Trap­ping sea­son is upon us

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Gary Shaw

It’s hard to be­lieve that an­other sea­son of trap­ping is once again upon us in Labrador. The life­style, the busy sched­ules that most folks among us seem to be tied too, and the pace that our lives seem to be fol­low­ing, sees an­other sea­son jump out at us be­fore we even re­al­ize it.

Trap­ping has been a part of the life­style and cul­ture of Labrado­ri­ans’ for eons of time. The skills and ef­forts at­tached to the trap­ping ef­forts of the early trap­pers were clearly born out of ne­ces­sity.

The furs that were har­vested were needed for cloth­ing and for shel­ters that were sur­vival­based in their pur­suit. Trap­ping was much dif­fer­ent than it is to­day. The trap­pers would pack ev­ery­thing they needed on their backs and head into the coun­try, of­ten for sev­eral months at a time, trav­el­ling alone and to­tally un­sup­ported with only the ne­ces­si­ties of sur­vival strapped on their backs.

Their fam­i­lies were left at home to fend for them­selves with what­ever mea­ger food and sup­plies that they would have been for­tu­nate enough to have for these win­ter months. They were also faced with no com­mu­ni­ca­tions to know if the trap­per was okay, or when or if, he would re­turn.

The need for fur for their ul­ti­mate sur­vival was the first pri­or­ity and with the ar­rival of the Euro­pean de­mand for furs, it was a given that they worked harder, went fur­ther and took more chances to get more fur to have to sell and trade to buy newly avail­able items that would make life a bit eas­ier for them.

Al­though trap­ping is still a very tra­di­tional craft by folks from the Big Land, it has sure changed. Travel through the coun­try is sup­ported by qual­ity snow­mo­biles, sleighs, and pre­ci­sion; quick kill traps and qual­ity win­ter cloth­ing to keep warm in the harsh­est of con­di­tions; GPS tech­nol­ogy and satel­lite track­ing if you are in trou­ble are all in hand for the trap­per’s time on the land.

Ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses with ex­ten­sive hands-on in­struc­tion are also manda­tory for all par­tic­i­pants be­fore they can be is­sued a trap­pers li­cense. An­i­mal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, trap­ping skills, the cor­rect meth­ods of set­ting the traps and the use of traps that are de­liv­er­ing quick and hu­mane kills are part of the nec­es­sary cri­te­ria to be­come a trap­per.

For the trap­pers that have headed into the coun­try this fall, there is a dif­fer­ent set of rea­sons to be out there than the fore­fa­thers of gen­er­a­tions long since passed. The ne­ces­sity for sur­vival is no longer the driv­ing force. The de­sire to be in the coun­try and par­tic­i­pat­ing in an age-old tra­di­tion, the call of the wild and the life­style that sur­vived, as the new gen­er­a­tions have taken over, is a driv­ing force.

Main­tain­ing the close­ness to the coun­try and all the ad­ven­ture that it holds is an im­por­tant part of the an­nual sea­son and keep­ing old, cul­tural ties and fam­ily tra­di­tions, is many times, an im­por­tant part of the driv­ing force for many who are still trap­ping. In many cases, its not about the money, (good thing), its about tra­di­tion, cul­ture and be­ing chal­lenged by the many se­crets of the Big Land, the many crea­tures, in­clud­ing the trap­per, who call it home.

This 2018 ver­sion of our lo­cal trap­ping sea­son has al­ready be­gun. Beaver, ot­ter, and muskrat opened on Oct. 15. Marten, fox, lynx, wolf, mink, weasel and squir­rel on Nov. 1.

All of the ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge that each of the trap­pers have ac­cu­mu­lated over their years trap­ping, whether still rook­ies or sea­soned vet­er­ans is fac­tored in to the start of each sea­son.

There are al­ways opin­ions of what species will be in good num­bers and what species will be on the de­cline based on this knowl­edge. The price of this years har­vest is also up for de­bate, as al­ways, no one will really know un­til their furs hit the sale and the price is of­fered. It’s as it has al­ways been with trap­ping, wait and see.

At the end of each day, and the end of each sea­son there is of­ten lit­tle doubt af­ter the math is done, the ques­tion that arises is of­ten the same — why did we do that?

The an­swer too, is of­ten the same as well, and no mat­ter what the math says, trap­pers go trap­ping. The price of fur, the cold days in the coun­try, and the wet and frozen feet and hands are all in­con­se­quen­tial. Car­ry­ing on this age old tra­di­tion and ev­ery­thing that goes with it is in the DNA of those among us who call them­selves trap­pers, sim­ply be­cause it’s some­thing that mat­ters for so many rea­sons.

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