Minnesota Trappers Association History

MTA 50th Anniversary Publication (2009)

Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range in 1959 was economically depressed with the average living wage being about $5,000. This was before the passage of the Taconite Amendment which helped to bring jobs to the iron range area of Northern Minnesota.  People did what they could to support their familes.  They hunted fished and trapper to make money.
The trappers in the area trapped on public and private land.  There were logging areas and roads that allowed access, but getting back in the woods was accomplished by walking, sometimes on snowshoes.  The snowmobiles were just being manufactured, but not too many people owned one.  Trap thieves were all over, so trappers kept their trap line locations a secret.
The early and most experienced trappers of the time were of Scandinavian descent.  Names like Buck Snyder, Ruben Peterson, Al Erickson and George Hirvela were known throughout the northern half of the state for their ability as all-around woodsmen as well as trappers.  This time period was before the existence of Rescue Squads and when anyone became lost in the woods, the wardens would be calling trappers to assist in any searches.  This only helped the reputation of the trapper and elevated in the eyes of his neighbors.  These men made their living in the forest and knew as much about wilderness as the animals they pursued.  So in 1959 when you spoke of a trapper, you spoke with respect.
Most of the trappers subscribed to the popular magazine Fur Fish and Game, and that magazine noted that Pennsylvania had a well-organized trappers’ organization.  They published their activities in the Fur, Fish and Game, and they tried to get all trappers to become better organized or take a chance on losing their trapping heritage.  This started talk between trapping partners, as everyone had a partner then.  Gene Sandberg and Mel Smith trapped together and did Harry Chase and Del Sogard.  A well-known father and son team was George Hirvela and his son Willie.  Talk led to informal meetings.  Pressure began from the anti-trapper faction, and Minnesota threatened to eliminate the bounty system, and the livelihood of trappers was in danger of going away.   Mel Smith started to push harder and harder for trappers to organize.
In February of 1959, Mel Smith organized a meeting in Ray and trappers from International Falls, Hibbing and Grand Rapids meet for one specific purpose – to organize.  Bob Himes was elected as the first president and Gene Sandberg became the first vice-president, and the group officially adopted the name “Minnesota Trappers Association”.  The MTA was born.  One of the most immediate tasks for this small organization was to get other trappers to see the need for organization and to join them.  The other was to convince the general public of the humaneness of trapping.
As trappers began to trust each other and to work toward a common goal, secrecy and mistrust began to disappear allowing the MTA to prosper.
A logo contest was held and a youngster from Plummer won with a design that has remained the MTA logo for the past 50 years.

MTA Awards Historical Information

"Who's Who" Award History

The Who’s Who Award is the prerogative of the president and voting members of the BOD exclusively and seeks to recognize someone who has worked diligently for trappers (particularly within the Association) generally behind the scenes. Hosting district leadership of convention, DNR liaisons, legislature, trapping supply businesses, news media, elected officials in the State legislature, MTA members/directors/chairs, etc. have all received this award at one time or another over the years.
1982 Leo Reding
1982 Senator Bob Lessard
1982 Kenneth D. McLellan
1983 Ed Boggess
1983 Senator Bob Lessard
1984 N/A
1985 Ted Olds
1985 Rob “Timber” Dahlberg
1985 Al Dobie
1986 Joe Bambenek
1986 Johnnie Epley
1987 Roger Hoelscher
1987 Butch Dykhoff
1987 Don Dykhoff
1988 Melvin Smith
1988 Mike Chalich
1988 Darrell Hook
1989 Sid Berg
1989 Loren Spinler
1989 Leo Jewett (posthumously)
1990 Jim Thompson
1990 Tim Caven
1991 Rick Siepel
1992 Dick Doll
1993 Sid Berg
1994 Richard Raeker
1995 Roger Degner
1996 Darrell Knish
1997 George Fortier
1998 Dennis McNally
1999 Joe Bambenek
2000 Charlie Schaefer
2001 Deb Offerdahl
2002 Bill Silverberg
2003 Kathy Peterson
2004 Tim Bauer
2006 Gary Meis
2007 Gary Leistico
2008 Mark Melby
2009 N/A
2010 Senator Patricia Pariseau
2011 Dave D’Aigle
— 2012 Hosting NTA Convention
2013 Pete Jonas
2014 Dale “Gabby” Hayes
2015 N/A
2016 TJ Johnson
2017 N/A
2018 Mark Melby
2019 N/A
— 2020 COVID Convention Cancelled
2021 N/A
2022 Leon and Denise Windschitl
2023 Randy Goldenman

