Check out the new Beaver page on the Furbearer section of Trapping Today. The page provides some basic information on beaver biology, habitat, and trapping methods. I’ll be adding more beaver trapping information to the page as time goes on. Hope it’s useful!
Trappers do a lot of skinning. In order to be productive, safe and efficient, it’s always been critical to have a sharp knife at the skinning table, but hasn’t always been easy. I still have the skinning knife I used in my early days of trapping. It’s a simple, small plastic-handled knife that hardly has any blade left after all of the sharpening it’s been through. I spent a lot of time sharpening knives back then and never could quite get a skinning knife as sharp as it was when I bought it.
With the new Piranta knives, though, I doubt I’ll ever go back to those old knives for skinning fur. These knives employ heavy duty stainless surgical blades that you simply discard and replace when they become dull.
I was given my first Piranta knife (The Piranta Edge) as a Christmas gift a few years back. I still have it, but I have since bought another one so I don’t have to keep track of one knife, considering all of the places I use it. I usually keep one Piranta in my pack or vehicle to take wherever I go, and leave one at home. They aren’t cheap knives, but are very heavy duty. I like the orange color (easier to find when you drop it in the grass) and the replaceable blades hold their edge for quite a while.
If you do a lot of skinning, I recommend you give the Piranta Edge, or another of the Piranta line of knives a try. You’ll pay for it up front, but the knife makes the chore of skinning much quicker and easier. Just be careful not to cut yourself – those blades are sharp!!!
It seems the media is beginning to catch on to the news of last year’s high fur prices, with a couple of recent stories on the fur market’s impact on trappers.
Here’s part of a story from Montana:
The demand for fur is on the rise and prices are booming, providing a windfall to Montana trappers who say their industry has hit a 30-year high.
And market indicators suggest the demand – and the prices that follow – will continue to increase as buyers in China, Russia and Korea watch their incomes grow.
“Trappers are seeing an increase in their paychecks in the state of Montana,” said Toby Walrath, president of the Montana Trappers Association. “The market is strong and improving. It’s a good time to be a trapper right now.”
Montana trappers received $2.7 million in income in 2012 from the sale of raw fur, according to the Montana Trappers Association. This year’s state auction also paid out $230,000 for the pelts of prized species, including those monitored by state game officials.
Walrath, who heads the state organization from his Corvallis home, said the money brought in by trappers circulates beyond the trapping community. It extends to taxidermists, in-state furriers, hotels and sporting good stores, such as Wholesale Sports in Missoula, which now sells trapping supplies.
And another from Maine:
North American fur is booming.
Not in North America, necessarily, but “you can’t keep fur in stock in Russia,” says furrier Greg Tinder. “The higher the price tag you put on it, the faster it sells.”
Tinder, who left Saks Fifth Avenue to start his own label, says the East has always been a furrier’s dream — think big, plushy Soviet-era hats. But now, with Russia’s economy on the rise, there’s some new money on the block, and designers know that.
Alan Herscovici with the Fur Council of Canada says upwardly mobile consumers in China and Korea, as well as in Russia, are driving the market.
“The fur sales that are the strongest now are not necessarily your grandmother’s old mink coat,” says Herscovici. “Rather, it’s the bunny cuffs and coyote fur ruffs that helped grow the retail fur industry to [$15.5 billion] last year — 45 percent more than sales 10 years ago.”
Ten years ago, it wasn’t very lucrative at the other end of the business, either, especially for trappers.
Maine trapper John Sewell says a coyote fur that would net $7 at auction a decade ago would sell for $50 today.
“That’s what they want for the trim trade,” he says.
What used to be a $2 muskrat is now a $12 muskrat. The marten that was worth $40 could bring almost $200 at an auction today.
With money like that, says Sewell, interest in trapping has gone up about fivefold in the past few years.
Though the market may change, it’s been a good time to be a trapper lately and more folks are definitely gaining interest.
Click the links below to read the two stories in full.
The guys over at The Management Advantage – a wildlife management consulting business – have put together some excellent videos on trapping as it relates to private property management. Here’s one on coyote trapping.
