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Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper by E. N. Woodcock

 Review by CJ Williams

     The modern trapper has a wealth of information at his disposal in the form of books and videos that detail the latest equipment and techniques.  Like everything else, technology has brought trapping a long way.  Against that background it can be truly refreshing and entertaining to take a step back in time and get a sense of what trapping used to be and how the old-timers did it.  E. N. Woodcock's book Fifty Years A Hunter and Trapper is a glimpse of the past that every trapper will appreciate. 
     Woodcock's trapping and hunting adventures took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in the woods of northern Pennsylvania.  His general practice was to hike deep into the woods in the Fall, build a cabin, and spend the Winter and Spring in the pursuit of game and fur bearers.  His life is an amazing story of survival, woodsmanship, resourcefulness and true toughness, the likes of which is almost nonexistent in our modern culture.  This guy tracked wounded deer for days across two or three counties, and trapped a dozen or more Black Bears a year using deadfalls.  When you read his book prepare to feel like a total wimp.
     Between his stories of bear trapping, bee hunting and playing practical jokes on his trapping partners, Woodcock offers his advice on trapping equipment, making sets and constructing cabins.  I find it fascinating to read century-old advice on trapping, and it's amazing how much of it is still useful, or at least interesting, to the thoughtful modern trapper.  For instance:

     However, what I found most entertaining about this book is Woodcock's writing style.  Although "uneducated" by modern standards, his style is formal and proper, yet folksy, and he knows how to infuse suspense and humor into the tales of his adventures.  It is perhaps a sign of the times that in the late 1800's even an uneducated woodsman was an entertaining writer.  Just a small example:

     I think most trappers will truly enjoy this book, as I did.  I came away with a greater sense of the history and heritage behind the great sport of trapping, and a greater respect for the rare art of true woodsmanship.  The book is available from Amazon at the link at the top of this post, but it is also available online for free at Google Books.

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