With trapping season upon us, it’s time to live history.
Cold air instantly saturates me as I step out of my pickup. Breath invisible just moments ago inside the warmth of my disheveled cab, now hovers suspended in crystals with each exhale. A fine sheen of ice covers the prairie grass set aglow by the barely rising sun in the east. With clouds seemingly on fire, and rays of sun piercing through openings, the landscape looks like something from a Charles M. Russell painting. Simply too good to believe.
I wish I had more time just to soak up the splendor, watch the ducks whistle overhead, and the deer skittishly meander across the meadow, but I’m on a strict time schedule this morning. My daily chore must be complete before heading to work. After getting my dog leashed, grabbing my gun, and bag of bait, I head off to check my short line of traps.
Traps. Just the word can cause an outburst of rage from some folks I’m sure. These efficient devices have been peddled to the public as cruel animal torture devices set by life-hating hicks like me. The thing is though, they aren’t. And I’m not life hating and neither are the trappers I know. Ok, maybe I’m a hick at heart, but that’s beside the point.
I understand most people have very little knowledge of traps and how they work. The bit they do know comes from anti-trapping groups or news articles about something negative toward trapping.The truth is up until the last few years I didn’t know that much about them either. After getting acquainted with them over the past few years my experience has contradicted the bad press.
The truth is trapping has been around since before anyone even thought about writing things down. It was a fundamental skill and knowledge set of people who lived off the land. For likely tens of thousands of years people utilized the effectiveness of traps to procure meat, food, and other resources that would allow them to live their simple existence. In fact in Osborne Russel’s Journal of a Trapper he notes a moment he encounters a band of Native people who still lived an essentially unchanged Paleo life. During their encounter he noted the numerous amounts of fur the people had. Although he doesn’t mention if the furs were trapped, it can be assumed at least some of them were.
Not coincidentally this practice has remained a part of the human story unbroken since its secret beginnings. Here in America people have always trapped. It is just a part of life for some people out there. Today people trap for all sorts of reasons, each individual in nature.
Personally I’ve only trapped for the past three years, but hope to make it an annual event. Not only does trapping get a body out of doors literally everyday, but it promotes an intimate education of the land. I also feel like the handful of reasons I trap would be difficult to promote as evil. For starters I trap to learn more about our world and the animals that we live with. After I got my trapping start I would have to sheepishly admit how little I actually knew about the nuances of animal’s habits.
Secondly I enjoy trapping because it helps procure furs I use to practice other aspects of ancestral knowledge including tanning and making my own gear. I also trap because, in a small way, it helps to preserve and pass on the body of knowledge humans have on the subject. I firmly believe this body of knowledge we would sorely miss if we let it slip from our collective knowledge.
Today I’m off to check just a half dozen traps hoping to land a coon or two. Most days I come up empty, but some days I’ll get lucky. Today is one of those empty days, where the only thing I managed to trap was a little peace of mind and some time in the great outdoors. With a little luck I’ll end up with a humble catch of animals while their pelts are in peak condition. Not only that, but the bit of added meat I can procure is something I’m setting out to use. The truth is that historically trappers did eat meat from their furbearers. Although perhaps uncommon today, eating uncommon meats like raccoon is part of the history of trapping. I would just like to be one link in the chain of that history.
Trapping has always been part of human life. We need and use wild animals for some of our basic necessities. Not only does it promote knowledge of the natural world, but it can help families out in a variety of ways.