Here in New Hampshire there are 438 licensed trappers, and of that number 64 are women. The youngest licensed female trapper last season was 13 and the most senior gal still out there working her trapline was 77. Without a doubt there always have been and perhaps always will be more men involved with trapping than women, however trapping is not exclusive and many women should they give it a try would enjoy this activity
Alicia Owen by Mel Liston The youngest trapper lady I know personally is Alicia Owen. Alicia took the Trapper Education course on my farm two summers ago and has been especially interested in catching weasels. It was natural for Alicia to have an interest in trapping since both her mother Karola Owen and her step-dad Steve Bennett are involved in trapping and also are Directors of the New Hampshire Trappers Association representing Merrimack County. The whole family has been active in their support of trapping and working as volunteers for the various activities sponsored by New Hampshire Trappers Association. Karola most recently became the new representative of New Hampshire trappers before the National Trappers Association. In this very important position, Karola will represent the interests of New Hampshire trappers on a national level at NTA business meetings and functions. Within the NHTA Karola’s title is NTA Director. Karola first got interested in trapping way back when she was a kid and her parents contacted the famous trapper, Malcolm Locke of Barnstead, to remove the problem beavers from the farm pond at their home in Epsom. In her early 20’s, Karola had friends who were into hunting and trapping. She would tag along and then later help out with the skinning. Karola has always loved to be outdoors or in the woods. After a while she took her Trapper Education course and has managed to fit a little in here and there, whenever raising a family or making a living would allow. Karola’s first season she targeted fisher and caught a couple along with two blue jays that tried to steal the bait. What really matters most to Karola is that she, Alicia, and Steve are having a lot of fun together as a family.
Karola and Alicia Owen helping out at one of the NHTA/ Saint Charles Children fishing trips.
Bonnie Pennell Another interesting trapper lady is Bonnie Pennell of Tuftonboro. In 1983 Bonnie, a 1/8 Algonquin Indian, was a single mom with a two-year-old daughter named Jamie. Friends introduced her to the also single trapper Dwight Pennell. Dwight showed Bonnie the life of a trapper and in short order a partnership which is still going strong after twenty years, was started. In 1985 Dwight and Bonnie had a daughter together and they named her Jade. In 1987, Bonnie took over most of the trapline duties during the day, leaving Dwight to do the skinning and fur handling at night. That first season Bonnie ran the trapline mostly by herself, taking Jade along with her.Although Bonnie has probably caught most of the fur between these two trapping partners, Dwight has over the years spent the money to have some of the catch made into a coyote stroller, a fisher stroller, and a full-length mink coat to keep his trapper gal warm. Dwight Pennell is a licensed fur buyer, and therefore knows a good deal when he sees it. With the realization that Bonnie was not only pretty but also developing into some kind of a trapping machine, Dwight got her a diamond ring in 1987. Four days later Bonnie was checking beaver traps through the ice when she caught her hand in a 330 coni bear trap. No one was around to assist so she slowly pulled her hand out of the trap squeezing fingers all the way. The diamond ring setting was somewhat bent. That evening around the supper table while Bonnie was elaborating on her day’s activity on the trapline she brought up the incident with that nasty biting trap. Dwight’s first question was. “Did you get the trap reset?” His second question was. “Did you damage the ring?” And his third question was. “Are you all right?” Bonnie was relieved that Dwight was not mad about the damaged ring, and can excuse the order in which Dwight expresses his concern because she knows her man. This is another couple that does almost everything together, their love and support for each other is obvious. Three years ago Dwight and Bonnie complimented their long and successful engagement by getting married. With an equal commitment to and enjoyment of trapping, Dwight and Bonnie are both Directors of the New Hampshire Trappers Association from Carroll County. Bonnie attends and continues to enjoy many trapping rendezvous and events, but has especially fond memories of one particular National Trappers Association Rendezvous in Syracuse NY. Bonnie cherishes the quality time and great experience she enjoyed while setting up a wildlife demonstration with the now deceased NHTA Hall of Fame trapper, Alex Troy. Prior to the event Bonnie, Alan Hooper of Wolfeboro, along with Alex and Phyllis Troy of Freedom, collected all kinds of wild plants and things from nature along with taxidermy mounts from the New Hampshire Trappers Association collection. When they got to Syracuse they constructed a lean to trappers cabin and arranged all the natural items for an interpretive display. Alex was there for the week in his buckskins to talk to the public about furbearers, nature, and trapping.
Jade with one of Mom’s first Fisher
Bonnie with four Fisher
Karen Pauk Another fine example of a lady trapper in New Hampshire would be Karen Pauk of Chester. Karen started trapping in the early ’90s a few years after she met her outdoorsy husband Gus. Karen and Gus usually travel around to do some out-of-state hunting each fall. During a year when the circumstances did not allow them to get away, Karen took some of Gus’s old rusty traps down off the wall and put them to service. That first season Karen caught eight beaver, an otter, one fisher, and a fox. All that beautiful fur hanging in the fur shed was all the initiation that Karen needed, for she has been hooked on trapping ever since. Karen and Gus now set aside one month each year just for trapping. In the early years Karen would home tan some of her catch to decorate the walls of their home, but with the size of her catch in recent years there is no other option than to let some of it go. Originally Karen would set her 330 coni bear traps with her feet, but after the first time she got caught by the foot she has forever sense owned a setting tool. One of her most funny experiences was the time they were checking a farmer’s field where they had canine sets. Since their last check the farmer had spread a heavy covering of cow manure, and of course the previous evening had produced a hard rain. The Jeep got covered with that sweet smelling cow soup, and waiting for them in the back of the field were two trapped skunks. Things were getting pretty ripe when they made their regular stop at the local restaurant for lunch. Once they got back on the highway no one seemed to want to tailgate. The memories are many, from porcupine quills in the hand to their biggest beaver ever taken on thin ice. All that quality time spent with her partner doing something they both love. Settling down in the evening wondering what the next day will bring, each morning just like Christmas. Karen loves to trap, another who has experienced this outdoor activity and found trapping invigorating, rewarding, and appropriate for a lady.
Karen with her arms full of Fisher
A seasons catch for Karen
Robie catches a fine Largemouth Bass through the ice in her beaver trap circa 2000
Robie with two fisher taken in December 2000
Carol Leonard is a midwife, a writer and a licensed beaver trapper. She was the first midwife licensed to practice legally in New Hampshire and has attended close to 1,200 babies born safely in their own homes. She was a co-founder of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) representing all midwives in the US, Canada and Mexico. She was elected as the second president of MANA. Carol is the author of the best-selling memoir, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010. Carol is currently building a 400-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine with her husband, Tom Lajoie. Her blog BAD BEAVER TALES: Love and Life in Downeast Maine, chronicles their informative and funny journey building their dream homestead on 400 acres of wilderness in Downeast Maine. Carol and Tom are also raising about a hundred beavers there that they argue about on a daily basis.
to see Carol's NH F&G video click on her name below