Where We’re At in the Fur Market: Summer 2016 Update

Has the fur market bottomed out?  It’s tough to say, but it’s also hard to imagine prices could get any lower.

The major spring fur auctions brought very disappointing results.  Here’s a recap of average fur prices from North American Fur Auctions:

Muskrat – $2.65

Otter – $21.34

Mink – $7.95

Coyote – $6 – $68 (Easterns $30, Westerns $68

Raccoon – $2 – $6 (no, that’s not a typo!)

Beaver – $8 (again, not a typo :-( )

Red Fox – $14

Bobcat – (Eastern $40, Western $260)

Raccoon and beaver make up a great deal of the market for utility furs, and prices as low as this are tough to swallow.  Oil prices continue to be low, the Russian and Chinese economies continue to struggle, and that means we’re probably in for another season of low fur prices.

It’s obvious that the price of most furs has dipped below the cost of production, and the recreational and wildlife management elements of trapping are what’s keeping the supply level up.  Demand continues to be low, but fur prices will come back.  Just don’t plan on making much money trapping this fall.

You Can Be Part of a New Trapping Show! “Ultimate American Trapper” Casting Call

Are you a trapper with a story to tell? Can you produce a good quality video? Up for a little friendly competition while sharing your knowledge with other trappers? “Ultimate American Trapper” may be the perfect opportunity for you.

Shon Butler of Buckhaven Productions is looking for trappers interested in being a part of a new trapping show to be hosted right here on TrappingToday.com. This is an exciting opportunity to share the sport and tradition of trapping with other trappers and folks beyond the trapping world. You’ll be eligible to win a nice prize package, and – who knows – you might just be the next big reality TV star :-).

Stay tuned for more as the “Ultimate American Trapper” show develops. Here’s the casting call.

Attention U. S. And Canadian Trappers!!!!!

Buckhaven Productions and Longspur Game Calls are announcing a casting call for a new YouTube series to be streamed TrappingToday.com called “Ultimate American Trapper”.

Interested trappers need to send a letter introducing yourself, telling us about your trapping and filming experience. We are also going to require at least a 10 minute edited video showing us your trapping, filming, hosting and editing skills. Please tell us your story and why you should be chosen.

We will be requiring all video for the show to be filmed in an HD format, however your intro video maybe filmed on any format but must be submitted to us on a 32 gig SD card. Please tell us in your letter or video what type of equipment you are using. (For example – Nikon 3200 dslr camera and 2 GoPro hero 4) be very specific!!

Our plans are to have 8 – 12 trappers participate and notify the chosen contestants by September 1, 2016. The winner will be determined by a point scale assigned to each species as well as points awarded to each video segment for videography and content. A complete rules package will be provided to the chosen contestants. Winner will be announced to the contestants March 1, 2017. Premiere date will be during February 2017. We are planning on at LEAST 10 episodes over 20 minutes in length or longer.

Please direct questions by email or questions about the prize package to:
Buckhavenproductions@gmail.com
Shonbutler@live.com

Mail your introduction letter and edited video to :
Shon Butler
Attn: Ultimate American Trapper
218 Beechtown Rd
French Creek, WV 26218
Only those entries received before midnight August 15, 2016 will be considered.

Trapping Helps Deer and Turkey Populations

Do you trap for a landowner who manages their land for hunting?  You might want to show them this.  The Bowhunting.com blog just posted an article on the importance of trapping to enhance deer and turkey populations.

Every hunter hates predators on his property. Not that we don’t value these species. I enjoy watching them in the woods but their numbers need to be kept in check in order for other species like whitetails and turkeys to prosper on a piece of property.

Trail camera documentation has proven that a single coyote who needs to feed her pups can kill a couple dozen or more fawns in the spring. As a result, hunting and trapping predators every year is a must in order to keep predator numbers down. Dr. Grant Woods from GrowingDeer TV has spent his entire adult life studying whitetails and knows a few things about managing them. According to Woods, fawn recruitment can be affected by several factors. “Everybody loves to hate the coyote,” says Woods. “The truth is a newborn fawn is an easy meal for many predators, including raccoon and bobcat. A big bore coon will kill a newborn fawn and everybody thinks of a bobcat as a cuddly little critter but they can kill several deer and turkeys.”

Click here to read more.

Trapping on Reality TV

mountainmenmartycabinIn 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.

Mountain Men

mountainmencoverThe 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.

 

Yukon Men

yukonmen

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.

Yukonmens1I 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.

 

lifebelowzeroLife 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_coverGreat 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.  GreatWildNorth2Cor 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.

 

Recap

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.



FHA March 2016 Fur Auction Results

FurHarvesters_logoResults are in from Fur Harvesters’ March 2016 fur auction, and the low numbers won’t surprise most readers who have followed the news of low fur prices this year.  Beaver averaged $6-13, muskrat averaged just under $3, half of the red fox sold for around $23, and raccoons didn’t sell.

