At what age did you get introduced to trapping and who introduced you?
I grew up in a small town in Nebraska called Nelson. No one in my family ever trapped. I hunted and fished with my dad and uncles but was self-taught when it comes to trapping. I earned money delivering newspapers on my bicycle when I became a teenager. Spending some of my hard earned money on ammunition as a Christmas present to myself was always a highlight of the year. In December 1986, I was 15 years old shopping in a sporting goods store called Allen’s in Hastings, Nebraska. I came across a box of traps for sale while looking at all the hunting and fishing gear. I was fascinated with the mechanics of how the traps operated and the thought of catching lots of wild animals was the start of my trapping career. I don’t remember what I paid, but I had enough money to buy four traps which were: professional no. 2 coilspring traps made by Victor Animal Trap Company in Lititz, PA. I still have two of those original traps hanging in my fur shed. I couldn’t wait to get home to set them to see what I could catch. That first season I trapped behind the high school in a small stream called Elk Creek. I only had one successful catch that first year but it was a true double – two animals caught in the same trap….even though it was just two field mice, I had the trapping fever!!! I saved my money from delivering newspapers and finally had enough to buy my first vehicle when I was 17. It was a 1982 Ford Bronco 4x4 for which I paid $2,000 in cash. Big dreams of catching 100 raccoons in one day kept me up at night. I did make that goal while attending college with my best daily raccoon catch of 104 which still stands as the record today!
What was your first furbearer that you caught?
Dad dropped me off at my favorite fishing hole on the Little River north of town my second trapping season. I often dreamed of all the mountain men who trapped this river before me. It took all day to set my long trapline of four traps, but I was sure that being out of town on the river instead of the creek behind the high school, would produce better results! The next day was the start of my passion for trapping as I was successful with one raccoon waiting for me. Finding a muskrat den the day before, after the traps had already been set, I moved the trap that caught the raccoon and made a slide wire drowning set in front of the muskrat den. I knew tomorrow my next furbearer would be waiting. Three days went by before my next catch. Approaching the muskrat den set I could see the trap was gone and something was at the end of the slide wire. Pulling up the trap I just knew I had a muskrat, but after further inspection this muskrat had a furry tail. I then realized I had caught a mink. I didn’t want to mess up the fur, so I got permission from Mom to put it in the freezer to wait for the next weekly pick-up from the local furbuyer. When I took my fur to be sold that next week, I can still remember the furbuyer telling me he would give me $50 for the frozen mink. Instead of selling the mink, I used my fur check to have that mink mounted. I spent $150 with the local taxidermist and that first mink still sits on my desk today!
Which states have you trapped in since then?
I have trapped in many states in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeastern United States. I always thought I wanted to be a game warden growing up and attended college at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln to obtain a degree in Wildlife Management. I paid my way through college trapping. I targeted mostly raccoons back then. I met others in college who also trapped. Three of us decided to team up during Christmas break to catch 1,000 raccoons. We didn’t reach our goal but the first animal I caught on that trapline was another mink which is where my nickname minkster came from. I skinned that mink in the basement of the college dorm and unfortunately cut the scent gland which ended me being allowed to use the maintenance room as a skinning shed while attending college!
Which furbearers make up your yearly catch?
I enjoy water and land trapping. Below is my second season’s catch after moving to NC
Which furbearers do you enjoy trapping most? Why?
The river otter and coyote are two at the top because of the challenge and their large home ranges. Beaver make the list due to the large population across the state which makes for great personal goals to outdo each season. Walking up to a bobcat, grey fox, or red fox caught in a trap always makes me smile. How can I pick just one when I enjoy catching them all? I even enjoy catching skunks as they paid for a lot of college books in the early years!!!
Which year was your most memorable year on the trap line and why?
The first year targeting river otter in North Carolina found me scratching my head. I had 150 body grip traps set by the fourth day but still had not caught an otter. I remember calling Claudie Taylor and asking him lots of questions. He kept saying be patient because they have a large home range. The next day I had four, then six, then eight, then eleven and I ended up catching 79 during that two week vacation with all coming in the last 10 days! Every year has memorable moments like the year I caught five bobcats at the same location. My first triple and then a quadruple on otters always makes me smile….still waiting on that true triple on coyotes! Achieving my personal goals does make a year memorable like fulfilling what I call my grand slam in North Carolina which is taking 100 coyotes, 100 red fox, 100 grey fox, and 100 river otters in a single season. I have only done that once but maybe another year like that awaits me in the future.
