Attending the Wisconsin Trappers Association Convention
By Ben Gruber
Sept. 9 and 10 was the 54th annual Wisconsin Trappers Association Convention, held every year at the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Marshfield. A rainy start was unable to dampen the enthusiasm of trappers and outdoors enthusiasts from across the state and region that came to Marshfield to take part in the convention.
The buildings were filled with the latest innovations to hit the market for trapping, booth after booth of both new and used products available to those looking purchase, upgrade, sell, or trade equipment. Attendance appeared good despite the weather, and I was excited to see a fair share of younger folks here, although admittedly the demographic of trappers is headed the same way as that of all outdoorsmen: aging.
The smells of logwood dye and trap wax mixed with animal gland lures was immediately evident throughout, and nothing takes me back to my wild childhood faster than that smell. I attended a Wisconsin trappers education course when I was 12 and ran my first trap line that fall. Under the guidance of my neighbor Phil, who took me under his wing when we moved to the farm next to his, I would ride my dirt bike down to the creek bottoms before school to check my traps every morning.
Nothing taught me more about wildlife behavior, wetland biology, and stream ecology than trying to outwit those raccoons, muskrats, beaver, and mink. I did that until I was about 18 when fur prices bottomed out and gas was expensive.
I sold all of my equipment then, and now I am working on restocking so I can trap again. Fur prices are not going to make money for anyone right now, and there is no positive future in sight. Fur prices are primarily dependent on a strong Russian market, and current political turmoil there all but assures weak prices for U.S. furs.
Trapping has been under increased scrutiny from the general public as some folks who do not understand much about it question its place in today’s world. It is about far more than wearing fur hats.
Responsible trapping is a great conservation and management tool. Trapping can manage nuisance animals, such as raccoons in your attic; control overpopulation and disease spread; get people outdoors; create a greater understanding of overall ecology and biology; and reduce predator populations to sustainable levels.
Trappers have made strides in recent decades in researching best practices and developing selective trapping methods that all but eliminate incidental catches like nontarget species and reduce conflicts with other outdoor users. These new methods were on display at the convention through numerous clinics and seminars from local and regional experts as well as vendors.
This convention is a neat experience even for nontrappers. Visitors might enjoy seeing some of the demonstrations, and they will learn just how hard this community works to preserve the trapping heritage that goes back to the settlement of this country while continuously striving for safer and more efficient trapping. Some of the strongest and hardest working conservationists in the world are trappers and hunters, and few have a greater understanding of the balance of nature than today’s sportsmen.
I am looking forward to relearning about trapping this fall, and after our day at the Trappers Convention, Addy leaves no doubt that she will be coming along, which leaves me wondering how I am going to carry all of my equipment and a 3-year-old when the snow gets deep.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.