Hooked on Trapping
K.J. Houtman 11.25.13
Alexis is only 10 years old, and Jake is only nine, but these two kids are already hooked on trapping. Meet a girl from Wisconsin and a boy from Iowa, who both learned valuable lessons this year about hard work, wildlife, and economics. They trapped raccoons.
This is the first year Alexis set her own traps on private, family land in Wisconsin. Waking Alexis for school some mornings isn’t easy, but on the days Mom said, “Let’s go check your traps,” she popped out of bed in an instant. “She’s learning what it is all about,” said her mother, Trisha Bowen. Trisha is one of the most passionate hunters I know, and she is passing on incredible skills and knowledge to her young daughter.
So is Tommy Skarlis, a champion walleye and crappie angler and avid hunter from Iowa. “I grew up trapping as a boy, but I let it go and I hadn’t trapped for, oh, 20 years, probably,” shared Skarlis. “My oldest son, Jake, was interested this year, so we put out a long line set with a focus primarily on raccoons.” Tommy and Jake trapped and sold 33 raccoons. “It was a great lesson in economics. He understood working for the money we made, and he learned how to negotiate with the buyer for our furs.” They practiced what to say in the truck. Even the “flinch” that lets the buyer know they started too low with their first offer, and how to politely counter.
Both families use dog-proof and cat-proof traps.
“Alexis has always learned that the things we need and use—food, hide, or fur—come from somewhere. It isn’t just something that comes from a store,” shared Trisha. “She has learned that the animal gives its life for what we need. Alexis has a level of appreciation that is really amazing, both in hunting and in trapping.”
“I like to see the animals up close, and see their face,” shared 10-year-old Alexis. “I always say thank you to them. I think they are beautiful and they have really beautiful fur.”
“She enjoys the excitement of the close encounter with trapping,” added Trisha. “We ask questions like, ‘Can we outsmart the animal?’ and ‘How much are they worth?’”
“I have my first coat on the wall in my room,” said Alexis. She skinned and fleshed hides with her mom. “It’s so soft and beautiful. I will have a hard decision with what to do with my second one. Part of me doesn’t want to sell it. I don’t know what I will decide.”
Making money was a big part of the experience growing up for Trisha; she trapped with her dad when young and never stopped. “It is part of our country’s heritage, how generations of families earned money. That connects me to trapping.”
Tommy and Jake averaged $18 a raccoon, but they didn’t skin theirs, they turned in the whole carcass. “I told Jake we could make $1 or $2 more if we did that,” said Tommy. “But Jake answered, ‘It sounds like a lot of work for a dollar.’”
“We don’t kill anything unless we are going to utilize it somehow—food or hides,” continued Tommy. “I’ve never been one to let young boys get a blood lust and shoot birds just for the sake of shooting something. We teach that you take it for a purpose.”
That is the lesson that Trisha teaches her daughter, Alexis, too.
“I’m glad these families use pet-friendly traps,” said Doug McDougal of Minneapolis. Doug had permission to hunt on private land this fall. He had his young, springer spaniel named Pippa along, and she became caught in a trap. It wasn’t the dog-proof type.
“It was a good thing that it didn’t hurt her,” said Doug. “I was right there and released her from it, and I was very glad it didn’t have claws.”
Trapping, like hunting, gets families up close to nature and spending time together outdoors. “It is similar to sitting in a deer blind with my son,” said Tommy. “There is a lot of time while working the line to chat about life. And if I’m quiet, which is hard for me, Jake will tell me about stuff that, otherwise, I might not get to hear.”
What a good trap to fall into.
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.