Illinois hunting and fishing

Ron Boeser shows a variety of traps at his residence near Neoga, Ill. Boeser is a professional trapper and also teaches a course to area youngsters on trapping and how to do it properly. (AP Photo/Journal Gazette, Kevin Kilhoffer)

Illinois man teaches tricks of trapping

March 17, 2012 at 10:50 PM

MATTOON, Ill. (AP) — Ron Boeser knows that the idea of animal trapping these days and in this area comes as a surprise to some people, but he has the pelts of beavers, raccoons, mink and more to show that it’s still there.

The rural Mattoon man is a professional trapper and also teaches a course to area youngsters on trapping and how to do it properly. The class, sponsored by the Charleston Parks and Recreation Department, has taken place for more than 15 years and regularly draws a dozen or more participants.

Still, Boeser knows that trapping, even as a sport instead of a business, isn’t all that popular. He said he thinks a lot of people don’t do it because they don’t think they can make any money from it.

“There’s not a sport out there where there’s money,” he said. “About 30 years ago, about everybody had a trap line.”

Boeser has a trapping license to sell pelts but also has a state permit to remove nuisance animals from homes and businesses. Most of his work is nuisance removal, as even the pelt from a large animal such as a beaver brings just $20, he said.

“It’s a lot of work for that kind of money,” Boeser said.

Boeser has lived in Coles County for 30 years and is originally from Highland, a small Illinois town just east of St. Louis. He said he started trapping when he was young, learning from his father and grandfather.

Most of the beaver pelts Boeser had at his home one day recently came from a job where he was hired to remove the animals from an area north of Lake Mattoon, where he said they were causing excessive tree damage. He also admitted that some people might be surprised to hear about some of the animals he traps in the area.

“A lot of people don’t realize we have mink around here,” he said.

He also regularly removes squirrels and raccoons from homes’ attics and handles coyotes that are damaging livestock or are on the grounds of airports, where they can become obstacles on runways.

“I get all kind of skunks,” he added. He said he uses live traps for most nuisance situations, as they’re safer around pets and livestock.

Boeser also says he knows there are people who oppose trapping or have concerns about it. He said traps used now don’t have teeth — “They’ve been outlawed for years and years” — and there are specific traps for specific animals that help address that as well.

And the overpopulation of some animals, such as raccoons, can lead to disease or, as with beavers, to property damage, he also said.

“If people like me weren’t doing this, there would be all kinds of diseases out there,” Boeser said.

Jennifer Lee, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer based Coles County, helps Boeser with the class he teaches and said part of its importance is teaching how to handle traps properly. Her role at the class is to talk about regulations against certain types of traps and methods, requirements that are supposed to help prevent the animals from suffering, she said.

“If people know what they’re doing, trapping is not cruel,” Lee said.

Boeser’s class usually takes place once a year and the most recent one was on March 3. They’re open to those age 8 to 18 who want to get a state license.

The Charleston Parks and Recreation Department welcomes most ideas for classes if there’s an interest or if an instructor has an idea and “wants a way to broadcast,” said Kim Wargo, the department’s recreation supervisor.

“I know hunting and trapping in this area are pretty popular,” Wargo said.

The class includes some history on how several large U.S. cities started as fur trading centers and “opened the way to the west,” Boeser said. He said he not only covers methods but also ethics, such as getting a landowner’s permission and recognizing locations where trapping shouldn’t take place.

The students have a variety of reasons for their interest, and the classes are mostly attended by boys but there’s usually at least one girl at each session, he said. He also said he frequently gets calls from former students who tell him how they did during a trapping season.

“The kids I meet are real gung-ho about it,” Boeser said.

Lee said the popularity of trapping is limited but there’s enough that it’s important to have someone like Boeser to teach others how to do it. People who are interested either have to know someone already doing it or take the class, and Boeser is very knowledgeable on methods and rules, she said.

“He’s one of the top trappers around here,” Lee said.

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Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, http://www.jg-tc.com


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.