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It wasn’t a conscious decision; we had merely started moving in slightly different trajectories, and in this sort of country that means that before long we were almost a mile, and a deep gorge, away from each other. I look across the rim at the small figures, the even smaller brown and white dots that represented the dogs. Even at this distance, it is obvious that they are covering 10 times the amount of ground the humans are. I find reasonably stable footing amidst the slippery skateboards of sandstone talus piled atop each other and look over the rim. Even in February, the creek flows assertively. Yes, people would have lived here, and probably would have done pretty well at it, considering the harshness that lay to the horizon beyond.

Trapped: What Is Found and Not Forgotten on the Hunt

It wasn’t a conscious decision; we had merely started moving in slightly different trajectories, and in this sort of country that means that before long we were almost a mile, and a deep gorge, away from each other. I look across the rim at the small figures, the even smaller brown and white dots that represented the dogs. Even at this distance, it is obvious that they are covering 10 times the amount of ground the humans are.

I find reasonably stable footing amidst the slippery skateboards of sandstone talus piled atop each other and look over the rim. Even in February, the creek flows assertively. Yes, people would have lived here, and probably would have done pretty well at it, considering the harshness that lay to the horizon beyond.

In the distance, the rooftops and glass reflections of a border gambling town can be seen. I am less than an hour hike from the road, but I know no one has likely stood where I am in a long time. They come in vehicles of sealed, conditioned air, never leaving pavement, and head straight to the dim cacophony of casinos where it could be any time of night or day. Indeed, this lack of any reference to time of day is the deliberate strategy from the casino’s point of view. And then, broke, satiated, guilty, elated, hungover or maybe even lucky, they get back in their cars and move on, their feet likely never touching real soil, their menthol-pickled lungs taking in as little fresh air as possible throughout the entire endeavor.

I drop below the band of rimrock and continue to parallel the ridge, the creek now audible below. Here and there are concentrations of tiny obsidian flakes on the ground, doubtless in the very same spot where they initially fell, as someone ages before fashioned a tool or killing instrument of some sort. I continue on, lost in various thoughts of the people who used to live here, losing recollection of the quarry I came here to find, not even sure exactly where my dog is. It feels good to be alone in this place, walking, consumed by the moment, surrounded by scatterings of human evidence, reminded that I am but one in a long chain that stretches way back. Something incongruous catches my eye and I bend down. A tiny chert arrowhead, perfectly formed.

I move on, still deep in thought, looking down as I pick my way along, only half-heartedly still in the hunt. Hank pops over the rim above to check on me and then disappears again.

And then suddenly, there it is.

I stand there stunned as everything around me slows and focuses in the middle, on what lies in front of me, blurred around the edges, like an old tintype. Despite the mid-day temps hovering around freezing, it is clear that the cat hasn’t been dead for long. It is also clear that this had not been a quick death, that nothing dies quickly this way. There would have been hours, if not days, of struggle, of life slowly ebbing, of creeping cold, until this. Wind moves the soft fur, and I can’t resist – I kneel down and run my fingers through it. There is this brief, purely sensory moment where my thinking, judgmental mind is as numb as the carcass before me. This incredibly soft coat. I want to continue running my hand through it and not think about anything, but thoughts begin to creep back. I stand up and wonder if the trapper is watching me from somewhere in the distance. This is easy country to remain undetected in.

I try to get it back, but the rest of the day is not the same. The usual burning desire to continue hunting and covering country has been dimmed to a flicker and all I want to do is put the gun and the rest of it all away and go sit somewhere with a flask of whiskey and a good view and not think about anything but the biting February wind chafing my face and the little chert arrowhead, smooth between my fingers.

Bruce Smithhammer is a freelance writer and editor, a columnist for the Teton Valley News and a contributing editor for The Drake magazine. He is also among a group of hunting writers who contribute to the blog Mouthful of Feathers, where this essay originally appeared.

About Bruce Smithhammer

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51 comments

  1. Excellent article, I wish there had not been a need to write it. In today’s world, trapping can’t be defended as anything more than a dangerous psychiatric aberration. Yes, we need to use animals, but certainly not through this kind of cruelty by choice. Enough studies have been done to show that sadism toward animals is a desensitizing precursor/parallel to all kinds of similar behavior toward other humans, including domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and other forms of mayhem. It’s time to come out of denial and start growing up as a society.

