To Be A Professional
L. Craig O’Gorman
Often when someone looks at one like myself, with almost 40 years of predator and fur trapping experience and sees the end product, they do not realize all we went through to get here. We all learn from experiences, both good and bad, and I think often do not realize it except subconsciously. But through time, we put together the pieces of the puzzle.
In the 1960’s, when my quest for trapping knowledge was unquenchable, we were indeed blessed with a rich history of articles written by men who were real professional numbers, miles and years men. When Bill Nelson, Herb Lenon or J. Curtis Grigg gave advice, it came from long hard hours and miles, not egos, B.S. or advertisement inflated reputations. I absorbed as much of what they espoused as possible.
In high school, I dreamed of being a professional trapper. Articles written my William Curtis, an ADC man from California, etc., made me think it would be the “dream life”. Unlike many people, I never dreamed of being rich or wealthy, I dreamed of numbers or traps, over endless miles and of solitude.
When I was in high school, everyone from the teachers to the guidance counselors told me: “there is no future in trapping, get a college education”. My shrewd fur buyer from Charles City, Iowa told me too that there is no future in the fur market or in trapping. My mother, who was very supportive of my trapping, confided to me decades later that she just hoped it was a phase or a fad in my life and that I would outgrow it.
When one is a serious trapper, I think you need to look at the attributes or strong points one needs to possess to be clear of the pitfalls that can detour your success. The greatest attribute I believe that stands to make or break you is ambition, intense and at times abusive and blind. Are you single mindedly committed to 100 hour weeks, week after week, fighting bone weariness, weather, competition, home and societal pressures? Are you willing to forego everything to run as many traps over as many miles as you need to, to be successful?
Trapping today is not rocket science. Everything you need to know, knowledge wise, to be successful is available to you through books, videos and personal instructions. If you search out trappers who have “been there, done that”, on the species you harvest and follow the guidelines, you will catch the species you desire in numbers.
One of the commandments or rules that you dare not violate is that trapping in a serious fashion, is a business. You have to have the equipment or tools to do the job or business.
After instructing over 1,000 students in my life, you see this violated regularly. It is a killer. Your vehicle must be ready to go to work each morning when you are and perform to your conditions and environment. If you need extra vehicles, like quad runners, boats, etc. you have to have them ready and able to rock-n-roll. The same goes with having the quantity and quality of traps needed to do a season’s work under all conditions.
When I look at all the true tools you need for trapping and making a living in A.D.C., it is a whole lot of money and inventory! Everything from pickup to the traps, snares, lure and bait. Then you have the fur shed with your stretchers, heat, fans, freezers, rifles, shotgun, pistol, etc., etc. Now I know all the equipment in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have the knowledge to know what to do with it and the ambition to go out and get it set. Traps don’t catch much fur if hanging in the shed or thrown in the back of your truck.
Another thing often over looked is that you have to have the business capital to carry you until you sell fur or get paid from a timber company, ranchers, farmers. etc., that are working for. You simply have to have money set aside or have good credit so you can operate until the money comes in.
Okay, so you have the ambition and drive, you have the knowledge and experience for your particular species or circumstances, urban or rural, A.D.C., fur trapping, whether land or water, etc. and you have the tools and capital to practice your business. Now what are some of the myriad of things that make the difference? Being a “politically incorrect” person by nature, I am going to discuss one of the big factors often not talked about.
If your marital status is single, it has some pro’s and con’s. You won’t have a girlfriend or spouse telling you how terrible it is that you kill animals or complaining about the smells and sights of dead animals. But there won’t be anybody waiting when you come with hot meals, clean clothes and ask you “how you did for the day” and maybe if you have a real good partner also help you with the fur work. Being somebody that has been through a few divorces and been broke down to the truck, the traps in the back and the clothes on my back before and on the other hand also, have been married to the same woman for 22 years, I can say that will at least tolerate and hopefully support your trapping is very important!
Serious trapping requires a lot of sacrifice, commitment and frankly, a certain amount of family neglect
during the fur season. A lot of white boy, hunter-gather types, quit trapping over wives getting tired of the lack of attention. All relationships require that you get out of it what you put into it. The loneliness that comes because the trapper is trapping. The vacation that the wife wanted to take to Disney Land got side tracked because the husband was trapping. There also is a stigma today that many wives get social pressure on. Many urban people today are so fragile that they can’t view a dead animal (irrespective of road kill) and are appalled and sickened by the smells of even a fresh fox or badger, etc.
Then there is the work “money”. In the late 1970’s if you took your vacation and trapped, and the wife got a big chunk of that fur check that was often in the thousands of dollars, she often recognized the reward. But today with the low fur market, it is hard for a woman in a financially strapped relationship to tolerate money spent on traps and trapping and see so little back in return on today’s fur checks. Trapping can threaten the security of a relationship. It is truly unfortunate, because trapping fulfills some very basic hunter-gatherer needs for some of us that not other addiction, no other sport or passion can fulfill for us.
When one looks at the future, one needs to keep history and economics in perspective. Basically, in the last 100 years, there were only 2 fur booms. The future market of China and Korea; although it offers a strong glimmer of a fur market, it has an unlikeness of any high prices. With the habitat losses to urbanization, ballot initiatives, Game Departments that disdain trappers and trapping and regulate us into uselessness, diseases or mange, parvo, rabies, etc., and the high operating costs, it is not a bright picture.
However, those of us that understand trapping, recognize its value and necessity. Some form of it will be around as long as there are wildlife conflicts with humans. The biggest change I see is that a trapper has to have a paying day job, so he can afford to trap. If you have the equipment, seasonally you can make or afford to recreate.
In my personal case, I work for the sheep industry first and also cattle industry along with keeping game alive for hunting. The sheep industry is a dying industry in spite of the positive aspects. The cattle industry only needs a trapper during calving season. The biggest future I see is in keeping game alive for hunting, particularly, well heeled hunters.
This article first appeared in “Trappers World” magazine. We thank Craig for allowing us to reprint it. D. S.