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Trapping is Hillsboro boys' hobby

Staff writer

Brandon Klassen and Jesse Meier, both of rural Hillsboro, are practitioners of a sport that has its roots in the stone age — animal trapping.

Jesse, a seventh-grader at Hillsboro Middle School, has been trapping with his father, Jon Meier, for as long as he can remember.

Brandon, a Hillsboro Elementary School fifth-grader, knew Jesse, his friend and neighbor, was into trapping.

“I asked my dad if we could do it,” he said. He joined Jesse in the enterprise for the 2009-10 furbearer season, which was Nov. 18 through Feb. 15 for most species.

“Going out to see if something is in your trap is the best part,” Brandon said.

“And getting out in nature,” Jesse added. “Some places you have to hike to.”

Trapping requires strategy, they said. The most important part of trapping is identifying where animals go. Some ideal locations include stream crossings and places where a game trail crosses a barbed wire fence. After placing them, the boys checked the traps every morning, Jesse said.

Placing traps when it is snowy offers the advantage of being able to easily see animal tracks, Jesse said. The boys use two main types of traps — snares and foot traps. Snares wrap around an animal’s neck, and foot traps clamp around an animal’s foot.

“You use different foot traps depending on the size of the critter you’re trying to catch,” Jesse said.

They take measures to avoid catching animals they do not want. For instance, to avoid catching deer, they try to set traps so a deer would have to jump over it instead of stepping in it, Brandon said.

But sometimes those efforts aren’t enough. Jesse remembers when his father put a snare in part of a pasture that he didn’t think cattle would be able to reach. A cow managed to get into the brush pile where the snare was set and the snare wrapped around its leg.

“My dad had to call a vet for a tranquilizer,” to free the cow from the snare, Jesse said. “After that we always called it Snarefoot.”

One of their most productive trapping sites surprised them. They caught about 10 coyotes in a location that they thought was only marginal.

They caught four bobcats, 19 coyotes, and 43 raccoons during the 2009-10 season. Bobcat pelts are the most valuable, followed by coyotes and raccoons. Opossums and badgers are undesirable, Jesse said.

With their fathers’ help, Brandon and Jesse learned to skin the animals they caught and prepare to ship the pelts to a tanning company in New York. Most of the pelts they will sell to the company, but they will keep some of the highest quality pelts for themselves. Brandon said he wants a raccoon-skin cap.

Brandon said he had a lot of fun and hopes to continue trapping.

Jesse wants to keep trapping “as long as I have time,” he said.

Jon and Jill Meier are Jesse’s parents. Dale and Kay Klassen are Brandon’s parents.

Arlene Pankratz contributed to this story.

Last modified May 26, 2010

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