David Paulette, a long-time fur buyer for his own business out of Malvern, Ohio, Paulette Fur Company, LLC, and Ken Little, the veteran fur buyer from Baltimore, Ohio who buys for the New Jersey-based firm of Zander & Sons, looked like auction bookends as they purchased as much as 90 percent of the fur from 47 sellers. Only on occasion did one of the six other buyers offer more than what Paulette and Little were willing to pay.
For whatever reason, Paulette went after coon pelts, an item that was expected to bring below-par prices simply because of no demand and the fact that large furriers had thousands of pelts in cold storage waiting for the opportune time to make profitable sales.
The tight-mouthed Paulette, when asked if he knew more about the coon market than the other buyers, simply said “maybe.”
Meanwhile, Little, in an interview before the sale started, said be has purchased very little coon this fall for the simple reason that hunters and trappers do not want to spend the time to skin, scrape and dry the hides for what they will bring.
“Coon is a bad word,” Little stated. “You can’t give them away. The same for red fox and mink. Coyotes and muskrat are a different story.
“It’s a known fact that the younger generation do not trap. They would sooner play video game and have allowance money handed to them. I can see the end coming. No doubt in my mind. And another reason is the many areas such as mine (Baltimore, Ohio is 30 miles southeast of Columbus) are becoming so populated that you can’t night hunt and trapping takes more time than what sportsmen have. Plus, children can’t wait to put the family farm up for sale when time comes so they can split up what mom and dad have worked so hard for.
“And another reason is, believe it or not, deer hunters. Big farms with timber and untillable ground such as swamps land on them are now being leased by deer hunters for as much as $2,000 a year. And you can’t blame the owners. The average fur takers don’t give them anything,” Little said.
The first lot that went in front of the purchasers Saturday morning was offered by long-time trapper Henry Beecher from Ashland. He has been in the fields for 45 years, trapping coon year around, in the summer as a nuisance trapper and in the fall trapping for sales. He brought in only 124 of his 300-plus pelts, using that many to test the market. He had already sold off many low quality pelts.
“I am not sure what to expect,” the recently-retired Beecher said. “For sure I will never again see the $53 coon from back in the early 1970s. I would settle for a $5 average.”
When Paulette was through bidding on something like 10 different grades from triple XXX to damaged pelts, Beecher was way above that, getting $11.50 for his best pelts down to $3 for the damaged goods. Most brought between $5.50 and $7.25.
When Beecher’s muskrat pelts hit the block, Little stepped to the plate. He bought all 81 pelts, paying $4.50 for the largest 40 skins on down to $3 for 15 mediums to $2.70 for 15 damaged pelts.
It is not uncommon for sellers to refuse prices at which time they re-bag them and try to do better elsewhere. Beecher sold everything as did every seller over the first 90 minutes of the auction.
The second lot brought even higher prices. All the bidders perked up as the fur was perfectly put up. The best 48 muskrats brought $5.10. As predicted, mink went cheap, $5.75 for a large male down to $4.25 for small ones and females. One opossum went for $2.
Paulette had to ratchet up to get the lot of coon. He finally bagged the best 30 after giving $12 for the XXXs and best XXs down to $9 for the lower grade-XXs and Xs.
The first coyote pelts that went through were beautifully-colored. Every buyer took a close look. Paulette bought them for $50 apiece and out-bid the other buyers on the lower grades as well, giving $41 as an average.
Later in the sale, he gave as high as $10.75 for XXX coon.
The best mink to go through went for $5.75. One opossum fetched $2.75.
Beecher, who was at the sale with his son and grand-daughter, talked about the results.
“It’s a hobby now,” he said. “I don’t bowl, golf or fish. All hobbies cost money. My hobby is helping farmers and those who have problem with coon that are a nuisance. During the fall season, I trap 100 farms, almost all sets made around corn fields. I spend no more than four days at any one farm. That takes a lot of money for gas. But, one night a number of years ago, Jeremie and I hit our goal of catching 100 in one night.
“For a number of years, I have been a district director for the Ohio State Trappers Association and as a director, spend time educating kids on the sport, if nothing else getting them back outdoors. Many of them probably won’t trap but at least they realize that trapping is a tool to get numbers of coon back down to where they are supposed to be and not by using leg-hold traps which anti-trappers are dead-set against, but by dog-proof traps and other more-humane means.
“Honestly, I see outdoor interest by the young people going away as hunters or even those who could be playing Little League baseball. It is up to guys like me with an agenda to rekindle those young people to get them back outdoors.”
And what does Beecher do when he is not catching as many as 400 nuisance coon during the summer and over 300 in the fall?
“I head for Mississippi, hopefully with Jeremie later this year, to trap otter, bobcats and coyote for a couple weeks. That’s a challenge. They are tough to catch,” Beecher said.