Passing on the Hunting Heritage: Mason Beathard’s Trapping Story

Story and photos by Bethany Beathard

I often joke about having to release my son Mason one day into the wild as a mountain man. He has taken on a deep interest in the “old ways” and hunting in general. This started with a generational connection to the hunting tradition that our family cherishes. His great-great-great-grandpa, Leonard, was a trapper, and his great-grandpa Larry was an avid muzzleloader hunter. Though there are many generations in between, those were the outdoorsmen Mason resonated with. He grew interested specifically in trapping and traditional forms of hunting. My mom has held on to old family relics like traps, deep-sea fishing lures, and lots of pictures. Mason has taken the connection to the past and fueled his passion for his future. As he says, “It was very interesting, and I feel like the old ways of doing things hold more value.”

Mason harvested his first duck this passed season on Oklahoma’s Military/youth weekend.
Mason harvested his first duck this passed season on Oklahoma’s Military/youth weekend.

Mason’s Begins His Journey into Trapping

Truly inspired, Mason began the exploration into learning about trapping. “I have a few friends that hunt but none of them trap. I feel like I’m on my own path,” he said.

Now, a simple Google search opens a world of knowledge, but nothing could beat firsthand advice from a mountain man. For the last few years, we’ve made a trip to Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to visit their spring mountain-man encampment. The grounds are filled with tents, and what was a bare field is transformed into a trading post with a muzzleloader gun range. Mountain men and enthusiasts gather to sell goods and live out the weekend as mountain men in traditional form. As we were touring the grounds, Mason imagined himself joining the encampment one day. “I felt like I was able to go back in time,” he told me. 

The mountain-man encampment at the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve.
The mountain-man encampment at the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve.

Meeting a trapper selling his tanned furs, Mason took the opportunity to seek advice from the veteran.  Mason asked, “Do you have any advice for a young trapper starting out?”  So, Mason sat next to the campfire as the gentleman poured himself a cup of coffee and started to explain the essential knives a trapper carries in the woods. The next trapper Mason encountered gave tips on securing raccoon harvest with different ways to tether bait to different style traps. The following year, he wanted to buy a mountain man neck knife specifically from the encampment. 

Passing on the Hunting Heritage: Mason Beathard's Trapping Story
Mason, wearing his neck knife, holds an old trap passed down from the author’s grandfather that he hung it in his room.

Mason’s First Successful Trap

Soon after the encampment, Mason got his first trapping opportunity. His grandparents live on 55 acres, and an armadillo had been tearing up their yard and digging under the chicken coop. Eager to impress his grandma and armed with newfound knowledge gleaned from seasoned veterans, he set out to trap his first animal. With each step in the process, his anticipation grew, fueled by the thrill of the capture and the desire to showcase his skills. Mason carefully placed his trap, meticulously applying the techniques he had learned. With a keen eye, he crafted a strategic plan, considering the armadillo’s behavior and natural habitat. 

A few days had passed, and he was unsuccessful. Despite a few initial setbacks, unsuccessful attempts and a few farm cats caught in the cage livetrap, Mason refused to be deterred. Instead, he dedicated himself to studying the armadillo’s movements, learning its habits and preferences with unwavering determination. He adjusted his approach and trap placement. Mason explained that, “I try to envision how the animals will behave and works it’s actions to his benefit.” Mason’s perseverance paid off. Seeing his livetrap was triggered, and he approached it, his heart racing with anticipation. And there, within the confines of the cage, was his prize – a curious armadillo, its beady eyes looking up at him. Mason said he felt the hard work paid off. “I did it.” He couldn’t wait to share his triumph with his grandma, knowing that his first successful trap would be a story told for generations to come. Since then, he has trapped several rabbits and has now got a conibear trap for a beaver destroying our family pond.  

Mason hunting with his mother.
Mason hunting with his mother.

Preserving the Hunting Legacy

In an era where modern distractions often pull younger generations away from traditional outdoor pursuits, the preservation of trapping legacies becomes paramount. Statistics reveal a concerning trend: fewer children are learning the art of trapping, with the average age of trappers steadily increasing. However, stories like Mason’s serve as a beacon of hope, illustrating the importance of passing down outdoor traditions within families and communities. It’s not just about trapping animals; it’s about instilling values of patience, respect for nature and conservation in the next generation of trappers. By teaching young outdoorsmen like Mason about ethical practices and the delicate balance of harvest and conservation, we can ensure that our hunting heritage remains cherished and upheld for years to come. It’s time to reignite the flame of outdoor traditions and nurture a love for the wild in the hearts of our youth, preserving our trapping legacy for future generations. 

Mason said, “I am aware this is not a popular way to do things.” It is a dying lifestyle, so the sense of being one of the few in the new generation to carry the torch means a lot. When asked why trapping is important? Mason answered, “We need trapping. It catches a lot of animals that hurt other animals. Like, the raccoon who steals turkey eggs that hurts the populations.” 

Mason’s journey into trapping is not just a tale of a young hunter’s success but a testament to the enduring legacy of outdoor traditions. Through perseverance, patience, and a deep respect for the outdoors, Mason not only succeeded in trapping his first armadillo but also gained invaluable lessons along the way. He said, “ I feel like I’m at the top of something. Not many kids are doing this. It is something I really like to do and feel like it’s important.” 

Mason’s story highlights the importance of passing on the hunting legacy, not only to honor the past but also to forge a meaningful connection with the future generation and the outdoors. “Some kids like new ways but I get to do stuff like my grandpas did. That’s cool to me,” Mason said. 

By teaching future generations, we can ensure that our hunting heritage remains alive and well. Mason has a long way to go, but the journey has begun. When asked what he wants to do next? He replied, “more trapping and I would like to learn taxidermy.”

Bethany Beathard is an outdoor writer and content creator. She is an avid sportswoman who is passionate about conservation and hunting. She grew up on 55 acres in rural Oklahoma, with a family who fostered a love for hunting traditions. She is a military wife and homeschooling mother of five. She has written for several outdoor and hunting publications and websites. She has done several speaking events geared towards women in the outdoors and supporting hunting heritage programs. She loves the outdoors and takes every opportunity to get out there.

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