Longliners I’ve Known

This evening I was paging through one of my outdoor magazines and I came across a term of which I wonder if most sportsmen are familiar these days.   The term is “longlining” and unless you are a trapper or have trapping-related interests…I’m guessing you probably have never heard of it.

In fact, if you were to Google the term you would be more apt to find it used in connection with commercial fishing operations and not trapping.   But that’s not what we’re talking about here.   I want to introduce you to a type of sportsman that I’m speculating is slowly becoming a dying breed within our sportsman community.

Essentially a longliner is a trapper who during the season spends the better portion of the day tending to and managing his trapline.   I’m not talking about a recreational trapper who spends a few hours before work…or a schoolboy who checks his traps after school.   Nope, I’m talking about the sportsman who likely has 100 or more traps set at any one time and likely drives 100s of miles each day to accomplish that task.

In many ways this sportsman keeps a low profile and does not like to advertise his presence as he moves through his territory.   The main reason is most trappers I know seem to be a solitary bunch…and with good reason.   If others see what they are doing…they stand a much better chance of losing a trap and wasting a set.   That’s why I would venture to guess most sportsmen would not even know if a good longliner happens to be working an area where they hunt or fish.

Now I started thinking about the longliner this evening not for who they are…but how they must be effected by our changing world.   When your sport requires you to drive 5,000 or more miles each season…certainly the increasing cost of gas is a big factor.   So, too, must be the loss of places to trap with fence-lines being removed and houses popping up seemingly all over.   Not to mention that when you must live with the volatile fur markets…it all boils down to a lot of hard work for very marginal profit.

Still, anybody who has ever trapped knows that most people in the sport do not do it primarily for the money.   Oh sure, it helps pays some bills and I’m sure for some it supplements the household income…but I will be the first to contend there are much easier ways to make money than trapping.   In fact, what drives most trappers is the one-to-one challenge of trying to outwit a fur-bearer…a feeling quite similar to trying to outsmart a wiley old buck or to waylay an old gobbler.

But the longliners I know have a passion for the sport that goes much deeper.   They spend most of the year fixing equipment and preparing for the fall season that may only last a few weeks, depending on what type of animals are being trapped.   Of course, some diehard longliners don’t just settle for a few weeks…they will move across the country maybe starting out by water trapping in a tri-state area in late November/early December…and then moving on halfway across the country to partake in dry land-trapping after predators through the holidays and into January.

The work is hard…the days are long…and the nights seem to grow shorter and shorter as the season progresses.   Most of these longliners use their vehicles as their mobile office where they both work and sleep.   Sound glamorous?   Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now…the life of being a sportsman is not always about comfort and convenience.

So the next time you are out pheasant hunting and you see a guy parked alongside the road wearing rubber boots…you might just be looking at a longliner who doesn’t have much time for chit chatting.   In fact, most of these folks are on such a tight schedule that you can almost set your clock by when they will check their sets each day.

Today I introduced you to the longliner because I’m convinced most hunters and fishermen are not aware of this person’s existence in the outdoors.   Just as you take your deer hunting or your fishing very seriously…there are folks who use that same energy level to trap mink or fox.   It’s time this passion gets recognized as a legitimate facet of the sportsman community.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.