Head First, Headlong...

by Scott

Oneida Victor Conibear #120 body gripping traps

As of this writing I have just learned that I successfully completed all the forms, and passed all the necessary tests, to become a licensed fur trapper. Please don't confuse this with actually being a fur trapper. While I do have some experience with trapping, it has been mostly in a dark basement or crawl space equipped with the spring-loaded bar trap in a sometimes successful attempt to trap the common mouse. I have never seen a hat made of mouse fur, nor have I barbecued a mouse, but even if I had, I don't think that I could put that on my trapping resume.

It is somewhat peculiar that I lack experience in this area. I grew up in a family that hunted, fished and generally enjoyed the outdoors. We lived in Michigan that is home to many furbearing animals. If you were to look at a map, you would see countless rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, ditches, bogs, swamps and any other type of cover good for trapping within walking distance of my boyhood home. Yet, until recently if you would have asked me the fur color of a conibear I would have boldly guessed brown or maybe black. To be fair, like many boys in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was too tied up with the finer things in life. Whiskey, women and motors, or I guess more accurately, no truthfully, Mountain Dew, mini-bikes and video games.  

Do you know the uncanny feeling you get when you can't quite remember if you turned the teapot off, locked the doors or fed the dogs? The type of feeling that creeps up on you and crescendos into the near panic attack that only the possibility of burning your house down brings? That feeling started to creep over me one day while deer hunting with my wife. I couldn't exactly put my finger on it, but it was as clear as Rachelle’s voice reminding me that this was our last chance at a late season deer. As I imbibed the meaning of my wife’s reminder, it dawned on me that I had no plans for after the the hunting seasons closed.

I don't claim to know much, especially about relationships, and you probably shouldn’t take my advice but I am going to give you some anyway. Your first lesson is that hidden in your wife’s reminders, questions or even nags there is a clandestine message. This message, dressed in a ghillie suit of words, is the true message. It is of the utmost importance that you locate this message and listen. I am so experienced at this that when Rachelle reminded me that deer season was nearly over I knew what I had to do. Well not exactly, but it was obvious that Rachelle was concerned with how I was going to spend my time. I needed to find some off season opportunities to bring home some meat. I guessed that this probably would result in the purchase of new gear. Rachelle was on board… right?   

Trap dye

With this bird in the bag, I set out in search of my next opportunity. I started asking around to see what other outdoorsman did this time of year. Over and over I was directed towards ice fishing. I don’t know what you have heard about the northern midwest but let me clear something up. In the winter it is cold. Currently, with the sun high overhead, it is -3 degrees fahrenheit with a cutting 17 mph wind blowing from the south. Maybe it was seasonal affective disorder setting in, or maybe I am not cut out for fishing. At any rate, the idea of literally being put out on ice didn’t excite me. I wanted adventure. I wanted to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes with hard physical labor, but most of all I wanted to move. Dejected, I went back and perused the Wisconsin Hunting and… Trapping regulations. This is when I had the realization that trapping fit my bill perfectly.   

I have never been accused of being a dabbler and that is probably because I don’t know the first thing about dabbling. If I am going to try something new, I prefer the head first swan dive approach as opposed to the toe dipping trying out method. This gets me in trouble from now and again and I often find myself knee deep in a mire that I had no business being in to begin with. The weak hearted can find this approach too stress inducing, but I seem to learn best in the thick of things. I prefer trial by fire so I decided to jump head first into trapping.

I immediately contacted the trapping education program administrator and discovered I could complete the necessary course via mail. I have never met the administrator in person but I do know some things. He is the type of guy that responds to request in minutes and mails the information you need at the first possible time. He is also the type of guy that sends a budding trapper the complete course so that he can have a chance to trap this season. He seems like the stand up type of guy that I wouldn’t mind being associated with. Thanks to him, I spent 12 hours over two days and became a licensed trapper.

I can spend hours researching gear, guns and gadgets. Something about the next innovation gets me excited and me screaming “shut up and take my money”. If you are like me, and are ambitious in the buying but lazy in the pocket book, stop reading and forgot that I ever mentioned trapping. The options are endless, conibear, snare, foot hold, kill, no kill, colony, off set, padded and I could go on and on. What’s worse, is that everyone has an opinion on trap type, use, brand and anything and everything. I pushed through this and got a nice selection of body grip conibear traps designed mainly for muskrat. I was able to keep the bill to around $150… or at least the official tell the wife bill… we won't mention the off the book bill.

Now I have the training, equipment and opportunity to embark on a new challenge. I am sure that I will eventually find myself in some swamp struggling to keep my boots on and cursing my fool hearted head first approach. But for now the trapline is a puzzle for me to solve and if I am lucky enough to get the pieces in their correct spots I will end up with some meat in the freezer and a new fashionable hat. Hey, worst case scenario I come home with waders full of murky-cold river water, hypothermia, a lessoned learned, and a story to share…