Groenewold Fur & Wool Company of Illinois is one of the major buyers of wild fur in the United States, and has a pretty good handle on the pulse of the fur market at any given time. Lately, Groenewold has been providing updates on the fur market for trappers through their website, a blog, twitter feed and text alerts.
Here’s part of a recent blog post about the Chinese fur market:
CHINESE FUR MARKET
As many of you have heard, the Chinese market is having some negative effect on the wild fur business. The effect is most acute for ranch mink. However, there will be some effect on wild furs. Most wild fur species did not see the dramatic price advances of ranch mink over the last 13 years, and are still attractively priced.
The problems are as follows:
- Warm weather in major Chinese cities.
- China has a new Premier who is not tolerating fur garments being used for bribery.
- Chinese consumers cannot accept these much higher garment prices. (THIS IS THE MAIN PROBLEM)
For more information, and updates on fur prices for different species, visit www.GFWCO.com.
North American Fur Auctions has provided a couple of recent updates on the state of the wild fur market amidst a great deal of talk about a huge drop off of last year’s high fur prices. Here’s the latest from NAFA’s Herman Jansen:
Wild Fur Update December 24, 2013
Now that we have had the results of the Kopenhagen and Helsinki December auction sales, it is time to reflect on these results.
Mink is coming off a very high and very profitable level and it is of no surprise to many that we are seeing a decline – China’s mild weather, together with some transportation problems being the main reason. Russia all along has found the recent price levels too high for its consumers. As mentioned earlier, over the last 10 years the December and January auctions have seen the lowest prices of the season. We still have 5 weeks of important retail left in China and in our traditional markets we have cold weather which should result in higher fur retail, although this is mostly in trim.
Our ace in the hole for wild fur is the trim trade, which has, up until now had a very good selling season. Yes, we will see a reduction from last year’s very high prices, but with NAFA scheduling 3 major auctions in 2014, we have enhanced our trapper producers’ chances of maximizing their return. The increased auction schedule comes at an absolutely perfect time for all of us. Many of you will recall why we no longer hold auctions in December and January. Quite simply, the timing is wrong. Manufacturers and retailers are still selling last year’s inventory and until the current retail season is over, are not ready to purchase for the next retail season.
As it looks right now, there will be a reduction in price levels for most furs, but on the positive side, this will attract new consumers that were unable to buy furs because of last year’s high prices. The correction in the market highlights that very commercial and lower end goods will be in for a bigger decline than better qualities. We believe we will see this throughout the selling season. Good quality, well handled skins will still bring very respectable prices to our producers…………..
Wild Fur Update December 27, 2013
We have been receiving a lot of calls from our producers asking about the situation in China and also what sale they should offer their skins in.
As your auction company, it is our job to make sure that we maximize the return on your skins in every auction. In the fur market it has always been exceptionally difficult to predict which sale is going to be the best and this year is no exception. You may be hearing the doom and gloom stories being circulated by certain fur buyers. These are being used to try and buy your skins now, at heavily discounted prices. It is their prerogative – after all we believe in freedom of speech. Here at NAFA, as in previous years, we have sold and paid out 100% of all the skins we received last year, so our track record speaks for itself. We are confident in the market and we believe our clearances will be excellent again this year. We have added 50% more space to our auction room and all this has been done because we truly believe in our future.
NAFA has a dedicated marketing team of 14 staff worldwide, whose job it is to gather sales and marketing information and promote NAFA’s product to our customers. They also report back to us on the market conditions in each of their markets. We gather this information and pass it on to you as best we can. Right now we are still in the middle of the retail season in our biggest market of China, and Russia’s retail season is still ongoing, so it is too early to tell you how successful the retail season has been. What we do know however, is that besides the transportation problems in China, they have had a warmer than usual November and December, which has had a negative effect on retail. Apparently it is now beginning to turn colder so we will have to wait and see what January brings.