  2. I should probably clarify – the purpose of this piece was not a condemnation of all trapping. In my mind, that would be a simplistic motivation, and suggest an agenda that I honestly don’t have. It is, instead, an account of the unexpected things I came across, and the thoughts/emotions that these things triggered, in a day afield. Nothing more, but nothing less, either.

  3. I certainly understand your motivation but I have come up on a similar scene in my past, living in Eastern Montana. My experience was quite awful as the bob cat was dying, not yet dead. Your essay brought back the memory, the smell and cold… the tears in the eyes of my companions. A powerful message no matter how you look at it.

  4. I have a difficult time trying to figure out why today there is a need to trap anything–outside of doing so with extreme care and regard for the animal for scientific reasons. Even then I cannot imagine what it must be like for the animal that some believe must be trapped for studies.
    I think that if any human who wishes to trap for trophy or food had to endure a few hours or days trapped without food and water himself of herself, that might change the desire to continue trapping.
    A cat’s heart, a bear’s heart , a wolverine’s heart beat the same way ours does. Are we going to continue trapping wild animals because it has been done in the past? Lots of activities that were taken in the past have been left behind. Many, including beheading, beating, mutilating of other people should have been stopped.
    Why as humans is it so necessary to kill in our time for bragging? for trophy?
    Is trapping the only solution to a family looking for food?
    If you are going to kill , do it fast. Do not make another being suffer. Ever.
    My heart beats with sadness at the knowledge that anything suffers as it dies.

  5. What a pity that the experience did nothing to change your life. You could have realized that another being suffered as it died. You could have done more than write an interesting article. You could have helped to ensure that it does not happen any more.

    The killing and suffering caused was senseless. The person who set the trap might not have done so had he or she known himself or herself what it is like to be trapped.

    How humans have come so far away from our understanding that everything is connected and everything we do affects everything else saddens me every day.

  6. Time to put the guns down, people. And of course the traps.

    We’ve moved on. Humanity has moved on. Hop on the evolution bus.

    The author should come to grips with reality and admit what he already knows but refuses to admit – hunters inflict unneeded suffering in a world that has too much of it.

    May this valuable lesson not be lost on you, Bruce. May you see these blood sports for what they are, and may you not be corrupted by the deformed culture that surrounds you as the truth tries to envelop you AND your actions in the future.

    The truth is insecure, “grown” men mask their love of the outdoors by having to “kill something”. They can’t go out and just enjoy it for the sake of it. There has to be a “manly” aspect attached because of a long promoted culture of death and peer pressure from folks who don’t know any better.

    I wish you luck in your transformation. This was a brutally painful wake up call.

    Trapping is garbage. It was needed when we pioneered this country. It’s pointless now.

    Unfortunately, the woods are filled with pieces of garbage like this trapper who failed to check his line as required by law.

  7. The title of your story does suggest empathy. So why when weighing that tintype of a life lost against the unedifying and cruel activity of taking it not leave you with responsibility to openly censure it.

    Writers like you who value our natural world and speak to us in sympathetic appreciation of it are thanked for not being reticent in expressing opinions that could effect attitude and consequently actions. So while I understand such “preaching” did not fit into your piece, I wonder about your answer to real mike. But thanks anyway for a beautifully written story.
    Sunny

  8. I also hope that you contacted the authorities, and this case was investigated. Where did it take place?

    I hope you did more than drink whiskey, which is a convenient elixer for pushing back the truth and numbing reality.

  9. Why do people like killing bobcats? Don’t ghunters have any respect for animal life or do they just think their lives are nothing and that’s why they kill them? Trapping should be banned. It’s an abomination to trap an animal in this day in age to kill it for no good reason. It’s also barbaric and inhumane. Any who traps wildlife like bobcats does not care or respect the lives of animals. How could they when they made a conscious decision to go out there and take an animal’s life for no good reason?

  10. Bruce, would you have liked it if someone put your head in a trap? That’s how you should be thinking when you do the samething to a defenseless animal just trying to survive.

  11. I’m a rancher and a hunter, but trapping like this just makes me sick. No need for it these days.

  12. Oh my, big sky, I can see how you would feel that way, with you being an old rat trapper yourself; but, you’re misrepresenting the situation on the very face of it when you spew your “trappers are very ethical and follow game laws to the limit” garbage. The truth is, on the face of the evidence presented, is that the trapper involved in this very story failed to follow the game laws, even the inadequate laws currently governing this disgusting form of sadism, with regard to checking traplines frequently enough to prevent the slow death this cat endured. Again, you spout your opinionated trash without even thinking about the situation or what you’re saying.

