BUCYRUS — The numbers tell the story.
The bottom line is the rock-bottom raw fur prices have fewer sportsmen in the water and in the woods.
That will be the reality this weekend when the first raw fur auction of the season scheduled for this morning at the Crawford County Conservation Center, one that historically fetches the highest prices for the sportsmen of the three sponsored by the Ohio State Trappers Association auctions.
Just 35 sellers are expected.
“We had 40 sellers last January and perhaps a few more than that the previous year,” auction coordinator Bryan Sprague said. “It is obvious as to what the problem is. Hunters and trappers cannot afford to walk the streams and hunt the woods when prices are this low. Fuel prices alone make it a losing proposition. You have to be a die-hard hunter or trapper to stay at it, realizing that you are going to lose money for your efforts.”
Still, the fur-takers make the trip to Bucyrus to sell their catch. Once they hear what price they are going to get they can refuse to sell. Occasionally this happens with the sellers generally taking their chance at shipping to the Canadian fur houses for their sales. Many times they are better off taking the local price, saving shipping costs.
“We have sellers and some fur buyers coming from as far away as Defiance and Marysville,” Sprague said. “Like I said, Bucyrus historically sends trappers and hunters home with the best average.”
John Zander, the son of the owner of Zander & Son Fur Company based in Gibbstown, N.J., talked about the prices that continue to be a fraction of what sportsmen were getting six years ago. “I remain cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I cannot see prices getting any lower because everything is so close to production cost. As an example, we figure we have $3 in a coon pelt when it comes through our door before it is dried and stretched. And that is the biggest coon and we don’t turn down double XX pelts.
“Prices were flat last year and it will be about the same this year,” he said. “I do see light at the end of the tunnel, although there is a lot of fur, especially coon, in storage. Speculators have bought up large sums of coon and are holding them in storage, hoping to sell them when the market starts up and I have every reason to believe it will. If coon are put up properly, speculators can hold them in temperature-controlled storage units for as long as eight or nine years.
“As a for-instance, easily the No. 1 fur at the Bucyrus sale as far as pelt numbers will be coon and they remain in high demand. My long-time buyer down there, Ken Little, will pay as high as $9 for triple XXX pelts. Muskrats will hold about the same as last year, $3 to $3.50 for the big prime ones. Some of the Ohio coyotes will bring $20 but the heavy-coated, nicely-colored coyotes come from out west.”
Zander & Son buys from all over the country.
“Because we buy from all over the nation, we pretty much have the same kind of inventory every year,” Zander said. “So, if the catch is down in Ohio, we generally pick up the slack in other states. That slack, however, is not being covered here in the east. Our muskrat catch is way down because everything has been froze in for so long.”
And Zander’s muskrat-buy numbers once totaled 700,000 in one year although it it is down to about 350,000 with most of those hides going to Asia.