From the Archives: The thrill of fur trapping may be fading
(Reprinted from above link)
From the archives: Maryland Afield was an outdoor column published in The Frederick News-Post in the 1950s to early 1960s and written by the late Lefty Kreh, world-renowned outdoorsman and fly fisher. Kreh, who was a Frederick native, began his outdoor columnist career at The News-Post. This column originally published Jan. 6, 1961.
Part of our growing up when we were boys was learning to trap. Like softball, swimming, hiking, scouting and others, it was an essential boy’s art that we just had to learn.
I think one of the supreme thrills that I’ve ever experienced was the first (musk)rat I caught, all by myself, on the Town Creek near the Montevue springs. It wasn’t a prime fur, and yet, it was as precious to me as a beaver pelt.
I sold the rat, unskinned, to Gastley’s junkyard, and treated my friends to soda pop with “my” money.
Trapping has been in such decline the past 15 years that few modern youngsters can tell you the difference between a single spring and a jump trap. Filing the dog or latch, so the pan would release quickly when the animal stepped in the trap, was a skill we learned with pride.
Today, boys would rather sit in front of the television than prowl the countryside near town, locating possible sets for skunk, muskrats, foxes and even mink.
The reasons why trapping as a profession and pastime has nearly disappeared from the American scene are numerous. Of course, the many synthetics now on the market make coats possible that are much cheaper than fur, and good looking, too. This has created a demand for the new materials and a change in style. Mink is one of the few furs that still is considered acceptable for coats and stoles.
There are other reasons. Probably the most important and unrealized by many of us, is the importing of furs from foreign countries. Sweden, Norway and the Baltic countries are able to ship furs to the United States at a fraction of what we used to sell our skins for.
An example of this is the fact we could get about $2 for a muskrat just after World War II, now the price isn’t a third of that. Importing furs didn’t take hold until about 1946, but has really affected the American trapper since then.
Prices today (1961)
Earl Gastley can remember when his father bought prime fox fur for $30 a skin. Today, the same hide would only net the trapper about 30 cents.
Muskrat brings about 55 cents on an average and mink will still sell for at least $10. If you trap a number one skunk, all you’ll receive is about $1, and for possum, only 40 cents.
Yet, many will put out their trap lines, even though they actually lose money. The thrill of locating a set, placing the trap and waiting to see who is smarter, the hunter or the hunted, is reward enough for those of us who grew up learning the thrill of trapping.