Rifle hunters can shoot an animal at ranges of 600 yards and even further. Muzzleloader hunters can effectively take an animal at ranges around 200 yards. Bowhunters generally shoot animals at 20 to 40 yards, although 100 yards isn't unheard of. In short, hunters have a lot of flexibility when it comes to getting an opportunity to shoot an animal. Trapping, however, is much more precise and leaves far less room for error. In order to successfully trap an animal, they usually have to step inside a 1 or 2-inch square area. It's this challenge that gave Alan the "fever" at just 7 years old after trapping his first muskrat and the same "fever" that has driven his passion for trapping ever since. This kind of precision that trapping requires can make people think that it's too complicated or difficult so they write it off without trying. Trapping isn't an exclusive club though, Alan says, and anyone can do it. Anyone can go out and chase these critters and find success with just a couple simple techniques, he says.
A trapper's bread and butter is generally made up of small furbearers like raccoons, mink, muskrats, beavers and more. However, there are opportunities to trap larger, higher stakes, furbearers like wolves. Although controversial, wolf trapping is legal in several states and provides the chance for trappers to pit themselves against the smarts of one of nature's apex predators. Alan says he traveled to Montana last year and spent 3 weeks chasing and trapping wolves in December. He went into the trip thinking they would be very difficult to catch, but ultimately found that they weren't as tough as he had imagined. If you are on location, he says, and are in the same area where they are working through, success is very likely. Wolves are aggressive and unafraid of virtually anything, and it's those instincts that make them more vulnerable to trapping. In fact, coyotes and foxes are harder to trap because of their wary nature than a wolf is, he says. In order to be successful, a trapper needs to first understand that wolves work a very large home range and once they pass through an area they won't come back through for another 20-some days. They work a 21 to 28 day range cycle, Alan says, so trappers have to be able to find where the wolves are in this range cycle and set traps accordingly. They don't really work a trail either, he notes, so understanding how they use the terrain is key to setting traps in areas for the greatest chances of success.
The market for fur right now is very low, Alan says. A lot of people are under the impression that the fashion industry dictates fur markets, however that's not the case. Alan says it's actually the Russian ruble that controls the market - when the ruble is strong the fur market is strong and vice versa. When there isn't much value attached to the pelts, fewer people get out and trap. When there are fewer trappers, predator populations start to grow, he says. This situation creates a perfect storm for ground nesting birds because nest raiders like raccoons, opossums and skunks decimate nests making it hard for ducks, pheasants, turkeys and other ground nesters to get their eggs to hatch, and their poults to adulthood. Alan says that trappers have the opportunity to be great stewards of the land and help take pressure off of prey populations by trapping. Although furs aren't worth a lot right now, Alan says he doesn't trap for the money but rather to feed the trapping "fever" he caught as a child and also for the history. The history of trapping in the United States is very interesting. Look up what a beaver was worth in the 1800's, Alan says. Beavers were one of the most sought after animals of the time, so valuable that men risked life and death to explore the untamed west and try to catch them. Alan says trapping is not only a part of history, but a part of who he is.
Watch "North American Trapper" on Sportsman Channel, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET and hone your trapping skills. Be sure to check out www.northamericantrapper.com for more resources on the how-to's of trapping. You can also pick up baits, lures, traps and custom packages so you can get started trapping.