First Year Fur Trapper
or a clump of grass would determine where an animal was going to place its foot or stick its head.
I was amazed at how many furbearers roamed the woods at night. These animals are rarely seen by people, except perhaps a fleeting glimpse in passing headlights. Missouri furbearers are much more abundant than most people realize.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about capturing animals for their fur. When I hunt, I always try for the quickest, most humane kill possible. I was impressed to learn that modern traps have improved designs to enhance animal welfare.
Some traps today have padded rubber jaws, others have jaws that are extra wide or do not close completely to allow a looser grip and better circulation. Some modern traps kill the animal quickly by striking it behind the head, much like a giant mousetrap. It is in the interest of the trapper to cause the least amount of stress and pain to the captured animal. Any excess stress caused to the animal will lower the quality of the pelt and affect the price the trapper receives for the fur.
Trappers strive to dispatch animals as quickly and painlessly as possible. I have learned firsthand that trapping can be done humanely.
Beavers are brutes
guess it makes sense that a critter that eats trees for breakfast, lunch and dinner would be one of the toughest animals the woods. Beavers have no natural predators, and it is easy to see why. They are equipped with 3-inch-long chisel-sharp teeth on the business end of a stump-like body of solid muscle.
Making a beaver set often involves chopping wood, scooping mud and hammering stakes— all in ice-cold water. Furthermore, the traps used for beavers are big, heavy and powerful. Even carrying a beaver out of the woods is tough. The biggest beaver I caught my first year was 53 pounds. I suggest that a beginner start with muskrat or raccoon trapping and graduate to beavers if you want more of a challenge.
Few young trappers
Through the Missouri Trappers Association, I met men with names like “Griz” and “Bug.” They seemed every bit as tough and colorful as the mountain men who settled the West must have been. Apparently, it takes something serious to keep these guys from trapping. They are also serious about helping kids.
A fur buyer in Lebanon offered to buy my students’ furs at a premium, in spite of market conditions, just to encourage them to trap. At an MTA auction an auctioneer appealed to the buyers to raise their bids when he realized my kids were involved in the project. Afterward, I joked with my children that we were starting the Kitchen Fur Company. They took me literally and believed we had begun a real business with real profits. From that day on we checked traps together and split the “profits” three ways.
It has been six years since my first trapping season. Each year I have learned more about trapping and more about Missouri furbearers. I now tan hides, and I have added to my trap line. I teach an extensive trapping unit as part of my conservation class each year.
One might wonder after reading this why anyone would choose to trap. Fur trapping is a unique sport that results in harvesting a commercially valuable renewable resource from nature. Though it’s not likely you’ll be able to make a living off the land in this way, it can add a little income and a lot of enjoyment to your outdoor adventures.
If you do decide to try fur trapping, learn as much as possible before you ever set your first trap. Use modern equipment, ethical practices and humane techniques. Add a different dimension to your outdoor experience, and don’t forget to bring a kid along!
For More Information
Learn more about trapping through the Department’s Web site or the Missouri Trappers Association through the links listed below.