  13. So this fellow running his trap line is garbage, according to the hateful dogma of Mike, calling someone garbage in person would likely start a war of the phyisical kind I doubt Mike could handle, meanwhile Mike works and pays his taxes, and the government spends 51% of those taxes on the Military Industrial Complex, thats the War Machine.

    Now when a lone nut shoots off his gun in Arizona, we are horrified by this action, yet when our government kills 100,000, or one million foreign people, who happen to be standing on their own land in their own nation, we shrug and call that foreign policy, and we look the other way.

    Sure Mike, you and your righteous clap trap about being evolved, you bet buddy. When you convince those foreigners you are not a barbarian, when you convince this government to put down its guns and stop with the serial genocide you help to fund, I’ll stop trapping, hunting, and I’ll beat my rifles into plowshares and farm the ground. Hunting trapping and many things man does will someday end for good, it will not be by the hand of man that brings that about, nor by the evil lie called evolution-evilution.

    And as for this innocent article, spare me. This is just more clap trap anti trapping anti hunting garbage propaganda. You knocked the arrow and sent it off into the target yet you deny the bulls eye was trapping.. BS

    In 1870 it was those damn loin cloth wearing evil savages, today it’s hunting and trapping, cowboying, farming ranching.. Anything the leftist righteous liberal dogma deems evil..

  14. The story gives no information as to whether this was a legal set or not. Responsible trappers,which are 99% of all trappers check their traplines/sets daily,so if this was a legal set,the cat did not suffer for days-just more anti-trapping,anti-hunting bs.

    Footloose Montana-another bunch of people who want to force their views on others,all because someones dog got caught in a trap,a legally set trap,and the owner did not know how to release the trap,which could have been done in less that 15 seconds.
    How about keeping dogs leashed,and not letting them run loose to find a trap to get caught in?
    Many people earn income from trapping,and have for many generations,once again,outsiders want to change things to how they think it should be,never mind the families who earn the majority of their winter income from trapping.

    If you are going to be in the outdoors in areas where trapping is legal,then you need to realize that there will be traps,and keep your dogs away from them. Also-learn how to release a trap,it’s easy to learn,and anyone can do it.
    Because a dog got caught in a trap is a poor reason to try to ban trapping,as for those who set illegal traps-punish them-if as much effort was spent on catching those who set illegal traps as has been spent on trying to ban trapping-there would be no more people setting illegal traps by now.
    If those who know nothing about trapping would take 5 minutes to learn how to release a trap-no dogs would be injured by getting caught in traps because their owners didn’t keep them on a leash,or have them trained well enough to stay closeby.

  15. Everyone knew that it wouldn’t take very long for the he-men trappers to chime in. And of course as expected they aren’t on the same page. So therefore, really don’t make ethical arguments for their unworthy cause…and look at how many words it takes to say absolutely nothing reasonable.

    Wildlife belongs to us all, it is a fact that many of our beautiful non-game animals are reaching an endangered tipping point. It has been so seldom that I have seen a pine marten, ermine…I saw a river otter years ago along a river where I was XC skiing. There was a wavy ribbon of ice extending from the 2′ bank down to the rushing water. I saw a shadow and then it came into focus, a river otter was running behind this lovely curtain of ice. Beautiful! Yes I resent the men who trap our fur bearing animals -for their pleasure- because the dollar rewards are insigneficant in payment for the sacrifice.

    I just would like to add, friends of mine were hiking last month and discovered 5 Clark’s Nucrackers hanging from branches of a group of trees from bated traps. How’s that for fun?!!!

  16. Geez Mtn. Hunter, there are many other ways to “earn” a living (even here in Montana) that don’t include putting another species thru hell, BEFORE they die.

    Its not just about dogs getting caught and how if their owners, were more aware of their surroundings and knew how to spring a trap…. its about the suffering a trapped animal has to go thru, whether its for a day or two (or longer) because I seriously doubt many of these trappers bother to check their traps every two days and why should they? An animal that is close to death, from stress and the struggle to free themselves, isn’t going anywhere unless they end up chewing their foot off (which many have done)

    And I would imagine many trappers don’t bother shooting the ones still alive in their traps, struggling at the end of that chain, why waste a bullet, right? (might mess up the fur) Clubbing or strangulation are the other methods available, when you lack anything remotely resembling a conscience.

    Its interesting how wildlife seems to have gotten along just fine (regulated their own populations depending on the availibility of food and territories) until mandkind exploded, all over what use to be their habitat.

