Trapper to trapper, a telling of tales
HUGHESVILLE “Trapping is a conservation measure attempting to keep in balance, the ratio between animals and habitat. Animals bear more young that feed sources can support,” said Scott Kilcoyne. Along with his father Michael, the twosome presented the November program at the East Lycoming Historical Society in Hughesville last Monday.
By a show of hands, eleven of the forty one attendees indicated they had trapped at some time during their lives. Many including the Kilcoynes are members of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association (PTA).
Visuals for the program included pelts provided by PTA, with mounts and traps owned by the father and son duo. “Carl Stackhouse gave me a special trap for deer which is illegal in Pennsylvania,” Michael said.
“The history of trapping has been traced back to 1492 when Europe and Russia were the principle suppliers of fur,” Kilcoyne said. Later in the 16 and 1700’s in Quebec, Canada LaSalle and Champlain trapped, sending their furs to Paris. Names of other well-knowns include Kit Carson, Jim Bouie, Daniel Boone and William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark.
“Fur traders would rendezvous at such posts as St. Louis and St. Paul in Minnesota; Laramie, Wyoming; and Albany, New York where they sold their furs, purchased supplies and in most cases left the post with no money. They really didn’t need it in the wilderness,” Kilcoyne said.
In 1830, due to silk hats becoming fashionable, sales of beaver hats began to decline. From 1860 to 1870, the lack of demand commercially continued to plummet.
Snowiss of Williamsport was a local furrier who bought pelts. Most thought they received a better deal with Sears and Roebuck when in 1950 the business received furs via mail order shipped to their facility in Chicago. S&R even printed booklets called “Tips for Trappers.”
A ‘show and tell’ of traps came with an explanation of which animal it was meant to snare. The furs were cured, packed and shipped to Sears, “then we’d set on the steps and wait for mailman Clarence Birdsell to bring our check. In 1950, a dollar bounty was put on weasels and we were paid when taken to Justice of the Peace, Joe Seigfried,” the elder Kilcoyne said.
Identifying locations where he trapped included the Lester Poust and Don Bogart farms. “The first year 26 fox were taken from the Poust farm and seven from Bogart lands,” Michael said.
He also shared that one of the many beavers that were trapped at the Poust place and released at the boat ramp near Muncy, found his way back. A joke for the trappers was the fact that the beaver might have beaten them back home.