Mitch Crowder worked a razor-sharp fleshing knife across a damp opossum hide, offering onlookers tips he learned from decades of experience.
"See here?" he said. "With opossums, you have to be careful how much pressure you apply. They have a very thin skin."
The demonstration was one small part of the Georgia Trappers Association's 22nd Annual Convention, held Saturday at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
"Trapping is a lot different now than it once was," said Ted Gustin, president of the Thomaston, Ga.-based group. "It used to be a way of life on farms; now it's a wildlife management tool."
The convention, which attracted about 200 members who swapped everything from traps to mink urine, persimmon oil and other lures and supplies, also included archery for children and - of course - barbecue.
"I grew up in Kentucky doing this," said Dan Eaton of Augusta, who owns CSRA Trapping Service. "I learned trapping from my uncle and want to keep the tradition alive. That's why we do a lot with kids - it's just like hunting and fishing."
Trappers often are the behind-the-scenes contributors to quality wildlife management programs.
"We do a lot of work with the Department of Natural Resources, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited and other groups," Gustin said. "What we do directly affects how they manage their habitat."
Trapping often is the best way to remove or control problem animals such as coyotes, which displace native fox and can decimate wild turkey, quail and small-game populations.
Beavers, which cause millions of dollars in damages across the South through damaged and flooded timber, also are controllable through trapping.
The Georgia Trappers Association's membership fluctuates with the fur market, but most trappers do it more because they enjoy the outdoors - and not so much for profit.
The association also works as a lobbying group to assure preservation of hunting and trapping rights in Georgia, which has an annual trapping season the runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 15.
Annual membership in the Trappers Association is $20 and includes a magazine, quarterly newsletter and other benefits. For information, contact Eaton at 790-4995.
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