This year we have added the April sale to our schedule because of the increased quantities that we will be selling. We have spread our three auctions out evenly so that starting in February, every 7 weeks or so we will have a major, attractive auction. This is better for everyone. For our producers it makes life easier by adding one significant sale. For our buyers it allows them to even out their purchases, helping with their cash flow.
Today, China manufacturers nearly 80% of all the fur garments in the world. It buys the skins at the auction; it dresses the skins in China; it manufactures the garments in China; and then, quite often, especially in the case of wild fur, it re-exports them to Russia, Europe and North America. In the trimming business, which is wild fur’s biggest buyer, China also has a very important role, but it is not as dominant in manufacturing as it is in the garment business. Ranch raised mink has a higher dependency on China, whereas the trimming business has a wider range of customers worldwide. For example, in North America there are several very large winter coat manufacturers that are using fur trim on hoods and sleeves, etc. Coyotes and raccoons are the favorite trim.
Fur Harvesters Auction Inc provided a recent update of their take on the fur market this season. FHA is a company out of North Bay, Ontario, Canada and a great place to send furs to be auctioned off. They will be holding their first auction of the season January 7th, 2014.
Here’s some of what FHA’s Mark Downey had to say:
Wild Fur Market Forecast
Updated December 22, 2013
Having just returned from visiting customers and sales in Russia and Finland I can report more accurately now that both of the largest December auctions for ranch mink have concluded. Quite simply put, articles that have been dominated by the Chinese trade have SLOWED to a crawl. Very few buyers from China attended either of the European December auctions, resulting in overall clearances of only 20 to 25%, and at reduced levels of 20 to 30 %. The Russian sable sale went well with a small reduction in price and a clearance of 85%………………………
Note: This is the 2013-14 Market Forecast. Click here for the 2014-15 Fur Market Forecast.
Curiosity about the fur market is common this time of year, especially among trappers who want to know what they can expect to be paid for their fur. That curiosity is even greater this year, on the heels of a stellar 2012-13 season that produced one of the best climates in which to sell raw fur in decades.
The high prices of early 2013 have more people interested in wild fur than any other time in recent memory, meaning any uncertainty about the fur market can cause huge buzz. And uncertainty is exactly what we’re getting thus far. What follows is a little background on the fur market and some notes on the latest rumors that have been flying around in recent weeks.
The Fur Market
North America is a huge producer and exporter of wild fur, relying on countries like Russia, China and Greece to purchase it. Fur in the clothing market has a variety of uses, ranging from a luxury item in some circles, to a utility in others. Luxury fur garments are sold at very high prices in the fashion world, while the common clothing buyer in many temperate regions of the world purchases fur clothing simply to keep warm.
What we know based on these simple principles is that disposable income and supply changes affect the luxury fur market, while weather and general economic conditions affect the demand for ‘utility’ fur. These factors can change quickly, and combine with speculation to produce substantial swings in fur prices.
The reality is that by the first of the year, we never really know what is going to happen in the fur market. Most trappers work all fall to catch and prepare fur without knowing what to expect for a price. That’s because fur prices are generally set by the large international fur auctions that only begin in February of each year.
The Latest Buzz
Though we never really know what to expect in the fur market, there are always early indications of what’s to come. Here’s the little bit I’ve been able to gather thus far:
Expectations are high on the heels of a stellar 2013 fur market
Several articles have appeared recently about how great the recent high fur prices have been for trappers. This may be setting up some unrealistic expectations for prices in the future. Like all relatively mature industries, the fur market is cyclical. This means high prices do not last forever. All things being equal, the forces of supply and demand will bring high prices down. Still there is a possibility that the underlying factors that drove the high prices last year could continue for some items.
Mild weather in Russia and China has slowed demand
A good portion of North America’s wild fur eventually ends up in the hands of consumers in Russia and China as utility garments, which are worn not because they are fashionable, but because they are warm. Warm weather like China and Russia have recently experienced reduces the need for fur clothes. Changes in the weather can take place overnight, though, and the market can react quickly to these.
