When I was in high school a handful of students stood in the cafeteria at lunch time and pointed up to the ceiling and looked at each other with a pensive look on their faces. Wondering what was so interesting, other students came over and began looking up too. The original students never said a word, they just continued to point and look up. I was one of the many students who’s hunger was overridden by curiosity. Soon more and more students left their places at the lunch table and walked over to the growing crowd of students and teachers who were all looking up and pointing. There was nothing there. The students who started the crowd were just seeing if they could get a crowd started and had managed to gather nearly 200 people together in a matter of minutes by doing nothing besides taking advantage of human nature.
One of the best ways to gain acceptance for trapping is to gather crowds of people together in one place. People by nature can’t resist taking a peek at what everyone else in the crowd is looking at. You may be thinking that it is hard enough to get trappers to attend a well advertised trapper’s event so how on earth can we get non trappers to show up? If we are going to lead our own future as trappers, we will need to garner support and unify all outdoorsmen. We need crowds of people.
Organizing a trapping event is a lot like organizing your trapline. The lessons we’ve all learned managing critters and steel can be used to get people involved and informed.
Identify your Primary Target
Planning a big event of any kind is complicated but a few simple things can make it easier. First and foremost is the event focus. Determining if you want it to be an education event for trappers or an outreach to the general public makes a big difference. Writing down the purpose of the event will provide your team with direction when decisions have to be made later about the types of vendors to include, who guest speakers might be and the types of raffle items. It’s like deciding whether you’re going to focus on red fox or coyote this year, everything is similar but not exactly the same, and it’s the focus that’s different.
Pick your Partners
The next order of business will be getting a team of people together who are willing to see the event through to completion. As a general rule, if there are more than 8 volunteers, there should be subcommittees assigned to big projects. If there are less than 8, they each get a whole project. For example, if one person is assigned to contact vendors, that person may have the sole responsibility to make calls, acquire tables, get confirmation, ensure the vendor fees are paid, layout where the tables will be placed, be there on set-up day and ensure the vendor tables are cleaned up following the event. With multiple people on a “vendor committee”, the job can be broken up into smaller chunks. The primary role of the sub-committee chair is to oversee that everything is done and report it to the planning committee on a routine basis.
Planning Ahead for the day of the Sale
Knowing when all the fruits of your labor will be offered up to the final consumer like bringing your furs to a well advertised fur sale motivates you to get everything put up and cleaned up for that day.
Picking the date of the event should be done at the first planning meeting. This task can be far more difficult than one might think. There are many things to consider such as high school or college graduation dates, opening day of trout fishing season or other sportsman’s association events. Will there be enough hotels available in the area for travelling vendors on that day? What buildings may be available during that time? What other big events will be going on at that time? Will other events pull people away from you r event or will they help draw more people in?
Once the date is chosen, all other mile stones for the event should be established by working back from that date. If you chose May 18th for your event, your committee must have the advertisements ready to go out by April 18th, the Schedule of events must be established by March 10th, vendors secured by Mid February and so on. By laying out a plan with milestone dates in the beginning you can ensure all tasks will be complete by the day of the event. Also, if a milestone date is missed, it highlights the tasks that weren’t completed in time and provides a visual indicator for what the committee must focus on.
Pick a Location
In real estate and trap setting the three most important things for success are location, location and location. Event planning is no different. When picking a location it may be tempting to squirrel the event away up in the hills on the end of a dirt road somewhere. Celebrating our trapping heritage well away from the city limits where everyone in attendance can enjoy the outdoors is great for trappers. We love being outside. But if we want to gain crowds of people, we have to go where there are a lot of people. While standing in the middle of first period class and pointing at the ceiling may have crowded a few students together, the cafeteria had the volume of people required to grow that number into the hundreds. Being visible where there are a lot of people has potential to draw a lot of people. It’s the same idea as trapping and hunting an area where the densities are highest, you’ll draw more coyotes in where there are more coyotes!
A main road between two towns is a great location. If there is a convenient location at a main intersections in a city near you – that may be even better. Particularly one that has a big billboard or digital advertising sign with flashing lights that can gain the attention of trappers and non-trappers alike, that is a place to begin zeroing in on.
Cost can be a big factor and the financial considerations may force your organization into choosing a slightly less desirable location. There is often an epicenter of people (i.e. a city or town) where you draw your crowd from. The further you get from that epicenter, the cheaper the rental fees might be, but is also less likely to draw the big crowds. The goal is to draw the biggest crowds possible. In order to do that you must avoid distancing your event from the masses.
Using the Right Lure
Estimating the number of people your event will draw can be tough. If there is a major political controversy there will likely be more interest than if there isn’t. The focus of the event will affect the number of people as well. If the event is for trappers only with fund raisers, demonstrations and trap setting contests being the primary focus then trappers will arrive. If the focus of the event is to educate the general public, there has to be a draw other than trapping to get those people in the door. It’s like using tuna fish in a cage trap versus using sweet bait. What’s inside that trap influences who steps inside. There may be five different species walking by every night, but you can draw in or turn away those you want to commit to the trap by what’s inside. People are exactly the same. Put something in the building people want to see and they will come in.
