Montana Trappers Association June 2011 Report

President — Tom Barnes; phone: 406-683-2791; e-mail:

Vice President East — John Graham, Jordan, MT; e-mail:

Vice President West — Dennis Schutz, Stevensville, MT

Recording Secretary — Jim Buell; phone: 406-376-3178; e-mail:

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

Treasurer — Terry Sheppard, Ovando, MT; e-mail:

NTA Director — Brian Stoner, Belgrade, MT; e-mail:

Membership Options:

• Individual membership including subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $25
• Youth membership including subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $15
• Family membership including subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $35
• Lifetime membership with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $350
• Senior Lifetime membership with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $200

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

MTA Membership Secreatary
Valerie Esche
17 Allison Dr., Absarokee, MT 59001


Hello to all,

Is spring ever going to get here? I’ll bet a lot of you are asking yourself. It is finally starting to warm up here in the Dillon area, but sure has been slow. But not nearly as bad as a lot of you up North have been dealing with, now comes the muddy mess. The ice is finally going off the creek and river banks so a person can get some spring water trapping done. I guess we can look on the bright side, there should be plenty of moisture to get the crops up if folks can get in the field and get them planted, anyway enough of that.

What has been happening with the MTA you might ask. We have been keeping track of a few bills in the legislature. The main one is HB 475, the mandatory trapper education bill. This bill was introduced by Representative Connell from the Bitterroot area. This time around we were able to give input as to how the bill needed to be written. It will give us a spot at the table to develop the program. It still may not be absolutely perfect but it will keep the MTA in the loop. As of this writing it has passed on second reading in the house and was sent to the appropriations committee. We testified in favor of the bill at the committee hearing and I sent a letter that was read on our behalf at the appropriations hearing. If it comes out of that committee it will be voted on again in the house then will be forwarded to the senate.

Another bill is Senate Bill 204 which is a bill to increase the number of signatures to get a Constitutional initiative on the ballot. If this bill passes, which I think it will it should help us in the future dealing with the anti’s. Those are the two main ones that I know of, but I hope that some of you have taken some interest in the legislature this session. It has been interesting to say the least. (Ed note: As of 3-18-2011 SB 204 has been tabled in House State Administration Committee.)

Fur Sale! First of all I would like to thank all that showed up to help. I won’t name everyone for fear of forgetting someone. And I would like to thank all that brought fur in. The numbers are printed in this newsletter so I won’t go into that. But I believe that everyone was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. There are still a couple of issues to get ironed out but all in all it went pretty smoothly. There will always be some things to tweak but we will keep attempting to make it better for all.
By the time you read this newsletter the district meeting should have happened. I hope that you took the time to attend. It is the one time each year that we have the opportunity to talk as a group with the FWP to discuss our concerns.

Remember the next MTA directors meeting will be held in Lewistown on May 15th. It is open to all and we would sure like to see you there. It starts at 9:00 AM. And usually runs until around 3:00 PM.

As you might remember we changed the way we elect your officers. So each year there will be an election. This September we will elect President, Vice President West, and Treasurer. Currently the nominations are for the current officers: Tater McKay, Vice President West, Terry Sheppard, Treasurer, and myself for President.
That’s about it for now. I hope that you all have a good spring and a great summer.

See you in September.

— Tom Barnes


Trapping Information Day for Legislators

MTA hosted a trapping information day in the Montana capitol building rotunda on January 31st for state legislators. The event included displays of a variety of furs, trap types, trapper’s educational materials and publications, information about how trapping helps Montana compared to states that have banned trapping AND a free lunch. Many state senators and representatives stopped by the displays where nine MTA members were present to provide information and answer questions about variety of trapping topics. Often times, they shared their trapping experiences with us. In addition to elected legislators, many of their staff, lobbyists, MFW&P personnel, and members of the general public that just happened to be at the capitol that day stopped by our displays to talk.

By the end of the day, we felt that we had made many good contacts in the legislature, answered many of their questions, and left them with a good impression of trappers. MTA members that hosted the day were MTA President Tom Barnes, Jim and Fran Buell, Tater McKay, Chad and Valerie Esche, Bob Sheppard, Ed Hebbe III, and Paul Fielder, and J&M Furs helped fund the lunch. This was another example of Montana Trappers Association members giving their time and effort for the benefit of all the trappers of Montana.

