Archive for June, 2012

Jun
04

Holding Up

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A few readers asked about my backyard wetlands sanctuary, and I happened to be on the far end of property this evening while spying on the local muskrats. So for all those who wondered, here is a rat’s-eye view of what they see from a waterline perspective :)

I have a bunch of emails from trappers asking what my expectations guesses are for next season’s fur prices to come. The simple reply is, no one knows for sure.

There is no possible way to predict or assure anyone of anything. I learned that much in the summer of 1987, coming off record high fur prices and heading into the fall season ahead. I had a very profitable season of 1986 – 1987 and prepared for the mother of all longlines ahead. Bought a new 4×4 Chevy fresh off the factory line. Bought twenty dozen BMI #220s and twenty dozen #1.5 Montgomery coils. Bought a bunch of other stuff, too. Lots of it. I was well prepared to be cookin’ with peanut oil soon as season came in.

But the stock market crash in October 1987, mere days ahead of the trapping season opener took fur prices up in flames with it. So I have firsthand experience and a lifelong lasting memory of how quickly things can change in the wild furs world.

Meanwhile, final Canadian auction house sales went well overall at the FHA last month and NAFA sale this week. Fox and coyotes sold very well, mink and muskrats very well, everything else did fine. I’m sure some trappers were disappointed because some items brought less now than various sales last winter. It is core human nature to expect trees that grow to the sky, to expect prices to keep advancing with no end or even pullback in sight. But that’s not how it works in the world of commodities, of which wild furs definitely are.

Having sold red fox in the past for $100+ averages and then a decade later sold even better fox for a $18 average, repeating that process with $40 coon to $5 coon, $9 rats to $2 rats on average, I’m here to tell you that current fur prices are good. Real good. At the very least, they definitely don’t suck.

Anyone who expected $20 rats and $100 beaver and $200 otter next year simply because has not yet learned how this game works. Likewise, anyone who hung onto their furs just because the summer sale has to be higher prices than the winter sales has not yet learned how this game works. Nobody rings a bell at the price highs. No one knows where price levels will be in a month… not even the fur buyers.

This is definitely a game of speculation, all the way from every level of participation.

So I don’t have any better guess or feel or insight on what next year might bring as anyone else on earth does at this time. I know that prices paid in the country got a little bit frothy at the highs for premium goods, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see somewhat lower prices overall before anyone sees new recent highs again.

Truth is we can do real well with $35 red fox and $8 muskrats and $20 male mink and $18 western coon. Of course I’d prefer double or even triple all that when it comes time for us to sell.But the reality is, fur prices are going to fluctuate from one season to the next and quite often one part of each season to other. That’s the game. Don’t be disgruntled by oscillating prices that may not hold up to higher-highs all the time. Don’t be discouraged if you ain’t getting rich this time around.

Truth is, fur trapping is not the easiest, high-paying work to be found. For those of us who are addicted to the core, we will be out there until our bodies simply won’t hold up no more.. even if fur prices fail to hold up long before then :)

Furever
Austin

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Jun
03

Out & About

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Today was cool, dark and rainy… perfect weather if you’re a muskrat. The backyard pond family spent all day swimming laps from every point of the compass out and then back to their island condos complex. Matter of fact, I’m still watching them swim about while I sit here visiting with you :)

For the first time this season I saw juvenile muskrats out & about. They are kit sized already, half-grown and not too far from having their own litters soon. I did see a muskrat breeding episode one morning a couple of weeks ago, which should result in a new family group being born real soon.

My pond banks are somewhat riddled with tunnels and the island is a mess in some places. No matter… when I had this backyard pond dug in sight of my office, it was for the sole purpose of watching wildlife go about the natural process of progression. So far, so goood on that.

Now that I’m home and settled in from the scouting trip to North Dakota, it’s time to firm up some season plans. I saw enough area and locations out there to keep me way too busy if only 10% of the landowners grant permission. If by chance every one turned me down and said “no”, then Plan B would be public waters and go from there.

Not to hold all eggs in one basket… I’m also laying out potential land lines for fox and coon here at home should plans for fall season muskrats on the road fall thru. That would disappoint me, and I would dabble some with muskrats up north instead if there were enough rats to make it worth the while. Otherwise, plenty of fox and coyotes are right here with a side order of raccoons as the sure-thing to depend on.

I can cover enough state land in three counties here to keep my busy with fox, and know plenty of large landowners who’d welcome another canine trapper with wide-open gates if I went around and asked. With the price of fox and coyotes holding where they are, that ain’t such a bad contingency plan at all!

But Plan A remains fixated focus on muskrats thru fall, winter and spring. So my active plans for now revolve around that. I’ll be making a pretty big bulk purchase of various models’ new steel, soon. Also have a pile of colony traps to cut and bend, too. Every piece of existing gear is 100% ready to be dipped,  sun-dried and staked on location when seasons open. That will take days to complete before every trap old and new is finally packed for deployment afield.

The colony cages I’m making will consist of 8x7x36″ models and 7x6x36″ models that will slip inside the others for sake of saving space. These cages will deploy along roadside locations where size and bulk don’t matter for transport. I’m going to purchase premade folding models that are 7x7x24″ for locations away from any roads. The time it would take to make folding model traps is not worth the dollar savings between construction materials versus wholesale price when total time is factored in.

Other than that, steady as she goes. Something less than 150 days left until the first season opener ahead. No need to begin an exact countdown yet… let’s not rush thru summer in particular or life in general too fast. I’ve racked up enough birthdays to know that each one comes a little bit faster than the previous. In my decades past I would look right thru the present and live for the future in my mind. Now that I’m decades further into this adventure we call “life”, I’m much more appreciative for each day given as our gift or “present”.

So for now I’m enjoying each summer day in relaxed fashion, while taking time to do a few things every day towards the task of next season ahead. No need to hurry, but no sense in idling time away. Just living life each day at a time, enjoying myself while out & about :)

Furever,
Austin

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