Politics in China may be affecting their ability to import fur
Rumors have swirled recently that Chinese importers are having difficulty bringing wild fur into the country legally. This has supposedly reduced the number of Chinese fur buyers at recent ranch fur auctions and made for lower prices. The magnitude of this problem is difficult to determine. Some folks believe that in a strong market, importers will find a way to solve this problem.
Recent prices have simply gotten too high for consumers of ‘utility’ fur items
Higher prices cause most consumers to think twice about buying a product. You don’t think twice about buying milk at $3/gallon, but when that same gallon costs $8, you probably won’t be drinking milk as often. It’s the same way with the fur market, and many believe that last year’s high prices have caused some consumers to shy away from fur.
There’s More to Come…..
It’s hard to say what we’ll see in the fur market this season, but the little I’ve gathered indicates a pretty substantial dip off of last year’s record high prices. Bits and pieces of information surrounding the market are floating around everywhere this year. We’ll do our best at Trapping Today to gather those information sources into one place where you can read what’s out there and decide for yourself – at least until the February auctions, when we’ll all be experts on what the fur market’s doing as the results of the world’s biggest auctions are made public. Stay tuned!!
With trapping season upon us, many sportsmen pick up a copy of Fur-Fish-Game to catch up on the latest fur market report, and perhaps read a few interesting articles on trapping or some other outdoor pursuit. This self-described “Magazine for Practical Outdoorsmen” has a long history as a source of information for the outdoor community, a history that began with an ambitious man and a simple, influential vision.
A.R. Harding was one of those great outdoorsmen with a gift for the written word. He grew up in Ohio an avid trapper with a strong desire to make a living from the outdoors. As a teenager he was running a trapline and buying furs from boys throughout the neighborhood, making his rounds on horseback. The young fur buyer worked his way up to a position with a major Ohio fur company before embarking on a publishing career that would change the trapping scene throughout North America.
Harding first published a weekly local newspaper with a friend in 1898 before really hitting it big in 1900. That year he founded Hunter-Trader-Trapper, a magazine focused strictly on the trapping and fur trading business. The magazine was an instant hit. Harding published information that had long been kept secret by old timer trappers who guarded their knowledge with tight lips. Fur being the major industry it was in those days, trappers benefited greatly by reading the pages of H-T-T.
The success of Hunter-Trader-Trapper, along with Harding’s abilities as a writer and publisher, led to a long line of trapping and outdoor living-related instructional books. Some were written by Harding and others by experts in different fields. Titles included Fox Trapping, Mink Trapping, Camp and Trail Methods, Land Cruising and Prospecting, Fur Farming and many others under the “Harding’s Pleasure and Profit Books” line.
Harding sold Hunter-Trader-Trapper magazine in 1914 due to ill health. The magazine continued running, and in 1925 a healthy A.R. Harding attempted to buy it back. His offer was refused, so he bought Fur News and Outdoor World, a similar publication, instead. He changed the name to Fur-Fish-Game, and nearly a century later the magazine continues in its success.
When you pick up a copy of Fur-Fish-Game today, you’ll see many of the tenets of Harding’s vision for the magazine remain after all these years. He focused on the outdoors as a lifestyle rather than sport or hobby, and relied heavily on information from readers because he felt they often provided better perspective than ‘paid professional writers’. At the same time, he valued the writings of professionals who were experienced in the field. The twenty-four books in his publishing library are still available today, including eleven written by Harding himself.
The fourth generation of Hardings publishes Fur-Fish-Game today. With a circulation of over 120,000, you can’t argue with their success. The magazine has changed a lot, though, and I love to look back through old copies of Hunter-Trader-Trapper and Fur News and Outdoor World. It sure was a different time.
Here’s NAFA’s report on their February fur auction.
Record Attendance Creates Record Prices
100% CLEARANCES WITH NEW HIGHS
February 22, 2013
NAFA, nor any other auction house in North America, has ever seen a buyer attendance for a fur sale such as we saw here in Toronto this week. Registration for NAFA’s 2013 winter sale was over 700 buyers, with 470 from Hong Kong/China, more than 100 from Russia and Greece and 50 Koreans. This, combined with buyers attending the sale from Turkey, Eastern Europe, North America and other European countries, meant our auction room was full to bursting each selling day.