— Paul Fielder


Is it just me or has this been a long winter? It seems like it showed up in October and just hasn’t really decided that it wants to go away yet. I’m ready for spring and a chance to get a few spring beaver and muskrats. There are lots of baby calves on the ground around here so that means maybe spring is close.

The MTA has had quite a presence during the legislative session. We had a Trapper Day at the Capitol, many of the members have been to Helena off and on to keep track of the bills that would pertain to trapping and letting our legislators know how we feel about the job that they are doing.

Don’t forget that this is an election year for the MTA. If you or someone you know would like to run for one of the positions that are available please let me know and I will get that name on the ballot. This change in the elections will make the MTA much stronger and more stable.

The Western States Fur Sale was held in Columbus and I got the chance to visit with many of you there. It was good to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. The sale was a good one, prices were up and that makes for happy trappers. Hopefully next year the sale is even bigger and better. Thank You to all the sellers and the buyers for making the sale a success. Those of you who helped put the sale on are the best and your contribution to the MTA does not go unnoticed.

There were a couple of Trapper Education courses held in Butte and Missoula and I believe they were well attended and the participants were eager, wanting to learn more about trapping. Education is the key for trapping to continue into the future. It is good to see new and upcoming trappers among us. The Trapper Education Bill is still alive and going through the process in Helena, let’s hope it gets the support it needs this trip.

Enjoy the rest of the spring and I hope to see you this year at the Youth Trapper Camp or at Rendezvous in Lewistown.

Take Care.

— Tater McKay


The ground hog saw his shadow and the robins have arrived, along with other various tweety birds. So I guess a person could assume spring is on her way. This winter has been a trial to trappers & Montanans of all walks of life. Snow fall records have been broken time & again; we even had rain pouring down several times. Flooding will be next, so hang onto your hats. For those of you that have experienced heavy snow on the East of the divide, I am enclosing a photo of our house up Monture Creek in true snow country. Bet you can’t ride your snowmobile up to the roof peak! Same situation occurred in 1996.

MTA’s annual Western States Fur Sale in Columbus, MT had a good year. Eight buyers attended the closed bid auction. From 62 trappers 1,580 pieces of fur sold, along with various amounts of castor, porky guard hair and deer hides. Prices were much better than those we had in 2009 & 2010. But an economist would advise to factor in the price of supplies, traps and fuel prices, at today’s dollar value. MTA cleared a nice profit after expenses, which will be a great addition to our annual budget. Thanks to all of you that attended for your support. We hope to see more trappers and buyers attend the next Western States Fur Auction in 2011.

The annual sweepstakes tickets are now available. Contact your district directors for bundles of tickets to sell during your travels. We have many of the usual great prizes, along with some new items. This year prize winners will receive the prize in order of drawing. The top prize listed, 4-wheeler, will be awarded to the first ticket drawn. The second ticket drawn will win the second item on the list, Fur jacket, and so on down the prize list. I think most of us would be thrilled to win any one of the prizes available. Do not forget the cash & membership rewards presented to those of you who sell many, many tickets. You can provide needed funding to MTA and benefits to yourself for doing such a good job as a salesman. Thank you to those MTA members that have donated their membership rewards to new & old trappers.

Keep ALL of those expense receipts for your tax returns. Document your travel expenses and accurately report the income. That way the good ole IRS cannot hassle you, too much. Everyone needs to be careful; the IRS audit department is working hard to find extra income to pay for the D.C. big spenders.

Why do I look forward to spring so much, when you always need to rake the leaves, dog bones, sticks & bombs in the yard when the snow leaves? The last flood we had cleaned out the yard & corral quite nicely, though. My mouse, vole, squirrel, chipmunk and packrat line will be out upon my annual attempt to grow a garden. Having a 39 frost free days growing season is very challenging in itself. I just can’t accept Bob’s idea of using carcasses for fertilizer, though. The ravens & coyotes need something to eat, too.

The bears are awake & about!” Got the first grizzly track sighting from FW&P personnel – N of Ovando of course. Bob will need to get his electric fence around the trap shed pronto.

