Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book Review: Trails to Successful Trapping, by V.E. Lynch

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Book Review:  Trails to Successful Trapping, by V.E. Lynch
Trapping is very near and dear to my heart. When I was a boy, my dad was a fur trapper as supplemental income every fall and winter.  I remember many days and evenings, riding in his old Chevrolet pickup, with it's wooden body and spare tire mounted to the front grill.  I remember watching him boil his traps at camp. I think it was the only thing he ever did in his life where he respected every detail of the task and did it properly. I remember crying when I saw him drown a muskrat he had caught that wasn't yet dead.  I also remember the following conversation when he explained to me the circle of life and the dominion that God gave him over those animals to provide for me and my brother.  I remember eating beaver and muskrat because he thought we ought to at least know what it tasted like, since he was taking the fur and, who knew - times could be hard enough in the years to come that we'd have to eat what we trapped.  I remember watching my mom skinning beavers in front of the wood stove on a cold winter evening, watching Merv Griffin on the television. I also remember the scent of Allagash Fur Call wafting in through the door every night when dad got home from work.  He always came home as dinner was cooking and to be honest, to this day, I am just like Pavolov's dog with that smell.  Anytime, I mean anytime I smell the scent of Allagash Fur Call (skunk), my belly growls in need of a meal.

But I never trapped.

I had no interest in it until a few years ago.  I thought it was disgusting and a waste of time when I was a boy. My dad wasn't the greatest teacher.  He was more of the slap-you-in-the-back-of-the-head-when-you-did-wrong kinda guy.  Wasn't his fault.  He just wasn't a teacher. As I've grown older, I've realized that state and local governments are making it harder and harder to keep this tradition alive.  It is a shame.

Enough nostalgia.  When I was home in 2008, I was going through my dad's barn and taking all the things I thought he'd never miss (stealing, ultimately).  I had enlisted Uncle Bern to come play lookout for me, even though he didn't know what I was up to.  He's supportive as long as it isn't illegal and, frankly, I don't think Dad cares if I lug off the stuff he doesn't use anymore.  In the pile of stuff in the back of the barn I found this:

My mom painted this sign in '81 for my dad and his trapping partner.  Not much came of it, but it is a cool piece of family history.
Under some old tanned coyote pets and a minnow trap, I found a book - Trails to Successful Trapping, by V.E. Lynch.  I threw it in the pile of pilfer and made off with it.  About a year later, I was studying the patterns of activity by the local fox in my yard and decided to pick up this book and read it.  This book is the second printing from 1935.

It's funny how much can change in less than a hundred years.  Lynch dissects each animal and seems to put them in three categories; animals he respects, animals he loathes and animals he's pretty much indifferent about. 

Wolves, Lynch respected.  He denied all of the age-old Jack London type tales where the pack of wolves attacked a man in the middle of nowhere just for sport.  Instead, Lynch shared that the wolf was actually the animal kingdom's largest coward, stating that he trailed more than one into a cave at several points in time, only to have them cower in the corner until he dispatched them.  Lynch goes onto say in the book that wolves and coyotes alike are among the most intelligent animals in the wild kingdom, easily evading traps and government poison.

The bobcat was a different story.  Lynch had no respect for the bobcat.  Lynch writes in his book, " A few years ago, here in Northern Maine where I was trapping cats and hunting them with dogs, I took a large Tom's track near where he started from in the first part of the night, therefore I had to follow him over the route of his entire night's travel.  This cat killed four deer during the night including one buck, two old does and one lamb.  He ate the greatest part of one ham from the first kill and never took a bite of any of the other three, but covered the bodies of each kill with snow.  At 2:30 o'clock the next afternoon I came upon him in a dense cedar swamp lying under a log only a few feet from the last deer he had killed.  On hearing me approach, he got out and left the place in a run.  My dog sniffed the place where the old killer had laid, took a few steps to the trail leading the away, then stopped, looked back at me, let out a whine, then a bellow.  I knew what it was all about.  The cat had just left the place.  "Go get 'em" I shouted."   He then goes onto call them blood thirsty and dirty killers.

Overall, Lynch's writing style is of a bygone era.  He only had a third grade education, but weaves tales of pursuit between man and animal with enough wildness to be fiction.  It was said that Lynch was a shameless promoter of himself during his days and his stories are proof of that.  If people are still writing books like this today, I have yet to find those authors. This book is written in the tradition of the camp fire story.

If you can find this book, I highly suggest it, both for historical and entertainment value.  The world has lost men of this caliber.  Perhaps it is time we create more.

I planned to write more about V.E. Lynch himself, but this is getting long.  Maybe next time.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Voiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel....out.


  1. HA, I got most of my stuff the same way! Dad hasn't even seen this in ten years ....mine now. I ask him now, he doesn't care one bit because at least the stuff is getting used and not just taking up space. Great review on that book, I'm no trapper and really have no interest in it but I do love the older outdoors man books because they always have a ton of extra stuff like survival or tool tips. I have one book I picked up at a used book store called "Hunting for the pot, Fishing for the pan." by Byron W. Dalrymple 1981. I got it because I have never cleaning or prepped an animal and I decided it was high time I learned. Its got all sorts of information on finding game all over North America and every step from the wild to your mouth. All in all a must have in my mind for any meat hunter.

    (Sorry, I had to delete the other comment because it won't let me edit a post and I had to change a word because I didn't pay attention to the spell check suggestions.)

  2. I have the book Trails to successful Trappings Copyright 1935
    By A.R. Harding Pub. co.