Becoming a Maine Trapper

I bought into the Hollywood version of trapping.  I sat on my couch in my warm house and watched the guys on Mountain Men check their traps and through ‘that could be fun.’ I watched as they put their traps out, checked them the next day, skinned an animals and did it all over again the next day.  Through the wonders of editing, it looked so simple to be a trapper.  I had a couple of friends who offered to take me out when I told them I had an interest in learning, but they wanted me to take the Trappers Ed class beforehand so I could legally handle the traps.

There were six of us in the initial class in Sidney.  Most were there to make trapping their hobby and pick up some extra income in the off months of winter.  I was there so that I could learn and write about it.  Just like bear hunting, I believe that if you want to write about it, you should try it and have some firsthand knowledge.  That first night was filled with general information, tips on knowing your animals, materials about the different types of traps, regulations and as we left, we were given 40 pages of homework to complete before part two of the class. I hadn’t done homework since Grad school. I spent the next few nights working on that homework; learning the different habitats, live traps vs killer traps, the 110, 220 and 330 conibears and how to use them and Lynx.  Those damn Lynx!
Dana Johnson talks to the class about traps
The smell of skunk “essence” was almost overpowering when I arrived at the Trappers Rendezvous to finish my class. There were 88 of us scheduled to take the class and I was pleased to see that there were 15 women there with me. There were also a good number of younger kids who were taking the class with their mom or dad.  One father and son sat across from me at the table and talked about their love of animals and the son’s excitement over hunting and learning to trap so that he could fully understand each animal that he came in contact with; from their habitat to their reproduction and what to do with them once he trapped them. You could tell that at the age of 11, he was a dedicated outdoorsman.  

Tom Stevens, a fur buyer from Holden showed us how to handle fur and what buyers look for when they receive furs.  He showed us the tools he used to skin an animal and shared best practices.  In the afternoon, the class was split into groups to get some hands-on experience setting a foothold trap and then covering it back up and making sure that the pan tension was set just right.  For those of us with little to no arm strength and a healthy fear of that trap snapping us, Peter Gerard helped us (ok me) figure out how to open the trap with our feet and work it from there. Brian Cogill, president of the Maine Trappers Association, carried on a conversation about proper handling of animals once you find them in your trap as he cut and skinned a beaver in front of us. It was fantastic!

Brian Cogill demonstrates how to skin a beaver
Brian Cogill demonstrates how to skin a beaver
Brian Cogill demonstrates how to skin a beaver
I started deer hunting thirteen years ago, hardly a long time, but as I read the materials, filled in my homework and watched the demonstrations during the day-long class, I realized that deer hunting is pretty easy considering the amount of work that goes into each trap, the bait, scents, location and daily maintenance.

I have plans to go out trapping with a few people over the next couple of months.  It should be quite the learning experience for me.  But - if I want to be able to write about something, I should know what I am talking about, right?

Happy hunting/trapping!