Steps To Building A Lasting Trapper/Landowner Partnership

Brad Gill | October 30, 2023

There’s an old saying I was raised around: “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” Well, that pretty much holds true for a partnership between a hired trapper and a landowner, although I’m not too sure who plays mama more…

I haven’t been trapping as long as most of the guys I’ve been blessed to meet through the Georgia Trappers Association. However, between soaking up their knowledge and the tidbits I’ve learned on my own traplines, I want to mention a few things I’ve discovered in helping to establish and keep good landowner partnerships.

• Trapline Traffic: I’ve been hired on private farms and heavily used hunting clubs. When I take a call, one of the first things I want to know is how much traffic will be on the property where I’m being hired to trap. My preferred answer is “zero.” It’s frustrating to return the next morning to have several MB-550s run over by a 4-wheeler. “There wasn’t supposed to be anyone over here..” Mama ain’t happy…

Since I prefer to run my traps for 12 to 14 days, I did have a landowner who needed to get into his property during a trapline in January. He called, and we talked it through. I was able to mark several of my leg-hold traps, which were set in roadways where tires like to crunch, with rebar and flagging tape. He pulled the rebar on his way out. Both mama’s happy.

Some trappers may be fine with traffic based on their trap locations and target species. However, with the goal of building a lasting relationship, I do believe having both parties on the same page about the amount of traffic on the property goes a long way in the process.

• Trapline Reporting: When building a lasting partnership, I believe communication is king. Since I prefer no traffic and I most often set and check traps alone, I make it a point to check in with the landowner every day after I check traps. This is usually done through text. I think it’s important, whether I’m hero or zero for the day, that they hear from me, especially since most times they aren’t stepping foot on their property during my trapping session. If I catch something cool, like a coyote, I’ll usually send a photo along with the daily check-in. Then, at the end of my time on the property, I’ll email them a full report with critter totals and any assessment I may have.

• Celluar Trail Cams: Since the invention of cellular cams, I’ve found it helpful when landowners have given me access to those cams during my trapping time. It has helped me learn when animals are coming through that I wouldn’t have known about.

A few weeks ago I was trapping raccoons on a Putnam County hunting club. I had caught eight on one feeder in about 10 days, but I had one coon that just would not stick its hand in a DP, despite providing an entire buffet of baits. Thankfully, the landowner gave me access to his Tactacam, and I watched as that pesky coon came through every night. If it weren’t for that camera, I wouldn’t have had a clue.

I was so aggravated that I buried three 550s in the ground where he liked to sit and feed on the free corn. He was caught by 9 p.m. that night. Having a willing landowner paid dividends and made for a happy trapper and happy landowner, thus building the strength of our trapping partnership.

• Trapping Cost: There are some trappers who trap for no charge. Although with low fur prices, these guys are getting harder to find. Most trappers I know charge expenses at a minimum, while some charge by the critter and some charge by day, regardless of the number of critters caught.

Have that conversation up front so both parties are happy. If the trapper and landowner can’t agree on this in the beginning, nothing is lost.

• Why Build A Lasting Partnership? Since trapping is generally not a one-and-done deal, a good, long-term relationship between trapper and landowner provides years of consistent trapping work for the trapper, while keeping critters in check so deer, turkey and quail can thrive.

I asked Josh Hall, president of GTA, to read my thoughts, and he had some additional words of wisdom. Josh writes, “Keep in mind small-game season is in. So if your cousin asks if he can come run beagles, bird or coon dogs, please tell him no. The last thing we want is to catch a hunting dog. Communication can go a long ways. We can temporarily cover our sets with shingles or something if notified. Another thing is this is not a good time to mow roads or start harrowing for spring plots. Rotor mowers and harrows are a magnet to traps and can cost the trapper a pile of money. Planting trees is also a problem. Also, trappers need to leave the property better than they find it. If you see trash, pick it up. If you see a farm animal in distress, let the farmer know. Last but not least, if the landowner sees a caught animal, let it be unless other instructions are given by the trapper. Some trappers have preferred ways they like certain animals dispatched. Also, no predator hunting while trapping is in progress.”

Josh is certainly one of the GTA boys that I enjoy soaking knowledge from. Hopefully these words will give the landowner and trapper a few things to think about as each seeks out those important long-term partnerships that is a win-win for both parties.

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