Although trapping has been part of Missouri’s heritage for generations, the best locations and methods were historically guarded. This was undoubtedly a habit carried over from the days when trappers made their living by catching furbearers, when they needed the secrecy to ensure their own success. Times and people have changed. Lifelong trappers are now eager to share their experience with beginners in order to sustain the trapping tradition.
Individual trappers, members of the Missouri Trappers Association and the Missouri Department of Conservation conduct trapper education clinics across the state. The workshops encourage novices to try this challenging but rewarding way of pursuing game. They’ve resulted in a new generation of people who are interested in trapping and understand the vital role that it plays in maintaining healthy populations of all species of wildlife.
Trapping was born out of necessity. Early settlers did not wallow in the luxuries and abundance of goods that we have today. They trapped to reduce damages to their crops and livestock and to supply themselves with clothing, food and money from selling furs. The fur-pursuing lifestyle spurred the opening of trade routes and western expansion. Accessibility to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers led to the creation of a trading post in what is now St. Louis. That trading post became the center of fur trading in this country. Missouri remains important in the fur trade industry, with furs valued at more than $8.5 million taken annually.
Historically, families who trapped taught the next generation, but good trapping locations and tricks of the trade were rarely shared with outsiders. This secrecy, along with the availability of manufactured synthetic products, shrinking backyards and an overall reduction in the connection to nature, led to a decrease in trapping participation over the past several decades. Trapping was becoming a lost skill set, only to be read about in historical documents.
Passing it On
Rather than watch their passion for trapping diminish into fond memories, dedicated trappers are arranging clinics to share their knowledge with anyone willing to learn. “The mindset of trappers has evolved from protecting their livelihood to sharing their love of the outdoors with others,” says John Daniel, Missouri Trappers Association member and trapping clinic instructor. “We have seen trappers go from those that cared more about the bottom line and the money to those that understand their role as a trapper in managing wildlife and maintaining a healthy balance of predator