By Connie Mertz
To the Mohn family, trapping is more than a hobby, it is a family tradition.
Brian Mohn, of the Hamburg area, serves as District 11 Director of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association, and is the father of three teenage girls, all of whom are trappers.
"They grew up around trapping and went to trapper conventions around the state and country. Through meeting very interesting and diverse trappers, they developed a strong outdoor knowledge," he said.
The eldest of his three daughters is Beverly, 19. "I've been a trapper since I could walk with my dad on the line. I have had my own trap line since I was 12," she said.
Carolyn is 17. "I learned to trap from my dad; he taught me basically everything I know," she said.
The last of the three siblings is Judy, 15. She, too, has been trapping for as long as she remembers, but she just started her own trap line two years ago. "I learned to trap from my dad and sister, but my dad is my biggest influence," she said.
Is there any competition between the three siblings? "I'm sure there is some friendly competition between them," their father said, "but they also avoid some of the competition by each taking preference to a different area.
"Beverly likes a water trap line for mink, muskrat and raccoon. Carolyn likes land-based trapping for fox, coyote and raccoon. Judy, being the youngest, was the last to the trap line and she likes fur handling. If I see any competition it is in taking pride in who can handle the fur best."
Trapping to the Mohn family includes making memories and simply enjoying the outdoors together. "I can remember when they each caught their first mink, raccoon, fox and Carolyn's coyote that pulled out and ran away on our approach," he responded.
"My most prized furbearer was a fisher. It was caught in upstate New York, and it was a very different experience; not like any other animal I have trapped," said Beverly.
Judy's prize to date was her first gray fox taken with cable constraints.
Carolyn's prize was during her first year of trapping. "We set at a creek at my neighbor's house and one morning, we came to find this enormous mink. My dad said it was the biggest mink he had ever seen. Everyone joked that it was on steroids."
It was Carolyn who introduced marshmallows to their trapping basket. "I told my dad, when I first started fox trapping, that we should use marshmallows as bait. First because it was white and might be an eye attraction. Secondly, who doesn't like marshmallows?"
Her father took her advice and it has proven to be a good choice.
Beverly thinks the secret to trapping is dedication and hard work. "It sounds like a cliche, but it's the truth. If you spend the time and put effort into learning about the animals and their habits, you will be a successful trapper."
Judy echoes her sister and added, "You need to take pride in your sets. Don't be sloppy, and make them look good."
Trapping also presents a different challenge to each of the sisters.
"The hardest part of trapping is definitely not leaving your scent behind at the set," Judy said.
"For me, I find the most challenging thing is personal strength with the traps. I'm just not strong enough. It helps to have a partner on the line," Beverly said.
"My biggest challenge is waking up early, but other than that, it is skinning and fleshing the fur," Carolyn said.
The girls know full well that not everyone agrees with trapping, and each of them is quick to defend it. "Trapping is frowned on by people in general," Beverly said.
Now a student at Lincoln Tech in Allentown, she refuted a teacher who said it was wrong to trap red foxes because they were scarce. "She was surprised when I corrected her, saying that southeast Pennsylvania and Maryland have the largest population of red fox in the country."
Carolyn takes time to explain the benefits associated with trapping. "I tell them how it helps with population control, and helps to control diseases of rabies or mange. It is also a tradition that goes deep into American history, and it is great to know that I am continuing this tradition."
Judy thinks that people are opposed to it because they have been told horror stories. "They are not educated about it."
Because of Mohn's affiliation with the Pennsylvania Trappers Association, he is kept informed on issues pertaining to trapping. "The resurgence of trapping is possibly a result of reaching out through education. Trapping is a highly regulated sport, implementing sound wildlife management devices. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has seen an increase in furtakers license sales across the state."
The Mohn family are not only trappers, but teachers. "My girls help teach at all our (PTA) events as well as running some on their own if I cannot attend. The youth really are attentive to their talks.
Though most of their trapping takes place in Berks and Schuykill counties, they do trap in New York as well. "Last year, my truck recorded 5,000 miles during the three month trapping season," Mohn admitted.
Perhaps Beverly sums up the family's love of trapping, when she says, "You never know what is going to happen on the trap line. Whenever I catch an animal, it is like Christmas time."
n Connie Mertz is a hunter and nature enthusiast from Danville. Contact her at: email@example.com