Trappers Convention returns for 60th year

Andie Balenger | Daily Press Ed Schneider gives a demonstration on fall and winter coyote sets during the 60th annual U.P. Trappers Convention and Outdoor Expo Friday morning. Schnieder is among several other experts in the industry who shared their trapping tips and tricks at the convention.

ESCANABA — The Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds in Escanaba has welcomed back the U.P. Trappers Convention and Outdoor Expo for its 60th annual event. The convention, which annually attracts over 3,000 people from across the Midwest, kicked-off Friday morning at 8 a.m. With nearly 40 vendors, live demonstrations from trapping experts, and activities for those of all ages, attendees had plenty to do at the two-day event.

“People are now planning their vacation around our show so they can come to the U.P. because they are outdoor people,” Roy Dahlgren, the convention coordinator, said. “People get to be like family and friends … it is like a family reunion.”

Outdoorsmen were greeted by vendors selling a wide variety of baits, lures, and equipment that could be tailored towards their specific trapping needs. From traps to knives, guns and furs, locals were encouraged to attend and stock up on their hunting needs for a reduced “convention price.” Many businesses that specialize in the creation of lures were present as well. By combining several natural ingredients, like fish oil, rotten eggs, and skunk essence, businesses formulate a handy tool that can be used to capture specific animals.

However, the convention offered more than just these smelly concoctions.

“[Vendors] have anything you can imagine. It is just crazy,” Dahlgren said. “We have guns, knives, crafts, we even have a lady with 1,000 loaves of bread. We have a guy that has 10 tables and he just sells socks … unique stuff like that.”

The U.P. Trappers Convention is family-oriented, encouraging trappers and outdoorsmen of all ages and skill-levels to attend their yearly event. While most vendors were tailored towards those who engage in the sport, there were plenty of activities and booths made available to children and non-trappers. Outside of the DNR’s Pocket Park, the convention had competitive games and activities for kids to participate in as well.

“We have a kid’s game where they throw a tennis ball at three hanging traps,” Dahlgren said. “They can win a trap if they set one of the traps off, and if the trap actually catches the ball they will win a dozen traps. Even if they don’t hit a trop they will get a free pop.”

While the demographic of the event is predominantly men, Dahlgren acknowledged the emergence of women in the trapping industry.

“A big part of our outdoors, whether it is hunting, fishing, or trapping, is women in the outdoors,” Dahlgren said. “We have two women who are renowned trappers here and one is giving a demo tomorrow, so that is great.”

Sarah Gomez, owner of SheTraps and Sarah’s Trapline Lures, has been trapping for over eight years. While she was introduced to the sport when she was just 10 years-old, she rediscovered the thrill that came with trapping after entering her 30s. Hailing from Iowa, Gomez will be attending around 12 conventions to share her knowledge and excitement for the sport with like-minded individuals.

“I was introduced to trapping when I was young, and it was for a very brief time, but I just remember that I loved it,” Gomez said. “I later remembered doing it as a kid … so I went and bought a dozen traps and started catching raccoons right away and that was the end. I was hooked again and I had the same feelings of excitement that I had as a little girl.”

After getting a few years of trapping under her belt, Gomez began to mix different baits together from different companies to create the perfect mix. Seeing as there were no prominent females in the lure making industry at the time, Gomez was inspired to start her own company in 2019. Her logo and canisters stand-out from other vendors in the industry, with pinks and purples adorning most of her bait and lure cans.

“Trappers use these products to help them catch the animal they are targeting, whether it be coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, muskrat, weasels,” Gomez said.

Gomez is one of the many trapping experts who will be providing demonstrations at the Trapper Convention. These demonstrations vary greatly from one presenter to the next, with topics such as mink, coyote, and beaver trapping. Chosen topics revolve around the demonstrator’s specific areas of expertise. Gomez will be providing a demonstration on raccoons and muskrats.

“Raccoons and muskrats are easier animals to target, especially for someone just starting out,” Gomez said. “We have kids that want to get into it and it is just an easy thing for them to do. The traps are easy to set and the animals are fairly easy to catch.”

Mark June, a Michigan native, is the Trappers Convention’s headliner. June, who has been trapping for 43 years, is one of the largest suppliers of lures and baits in the country. Specializing in fur and predator trapping, June uses his educational background in biology to help him in his trapping endeavors. Instead of highlighting how to set a trap and make a set during his demonstrations, June likes to focus on the species being hunted.

“People seem to be most engaged when I talk about the habitat and the species,” June said. “I will talk about what the animal does, their habitat, and how many there may be in an area.”

Accompanying June at his “Mark June’s Lures, Inc.” booth was his nine year-old grandson, Peyton, who has been primarily trapping coyote for the past two years. Many kids the same age of Peyton could be seen at the convention, watching demonstrations, talking with vendors, and taking in any advice they could get.

“In this building there are young and old, rich and poor, all of them,” June said. “It doesn’t take a special type of person [to trap], it is just the interest and it is so diverse.”

Convention activities will resume Saturday morning at 8 a.m., with four presenters set to share their knowledge and experiences during the day. In addition to Gomez and June presenting at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. Another Michigan native, Al “Yoosta be a Yooper” Dubord, will be discussing marten trapping at 10:15 a.m.

“These demos are to teach people, these are the pros,” Dahlgren said. “They are doing it full-time. For us that are part-timers, you can pick up a lot of the tricks of the trade.”

While attracting 3,000 individuals to the U.P. State Fairgrounds is an impressive feat, the U.P. Trappers will be more than doubling that number next year when they host the National Trapper Convention. The U.P. Trappers Association has hosted the event twice in the past, in both 2014 and 2018. With anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 people expected to attend and every building at the fairgrounds expected to be full of vendors, outdoorsmen have a lot to look forward to.

“This whole thing is about getting like-minded people, outdoor individuals, together once a year, like a randevou,” Dahlgren said. “The important thing is getting friends and family together year after year.”

The U.P. Trapper Convention and Outdoor Expo is open to the public, with admission costing $10 and children 12 and under entering for free. More information regarding the convention, demonstrations, and presenters can be found on the event’s website, www.uptrappers.com.


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