I have enjoyed watching Trapper’s Festival since childhood especially the dog races and trapper’s competitions. When I was 12, I got involved with grade school challenges and at 13 I competed in the junior king competition for the first time. Since then, I have become familiar with the history of the trapper’s competition.
I have vivid memories of following Walter Koshel placing each year and then the rise of Robert Ducharme Sr. and his string of victories. Following Walter, Robert and Scott Wishart, you forgot their last names as everyone knew who they were and looked forward to seeing them compete year after year. These are true legends of the event and they will never be confused with someone else when talked about at the festival. Their triumphs over adversity have etched their names into fans of Trapper’s competitions and the Trapper’s Festival.
The number of competitors in the four division (King, Queen, Junior King and Junior Queen) has roughly averaged out at 10 competitors per year per division with 2016 seeing an increase in all divisions. However, these numbers are down from when I entered in the mid 90’s. There are plenty of people concerned and want to reverse this trend. There is always a good number of rookies competing and trying the events out, but we need these people to compete year in and year out. These competitions are incredibly difficult and winning is not something you do in February, but rather the reward of an entire lifestyle that sees you coming back and learning.
Understanding the challenges that new competitors face is easy, I remember when I first competed with the veterans who has 10 to 20 years of experience on myself. Rookies must spend a number of years getting adequately familiar with the rules and the proper way to train and prepare for the various events before they can compete for a title. Like anyone doing anything in their life it takes time for the rookies to focus on the events they are not good at and attain the skill set necessary to improve in those, not just the skill and events that they excel at. As a new competitor, you will do well at a couple events and that is a great thing but know that as time passes you will figure out your weaknesses and become better at those. For example, bigger guys do well in strength events and can take year to learn to adequately prepare for endurance events and really learn to do something they are not naturally gifted at.
I am familiar with the emotions and physical rigors that new competitors must face. Every veteran competitor deals with the same thing when they go to new towns with new events and new rules. We all need to learn to learn. Rookies through no fault of their own make more mistakes and are less prepared, there is no way to prepare for something you have never done before. Rookies suffer from things such as injuries, fatigue, improper equipment, lack of physical conditioning, nerves and being vulnerable to bad advice. It is something that even seasoned competitors deal with and failure is often our best teacher.
We are all one dull axe, one bad meal choice, one foot slip or one pulled muscle away from non-contention. There are so many stories that all the veterans could pass on of the crazy things they have done and learned from, and that is part of the journey. New competitors will learn and if they, like all of us veterans have, put in the time and work through tough years, they will be rewarded with the satisfaction of overcoming the tough times and become champions.