“Take a kid trapping” was first published in the March/April 2021 issue of Canadian Trapper magazine, telling your stories for the last 34 years. For subscription information, visit us on Facebook or email [email protected].
Our council president asked for some help to write this issue’s article as they were swamped with work. I have to admit I was stumped on what to write about. The Timmins Fur Council is normally very active with no shortage of things to talk about, but Covid-19 has put a real damper on our usual activities.
Our executive has done its best to improvise, adapt and overcome – with outdoor socially-distanced meetings when allowed and party-line telephone meetings – but our usual activities like the trap boil, annual general meeting, kids fishing derby, kids fun shoot (introduction to firearms), garbage clean up and our world class wildlife dinner have all had to be placed on the back-burner. I thought, “What am I going to write about when we haven’t been able to do anything as a council in months?”
Then the thought came into my head about the way many of our presidents have ended their address for years. “Take a kid trapping, you will both be better for the experience.”
This is something I could talk about as I have learned a great deal about it over the last few months. It really changes things and I thought I could share a few tips about the whole experience.
SEE ALSO: Put down your gadgets kids, learn to love nature. Timmins Fur Council.
You see, when the pandemic started and child care shut down we were forced to take over that role, and it became clear that if I was going to run a line this season, my three-year-old, Liam, would be running it with me. It has been a great year of wonderful memories and a few hard lessons for both of us. I would like to share a little bit of this year with you all.
Off-Season / Nuisance Work / Bugs
The trapper’s job is never done with the closing of the trapping season. Trails must be maintained, nuisance beaver removed, scouting of the line is ongoing to make up a plan for the next season. Here in northern Ontario, this off season brings warm weather, and bugs – blackflies, mosquitoes, horse flies and deer flies. My poor son inherited his mother’s genetics when it comes to bug bites. In the early spring they both look like the “Elephant Man” until they build up some immunity to the biting insects. This can make a day in the field miserable for a young one (and his dad).
The first tip I can share is to get your young one a bug suit, pants and jacket. This is a game changer and allowed me to complete my nuisance jobs and trail cutting. When it is not in use, store it in a Ziploc bag with a shot or two of Muskol. Also, when cutting trail, I switched from the dangerous chainsaw / brush saw to a set of loppers. I could safely cut with a toddler around and he would help pick up the branches.
I am the type of trapper that likes to have a year-round presence on his line – always paying attention to the ebbs and flows of the furbearers and trying to make a game plan for the upcoming harvesting season to hold these animals just below their carrying capacity. This means spending a lot of time travelling on the trapline. A young child generally lacks the patience for a full day of exploring.
The next tip I want to share with you all is how to easily hold a child’s attention. Snacks! Lots of them, and different kinds. Young children have the magical ability to love one type of food today, and hate that same food the next, so bring a good variety.
Get Them Involved
Giving a child an age-appropriate task makes them feel like part of the team and helps hold their interest. While I would not expect my three-year-old to be setting 330s on his own, carrying the trap setters or some similar, safer task helps to boost self-esteem and encourage the idea of helping where you can.
All summer long Liam helped his mother with the vegetable garden. The pride on his face was visible when it came time to harvest the food (usually before it was ready), and the same can be said out on the trapline. When he would help retrieve a grouse or help grind up some beaver meat for a chili supper, he learned where his food came from and was very proud to be a part of its preparation.
Putting Up Fur
A big time commitment to the trapper is putting up their catch for auction. The young children will not take kindly to sitting on a chair in your stinky garage for 10 hours while you process your catch, but involving them in the fur put up can help hold their attention and allow you to get your job done. While knife work is off the table for the young one, my son loved helping brush the fur and hammering the nails that Dad had started.
Keep Them Motivated
Most kids have a very short attention span, especially boys. It can be frustrating when you are trying to get your daily chores done and your young one just wants to drag their feet and make snow angels.
My next tip I will share is one that helps to keep my son motivated to get our work done. You see, he loves my camp. I made sure that the camp was a fun place for him. It has a warm wood stove, treats and candy, and toys he does not normally get to play with. When he starts to dilly-dally on the line, I just need to remind him that if we get our work done soon we will be able to go to the cabin and play with toys, but if we dilly-dally we will run out of daylight and have to go home without seeing your fun toys. This always grabs his attention and puts him back on track.
Cold Weather Trapping
Unlike the 9 to 5 worker that watches the clock hoping for the day to pass so they can go home, the trapper is more achievement-driven, giving thanks for the day in the morning and hoping they will have the time to complete all the work they want to accomplish before the sun goes down and they are forced back to their cabin or truck. The winter months here mean the sun is down as early as 4:30 in the afternoon. The temperatures are cold and everything gets a little harder to do. Taking a youngster out in the woods is no exception.
There are all kinds of quality clothes for a trapper to buy or make that will keep them warm on the line in all kinds of weather, but kids’ clothes are not made for long durations in these cold temperatures. Some of the snowsuits are decent, but the boots and mitts available for a child are not warm enough for a full day in extreme temperatures. If you can sew, or know a local crafter, why not have some of your harvest tanned and made into garments for your family. There is nothing warmer.
My next tip is a big one. Change your plans when bringing children. I look back at the crazy things I have done, and the absolute jackpot scenarios my stupidity has brought me to. Being 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from a road at -40 degrees Celsius (-33.8 degrees Fahrenheit), crossing questionable creeks on the Ski-Doo hoping I could skip across the thin ice, et cetera.
These are not things one can do with a child. A mechanical breakdown, or sinking a sled, or falling through thin ice at a beaver house are risks an adult trapper takes. It is part of the excitement and adventure. But when you are responsible for someone else, that risk versus reward adventurous spirit gets toned down a notch or two.
That is a big part of trapping with kids. Play it safe. Do not expect you will be able to accomplish the things you used to be able to do alone. Make a plan that keeps you close to the camp or the truck and, if you are remote, plan on having a few campfire warm-up breaks. Once you learn to slow down and not expect too much, the experience will become a lot more fun for both of you.
Plan Your Season
Knowing I would have my son with me for most of the year, I started out with the “hard to get to” spots when I was alone, and saved the easy spots for when we were together. Mid-season I shut down the west part of my line which I would not normally do, and just concentrated on the east part of my line around the cabin.
I saved a new beaver colony which set up just across the bay from my camp for winter. It was ideal. We could walk across and check traps, and if anything went wrong or someone got wet, the warm cabin was less than a kilometer away.
They Say the Darnedest Things
We had taken Liam out fishing the summer before. He was the judge on whether a fish was kept or released. Now with trapping season underway we came across one of the biggest, nicest looking wolves I have ever caught on my line. With Liam on my shoulders, a rifle and gear on my back, and this 95-pound (43-kilogram) wolf in tow, my son said to me, “I think we should let him go.”
Ha, ha, I did not quite know what to say. I explained that this was not a “catch and release” kind of thing as the wolf was now dead, and I wondered how he would react.
He said, “That’s ok Dad, you did a good job with the snares. He didn’t even move.” I was floored. It is amazing what they pick up on.
So that was my learning experience this season with a young helper on the line. I had to make some changes for sure. I did not cover as much ground as I usually do in a season and my fur cheque will probably be a little smaller than I am used to, but I have found richness in experience and memories made with my son that could not be bought with all the money in the bank. We are both better off for it.
So I will also sign off with, “Take a kid trapping, you will both be better for the experience!”
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Excellent article very relatable to teaching kids about other outdoor experiences like hunting and fishing and gathering berries. Well Done.