’ll be out trapping

For trappers, these are shining times. Prices for well-handled wild furs are at or near all-time highs for many species, and demand is strong for just about everything. The recent NAFA and FHA sales were lively, with record numbers of buyers at recent sales and near 100-percent clearances on most items. The May Fur Harvesters sale saw prices retreat just a tad, but still the demand was strong and prices were good.

Rising fur prices always generate more trapping activity. Folks who ran lines when they were younger find themselves digging in the storage shed for that box of rusty traps that’s in there somewhere. Trappers who remained active but at lower levels find themselves getting up a little earlier and running a slightly longer line than before. And the lure of “easy” money always pulls new trappers into the fold, especially in times of high unemployment such as we have today.

Right now, we’re in a sustained boom in the trapping industry. Supply dealers — at least those with good reputations and decent prices — are as busy as cranberry merchants. Attendance and enthusiasm at state, regional and national trapper conventions is high. Everybody’s wearing a smile, and we’re all eagerly anticipating the coming season with butterflies in our stomachs and dollar signs in our eyes.

But eventually this bubble will deflate. I’m not going to butt into Serge’s business here and prognosticate about the ins and outs of the fur market, because that’s his department and I don’t have the expertise for the job anyway. But being immersed to the eyebrows in this subculture of ours for more than 50 years has taught me that nothing lasts forever. Just exactly when and how badly this current bull fur market is going to turn south is beyond my scope, but sure as death and taxes, it’s coming.

Fashion trends change, winter weather is mild or severe in the fur-consuming nations, economies prosper or fail in those same fur-consuming nations, and fur markets rise, fall or remain fairly consistent from one year to the next. They’ve been rising and/or holding steady for several years now. It’ll turn. Eventually, inevitably, it’ll turn.

Come to think of it, I also know another thing that’s going to happen. When the market does begin its reversal, trapping activity is going to take a big hit as well. The Johnny-come-lately crowd that took up trapping to cash in on that “easy” money will be the first to go, because by then, they’ll have discovered trapping is anything but easy. A few of them will find out they like it and will stick it out, and we welcome them into the fraternity. But most of them will fade back into the woodwork.

But the ones I’ll hate to see quit are those former trappers who dug those old traps out of the storage shed. They are trappers at heart — most of them, anyway — but they just don’t feel they can justify the investment of time and money when fur prices are low.

Rationally, they’re probably right. It’s a low-paying job even when prices are high, if your only measure of payment is dollars and cents. But hey, what die-hard trapper is rational? I don’t know about you, but I’m not out there for the money.

Sure, Bill and I like to see those three-figure averages for our ’cats and otters, and I guess we work a little harder when prices are high. But when the pendulum swings back the other way, you can bet your last ounce of beaver lure we’ll still be out there stringing steel.

Some things are more important than money.

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.

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