Winter trapping season for bobcats, fisher, pine marten, mink, muskrat and otter is in full swing around Minnesota, drawing both locals and travelers to the outdoors.
“This area has some of the best trapping opportunities in the state and I typically find folks that travel a long ways to come here and trap. This is due to the abundance of creeks, rivers and state land,” said Minnesota Conservation Officer Bret Grundmeier who patrols the Hinckley area.
East Central Minnesota has a long history of trapping dating back to the 1800s where fur trade occurred at the Snake River Fur Post west of Pine City.
Long time local trapper Gary Meis has been trapping for over six decades, setting his first trap in 1957. At age 10, he received his first trap from his uncle to trap pocket gophers. He said he was hooked ever since.
“In those days, we would get 25 cents per gopher. I was making more than my friends with paper routes,” he said.
Explaining his passion for the sport, Meis said, “I love nature, being out in the elements. I love to pit myself against the animal. They’re very smart.”
Meis says beyond the use of the animal’s fur, many other parts of the animal are used for a variety of purposes. For example, in addition to a beaver’s fur, the beaver tail is used to make some of the strongest and most durable leather products available. The contents of the beaver’s scent glands are used in the manufacturing of high-end perfume and, of all things, the distilling of schnapps. Think about that before your next sip. Beaver skulls are also used for display purposes and crafts.
Upon selling these byproducts, a trapper can expect to earn $50 on average per animal. Similar usages apply to all species trapped.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, trapping in Minnesota is highly regulated and scientifically based to maintain a balance between wildlife and people. Regulated trapping of abundant wildlife does not cause wildlife to become endangered and is beneficial to Minnesota both economically and environmentally. Trappers support wildlife laws and regulations because they care about the welfare of wildlife.
Through the license fees, equipment and trip-related expenditures, trappers and hunters contribute nearly $500 million annually to the state’s economy.
Meis expressed his concern over misconceptions and misinformation about trapping.
“If we were being inhumane or depleting natural resources, do you think this state legislature would allow it? It’s a renewable resource,” he said. He went on to explain how the traps do not cause pain, they are not sharp and jagged as commonly thought. They only apply enough pressure to put the animal’s foot to sleep. This allows the trapper to determine if the animal should be released or harvested.
According to Meis and his fellow trappers, Gundmeier along with all the other local conservation officers are a valuable resource and some of the most supportive he has encountered. He expressed that they are a very important aspect to the sport and are very much appreciated.
Meis is the past president of the Minnesota State Trappers Association. He has been on their board of directors for 25 years and has lobbied for regulations to ensure animal welfare. Meis is the only Minnesotan inducted in the National Trappers Hall of Fame, which was the result of nominations by his peers.