Monday, March 15, 2010

Trapping is 'Pete's' Life

Steve ‘Pete’ Peterson will tell you he was born a trapper.
“When I started, I figured it out on my own,” Peterson said. “I purchased Fur, Fish and Game Magazine and read it from cover to cover. A lot of what I learned about trapping came from the magazine.”
John Almquist, public relations specialist for the South Dakota Trappers Association, said Peterson is an important link in the fur business because he supplies the trapper and is an optional outlet for selling furs. “There are very few fur buyers in South Dakota,” he said. “Pete also sells trapping supplies and his trapping supplies are necessary items to have.”
Lake County Conservation Officer Brandon Gust said trapping benefits the sportsman for hunting and the private sector by eliminating nuisance animals that have caused losses to animals and land.
“There are broad benefits from trapping,” he said. “Trapping can have a huge impact on all those aspects. Our trapping and numbers of people trapping has declined because of market value decreasing. Those who are still trapping are benefiting.”
Almquist adds that a well conducted harvest of furbearers by trappers also minimizes the effect of diseases. “Diseases carried by furbearers can infect livestock, pets and humans,” he said. “Trapping is not the ultimate solution to wildlife disease outbreaks. But, trapping can reduce the threat of diseases to the health of people, domestic animals and other wildlife.”
Peterson, 48, whose business Peterson Furs is located northwest of Ramona, S. D., started trapping when he was 12 years old. He found some old traps on the family farm near Strandburg. “I found that trapping was what I really was good at,” he said.
Peterson started his fur trapping business in an old renovated grainery at the farm and it was from there the business evolved. He started adding supplies including lures, bait and traps to sell furs and then resupply. Eighteen months ago he added an addition for a trapping supply warehouse.
Once he started buying furs, Peterson joined the South Dakota Trappers Association and started attending the annual Rendezvous. “That is when it really took off,” he said. “I learned so much so fast. It really did help me become a much better trapper.”
Working full time at Gehl Company in Madison does make it difficult to trap because of the commitment it takes. “Once you set those traps you are responsible for checking them everyday,” he said.
Trapping starts in November and usually ends in April. In March, trappers are looking for muskrats and badgers. In April, it will turn to beaver.
During a two-week period in November, Peterson checks about 150 traps each day. During the winter, he also traps muskrats, coyotes and other animals.
“Trapping provides supplemental income for many people and families in South Dakota,” Almquist said. “It also provides direct economic benefits to fur buyers, fur processors, fur garment industries and small town retail businesses.”
Another part of the lure of trapping is the relaxation and the peacefulness and being in touch with nature. “I think trappers probably are all pretty good wildlife biologists,” Peterson said. “To be a good trapper you have to know a lot about the outdoors and a lot about the animals you are taking. You have to really study them.”
Trappers have also refined their methods. “The equipment we are using is much more standardized,” he said. “We developed smarter methods for taking these animals.”
For Peterson, the two weeks he does trapping is fun, but is also very challenging. “You are one on one with that animal,” he said.
Peterson uses the example of a coyote. He didn’t catch his first coyote until he was 25 years old. “They are a very wary animal. They are very intelligent,” he said. “They are not easy to take.”
While coyotes might be one of the most difficult to catch, muskrats are probably the most popular. “It is a fun animal to catch because there are a large number and easy to take,” Peterson said.

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