Enjoy the warm weather, before the bugs arrive.

— Terry J Sheppard


Howdy District 6;

Trapping season is winding down with the exception of badgers and some water animals. What a season!! After the hunters got done with us we had 100 inches of drifting snow and -52 degree ambient temperatures with -80 degree wind chills to deal with and now the threat of flooding. But the fur market is looking up and if you had a snowmobile or snowcat you probably got some dandy fur.

Ryan Rauscher our biologist for FWP says he does not foresee any changes in quotas for next year as the weather significantly influenced our harvest of bobcat, swift fox etc… Ryan is asking for feedback from D-6 trappers concerning the possibility of opening our rat season up here two weeks earlier to allow harvest before stock ponds and other small bodies of water freeze over. The rats would not be fully prime but would be merchantable. On the down side there might also be some non-target catches on mink. Well what do you guys think? Call me if you have an opinion or call Ryan at the FWP office in Glasgow. Better yet come to our Spring meeting and discuss it.

Our Spring meeting will again be held at the Odd Fellows Hall in Saco. Follow the signs. The chili feed will begin at noon and the meeting will start at 1PM on April 10. This year elections will be held for President, Vice President West, and Treasurer. Attend and nominate. This is your opportunity to be heard and help steer your organization. What issues are on your minds. This is the time and place to discuss these things. FWP will be there as well as Jim and Fran Buell to bring us up to date on CAC issues and what is going on in the legislature that could affect trapping. This is a good chance to renew old acquaintances, meet some new ones and just plain old have a good time. Hope to see you there!

Our fur sale in Columbus was quite successful this year. From my observations, the trappers and fur buyers all seemed well pleased. It remains a good option for the marketing of our fur in the future and the proceeds help to fund our cause.

Watch your Top Knot.

— Kirk


Well springtime is here again and I hope everyone is surviving the thaw. I have sent out reminder cards to everyone in the district about the spring meeting on April 9th at 0900 at the Fish Wildlife and Parks Headquarters in Kalispell. If anyone has any topics they would like to discuss, please email me ( so I can put you on the agenda. Looking forward to hearing stories from everyone about their season. I got out on the snowmobile and helped out my local wildlife biologist set out some hair snares for Fisher research. The traps were like a cubby set for pine marten that was a tube with gun brushes in it to catch hairs for DNA sampling.
Look forward to seeing you.

— Dave Pemble


Hello District 3 Members;

I hope all of you had a great trapping season. It is coming to a close for another season, it seems like it takes forever to get here and then it is done the next day. I’m still trapping a few beaver for the next little bit then I will pack it in until next year.

We just held our Spring Meeting yesterday (Mar.19) in Whitehall. The turn out was good, Glen Hanson put on a Muskrat trapping demo that was top notch and will have me revamping a few things on my floats. Lunch was served and then we visited with the crew from FWP. A few of the highlights included asking FWP for an increase in the Bobcat quota to 250. There is still some data to be collected and if the biologists think that the bobcat population can handle an increase then we think it should be implemented. No change for Otter or Wolverine. Another topic for you Marten trappers was keeping your harvest data as accurate as possible. Maybe check in your harvest during the season a couple of times instead of waiting till the end to check them all in. At least keep a good journal account of your harvest that will help with the report. Thanks again to all the trappers that attended and also to the FWP for their support at our meeting.

A few of you from District 3 sent your furs to Columbus for the auction and did quite well I believe. Everyone I talked to at the sale was happy with the prices they received. There was a lot of nice fur there and the prices showed it. Next year consider sending some fur to the auction to help out the association.

The next event coming will be the Youth Trapper Camp in June. If you haven’t been, then you need to attend, bring the kids or come and lend a hand. It is a great program and the kids love it, heck the grown up kids like it as well. Hope to see you there.

Once again Thanks for being members of your Trappers Association it is greatly appreciated. Try and get a new member signed up.

Take Care.

— Tater McKay


Hello from District 5;

What a busy season with a lot of carcass fur and a good amount of put-up fur out there. It sounds like the Trapping Information Day in the Capitol Rotunda with the Legislature went well. I applaud the MTA for standing their ground on the Education issue and not bowing to pressure – kudos to the Education Committee.

