Montana Trappers Association April-May 2013 Report

President — Tom Barnes, 4294 Hwy 91 N, Dillon MT 59725; 406-683-2791; cell: 406-660-2792;

Vice President East — John Hughes 3065 Winnet Hwy, Roundup, MT 59072; 406-429-2002;

Vice President West — Tater McKay, 3800 Old Stage Road, Dillon MT 59725; 406-683-4824; cell: 406-660-1094;

Executive Secretary — Jim Buell, P.O. Box 133, Gildford, MT 59525; 406-376-3178;

Membership Secretary — Valerie Esche, 17 Allison Dr., Absarokee, MT 59001; 406-328-7264;

Treasurer— Terry Sheppard, P.O. Box 129, Ovando, MT 59854; 406-793-5885; office: 406-793-5718;

NTA Director — Jim Buell, P.O. Box 133, Gildford, MT 59525; 406-376-3178;

Membership Options:

• Family membership with Trapper & Predator Caller — $40

• Family membership without Trapper & Predator Caller — $30

• Adult membership with Trapper & Predator Caller — $30

• Adult membership without Trapper & Predator Caller — $20

• Youth membership with Trapper & Predator Caller — $20

• Lifetime membership with Trapper & Predator Caller — $350

• Lifetime membership without Trapper & Predator Caller — $250

• Senior lifetime membership with Trapper & Predator Caller — $200

• Senior lifetime membership without Trapper & Predator Caller — $100


Complete membership application on first page of association section and send dues to:

MTA Membership Secreatary

Valerie Esche

17 Allison Dr.

Absarokee, MT 59001



The trapper day in the rotunda at the capitol, I believe was quite successful, there were not a lot of people around that day. The legislators had a 3 day weekend and some had not returned to Helena that day while we were there, but the people that we did talk to were all positive about trapping. So all in all I think it went well.

I checked on House Bill 342, the trapping reciprocity bill. It passed out of committee by one vote. 11 for and 10 against. It will now go to the full house, so we’ll see how it ends up.

Something I have been going to write about as for why to participate in the MTA. The big thing I think our members don’t realize is just how much we the officers and directors do on their behalf. Much of the time without any compensation. Not that any of us ask for much except for mileage and part payment of a room once and awhile. But somehow I would like to get the message across to the members that the officers and directors act on the information presented us at any given time with the goal to keep the industry alive. Much of the time the only time we hear from someone is when they are unhappy about some decision the board made.

I realize that trappers want to be left alone to do their thing, but unfortunately in today’s world that is no longer a possibility. Fortunately for trappers in general we have people who are willing to step up and work on their behalf. People need to realize though that some of the board is getting older and tired and won’t be around forever. My term will be up in Sept. and I hope to not have to be president again, 5 years is enough. Hopefully someone will step up.

As for trapping this year, as you may know I haven’t been able to do much because of my shoulder surgery. I’ve been back at it lately catching quite a few rats, some coon and a few beaver.

By the time you read this report the MTA fur auction will be over but I anticipate it to be very good again this year. As I’m sure you have seen the latest report from NAFA, wow what prices. Sure wish I had my regular run of Pine Marten. — Tom Barnes



Hello from District 3. I hope that everyone has had a successful trapping season. There were a lot of new faces out chasing fur this winter. That is pretty cool to see. I would like to say Thank You to all the new members of the MTA. Our numbers will speak very loud to those in Helena. I have always said that there is strength in numbers.

If you get the chance please plan on attending one or more of the events that the MTA has planned for this summer. There is the Trapper Heritage Day in May, the Youth Trapper Camp in June, and the Rendezvous in September. All three of the events will be a great time for the whole family. If you have any questions please give me a call and I will help you out. I hope to see you all at these events.



When one hears “trapper education” it immediately conjures up a classroom with students and an instructor teaching those attending how to trap. This is not the only way the MTA offers trapping information to the public.

Members of the MTA throughout the state are constantly informing the public of the various aspects of furbearer management through the trapping process. In addition to classes held in each District in which the student receives a certification card and is entered on the MTA education data base, MTA members conduct fur handling clinics, pet release seminars, visit schools to show pelts, traps and skulls to the students, maintain educational booths at various shows, fairs and conventions. During legislative sessions the MTA holds a Meet & Greet the legislators in the Rotunda at the capital in Helena. Every June for the past thirteen years the MTA has conducted the Youth Trapper Camp, Inc. south of Havre MT in the Bear Paw Mountains. This year the camp will be June 7th, 8th, & 9th. The average attendance for YTC, Inc. is 150 campers, instructors and staff. Those attending, both young and old learn as much about trapping that can be squeezed into two days of instruction.

The MTA is actively promoting proper trapping methods in as many ways possible so John Q. Public is better informed and has a realistic view on how Montana furbearers are managed. With this far ranging approach a few volunteers in your Association are working tirelessly to keep the public properly informed so you can continue to trap.

Historical Tidbit: On July 14, 1979 in Great Falls MT the MTA Board of Directors met to discuss the MTA Trapper Education Program. At this meeting protocol was set for the implementation of the MTA education program. There were seven points or criteria decided upon. To this day those seven points are still in use in our program making it one of the most successful programs in the nation.