Do you have any personal challenges you have yet to achieve? (example: catch number for a season?, catch of a specific furbearer?, other?)
Other personal goals being planned for future traplines include the 1,000 raccoons and 1,000 beaver in a single season as well as 200 river otters and 100 bobcats!
Where do you see trapping in the future?
Trapping is conservation in the purest form which supports the “wise use” of our abundant natural renewable resources. If we continue to educate others that we care about our responsibility to the sustainable use of furbearers, we can show that trapping is a safe, efficient, reasonable, environmentally friendly, acceptable, and critical component in managing wildlife populations. We all can promote responsible trapping by showing animals respect and understanding others concerns. Damage control trappers will continue to be needed because trapping is the most effective and efficient method available to deal with wildlife-human conflicts. Trapping proactively reduces property damages at little to no cost to tax payers. Recognizing fur as: a green product that is an annual renewable resource, is fashionable, beautiful, all-natural, and organic shows that we care. Educating others on the positive side of trapping will help ensure trapping continues: trapping is a highly regulated activity with strict rules enforced by state wildlife agencies, scientifically-based research has improved the humaneness of traps used today, and trapping helps maintain healthy populations in harmony which most people will understand. We all can help continue this campaign by being responsible ourselves.
Why do you trap?
Trapping is fun, a challenge, healthy exercise, and rewarding not only with $ but memories.
Do you have a favorite trap?
I guess my favorite trap would be the two that I have the most of…..the Belisle 330 body gripping trap for water trapping and the Oneida Victor 1.5 softcatch foothold trap for dry land trapping. The Belisle is hard to beat for otter and beaver! Many don’t like the little softcatch footholds but I own over 500 of them.
What contributions have you made to trapping and the North Carolina Trappers Association?
I take great pride in the number of hours I have volunteered not only in teaching trapper education classes but the generous time I have invested in helping promote responsible trapping through the NCTA for the past 25 years. When I moved to North Carolina in 1993, I started attending the NCTA annual conventions and got to know Tonnie Davis who talked me into getting more involved. The NCTA Board had a hard time finding a Secretary so that was the first position I held. I am also a past President from 1999 – 2001. Since then I have been the Education Coordinator as well as Chair of the Furbearer Research Grant Committee. I received the NCTA Trapper of the Year award in 1997, 2006, and 2008; President’s Award in 1998; Leadership Award in 2014; and was inducted into the Trappers Hall of Fame in 2017. The awards are appreciated but I don’t participate expecting any recognition or pat on the back because my many contributions are based on my passion and love of trapping that I truly believe in. I am dedicated to help promote this love which is why I helped start the 3-day NCTA Trapper College in 2009 and the one day specie specific workshops in 2016. To date NCTA has hosted 5 trapper college’s (136 attendees), 5 coyote workshops (82 attendees), 3 beaver workshops (72 attendees), and 1 fur handling workshop (10 attendees) raising $10,575 in funds. The specie specific workshops now qualify as continuing education for Wildlife Damage Control Agent recertification. There has been 5 educational furbearer grants that have been awarded totaling $4,555. A total of 1,031 individuals have received their trapper education certificate during the 58 classes held to date since it was first offered in 2009. All the volunteers who have helped conduct these classes raised $29,922 in Pittman Robertson funds that goes to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
What do you think trappers biggest challenges in the future will be?
Response: I would probably be surprised at the amount of money and time that I have donated over the years. To emphasize my dedication, I have attended every NCTA Board of Directors meeting and Convention since 1993 except for one Board meeting that I missed when I was on a three month detail for work stationed in New Hampshire and Vermont. With 4-5 meetings a year over the last 25 years, that equals more than 100 days, 1,000's of hours, and 10,000’s of miles driven. Your willingness to get involved, volunteer time/money, and being motivated to participate is needed for recreational trapping to survive. We need more dedicated trappers who will help defend trapping professionally with facts and not let personal emotions bias decisions. I hope the examples I have set will motivate others, and be the standard everyone wants to achieve to protect trapping. Those who know me value my efforts to bring professionalism to trappers by doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because you expect something in return. Trappers need to be selfless with their time and energy and be a role model for all to follow. We all have lots to do in this fast paced world with family and job obligations, but hopefully everyone can find some time to give back by volunteering for that passion that we love…trapping!!!