Learning to trap hard work

Growing up around Lake of the Woods, I’ve been fortunate to experience nearly all of the outdoor activities available to us around Sunset Country over the years.
I’ve spent many hours fishing, hunting, looking for shed deer and moose antlers, hiking, and camping.
But one activity that I haven’t been exposed to is trapping, which has a long history in our area. In fact, many of the communities across our region originated because of the prosperous fur trade industry centuries ago.
The idea to learn about trapping originated with my wife, August, and her cousin, Tara. They had a grandfather who used to trap, and they had a lot of interest in it, so they contacted our friend, Jason Kelly, who has been trapping since he was a little kid and is qualified to teach the mandatory trapping course in Ontario.
This sounded right up my alley so I jumped in along with a couple of our friends, Sean McAughey and Nicole Smith (Tara, unfortunately, had a commitment that she could not miss last week so she was unable to attend, but she is going to take the course the next chance she gets).
The trapping course is quite extensive in its content but it was fun to learn. As someone who thinks they are quite competent in the woods, I learned a ton about all of the different fur-bearing animals that live there.
We also learned all about the different types of traps that are used, how to care for the pelts from these animals, and why trapping is important both ecologically and culturally.
In addition to having to pass a written exam, we spent a few days in the field with Jason, running his trapline and learning how to care for the animals from a practical standpoint.
Over the years, I’ve been around a lot of great outdoorspeople who have spent a great deal of their lives in the field. But few have as much knowledge and respect for the land as Jason Kelly does.
He shared several generations of knowledge with us over the past weekend as we got to watch him do his thing—setting traps for marten and fisher and snares for wolves. It was a great experience.
Although he is qualified to teach the trapper’s course, he has a regular job, a family, and a trapline to take care of so he doesn’t teach this course all of the time. We were very lucky that it worked out last week.
Jason has a great “trapper’s cabin” set up on his line, so our day in the field started with getting a fire started there in the morning before heading out to check his traps.
When we returned at lunchtime, we cooked moose smokies and drank coffee, then headed back out to check more traps until dark.
The following day, we had several marten, a fisher, and three beavers to skin and board. Jason really is a great teacher because he let us do the work on these animals even though we were all very novice at this activity.
We took all day to do a job that he probably could do in a couple of hours—and we put a few holes in the hides, as well.
Anybody who thinks they’re going to get rich from trapping likely will be disappointed. Those who put in some hard work certainly can pay for the gas and make a few bucks, but it’s more about the experience of being in the outdoors.
We all gained a great appreciation for the hard work that goes into it and the cultural/historical value of trapping in Canada.
In addition to taking the course, there are other rules and regulations for trapping in Ontario.
Anybody interested in pursing this activity should visit the website for the Ontario Fur Managers Federation at www.furmanagers.com

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