My father used to set #0 long springs or #1 LS traps along 2x4’s bracing the inside walls of our barn for barn rats. If you sprinkle kernels of corn along these 2x4’s, about 4ft off the ground, it would catch them every time. This is my earliest memory of trapping at 6 years old. At 7, he let me set a weak #0 L.S. for a rat. It took me a few days to catch one. At 8 years old, he showed me how to set a # 1 LS for a muskrat in a ditch near our house. First I caught a wharf rat, a high tech barn rat, a marsh rabbit, and finally a brown muskrat, which I sold for a $1.25. I was hooked and have been ever since. I would check out every ditch near our house for muskrats. I even had a couple of cousins who trapped with me from time to time.
When I came along, no one would tell you anything about trapping. If they did, it was something that did not work, or was to intentionally throw you off. There was a man that lived about a block from me who trapped with his son. They walked every field ditch, catching as many as 400 rats per week. He was a small man but strong as an ox. I once saw him set a bear trap in the local sporting goods store with his bare hands. He didn’t have a driver’s license so he would drive his tractor down to the marsh to trap. He was so competitive, he wouldn’t even tell me when the fur buyers were coming. This man had the first conibear I had ever seen. All I had was #0, #1, # 1 ½ long springs, and a few jump traps.
It was during this time, in 1976 that I started using 110 & 120 conibear. What a change in trapping that made. By this time I had started doing some road trapping too. Fur prices were moving up rather quickly. This was the start of the fur boom of the 70’s. I was selling coons for $1 per pound to one fur buyer, rats brought about $5 to $6, and grey fox would bring $25 to $30. We had no reds here back then. It was extremely cold here the winter of 1976 – 77. Everything froze up for a longtime that winter. I saw this man trapping up and down the highway that winter with an old station wagon, pulling a small boat. He was trapping a river about 12 miles north of where we lived. He was living at a church around the corner from where I was staying. We ended up buying a place 3 houses down on the other side of the church. I went by one day in the spring and saw him hanging a gill net out besides the church. He and his wife lived in the back part of the church. It was fixed up for that purpose. I talked to him for over an hour with the car running. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. He had just got his license to preach at 56 years old. We became very good friends, and he taught me everything he knew about trapping, and about a lot of other things in life too. Later, I would introduce Mr. Smith as the man who taught me how to trap, and he would always say we taught each other. We road trapped and boat trapped in the marshes and woods together from 1977 to 1981, and then again from 1986 – 1990. It was in 1985 that I started trapping a large farm down past my house so it was mostly land trapping. He still water trapped, but would save time to land trap with me some. I caught my first otter, bobcat, and weasel with him.
I also got into buying fur in the late seventies early eighties. And then again in the late 90’s just as a sideline to trapping. Trapping is much more interesting for me even though I learned a lot. I sold to a dozen different fur buyers over the years. (7 NC, 2 NY, 1 DE, 1 MD, 1 Canada) For 2 years 1986 and 87 I trapped with a man who took Elvis pictures and was an army skeet champion two years in a row. We got to be real good friends. I met a man who had trapped with a lot of different famous trappers across the country and Canada. He would come and trap with me when he could from 1986 to 1996. Then the big fur boom crashed in 1987, but I kept on trapping full blast. I had a local young guy trapping with me who I had bought fur from. We were trapping on these big farms with 3 wheelers from 1987 to 1991. After seeing highs on otters of $80, mink $40, rats $11, nutria $13, coon $25, opossum $5, bobcats $125-150, gray fox $50, and red fox $80. Even small, medium, damaged, kits, and off colors, were good money. Even road kills brought good money. Then we saw lows of $3 otter, $1 rats, $6 mink, $.50 nutria, $1 coons, $.50 opossums, $3 bobcats, and $1-2 gray and red fox. These prices would hardly pay the gas bill. I didn’t do much trapping for about 4 years, except to catch a few rats, nutria, otter, and coon around the house, and take the guy trapping for a week or two.
Mr. Smith got me to join the North Carolina Trappers Association in 1977, and I have been a member ever since. I have been a Director in district 1 since 1980. The first person I met, at my first convention at the National Guard Armory in Greenville, NC, was MJ Aktkinson. We met him in the parking lot as we were walking in and had a twenty minute conversation. I will never forget him. I then met Tonnie Davis, and many others over the years that have gone way too quickly.
I have met many interesting people through trapping. Charles Dobbins, Paul Dobbins, Newt Sterling and many, many others. I trapped with very well off people, average people, and poor people. They all had caught the trapping bug. I have trapped in Hyde, Dare and Tyrrell Counties, received offers to go to many other states, as well as the country of Uruguay. I had 3 sons that grew up trapping with me on weekends, holidays and later two of them trapped places for me. I have trained many dogs over the years and presently have a Wired Hair German Short hair Pointer named “Waggs”. Waggs is great for tracking catches on drags, and even has the skill to check traps for me.
Since 1994, I have caught 200+ Wolves, Hybrids, and Coyotes. For many years 100 to 120 Bobcats per year, 100 to 120 Otter per year, so many Nutria and Opossums I couldn’t hardly count. A lot of raccoons most years, a lot of Muskrat before 1987, not so many in later years, and a few weasels, and a late comer to us, the beaver. I have the first documented beaver in Hyde County, February 12th, 1985.
Some trapping oddities: Caught 10 muskrats in a crab pot, Muskrats bored through a mound between two ditches; caught a rat at each end for 6 nights straight, caught only 1 on 7th night. Caught 7 coon on consecutive nights going thru a cement drainage tile just the right size for a 220. Pulled the trap on the 8th night. Caught my black lab in a 220 conibear. After that he was not afraid of other conibear, but he was deathly afraid of the 220.
Back in 2012, I was diagnosed with a real bad cancer. It was a very aggressive form of cancer that had a history of reoccurring. The cancer was found in all of my lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. It was determined that I had had the cancer for several years prior to the diagnosis. I underwent four cycles of chemotherapy in Greenville, NC, and then received stem cell treatments in Chapel Hill, NC. I was fortunate enough to complete all of the treatments. They told me the good lord had given me one hell of an immune system. It also helped that I lived the clean lifestyle of a trapper. Hunting, fishing and mostly trapping, with no drugs, no drinking, no smoking. If I had not quit these things long, long ago, I would not even have been able to take the treatments. So now I know who healed me.
In closing, I have to borrow a quote Vernon Thompson used at the end of his interview. He said, “My only regret is that I didn’t go to church more often and spend more time with my wife. God Bless the NCTA! -- Marco Gibbs