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Kids and fur can go together

By DICK MARTIN • Nov 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Back when I was a kid in the early 50's, fur trapping was a serious business.

I trapped and most of my friends did too, getting up before dawn to check my sets, then checking again each evening, and re-setting them as needed. Fur prices were good and I used most of my pelt money for Christmas gifts, or for necessities like shotgun and rifle shells.

But some boys spent theirs for more basic things like winter shoes for the family or warm coats and an occasional side of very welcome bacon. I still remember what an exciting sport it was, and hurrying from one trap to the next to see if I'd caught something.

When my kids grew a little, they wanted to trap too, and I often took them to set traps, check them, and explain about animals and their ways. We had some memorable moments, but one stands out. I'd found a long drainage ditch that had a well used muskrat run right down its center, so I bundled up my 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and we began setting box traps down the run. Next morning, I couldn't keep up with my kids in their hurry to see what we'd caught, and we'd caught a lot! Some of the traps had three muskrats and nearly all had one or two.

I took the burlap bag filled with muskrats to a Plymouth fur dealer, walked in and stood near the door with my son while Gillian dragged the bag to room's middle and shook it out. Then dickered hard for every rat. The fur dealer stuck it out as long as possible, then broke down laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. He probably gave her more than the rats were worth, but she came back with a fist full of dollars, carefully counted each of us out a third, and walked proudly back to the truck. I'll never forget that day.

Trapping went downhill in the late 80's, and many fur hunters and trappers left the sport. Kids discovered T.V. and video games too, and many wanted to spend their time on the couch. But in the past few years interest in trapping has surged a little, and more youngsters and their dads are walking lakes and streams or making sets for fox and coyote.

One fur buyer said "I'm seeing more kids these days, maybe because dads want to get their kids outside into fresh air and healthy exercise, and spend some quality time. The kids love it, too." And an area wildlife officer said he'd noticed more youngsters taking trapper education courses. A good trend.

I interviewed one trapper with two young sons a couple of years ago, and their story is typical. John started trapping when he was 13 and Joss joined him when he was only 3 years old, riding in the truck on trapline runs. Jacob began at age 4 or 5, and is just as excited as his older brother.

"Trapping is good quality time." John said. "I like to see the kids outside with wildlife and fresh air. Josh agreed. "I like to trap, and we usually do well. I'll have my own trapline when I'm older."

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• A note for deer hunters. The 2017 acorn mast survey conducted on 37 wildlife areas showed white oak acorns are down by 29 percent, though red oak acorns are up 57 percent. So what? Deer, turkeys, and other wildlife feed heavily on white oak mast, though little on bitter red oaks. Check trees for acorns before hunting an area, and make sure they're the right species.

• Leaf peepers interested in finding out where to see the most eye-catching leaves through the fall color season should check out fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov. The website includes color updates and information to help plan fall color adventure, weekly videos highlighting hotspots around the state, and links to fall cavities scenic road trips, and unique accommodations. The Office of Tourism Ohio has their own page. Ohio.org/Fallidays with useful fall color information.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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