Minnesota Trappers Association
President's Report

Shawn Johnson
6122 McQuade Road, Duluth, MN 55804
(218) 525-4970

President's Report
December 2014

Greetings Trappers,

The first order of business to address is the proposal brought to the Board from District 8 to the districts for discussion/vote.

Non Resident Trapping
We would like to try and have the MTA membership vote on supporting a Non Resident Trapping season with the following restrictions.
1.) No tagged species including Marten, Fisher, Otter and Bobcat.
2.) Non-resident Beaver season to close the end of February.
3.) Non- resident water season to open 1 week later than residents in each of the 2 zones.
District 8 Director Brad Wobbrock, District 8 Co- Director Bill Ruhland

District 3's Co-Director Rollie Aho also carried the message that his district would like to reexamine the general subject of non-resident trapping again as well.

Discussion is to occur at each of the district meetings of the membership first then the resulting determination brought to the Board. Should the result be favorable in supporting this proposal at the Board level, it will be brought to the General Membership for a vote at the 2014 MTA Convention in Bemidji.

I strongly encourage the membership to play an active role in this discussion primarily at the District level and should it progress to the General Membership to make their preference known there decisively as well. The last time this issue was presented through a survey of the entire membership in 2010, participation was shamefully poor overall and if I recall correctly, merely nine members voicing their opinion made all the difference in the final outcome.

As most are well aware, this issue has been passionately defended and opposed each time it has surfaced for discussion over the years. I implore members on both sides of this issue to remain civil and to shelter our disagreements from the non trapping world as our real enemies are not fellow trappers but rather those that oppose our sport entirely and are eager to take any possible advantage to divide and conquer.  In the wake of all of the anti trapping propaganda circulating in the media and political arenas over the last ten years or so, I have concerns bringing this discussion forward at such a time yet I trust the integrity of the members to keep this present reality in the forefront of the mind as well.

On to lighter subject matter.

Change is in the Air This evening 10/30/14 snow is falling, the temperature is dropping (25 currently) and the wind is blowing harshly-reminiscent of the 1991 Halloween Mega Storm so many of us remember.

High temperatures in the low to mid thirties are forecast for tomorrow. Fall has "fell" there can be no doubt.

September Trapper Education Month In spite of a major downward adjustment in fur prices in the wake of the 2013-14 fur sales season, demand for Trapper Education Certifications seems to be not only unaffected but rising. Many thanks to those dedicated trapping instructors that took up the challenge of making September Trapper Education Month here in Minnesota by concentrating their efforts collectively on making many class opportunities available in September across our State. Some instructors even went further and extended the opportunity to mid October in some areas. This is quite an admirable feat for a relatively small group of active volunteer instructors seeking to go out of their way to accommodate young prospective trappers- I personally thank you for your selfless dedication to the next generation.

Details, Details...Please forgive me for preaching once more but PLEASE spend some time with your students going over the Student Registration/Parental Release Forms to ensure they are complete and accurate and most of all legible. I do my best to decipher the handwriting on the forms but some of the determinations boil down to my best guess if I'm unsuccessful in personally contacting the individual. Missing information is commonplace on the forms students fill out themselves which causes further delays in tracking that information down. The most common mistake is probably students providing common names instead of legal names as required on this paperwork. (Rob instead of Robert etc.) and COUNTY is many times identified by student as: USA, United States, America or most common- Minnesota!  In this computer era, one would think small errors wouldn't cause much of a headache when the time arrives to purchase their first licenses but sadly that is simply not the case.  In many instances, DNR has multiple files for the same individual under different names which further complicates matters!  One for Rob Smith (trapping), One for Robby Smith (snowmobile) and one for Robert B. Smith (Hunter Education) and even though the address and vital statistics are identical for all three, the System cannot identify this individual with certainty and will announce "uncertified" and deny license purchase.

Then I get the angry telephone calls.  So please spend a little time with your students to insure the forms are filled out completely, accurately and legible. This will prevent many headaches down the line for all.

Please plan ahead

In spite of aggressive advertising and multiple classes offered in every single district in the State in addition to Field Training Sessions for online students, two class offerings were cancelled due to lack of interest. Yet predictably each year a glut of requests for certifications stream in from late October through November ironically from those same areas.