We are hosting the Region 5 and Region 7 spring meeting here at the ranch, on April 16th. Lunch will be provided by J & M Furs so come early and enjoy the company of all of the other trappers from the two regions. I’m going to circulate a petition for signatures, the petition subject is to up the bobcat quota in region 5. So, make sure that you sign it before you leave.

It’s been beautiful weather here, the ice is going out so spring beaver and rat trapping is starting, there’s only a few weeks left of this season and then it will all be over. I think a lot of positive stuff took place this year with stronger prices, working at legislature, politics in general and a very successful fur sale in Columbus.

See you down the road.

— John


Hello From Ovando

I hope this reaches all of you and you have had a successful trapping season so far and are in good health. This has been one of the toughest seasons that I can recall. As soon as I would have my line in working order it would dump a foot or so of snow at a time and cover everything up. For a change of pace, after getting everything dug out of the snow, it would start raining and then immediately go to 10 or 20 degrees below zero. One of my coyote sets was frozen so hard that a moose stepped on it and nothing happened. It seemed that all I did was chop frozen sets out. Once I got to the waxed dirt it was working fine. The only problem seemed to be the 2 or 3 inches of ice or frozen hard snow that was on top of the dirt. Sometimes everything stayed working for one or two days and it let a dumb coyote or fox fall into a set before freezing or snowing in again. When I would try to make a new set, by the time I was done I might as well have taken up homestead rights. It has sure been an interesting and frustrating year.

I have attended and helped out on two education classes this year. The education class in Butte had a good turnout. Vanna and Tater did a great job and had it set up well. I just wish I could say that the one we held in Missoula was as well attended, but I fear I did not hold up my end so well as to publicizing it. We only had 5 students. The good part was that they got very good attention and had a great learning experience. Shoot, we had 5 instructors and had some great hands on in the fur handling.

At both of these education classes there was one free membership donated to students by folks that had sold lots of sweepstakes tickets. I would really like to thank the Pitman’s of Seeley Lake and the Heinle’s of Augusta for these two donations. Then to put the icing on the cake, Toby Walrath of district two bought the memberships for the rest of the students at the Missoula class. He was very generous and this was a great way to help some younger folks. Thanks Toby.

We did the fur handling clinic at Deer Lodge again this year. It was no sooner over than I got a couple calls about when it was. We decided that we will hold it every year on the second Saturday of January. That way you can mark it on your calendar way in advance. Deer Lodge seems to be as good of a place as any to hold it so that is where it will be in the foreseeable future. Many thanks to the instructors that are willing to take that day to teach about quality fur handling. The folks that show up all learn and for that matter so do the instructors. I know that I appreciate the chance to learn how to do the best job on the furs. I believe that it shows the care and respect that the animal deserves after you harvest them.

I showed up at two sports show this year. What I do is mostly watch Jim and Fran Buell do a great job of promoting the MTA and the trapping industry. You all should be glad that they are doing so much in so many places to put a good impression of trapping out there in front of the public. Fran does a great job with the youngsters and the track making. For that matter Keven Heinle is no slouch either. Both of them come out of it with way less ink on their hands than I do. I don’t know about the other shows but so far the one that I have attended had a good reception from the general public.

I just got back from the sports show in Kalispell and it went pretty good. A fair amount of good questions from folks and only a couple of anti’s to deal with. The weather was great so I suppose that attendance was down but there were still quite a few people.

It appears that the mandatory trapper education bill has been making its way through the legislative process. I heard that there will definitely be an internet course. I am not sure who all is doing all the pushing and shoving on this. As far as I know, nobody from the MTA has been asked about many issues that are involved with the trapper education. There seem to be many aspects that are not being addressed that are important to carry on a good education program. Maybe they will be addressed later.

I was over and helped at the fur sale in Columbus. Mostly I believe that I just got in the way as the folks running it did a pretty darn good job and it ran pretty smoothly. The reports will probably be published elsewhere in the newsletter. Almost all of the fur sold and at pretty fair prices overall. The bobcats went pretty good and averaged over 570 dollars. I saw some prices on coyotes that were in the 50 and 60 dollar area as well. Overall I would have to say that the general quality of fur handling was better than previous sales. The grease fur was better and most of the long hair was pretty good. It is always nice to get the best dollar for a quality product. It does the best justice for you as a trapper as well as for the animal that you harvest.

