- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) - When most folks in Nodaway County think about harvesting wildlife, they have in mind deer and turkey, or maybe the occasional hunter who prefers to shoot rabbits, squirrels and other small game.

But there is a thriving community of outdoorsmen - and outdoorswomen - in northwest Missouri who march to the beat of a different drummer, the Maryville Daily Forum (https://bit.ly/12U0wVV ) reported.

For these rugged individualists, the feel of a walnut stock on a .30-caliber deer rifle or the solid slide-click of a pump-action shotgun have less appeal than mastering the quieter and more ancient skills required to lure animals into the kinds of traps and snares hunters have been using since human beings lived in caves.

December and January are the heart of trapping season in northwest Missouri, and at this time of year dozens of trappers are getting up in the pre-dawn hours, pulling on bulky cold-weather clothes, and slogging through woodlands or walking along icy creeks in order to collect fur-bearing bounty.

Unlike deer and turkey hunters, who shoot game for the family table, trappers are an entrepreneurial lot, and most have every intention of converting their pelts into cash.

Like Missouri’s earliest explorers - the French and the Spanish and mountain men on their way west to the Rockies - today’s trappers are inspired both by their love of the outdoors and the opportunity to make a little money.

Of course, as with most businesses, this one has its share of government regulations, which is why state Conservation Agent Christine Campbell parks herself outside the Nodaway County jail every Friday morning during trapping season.

Local trappers know Campbell is going to be there with a stack of forms and a pile of plastic pelt tags to make sure that everybody is playing according to the rules set up by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The days of the mountain man may be long gone, but fur is still big business, and local trappers who harvest certain kinds of prestige fur-bearers - such as bobcats and otters - are required to have their pelts tagged by Campbell in order to comply with federal rules written in conjunction with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Most other fur-bearing animals, such as coyotes, opossums and muskrats, are exempt from CITES requirements.

Campbell said bobcats have become an especial favorite of Nodaway trappers, not least because their numbers are growing and their pelts are valuable. Bobcats like to feed on turkeys, and the turkey population has been expanding over the last couple of years.

About 100 bobcat pelts will be harvested in Nodaway County this winter, Campbell said, some with pelts worth as much as $100 each.

Sheridan resident Mike Rowe brought in four pelts for tagging on a Friday morning. He said he took three of the animals with traps and shot the fourth while deer hunting. Taking bobcats with a firearm is legal in Missouri if the hunter possesses either a valid hunting license or an unfilled deer tag.

Rowe said he harvested his three trapped bobcats along Honey Creek in northeastern Nodaway County, but declined to comment on the exact location or what he uses for bait.

Such reticence, Campbell said, is typical of trappers, who are generally unwilling to disclose trade secrets.

“They’re very reclusive,” she said.

Also on hand to register a couple of otters - taken at an undisclosed location - was 19-year-old Steve Schulte, a Northwest Missouri State University student from Ravenwood who has been trapping for about five years.

Schulte said he puts out anywhere between ten and 30 traps and sells otter pelts for between $40 and $60 each. The pelts used to go for considerably more, but the price has come down due to competition from fur farmers who raise the animals commercially.

That, along with serious competition from Asia, means that nobody is getting rich being a fur trapper in northwest Missouri. But Campbell said there is still a ready market. Locally there is a fur-buyer who sets up shop every couple of weeks during the season at the Maryville Orscheln Farm & Home store. Other trappers make the 100-mile drive to a similar market in Jamesport.

While most people think of furs being used for hats, coats and other outdoor gear, Campbell said commercial demand for fur-bearers actually cuts a considerably wider swath - everything from rugs to paintbrushes.

Campbell said that all 18 of Missouri’s furbearing game species are found in Nodaway County. In addition to bobcats and otters, the roster includes skunks, opossums, beavers, raccoons, muskrats and foxes.

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Information from: Maryville Daily Forum, https://www.maryvilledailyforum.com


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