For over 40 years, the Manitouwadge Trappers Council has been hosting a rendezvous/field day for the local trappers, their families and interested residents of the area.
Well over 100 people gathered to enjoy Saturday’s beautiful weather and to compete in the activities at Russell’s Landing, a lovely clearing in the woods about 16 kilometres east of Manitouwadge.
The day started with the children’s challenges, which included a sack race, sawing and nail hammering competitions, and a wet and wild minnow race. Families were also encouraged to test their knowledge about various grunts, whistles, calls and other sounds in the ‘guess the animal noise’ contest.
The adult competitions were somewhat more robust; men and women tried their strength and accuracy skills in the axe throwing and log sawing contests throughout the afternoon. The trap setting contest had both novice and experienced trappers quickly and accurately setting four conibear, rat and other spring-loaded mechanical traps. The final competition of the day was a tea-boil contest, which had over a dozen participants using a limited stash of birch bark, wood scraps, and matches to light a fire hot enough to boil a half filled can of water.
Throughout the day, Manitouwadge Trappers council president, Jocelyn Bourgoin, led groups of interested folks on a short hike through the lush forest and down to the riverside to show them the various trapping scenarios they may come across whilst hiking through the woods. He explained the strategies that he and other trappers employ when setting their traps. One scenario was set up as a wide ring of deadfall branches and bush around a conibear trap; three or four entrance holes were left between the branches to allow the animal to enter the circle where the bait, a beaver carcass, had been placed.
It's not always as easy as bait and catch, however.
“Knowing an animal’s instincts and how it thinks are essential.” Bourgoin explains. “For instance, a wolf will always approach a clearing or suspicious object from around a tree. So, if I set a snare here…” He points to a tree on the path beside the deadfall trap, “… the wolf will creep up, poke his head around the tree to scope out the situation, and get caught in the snare.”
The slow coal-roasted pork dinner was a delicious highlight of the gathering; delicious rolls, various salads and an assortment of desserts left folks fully satisfied after the day’s events, and at the end of the day, everyone was making plans to attend next year’s rendezvous.