By Will Elliott
Trappers and coonhound handlers had a go bumping in the night Nov. 3 and 4 during the first annual Great Lakes Trapping Contest.
Coordinator Mike Chirico of Orchard Park, a redbone hound specialist, organized not only the trapping contest for the night of Nov. 2-3, he also supervised the annual Big Coon Contest held the following night of Nov. 3-4.
Both events were held out of the Cattaraugus County Houndsmen and Conservation Club clubhouse in West Valley. More than 20 entrants signed on and about half of those trappers brought in legal harvests of fox and raccoon.
A bitter cold Friday evening may have reduced movement of furbearers, but the first snowfall on club grounds Saturday afternoon did little to slow entrants arriving before the 2 p.m. deadline that afternoon.
Chirico announced the top five winners and payouts, with Franklinville trapper Matthew Spittler’s totals the top entrant by far. “I set out 70 traps and went with the Minnesota 550 to get these,” he said of a pick-up bed lined with five foxes (four reds and one gray) and six adult raccoons all taken the previous night.
Dan Robinson from Shinglehouse, Pa., trapped near home and brought in enough fur to finish in second place. Tom Crouse of Little Valley finished a close third and Mike Chirico, 11, of Orchard Park and Mike Anna of Chaffee trapped equal numbers to tie for fourth place.
Anna remained in good form the next night, bringing in the biggest raccoon by weight in the Single Entry division of the Big Coon Contest.
Team honors went to two teams: Dave Lederman of West Valley and Brock Stadler of Franklinville and the team of Tim Marren and Fran Pinker.
“Weight finishes were selected, rather than a head count, so shooters would not take young stock while hunting,” Chirico explained.
Both contests went well both days of night activities; Chirico has coordinated the raccoon contest for more than a decade and expects greater participation next year after this year’s successes with the trapping contest.
Weather may have been a factor in drawing 30 entrants for the Big Coon Contest; some years this event may see almost twice that number.
Through both contests, Chris “Hoot” Gerling, fur handler from Collins Center and a major sponsor, had no time to set his own traps. “I’m just too busy with the hats,” Gerling said of his moves into making fur hats. A trapper for more than three decades, he has processed hides and finished furs for auctions and direct sales.
“But this hat-making (venture) has mom and me working all the time,” he said of hats made from fox, beaver, raccoon, opossum, skunk and any furbearer that might be stylish and head-warming,” he said. Those fur items also include neck warmers, purses, gloves and mittens of all styles, vests, work gloves and custom items made to order with buyer- or maker-supplied fur stock.
Gerling’s furs and assortment of trapping supplies can be viewed at hootsfurs.com.
Chirico is looking for input on future trapping-oriented events. To offer suggestions, check with him at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lure of trapping can be as tricky as the traps trappers set for furbearing species.
Retired Environmental Conservation Officer Dick Lang of Lockport pointed to retired DEC biologist Dan Carroll this past week, citing Carroll as one of the most diverse and skillful trap setter he has ever worked with during his 34 years of ECO service around Western New York.
Lang met up with Carroll in Akron on Thursday to talk about current trapping trends Carroll now sees and some of the events and characters Lang encountered while on patrol. Lang shares many of those encounters in his book, “Behind the Badge: My Life as a Game Warden,” which will be reviewed on next Sunday’s Outdoors Page.