The bright spots were coyote and marten.  The high quality western ‘yotes averaged $90, and even the eastern ones brought a respectable $31.  Marten averages topped out at around $60 for the better quality skins.  That’s not as high as many marten trappers were hoping for, but it signals a better trend than most other fur.  Oil prices and the Russian economy will need to make huge improvements for wild fur to make a comeback anytime soon.

Click here to view the detailed FHA auction results.

Trapping Today News Roundup, February 2016

It’s late February and by now we have a pretty good handle on the poor fur market and what we can expect for fur prices moving forward.  Outside of the fur market, though, there’s always news going on in the trapping world.  Here are a few recent items.

NH Bobcat Trapping

New Hampshire Fish and Game has approved the state’s first bobcat trapping season in decades.  Recent research has shown the bobcat population has recovered substantially in recent years and cat numbers are more than adequate to support a controlled trapping and hunting season.  New Hampshire trapper and blogger Jeff over at Live Free and Trap (www.livefreeandtrap.com) has been on the story since the beginning and has a great recap.

Metis Trapper

Big changes have come to northern Canada’s oil-rich tar sands country, but some folks prefer the old ways.  A recent CBC article profiles Massey Boucher, a Fort McMurray, Alberta trapper who has lived off the land through 60 years of change around him.  Read more here.

New Trapping Blog

Shon Ingram recently started a trapping blog, Dog Proof Trapper, where he’s covering trapping with DP’s and other thoughts and advice in the trapping world.  Visit www.dogprooftrapper.com to learn more.

 

Lessons Learned from Failure on the Marten Trapline

Over the years, I’ve learned never to take things for granted in trapping.  Things don’t always go as planned, and we trappers do make mistakes.  I try to take away a valuable lesson from each failed experiment on the ‘line, but for some reason, it’s taken me much longer to learn from my marten trapping mistakes.  I’m still not sure what the lesson is, but I guess it’ll get clearer as I find success.  Until then, here’s my story.

JW_with_martenI got my trapping start with marten in northern Maine, and they’ve been my favorite furbearer ever since.  An old timer who lived down the road taught me to trap and helped me get my start.  I found early success with my first line of 20 or so sets, and caught about 30 marten in my first three years.  It seemed as though everywhere I set traps I found marten, and things were good.

JW_with_marten2I moved out West for work, and tried my hand at marten trapping in Utah and Montana.  A college classmate and I set a trapline in the Uinta mountains, cold rolling in territory we’d never scouted before.  It was quite an adventure.  We set a few dozen traps each and caught half a dozen marten in a week.  Catch per trap set seemed low, but we didn’t have a chance to see the line through for an entire season.  School obligations forced us to pull the traps and focus on coons and muskrats closer to town.

In Montana, I decided I’d get into trapping in a big way.  I had a good full time job, more income than I’d ever seen before, no expenses and no family obligations.  At the time, I thought it was great.  I can still remember making the famous quote to a friend “I’ve got a four wheeler, a snowmobile, about 250 traps……it’s gonna be a gooooood winter!”

marten trapping 019Montana’s great hunting opportunities got in the way of trapping some, but I did put out a marten line in the backcountry of the Beartooth Mountains.  I made 30-40 sets in a beautiful, remote setting in what I thought was great marten territory, and ran them for close to a month.  I used the knowledge I’d gained from marten trapping in Maine and learned from other trappers: proper location, lure, bait and traps.  In all, I only caught 3 marten, and two of them were caught days apart at the same set.  It was truly disappointing.  I’m still not sure why, but the marten simply weren’t there.  I talked with other trappers and developed some theories, but never did figure it out.

Years later, I returned to northern Maine and determined to get back to the old glory of marten trapping I’d experienced in the early years.  With limited time, I made a dozen sets in marten habitat late in the season, and didn’t catch a marten.  I knew they were there, but other trappers had harvested a few earlier in the season and my traps didn’t connect.

The next year I scouted new ground and made a second attempt at a Maine marten line.  I ran 20 sets for 9 days without a marten.  The five weasels I caught didn’t come close to covering the fuel cost.  The area was close to a major road and lumber mill, and I attributed the lack of marten to human activity.  The season was cut short due to an emergency closure to protect Canada lynx.  It was another strikeout.

This past fall, I was determined to redeem myself on the marten ‘line.  I put together a bunch of new gear and scouted an area to trap.  I started a month late due to other obligations, but set up in an area with a known marten population and covered a large chunk of ground with 25 sets.  I ran the line religiously for three full weeks, and didn’t catch a single marten.  Crushing.

marten_at_auction

I now sit at the low point in my marten trapping career.  I’m haunted by the scary thought that I was a more effective marten trapper in high school than I am today!  So it’s make or break time, right?  Can’t get any lower than this.  Get better or get out of the game.