Although the regulations synopsis advises prospective trappers:
Contact MTA at www.mntrappers.org  for class information. These courses include a mandatory field training portion that must be completed before certification. Please plan to take certification courses well in advance of the fur trapping season. (underlined emphasis mine).

Many wait until the last minute in an attempt to pull off their certification requirements. Unfortunately for them, as to be expected, most trappers are far too busy with their own lines to accommodate "emergency" field training opportunities during "prime time" which is completely understandable.

It is unthinkable that folks would expect to find Hunter Education Courses after the firearms deer season has already begun yet many young people are surprised that they cannot find a trapper certification class offered mere days before the opening bell in November within walking distance of their homes!  I have no doubt that come Thanksgiving weekend, many more requests will come in from wolf trapping license lottery winners looking for that elusive Thanksgiving Weekend Trapper Education Class so they can purchase their wolf trapping licenses before deadline.  Most will simply be out of luck.  I suspect those same licenses will be available to purchase over the counter by someone with trapper certification credentials soon thereafter.

Attention All Trapper Education Program Graduates
Due to the generosity of professional trapper Ron Hauser from Mankato Minnesota and Gerald and Doreen Schmitt from Schmitt Enterprises Inc. Trapping Supply Outfitters from New Ulm Minnesota, graduates of the Program are encouraged to contact Schmitt Enterprises Inc. in order to receive their choice of one of Ron's professionally produced trapping technique instructional DVD productions free-of-charge. (MTA membership is encouraged but not required to participate in this limited time offer.)

*Please address written requests to:  Schmitt Enterprises Inc. c/o Hauser DVD Offer POB New Ulm MN 56073.
Be certain to include a copy of your certification card along with your written request. Please choose one from any of the following titles. The Pocket Set *Coilsprings "N" Blind Sets*  Longlining Raccoons & Conibears *Fulltime Beaver Trapping* Fulltime Trapping *Marshland Muskrats *Winter Coon Trapping *Muskrat Frenzy

Requests may also be made in person at Schmitt Enterprises Inc.'s booth at conventions with proof of graduation from Program.  Please consider supporting businesses that support us!

New Member Incentive Gift
If you choose to join the Minnesota Trappers Association as a graduate of our Program we offer a complimentary copy of the best seller the NTA Trapping Handbook - A Guide for Better Trapping which retails for $17.95 regularly but offered free to new MTA members that have graduated our Program. This is an excellent resource for new trappers. An MTA membership application is enclosed with this correspondence. Just write “Request NTA Handbook” somewhere prominently on the completed membership application and our Membership Coordinator will send you a copy along with your new membership.  Welcome to our fine Association and our beloved sport.

Keep your skinning knives sharp!
Shawn Johnson Education Coordinator

Body Grippers - As we've come to expect over the last several years, pressure will no doubt come to bear once again to severely restrict the use of dry land body grippers here in Minnesota. These are vital tools but they must be used responsibly now more than ever. I fully realize that most of the folks that set traps in poorly chosen locations that end up in the headlines and sensationalized media reports are not set by MTA members but nonetheless the actions of a few reflect poorly on all. So be certain to review the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook annually and abide by all legal requirements at bare minimum and I implore all trappers to choose set locations and presentation with extreme care in any area that may pose a potential risk of interaction with a dog regardless of the legality of placing a set in such a location.

This is especially important for those that have been away from the sport for some years and are unaware of more recent changes in the regulations and those newcomers just entering the sport of fur trapping. Please spread the word to all unaffiliated trappers out there as well to be mindful of other's actions too. We all stand to potentially lose much on account of a few.

Body Gripper Release Kits - Response has been tremendous to our outreach to educate and equip other user groups regarding our legitimate use of body gripping traps. The current issue of the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook carries our public service ad on bodygrippers and in addition invites sportsmen to request additional information and a complimentary BG Release Kit from MTA. Each Kit that is sent out to sportsmen contains this open letter in an attempt to set the facts straight that have been so distorted in the media. Although this information is nothing new to trappers, to the non trapping public this can make a substantial difference in public perception of the true nature of the issue behind all the fabricated sensationalism.

