Thankful Outdoors: Trapping and its Benefits for the Environment

Submitted to OnFocus – The warm days and cooler nights have started to cause grief for the attempts that Connor, Bryce, and I have for trapping coyotes on the ice. My rookie trapping efforts will need to be reset this week. This week’s project is working on getting peat moss thawed and adding salt to sets to help combat the thaw/freeze cycle.

We did work on getting some water sets out for beaver over the weekend. The sign that was found wasn’t as strong as last year, and those sets might end up getting moved into a more promising area.

The activity in McMillan Swamp continues to be higher than average. Wintertime in past times was a time of solitude, that has not been the case this year. There have been several unusual things that have occurred on this tract of public land this year. Doing the daily trapline check, I’m reminded that not everything in life is simple. There are two orange markings left on two trees that show life can get complicated.

I always try to spend a few moments chatting with the strangers I meet in the outdoor adventures. On Saturday, the boys and I met a couple of guys taking their beagle out for an afternoon rabbit hunt. That little beagle was so darn cute! We chatted about hunting and how owning a dog pulls you away from other hunting activities. Of course, Boone and this little beagle had to go through typical dog meeting traditions. Darn glad that humans don’t introduce themselves in that way. A simple “Hi” or handshake is much more comfortable!

Then we ran into a hiker who was out enjoying the winter sights. She had shared her only sighting for the day was a muskrat. She had hoped I wasn’t out trapping otter. I get that kind of response on things when I run across non-conservationists. Yes, I prefer to identify as a conservationist. The name hunter, trapper, a fisherman is often associated as being evil and destructive. Undoubtedly, a small percentage of the masses are those things, but it doesn’t reflect what the majority of us represent.

I shared with this hiker that the number of otter and beaver in the swamp is a healthy and strong population; I didn’t share how weak my trapping skills were! If I had to rely on putting fur up for food, warmth, and clothing, my family would be naked, cold, and hungry.

Trapping for money is also not a reason I got into the sport; I hear and read that a lot in today’s low fur prices. “It’s not worth my time and effort for the cost.” A factual statement, but I still believe that there are population numbers that need to be kept in check. Watching a fox or coyote suffer from mange is not easy to see. Too many beavers in an area can create a mess of flooded property. High otter numbers will impact fish populations.

All of this is about a balance and harmony of the numbers. It’s a topic that is discussed at length in a trapper education class. They discuss the carrying capacity of the land. Each piece of property has a carrying capacity of what it can support. Trapping helps keep those numbers in check.

For example, I don’t set for muskrat because those numbers were hit hard when fur prices had climbed to all-time high a few years back. I’m starting to see more activity of them, and if fur prices stay low, I don’t foresee many targeting them. I will probably begin trapping for them, though, if the numbers continue to increase. I never want to trap something to where it is gone.

A lot of time I spend on the trapline is lonely, it’s Boone and I checking traps in the early mornings or late at night. The boys prefer to be on the trapline during the weekends and in daylight. On Sunday, though, Mom and Dad joined the boys and me as we went to check the trapline.

Watching my parents do things together makes my heart melt at times; I watched these two act like teenagers in love. They had their walking sticks and hitting cattails to release the fluff into the air to see who could cover the other one with that stuff. They laughed and giggled at each other; their actions were as playful as a couple of otters.

It will soon be the time when the Hopperdietzel family will start our shed hunting outings. This year will be interesting to see how the low amount of snow will impact our findings. It will give us an earlier start if the inches of snow do not increase in February.

Boone is being trained to be a shed dog; last year, we did not find any sheds together. He did locate several deer that did not make it through the winter. As we continue our training sessions, I’m hoping to find him the right locations for him to locate a horn.

Among my boys and me, Bryce has found the largest full set of horns, and I have the largest single horn found. Bryce found his a few years back in the woods by the school while helping a friend locate something that he had lost in the snow. Bryce had stumbled across a beautiful matching set of horns.

Bryce with his shed he found a couple of years ago.

I had located my biggest shed while making a deer drive during rifle season. I couldn’t believe that mice or squirrels didn’t chew up the horn. It didn’t have a chew mark on it; having it buried in the leaves of the old creek bottom kept is well hidden for the critters.

In closing, I hope you find a way to get into the outdoors, create your adventure and memories, but most importantly, find a way to “Celebrate the Experience.” Go check out for more content and share your “Celebrate the Experience” moment with us!

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Scott Hopperdietzel
Author: Scott Hopperdietzel

Scott Hopperdietzel is the creator of an outdoor blog named Thankful Outdoors. He shares his passion for the outdoors with readers. The focus of the blog is to “Celebrate the Experience” in his stories; you feel what the connection to the outdoors means to him. His goal is to inspire others to get into the outdoors and create their own experience. Along with writing, he is a father to three boys who are often part of the adventures along with the family Weimaraner, Boone. You can find his writings on the website or follow his social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.