MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association has been organizing hunter and trapper workshops since 2006 and the program has developed into a great way to involve youth and spur their interest in the outdoors by learning the long held skill of trapping.
“It is the only program like it in the province that I know of,” said youth trapping course instructor George Hagen. “All (participants) at first are wide-eyed and wondering what they have done on Thursday, but by the time Friday night comes around, and they get to know each other and about the program, everything is good. I have yet to have a bad crew.”
“We had five youth take part in the trapping course this year,” said Mr. Hagen, noting one had dropped out at the last minute or there would have been six youth on hand. The five youth included Ben Marshall, Michael Hore, Trevor White, Alex Smith and Jake Alward, all between the ages of 16 and 19.
Mr. Hagen, who runs the camp with his assistant (and camp cook) Gino Cacciotti, explained the group met last Thursday at the tourist information centre in Little Current. The group travelled to Espanola for supper and then made their way into Mr. Hagen’s trapping camp located north of Agnew Lake.
On Thursday night, participants familiarized themselves with the camp, stored their gear away and filled out paper work. “On Friday morning we explain the course to them,” said Mr. Hagen, noting that students are expected to attain a mark of 80 percent in both written exams taken at the end of the camp as well as making two trap nets and skinning a carcass.
“The course covers all fur-bearing animals, even those that we don’t harvest in this area,” said Mr. Hagen. “The course stresses humane trapping methods and provides basics on how they can become trappers in a professional manner.” Students are taught the proper way of setting traps, rules and regulations they have to follow, for instance having to use connibear traps that are approved by Canadian Trapping Standards, harvesting, skinning and preparing the furs. They also make sets and check traps, do some skinning—both case and open—so they become familiar with both methods.
Mr. Hagen said the students are introduced to different types of traps, sharpening and cleaning knives and working safely. “The course also covers a little about survival skills such as travelling on the ice, frostbite and having proper first aid kids they should have on them at all times when they are trapping.” He pointed out the course is funded through Manitoulin Streams.
Seija Deschenes, Manitoulin Streams project coordinator said, “an objective of Manitoulin Streams is about fostering a sense of ecosystem-based community, with citizen involvement in land and water stewardship, accepting responsibility for protecting our land and water for generations to come.” Part of stewarding citizen involvement in land and water ecosystems consists of encouraging as well as educating sustainable hunting and trapping through workshops.
The youth especially enjoy the hands-on practice and getting out in the bush and experiencing a little bit of what a trapper’s life could be, says Ms. Deschenes. Furthermore, they were taught to look for signs of activity such as where critical habitat and food sources and entrances furbearers naturally frequent. All five youth passed the 2019 course and will apply for their trapper’s licence with the Ontario Fur Harvester’s Association.
“When they get their trappers licence they will also received a trappers starter kit, with a value of about $425,” said Mr. Hagen. “It’s a really good program.”
“Our zone director with the Ontario Fur Managers is impressed the program has been running as long as it has,” said Mr. Hagen. “It’s sometimes hard to get kids interested in the outdoors. I know Seija and Maria (Diebolt of Manitoulin Streams) have contacted past students and quite a few are still trapping. And I remember one boy, his last name is Hughson, who was 17 when he took the course. He said he had never worked so hard, and never had so much fun (taking the course),” added Mr. Hagen.
Ms. Deschenes added, “funding raised through our Jacket and Jeans Fundraiser gala helped sponsor these five students to become trappers. It is great to get these kids out on the land and managing our resources.”