Fur prices won’t slow down Executive Editor Jim Spencer
By Jim Spencer
So I’m sitting here on my boat, catching catfish for eating and small bluegills for dog-proof trap bait, and in between bites I’m thinking about — what else? — the upcoming trapping season. Specifically, I’m wondering how many trappers are going to sit the season out because of the downward price adjustment that took place in the raw fur market last year.
If history is any indicator, the answer is quite a few. You’d think that a decrease in trapping participation would be preceded by a corresponding reduction in attendance and sales at trappers’ conventions, but that’s not a good indicator because the people who go to conventions are pretty much eaten up with it and are going to trap no matter what. So, while both attendance and sales have been slightly off at most of the gatherings so far, they haven’t been off all that much.
Still, it’s a safe bet that lots of folks, particularly the newcomers, are going to leave the traps in the shed this winter. It’s just the way these things work.
The last big hit the fur market took was in the late 1980s, when the stock market lost 25 percent of its value practically overnight. Fur markets collapsed, and $20 raccoons almost instantly became $2 raccoons. By comparison, what happened to the raw fur market last year is minor, just a blip on the radar screen, but it still looks huge to the army of new trappers who have come into the industry during the last two or three years. When you also factor in the steadily rising price of everything we need to run a trapline — traps, supplies, boots, vehicle expenses, gasoline — and the romance and allure of the trapline begins to look a little less appealing.
Unless, of course, you’re like me. I’m not saying I don’t care about fur prices. I’m not an idiot. I’d much rather get paid well for my furs than to let them go cheap. But the price of fur isn’t what drives me. I don’t drag myself out of a warm bed before daylight for three months each year because I have dollar signs swimming around in my head. It’s the enjoyment of the trapping experience that fuels my engine. The money is nice, but it’s incidental.
I realize I’m in the minority here. Most trappers have lifestyle obligations that I no longer have. My kids are grown, I’m retired and my wife is a trapper herself, so she understands. I’m in an enviable position and I know it. That’s why I’m able to be sitting here on my boat on a Thursday at 10 in the morning when most folks are at work. I don’t have anyone to answer to except myself, and I can be as unreasonable as I want to be when it comes to doing the things that give me enjoyment.
That’s why I’ll be trapping this year pretty much like I always have. Sure, advancing age is making me back off the throttle a little bit, and yes, the lower fur prices might allow me to go a little easier without feeling guilty about it.
But a lot of you who are reading this understand. You’re like me. When opening day rolls around, you’ll be out there just like you’ve always been, grinning like a ’possum, eager as a kid on Christmas.
Because trapping isn’t what we do, it’s who we are.
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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