As always, if you should find yourself in the Dillon area please give a shout I would love to visit. Enjoy your spring and summer, and get your friends to join the MTA. Take Care. — Tater



Montana had a trapping reciprocity bill (HB 324) FAIL in our state House of Representatives this session. The purpose of the bill was to allow Montana trappers to trap in surrounding states (ID, WY, SD, and ND which have trapping reciprocity laws) by allowing residents of those states to buy a Montana non-resident trapping license to trap furbearers in Montana. HB 324 did not allow for non-resident bobcat hunting. The Bill was carried at the request of the Montana Trappers Association. I’m sorry and surprised that the bill failed. I and several other MTA officers testified in favor of the Bill.

Bill opponents argued that non-resident trappers would come here and trap our fur, without considering the opportunities for Montana trappers to harvest furs in other states. I feel that in Region 1 (NW Montana), very few out of state trappers would pay $250 for a non-resident Montana trapping license to come to unfamiliar ground to trap bobcats in Region 1 during a short 20-21 day bobcat season (that’s how fast the quota fills most years) compared to the number of Region 1 trappers who would buy a non-resident Idaho trapping license to go to Idaho to trap bobcats during a 60 day bobcat season.

The same statement could be made for Region 2 where their quota fills up shortly after Region 1. Montana has a long border with Idaho which would benefit many Montana trappers if they could trap a longer Idaho bobcat season. I also think there is an obvious benefit for eastern Montana trappers to be able to head east to trap the muskrat-rich states of North Dakota and South Dakota.

Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota all have trapping reciprocity laws – but Montana does not? Montana allows for the purchase of non-resident hunting licenses, non-resident fishing licenses, but not non-resident furbearer licenses? What is the difference if non-residents come here to hunt and fish or to trap?

I realized another issue with the failure of the Trapping Reciprocity Bill. Montana, like several other states, has two trapping organizations: MTA and MFH (Montana Fur Harvesters, centralized in NW MT). I am a member of both MTA and MFH as well as NTA. But, while MTA asked for and testified in favor of trapping reciprocity, MFH was lobbying against the Bill. When Montana wolf trapping regulations were being proposed by MFW&P, MTA and I were stressing the history and value of the use of snares as a wolf management tool. But MFH was opposing the use of snares as a wolf management tool. Snares are OK for coyotes, bobcats, fox, coon, etc – but not for wolves? Doesn’t that set precedents? The problem is, we have two trapping organizations in Montana that are sending opposing messages to our legislators and MFW&P on the same topics. That has got to stop! And I’ve got to consider which organization best supports and least opposes my viewpoints. — Paul C Fielder, District 1 Director



Ramblings from the Ovando area –lots of wolves and there were plenty of folks out trapping and hunting them. I do not know the final count but today is the last day of the season. Got lots of calls on how I caught the ones that I did. The answer is simple- catch the dumb ones. Way easier to do that than work on the smarter ones.

Coyote numbers are down in my area. I am not sure to what extent the wolves are responsible but I know that it is some of the reason. One interesting observation is the strong increase in the number of fox. Where before, 35 years ago, there were virtually no fox in this area, they have increased to the point that I am seeing around 8-10 fox tracks for every coyote track. For me the biggest frustration is having fox walk all over my traps and not set them off. I will have to change up my equipment for next year to address that problem.

Skunks abounded this year in many areas. One rancher caught over 40 around his buildings and another told me of at least 30 around his place. With the warmer spring like temps we have been having, I am seeing more tracks now as well. With the advent of calving season, those skunks will travel 10 miles to eat the afterbirth so I reckon the ranchers will have skunks around again.

Helped out on two MTA education classes and they went good. At one we had the anti’s show up and they tried to cause a ruckus. After they quieted down, we told them the truth about trapping. As usual with these types of animals, they were not interested in the truth and had some kind of wild answer for everything we do. When you crowded them into a corner with their own statements, then they would change the subject or totally ignore you and go ranting off in another direction. There is just no getting those types of BARFs to listen to facts. Of course, I am sure that they hold the same high opinion of me as well.


ARF — noun, Person who believes animals have more rights than people, a.k.a. animal rights fanatic

BARF — noun, Big ARF, someone who believes that a rat is a dog is a pig is a person. Adj.- fruit loop, wing nut

Back to wolves- we did not get all we wanted for management but at least we got some. It is starting to get a little better and I hope that with the new governor that we might make yet some more progress. The previous governor was not a friend to the trappers and not only did he not like livestock producers but he would insult them upon occasion. Our last governor did nothing to advance the sound biological management of the wolves in this state. I am not making a judgment call – I am looking at what he did and did not do. In the meantime we are (so it seems to me) taking baby steps and babysitting the wolf in this state so as to try and appease the arf’s and barf’s in the rest of this country as well as in this state. In my opinion that is doing a huge disservice to livestock producers and hunters in this state. Enough on that for now.

The trapper heritage celebration in Lolo this spring should be a good one. It is the first one to be held and there is a lot of planning and work to be done. Several folks stepped forth to volunteer and the progress is in the working. More on that as it goes.

Pretty mild winter up here and the snow levels are considerably lower than last year. Maybe that had to do with the coyotes and fox numbers. We will see what the summer brings. Lots of dead trees all over and the potential for fires is high. I don’t know what the 1000 hour fuels are at but I suspect that they are low.

This year in my marten areas I had what seemed to me to be record low numbers. Several locations that have produced marten consistently for many years did not even have a track around them this year. The last several years has seen a steady increase in fox in the higher elevations. This year also had quite low numbers of rabbits (snowshoe) in several areas. Do you suppose that maybe the fox would also prey on the marten? I know that anymore when I make a marten set I will also make a fox set or two in the proximity.

Lots more stuff to talk about but I gotta go. Hope to see you at Columbus fur sale as it looks to be a good one. — Bob

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