With all the pessimistic news about the fur market, and with the current lackluster global economy generally, many trappers have decided to sit out the upcoming year and not trap. That may prove to be a wise decision. I certainly have no crystal ball about the fur market’s future, and like everyone else, I listen anytime a fur buyer or a garment manufacturer talks about the fur trade.
However, some trappers have decided to get out and set some traps this year. We may be sorry we did, or we may be pleasantly surprised when it comes time to sell fur. Who knows?? Some trappers will focus on a few select species, and others will probably do what they always do and hope that by year’s end, the market has turned around.
I recently had a 12 hour drive to make in the middle of the night so in order to occupy my thoughts, I tried to wrap my head around this issue and came up with a few ideas if you do decide to get out and trap this year.
First, efficiency is key. Like any business manager, trappers should take a look at both their equipment, and their operation as a whole, and try to find ways that cut costs without sacrificing production (i.e. your catch of fur). Some ideas along these lines:
• Avoid dead end canyons and make loops instead. I know some canyons are just too good to pass up, and only you know which ones will make you money, but if you can catch more fur in a shorter time by making a loop, you are better off. Also, know when its time to quit and go to greener pastures. I'm the worst guy I know for saying, "I just feel like there is one more cat to catch in that canyon (even though its been 4 weeks since I caught one there)." When its time to leave, go. Have enough good ground scouted in advance that you have other places to go where there is fur.
• Configure your vehicle and equipment to run faster, better, less expensive. On one of my lines, simply replacing my pickup with the ATV saved me money, time and fur. I can travel faster, access far more places, and run cheaper than in the Toyota.
• Scale back on equipment that you never use, particularly lure and bait. We all like to experiment with new or different equipment, and I’m the worst at buying a handful of new lures or baits to try every year. This is not the year to experiment – get what has ALWAYS worked in the past and stick to that. This may be the year to sell some of the equipment you never use.
• Use every part of every animal; consider alternative markets. Selling critters, particularly so-called “non-target” critters to taxidermists makes me a lot of extra money every year. Ringtails, for example, fetch about $8-10 in Fallon every year. Taxidermists are willing to pay $50-60 for good specimens. Same with Kit fox, badgers, and others. Lure makers will buy all the glands I can collect every year. I also sell all the skulls I can get my hands on. Bobcat, beaver and muskrat meat has a ready market; castor and oil sac values may exceed fur for the same animal; most lure makers will kill for good mink glands. Do a little research and keep an open mind before the season and you will be amazed at what people are willing to buy. I know, the amount paid for glands, skulls, feet, urine, penis bones, teeth, etc. may seem small, but when you add it up at the end of the year, you will be surprised. It is found money in my book.
• Carefully consider your target animals and make a plan to maximize that animal. If you have a good coyote (i.e. Elko-White Pine counties), you may make more money by targeting those animals in the fall and early winter, and forget trapping cats until later. Coyotes and fox prime early and are often on the down side before cats even get to their peak primeness. Get used to the idea of bobcat fur being worth only slightly more than a coyote. Ask your fur buyer BEFORE the season when is the best time to sell your particular animal. For canines, it may before Christmas.
• Think about non-target animals in a different light. The animals you are avoiding or driving past, may be more valuable than you think. For example, this year I plan to run a small line of cage traps for kit fox in October (because our season for them starts earlier than everything else). I can get $60+ for every fox, there are nearby populations, and I plan to run several lines I can check while going to and from my deer hunting area.
Anyway, some of you probably have far better ideas about how to make the most of a potentially bad situation. These were just the ideas of a partially-awake driver in the middle of the night somewhere in northern White Pine county.