While I was at Kalispell, I learned that our “good friend” Ms. Heister is still working at her trade. She is in a group called “the beaver working group” or something similar. It is supposed to be for preserving the wetlands or some such, but it appears as if it is just another way to shut trapping down. For more info contact Dave Wallace in Kila as he was there for the first meeting of this group. Maybe I am overly suspicious, but anything Anja is involved in cannot be for our benefit. Only a means to further her ends.

Well, maybe spring is on the way as our road is starting to get pretty soft. If it had kept snowing and not turned into rain several times this winter, I could have conveniently parked my snow machine on top of the house roof. We still have between 3 and 4 ft of settled snow on the level but if it keeps warming, it will go fast.

The coyotes are rubbing but skunks are still holding so that works for me. The creeks are opening and I have some trouble beaver to remove. It will sure beat chopping through all the ice. Some of the spring birds are back but I have not seen or heard the first robin up here yet. The owls have been hooting and it is time for them to mate; have seen a couple hanging around.

We have been having a pretty good amount of wolves around all the areas that I trap. It is most definitely changing the habits of the coyotes. I won’t even get started on the impact on the large game in this area because we don’t have enough time for me to report all the changes that I have observed. Suffice it to say that we can expect many more drastic changes unless the politicians decide to get their head out of the anti’s and allow a sensible and aggressive management plan to be put into operation. These predators are changing the entire management of big game. They are having and will continue to have a huge impact on the way of life that we have had for many years. In just a few short years their uncontrolled growth has destroyed one hundred years of game management. They will have an impact on virtually every aspect of outdoor livelihood that there is. This includes but is not limited to farming, ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping and even wildlife watching.

Enough on that because it is of no value to complain if you are not being heard and the politicians are not listening to us as trappers anymore than they are listening to the livestock producers.

Well, enough of this whining. The next thing I would go to are all the welfare trappers that are out there but that seems to be wasted breath as well and this letter should have at least some redeeming value. What I will say is that I am impressed with the efforts of our officers in the MTA and what they are doing to preserve our heritage. I really like to visit with them as well as other trappers and Lord willing we will be at the NTA Western in John Day, Oregon this year to visit with more trappers and outdoors folks.

Don’t forget the Youth Trapper Camp in June. If you want a truly rewarding experience, you should help out at the camp. There are many things to do and all of them benefit the youngsters. That is one of the highlights of my year for sure to be there and participate in that activity.
Until we meet, take care and God bless.

— Bob Sheppard


The Montana Trappers Association held their Western States Fur Sale in Columbus, MT during the weekend of February 18-20. MTA President Tom Barnes organized and directed his many MTA volunteers into running this efficient and successful fur sale

The MTA members that showed up and helped make this fur sale (and MTA fund raiser) a success included the Fur Sale Committee consisting of Tom Barnes, Joe Jassak, Tater McKay, Kirk Knudsen, Dick Voigt and the other volunteers: Lisa Jassak, Bob Sheppard, Jason Geer, Paul and Jennifer Fielder, Brian Stoner, Guy Kempthorne, Valerie and Chad Esche, Bert Wuster, and Jerimiah.

Furs were separated into lots of the seller’s choosing, minimum bids could be set, and sales were by closed bid with a half dozen or more fur buyers present. The room was full of fur with a bunch of large, pale high plains coyotes and bobcats available. Highlights of the sale had to be 100% of the bobcats selling for an average of $572 and 93% of the coyotes selling for an average of $45.

The final sale of furs, castor, and porky hair totaled almost $120,000. Sale commissions of 6% for MTA members and 8% for non-members will help fund MTA needs, including the continuing fight against animal rights groups to keep trapping a way of life for some Montanans. As can be seen below, furs sold for some pretty good prices at this auction (Listed by Item, Number Offered, % Sold and Average).

