Saying that trapping is important to me is like saying wings are important to a bird. Both statements are true, but neither really conveys the strength of the message.
For me, trapping is not a hobby or a pastime or a seasonal job. Technically, I suppose it’s all those things, but for me to say trapping is a pastime or a hobby or even a full-time job would be to minimize and vastly understate what it means to me. It is more, so much more, than the sum of those things.
It’s not an overstatement when I tell you that predator hunting, trapping and all the peripherals of these two sports absolutely consume me. It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction to take a new trap out of the box and file and bend and tweak it, until it’s as fine-tuned and efficient as I know how to make it. And I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes to boil, dye and wax my traps. If you want to keep me entertained throughout a hot summer afternoon, give me a spool of cable, some snare-making hardware and a work bench in front of a shop fan.
Maybe you like that stuff, too. A surprising number of us do. But regardless of whether you like the off-season stuff or not, the part we all live for is the part where we actually get out on the trapline and try to catch stuff. Setting and running a trapline thrills and frustrates and pleases and aggravates me, all at the same time, and every mistake I make out there makes me more and more determined to get it right the next time. That I so often fail all over again has no daunting effect — it just seems to make me more determined. And even though it seems logical that spending a long day working traps would satisfy the urge just a tiny bit, instead it has just the opposite effect. The more time I spend on the line, the more I want to spend there.
From talking to other folks at local, state, regional and national trapper gatherings, I know many of you — make that most of you — feel the same way. We never get enough of the trapline or of predator calling, no matter how little or how much we get to be out there.
Even so, the harsh reality of economics dictates that most trappers and predator chasers must be part-timers, and that we make our livings in ways not related to these things. It’s always been that way: Not even many of the old mountain men relied solely on trapping to keep the bills paid. They hunted buffalo, or served as Army scouts or something else. Most of us also have families and other obligations that keep us from spending as much time as we’d like on the line or behind a rabbit squaller.
But still we love it, and we keep at it as much as we can despite the demands of family and job. Which, finally, brings me around to the point of this: my new job as executive editor of this magazine.
When former T&PC editor Paul Wait asked me several years ago to become a field editor, I was proud to accept. I’d been writing for the magazine since 1991, and I was happy to have a closer relationship with what I think is the best trapping magazine ever published.
Now Paul has moved on, and I find myself carrying on this tradition. I’m honored, of course, but just between you and me, I wonder if I’m up to the task.
It’s not the nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day stuff that worries me. I spent a good portion of my working-for-the-other-fellow career as an editor for a state wildlife agency magazine, and I’m familiar with the job. It’s no piece of cake, but it’s not brain surgery, either. Plus, I have Managing Editor Jared Blohm to do most of the nuts-and-bolts stuff anyway. My responsibility is to steer and balance the magazine’s content, write editorials, contribute feature articles on a regular basis and keep abreast of happenings in the political arena that have the potential to impact trapping.
It’s that last thing that worries me. I’m neither politically oriented nor politically correct, and either one of those facts has the potential to get me in a heap of hot water in this new gig. See, there’s a reason I live on a remote gravel road in the middle of a 160,000-acre chunk of national forest: I like minding my own business and I want folks to return the favor. I’m not unfriendly, I just have my own ideas about the way things ought to be.
That sort of attitude gets me in trouble sometimes when I get out in public, because, of course, not everybody wants to mind their own business. So, I expect I’ll be stirring the pot a little in this space from time to time.
I’m going to talk about positive things in this editorial space at every opportunity, but when there’s trouble afoot for our way of life, that’s what will get the ink. Like I said at the beginning of this, trapping and predator hunting are vitally important to you and to me, or else I wouldn’t be writing these words and you sure wouldn’t be reading them.
When something is this important, you do whatever is necessary to protect and promote it. You don’t seek out confrontation, but you don’t back down from it, either.
Nor do you compromise. If trappers haven’t learned anything else in the past 30 years, we ought to have at least learned that. Ask trappers in Arizona what compromise got them.
Trapping and predator hunting aren’t just what we do. They’re what we are.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC.
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