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Trapper Manual

Trapper Manual

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Published by Rob Furnald

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Published by: Rob Furnald on Dec 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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This manual is intended to improve yourknowledge of Minnesota’s furbearers and to providethe basic information needed to trap them in aresponsible manner. In the manual is a discussion of basic techniques and how to avoid many of the mostcommon trapping mistakes. Trapping is not foreveryone and persons who trap, or who areconsidering trapping, must accept the responsibilitiesthat come with it. The manual will not make an“expert” out of anyone – and is not intended to.Expertise in trapping comes only with years of experience and long hours of thoughtful observationand study. This manual will provide an introductionto the biology and management of Minnesotafurbearers, and to the basics of using that resourceresponsibly and safely. It is not intended toencourage or discourage anyone who might want totrap.Unfortunately, much of the opposition totrapping today is the result of an unknowing publicand irresponsible acts by a few trappers. Althoughthere are some who will oppose trapping no matterhow it is conducted, there is no excuse for theavoidable abuses resulting from lack of knowledgeby inexperienced and irresponsible trappers, whichserve to inflame public opinion against all trappers.As fur prices increased in the 1970s and early1980s, so did the number of inexperienced trappers.In 1978, concerned members of the MinnesotaTrappers Association (MTA) in cooperation with theDepartment of Natural Resources (DNR) began astatewide program of voluntary trapper education.That program recognized that many inexperiencedtrappers were sincerely interested in trappingresponsibly, but they lacked any available source of direct information.This manual is intended for use in conjunctionwith the MTA/DNR education program. In additionto classroom sessions, the program includesequipment demonstrations and practical fieldexperience under the supervision of qualifiedinstructors. Although this manual can be used aloneas a reference or a self-instruction book, it will be of most value when used in combination with theeducation course.
Individuals who study this manual andsuccessfully complete the education course will:1)
Have a greater knowledge and appreciationof natural environments and their associatedwildlife;2)
Be aware of the history and heritage of trapping and the fur trade;3)
Have a basic understanding of the biologyand management of Minnesota furbearers;4)
Be familiar with trapping and wildliferegulations and their purpose;5)
Know how to behave ethically in theoutdoors;6)
Understand how to properly prepare,maintain and use trapping equipment;7)
Know the basics of trapping Minnesotafurbearers responsibly and effectively;8)
Understand how to properly prepare, carefor, and use or market, fur pelts to realizethe greatest benefit with the least resourcewaste; and9)
Understand the basics of outdoors safety andsurvival.These are ambitious goals. We cannot stressenough that this manual and the education course areonly a beginning. You are encouraged to check withyour instructor for sources of additional informationand to seek guidance from instructors or otherexperienced trappers at every opportunity. Above all,you will learn by doing. Take the time to analyze thereasons for your successes and failures and alwaysattempt to improve on your methods. No twotrappers do everything the same; they each develop asystem that works for them. The purpose of thismanual is to get you started on the right track in thislearning experience.
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In addition to providing acolorful glimpse of the heritageassociated with trapping inMinnesota, this brief history of thefur trade also provides a valuablelesson in the importance of conservation principles when dealingwith renewable natural resources.Trapping and the fur trade werethe most important influences in theearly exploration and settlement of Minnesota. Although the firstexplorers came seeking a “northwestpassage” to the Orient and it’s goldand spices, they found wealth of another kind – fur. Althoughlumber, minerals, agriculture andindustry would later assume themajor economic importance in whatis now Minnesota, it was fur thatlured the first explorers and tradersinto the wilderness.In the 1600s as fur resources ineastern North America werebecoming depleted, the explorer-traders advanced westward throughthe Great Lakes, and northward upthe Mississippi River. This firstwhite men known to travel into whatis now Minnesota were the Frenchfur traders Pierre Radisson and Sieurde Groselliers who came fromQuebec in 1655 to explore and trade.When they returned to Montreal,they told of the riches in fur to befound in the Minnesota country.Early French trappers andtraders followed the explorers and atfirst were independents, not workingfor any company. They were knownas
courier de bois
, or “bushrangers,” and would spend theirwinters in Minnesota and Wisconsintrapping and trading with theIndians. In the spring, they returnedto the Indian village of Mackinac, onthe narrow strait between LakesHuron and Michigan, where theytraded their furs for needed suppliesand trade goods.By 1700, with the establishmentof French trading posts inMinnesota, the importance of theindependent
couriers de bois
fadedas fur company employees tradeddirectly with the Indians. The
, or “travelers,” wereFrench Canadians employed by thefur companies to transport furs outof the wilderness and to transportsupplies and trade goods back to thetrading posts. These men wereknown for their stamina andendurance as they paddled andportaged their heavy canoes throughthe wilderness.In 1731, Sieur de la Verendryearrived at the Grand Portage (at thenortheastern tip of Minnesota) andtraveled the canoe route up thePigeon River, across the border lakes(now the boundary betweenMinnesota and Ontario), and throughLake of the Woods to build Fort St.Charles on the Northwest Angle.Verendrye has been called thefounder of the fur trade in northernMinnesota, Manitoba andSaskatchewan. The posts heestablished extended the fur tradenorth and west to the Saskatchewanand Missouri Rivers. 
This 1827 engraving of the American Fur Company’s post at Fond du Lac is reproduced by permission of the MinnesotaHistorical Society

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