I started trapping years ago, about the age of 14, if I had to guess. My dad, who was in the Air Force, was being sent TDY to Japan. He had already set a trapline off a popular snowmachine trail near our house in North Pole, Alaska. I had gone by snowmachine with him to check his line a few times before. Now, as he prepared to leave, he put me in charge of checking the line, a task I was eager to accept.
I was home schooled. This meant if I hurried, I could finish half my work before all the short, winter daylight was gone. Then, I could get on our sled and check the line. About a week after Dad left, I harnessed Tigerlily, my beautiful Brittany, and started the snowmachine. It was very cold out, and I remember thinking it was sort of a waste of time, as I was sure no animals had been moving in that weather. Nevertheless, it was better than math and economics, so I and my faithful friend set off down the trails.
Tigerlily ran effortlessly through the snow, following alongside my snowmachine. We came to a place where the trail narrowed. "Come on, Tiges, get up here," I coached the dog to my lap. Happy for the break, she rested her head on my arm, and we proceeded to the first set. It was a snare which was set on a frequented fox trail. Right away, I saw orange fur. Even so, I couldn't believe it. Tiger barked excitedly, my heart beat fast, and I was filled with emotion. Excitement and fear pressed within me. Was it alive still? Dad had said I could keep the first of anything that was caught. I had actually even set this snare: the only one on the whole line that I had set. It couldn't really be a fox in there, could it!? Of course, it was. And, it was dead. Actually, it was dead and frozen, formed in a tight curled-up position, as if fast asleep. I cut the wire free from the tree which held it, and put the catch into the milk crate we had mounted on the sled for such bounty.
I sped down the trail toward the rest of the sets. I didn't let Tiger run. I was too excited. I just wanted to get home and show everyone my catch. Two, three, four, maybe five sets later, I saw yet another ball of orange fur. "No, way!" Another beautiful red fox lay in the snow, waiting for my arrival. I'm not even sure I did check the rest of the line, I had to get home ASAP!
Somewhere, I have pictures of myself and Tigerlily with our first of many fox that we trapped. My dad returned from his assignment and taught me to skin that fox out. He skinned the second one I found that day, and I skinned the first.
Three months ago, though Tigerlily had been buried for over two years, my dad, not so much my trapping partner anymore, and houses being built in the very place I caught him, the fur of my first red still hung beautifully on my wall. It would be there still, if not for Moses, my "wonderful" dog of today. Apparently, he had a problem with Mr. Red, and fought him to his second death. When I found the fur strewn about the hallway, I felt very much like doing the same to the culprit. Still, I am sure German Shorthair pelt would not be as pretty on the wall. When I finally calmed down, I placed the large scraps into a bag and hung a newer red fox on the wall in its place. I plan to use the salvaged fur to make myself a trapper's hat this year. I need one, anyway, and it mine as well be made from the fur of my first catch.