An Old Dog Can Learn

They say "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." But at age 56 I set out to prove them wrong - at least as far as fur trapping is concerned.

As a child I was curious about trapping, mostly because it went along with the hunting and fishing interests I shared with my father. I remember lying on the floor in front of the Philco radio 45 years ago and looking at traps in the magical Sears catalog - the source of all things good for a small town dreamer.

School, military, raising children and professional responsibilities occupied my life until recently when - at the age of 56 - the idea of trapping began to emerge again.

I subscribed to trapping magazines and read them cover to cover; I read books and attended meetings of the Missouri Trappers Association; I talked to a lot of experienced trappers; I searched for information about the newest traps on the market and the techniques for using them.

Most trappers are friendly and tolerant, and I learned a lot - as much as can be learned from talking and reading. I invested considerably in trapping equipment - probably enough to make the down payment on a nice fur coat. I ignored my wife's doubts and began to view myself as a serious predator, an active participant in the ecosystem. The evolutionary juices were bubbling.

The trapping season was slow in coming, like a child's Christmas, but once the season arrived it was worth the wait. My trapline was comparatively short, only about 20-25 sets. Missouri law requires that all traps be run at least every 24 hours, so two dozen sets was all I could maintain and still keep my day job. I left the house each morning in the pre dawn darkness with confidence and enthusiasm.

I caught some fur and made some mistakes, but I proved that an old dog can learn. Now I feel confident enough to pass on the following information for the next beginners:

  • Never set a trapline on the Missouri River if there has been heavy rain upstream. Your traps could well end up in Tennessee.
  • A trapped raccoon in total darkness sounds a lot like a temperamental grizzly bear.
  • There is twice as much brush in the outdoors before daylight as there is after daylight.
  • Chest waders are designed to hold water out or in.
  • Keep your trap wire short if you're trapping for raccoons near cockleburs.

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