As hunting season closes and trapping season is about to begin, we have new responsibilities this year. For me, there are a few changes to look forward to. First, I filled a vacancy on the Board of Directors. I remember some short 20 years ago when Dean Wilson, Sr. told me that just being an ATA member is a small part and member participation is a must for a strong organization. Over the past years, I've tried to volunteer time and donations in support of this great organization whenever possible. I encourage our members new and old to try to volunteer their time to the different ATA events. This is a great time to see fellow trappers who we don't get to spend much time with and also to support the organization. I hope to do well in this position and meet a few more trappers.
The second change was that I bought the Alaskan #9 Trap Company and will be building the #9's. This has been a dream of mine for a long time. I am excited and scared at the same time. Thanks Al and Neil for the years of building a great trap.
I strongly encourage all trappers to remember when going out this season to pay attention to the trails we share with others. Some guys will go out on a trail and not see any sign of current trapping and assume that this means it is not an active trapline. That's not necessarily the case. Some trappers wait for fur to prime, the ice to thicken, for more snow on the trail, maybe fur prices are low or even letting their 'line sit for a year. That doesn't mean it's a vacant 'line. Talk to local trappers and ask about the 'line you are interested in. Maybe leave a note on the trail head. I personally put signs at the trail heads and a few scattered about on the 'line with my name and phone number. This seems to work for me. Ask a fellow trapper if you can tag along on his 'line for some experience. Offer to help cut trail or build bridges. There is a lot of work to having your own trapline and a huge responsibility.
On the other hand, there are a few 'lines out there that are claimed by trappers, but haven't been trapped for years. These trappers should take a willing trapper out and teach him or maybe the long-term guy should sell or give his 'line to the new guy. Keep the trapping heritage rolling. The closer to town we are, the more problems that seem to occur. Ethics seem to have gone by the wayside and we as a group will have to bring this back into play. There are a lot of people out there that will let you do all the work cutting the trails, building the bridges, and maintaining the trapline only to come out and set traps because it is public land and there are no laws against this. This is where ethics come in. We are blessed to live in big country and there is lots of room to trap. Get out there and discover your own version of paradise.
I remember many years ago when I asked my outfitter to help me get my registered guide license. He said he'd be happy to help, as long as I didn't come back and guide in his area; the area where he taught me and the area I knew so well. I agreed to the fullest. The same goes on the trapline. Don't go out and apprentice on another trapper's 'line and get to know his secrets and the country only to move in and step on his toes. It all comes down to ethics and respect. We have enough problems with others trying to oust trapping without us fighting amongst ourselves.
With the trapping season on us, let's have a safe season and pay special attention this year to the ice conditions. This year, it seems that all the rivers and flats here in the Interior are at an all-time high level. When freeze-up arrives, this will create treacherous ice conditions as the water levels drop under the ice. Watch for low sinking spots on the river crossings and sloughs. Not only can these places have large hollows under them, but as the ice sinks the overflow can fill in these low spots. Some of these conditions may just get you stuck and wet whereas others can be the end of your trapping career. Use caution and common sense when approaching new ice. I personally like to take my axe or a long pole and walk my crossings first. Rivers are probably one of the biggest hazards on our traplines, so use your head and get home safely.
I look forward to the upcoming season and hope to meet many of you at our monthly meetings. Good luck and be safe. May your traps be fast, your knife be sharp and your stretchers be full.