Monday September 01, 2014

Area trapping business catching on

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Ian Bugera, above, stands in the cabin-style building which will soon house Dam Beaver Trapping Supplies, at Rhein. The three-year-old business markets a range of trapping supplies, including snares, traps and pelt stretching boards, all seen below.

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Trapping is an activity and livelihood pretty well synonymous with the birth of our nation.

The trapping of beaver for European hat markets led to the earliest exploration of Canada west of eastern Ontario, and while not having the importance it once did, it remains a part of the industry of Canada.

But trapping supplies are not always easy to find. They are no longer carried by most mainline stores.

That shift created an opportunity in Ian Bugera's eyes.

Bugera said trapping is pretty much in his blood.

"We trapped when I was younger on the farm," he said, adding he grew up in the Canora area where the primary fur bearers were beaver, muskrat, fox and coyote.

Fast forward a number of years, and Bugera is married with a job in the potash mines.

But he still finds time to trap, now with his 16-year-old son Colin.

Bugera said people don't realize trapping can be successful locally, adding it's "just out the back door … Beaver and muskrats are plentiful."

Bugera said in some cases fur bearers create issues for other animals too.

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"Coyotes are really bad right now," he said, adding that has put a lot of pressure on the deer population.

Similarly "wolves are up," he said. It's too the point across the border in Manitoba moose hunting has been reduced, or eliminated in some areas because of wolf pressure. "They're killing all the moose."

It all means trapping opportunities.

"There's enough animals out there to trap. There's no shortage," said Bugera.

That said, Bugera said trapping remains somewhat cyclical, and numbers of active trappers had declined until recently.

"The last couple of years we've seen higher (fur) prices, so people are getting back into it," he said.

Higher prices mean a coyote pelt can fetch in the $100 range at a fur auction held by one of the two fur auction houses in Canada, said Bugera.

A martin, about the size of a mink, which can be found in the Lake of the Prairies area, can bring $200 at auction.

Last year Bugera said he and his son averaged $24 on their beaver, and a top pelt can bring $50.

Muskrats averaged only $10, with top prices of $15 or $16, but when you factor in they trapped 75, it's a good dollar for a 16-year-old, said Bugera. He added too that he knows of one Alberta trapper sold 2000 muskrats last season.

"They're easy to catch. Get enough traps out there you'll have them full," he said.

As a trapper, Bugera said he realized supplies were increasingly hard to find.

"We couldn't find a good place to get stuff," he said.

The few that did exist were mail order, and when a call went in, the person taking the call usually was not knowledgeable enough to answer questions on new products.

One day on the trapline with his son, the name Dam Beaver Trapping Supplies came up, and that got Bugera thinking. He told his wife about the idea of starting a supply business.

Wife Cory works at a law office, and one day she went through the process to register the company name, telling Ian when she had it done.

That was the push he needed to launch the business.

"Basically we're in our third year now," he said.

It has been three years of growing sales, sales made across Canada and into the United States.

As business has grown, so has inventory.

Today it is crammed into a metal storage container, but that will soon change. Bugera is in the midst of building a store in Rhein, a store in the fashion of an old hunter's cabin.

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"Spring time hopefully we'll move in," he said.

The new shop will be stocked with traps for every kind of fur bearer, brought in by the 100s by Bugera.

Snares, hide stretchers, lure scents, skinning knives and fur combs are also among the range of products trappers need, and he stocks.

While Bugera said "we do a lot of mail order … mail order is probably half our business," noting for experienced trappers that works well since they know what they need.

Orders go all over via their website at, or by emailing

"Manitoba is really big, and almost every week an order goes to Newfoundland, or New Brunswick," said Bugera.

Or, he takes gear to them, attending about half a dozen trade shows a season, from the gun show in Churchbridge, to the Parkland Outdoor Show in Yorkton, to the annual Saskatchewan Trappers Association meeting in Humboldt.

The rest of the business has people stopping at the shop.

"I'll sit around and talk to guys for an hour," said Bugera.

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