Badger — 24, 83, $25.20
Beaver — 189, 100, 14.41
Bobcat — 132, 100, 572.21
Castor — 22.45 lb, 100, 44.23
Coyote — 621, 93, 44.83
Ermine — 2, 100, 2.31
Red Fox — 71, 100, 31.22
Marten — 94, 93, 35.85
Mink — 21, 100, 11.90
Muskrat — 221, 100, 5.28
Otter — 1, 1, 46.63
Porky hair — 24.55 oz, 100, 22.82
Raccoon — 231, 100, 18.92
Skunk — 127, 21, 7.80


Greetings From Deer Lodge

Hi Trappers & Trapperetts!

The first thing that is on my mind is the Rendezvous in September 2011. All of you guys that have extra lures, calls, trapping books, anything that would be of interest to young trappers or ladies (they like things that ladies like), are part of the MTA and sometimes the driving force behind the MTA, please bring them to the Rendezvous. WE NEED DOOR PRIZES! So, right now, go out into your trap shed and gather up things that you can do without, have extra or just want to donate and bring them to the Rendezvous.

On January 8, 2011 the fur handling day in Deer Lodge was held and as always was a real success. The weather was a little “iffie” and the roads were not the best, but we had a good turn out. All those attending were real pleased with the knowledge us old timers passed on. I would like to thank the “Dead End Trapper”, “Trapper Walks Alot” and “Rockman” for a job well done. These are Indian names for Bob Sheppard, Dennis Schutz and Brian Stoner.

The Butte MTA Education class went well as usual. It was well attended with about 25 – 30 in attendance. Vanna Boccadori, Bob Sheppard, Dennis Schutz, Tater McKay and Greg from Dillon FWP did a job that only the MTA could do. They live it so they can tell it all. Perfect job well done!

I have been on busy dude for the past couple of weeks. On January 31, 2011 I went over to Helena and set up camp for a day in the Capital Rotunda to talk to every legislator that would ask about trapping, fur and anything that might be connected to trapping. We had a nice display of furs and provided a free lunch. We were well received and a few said they learned a lot by talking to us. We had a few extra sandwiches left so at days end we were able to take some home. That was good for me that I didn’t have to make breakfast for a few days. I big thank you goes to Paul Fielder, Jim and Fran Buell, Tater McKay, Chad and Valerie Esche, Tom Barnes and Bob Sheppard. I came away with a day well spent.

The MTA Education class in Missoula on February 26th went well but not well attended. It could have been our fault as we did not get it in the paper ahead of time. O well, we all come apart at times!

Just the other day I was talking to a lion hunter in the eastern part of District 2. He has hounds, but this year has only taken one lion because of the way the permits are done in District 1 & 2. We agreed that for all practical purposes the FWP has shut down lion hunting. In 31 days the man had treed 19 lions. This could be what is happening to our deer herds, too many lions. According to FWP a lion only kills and eats one deer a week, not bad, but 19 lions time 52 weeks is 988 deer give or take, then put in a few black bears, some wolves, the roads, coyotes and eagles, no wonder our deer can’t keep up.

District 2 and parts of 3 are doing real well with trapper ed classes and fur handling classes so on August 13th, 2011 we are going to have a field day for trappers young and old. We will be putting on trapping and snaring demo’s right in the dirt, mud and water. The location is Lake Diane, Exit 170 off I90, 4 miles west of Garrison MT and 4 miles east of Gold Creek Mt. Bring your own lunch and drinks. We will provide afire pit if you want to cook a burger or what have you. Mark it on your calendar, August 13, 2011, 8:30 a.m. – 4 or 5 p.m. Please call me, Ed III at 406-846-2304 so we can have an idea on how many will attend.

This last December, I don’t remember the day or time except it was just before New Years Eve, I received a phone call that I will never forget as long as I live. It was Leon Vanek, a long time friend that I have had the pleasure to know and work with because of the MTA. Leon relayed to me that his son Patrick had died in a ranching accident. That sure did knock the wind out of me. That young man I have known ever since he was born. I could hardly believe what I had heard. Now a nice young lady is without her husband and two beautiful little girls without their Dad. Oh my God, that is real bad. The worst thing that I know of is a mother and dad burying their child. I cannot think of anything on earth that would be worse. May God watch over and keep all of Patrick Vanek’s family in His care forever.
God Bless you and Yours,

The Ole Drive By Trapper

— Ed III


Patrick A. Vanek was born July 14, 1982 in Lewistown Montana to Leon and Kathy Vanek. He was a brother to Bobby and Vicki, husband to Kandi and dad to daughters Addison and Alexis. On December 28, 2010 Patrick was loading small square straw bales into his pickup from the back of the haystack when the stack came down on him. He died at the scene, a tragedy that we can never understand when a life so young is snuffed out in an instant.

