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Hip Waders and a Modern Day Trapper

November 19, 2014 - Larry Claypool
I wondered, what would it be like to walk in the shoes of a modern day trapper? I did this, for a few days last month. Well, I walked in boots actually, hip waders to be exact. I recently spent some time on a trapline with one of the most versatile outdoorsman — and trappers — I know, OV Outdoor Times Hunting Editor Ralph Scherder. The 36-year-old Butler County (PA) resident has been running a trap line since he was 14, when he convinced his dad to teach him the trade. Scherder’s also an experienced hunter, archer, fly fisherman, outdoor writer, author, TV host, seminar speaker and taxidermist, which is his full-time vocation. Trapping is a time-honored American tradition, started by “Mountain Men” in the 1800’s for necessary furs and valuable trade. Trapping animals these days could be considered more of a “hobby”. In the last 10-15 years fur trapping hasn’t been taken too seriously because there’s not much money to be made. (There have been a few good years during that span though.) The purest however — like Scherder — are keeping the tradition of trapping alive — profit or not. With fur prices expected to be down this year, Scherder says he will be happy to break even. Breaking even for a venture like fur trapping makes for a tough trade. It’s hard work. And it doesn’t let up. Traps are set and re-set every day, in season, and must be checked every day for furbearers. Scherder says the cost of traps, lures, bait and other equipment used for trapping have gone up considerably. The market prices for furs haven’t made up for those increases. For Scherder, who anticipates a good 2014-15 season, opened the first week with 73 traps (both leg and dog proof traps) — set in about 28 locations. I was able to accompany him in initially setting about half of the traps, then helped check all of them on opening day, September 27. It was my first jaunt on a trapline. Scherder’s surely made thousands of trips. Since it was the opening day of this season Scherder hoped for a minimum of 10 catches. The quarry would mostly be raccoons, he advised me as we waited for near daylight to check the first two sets. We were dealt a decent day, weather-wise to check the season’s first sets. The chilly morning started with a temperature of around 40 degrees, with a little fog. It ended up being a beautiful day to be outdoors, with clear skies and a high temperature of 55. Trapping-wise, it was a decent day, said Scherder. We netted eight ‘coons and one possum. Several sets were tripped and were misses, which troubled the veteran trapper. I also netted several great photographs of the animals, the trap sets, Scherder and the scenery in and around the area. See more photos of my trapping trip to Pennsylvania in the Winter Issue of Ohio Valley Outdoors, due on newsstands December 5.


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Trapper Ralph Scherder with a pair of raccoons. Photo by Larry Claypool