First Year Fur Trapper
market had nothing to do with Missouri or even the United States. I never thought about how the Russian winter or the economy in Greece would affect prices for Missouri furs.
Fur was one of the main reasons for the exploration of our continent, if not the globe. Prior to synthetic materials, fur was the best way for people to keep warm. In some parts of the world, it still is. I liked the idea that my furs could end up anywhere—Chinese soldiers might be wearing the otter fur that I caught in Missouri.
There is also a downside to a global fur market. Just as in the early 1800s when silk displaced fur in the hat trade, causing the fur market to crash, today’s fashions are just as fickle. One season furs will be valuable, the next season they won’t. There aren’t any uncharted fur fields anymore but the fur trade is as global in scope as it ever was.
I found this to be one of the most difficult but rewarding aspects of trapping. Most trappers today sell their fur “green” or still frozen to buyers. Furs are sold this way because fleshing and drying hides can be time consuming and labor intensive. Also, if done improperly it can devalue your furs.
Fur handling is fast becoming a lost art, and I take a lot of pride in having learned to do it well. The first beaver pelts I processed took me four hours and rubbed blisters on my hands. For all that, I still managed to cut several holes in them. After several hides, I got the hang of it and it helped me sell my pelts for higher prices. As I gained skill, I actually became more interested in how my furs graded than the price I received for them.
There is something primitive and appealing in stretching and preserving hides for the fur trade. It allowed me to develop an ancient skill and connect with the past in a way that a trip to a museum never could.
Understanding animal behavior
Although I have hunted and fished for years, I have never connected with nature as I have with fur trapping. To be successful, you must study the animals’ habits and habitats closely.
Trapping forced me to get down in the water and examine every square foot of riverbank for tracks, scat or other sign. Sometimes a small stick