September is here. Dove and squirrel season are just around the bend. Water temps will be cooling and kicking off the fall bass feeding frenzy. Bow season shortly. Good times for all! For a dwindling number of outdoorsmen it’s time to prep equipment, mix some baits, check with the landowners who are kind enough to let us ply our trade and reminisce about times past. Deer hunters? Bass fishermen? No, trappers.
Virginia is a trappers paradise. The western mountains provide coon, fox, coyote. The central/eastern sections provide all of these plus beaver and otter. Mink and muskrats run all of Virginia’s creeks and swamps. You can do it all here in Virginia. This may muster an image of a bearded mountain man in buckskins and coonskin cap with a musket and a packbasket. Hellyeah, we all have some mountain man in us! We’d all love to be that guy. Carefree, wild, beholden to no one. However, most of us just can’t muster up quite that much mountain man. For the rest of us there is what I like to refer to as “hobby trapping”. This is a person with a job, wife, 4 kids, two dogs, a live in mother in law and the weight of the world on his shoulders. He also has half a dozen traps and a BAD need for a half hour of quiet time in his day.
There is nothing quite as peaceful as checking your trapline at daylight on a December morning with no wind and a few snowflakes sifting through the trees. Is this the mountain man in buckskins or the guy who leaves for work at his regular job and has to check three traps set under the bridge out on route 765? Well, it’s kind of both. Hobby trappers set where they can, when they can. I used to have a job. I tried it and didn’t like it. I’ve had some extremely stressful jobs. Thru all that I was able to be a hobby trapper.
For a while I was a hardcore hobby trapper. I would start checking traps at 3am. Be to work by 7, get off work at 4, spend three hours in the fur shed skinning and fleshing, then do it all again the next day. As I aged and mellowed it got to where I would have out somewhere between 3 and a dozen traps. I’d leave for work a half hour early and do the same thing, only on a smaller scale. Thru it all it was my morning and evening quiet time.
So, what does it take to be a hobby trapper? Not much really. A new guy can become a hobby trapper for less than $100. Is a half hour of solitude every day for four month’s worth a hundred bucks? To me it is.
If you want to become a hobby trapper I recommend to start with coon trapping. Your equipment is not expensive, the handling of the furs is not difficult, and there are literally coons everywhere. From the most remote western counties to Richmond and NOVA. The best thing about coon trapping is the emergence of true dog proof traps. There are coon traps now that catch nothing but coons. This allows people in more populated areas to trap without having to worry about catching people’s pets. A relatively new phenomenon for prospective new trappers is YouTube. Back in my day “somebody” had to teach you to trap. You can now learn any trap set, fur skinning technique or handling method right on your laptop.
Trapping is a great outdoor activity, stress reducer and a great way to carry on old traditions. Trapping, particularly hobby trapping is not much of a money making exercise. The fur market isn’t what it once was. Demand is down, prices are down. However, it is a hobby that doesn’t cost a lot. The little bit of money you get for your furs allows you to have a fun hobby, for little to no cost. As a lifetime bass fisherman, which we know can get absurdly expensive, a “free” hobby is right up my alley.
If you find this interesting, get out and talk to a local or two. There aren’t many of us left who still trap, but we’re passionate about it and would be glad to take a new hobby trapper under our wing. A few years ago I would have told you to go find some “old” dude to teach you, but suddenly, that old guy is me. If you decide to take up this hobby, best of luck. May your traps stay full, your waders not leak and your wife not complain about what your garage smells like.
Charles Gentry is a regular VA Outdoors contributor and outdoorsmen,