Once a Trapper, Always a Trapper
I was in junior high when the last 'Fur Boom' hit in the late 70s, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me, what with all the supply catalogs and the fur buyers traveling through the area paying high prices. I'd been bitten by the trapping bug already, but with the high prices most of my close friends were also chasing fur around their homes. The woods and fields around my family's farm were already familiar territory to me, but now they took on a new meaning.

I caught my first coon in the ravine across the field to the north, and I can remember it like yesterday, including the fact that my folks had let me take the morning off school to 'run my line'. As luck would have it, that coon was possibly the largest I would ever catch, and my old trapping mentor had to help me make a stretcher out of an old ironing board to fit it. That 'ironing board coon' brought $25, and I was suddenly rich. The money got spent on more trapping supplies, of course, and my friends and I would line everything up in the driveway, smell the lures, and set each and every trap.

Virtually all my friends had been bitten with the same bug, and enthusiasm for trapping was at a high. I'd ride the bus to school in the morning and hunt down my friends so we could compare notes, talk about catches (and misses), and live through each other's experiences. Life was simple then, and the talk of a fresh mink track would have us all thinking about it all day.
The market held on through my high school years, and with that came a driver's license. This changed the playing field tremendously. With the extra mobility we could not only trap our little worlds, but we could hit some of the places we had dreamed about, and scouted via long bike trips in the summer. Friendly, and some not so friendly, competitions sprang up, but we lived through it.

I was lucky that my best friend, Pete, had the bug too. We had been in Scouts together, went to our first dances together (luckily his taste in girls was different), and even tried our first tobacco together. (It didn't appeal to either of us.) Both of us had great parents and families, and we were given the freedom to let this trapping urge go where it might.

I remember Pete calling me and telling me that he had caught his first coyote, at his family deer camp. I listened to every detail, right down to the bait, which was partridge guts. A coyote was huge business, and the only thing I could try to top him with was the fact that I'd caught fox, and he hadn't.
Most kids have their favorite sports teams that they follow and watch through the season; we had our trapping icons. Pete leaned towards Oscar Cronk's catalog, and I got my supplies from Hawbaker's. We had many, many arguments about who had the best lures, books, and supplies, and we spent a lot of time sniffing bottles and bantering. When it came time to get pack baskets, mine came from Pennsylvania and his came from Wiscassett, Maine.

Time flew by, and we entered the 'real world' a few short years later. Pete went to college, and trapped as time would allow. He introduced some of his classmates to trapping, too. He went into law enforcement, and eventually became a CO. His outdoor background had prepared him for his lifestyle of long hours, reading sign, and enjoying the work.

I entered the work force as a laborer, although I trapped as much as possible. It remained the driving force of my life, and helped me choose the direction I took.

After I had moved West, to Montana, Pete and I kept in loose contact, sometimes through our families. I moved around a lot for several years, trapping and guiding in various areas and states. Whenever I moved I would get hold of Pete and tell him my new address. One time he said, "Hey, do you realize I have a whole page in my address book for you? When are you going to settle down?"

"Someday," I said.

Well, when I moved from Wyoming to Montana in 1991, I settled down as much as possible, at least for me. I was employed full-time as a predator control trapper, and besides, I had met a pretty girl with dark, flashing eyes. She was a rancher's daughter, and she didn't roll her eyes or turn up her nose at the smells in my pickup. A few years later I was calling Pete to tell him I was getting married to that pretty girl. "Her name is Nicole," I told him.
Work, a family, and everything else makes life go by way too fast, and 20 years flew by. I got some great Christmas cards from Pete, and I'd call and visit with him, compare notes and kid's accomplishments, and talk about the old days. I'd see him once in a while when I visited my family in Michigan, and we'd always take up right where we left off. We'd always end the visits with the usual, "Someday, when things slow down, let's get together and do something."

A few years ago Pete ventured West for a visit. He came at our favorite time of year, fall. We cut some firewood, took my kids deer hunting, and checked traps every day. He helped my son Tristan make a stalk on his first antelope, and he witnessed the 326-yard shot with much surprise, and enthusiasm. Pete is a positive influence on kids, and having him 'guide' my son meant a lot to me. It was like stepping back in time, and for the first time in 20 years my life started to slow down and I could sit back and enjoy things more.

Pete's life had gotten him away from doing much trapping, but I could tell it was still in the back of his mind. One of my favorite sayings is "Once a trapper, always a trapper", and it sure held true with Pete. He could still set a trap as well as I could, and he didn't mind the lure smells that I concocted. Some he actually went in for a second whiff of.

When Pete told me he was coming to help me at our booth at the NTA Convention in Lima, Ohio, last August, I knew the old trapping urge had got to him again. I introduced him to a lot of the friends I've made over the years, including the Noonans, publishers of this great magazine. He enjoyed the convention a lot, and he went home armed with coon daggers, lures, etc., and we planned his trip to Wyoming, and our 'Second Annual Pheasant Hunt', for that fall. Through the months he'd call and ask some questions about new things in the industry that he had missed, and I'd give my take on every thing he asked about.

October found him once again riding in my Ford, setting and checking coyote equipment. M-44s are new to Pete, and he listened intently when I told him about their effectiveness, their canine-specific appeal, and the fact that they are used with caution.

He planted lots of steel, got a new respect for dogless traps, and got in on some photo catches. Our 1-day pheasant hunt was a huge success, not only in the number of roosters taken, but in the fact that some of my sons' friends were along, and we all got in on the action. Pete and I were kids again too, and shared in the enthusiasm of seeing the fall colors, the tracks in the dirt, and the bird dogs work.

Pete's visit was too short, but he had pressing business waiting for him at home -- trapping season was starting. He only had a day to do final preparations. I sent him home with some old stoploss traps, coon boards, stakes, and of course, some smells.

Today's cell phones, photo messaging, and texts help keep you in touch (when you want to), and Pete and I are no exception. We both know that it might be a day or more before we reply to each other. A few days ago I got a text from Pete. It was short and simple: "Running out of coon boards."

I wrote back, "Look for an ironing board."

No response for a few days, which is common for us. Then yesterday the phone in my pocket buzzed. I was busy, and forgot about checking it for a while. Later, I opened up the photo message, and it was, again, simple and to the point: "Mink in a bottom edge set."

I replied back with a photo of a coyote taken in a set he had made a few weeks before. We were there again.