Trapping has been a part of the Canadian fabric before we even became a country. It was the fur trade and its demand that brought people across the Ocean to what would become Canada. These early adventurers traveled the waterways of our nation cataloguing routes in all directions. The arrival of the Hudson Bay Company paved the way for the commerce of the fur trade to begin in full force. The demand of the European markets identified the needs, the type of fur and a mechanism for the trappers to sell and ship their furs. It was the beginning of what made us Canada.
From a Labrador perspective trapping is steeped in its culture and lifestyle. You only have to listen to one of Labrador’s greatest story tellers through his music, our own Harry Martin, whose song, “Race to the Grave” describes how it was in the early days. It will remind us all just how much, with the passage of time, how many things have changed for the trapping industry itself and the methods that our current day trappers use. It seems that the one thing that hasn’t changed however, is the attachment to the land and the water and the passion for it and the fur it holds. As the trappers from many generations long gone and up to our present day trappers, their passion for the next season and all of the adventures it holds remains solidly engrained in their very heart and soul.
I had a great day a short while ago. Any day in the country for pretty much any reason is always good and this was no different. I had the privilege of joining long time Labrador West trapper Jim Fry as he had a day in the country picking up his remaining traps and wrapping up yet another trapping season.
Jim came to Labrador West in 1976 from Charleston on the Bonavista Peninsula in Newfoundland. He trapped when he was a youngster on the island and brought his passion for it with him to Labrador West. Jim is retired out of I.O.C. after a full career and is a trapping pioneer spending the past 42 years on his trap lines in Labrador West.
Jim has witnessed the evolution of the fur industry, its methods and the education attached to the industry for all of those years. The traps themselves have saw significant changes from the old ways of the various leg hold traps to many more humane methods of quick kill sets. The snowmobiles and better access to the land has also brought with it the ability to go further into the country in less time and more comfort than our previous generations of trappers. Make not mistake though eh Jim, even the best can still get stuck once in a while.
Jim traps everything that is out there. Muskrats, Beaver, Otter, Mink, Marten, Fox, Lynx, Wolf and Weasels are all on his radar. His season begins October 15th with a March 20th closing. His furs are sent to North American Fur Association in Toronto to be sold to the European and Chinese markets.
All trappers have to complete a comprehensive trapper training course and be members of the ISO, the International Standard Organization to sell their furs.
When I asked Jim about the prices of fur he smiled and said, “Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it down.” The only thing that I know is that Jim hasn’t missed any of his 42 years’ of trapping because of the price.
As I said earlier, trapping is steeped in the culture and lifestyle in Labrador. As I spent my day in the country with Jim we passed many valleys and water systems. Each one had a story of a trapping adventure from days gone by from Jim. The passion and enthusiasm of each of those stories was contagious. Thanks Jim for such a great day, I only hope that you can pass something that is such a big part of our Labrador history, something that matters, to some of the next generation that is following us old guys.