Neil Olson thinks about the Two Maines.

When Olson traps a beaver in Northern Maine, the locals give him a thumbs up. When he traps one in Southern Maine, they give him the middle finger.

Olson, a 63-year-old native of Bethel, admits his story is not true, but that the theory behind the statement is nothing but the truth.

“There is a whole different outlook up north,” he said. “Northern Maine appreciates you trapping their beaver. In Southern Maine, they wonder why you’re doing it.”

Olson traps because it’s something he “loves to do. I enjoy spending time outdoors and interacting with nature. Besides, when trapping, you have a lot of time to day dream,” said Olson, the author of two books on the subject.

Olson started trapping as a kid with his father, something Olson is seeing less and less of. “Kids have so many more choices to choose from now. So many more opportunities,” said Olson, the third base coach for his grandson’s baseball team, the Southern Maine Black Flies. “Kids are getting so far removed from nature,” worries Olson.

Olson is doing the best he can to keep kids interested. “My best days trapping are when my grandsons go with me. Trapping teaches kids how to work. Teaches them responsibility,” Olson said. “When you leave a trap, you leave a responsibility out there. The next day you have to go take care of that trap.”

Olson is known in the trapping circle for his annual New England Trappers Weekend, which will be held in August on his front lawn for the 36th consecutive year. Kids are required to make their own fishing poles for the fishing derby and the eel races are a riot, Olson said. “People come to have fun, maybe too much fun,” he said.

Maine is a good state to set traps in, he said. “We have a high density of fisher compared to other states and a good supply of martin in Northern Maine,” said Olson, who has trapped in 10 states. Olson has kept a handwritten daily record of his harvest since 1973. He has trapped 10,600 beaver, more than 3,000 red fox and 1,400 coyotes. “Funny thing is, I have never shot a deer in my life,” Olson. said “I have killed three with a vehicle, but never shot one.”

Olson makes a living trapping and selling furs seven months of the year. But he warns that “trapping is not a money game.” The effort versus the gains makes for minimal profits, he said. He jokes that he has never had a job that pays more the $6.50 an hour.

“Fur trappers like myself are becoming rare,” Olson said. “When I started buying furs 35 years ago, there were 150 buyers in Maine. There are five left.”

The furs that Olson keys in on, beaver, red fox and coyote, are going for $15-$20 and are sold to China and Russia for coats, hats and trim. “Trapping is not about money, Olson said. “The day it turns into work. I quit. I just love trapping.”


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