This Vintage Trapping Video Offers a Glimpse into a Northern Line in the 1940’s

Anyone interested in trapping, history, or skills of the outdoors will appreciate this vintage trapping video.

At the start of every year, my high school history classes learn about the value of primary source documents. Simply put, a primary source is something that comes directly from a time period, or from a person in that period. For example, the Lewis and Clark journal’s are a great primary source. They were written by the captains themselves and offer the best insight into the expedition. After video cameras became popular they have become great tools for recording, and passing on, history.

Like many people, I often get caught wondering what the old days were like. As I read my fair share of primary sources, I don’t feel I have too many misconceptions about the difficulties of life in the past. Also like many folks, I’ve also experimented with historic skills, and have learned a lot about history in the process. Getting out and actually trying to live like people of the past can leave you cold, tired, humbled, but with much better understanding. That is why when I came across this vintage trapping video I got so excited.

Filmed in 1941 , and uploaded to Youtube in 2013, this trapping documentary captured the real life of a trapper in the Hudson’s Bay region. The roughly 20 minute video follows the trapper as he leaves the trading factory, camps in the bush, sets his traps, and returns home. During the video you get a chance to witness not only what life what like, but see some survival skills put into action.

If you have 20 extra minutes it certainly is worth a watch. If you don’t have the time I’ve included a cheat sheet to help you skip to portions that sound interesting.

Cheat Sheet

@ Start – Basic History

@ 3:30 – Start of Dogsled Journey

@ 6:30 – Winter Overnight Camp

@ 9:00 – Native Winter Camp

@ 10:00 – Start of the Winter Trap Line

@ 12:00 – Beaver trapping

@ 14:15 – Mink Trapping

@ 15:10 – Fox trapping

@ 15:50 – Hooping beaver pelt

@ 17:30 – Breaking camp

@ 19:15 – Selling the fur

After watching the video there were a few scenes that really stood out.

First off, I found it interesting to watch the blending of culture unfolding. The man was living in two worlds, one white man’s, and one Native’s. If you look closely you’ll see that not only were his customs impacted by this mesh, but even his clothing reflected the situation. It is also intriguing to think about how his skills in the bush were also a blend of both cultures.

Secondly, the bush skills he exercised were really impressive. Aside from driving the team, building shelters, and cooking, he was simply engrossed in the wilderness. What struck me was how he left the final encampment on snowshoes to head into the bush for several weeks with just a backpack. During the entire period he would have slept out in the open with only a fire to warm him. You can imagine how frigid he would have gotten at times. The did mention several times he took to eating his catch, a practice I can somewhat identify with.

Thirdly, I am happy to see how the culture of trapping has changed over time. No longer are we accepting 3 week trap checks as the norm. While you certainly can’t judge the man and his ways during his own time, personally I think we are headed in the right direction with frequent, if not daily, checks.

Hopefully you enjoyed this vintage trapping video. If you are like me you not only found it entertaining, but educational as well. It’s funny as I get older, these old documentaries get more and more riveting. In my high school days I don’t think I could have lasted through a such a “boring” documentary. Turns out these old videos can offer us some of the best ways to learn about the past.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on primary sources and this vintage trapping video in the comment section below.

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this article and watch the video. If you like the content you may enjoy this article “Family Trapping Video Reminds Us What It’s All About”.

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2 Replies to “This Vintage Trapping Video Offers a Glimpse into a Northern Line in the 1940’s”

  1. Very good film! I find it odd that I saw no firearm in evidence. With wolves, wolverines, and the occasional non-hibernating bear, you’d think they would carry something.

    1. Good point. I wonder if he is possibly carrying a sidearm of some sort? It sure is odd he wouldn’t have a rifle of some sort though…

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