Throughout the wild fur sale, Hong Kong/China was exceptionally active, but in many articles, we also enjoyed strong support from Russia and Greece. In the exclusive fashion category, we still saw excellent buying from the top fashion houses in Europe and North America.
NAFA’s wild fur promotion has been an important factor in increasing China’s buying of wild fur. It was only a few years ago that China showed very limited interest in wild fur. Today, with the huge amount that NAFA has now cumulatively invested in wild fur promotion, this has all completely changed. We have to recognize that fur is in fashion in China, where up until now, ranch raised mink was their number one article. Without NAFA’s wild fur promotional programs, it would not have been possible to sell articles like Fisher, Sable and most of the Raccoon into this important market at these levels. Coupled with the coldest winter in 28 years in China, this has created an unbelievably strong fur market.
In all of the long haired articles throughout our wild fur sale, the trimming trade was very active. This reflects the popularity of fur trim on all types of outerwear.
New highs were achieved for Fisher, which saw the traditional buyers having to compete with Chinese retail manufacturers for the first time. Prices increased 50% to 70% over February 2012 levels. The average price was $156.67 with the Top Lot sold for $350.00
Close to 100,000 Can/Am Sables also saw an incredible price increase over last February of 55% to 60%. Again, the traditional buying markets of Russia and Greece had to compete with Hong Kong/China, which dominated this sale. However, Russia and Greece still took their fair share of all of the goods offered. The average price was $144.29 with the Top Lot sold for $650.00.
Over 400,000 Raccoon sold 100% at an overall average of $31.20, compared to $16.90 last year, an increase of over 80%. However, the heavier, better sections quite often saw price increases of 100%. The influence from the trimming trade was felt throughout the Raccoon sale as they took the lion’s share of the goods. Here again, China dominated, with good support from Russia and Greece. This was not only a truly unbelievable accomplishment, but long overdue for this important article. The Top Lot was sold for $240.00.
Muskrats advanced 10% over our very strong sale last February, with an average of $11.51. Again, China dominated in this important article. The Top Lot was sold for $54.00.
160,000 Beavers sold 100% at an Eastern average of $37.73 and a Western Average of $31.03. Price averages declined 18% overall from last year’s February very high Beaver sale. This result is somewhat better than expected and reflects the ongoing dressing problems for this article. Again, China dominated. The Top Lot was sold for $400.00.
Otters had a very strong sale, advancing over last year’s already high levels. Again, China dominated, with good support from Greece and Russia. Better quality Otters are now being sheared and used for men’s coats. The average price was $112.58 with the Top Lot sold for $260.00.
Lynx sold under very strong competition with Russia, Greece and China all in the mix to buy. This resulted in a 40% increase over last February. Nearly all of the Lynx will be used for trimming. The average price was $194.44 with the Top Lot sold for $525.00.
Lynx Cats produced new highs, with all major markets competing for this beautiful article, which is mostly used in the big sizes for trimming and the smaller sizes for garments. Greece and Russia dominated with good support from China. The average price for Westerns was $589.08 with the Top Lot sold for $3,000.00.
Coyotes sold exceptionally well with Italy, Canada and China competing aggressively for all sections. Premiums were paid throughout for heavier, better quality Westerns, which averaged $93.98 with the Top Lot sold for $1,400.00.
Red Foxes sold under strong competition with premiums paid for heavier goods, better colours. Again, China dominated with good support from Europe and Russia. The average price was $65.78 with the Top Lot sold for $340.00
The sale concluded today with Grey Foxes, which sold 100% under good competition at advancing prices, primarily to the trim trade. Again, China dominated. The average price was $45.91 with the Top Lot sold for $68.00.
The combination of the record attendance of buyers from all major markets, the fact that fur is fashion, especially in China and Russia, and the long cold winter in China, came together to generate the “perfect storm” for our producers.
The sale will conclude tomorrow with miscellaneous and taxidermy articles.