Whether you are an experienced trapper, a novice who wants to become better or someone who wants to begin trapping, attending the annual National Trappers Association (NTA) Convention can be beneficial.

Any and all equipment and supplies necessary for trapping can be purchased from vendors during the convention, saving money on shipping costs. And if you’re not quite sure what makes and types of traps you want, there’s no better place to make comparisons and final decisions.

A big part of each convention is devoted to education. Trapping demonstrations put on by experts are normally planned to start on the hour, every hour, for three days from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There’s usually plenty of time to ask pertinent questions about how to trap various species of furbearers after each presentation.

Another demonstration area manned by North American Fur Auction and Fur Harvester personnel is devoted to how best to skin, flesh, stretch and dry hides from furbearers. Plenty of how-to books, videos and DVDs devoted to trapping are available at these conventions, too.

I saw how valuable it can be to attend an NTA convention during the 55th annual event held in July of 2014 at the state fairgrounds in Escanaba, Michigan. I was impressed by the quantity and quality of products that were available as well as the educational opportunities to become a better trapper. There were endless opportunities to get advice from some of the most active and knowledgeable trappers in North America.

Fur & Fun For All

National Trappers Association Convention, national trappers association

Getting them started! Above, a boy tries out an air rifle on the supervised range at the 2014 NTA convention.

Convention attendance by families and youngsters is encouraged. Kids 12 and under normally get in free. Supervised target ranges for archery and air rifles are usually available, along with other kid-friendly activities.

At the Escanaba convention, for instance, a fishing pond filled with hybrid bluegills in the fairground’s “pocket park” was also reserved for youngsters. Fishing poles and worms for bait were provided. And there was a timed trap-setting competition for the kids, too.

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The convention is held in a different part of the country each year. The 2013 convention was in Lima, Ohio. Next year’s convention will be in Hamburg, New York, from July 30 through August 2, 2015. The convention will return to Michigan in 2016 in Kalamazoo.

The location of the 2014 convention in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was appropriate since the region is the birthplace of the NTA. Earl Renshaw, who ran a trap line from his camp in Eckerman in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula, is credited with starting the organization in 1957. A meeting held at Renshaw’s camp among a small group of trappers that year got the ball rolling. The association was declared operational by January 1, 1959.

It has been about 40 years since the national trappers convention has been held in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The convention was in L’anse in 1973. Two years later, the event took place in Marshall, Michigan. Other Michigan conventions were held in Gaylord during 1982 and Midland in 1996.

Thousands of people from all across the United States and Canada attended the most recent trappers convention. All Canadian provinces were represented along with most of the states.

Frontier Expertise

National Trappers Association Convention, national trappers association

Models show off fur garments during a fashion show at the NTA convention in Escanaba, Michigan.

Even if you aren’t interested in trapping, but you are interested in items made from furs such as coats, vests, hats, gloves and other accessories, the trappers convention is a must-see event. Garments made from a variety of furs are available for purchase from vendors. You can even order custom-made items from some of them.

A fashion show is normally a part of each convention. Two fashion shows were put on for attendees at the most recent event in Escanaba. These displays showcased many of the newest ways that furs are being used in the fashion industry.

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Hunters and anglers can usually find plenty of vendors that offer products they are interested in, too. Guns, bows and arrows, fishing tackle, knives, artwork, antlers, books, magazines and much more were available, and one of the sessions in the demo area was even devoted to using predator calls to hunt predators. Another seminar was about “Trapping Road Trips.” Much of the information shared during that session could also be applied to hunting or fishing road trips.

All of the presenters who put on demonstrations were seasoned veterans who have decades of trapping or hunting under their belts, many of whom trap or hunt in a number of states and/or provinces every year with excellent success. One of these demo experts was 80-year-old Johnny Thorpe from New York, who was inducted into the NTA Hall of Fame in 1996. He has been a professional trapper for 53 years.

Grand Hardware Store

National Trappers Association Convention, national trappers association

Traps of all different types and sizes were available at the NTA convention.

In terms of traps, every type, style and size imaginable were available for purchase. If you’re looking for a huge leg-hold bear trap, for instance, for display purposes at your home, cabin or business, the trappers convention is the perfect place to find one. There were many sizes and styles of the traditional foot-hold traps, body-gripping traps and even dog-proof traps that are popular for catching raccoons. Snares of all types and sizes, including those used for bear, were also available, along with cage traps, some of which were brand-new designs.