I’m not sure what ultimate lesson I’ll learn from this failure, but here are a few key points that stick with me moving forward, and may help you if you struggle in a particular aspect of trapping.

  1. Humility is key – After a few years of success, I thought I knew it all when it came to marten trapping.  On a fundamental level, marten are an easy animal to trap, but in reality, execution on the trapline is key, and I didn’t have what it took to execute.  I need to dig deeper and find out what it takes to succeed year in and year out and execute on that.
  2. Work harder, but be smart – I made a lot of marten sets in three years, but some would say the effort wasn’t enough to be successful.  That might be true, but remember that 0% is 0%, regardless of how many sets you put in.  I need to work harder at finding the smart locations that will catch marten.
  3. Find success and build on it – When I’m able to connect with high percentage sets that catch marten, then it’s time to duplicate those sets as part of a larger effort to catch more marten.  You don’t catch 20 marten.  You catch 1 marten 20 times.  Sometimes we lose focus while trying to think big picture.  That’s why beginning trappers often find quick success.  They focus on the small things that make a difference.
  4. If things aren’t working, change it up! – In all of the above failure scenarios, I laid out a trapline and stuck with it for weeks, even though I wasn’t catching marten.  It’s a lot of work to set up a line, and you hate to pull and reset traps what that work has been done.  I kept hoping my luck would change with patience.  Now I’m learning that it doesn’t work that way.  Put in a big effort, and if you find no success early on, start moving sets and switch things up until you do find success.

It’s been a tough few years on the marten trapline, but I’m not ready to pack it in just yet.  Hopefully these failures will help build a foundation for future success – if I can just learn from them already!

 

“The Fur Trade” in Outdoor Life

OL_MT_trapping_articleToby Walrath penned a great article on trapping and the fur trade for Outdoor Life Magazine.  He takes the reader through the fur pelt supply chain, all the way from trap to garment, interviewing folks in the fur industry in Montana.  Having lived and trapped in Montana for awhile, it was great to see some of the old faces in the story.

The article provides the best overview of the fur market that I’ve ever read, explaining the industry in simple terms with specific examples.  He talks country fur buyers, state auctions, international markets and fur retail.

Here’s a preview:

After dispatching the coyote, I admire its fur. My job tonight will be to skin the plush pelt, and then I’ll stretch and dry it on a forming board in my garage. I’ll add the coyote’s pelt to the dozen or so other furs I’ve hunted and trapped this season. In a month or so, I’ll sell the whole lot to a buyer who knows a manufacturer with a contract to make garments. My Montana coyote will probably end up as trim around the hood or the collar of a high-end jacket that’s sewn and sold somewhere overseas.

This process of pelt collection, processing, and sale is repeated thousands of times a year in rural towns around the continent by individuals just like me—small-time trappers who enjoy the challenge of trapping and the opportunity to sell a few pelts to buy more traps and pay for a tank or two of gas to fuel our next check of the trap­line. Together, we are the ragtag supply chain for an international retail fur trade that exceeds $14 billion annually.

Click here to read the full article.

Still Trapping Despite Low Fur Prices

Times of low fur prices help to highlight many of the other reasons trappers get out in the field.  Not only is trapping an enjoyable and fulfilling activity that gets folks close with nature and their subsistence background, harvesting furbearers is also critical to proper wildlife management.

Here’s a quote from Luke Laha in a recent Wichita Eagle article following a couple of local trappers in the field:

“The main reason I got into trapping, three years ago, was for wildlife management,” Laha said. “That’s when pheasant and quail populations were really, really low and I wanted to give them the best chance I could to reproduce by reducing the number of predators.”

Laha, Wildlife Outfitting and Operations program coordinator at Pratt Community College, said studies in other states have shown that animals such as raccoons and opossums destroy an alarming amount of quail, pheasant and turkey nests every spring. Some southern studies have had 100-percent nest destruction.

“It’s not just (pheasant and quail), but it’s any ground nesting bird, like meadowlarks and others,” Laha said as he turned from pavement to gravel roads. The Clearwater native, who got a degree in wildlife management at Fort Hays State, said many species of ground-nesting birds are in population declines across America because of lack of habitat and the nest destruction it brings.

New Trapper Photo Gallery – Share Your Photos From The Field!

Would you like to share your trapping photos with others on Trapping Today? Thanks to input from one of our readers, I’ve decided to add a Trapper Photo Album to the site.  You can submit photos to me at jrodwood@gmail.com to share with others in the trapping world.

Thanks to trapper Andy for suggesting the album.  Input from folks like you in the trapping community is one of the things that makes Trapping Today so much fun to work on.  Feel free to continue providing suggestions so we can make Trapping Today a more effective source of information, entertainment and community for trappers.

Click here to see what the Trapper Photo album will look like.

Thanks,

Jeremiah