taking new trappers on trapline

When I started trapping in 1959, it was a lot easier than it is now. Oh, sure, there’s more information and better equipment available these days, but it’s a lot more difficult to actually start trapping today than it was a half century ago.

Urbanization is one reason. The population of the United States has shifted from predominantly rural to predominantly urban, and fewer kids (adults, too, for that matter) live close enough to trapping country to make it work. I was a town kid too, but it was a small town, and my bike could get me beyond the city limits in five minutes. That’s often not the case today, and even where it is, today’s world isn’t the one I grew up in. Turning a kid loose on a bicycle before daylight isn’t such a wise idea in many areas.


Also, there’s the change in public attitude about hunting, fishing and trapping in general. According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, in my home state of Arkansas, which is less urban than many, only 301,000 residents hunted that year. That’s about 12 percent of the population. Trapping is included with hunting, and I’d be very surprised if 5 percent of those 301,000 folks trapped, but for argument’s sake, let’s say they did. That gives us a total of 15,050 trappers in my state, at most. There’s probably considerably less.

The situation is much the same elsewhere. When the percentage of active trappers is that low, it’s hard for somebody who wants to learn more about trapping to find anyone with similar interests. And when you can’t find anyone who shares your interest in something, guess what usually happens? Yep, your interest wanes, too, because it’s not much fun unless you can share it with someone.

Some Are Rookies, Some Trapped When Younger

That’s where us gray-whiskered veterans come in. Thirty years ago, I didn’t really have time to take someone under my wing on the trapline. I was pedal to the metal from Day 1 to Day Last, catching as many animals as I possibly could, because I had a houseful of kids and a dollar bill looked as big as a saddle blanket. Simply put, I couldn’t afford to take the time to help a rookie get started.

But now that’s not the case. I’m far from rich, but the crushing financial pressure is gone, and for Bill and me, the trapline is a more leisurely thing. Don’t misunderstand though. We still work hard, and we put up decent numbers for a couple of geezers, but neither of us is out there because our kids need shoes. And so we take interested folks on our line from time to time. Some are rookies just getting started, some are middle-aged guys who trapped when they were younger, and some are men and women who’ve never held a trap in their hands but want to see what it’s all about.


The days when we have guests on the line are among the most enjoyable of the season. We usually don’t get as much done, because we’re answering questions and showing our guests what we’re doing and why. It slows us down, but we both enjoy it and are more than glad to do it. We’ve never discussed it much, but I think the reason Bill and I both enjoy having guests is that we’re helping promote trapping to non-trappers, either by helping a newbie get started or by showing a non-trapper first-hand that we’re not the bloody-handed barbarians the PETA folks make us out to be.

If you’ve never taken a kid, a beginning trapper or an interested non-trapper on your line, I recommend it. Not only will you enjoy it, but you’ll also be helping the cause.

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