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Trappers Ed Teaches Effective, Ethical Trapping

July 30th, 2013

I wish every person who has ever insinuated that trapping is cruel or inhumane could take a Trapper’s Education course. They would learn the practices and methods that ethical trappers use to ensure that trapped animals are treated humanely when harvested. I wish every person interested in becoming a trapper would take the course, too, for the same reason.

The Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association was kind enough to host a Trapper’s Ed class right here at the Michigan United Conservation Clubs office on July 19. Members of our staff and board of directors jumped at the chance to learn more about trapping, and we can’t thank Dale Hendershot and Chris Kettler enough for teaching the class, as well as experienced trapper Jon Southworth, who helped out, too, so that he can teach future classes.

We took a thorough online course in the weeks leading up to Trapper’s Ed, ensuring we had some of the basic background knowledge about traps, sets, methods, species, ethics and the North American Model of Conservation to learn what we needed from the hands-on class. And we learned a lot.

Especially revealing was the lengths that trappers go through to ensure humane treatment of their catch. For instance, it was drilled into us how important swivels are, which trappers add into the links of new traps so that trapped animals can move around freely while in the trap. We also learned that, contrary to the statements of radical animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States, animals do not “writhe around in pain” in traps set correctly. And that myth about coyotes chewing their legs off? Doesn’t happen.

There are two types of trapping: live-traps and kill-type traps. The kill-type traps dispatch trapped animals almost instantaneously – quicker, in fact, than most well-placed shots on big game while hunting. For the live traps, animals are not in pain when the traps are set right. For a foothold trap – and it’s a foothold, not a “leghold,” –  the trap encloses around the foot of the animal and simply holds it in place, with no more discomfort than a human would feel if securely handcuffed. Uncomfortable, sure, but not painful. These are the same traps used by biologists to trap animals fitted with radio collars for scientific research.

Live traps must be checked daily in Michigan, and best practices dictate that they should be checked early each morning, which means that nocturnal animals (most commonly trapped species are nocturnal) remain in traps for mere hours, not days. When they’re dispatched, it’s at a range close enough to ensure a quick and humane kill.

Also covered in Trappers Ed is the proper placement and selection of traps to prevent catches of non-targeted animals, and how to properly treat and care for fur pelts, ensuring that trapped animals are fully utilized and not wasted, consistent with the North American Model of Conservation. To fully understand everything taught in a Trappers Ed class, though, you’ll want to take one.

If you plan on trapping, you should take a Trappers Ed course not only to improve your own trapping, but to make sure you are using best management practices so that you are trapping ethically and maintaining the good name and high standards of Michigan trappers so that all Michigan trapping is ethical trapping, and not providing fodder for the radicals looking for any excuse to attack our outdoor heritage.

Even if you don’t know if you’ll become a trapper yourself, taking the course is an invaluable way to understand what trappers do and how they do it. In order to trap successfully, trappers have to get not just within tens of yards of the animal – not even within feet – but they must place their traps at the exact spot where their targeted animal will be. Trust me, whatever your outdoor pursuits, you’ll learn something.

As for me, I’m already researching trapping methods that might enhance my winter snowshoe backpacking forays into the Pigeon River Country, and maybe trap some furs to keep me warm while out there. The North American Model of Conservation stresses the legitimate use of wildlife, and contrary to the claims of the anti-hunters, food is not the only one. Since humans started walking on two feet we’ve used fur to keep us warm, and I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve learned into practice to become just a little bit more self-sufficient, aware and knowledgeable about the woods, waters and wildlife that I love.

The Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association will be conducting a Trappers Ed class August 24th and 25th, 2013 at the Chelsea Rod and Gun Club at 7103 Lingane, Chelsea, MI 48118 from 9am to 5pm. The class fee will be $6.00, which will include a trapper’s kit with traps and lure, resource materials, and a barbeque lunch provided both days. There is no minimum age requirement, but the class is structured for adults and youth 8 years and up.

Dennis and Melinda Cronk, Trent and Tamara Masterson, and Dale Hendershot put on an excellent introductory trapping demonstration at MUCC’s Annual Convention in June, and anyone who was there could probably attest that it would be well worth it to take the full class. Contact Dennis Cronk at (248) 798-1996 to sign up for the August class.

  • annie

    When you show me how it is that you will allow your own foot to be put into a “foot”hold trap, and then tell me it’s merely an uncomfortable position, then have someone shoot you in the head point blank range, then skin you for what rightly belongs to you and no one else, then you can talk about humane trapping practices. Taking the freedom of something you have no right to is not humane. There is no humanity in trapping. No amount of rhetoric can change that.

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      Actually, we caught our hands in the traps a few times while learning to set them. Uncomfortable, but didn’t hurt that much. A close range shot is more accurate, and thus more likely to kill instantaneously, and after that, it would be disrespectful not to skin it and make full use of the animal. I get that you’re uncomfortable with humans using wildlife, but conservation means “the wise use of natural resources” – including wildlife – not “no use.”

      • milty

        Actually Annie, being a Hunter Safety Instructor, we routinely show the students how traps work by putting our own hands in them and being “caught”. The beauty of this is you can humanely release non-target animals. Obviously, you have no knowledge of trapping. Attending a trapping class might be just the thing for you.

  • linda goldstein

    There is NOTHING HUMANE about trapping an animal. There is no need to wear an animals skin any longer…or haven’t you heard about synthetic fabrics that are warmer and don’t involve skinning an animal or trapping it and having it be in pain. Maybe you need to watch Silence of the Lambs!!!!

    • Dave Leonard

      …or haven’t you heard that synthetic fabrics are made from petro-chemicals? I bet you are one of the people upset about the pollutants that are being released from petro-chemical plants (heck, I would even stand with you on that issue), but the fact remains that fur is a managed renewable resource that does not add to the toxicity of our beleaguered environment. I for one would much rather wear fur, than inhale the residual solvents from a plastic “fleece”. As for your “warmer” claim, well, you obviously don’t speak from experience, otherwise you would not be able to tell that lie with a straight face.

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