We have all heard that the future of trapping lies in getting the next generation involved. You’ve heard it said more than once: take your kids trapping! As a father of five who conscientiously tries to do this, I have found it more challenging than it sounds. In order to accommodate kids, there are some sacrifices you must make in regards to your efficiency and success on the trapline. The added scent left behind, the slower pace you must go, and the added time it takes to explain every step of the process all detract just a little bit from the efficiency of your trapline. Not to mention the bathroom breaks! (“Didn’t I tell you to go before we left?”) The fact of the matter is that there will be a conflict between wanting to push yourself and succeed vs. slowing down to accommodate the kids.
There’s no getting around it: kids will slow you down. But I have found that the rewards are far greater than what you have to sacrifice.
Just spending time with your kids in the outdoors is a reward in itself, and too few parents take the time to do this today. It is the perfect time to talk and to “connect” with your kids away from the TV and the ipod. If you show them that you are enjoying their company as you trap together they will have some of their best childhood memories from the trapline. I’m not sure how much my kids like trapping yet, but they like to be with me, and therefore they like to go trapping with me. This is the first and most important connection.
When you get them out on the trapline with you, here are a few things to try to keep them involved. As we start our check we all take turns guessing what kind of critters, and how many, are waiting for us. Whoever has the closest guess gets a dollar when we get home. Along the way, take time to show them animal trails and tracks, teach them to identify different kinds of trees, and explain what makes a good location for a trap set. Make it a contest to see who can remember where the next set is, and allow them to run ahead to check the next trap.
If you have small kids who can’t yet make a set on their own, let them bait the hole or add the lure. Assign each kid a trap set or two, and even if they didn’t set the trap make it “theirs.” That way when you catch something it’s their catch, too. If they are able, let them carry the ‘coon or fox a little ways back toward home. It never hurts to get ice cream from a convenience store on the way home….we have happily eaten ice cream for breakfast many mornings at 8am (“don’t tell mom, it’s our secret”). In short, make the whole experience one they enjoy. Don’t forget to involve them in the fur shed, too, even if it’s just to watch as you put up your catch.
And when you talk about your trapline success always use “we,” as in “we caught seven ‘coons” and “we’re checking our traps in the morning.” Make it their venture as much as yours. Share with them a little money you get from the sale of your furs, and finally, make something out of your furs for the kids. A coonskin cap is a young boy’s prize possession. Take lots of pictures of them on the trapline, and proudly show them around.
No, you won’t break any trapping records with several kids in tow, but you will be a better parent, and it’s better to be a great parent than a great trapper. You’ll still be successful, and you’ll get to share that success with your kids. The future of trapping depends not just on taking a kid trapping but on trappers being good, patient parents.
My trappin' buddies with a Gray Fox. From left to right: Gabriel, Noah and Judah.