As hunters, we see wildlife that God created differently than those that don’t hunt. We respect and cherish the wildlife we see. It means much more to us because we understand the animals we pursue. We see nature as it really is and understand the life and death process as it was intended to be. By trapping you can take another step into the wild. By being a trapper, you can immerse yourself even deeper into a relationship with the land and the animals that live there.
As a young man, I had great interest in the outdoors. I wanted to know everything I could about the wild places and the animals that lived there. I not only wanted to observe nature, but I wanted to be a part of it. A classmate of mine, Mike, who lived nearby shared my same interests. Mike and I became good friends. His dad, Martin, was a fisherman and also did some hunting, but my dad was not an outdoorsman. So Martin took Mike and I fishing and squirrel hunting. Their family had a few subscriptions to outdoor magazines, and one of those that I really enjoyed and learned from was Fur-Fish-Game. The magazine is still published today, and I am a subscriber like I was forty years ago.
Since my folks weren’t outdoor-oriented, the magazine was my teacher. Mike and I would try the things we read about, and with the help of his dad, we had some success. We hunted squirrels, ran lines for turtles, and began our trapping adventures. Muskrats were our first targets because we had seen them swimming in Bull Run Creek within walking distance of where we lived at the edge of town. I don’t recall how many we caught our first year, but each season we increased our catch. The land owners were always happy to let us trap because the muskrats did damage to the creek banks. If the muskrats inhabited their pond, they could do extensive damage to the pond levee.
Back in the early days of our trapping, fur was in style and there were many fur buyers that purchased the animal skins. The buyers would also buy the whole, un-skinned animals which is referred to as buying in the round or buying on the carcass. Since our knowledge of fur handling was limited, we sold our animals in the round. My mom would let us keep the muskrats in the deep freeze in the garage until it was time to sell them. Mom would then drive Mike and I to Perardi Fur & Wool Company in Farmington, Illinois, to sell our catch.
We would usually make a couple of selling trips each season. On one of those trips, a man that worked there showed us how to skin a raccoon. We had seen raccoon tracks down along the creek bank so it was a matter of learning how to catch one. In the mean time, as luck would have it for us, a farmer just outside of town was finding his chickens being killed by raccoons; not so lucky for the chickens. The farmer was a trapper himself in his younger days and invited us to his farm to trap. After a little trial and error, we caught our first raccoon. It was time to try out the skinning methods we had learned.
Mom sure did love me because that raccoon was skinned in our garage by a couple of fourteen-year-old boys. Now I’m pretty sure that coon skin had a few holes in it, but after a lifetime of skinning, I have gotten better at it. Mom and Dad always encouraged me to pursue my passion for the outdoors. Even though it was not something that was important to them, they knew it was important to me. They also knew trapping provided healthy exercise for me and taught me good work ethic.
People trap for a variety of reasons. When fur prices are high, many trap for extra income. But when fur prices are low, damage caused by animals is more prevalent. Trapping is done to control the populations of certain species that become a nuisance. Trapping is a great wildlife management tool. Without regulated harvest, animal population dynamics have highs and lows. The casual observer will not even see the animals’ populations peaking and then collapsing. Animal numbers climb until the land can no longer sustain that population. Then diseases like distemper, tularemia and mange will spread quickly killing hundreds of animals in the affected area. All furbearing animals that are permitted to be trapped in Illinois have sustainable populations. The hunting and trapping season dates and limits are set to insure the animals will be here for future generations.
If trapping sounds like something you would be interested in, you must pass a mandatory Trapper Safety Education Course that is taught by volunteer instructors for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).When I started trapping back in the early 1970’s, trappers didn’t share much information about their tips and techniques, and it made learning the skills difficult. Today things are different, and the volunteer instructors want new trappers to learn the proper techniques for the humane harvest of our abundant furbearing animals.
If you are interested in taking a Trapper Safety Education Course, one is scheduled for Saturday, August 27th, at the Wilmor Sportsman Club east of Morton, Illinois, from 8:00am until 5:00pm. For more information on the class, call Dave Scifres at (309) 264-7133. Another class is also scheduled for September 10th in Fairbury, Illinois, call Bill Gullquist at (815) 216-7417 for information. The IDNR furbearer biologist, Bob Bluett, also has some excellent educational videos on YouTube.
To sign up for classes in other area of the state, call (800) 832-2599