"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Hoosier Fur-Taking Activity
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

How the scenario will play out still is a wait-and-see matter, but Bruce Plowman, furbearer biologist for the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), expects raw fur prices to be about the same for the 2004-2005 seasons as they were last year.

Plowman says that while pelts of the raccoon, the bread-and-butter furbearer among Hoosier fur takers, probably will be about the same as last year, he expects slightly better prices for mink and perhaps beaver.

Otherwise, Plowman expects prices on other furbearer species to be about the same.

Although trapping and night hunting with dogs, the primary methods for harvesting furbearing animals in Indiana, are pretty much overshadowed by myriad other forms of outdoor activities, they have a place in the overall value for their followers.

Plowman’s study of the Hoosier fur-taking picture for the 2003 seasons reveals a total take of 211,800 raw furs, and that they brought $1,591,000 into the coffers of a small army of outdoors folks who enjoy these activities (I do not see them as sport).

For the records, Plowman’s study revealed the fact that the raccoon--at least in terms of furs harvested--is Hoosierland’s No. 1 furbearing animal with a total of 150,850 pelts for the season. They sold for $1,269,438.00, at an average price of $8.42 (16 percent higher than the previous year).

Muskrat, once the darling of Hoosier trappers, was the second most harvested animal with 45,754 pelts worth $121,037.29. Rats averaged $2.65 (three percent higher than the previous year). Plowman says rat prices have been low for several years, and expects little change.

Plowman thinks prices for mink will be somewhat better this year and that beaver prices could rise. He bases his thinking on the fact that ranch mink prices are somewhat better this year and that wild mink prices usually follow suit. He thinks beaver prices could improve because there seems to be more interest in foreign countries.

Generally, Plowman bases his thinking on static prices, on the fact that the U.S. dollar is rather weak, pointing out that this allows European buyers (big dogs in the world fur market) to get more for their money.

Here are Plowman’s thoughts on other species of forbearing animals that contribute to Hoosier totals:

COYOTE -- Prices about the same this year, but up some last year. 5,987 pelts sold last year for a total of $79,893.36, $13.34 average.
RED FOX -- Prices about the same this year. 2,414 pelts sold last year for $44,6682, $18.50 average.
GRAY FOX -- Prices about the same. 672 pelts sold, $15.92 average.
OPOSSUM -- Prices about the same. 4,920 pelts sold, $1.51 average.
WEASEL -- Difficult to judge. Five pelts sold last year, 80 cents average.

Plowman also says DFW records indicate that there are almost 3,000 trappers in the state and some 18,000 night hunters (those who use dogs, primarily ‘coon hounds). 

There also is a young army of predator hunters, some 29,000 who hunt coyote, 10,100 who hunt red fox, and 7,500 who hunt gray fox. However, predator hunting tends to cloud the picture of total furs sold because some followers of this activity have their pelts tanned and keep them, especially if prices are low.

LEGISLATIVE WATCH -- Rep. John Ulmer (R-Goshen) took his House Joint Resolution on the right to hunt and fish back to the Indiana General Assembly last week, but the House Judiciary Committee did not vote on the matter, probably because the five democrats on the panel came up with several bushels of amendments to the 12-word treatise that would simply point out that Hoosiers have a God-given right to “hunt, fish, and pursue game.”

Rep. Ulmer, who has previously championed this concept in the legislature, could not be reached by phone, but it is presumed that the issue eventually will come to a vote and be sent to the floor of the House.   


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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