When Life Gives You Beavers...
Put 'em Up!
Today marks one month into the 2016 fall/winter fur-trapping season here in New Hampshire – I’ll admit I’m feeling just about every bit of it. The yearly cycle seems to continually repeat itself; just as trapping season ends you feel remorse and reflect on how short it was. Around mid-August you’re foaming at the mouth to get out into the backcountry while prepping equipment and scouting property. By late September you’re realizing how much you forgot to prep and it’s a mad dash through October to get the fur shed cleared of summer junk, get permits signed and lay traps out on the ‘line. Opening day I typically take the entire day to roam the land and make quality trap sets. That first night I’m always about as gitty as a youngster on Christmas Eve wondering what will await me in the traps the next morning. Typically by the third week of November I start crying “uncle” as the beavers creep into double-digit tallies and each one seems to weigh slightly more than the last. It’s a good problem to have – and I am forever grateful to the natural world for the experience and every furbearing creature that passes through the fur shed doors.
This season I finally caved and traded in the backpack for a new jet sled to transport those “blanket beavers” from the stream bed to the tailgate – it’s the best investment I’ve made since putting a hand-me-down utility cap on the pickup truck some years back. A dozen beaver have been hauled from multiple brooks around my local haunts so far – not too shabby for an expected slow beaver season. Every year I start riddling myself with “doom and gloom” about the lack of beaver sign on my regular trapline; and every year I crack a smile and envision the “I told you so” glare from my landowners when they tell me the beaver are plentiful. A handful of otter, half dozen muskrats and a full-moon-night coon have also made their way to the skinning table next to the beavers, with about a quarter of that tally actually making it to the stretchers. The majority has been skinned, folded skin-side in, and stored in the deep freeze for later in the season when things slow down and more attention can be given to proper fur processing. The beaver I pull out of this particular stretch of brook must be travelers – or heavily territorial, as many are scarred up from fighting each other to the point where a conservative draw with the fleshing knife makes the pelts look like they were skinned out with a weed-whacker. I sense I’ll be honing my sewing skills when the snow gets deep, as beaver pelts loaded with holes don’t make for favorable throw blankets and mittens!
I networked extensively this past summer and managed to befriend some truly genuine and friendly folks. One fellow in particular took quite an interest to the idea of fur trapping, and I managed to get an extra pair of hands sporadically on the ‘line this season in trade for me divulging some of my trapping skills. He’s a very humble, fellow “woodbooger” who’s going to make a fine trapper when he’s ready. I’ll be shifting from my valley trapline over to a newly acquired 900 acres up in the mountains this weekend – so I’ll certainly put him to work in this new “playground”. I’ve had requests from a few other folks here visiting the site asking to come along on my ‘line – hopefully we’ll squeeze them in. For years the trapper was envisioned as a solitary fixture in the backwoods. While I usually prefer it that way, there’s nothing more valuable than introducing someone to trapping; unless of course you also fully convert them – that’s when you really hit pay dirt!
This new property in the mountains holds a chain of several-acre ponds; each peppered with an array of beaver huts, hard-packed otter runways and dense patches of thick hemlocks woven into the mountainsides – a true trapper’s paradise if I ever did see one. I have a generous landowner and kind-hearted circle of friends to thank for the opportunity to traverse this untouched wilderness. Its natural places like this that leave me begging for the day when I’m finally retired and able to devote my undivided attention to fully explore – all in due time I suspect. For now I’ll cover what I can and soak up the scenery as I partake in hands-on conservation activities.
Meanwhile back in society it seems as though we’ve survived another presidential election - well, some of us have at least. While we’re all constantly inundated with emotional social media banter and the endless squawking of televised talking heads, some of us across the country remain vigilant with regard to constant and strategic attacks on hunting and trapping rights. Here in New Hampshire my constituents and I are monitoring local attacks from several different fronts. As another legislation cycle ramps up, its important to keep an eye on your local Legislative Service Requests and get the ball rolling early about how to discuss, defend, and combat any legislation which may seek to restrict your natural-born rights to managing our renewable natural resources. Burying our head in the sand or turning a blind eye will only end up harming us and our activities in the long run. The Northeast states have collectively seen a recent surge in attacks on hunting and trapping, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Whether through legislation, newly formed donation-hungry “coalitions” or poisoning the public with fear-fueled half-truth rhetoric – hunters and trappers need to be attentive as we flow into the New Year. The last year of networking has seen many hard-fought battles, but it has also presented a gracious opportunity and evoked a positive attitude towards the unity of hunters, trappers, and other fine representatives of wildlife conservation. Let it be known to anyone who wishes to wrongfully restrict or eliminate our way of life – we are watching, we are fully aware, and these unnecessary attacks have caused a snowball effect within our seemingly unorganized community of outdoorsmen and women; a snowball effect that only continues to grow and gain more followers as common-sense thinkers become fed-up with the “new” status-quo.
With that, I wish only the best for my fellow trapping brothers and sisters across North America this season. Be safe, be happy, and support one another in our wild lands. May your fur sheds be full, and may our furbearer populations continue to flourish. New content is coming to the site in the coming months – so stay tuned to the Live Free And Trap website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for the latest. I’ll be doing my part with public outreach in the near future – so if you’re local to the Northeast and see me in passing, don’t be a stranger! Good luck out there!