Getting young people started with trapping is important. We have a responsibility to pass on the skills required to carry on this noble heritage. There are many ways to get a young person involved in trapping. Whether it’s your own children, a nephew or niece or a child of a friend, you can help a new trapper get started! My first memories of trapping come from tagging along with my father on my Great-Grandmothers farm in Connecticut. He was trapping muskrats in the river using #1 long springs. I couldn’t believe it the first time we came upon a catch! That memory has never left me and that’s something you can help a kid experience too.
So let’s get into the nuts and bolts of starting a child out trapping! I don’t think it’s any surprise that it can sometimes be difficult to keep a kid’s attention. There are a few ways to keep a youngster engaged while introducing them to trapping.
- Get them involved. The first and most important tip when setting out on the trap line with a young one is to make them feel involved. It’s not much fun for a kid to be sitting on the sidelines watching but not doing anything the whole time. Help them get their hands dirty. They can carry some lighter equipment or help you dig trap beds. Maybe you can make a game of locating muskrat holes in the riverbank or beaver sign. Have them hand you traps or stakes so they can get familiar with the equipment we use. Quiz them on what each item is and what it is used for. Have fun with it! Be safe of course.
- Let them pick set locations. Even if you know the odds of connecting with an animal are very low be sure to do this! The empowerment and inclusion a kid will feel is unmeasurable. Remember children are told what to do nearly every waking hour. For them to have the chance to make some decisions on their own is extremely rewarding for them.
- Don’t get frustrated. Stay cool. Its not the end of the world if a set looks messy or if scent control wasn’t perfect. Who cares? The important thing is that your protégé was out there learning and getting experience and more importantly getting excited! Nothing ruins a good time like a mentor getting mad and shouting. Trust me, I know. Kids tend to shut down quickly once that happens and will be unlikely to want to join you on the line in the future.
- Give a kid a few pieces of equipment if you can. Ownership of their own equipment will go a long way in keeping them interested in trapping. Maybe you have some old traps you aren’t using or an old trowel. Lures and baits are exciting to young folks. Trapping DVD’s are always a hit too. If you really want to make a kid’s day set them up with their own pack basket and they can add to it each season.
- Choose a low effort species to target. It will be important to show some results quickly to keep young ones interested. Target muskrats, opossums or raccoons to start. Starting a kid out trapping an aggressive species like a coyote may have an unintended result. Although exciting for an experienced trapper, it could be a bit scary to walk up on a song dog yanking, jumping, growling and barking at the trappers. This is of course dependent on the child’s age and maturity. Each kid will be different. Use good judgement.
- Dispatch. Be prepared to discuss the process of dispatching or retrieving dead animals. In many cases young people haven’t yet experienced this yet. It will be important for them to be prepared for what they see rather than be traumatized. Have a calm, meaningful conversation about what happens and explain that its part of the process. Ask them how they think they will feel. You can then formulate the best approach on how to handle this part of the process based on your discussion and their feelings about it. Some kids will have no problem at all with dispatch while others may express concern about it. It’s up to you as a mentor to decide how to proceed.
These are by no means the only tips to utilize when getting a kid started trapping. Please add a comment to help others with your own advice!!
We hope you enjoyed the article. Good luck this season!
-Dougherty & Sons Fur Stretchers and Trapping Supplies