By: Nate Acklin
Is trapping a dying sport? That is a question that has been asked for many years in Pennsylvania. Over the years, thousands of Americans see trapping as a cruel and inhumane sport, but to many people in Warren County it is a sport that has been passed down through many generations.
Trapping is a different way of harvesting animals than most people may think. The main difference involves comparing traditional hunting to trapping. With traditional hunting, you kill the animal to get food, while in trapping you lure in the animal with scents to catch it by the foot with a steel trap with big metal jaws, hidden with dirt or grass. There is a common misconception that the animals are tortured and slaughtered, but, in reality, the animal is in no harm while being detained. Once it is caught in the trap, it is then quickly put down.
The sport of trapping actually contributes many benefits to the environment. Trapping helps overpopulation of different animals to be controlled; many of those animals could be bad for the environment without trappers there to help control the population. For example, coyotes take a huge toll on young fawns every year; this is why coyotes do not have a limit or season to hunt them.
There are also several benefits to the people that participate in trapping. After the animal is caught and put down, the fur has to be skinned off the body. After that’s done, it has to be fleshed, which means to scrape off all the fat and meat off the skin side of the fur. It then has to be stretched and dried for a few days. After all of this, there are a few different options you have regarding what to do with your catches. You can either sell all your furs to fur dealers to make a quick buck or you can also tan your furs to hang on the wall or have them made into different clothing like gloves, hats, and bags. Some of the different animals that have value in trapping are coyote, fisher, fox, bobcat, mink, raccoon, beaver, muskrat, weasel, opossum, and skunk.
The Squire sat down and interviewed long time trapper and Eisenhower Middle Level Social Studies teacher, Mr. Stimmell, about his trapping experience. Mr. Stimmell has been trapping on and off since he was 13 years old, learning many things along the way. His favorite animal to catch is coyotes because they are big, and he would someday wish to catch a bobcat. One of Mr. Stimmell’s favorite memories was seeing tracks in his driveway, laying a set near them, then catching a coyote on his way to church and skinning it after. When he was just a kid, he trapped with his dad, learning from him, and eventually going from there to be the successful trapper he is now. The Squire asked Mr. Stimmell what the strangest animal he caught was and he replied that he “caught the neighbor’s dog.” Part of what makes trapping so exciting is that you never know what you’re going to find.
The Squire also interviewed new trapper, fellow Squire staff member, and Journalism President, Dakota Chase, who has been trapping for two years, to gain insight into someone who is new to the sport. This season, he caught raccoons, mink, opossum, and a grey fox while facing the challenges of mice stealing his bait and the rain. Dakota had a mentor, but never went out with him, so was mostly self-taught. The Squire asked Dakota what his best memory was and he responded with, “Catching myself. I set the trap off on my hand. That was also my worst memory.” Once again, you never know what might happen when you are participating in this exciting sport.
So if you like to hunt and spend time in the woods, trapping might be a great sport for you to try.