Written by Amber Dunford, Bill Watt and Kim Dunford
On March 5, 2016, the Kawartha-Haliburton Trappers Association (KHTA) will celebrate its 40th Annual Trappers Carnival at the North Kawartha Community Centre. Looking back on the last 40 years at the history of the KHTA, two of the founding members, Bill Watt and Kim Dunford, take us through some of the events that helped to establish this long-standing Apsley tradition.
In 1973, three years before the first Trappers Carnival in Apsley took place, the KHTA was established on a recommendation from Sanford Trotter, who was the local Game Warden at the time. Sanford’s encouragement helped to bring local trappers together to share a collective voice for fur harvesting in the area. Thus the Kawartha-Haliburton Trappers Association was born and the nomenclature has not changed since its inception.
The very first meeting was held in the Department of Lands and Forests Building in Apsley just prior to the deer hunt. The Lands and Forests representative, Valerie Holland, attended KHTA meetings to issue trappers licenses in person. Some of the attendants at the inaugural meeting were: Alex & Edna Bowers, Don Campbell, Les Crowe, Kim Dunford, Bob Edwards, Ken Hilker, Stanley Jeff, Lance McDonald, Steve Metrow, Max Peters, Sanford Trotter, Abby Wagner, Henry Wagner, Bill Watt, Cecil Whitmore, Eric Whitmore, Norris Whitney and Mel Young. These and many others were to become the first members of the KHTA. Over the years, there have been many other notable members who have made significant contributions to the organization and who have been instrumental in shaping the future of fur harvesting in Ontario.
Of the inaugural attendants, several representatives were appointed to liaise with the Township on the KHTA’s behalf regarding public matters. Pressing issues of the time included the introduction of helmets for snowmobilers. Trappers lobbied aggressively to be exempt from the new law, as they felt helmets hindered with their activities on the trap line. Members of the KHTA also represented local trappers with a booth at the Ontario Trappers Association (now the Fur Harvester Auction) in North Bay but decided to focus their efforts on local education initiatives in the form of an annual carnival.
On the agenda of the inaugural KHTA meeting was a fur demonstration by Kim Dunford showing how to stretch a beaver pelt onto a hoop using a needle and thread. This remains a rare practice and is still demonstrated by Kim each year at the Trappers Carnival. This method of fur handling later won him the Best Bundle of Three in 1976, when the first carnival took place.
While “Bundle of Three” remains a staple event at the Trappers Carnival, over the years there have been some very unique competitions. At the first Carnival in 1976 held at the Anchorage Marina on Jacks Lake, participants were required to chop a hole in the ice using a chisel and axe. Whoever could chop a hole large enough to submerge a milk crate in the least amount of time was declared the winner.
Another favourite competition at past carnivals was the snowshoe race. But with trappers, not any old snowshoe race would do. At a KHTA Carnival held at Silent Lake, the participants had to run on snowshoes while skinning a muskrat. The trick was to hold the muskrat’s tail between their teeth leaving both hands free to do the skinning! The winner had to arrive at the finish line with the muskrat completely skinned.
While many of the same fur handling demonstrations still take place at the KHTA Trappers Carnival, other competitions at the 40th event will include nail driving, trap-setting and fan-favourite, Guess the Weight of the Beaver.
Although games, demonstrations and competitions are some of the highlights of the carnival, the primary purpose of the Trappers Carnival still remains: to promote education among the public about safe and humane fur harvesting practices. To help uphold this mandate, the KHTA awards a bursary each year for a youth trapper to enrol in the Fur Harvester Education Course. In memory of Glenn Bolton and to honour the contributions of the Bolton Family to the KHTA, this award is fondly named the Glenn Bolton Memorial Youth Fur Harvesters Education Award.
Fur harvesting has always been a strong industry in the Apsley area and is still widely practiced today. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the many past and present local trappers, and the ability to come together to create the KHTA, the future of fur harvesting in the area is a bright one. We are grateful to the many men and women who have contributed to the KHTA and to the public education initiative of the Trappers Carnival. As some of the names and dates may have been recalled erroneously we apologize if anyone was omitted— after all, the history of the organization as recorded in this article is just the memory of a couple of old trappers.
KHTA and Fur Harvesting Facts:
· The first President of the KHTA in 1973 was Max Peters, followed by Bill Watt
and then Stanley Jeff. Bill Watt was re-elected again two years later and still
holds the position today.
·The Trappers Carnival averages over 300 guests in attendance.
·Apsley Home Hardware Building Centre is an official fur pick-up depot for the
fur harvester’s auction.
·The Department of Lands and Forests Building in Apsley was located where the Public Library now stands. It was later
named the Ministry of Natural Resources.
·Game Wardens are now referred to as Conservation Officers.
·The Ontario Fur Managers Federation was established in 1995 and began issuing Trapping licenses in Ontario in 1997.
·Bundle of Three is a fur handling competition category widely practiced at Fur Council events where participants submit
a stretched bundle of three different pelts. One of the pelts must be a beaver.
·Fur bearing mammals are a natural, renewable resource. There are twenty-three species of furbearers in Ontario,
occupying forests and fields from the southernmost tip to the farthest northern regions.
·Trappers are the original conservationists and act as important watchdogs over Ontario’s fur bearing populations.
They are often the first to notice and report on disease and decline in population. They work closely with the MNR
providing samples for furbearer studies to help support healthy populations.
·When this article went to print, there were 7847 licenses issued for the 2015/2016 trapping season.
·The FHA’s bumper sticker sums up the importance of youth education: “Kids who hunt, trap and fish, don’t
mug little old ladies”.
I have lots more photos and will upload as I figure it out, sorry folks!