I’ve recently been involved in some discussions on a popular trapping Web site. The discussions revolved around two areas of this magazine — the quantity and the quality of each issue’s content.
The gist is that a few of these folks are unhappy that the magazine doesn’t have as many pages as it once did. A few others feel that the quality of the articles, columns and other content is lower than it used to be.
I’ll discuss size first. It’s undeniably true that the average modern-day Trapper & Predator Caller has a lower page count than it did in the heyday of the fur boom in the 1970s, back when Chuck Spearman was the owner/publisher and it was called simply The Trapper. Like my fellow geezer trappers, I remember it used to be a real honker of a magazine. For example, the August 1979 issue was 88 pages and the August 1989 issue was 124 pages.
But I also remember a few other things from those days. For example, I remember that a decent ’coon pelt from the central states would fetch its owner $30 to $40 at the local fur buyer’s place, and you could sell the pelt green and get that much for it. Sometimes they’d bring that much even on the carcass. Muskrats fetched from $7 to $10, depending on section. Mink were up near the $30 range, and gray foxes were $60 to $75 apiece.
For comparison, just this June, my partner and I averaged less than $8 for our finished ’coons in one of the Canadian auctions, and our other furs were down by comparable percentages. I’m talking about the 60 percent of our stuff that sold at all, you understand; the rest of it is still sitting in cold storage in Canada, waiting for a buyer at any price.
I also remember that back then, in the fur heyday, there was a country buyer or two in practically every town, and it seemed like you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a trapping supply dealer. Neither of those things is true today. My home state sold fewer than 25 fur dealer licenses last year, and although there are still enough trapping supply dealers to keep us in hardware, their numbers have been decimated as well.
Ditto the overall number of active trappers still out there playing in the dirt. The world is a different place than it was in the 1970s, and for many reasons — urbanization, single-parent families, structured kids’ activities, political correctness and the anti movement to name just a few. Trapper numbers are only a fraction of what they were three decades ago. On top of that, most of us who are left are graybeards.
All those things translate into a stressed fur industry, and that in turn affects both advertising revenues and subscriber numbers. Which, in turn, affects magazine size.
But even so, we’re still here. The same thing can’t be said about a whole fleet of other titles that were still strong publications in the 1970s. Remember Argosy, True, Life, Saga, Look, and Saturday Evening Post? Me, too. They were in every barber shop in America.
Furthermore, T&PC is holding its own, both subscription-wise and size-wise. It’s smaller than 30 years ago, maybe — we’ve already analyzed the reasons for that — but for the past decade or so the size has been remarkably consistent — from 76 to approximately 100 pages — and the size variability is mostly due to seasonal changes in advertising activity.
Now, regarding the opinion of some folks that the magazine is not as good as it used to be: I vehemently disagree with that assessment. For one thing, I’ve had many more “attaboy” comments in the past year than negative ones. While that’s no signal for anybody around here to rest on their laurels, and we’re not going to, it’s still an indication that more folks are pleased with the content than are displeased with it.
I think what’s really happening is that trappers are, on average, much more knowledgeable than we were 30 years ago, when both we and this magazine were young. We geezers know a lot more about trapping than we did back then — or at least we think we do — and therefore the articles we read these days aren’t as likely to give us those “aha!” moments as when we were wet behind the ears and still trying to figure things out. Simply put, we’ve heard most of it before. Maybe we don’t agree with all of it, but we’ve heard it.
Which is not to say we’re too old to learn something new. Personally, I pick up something new from every issue, or at least re-remember something I once knew but had forgotten. If you don’t have that experience, then you’re a much more knowledgeable trapper than I am. Or, more likely, you’re not reading closely enough.
Here’s a suggestion: If you think we need to do better with our magazine content, instead of griping about it on the forums and to your buddies, get in touch with Managing Editor Jared Blohm and tell him what kind of articles you’d like to see. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Better yet, pitch Jared an article idea. If he expresses an interest, write the story and send it in. If you know a better way to catch a critter, we’re interested in hearing about it. And we’ll even pay you for it. How can you beat a deal like that?
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to email@example.com.