We’re Back on the Trapline Again

Trapping season is in full swing right now for Northern trappers, and those of us here in the South are chomping at the bit. Across the sweep and breadth of the country, fall is here, and trappers everywhere are lovin’ it.

Fur markets are still in turmoil, and none of us has any idea what we’re going to get for our fur this year. For that matter, most of us don’t even know where — or if — we’re going to be able to sell it. But our collective level of anticipation is as high as I’ve ever seen.

That anticipation and enthusiasm was evident this past summer at both the Fur Takers of America and National Trappers Association conventions. Attendance was no great shakes at FTA in June, but that was no surprise because the location (Mena, Ark.) was far removed from the lion’s share of the nation’s trappers.

At last August’s NTA get-together in Lima, Ohio, attendance was at or near the all-time high, with a “button count” of nearly 6,000 for the event. That number includes vendors, but most vendors are also trappers. Likewise, attendance was good and enthusiasm levels were high at every state convention I’ve heard news from — Minnesota, Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and more.

Not only have attendance and enthusiasm been high at these conventions, but folks are buying supplies, too. Everywhere you looked at the half dozen conventions I attended this year, people were walking around with traps slung over their backs or carrying sacks bulging with purchases of lure, snares, trapline tools and other supplies. Most of the dealers and lure makers I’ve talked to this summer and fall report good sales. Not record sales, maybe, but decent.

It’s not just trapping and trappers conventions that are doing well, either. Last winter’s SHOT show was well attended, and this past summer’s ICAST show (the fishing counterpart to SHOT) was just as upbeat. The National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association and Safari Club International reported booming, upbeat national conventions this year as well.

All this stands in sharp contrast to the gloomy economic reports that have been leading the nightly network news shows for the past couple years. Sure, there have been some hard times in the outdoor recreation industry, but by and large, we’re doing much, much better than the economy as a whole.

What’s going on, anyway? How come the outdoor recreation industry isn’t taking quite as hard a hit as, say, the housing or automobile industries?

I have a theory. I think most folks who not only love the outdoors but also make it a regular part of their lifestyles are thinking in one of two ways. Either they’ve decided not to participate in the economic recession or they’ve decided that the outdoors is such an important part of what and who they are they’re not going to give it up no matter what. They’re making cutbacks in other areas of their lives, so as to not have to cut back on outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and trapping.

As proof, I offer you the following few comments from other trappers, lifted from a thread on a popular trapper forum that asked the question “How is the recession going to affect your trapline?”

• “I will set twice as many traps.” — HobbieTrapper, MD

• “Less competition. More new territory.” — Todd Lund, WI

• “Not concerned about making any money. I’m doing it for the right reasons.” — Bowhunter74, NY

• “The recession will impact my bottom line much more than my trapline this year.” — bblwi, WI

• “I’ve spent more money this year than ever before.” — MrAmerica, OK

• “Trap smarter, plan better, set more traps, catch more … and maybe break even.” — Actor, PA

If you ask me, those are strongly positive, upbeat remarks, and, to me, they represent a sort of in-your-face attitude from trappers to the lousy economy and all the doomsayers in the news media.

Personally, I’m thinking in both those ways I described earlier: I’m not participating in their stinking recession, and trapping isn’t what I do, it’s what I am. I spent 35 years of my life positioning myself so I could spend the last decade or two on this planet being my own boss and trapping full-time. I’ve managed to arrive at that place, and I will not let something like a poor economy and low fur prices keep me off the trapline — or even let it reduce my level of activity to any appreciable degree. I’m a trapper. I will trap.

Apparently, a large proportion of other trappers feel the same way. So, last month and this month and next month and the next, all across the country and up into Canada, our raggedy army will rise, individually, like the virtuous woman of Proverbs, “while it is yet night.” We will sally forth daily, checking traps, making new sets, tending our lines as we have since the days of Lewis and Clark, Colter and Glass — nursing cold hands, silently enduring the hardships of the trapline and thoroughly enjoying every single minute of it.

Here’s one more quote lifted from that trapping forum thread. It’s also from Actor, and if it doesn’t sum up our collective attitude in the face of this recession and this down market, I swear I don’t know what does:

“If I don’t die during the season … it should be a good season.”

Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com.

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