GTA Youth Trapping Competition Puts 28 Kids On The Line
Whether they know it or not, there are kids spread out all over the state who want to run a trap line. God ingrained that desire into the fibers of their body. Again, they may not know it, but it’s there. Our job is simply to present them with the opportunity to allow those fibers to catch spark and then let things just play out on their own.
The Georgia Trappers Association (GTA) is probably doing the largest outreach for reaching young Georgia trappers than any group out there. If I’m wrong, someone holler at me, and we’ll spread some GON love for them, too.
Over the Dec. 30 to Jan. 1 weekend, the GTA hosted their eighth-annual Youth Trapping Competition, and this year’s event hosted a record 28 kids between the ages of seven and mid-teen.
The weekend format was pretty simple. Bring kids and their parents in, pair them up with experienced trappers, send them to a big chunk of property, and spend two days teaching and watching kids trap. The trap line is run for two days, and the kid with the highest score—based on number of animals caught and a really cool points system—is crowned champ and receives bragging rights for a full year.
So as simple a platform as that sounds, it doesn’t happen smoothly without a solid leadership team.
Josh Hall is the current president of the GTA, and from what I’ve witnessed, he’s the perfect trapper to be at the helm. The guy has a passion for trapping and educating folks on how to do it. Josh has a want-to desire when it comes to educating folks about his passion.
“This all started about nine years ago when John Whaley (Snake), Mike Gibson (Chief) and Teresa Keys took the kids off at our annual GTA Adult Competition and let them set their own traps,” said Josh. “My two boys were a part of that group of kids, and my youngest caught his first grey fox. That’s all I heard from my boys for two weeks straight! It enticed me enough to try and create an event just for the kids. That’s what we did with the help of the GTA board, some generous landowners and trapping vendors. Now we have a great event.”
Jason Chapman is GTA’s Youth Director and was instrumental in the success of this year’s Youth Competition. His chore was to emcee the event, while making sure everything ran smoothly and on time. He did it spot-on.
Our gathering place for the GTA Youth Competition where we’d enjoy meals and show off critters each morning would take place outside of Swainsboro on the property of Tim Moore. Ever had his chili? Certainly an added bonus to the price of admission—which was free by the way.
So that’s the stage set by the GTA folks. Josh invited me to join the show a year ago. It was an honor he thought of us, and we were thrilled to see the event.
As a trapper, I told Josh if he needed an extra teacher, I’d be happy to play the part. He jumped all over it, and I can’t thank him enough for trusting me with a few of his kids.
I arrived one day before the competition started to do some scouting. Josh handed me a series of maps and escorted me down the road 5 miles to make sure I started in the right place. All total, I had about 500 acres and several properties to explore.
I spent the next four or five hours checking for sign and marking potential spots for the next morning. Next to me in the passenger seat was my new buddy, Joey Thiel, of Thomaston, who serves as a GTA director. He is an experienced trapper but brand new to the GTA Youth Competition. We’d get our feet wet together.
Also on our properties was another GTA director, Mike Wilson. The three of us would each have two kids and end up with more property than we had time or traps to put out. Josh did a great job getting us on some good dirt, which was evident with all the coyote, bobcat and beaver sign we found.
The next morning, kids and parents poured in for an 8 a.m. meeting at Tim’s property. Before trapping took place, kids had to fuel up. Tim’s homemade biscuits did the trick. After that, we had a safety meeting, several short trapping demos, and GTA paired off kids with the trapping instructors.
My young students for the weekend were Mary Margaret Spann, 8, and Theresa Spann, who turned 7 at the trapping competition. Their dad John Henry was along for the ride.
As the GTA Youth Trapping Competition rules state, each kid gets six traps they can put out. They can choose between leg-hold traps, dog-proof traps or traps for beavers. Kids can choose to mix it up or put out mostly dog-proofs (DP), leg holds or all beaver traps if their heart desires. Both of my girls chose to mix it up and try their luck at several species of critters.
So we spent the morning riding from spot to spot setting traps. Most of our morning was spent watching the girls pick out places to plant leg-hold traps in the dirt and then teaching them to properly bed a trap, cover it lightly and then finish off the set by using rocks and small sticks to steer in an animal so that it would put its foot on top of the trap pan. It’s an art, one I enjoy teaching. After all, I had a great teacher, Mr. Lynn Stanford, a lifetime member of GTA. I feel obligated to pass on what I’ve been taught.
Before we knew it, the morning was up and it was back to Tim’s for more food and a quick return to set the rest of our traps. We finally planted our very last trap, a DP, using a flashlight as the sun was below the trees. Yeah, it was a long, long day.
I stayed in a hotel in Swainsboro and got a good night’s rest before being on the line early the next morning. On the very first trap, we parked the truck and Mary Margaret and I walked off a road 50 yards where we’d set a DP along an old slough. From a distance, we both spotted a grinner, aka possum, with his hand in a trap. The excited 8-year-old ran back to the truck, gathered Joey, Mike, our two dads and the five other kids in our party, and off we went to celebrate her success. Wow, that whole deal was worth the trip for me.
Back at Tim’s property, the animals were rolling in. A number of kids caught raccoons, opossums and beavers. There were no coyotes, foxes or bobcats caught on night one, although we had a bobcat step within 2 feet of one of Theresa’s leg holds. The wise cat was curious but cautious. Maybe we’d get him on night two…
At the check-in, Josh and Jason measured and weighed each critter. In addition to the scoring system that awards the top-three kids, there were prizes for heaviest and lightest critters for the weekend.
After that, there were multiple skinning demonstrations taking place in the yard. Sidenote: I took what I learned in those short classes and have already applied it back at home. Yep, this deal isn’t just for the kids.
Fast forward to day two… with the six kids on our property, we ended up with one beaver and two opossums for the competition.
Back to Theresa’s leg-hold trap where a curious bobcat had been close on night one. He came back on night two… and stood 2 inches from the trap pan in two places. Guess we needed one more night on the line.
For the event, 18 of the 28 trappers ended up with a target critter. In all, 30 animals were trapped. The breakdown was 12 beavers, nine raccoons, eight possums and one bobcat.
And the winner? Let’s just say Weston Moore, 8, is still grinning. And if you’re keeping score—and he is—he had a score of 87 with his two beavers and two opossums.
Second place with 76 points was 9-year-old Vinnie Bridges. He caught two beavers and one possum. Third went to Camp Chapman, 13, with 69 points with one beaver, one possum and one raccoon.
“One of the things I really take to heart with this competition is doing something to help keep the trapping tradition alive for generations and getting the pictures that kids send us when they get back home and put what they learned at the event on their own property and catch critters,” said Josh.
Well guess what? Trinity Wealot, 9, of Macon, didn’t catch anything during the competition. However, she learned a lot. She went home, set out a dog proof trap and caught a raccoon the first night!
Let me encourage you to get a GTA membership and support what they’ve got going on. See more at www.gatrappersassoc.com.
Free Coyote Trapping Seminar
GTA’s Youth Director Jason Chapman is hosting a free coyote trapping seminar at Sharpsburg Baptist Church on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 9 a.m. to 11:30. There is also a breakfast and door prices. To win prizes, you have to pre-register with your name, names of those attending with you, contact phone number and email [email protected]. For more info, you can call Sharpsburg Baptist Church 770.251.6963.
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