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Trappers' workshop hopes to draw crowd

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The Rainy River District Trappers Council is hoping to revitalize interest in trapping in our area.

Experienced trappers, and those maybe wanting to get into the business, will get a chance to talk and learn about trapping this Saturday (Feb. 9) when the council holds a workshop from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Métis Hall (714 Armit Ave.)

Admission is free and everyone is welcome to attend, with lunch available.

“It's mainly a gathering for anyone who is into trapping, or looking to get into trapping, to come out and share information and learn new things, and find out the gist of it all,” said Rainy River District Trappers Council secretary/treasurer Rebecca Gustafson, who is organizing Saturday's event.

The workshop will include fur-handling demonstrations, she noted.

“We have a couple of trappers coming and doing a bobcat,” Gustafson said.

“We're going to have a beaver-skinning competition," she added. "So if there's local trappers that want to bring in a beaver and their tools, you get an hour and you do your best to skin your beaver.”

The event also will include a timed trap-setting competition, whereby trappers will check and reset traps as fast at they can.

There will be prizes for the various competitions, as well as raffles for prizes.

Raffle ticket sales will be donated to the GoFundMe page for Vic Pearson: “Remember Sam.” Some of the prizes include a Spot communication system, Leatherman multi-tool, and Motorola two-way radios.

A couple of representatives from the North American Fur Auctions and Fur Harvesters Auction will be there to judge pelts and also answer any questions anyone has about auction houses.

Similarly, the regional director for the Ontario Fur Managers Federation will be on hand to answer questions.

Gustafson said the fur trappers' workshop once was an annual event but interest in it has dipped in recent years. The last one being held in 2017, which very few people attended.

“This year we wanted to bring it back,” she enthused, adding more effort is being made to promote the workshop this time around.

“We want to get people coming back to it," Gustafson stressed. "We're hoping to get it rolling again with more interest and keep it going every year.”

She also is hoping the fact it's being held at the Métis Hall in Fort Frances—a central location in town in the central part of the district—will make it easier for trappers to attend, as well as more likely to attract people who are out and about on a Saturday.

“Trappers are from everywhere so they come in from all over the place—from Rainy River to Mine Centre,” Gustafson noted.

"I am hoping to reach them. I'd like to get everyone's contact information so we can share information more easily.

“And I am hoping we can get people to come in if they're just learning about it or want to get into it,” she added.

Gustafson admitted there's not many trapping courses offered in Rainy River District, but the council would like to work with the Ontario Fur Managers Federation to change that if there's enough interest.

Gustafson, who is a manager at BDO Canada LLP here, is well-acquainted with trapping, having for years helped her father, Trevor Mills, on his trapline.

To this day, she continues to do so along with her brother, Patrick Mills, and her husband, Erik Gustafson.

Gustafson said many trappers in this area are getting older and so she would love to see a new generation pick up the reins.

But she also conceded fur prices are not as high at they once were.

“It's more an expensive hobby," Gustafson remarked. ”There's not much going on [market-wise].

"I am hoping the representatives from the auction houses might have a couple updates on what they think the markets are going to do in the upcoming year.

“But it's hard to say," she admitted. ”There was a crash [in the market] a few years ago and it hasn't fully recovered yet.

“It's harder to get people into it because of that.”

Fur prices, combined with the fact that there's not many courses being put on in this area, are barriers to getting new blood infused into trapping. But Gustafson is hopeful the situation can change.

“I am always looking forward to seeing the younger crowd coming in and picking it up, and being able to carry it on once all the old guys don't want to do it anymore,” she said.

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