    Yeah, sure you’ve guessed, I do care deeply about other species and their right to exist and I question why some feel the need to manage them, when we’ve fail so miserably, when it comes to managing our own species.

  17. Poor reason to ban trapping? Trapping is a public safety issue for our pets. You are a pro-trapper and you obviously don’t care if people’s dogs get caught in traps. trapping is barbaric and it should be banned. It will, only a matter of time. You people who trap are sick disgusting people who love killing animals. mountain hunter, let someone put your head in a trap and tell me how it feels.

  18. Mountain hunter, how do we manage our own population? Do you agree with that own species is overpopulated? Close to 7 billion people in the world and our population is only going to get bigger. So, how do we manage our population?

  19. Awww, look at bigsky doing whatever he can to defend his barbaric activity. Yes bigsky, people’s pets have been caught in traps and some killed. Happens all around the country. Since you don’t seem to have a problem with trapping, would you like it if someone put your head in a conibear trap?

  20. What can I say BS? Anyone who disagrees with your mindset, must be a transplant, right? Regardless of how long they’ve been around, regardless of what they find offensive? And please spare me the whine about the “luxury” of a good paying job. There are few “good paying” jobs out here in the west unless you work for the government. But, most of us who live here, have no problem getting by, without torturing animals.

  21. To answer BS’s question as to how many dogs are getting trapped etc. the answer is that we receive about 20 reports every trapping season from folks whose dogs were injured or killed in traps and snares.
    You’re wrong stating that trapping is regulated just like hunting… A trapper (many of the good ‘ol boys trappers, who claim to be real MT mountain men, are originally from… oh my, should I really go that far to say that they are from… OUT OF STATE…?) Where was I… oh yes… a trapper buys a license for a total of $29 and then off he goes, and traps as many animals as he wants… No check point stations as for hunters and hardly any oversight (unless people complain to FWP). Are we really to believe that trappers, who are after a wolverine or a tiny SWIFT FOX (yep, they’re being trapped while still being reintroduced!), will stop trapping just because the season is officially closed when the quota is met? Also, there is no art or much efforts in modern trapping as trappers know exactly where the animals are whose pelts they rip off their backs to sell them to… oh my goodness, there it is again… OUT of STATERS! Has anyone seen a Montanan wearing fur lately? Here, BS is complaining about folks from outside of the state or country, trying to impose their own way of life onto Montanans, and YET, the fur from Montana’s wildlife ends up in EUROPE, ASIA, RUSSIA, CHINA, and the East Coast… MT trappers seem to have no problem selling out our wildlife to the world outside of MT when it comes to $$…
    FWP offers fur trapping as a recreational activity… The modern trapper traps for fun and nothing else. And like Nancy said, few of us here in MT have the option of a good paying job (I wished I did), however, it is a personal choice to torture and kill animals for their fur.

  22. BS – I don’t eat meat. What else ya got?

  23. ahhh, anita, good points

    Yes, the fur is sold outside the state…hmmm, its called ECONOMICS. Much of it goes to russia and china no doubt. Just like much of our grain goes to china, our lentils go to indonesia, etc.

    Out of state trappers do come here, and some of them make their entire living from trapping, no doubt. Fur buyers also come from out of state. Don’t like out of state trappers? ok. Then lobby to get them removed, but don’t lobby to stop an economic method for people to make a few bucks and get out in the outdoors.

    I would take your 20 count for dog problems as being a fact….for the whole nation, but not for the state. Much less how many are true? How many are reported to the fish and game? How many are done by ethical trappers? For the record, my dog got caught in a trap twice. I pulled him out, no big deal.

    As I stated, a trained, ethical trapper does not set where people roam. Kids do that, and thats what aninta platform is about. If indeed you had a no trapping ban you would still have kids setting traps for animals around suburbs, etc.

    I also should take into account the ban on trapping in Colorado where 53% of the population voted for it (it won big in Denver, the urban center). Now they have coyotes in the suburbs and no way to get rid of them. Can’t shoot em in the suburbs. Domestic cats are nonexistant, coyotes love em, eat em like popcorn. People can’t keep the coyotes out of their garbage, and small dogs are having a tough go of it (weanie on a leesh, anyone?) I have been told that some ranchers there have lost enough sheep and calves that they just set out poisons on the sly. Coyotes eat em and go off and die. nobody knows or cares to know. An overabundance of beavers build dams that flood roadways. You have to find a government fella to deal with it. No fur is used for anything, all is wasted. The government trappers (colorade style, oh boy) cannot keep up with the problem. Another waste of taxpayer dollars.

    yes anita, its called economics. Fur is sold to russians and chinese. I am sure some of it ends up in your old country also, anita. That money is used to feed MONTANA families. Its not quite as nice as trying to grow grapes on the tundra, but it is away to make a few bucks and is a RENEWABLE RESOURCE.