A well known guest speaker, events for children, something people may not normally have access to like a wild game feed or a big buck display. Are there a lot of anglers in your area? Partner with local angler clubs to have a fly casting clinic or fishing pool for children. Often local gun clubs have video trap shooting or BB gun shooting ranges. While they are there for the fun, they will be walking past the trapping booths. That is when you invite them to handle furs and traps.
As a hunting safety instructor, I used to present an introductory trapping portion during my classes. The students were ALWAYS interested and asked a lot of questions. The hunting drew them in, once they were there, I introduced them to trapping. The concept is the same with planning an event with the intent of turning non-trappers into trappers – or at least – introducing them to it and getting them to ask questions. The event needs to be primarily about trapping, but in order to get the non-trapping outdoorsmen to show support, you’ve got to have something for them to want to be there if trapping isn’t already something they do.
Drawing in the Finicky Ones
The most difficult group of people to draw is the people who don’t have any interest in hunting fishing or trapping. If they don’t care about it one way or the other, trappers may just rely on the adage that our actions in the field will determine the opinion of our activity. The problem is, people who never learn about our ethical practices vote and our opposition has no problem bashing everything we do as trappers and hunters especially right before the election polls open. By providing a positive message about trapping in a non-confrontational way, trappers can gain support by non- outdoorsman. Find something to draw these people in. Think about what is in your area that might work. A petting zoo for children, a 4H bake sale or Boy Scout fund raiser in front of the building may get people to stop. Then, they may see that crowd growing inside.
Paying Attention to the Details
Organizing an event is not easy. Getting people together in one room and listing out all of the things that have to happen is important. Things like; acquiring a building, advertising, finding vendors, and parking lot traffic may be obvious. Other things like, calling law enforcement, obtaining a food permit, setting up the demonstration area and organizing which vendor table will go where may require some discussion.
From day one, there has to be one person to whom all information goes to and that person will be given the responsibility to ensure that every concern or new task is assigned to someone. As new tasks are discovered they should be added to the punch list. There can’t be “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” regardless of how dedicated the members are. Having one contact person to disseminate information and organize the planning ensures that a consistent chain of communication will happen. And as long as the person given that responsibility communicates well, there will only be one person for event volunteers to ask questions too.
I have found that not everyone is a leader but when trappers are asked to do something, they will. Anytime someone says “Let me know if I can help in any way” they probably mean it. Is there a phone call to make? Are there Windows to wash or tables to set up? Every little task needs someone to do it, and when people have tasks it gets them engaged and they will feel a certain level of ownership. Have that checklist handy and when people offer, call their attention to a task – you can consider it done.
Meeting routinely and having a set agenda of items to address will ensure that nothing is missed. If there are ten things on the agenda, address each of those ten things before adding new items. Staying on task and stopping “tangents” is the role of the meeting leader. If the agenda item is “Finalize list of Vendors” the topic can’t switch to where they will be placed or which vendor makes the best coyote lure. Go down the list of items and make sure each has been completed or an updates on the progress was given, then open the floor for new items, assign someone to be responsible for the task and write it down. The last item for the agenda should be when and where then next meeting for event planning will be held and what should be accomplished by that time. This ensures that the timelines are set and people know what the expectations are.
Advertising is always a difficult and expensive venture. Radio ads can chew up your budget and may not produce the results you want. Flyers posted months in advance and ads printed in local newspapers may be money well spent but consider a newspaper article written by a local reporter. This is free advertising that reaches a lot of people. Get in touch with other sporting groups and ask that they send an email to their membership or put the event in their next newsletter.
In this day of social media, the amount of advertising on face book or twitter can make or break the turnout of your event. Find that computer savvy person on your association who knows how to work the electronic communication factory used by millions of people and it can make a huge difference.
Bringing it all to the Buyers
On the day of the event the plan for who will be doing what should be well established, signs directing people to the demo area and raffle tables have all been worked out. Everyone knows what to do and who to go to if they don’t. Now it’s time to enjoy the event! The committee who put the event together will not likely be able to fully participate in the events of the day as there will be a number of tasks that continue to pop up that need attention. Instead, the reward for your dedication and months of planning will come at a moment during the event when you stop and see the children getting awards for setting traps, vendors talking with new customers and people learning why trapping is enjoyed by so many.
It’s like the end of trapping season when all your furs are displayed on your barn wall. The satisfaction of a job well done makes you forget about the day your truck wouldn’t start five miles from the main road or the icy beaver pond you found yourself in up to your armpits in January.
It’s important to keep trapping and sharing it with others on the solitude of your line and equally important to share it with people who don’t find themselves smelling like coyotes at the end of a long day in November very often. It is challenging and rewarding to promote our trapping heritage and whether your event is for 50 people or 5,000 your event will be educational and enjoyable but only if you organize one!
(This article was written by Toby Trigger and originally published in the Trapper and Predator Caller Magazine in 2014)