Fur trappers were often young men who liked the quiet of the forests better than the noise and bustle of a city. They liked not having a boss telling them what to do. They liked exploring new territory and seeing animals and plants. Using tools such as an ax or gun came naturally to these young men. They became experts on how to build fires without matches and which wood to burn when they didn’t want any smoke to be seen by the Indians. They were also able to make a simple shelter in the mountains easily.
Because these men lived alone in the woods, they studied the animals. They knew what food each animal ate, how it built its home, where it spent winter, what time of year its fur was the best, and how to place traps it would not see.
When beavers and other animals were completely clothed in their heavy winter fur, the trappers would begin to set out traps. The trappers would set their beaver traps in shallow water where they knew the beavers would be working. Each trap was fastened to some heavy object under the water such as a log or heavy stone, so that when the beaver was caught he couldn’t drag the trap into the deep water where the trapper couldn’t recover it. As soon as the beaver was removed from the trap, the trapper would skin the animal and then stretch the skin over a round form made of willow branches so that it could dry. Skins were then packed into bundles and later used for trading. Many times Indians watched trappers gathering furs and late in the season, when the trappers had many beaver hides ready to sell, the Indians would kill the trappers and take the hides. The trappers who survived were the men who not only studied the trees and the animals, but the Indians as well.