Also available were the two major types of stretchers used to dry hides, drags, chains, stakes, trap tags and an endless supply of scents and lures. There were trapping baskets, rubber trapping gloves of all sizes, a variety of digging utensils used for making sets, shifters for shifting sand to cover traps and anything else a trapper could possibly want.

High-Tech Demos

National Trappers Association Convention, national trappers association

The Trapping Demonstration Area, with its large screen in the background so everyone could see what was going on, was a highlight for all who attended. Scott Welch from Iowa was doing a demo on trapping raccoon when this photo was taken.

Imagine taking small pieces of various types of habitat where traps might be set for the furbearers that live in North America and consolidating them inside a large building, with bleachers on three sides so spectators can watch and learn how to become better trappers. That’s what the trapping demonstration area was like at the National Trappers Association’s 55th Annual Convention.

There was a beaver pond complete with a dam, lodge and feed bed as well as a muskrat house, cattails, a stream, hollow logs, stumps, trees, rocks, a cornfield, grassy fields, a two-rut woods road and more.

The UP Trappers Association raised the bar in terms of providing a demonstration area for a panel of experts to show attendees how to make the best sets possible for almost any furbearer you can think of. The demonstration area itself was not only a work of art from the trapper’s perspective, the UP Trappers Association hired Front Line Media from Florence, Wisconsin, to make sure the audience would be able to see and hear every word presenters said and every step they showed. The media company provided a large screen on which both wide-angle and close-up views of what was happening were projected from video cameras. And all experts were wired with microphones so the audience could hear their sage advice.

“The UP Trappers went all out for this demo area,” convention coordinator Trent Masterson said. “It’s one of the best demo areas we’ve ever had at a convention. Many of the veteran trappers who have put on demonstrations have said, ‘Man, this is just an awesome setup.’”

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“I have personally attended nine or 10 NTA conventions,” UP Trapper member Bob Steinmetz from Escanaba said, “and this may be the most sophisticated demo area I have seen, even ignoring the projection of the demos on the wide screen. And the comments I heard from attendees is that the projection of the demos is the greatest thing they have ever seen. With the wide-angle and close-up cameras working together, everyone was able to see even small details, regardless of where they were sitting.”

UP Trapper member Roy Dahlgren from Escanaba and a crew of volunteers were responsible for the elaborate demonstration area.

“It took us nine days to complete the demonstration area,” Dahlgren said. “The first day, we had eight guys and we worked eight to 10 hours. The other eight days we had three guys and we worked 12 to 14 hours.”

Dahlgren continued, “We laid down Papermill wet felt first. We put down three of those. Then we used rubber roofing that was donated by Independent Roofing of Escanaba. We hauled 72 yards of dirt in to complete the project. All of the materials for the beaver dam and lodge and the muskrat house were brought in and constructed on site.

“From past conventions, we knew what to do. I drew up a plan on a sheet of paper and we went from there. Everyone is telling us this is the best demo area they’ve ever had.

“Prior to this convention, they were telling us they were thinking of doing away with the demo area because, most of the time, the audience couldn’t see the presenter or hear him. That’s why we hired Front Line Media from Florence to eliminate that problem.”

Check Out The World’s Largest Trap

National Trappers Association Convention, national trappers association

What may be the largest trap in the world built by Ed Sauvola from Chassell, Michigan, with an estimated weight of 2 tons, that was on display at the NTA convention. Sauvola is shown in the photo with his four sons.

What is most likely the largest trap in the world was one of the most unusual sights at the convention. The device weighs an estimated 2 tons and dwarfs even a large man. The enormous trap is the creation of Ed Sauvola from Chassell, Michigan.

Sauvola made the trap about 10 years ago, and it was on display in front of the Keweenaw Kountry Store, along the highway in that community, until it was transported to the trapping convention. While the trap was on display, it had a full size snowmobile in its jaws. The trap had to be disassembled and carried on a flatbed truck before being reassembled at the convention.

Sauvola said he made the monstrous trap just for fun. “I wanted a bear trap since I was a kid,” he said. “Since I couldn’t afford to buy one, I decided to make it. This is what I ended up with.”

For more information on next year’s convention, be sure to check out http://www.nationaltrappers.com or call 866-680-TRAP (8727).

 

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® Issue #191. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® magazine are available here.