We all of the MTA remember Pat as a youngster, tagged along by his little brother Bobby, as they followed their dad Leon around the Fergus Trade Center when Leon was actively organizing and setting up for the annual MTA Rendezvous. He was a mischievous little guy, but always willing to help wherever he could. As he grew older he would wipe out the competition in the Youth Trap Setting Contests and later give the adults a run for their money as he challenged them in Adult Trap Setting Contests.

I think he was trapping when he was still in diapers as the first time I saw him at about 5 years old, give or take a year. He was coming into the Center carrying a #0 Victor long spring getting ready to go catch a gopher or two. Of course he always had his shadow, Bobby behind him learning the fine art of trapping.

As he grew older, we of the MTA didn’t see a lot of him as he was busy with football, 4-H and later on riding bulls in rodeos, college and other activities, but we knew he was still trapping, it was in his blood for sure.

We will all miss Pat, his smile and easy go manner, but we will not forget him. Although time does heal the pain, the hole never goes away. The best we can do now is remember all the good times, the mischief he could get into and what a fine young man and excellent trapper he was.

Pat leaves a legacy of a wife and two little girls behind. We can help them and their future by contributing to their future. Linda Grosskopf, Editor of the Western Ag Reporter has started a college fund for his two daughters. If you would like to contribute send your check marked “Vanek Benefit” to Linda Grosskopf, P.O Box 30758, Billings MT 59107

God’s Peace Patrick, Leon, Kathy, Vicki, Bobby, Kandi, Addison and Alexis from your MTA family.


Proposed Montana Constitutional Amendment to protect trapping rights is dead.

I reported earlier that state Senator Greg Hinkle was going to introduce a bill that would amend the Montana Constitution to protect our continued ability to trap and harvest wild animals. That bill would have changed the present language “The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved…..”. I am sorry to have to report that strong political pressure against the advancement of that bill caused Senator Hinkle to have to let that bill die.

The proposed new language would have read “Hunting, trapping, and fishing and the harvest of wild animals, birds, and fish are a valued part of Montana’s heritage and will be forever preserved….”. The proposed amendment changed the existing language from “wild game animals” to “wild animals”. As we know, “wild game animals” does not include the groups that MFW&P defines as furbearers, predators, and nongame wildlife.

The political pressure that caused this bill to die claimed that trapping and the harvest of furbearers, predators, and nongame wildlife is implied and protected in the present constitutional language of Article IX, Section 7. I hope they are correct, because that wording and the existing MFW&P definitions don’t tell me the same thing. I thank Senator Hinkle for his efforts on behalf of us trappers, but that is the sad state the politics on this issue.

— Paul C Fielder


Pre-registration and application requests for the 12th annual camp have started. The 3 day, family oriented camp will be held in Beaver Creek Park, south of Havre MT at the Jim & Fran Buell cabin site.

First year camp attendees will be instructed in proper trapping methods, ethics, trapper responsibility, fur handling & fur bearer identification. Those attending for two or more years will construct stretchers, snares, predator calls and participate in actual trapline techniques and damage control trapping.

Dates for YTC 2011 are June 10, 11 & 12. Camp fee is $50.00 per attendee. This fee includes all meals, nutritious snacks, bottles water and eating utensils, etc. The campsite provides space for RV’s and tents, also there are porta-potties and non-potable water for washing up. Parents are encouraged to attend with their children; those under 12 and those with special needs must be accompanied by an adult. There will be chaperoned boys and girls barracks tents provided for those youth over 12 and unaccompanied by an adult.

There is a $20.00 scholarship for the first 60 youth applying prior to May 15; all registration closes May 30th, 2011.

To receive registration information go the MTA website or email

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