Lebanon’s Clarence Dies was among the instructors at last week’s trapping camp at Buffalo Ridge in Humphries County, and came away encouraged about the future of the centuries-old profession.
Approximately 180 people of all ages registered for the event, sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Fur Harvesters Association, and Clarence says total participation came to around 400.
“It was twice as many as we expected,” he says. “It was great to see that many people interested in learning about trapping, and especially so many young people. We had a great time.”
The second annual event was open to all age ages and provided classroom instruction on running a trap line, fur handling and how to make various sets. Part of the instruction involved running an authentic trap line.
Dies, who last year was named Trapper of the Year by a national trapping association, has been active in the profession for many years. Every winter he runs a trap line in Wilson and Trousdale counties, and is an official with the Tennessee Fur Harvesters Association.
Last year he and some other officials successfully lobbied the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission to make some changes in the state’s trapping regulations to allow earlier times to maintain a trap line.
The TWRA estimates several thousand Tennesseans trap every year, with their involvement varying from professionals who made a sizable return on their furs to others who trap primarily on the hobby level.
The price of pelts fluctuates greatly, depending on the size and condition as well as the global market.
Clarence says most trappers don’t make minimum wage on their pelts when you figure in time spent setting traps, running traps, skinning the catch, stretching and curing the hides and taking them to fur sales such as the one scheduled next week in Crossville.
He says he does it for the enjoyment of being outdoors, carrying on a frontier legacy and the challenge of trying to outfox such crafty critters as coyotes and bobcats.
Trapping has evolved greatly in recent decades. Traps are more humane, and with the encroachment of residential developments into once-rural areas, care has to be taken to avoid catching domestic animals by mistake. For example, there are regulations concerning what type of above-grounds sets can be made.
In addition to fur trapping, trapping nuisance animals is a growing business in many expanding communities. Live traps are generally required, due to the presence of domestic pets, and expertise is required to catch such crafty urban invaders as coyotes.
Also, in the case of skunks, care must be taken to prevent them from throwing their scent around homes and other dwellings.
Trapping techniques have evolved, but the challenge remains the same.
And, based on the turnout at the recent training camp, it appears that plenty of future trappers will be up to the task.