    Ethical trappers follow the law. They have to. Seasons and regulations are set to be followed. To state that no trappers follow regulations is absurb anita. You don’t get out enough to know, anyway, so why pretend? If someone has a problem with illegial traps, then call it in. People like me pay for enforcement for people like you through hunting licenses and permits. What do you pay for?

    Funny you mention people wearing fur. I remember my aunt bragging about her mink coat. Cost about 4 grand. She was so proud that her hubby bought it for her. Just think, she was wearing a coat produced in montana by montanans! I should wear my coyotes trimmed coat to missoula. Probably get orange paint thrown on it, but thats ok. I can just go harvest a few more coyotes with my rifle or buy some from an ethical trapper.
    After all it is a RENEWABLE RESOURCE. Something your earthy folks are up in arms about.
    Love that “ripping off their backs” anita. Nice and gruesome. To bad its not true. Keep in mind they are dead when they are skinned. This is not china. Ya know, like the cows that get skinned before burger is made? How about ripping those grapes off the trees?

  24. Ah, the eloquence of an old rat trapper, at least he checked on the spelling of “gruesome” this time. Montana is lucky to have him; you usually have to go way back into the woods of Appalachia to find this kind of character.

  25. The feeling the author received when touching the soft coat of the tortured bobcat is the truth. That is what needs to be welcomed and absorbed, shared and taught.

    The whiskey? The uncomfortable comments around campfires with hunting buddies that are followed by awkward silence and doubt? That’s denial.

    It’s no longer needed, folks. The U.S. is mostly strip malls. The roads go everywhere. The motors go everywhere. There’s no escape for the wild critters. This isn’t 1850. There’s no expansion of the frontier.

    Now it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. And that isn’t sport. It’s lazy. It’s demented.

    Not all things were meant to be acted upon forever. Calling something a “heritage” or “tradition” doesn’t mean it’s worthy of pursuit, or even ethical. The truth is most traditions were created when the world was far different.

  26. Friends, (real)Mike, Ken, Anja, Carolyn, and Tom (others), I think that Bruce Smithhammer has been entertained and maybe surprised by all the “comments” lobbing back and forth. But most of all for Big Sky it has been a blast. Then for some of us this exchange of BS’ has been a total comedic effort to argue viability for the trapping of wildlife. Confounding to read that he compares this antiquated, cruel, insensitive activity to “other outdoor sports”. That comment is not unexpected however from one who would enjoy it.

    So we all know this trapping is on the wane and that is why he is fighting like a cornered rat trapper. So let it be folks. Someone told me “you should never wrestle with a pig, you get dirty, and besides the pig likes it.”

  27. Great article Bruce Paco, and great response. I for one am not a trapper. I’m a hunter. While I personally can’t see myself ever trapping, I understand and support others who do. It’s part of who we were, who we are and it’s part of what we do. I have had the same exact experience as you with this, and frankly it kind of sucked. But so does going to safeway for a chunk of burger to cook vs. getting out there, hunting hard and killing an elk to fill the freezer. Frankly I’m tired of people putting their own agenda on others. I don’t give a darn if someone wants to trap legally, I may not like it, but if that’s what gets them outside and connected, then more power to them. I don’t give a darn if someone wants to be a freaking vegetarian, I don’t give a darn if marry someone of the same sex, All I ask to all of you above is please don’t put your high and mighty agenda on me.

  28. Try it this way…

    Modern people commonly view the natural process through their own social order with it’s innocence, guilt, cruelty, pity, notions of defenselessness, etc. But, none of this exists in the natural process. Many people think it does because they’re so comfortable. But, being alienated from the natural process, they don’t understand that the natural process doesn’t know cruelty, for example. A mountain lion crushing a deer’s neck is certainly not cruel. And a deer is not defenseless.

