Montana Trapper Education Program

At the Front of Advancement of Trapper Education

The use of fur for clothing has been in existence for thousands of years. The development of effective trapping devices increased man's ability to capture animals and led to a steady supply of furs around which an industry could be formed. With the discovery of North America and its abundant supply of furbearing animals it became profitable for European merchants to provide furs to Europe where they were in great demand. Therefore, the trapping of furbearers became Montana's first land based industry some 400 years ago. Since then trapping has undergone many changes. Harvesting methods, equipment and fur handling techniques have radically changed and are continually evolving. Public attitudes have also changed since much of the continent's population has relocated from rural to urban areas where there is little opportunity for people to be in contact with trapping or to learn about nature's furbearers. Like every industry, trapping demands professionalism. Trappers must be proficient at their jobs, must at all time project a good image and be ready to change with the times.

In order to meet these changes, the Montana Trappers Association has developed a basic course for trappers. The curriculum has been designed to increase - awareness of the trapper's responsibilities, while introducing new trapping methods, equipment, fur handling techniques, legislation, biology and outdoor skills. The course has been designed to increase financial returns to trappers by encouraging them to practice sound management concepts that lead to increased fur production.

This course will make it possible for you to learn what it has taken some trappers a lifetime to discover. It is your responsibility to use this information wisely, to trap lawfully, and to act in the best interest of trappers everywhere. By being a professional trapper, others will be encouraged to follow your example and in this way it will promote good trapping and conservation practices.

The Montana Trappers Education Program (MTEP) was started by the Association in 1980.  Using funds from the MTA Annual Raffle and Auction, a student training manual and instructor guide was developed.  With this in place and with the help of the NTA, an instructor certification program was established and 22 instructors were certified.  In 1988 an Education Committee was appointed by the MTA Board of Directors.  The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) initiated correspondence in 1992 with the MTA to discuss financial assistance for the program.  Due to the high cost of implementing the program, purchase of education material and travel expenses for the 22 instructors, the MTEP had limited success.  In 1993, the MTA received funding from MFWP.  This funding was in the form of Pitman-Robertson dollars which support education for hunting, fishing, bow hunting and now trapping.  To receive this funding, the MTA must contribute matching funds calculated by volunteer in-kind.  This in-kind is calculated by putting a dollar figure on the hours and miles put into the program by MTA members.

Since 1993 the MTEP has been successful in educating Montana youth and adults and is now split into two segments:

  • Education - which is an 8 hour course teaching trapping ethics, regulation, safety, health, equipment, fur handling and some history.

  • Outreach - which involves presentations on trapping to the general public through educational booths, school programs, 4-H clubs and other civic groups.

Both are an important method in which the public is informed about the role trapping plays in the conservation of one of Montana's renewable resources - the furbearer.

The MTEP Outreach keeps instructors and members busy throughout the year.  Through information on in-kind report forms, the below are examples of volunteer time by making presentations on trapping to different groups:

  • Educated the hunting public about trapping.  Those who attended learned the proper way to handle finding traps or caught animals.

  •  Made several presentations on trapping to schools, 4-H clubs and conservation groups.  Including setting up and maintaining an educational booth at their local county fair.

  •  Conducted a fur craft session at a Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshop.  The class focused on catching, finishing, and making clothing.  Taught those in attendance how to make fur hats and earmuffs.

  •  Teaching 4-H'ers, showing them how to trap, skin and sell their fur.  Participants were able to attend the Les Barton Fur Sale in Deer Lodge so they could sell their catch.  Also gave a trapping presentation to local schools.

These are just a few of the examples in whch MTA members are busy volunteering their time - yes, this is volunteer work - to keep our trapping heritage alive in Montana!