Trappers from across the state and nation will be gathered at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk Thursday to Saturday for a Fur Takers of America National Rendezvous.
Trapping, a pursuit that requires considerable skill and dedication, has a history of being the primary and continued target of anti-hunting and animal rights groups.
Nonetheless, continuing fur markets, development of increasingly more humane trapping devices, and guidance from good instructors have sparked increased interest in trapping in recent years. While sale of hunting licenses have declined and fishing licenses have remained about the same, sales of trapping licenses soared some 20 percent, from 10,998 sold in 2002-03 to 13,608 purchased in the 2008-09 trapping season.
County trappers associations across the state and many other states will be gathering in Dunkirk at the fairgrounds at 1089 Central Ave., for three days of informative and entertaining activities.
Dave Miller, executive director with the New York State Trappers Association, has a slate of local and national experts who will make presentations and offer exhibits of their skills and production.
In all, 60 booths have been set up for demonstrations and more than a dozen highly skilled trappers will offer talks and how-to shows during the rendezvous.
Pennsylvania trapper Russ Carman will discuss "Dirt Hole Set Theory" approaches. Johnny Thorpe of Lake Luzurne, a well-traveled trapping expert, focuses on mink. Dick Atkins will also make presentations on mink trapping. Jeff Robinson, Midwestern trapper, will cover canines. New Jersey expert Newt Sterling will key on otter trapping. Austin Passamonte specializes in raccoons. Jerry Schilling from Indiana has good set-up information on turtle trapping. Scott Welch from Ohio can help trappers set up a mixed predator line.
Gary Jepson travels from North Dakota to show and tell details on both making good trapping scents and bobcat trapping. Area expert Kevin Kishel (kishelscents.com) will have a booth and help trappers and hunters of a variety of species develop a good attractant program for an array of pursuits.
Von Strahan of Penn Yan has trapped across the country and traveled to England to help gamekeepers trap fox on preserves. Strahn will discuss "Foul Weather Canine Trapping."
Walt Barker has developed a system for muskrat trapping with floats under bridges. Miller has seen Barker's set-up and suggests that all expert and novice trappers should head to this show if for no other reason than to see Barker's trapping system.
The Mahoney family travels en masse from the Midwest and presents Dutch oven cooking tips that will make this kind of food preparation a must even in the smallest of backyards this summer. If hat making is your interest, the Mahoneys have a session on fur-hat making.
Along with the presentations in the Conservation Building and an adjacent building, there will be areas set up for tailgaters with new and used trapping items.
John Stanley with the Erie County Trappers Association has made arrangements for a counties association area with reps from Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Niagara Counties.
Area trappers will be on hand to show how they ply their trapping trades. The main emphasis is on interesting youths in learning a respect for the resource as well as developing an understanding of the most effective and humane trapping procedures.
For added entertainment, look for unusual competitions such as a Barefoot Bear Trap Setting Contest and a Ladies' Skillet Toss. A big auction begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
This rendezvous will bring together experts from across the country and provide the full range of basic and detailed information about trapping. Most experts have spent decades if not a lifetime in their pursuits. While the names may not be high profile among hunters and anglers, to experienced trappers these experts are the Babe Ruths, the Michael Jordans, the Jim Thorpes in furtaking circles.
Each has been at their skills long enough to help newcomers and seasoned veteran trappers.
The fairgrounds are close to the Dunkirk ramp of the New York State Thruway (Exit 59). Buildings and events will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday to Saturday.
For more details on this national rendezvous, go to furtakersofamerica.com.