    Humans owe their lives to the natural process. All the living, dying, eating, and crapping, made you, and it goes on and on with or without you. Being a part of the natural process gives humans the right to not only passively observe nature, but to participate as well. Someday, while hiking along, observing nature, slip off the trail and pursue those deer you see. Try to get really close to them. You’ll find yourself strategizing, listening, observing with far more intensity. If your butt isn’t the shape of a recliner, you’ll find yourself doing what comes quite naturally: hunting. Practice this enough, and you’ll grow to at least understand the intent to kill your prey as millions of people across the globe, connected to the natural process, still do, and always should.

    Because… for example, today we can take abundant wildlife for granted because one hundred years ago, visionary humans stood up to the destruction of wildlife and began implementing what is known as the North American conservation model, a heroic set of laws. Basically, connected humans, seeing the awesomeness of what was about to be lost, saved it, largely, before it became the type of unrecognizable mush you find in Europe. Alienated humans recognize this mush as nature, but connected humans recognize it as a pity, compared to the relative majesty we presently enjoy in North America. This reality is quite the opposite from the troubling notion out there that things we’re always rosy, but those darn “outdoorsmen” just keep chipping away at it and we flower huggers (the only people who truly love flowers) need to join forces and stop them before it’s gone. Good grief! Montana’s department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks MANAGES wildlife and they do an incredible job. We really a’re the envy of the world.

    So, once you understand all of this, a dead bobcat in a trap might still turn your stomach, mine too, but you see the notion of “trap-free public lands” as silly, and extreme, even ignorant, and certainly “alienated from the natural process.” Meanwhile, a few compromises that could help keep pets reasonably safe on public lands are delayed.

    (Thanks AMJ)

    MontanaOutside.com

  29. Slogging thru txt

    Let’s get to the point already….I was tired by the time I finally found it.

  30. RSW, you have no clue. What is the reason for the extremely low wolverine population in Montana? It’s HUMANS! Trapping animals is barbaric and inhumane. I’d love to see all you trappers who think trapping is ok get your head caught in a conibear trap. trapps are subhuman scum.

  31. Traps do not belong on public lands just like pedophiles don’t. Traps are a danger to wildlife, people, and their pets. All those who trap, if you think trapping is alright, put your head or hand in a conibear trap and practice what you preach you subhumans.

  32. Just wondered where Brink K. got his definition for NATURAL PROCESS/NATURAL SCIENCE? Out of the manual for Trappers no doubt. Certainly not out of a biology, biochemistry, or zoology manual.

  33. Trapping is cruel and inhumane, period. Step on your dogs foot and he is going to howl, now think about what pain an animal feels while in a trap. Checking traps every 24 hours makes no difference, whatever is in that trap is in PAIN, whether you will admit it or not. The real issue is that YOU, the trapper could care less, as long as you can fill your pockets, you’re happy. And then of course we have to poison or otherwise kill all of the animals that become a “nuisance” because of the loss of predators that you kill in your trapping. When are we going to learn that EVERYTHING in nature has its place and quit screwing things up???

  34. Hold on RSW, your amygdala is overpowering your cortex, when this happens reason goes out the door and ugliness rears its head. I don’t know who Anja is but I’m guessing she had nothing to do with the German Reich back in the early 40s. I hear there are some White Supremacist in the Idaho panhandle though who might take offense to what you are writing. Labeling and name calling gets us nowhere in democracy.

    Most of the anti trapping people do not pick out the cutest or cuddliest animals to defend from the fate of a steel trap or a snare. It considered a cruel inhumane occupation in this day an age. It is not a viable means for population control or a justifiable means of income. It is just Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett mind set. An attempt for the romance and freedom of the old days. These are not the old days and you’re right, it is also habitat destruction and encroachment for our wildlife and in a that way also for your preferred way of enjoying a “natural” outing.

  35. Thanks, Dave. But I’m not trying to “make nice” with anyone on either side of the issue, regardless of how they feel about trapping – a point that seems to be lost on almost everyone who’s commented on here so far. Unfortunate, since I think there are interesting conversations to be had around these subjects, but few seem interested in putting their personal agendas in check and getting off their soap boxes and having an open-minded conversation. So it goes, all too often.

    As an addendum, it is my understanding that this was a legal trap, in season.

  36. bigsky, tell them to get a real job. kILLINg animals for money is disgraceful and pretty sad.

  37. I hope fossil fuels do reach $10 $20 $50 per gallon, soon. That’ll empty out those grocery outlets in a hurry and the restocked shelves with the new prices will even scare Lee. I hope you have a lot of hungry starving friends Lee, when that goes down. I’ll just heat up some pinto’s and rice, toss in a squirrel or two, and sit back and watch.