Fellow Sportsmen,

Thank you for requesting a Body Gripper Release Kit from the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA).  The MTA is dedicated to the preservation of the long tradition of trapping in Minnesota. Trapping is an important part of wildlife management and is legally and ethically practiced by the vast majority of those that choose to trap. The MTA strives to educate both trappers and the public and to work alongside all those that also take part in the many outdoor activities available in our state.  I appreciate your concern in requesting one of our Body Gripper Release Kits and would like to clarify what has not been clearly articulated, and some cases grossly misrepresented in recent media coverage regarding the body grip trap.  Contrary to some recent public commentary, the name Conibear, is merely one brand name of trap style referred to as a "body grip" or “body gripper” which is designed to close on the body of a small to medium sized furbearing animal to dispatch it quickly and humanely, similar in function to the common "snap type" wooden mouse or rat trap most folks are at least somewhat familiar with.  The brand of body grip trap named Conibear is named after the Canadian trapper that designed the first of this style of trap, Frank Conibear which has over time come generically to refer to all brands of this style of trap. Apparently due to the somewhat unusual name, Coni-bear, some people have mistakenly or purposely inferred that body grip traps are some type of modern "bear trap".  Body grip traps are definitely not bear traps, with the largest sized body grip traps being only capable of catching a beaver sized animal, and theses sizes of body grip traps are only allowed for trapping in water sets.  Body grip traps come in many sizes and only those with an opening of 7 inches by 7 inches or smaller may be set on dry land anywhere in the state.  The 7 x 7 inch sized body grip trap is referred to as a 220, and there are additional restrictions for 220 traps set on Public Lands which require the trap to be recessed in a container or cubby, elevated, or set away from any bait.

Body Grippers are not some new type of trap but rather have been in common use across the United States and Canada since the late 1950's. Their introduction into the trapping world was applauded by both trappers and non-trappers alike as an effective and efficient option for respectfully taking a variety of furbearer species.

The body grip trap is a different type of trap than most folks envision a trap should look like.

Unlike foothold traps, body grippers are only triggered when an animal attempts to pass through the trap as opposed to stepping on it.  Body grip traps are most commonly used at least half submerged in water for primarily beavers, otters, muskrats and mink.

Body grip traps used on dry land in Minnesota are of small size and consequently not a practical option to even attempt to take wild canids such as fox, coyotes or wolves. This coupled with a canid’s natural tendency to avoid anything suspicious or enter a restrictive space, makes the odds of catching one in these traps highly unlikely.

The uppermost sized animal that can be taken in 220 sized body grippers are bobcats in very controlled circumstances. Furbearers commonly targeted/ harvested with dry land body grippers are generally restricted to raccoons, skunks, and opossums, as well as fisher, marten and bobcats in more northern areas of the State.  The body grip trap is a valuable tool for trapping many furbearer animals that cannot be replaced by using other types of traps.  The trap can also not always be elevated in trees and still meaningfully work to catch furbearers.

This trap is designed to render small and medium sized furbearers unconscious in a very short period of time. Larger animals, including most dogs, generally avoid attempting to enter a body grip trap of the size legally allowed for dry land under usual circumstances.  The trap does not and is not capable of crushing bone or snapping the neck of a captured animal as some have claimed.  Therefore, in the rare case of a dog entering the trap, if the dog owner learns how this trap operates, the dog can be effectively released quickly; almost always without any permanent or serious injury.

The risk of potential accidental injury to people by body grip traps has been dramatically exaggerated as well. Most trappers as a rule at one time or the other have accidently "caught" themselves by the finger or hand in body grippers and other makes of traps while setting them without any notable injury. Even with forty years of trapping experience behind me this trapper is certainly no exception to this rule. Embarrassed? - Yes, Injured? -No.  The traps are almost always, even for non-trappers, easy to see and therefore avoidable.

Sensational media attention of late tends to suggest the potential risk of a domestic dog becoming accidently caught in a body grip traps is considerable when in fact incidents rarely occur with legal sets. Nonetheless, both trappers and non-trappers must agree that accidents do occur at times.

