In a small way, trapping is returning to the forefront of some folks’ minds through mainstream reality TV. Shows like “Mountain Men”, “Yukon Men”, “Life Below Zero” and “Great Wild North” are giving average Americans a new view on trapping, and it’s pretty neat to see.
Overall, modern day television has shifted from drama to the reality show. Reality shows are everywhere around us, and we as a society seem fascinated by watching other people’s lives. Most of these shows do little to interest us outdoors folk, but these new reality shows featuring trappers are really quite interesting.
Like many trappers around me, I never thought I’d see trapping featured on a modern day TV show because of all the controversy surrounding it. For years, the animal rights movement has worked to change Americans’ ideas of trapping and animal harvest in general, and it’s had some impacts. With these ideas ingrained in so many minds, I thought for sure any attempt to put trapping back in the public eye would suffer huge outcry and be shut down immediately.
That hasn’t happened. On the contrary, protests to the modern day trapping shows seem almost nonexistent, and most folks seem to think it’s pretty neat that people still live off the land and harvest furbearers as a sustainable resource. Though they aren’t perfect, I think these shows have been good for the trapping community. Here’s an overview of the shows.
The History Channel’s “Mountain Men” began in 2012 and follows the lives of several people who live off the land in areas across the U.S. The show has featured back-to-the-lander Eustace Conway from the Appalachians, logger-turned-trapper Charlie Tucker from northern Maine, retired hobbyist Tom Oar from western Montana, Alaskan trapper and bush pilot Marty Meiretto, and several others. Like all reality shows, this one is dramatized to keep viewers’ interest. They play up the idea that these guys live completely off the grid with little to no contact with the outside world, which just isn’t true. Still, it’s a neat show and covers a few of the guys on their traplines.
Click here to purchase seasons of “Mountain Men” DVD’s.
The Discovery Channel’s “Yukon Men” follows several families in the small isolated village of Tanana, Alaska, where the Yukon and Tanana rivers meet. It’s an incredible show, with lots of adventure and a healthy dose of coverage on the trapline.
I can’t say enough about how good this show is, and how these residents of Tanana are larger than life. Main character Stan Zuray grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and moved to Alaska decades ago as a young man to live alone and run a trapline in the wilderness. Stan is the real deal. He’s a hard worker, even running his trapline with a dog team, though son Joey (who’s also a great outdoorsman) prefers a snowmobile. Stan represents folks like me who grew up dreaming of moving to Alaska to live the adventure. The difference is that he actually did it.
Other characters in the community like Charlie and Bob Wright, Courtney Agnes, Pat Moore and James Roberts represent a frontier spirit that’s rare in today’s world, and that’s why the show is so popular. It doesn’t hurt that the area is incredibly beautiful. There’s quite a bit of trapping featured on the show, and it reveals some of the tough realities trappers face.
First airing in 2012, the show has had four seasons, and hopefully we’ll see many more. For those who spend precious few hours relaxing on the couch, I’ll bet you’ll find this show worth your time.
Click here to purchase Yukon Men DVD’s.
Life Below Zero
National Geographic Channel’s “Life Below Zero”, which began in 2013, is filmed in more of a documentary style. It follows several families throughout Alaska in their quest for survival, which includes experiences on the trapline. One thing that jumped out at me about this one was how the families featured really seem to live the lifestyle portrayed on the show. The show features some pretty raw footage, and you can tell there isn’t much acting taking place. I haven’t watched more than a few episodes, but I really liked the show, and it seems to be popular among others in the trapping community.
Great Wild North
History Channel’s “Great Wild North” is strictly about trapping, focusing on trappers in Canada’s Yukon Territory and some in Alaska. This show is really neat to watch from a trapper’s perspective because it goes into a little more detail about the traplines and how certain furbearers are caught. A husband and wife team live in a cabin with their young daughter and trap on snowshoe all winter long. An old time frenchman, ‘Cor’ has to provide for his young wife and newborn baby. Cor runs his trapline with dogs, but drives a skidoo Tundra behind them, which I haven’t been able to explain, but he gets results on the trapline. Guy is another frenchman with a crazy hair style, a filthy mouth, and he seems to be just about the toughest person in the Canadian woods. I don’t think anything can kill that guy! Mike and his friends up in Alaska are all about adventure, and they know how to catch fur. They run traplines in new territory hoping to strike it big.
“Great Wild North” is currently in its first season. For folks interested in a mainstream show more centered on trapping, this is a good one to follow. One thing that will jump out at you as a trapper, though, is that dollar values of furs are grossly over-exaggerated. I figured most of the fur actually sells for far less than half of what the narrator states on the show. Again, dramatic license to make the show more interesting.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the number of shows involving trapping that are making it to the mainstream. I think it signals that folks are really interested in what we do as trappers, the challenges we face and the idea of living off the land. And perhaps the animal rights movement hasn’t brainwashed everyone after all! Maybe a little common sense does occasionally prevail. Let’s hope we see more of these in the future.
You can help support shows like these (and Trapping Today) by clicking on the links provided to purchase episodes or seasons, and improve the odds they remain on TV for years to come.