    I love how the one poster talks as if modern day science books are 100% credible and the gospel. Makes me think of that neat stained glass window at the U.N. in New York, the people of the world are all gathered around, representing world peace, and in the center of them all is a serpent.

    Some people will believe anything, that U.N. influenced science.

  38. Trappers,

    Figure a way to a quick kill and I have no problem with your….”hobby”

    Continue leg hold trapping and you are simply freaks who torture animals.

  39. Figured it was a legal set. Too far from the road to not be.
    I admit I would kind of feel the same as you, maybe.
    I like bobcats When I was little my dad was stationed at 5thFIS, the Spitten Kittens. Tom and Kitten were the squadron kitty cats, they were feisty felines but quite tame and friendly. Give them a hunk or two of raw meat, and once that was out of the way and they were sated, have a nice scratch fest. But don’t peeve them off….
    I’ve gotten a few over the years, but I’ve let far more pass just out of sentiment.

  40. I would like to have an explanation as to why name calling is so popular. While I deplore trapping for any reason – I will not stoop to deplore the person. He or she obviously fully believes that it is necessary for food – or has the vision of living out the life of a frontiersman who needs to kill just because it’s fun or part of the frontier life or has no other way but trapping to keep his pet from being killed.

    There are no wild animals out there who are plotting to eat you on purpose, no matter how anyone talks about those animals with hatred or out of fear.

    If an elk is killed by a wolf – that is part of the earth’s animal cycle – there are many killings by predators on prey. It’s not pretty. And, I find it interesting that the example of a wolf killing an elk was the only one used. However, willfully trapping a wild animal and not watching the trap and immediately killing the animal trapped so that it does not suffer, I feel is wrong. If as a person you don’t want to be trapped, and have part of your body severely hurt, then don’t do it to another. Why cause suffering intentionally? Legally or otherwise.

    Trapping may be part of our western history – But haven’t we moved beyond some malicious acts by now? At least in this country? While misogynists do still exist, most people do not beat their wives, imprison women because some fear them, mutilate daughters who are abused by others. We are not supposed to abuse pets. It is considered wrong to abuse livestock.
    So why is is OK to abuse and mutilate wildlife?

    So while many of the above commentors enjoy calling someone else a name that is not respectful, perhaps we can all learn from the story – which was well written. While I do not agree with the concept of trapping – as I said above, I can attempt to show respect for the writer while I disagree with the idea that trapping is OK.

    We do not own the natural world around us. Whoever said that above was wrong. Our government set us that idea a long time ago and was misguided. A way to get money. A way to figure out what to do with everything that was given to us for FREE.
    We should be acting with respect toward animals and not believeing that all wild animals are our slaves to do with as we want. Wasn’t a war fought over slavery?

  41. Ok, I’ll wear the conibear trap if you’ll go out into the wilderness naked, because lack of nutrution due to, an over population of you caused your hair to fall off, which is a far more brutal death than anything else. Cold and hungry, try it sometime, the life of the over populated predator, often ending in being eaten alive by another predator, or death from sickness due to lack of nutrition, sometimes resulting in mange, and obviously a weakened altered state and miserable death. I’ve personally observed predators in this predicament while wandering about in the wilderness over the years, especially the last ten years. A couple weeks ago I watched a limping coyote, no fur, in a very weakened state, try to hide from me. I had no means at the time to put it down, and even considered capturing it, and taking it in and healing it of its mange, unfortunately I did not have the means with me to accomplish that either, and later the coyote was no where to be found. I happen to know a really good DVM.. It’s simple, let the prey base collapse, predators are going to die a nasty death. I think before some folks realize the reality of wilderness, this over protection of predators and other species of wild life, is going to ultimately cause more harm than good, in fact it already is.

  42. So, have we somehow forgotten that Smithhammer’s cat died in pretty much this same way, with a crushed paw caught is a steel vise, struggling until its energy was gone, and slowly dying of hunger, thirst, and exposure. Your limping coyote was probably limping because it finally gnawed or yanked what was left of its own paw free from one of these traps. Bobcats are pretty tough; it takes a lot of time for a bobcat to die this way. Contrary to Dave “Paragon Foundation” Skinner’s opinion, it takes a lot longer than the legal time allowed between checking your traps. Fake Mike, you don’t think deeply enough about the topic to understand the full picture and have no credibility as a result. Go have another beer, boy.

  43. When the trap was set, unbelievable cruelty was determined. Writing in a non-judgemental fashion only serves to enable the idea that trapping is anything less than archaic torture.