Although rare, unfortunate circumstances can lead to regrettable outcomes. Trappers have chosen to confront that reality with a responsible and practical means of reducing those incidents to an even greater degree by supporting common sense legislation and actively working with other sporting groups in order to foster mutual understanding and respect.  Trappers do care how trapping impacts others, and strive to promote all outdoor activities, while maintaining the meaningful ability to continue trapping.  This can be done and is working.

Much like taking a CPR class in spite of understanding that you'll likely never be in a situation to use what you've learned, knowing how to release an animal if necessary gives one considerable peace of mind.  The Body Gripper Release Kit and instructions supplied by the MTA, if reviewed before going afield, does work.

Kit requests will be filled in the order they are received.

Please feel free to contact MTA for additional information.

Minnesota Trappers Association, c/o Shawn Johnson, President, 6122 McQuade Road Duluth, MN 55804

Winter General Membership Meeting (known informally as our "winter convention" to many) will once again be held at East Central High School Askov/Finlayson Saturday January 3, 2015.  (Banning Junction exit off of I-35 North follow 23 toward Askov) Trapping supplies, fur selling opportunities, Fur Handling Competitions and of course fellowship with other trappers always makes this event worth attending in the heart of Minnesota winter. This year we're placing more emphasis on Youth activities and demonstrations as well. I encourage younger trappers to consider participating in the Youth Fur Handling Competition this year as there were few entrants in last year's competition and the opportunity for honing your fur handling skills and knowledge is great with the expert handling advice from long time trappers and veteran fur buyers. Also don't forget the Largest Furbearer Contests for raccoon, Largest Beaver Tail and Longest Muskrat Tail competitions. It is especially encouraging to see young people participating in these events annually. So free up some freezer space if you have a contender you'd like to enter into competition this January. Cumberland's Northwest Trapper Supply in Owatonna has graciously provided some prizes for winners again this year. Please remember to support those that support us!

Legal Defense Fund Banquet to be hosted at the Askov Community Center Saturday evening January 3. Buzz and Company have once again secured many great items to give away through door prizes, games of chance, drawings and more. The meal is always worth the ticket price along with the conversation that accompanies it. I encourage all to consider donating and attending this worthwhile event in years to come. If you'd like to make a donation to our Legal Defense Fund please contact Buzz Neprud (218) 851-5989.  With anti trapping forces nearing the height of public influence they achieved in the 1970's, it is likely that those funds stowed away will be necessary to defend our way of life in the very near future.

Likely this event will be sold out by the time this issue is in your hands but if you're interested in possibly attending please contact Gary Meis prior to 8 PM at (320) 838-1570. Please respect that timeframe as Gary and Betty have officially retired from chairing the Raffle at the close of the 2014 fundraiser and are looking forward to some well deserved time away from most official duties.

MTA Raffle 2015 - Steven Hogg the new Raffle Chair from Big Lake will be officially kicking off the 2015 Raffle at the Winter Meeting. Steven has a young family so please refrain from late evening calls as well. Steven can be reached on raffle matters at (763) 744-7059.

MTA Convention 2015 will be held at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds near Bemidji August 14 and 15th with limited vendors available for business on Sunday 16th due to takedown and packing. As is always the case with conventions, member volunteers are essential in insuring a successful event. Members are encouraged to contact District 2 leadership Dallas Erickson and Dan Swedberg to volunteer their time. If you can't commit to a certain time period, setup and takedown/clean up make up the lion's share of the convention work. Simply show up and they'll find somewhere to put you to work.

MTA Elections are held every odd numbered year and 2015 is no exception. Anyone interested in throwing their hat in the ring for leadership positions from Directors to President and Vice President are encouraged to give this opportunity some serious consideration. If nominated, I would be honored to run for another term as MTA president.

Please remember to get your nominations into Trish Coons our Newsletter magazine editor for publication prior to the convention.

For additional information please don't hesitate to contact me or another in leadership for details on positions and obligations.

Many battles lie ahead-United we Stand.

Keep your skinning knives sharp,