Washington resident Danny Watkins started trapping as a nine-year-old. He enjoyed what became a game of wits in the outdoors.
Watkins kept mental notes, and expanded his knowledge. As he aged, his wisdom grew and so did his ability.
A few weeks ago, a package came to his door. The 73-year-old had no idea what was inside. Figuring the package had to be a mistake of some kind, Watkins opened the brown container.
What he found inside was one of the nicer surprises of his life.
Watkins was named to the Indiana Trappers Hall of Fame in September following the group’s annual meeting in Tipton. He was named by George Campbell, a worker in Watkins’ present business.
“I hadn’t ordered anything, and there is another Danny Watkins, but the postman did bring it to the door,” Watkins said. “I just glanced at it, didn’t pay much attention. I just opened it, and it turned out to be this Danny’s. I never dreamed I would be named to this. To get this award — if I had been wearing a buttoned-up shirt, I would have been without buttons.”
Campbell fooled his fellow trapper when the Hall of Fame process started.
“He told me he was asking a bunch of questions because he was going to write a magazine article about me,” Watkins said.
Campbell tried to get Watkins to go to the meeting where the award was presented, but failed.
“George didn’t realize I’m a little thick at times,” Watkins said. “He thought it would be a good idea for me to be there if I did get this. Well, since I didn’t take hints, we weren’t there.”
Watkins learned from his grandfather Tom Roach. Watkins lived north of Washington, making trapping an easier undertaking.
At the age of 12, he started trapping on his own after the three-year apprenticeship.
“Just seemed like a fun thing to do to try and outsmart the animals,” Watkins said. “Mostly it was muskrat at that time.”
Watkins knows trapping has an unkind image with many people. He also knows a good trapper is concerned about the catch, and the proper methods to insure the sport is done right.
“You use certain sized traps for certain sized animals,” Watkins said. “If you set the trap properly, you catch the animal much like handcuffing a person. There are no jaws or things like that on a trap. The trap is designed to catch the animals foot just hard enough to hold them. It catches the animal across the foot, the pad, and holds them. If traps were designed to do more than that, I wouldn’t have any fingers left. I’ve caught myself a few times.”
A concern for the proper method of trapping led Watkins to teaching others what he has learned on his own, with some beginning assistance from his grandfather.
He started instructing in the 1970s with the urging of local Conservation Officers who learned that Watkins had a life of knowledge that he could share with others.
“This was a secret thing when I started as a kid,” Watkins said. “You couldn’t learn from others, you had to teach yourself. I thought if I shared some of the things I learned, it would be better for others. I wanted people to understand the proper way to do it, and to understand it’s not a harmful thing.
“I had some officers ask me to teach trapping for the state,” Watkins said. “I’ve taught 104 students. It’s important for people to learn how to set traps properly. If you happen to catch an animal that is unwanted, they can be released unhurt. Unlike people think, we don’t try to kill animals.
“The jaws of a trap are not sharp, they are flat,” Watkins said. “Springs hold the trap to hold the animal. If you step on a trap, you probably will not know that you did. The things they show in movies — it doesn’t work that way.”
Watkins noted ethics in trapping is also important to him, and to teach others.
“You don’t get on other people’s property without permissions,” Watkins said. “You don’t bother other people’s traps. If you have hunters in an any, see what they are hunting and try not to interfere with them. If hunters are using dogs, there are places where you can set a trap that doesn’t interfere. I stress all of that in the classes I have.”
A lot of Watkins work now is with controlled trapping. Traps are set to catch unwanted animals around homes and businesses. Controlled trapping also helps in containing animals with disease, so that any spread of the disease can be held to a minimum.
“I hate to see animals die from disease,” Watkins said. “It is a renewable resource that I want to be here for my children, their children, and for years to come and to be here for ever.”
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