    If there is not a lesson here, why in God’s name write the article and present the image? The comments on this piece are much more eloquent than the article, and reach much deeper into the soul that still remains in humanity

  44. Kory –

    There very well may be a lesson here, but far be it for me to presume, or proselytize, that my lesson should also be yours. To have simply set out to write a narrative (this is not a piece of journalism, mind you) with as transparent and simplistic an agenda as “anti-trapping” would be 1) a boringly easy subject to tackle, free from nuance or freedom of interpretation, and b) it would also require assuming that the readers of New West would generally care for such dogma. I don’t assume that.

    A personal measurement of success for me is if I’ve caused a diverse group of readers to examine their closely-held assumptions and to exchange thoughts and ideas (hopefully in a constructive and open-minded manner) that they might not have otherwise. If your looking for a piece that tells people what to think, or that merely reaffirms what you already believe, then I’m happy to disappoint on both counts.

  45. Bruce Smithhammer’s story was indeed a sensitive observation which affected his thoughts on that day he discovered the sad furry body of the unlucky bobcat. It has brought a diverse emotional discussion on the issue, maybe not so constructive though. But it has given those who would like to see trapping of fur bearers illegal on public lands in Montana, ammunition for their cause. Because all the points in defense of this hateful activity can be refuted with studies and facts already on file. All the ire and posturing, by those calloused to an animal’s pain, rabidly defending their constitutional rights, and listing predator control, population control, comparisons to hunters as a sport or for a means of income fall short in the face of facts. Yes you may spout sour grapes but scientific studies by field scientist can refute trapper’s excuses for this vile “sport”. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forrest Service, and the USDA should listen to reason. The great majority of the public value our natural lands and the privilege of observing and sharing it with a diverse wildlife.

  46. The great majority also defend liberty and freedom.

    Public land dows not belogn to a select group of people, although some posters on here may think so.

    It appears that trapping is just part of the issue. Just one liberty we can take away and call it cruel regardless of what form it takes. Be it a bobcat in a leg hold trap, or a bobcat in a live trap. If you knew a bit more about leg traps, you might decide that the leg hold set properly was more humaine.

    Of course, there are those who want no trapping of any sort….be it a muskrat or beaver in a drowing set or a mouse in the house. So be it. I don’t like vegetarians either.

    It is wonder to see pulic lands untilized by all, not just the cross country skiers or the bird watchers alone as some would like to see.

  47. “All the points in this HATEFUL activity can be refuted”?
    Why do you believe it’s hateful?
    Do you believe you have to hate something in order to kill it? Do you hate cows or flies or mosquitoes? Why do liberals always think we have to hate everything we kill and kill everything we hate? We can have compassioin and respect for things we kill. Where does hate enter in to it?

  48. Really Mike ?

    The coyote was not missing a foot, and there is no trapping in the area I was in, none.

    I have no doubt my indepth studies of 30+ years concerning political, legal, and agenda driven sciences, including the very roots of your own environmentalist beliefs, far surpass any of your own accomplishments. You’re not operating on a belief system of your own design, you’re a tool.

    I also have 40 years of backcountry experience with thousands of miles on horseback with packhorses. And not just in the fall. As well as backpacking the Sawtooths in winter on skis.

    I’ll pass on the chemically altered beer.

    What are you eating that is chemically altering you? Chemically altered food, and bevarage ? How many psychtropic legal drugs do you use?

    Back to your bong now brother.

  49. One’s Dogma will get run over by One’s Karma…flat.

    My favorite quote by the prince of peace is
    Luke 19:27…Oh and Hosea 13:16, dont forget Exodus 21:1-11 and finally Mathew 19:12…such nice people…

    It was stolen from the original people. None of us has a moral high ground…

  50. Ricky

    The public lands are not “your” lands-they are for the use of ALL of the public,which includes trappers,if you don’t want your dog caught in a trap,don’t let it run around off of a leash in areas where traps are LEGALLY set.
    All of your kind who hate hunters and trappers are trying to force YOUR personal views on those of us who do NOT AGREE with you-we have the right to trap,and you have the right to disagree with it,but you do NOT have the right to tell us how we should live.

  51. There are “merits” to ice fishing?” Haha…I have no qualms with keeping and eating fish now and then (and have written about it before), but ice fishing is boring as hell to me. For the same reason that sitting in a duck blind or a tree stand is. Give me a creek or some open country to wander.