Fayette trapper caught up in his craft

Quintin Keefer of Fayette shows off beavers he trapped at Iron Creek. Quintin works for his father repairing farm equipment when he is not trapping.
Quintin Keefer of Fayette shows off beavers he trapped at Iron Creek. Quintin works for his father repairing farm equipment when he is not trapping.

FAYETTE — When it’s trapping season, the days outdoors sometimes run 12 or 14 hours long for Quintin Keefer. But this is no casual, recreational trapper.

The 18-year-old Fayette High School graduate will run nearly 300 traps at a time when the conditions are right. He will trap a lot of muskrats and raccoons, and an occasional mink and opossum.

Keefer has been at it since he was seven, learning from his father, Jeff, and Quintin traps a lot of the same Fulton County creeks his father used to work.

Quintin builds a lot of his own traps, and has averaged about 200 muskrats per season over the last few years. When the weather is a little warmer and raccoons more active, he sometimes will trap a dozen in a single day.

Despite his youth, Quintin had a wealth of experience as a trapper when the 2012-13 season opened. He hadn’t seen it all, but he did witness a lot. Then the beavers showed up.

Before Ohio was settled, there was a strong population of beavers throughout this region, but because of intense and unregulated trapping, their numbers dropped significantly by around 1800, and by 1830, the beaver was gone from Ohio.

Over a century later, beavers began to show up again, and by 1970 there were about 5,000 in the state, in 37 counties. In a 1997 survey by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the beaver population in the state was estimated at 25,000.

As the beaver population continued to spread, young Keefer had seen signs of beaver activity in Iron Creek, near his home, for several years. Iron Creek connects with Bean Creek, which flows into the Tiffin River, which then connects with the Maumee River at Defiance.

“There were trees they had chewed on, some that had fallen down, and dams in the creeks,” he said. “I checked on it every day, and there was usually some new work that had been done. You could tell they were really active in the area.”

The dam constructed by the beavers in Iron Creek was about 22-feet long, about eight-feet tall, and eight feet wide at its base. Keefer has trapped four beavers in that area this season, with the largest one going about 45 pounds.

“A lot of people were shocked to hear that. What are the chances of trapping beaver in Fulton County,” Keefer said. “To catch them right here, in my backyard, is kind of crazy. There used to be a lot of them around this part of the country, many years ago, and it looks like they are really coming back.”

Keefer said the beaver pelts will fetch only about $30 on the wholesale market, but they used to be worth much more. He expects to make a full-size mount out of one of the beavers, and will likely utilize the others to make hats or garments.

Keefer, who works in his father’s farm equipment repair business, said the market for his other furs has been improving. When he started trapping more than a decade ago, he would get just a dollar or two for muskrat pelts, but that increased to around $5 a pelt about five years ago.

The current price for muskrat pelts is around $13-$15, with the Canadian market providing the best return. The furs are used to make a number of luxury items, including hats, gloves, and blankets.

Keefer trapped raccoons for just the second year, and brought home about 40 in the recent season, which opened in mid-November and closed Jan. 31. Raccoon pelts will fetch from $10-$13. He trapped two mink this season, and in his best year trapped only six.

“When I trap a mink, it’s usually an accident because they are very smart and real hard to catch,” he said. Mink pelts bring about $12-$14.

Before the trapping seasons open, Keefer likes to fish the creeks in the area, and hunt for deer and small game.

“But trapping is the most exciting thing,” Keefer said. “It’s a lot of work and the traps have to be checked every day, so the days are long. But I love being outdoors and this is really a lot of fun for me. You never know what you’ll come across.”

Trapping is strictly regulated in Ohio, and a fur-taker permit is required to hunt or trap fur-bearing animals, except for coyote.

First-time trappers are required to successfully complete a hunter and a trapper education course offered through the Division of Wildlife before purchasing a hunting license and fur-taker permit to trap furbearers.

The trapping season for fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk, and weasel ran from Nov. 10 through Jan. 31, except in Erie, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties, and the portion of Lucas County east of the Maumee River. In that zone, mink, muskrat, raccoon, opossum, skunk, and weasel trapping continues until March 15

The statewide beaver trapping season runs from Dec. 26 through Feb. 28, except in state parks and forests, and on state public hunting ground, where it is illegal unless a special beaver trapping permit has been issued. The river otter season has the same dates, where trapping otters is permitted.

Except for river otters, there are no restrictions on bag limits. In northwest Ohio and most of the rest of the state, trappers are limited to just three river otters for the season. In a dozen counties in the central part of the state, the season limit on river otters is one.

BOATING COURSE: A one-day boating education course will be offered on Feb. 24 in the community room at Ottawa Hills Elementary School at 3602 Indian Road. The class runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the fee is $35 per person. Mike Schabeck will administer the course, assisted by the ODNR. The course will cover navigation aids, rules of the road, signaling, personal watercraft, anchoring, docking, VHF radio, and trailering your boat. After finishing the course and passing a short test, a certificate of completion from the State of Ohio will be issued. By law, anyone born after Jan. 1, 1982 is required to complete the course in order to lawfully operate a motorized vessel. Preregistration is available by calling the village office at 419-537-9852 or Mike Schabeck at 419-460-4829 and leaving a message.

SPRING WALLEYE CLINICS: Professional angler Ross Robertson will conduct two seminars on spring walleye fishing tactics at Jann’s Netcraft on Feb. 23. The hour-long seminars begin at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There is a $20 fee for the sessions, but attendees will receive a $20 Netcraft gift certificate. Robertson will be discussing some of the techniques outlined in his new book Walleye Trolling.

For reservations call: 419-868-8288.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.