Male Trapper of the Year

1982 Herman Snow
1983 Ray Flesch
1984 Dan Croke
1985 Scott Evans
1986 Steve Sipe
1987 Pete Stupar
1988 Gary Rutherford
1989 Darrell Knish
1990 Dick Lorrette
1991 Sid Berg
1992 Ron Hook
1993 Merlin Ladd
1994 George Fortier
1995 Jerome Blazevic
1996 Gary Meis
1997 Todd Roggenkamp
1998 Butch Dykhoff
1999 Marty Kessler
2000 Rich Raeker
2001 Arnie Peterson
2002 Bob Newcomb
2003 Dave Graham
2004 Tim Bauer
2005 Wayne Thom
2006 Carl Ernst
2007 Todd Imdieke
2007 Darrel Oberloh
2008 Tom Marks
2008 Gene Anderson
2009 Leon Windschitl
2010 Shawn Johnson
2011 Dave D’Aigle
— 2012 N/A Hosting NTA Convention
2013 Gary Leistico
2013 Albert Dietz
2013 Frank Brula
2014 Buzz Neprud
2014 Jerry Madsen
2014 Jim Zimmerman (posthumously)
2015 Bert Highland
2015 Lyle Roseen
2015 Dan Swedberg
2016 Roland “Rollie” Aho
2017 Andy Shoemaker
2017 Lloyd Baakkonen
2018 N/A
2019 N/A
— 2020 N/A COVID Convention Cancelled
2021 N/A
2022 Shannon Cohrs
2023 Shaun Uselman

MTA President's Awards History

1984 Dan and Kathy Croke
1984 Pete Stupar
(1985 NTA Convention work recognition)
1995 Ray Rau
1995 Ken Carver
1995 Joe Vaida
1998 Mark Melby
1998 AJ Niedorf
1999 Gary Botczek
1999 Gary Strand
1999 Rod Scott
2000 Todd Imdieke
2000 Dave Graham
2000 Tom Marks
2003 Mark Palas
2003 Terry McElmury
2003 Butch Dykhoff
2005 Vance Walgrave
2005 Roy Oldfield
2005 Greg Flor
2006 Todd Roggenkamp
2006 Dale “Gabby” Hayes
2006 Ken Olson
2007 Pete Jonas
2007 Shawn and Linda Johnson Family
2007 Dallas Erickson
2007 Cory VanDriel
2008 TJ Johnson
2008 Roland “Rollie” Aho
2008 Kathy Peterson
2009 Pete and Tina Jonas Family
2009 Rob Caven
2009 Dave D’Aigle
2009 Gerald Schmitt

2010 Dean Anderson Honorary Recognition
(award accepted by son Al Anderson)
2010 Gary Meis Family
2010 Arnie and Kathy Peterson Family
2011 Dale “Gabby” Hayes
2011 Leon and Denise Windschitl
— 2012 Host NTA Convention
2013 Merlin and Patti Ladd Family
2013 Gary Leistico
2014 Peggy Callahan Wildlife Science Center
2014 Rob and Mitzi Heavirland
2015 Jerry and Judy Rusert
2015 Trish Coons
2016 Denise Windschitl
2017 Gary Nelson
2018 Trish Coons
2018 Brian Fischer
2018 Mark Melby
2018 Dale and Brenda Jindra Family
2019 Chris Holm
2019 Randy Goldenman
2019 Tim Spreck
— 2020 COVID Convention Cancelled
2021 Buzz Neprud
2021 Shawn Johnson
2021 Kaitlyn Jindra
2021 Duane “Dewey” Schmitz
2022 Eric Maijala
2022 Scott Staples
Tanned fur Project: Tim Caven & Gang
2023 Cumberland Trapping Supply
2023 Gary Leistico
2023 Tom Bozer

Lady Trapper of the Year

1982 Jonelle Kallio
1983 Jackie Wilken
1984 N/A
1985 Kathy Croke
1986 Ellie Dahlberg
1987 Lorna Morrow
1988 Chris Orbird
1989 Dorothy Knish
1990 Karen Andersen
1991 Judy Andersen
1992 Thelen Schultz
1993 Patti Ladd
1994 Gale Hanson
1995 Kathy Peterson
1996 Debbie Burnt
1997 Audrey Fortier
1998 Peggy Zgonc
1999 Jackie Strand
2000 Josie McElmury
2001 Karen Oakquist
2002 Karen Panchot
2003 Liz Thom
2004 Betty Meis
2005 Linda Johnson
2005 Mary Bauer
2006 Pam Marsolek
2007 Barb Edminster
2007 Deb VanDriel
2008 Lois Pauly
2009 LaRae Roseen
2010 Betty Erickson
2011 Mitzi Heavirland
2011 Denise Windschitl
— 2012 N/A Hosting NTA Convention
2013 Linda Johnson
2014 Yvonne “Tweety” Highland
2015 N/A
2016 Amanda Larsen
2016 Brianna Jonas
2017 Cindy Nelson
2017 Trish Coons
2018 N/A
2019 N/A
— 2020 N/A COVID Convention Cancelled
2021 Brenda Jindra

Junior Trapper of the Year

1982 Shawn Johnson
1983 Joe Jewett
1984 N/A
1985 Rob Mathais
1986 Wayne Dykhoff
1987 Jason Holmes
1988 Chad Rutherford
1989 Doug Pensaw
1990 Tim Rippie
1991 Ryan Blazvic
1992 Julie Meis
1993 Randy Herrett
1994 Jessica Kleinschmidt
1995 Chris Essig
1996 Robbie Ladd
1997 Colt Sell
1998 Ben Meyer
1999 Daniel Knish
2000 Kyle Mayers
2001 David Bauer
2001 Kayla Kleinschmidt
2002 Jake Neprud
2002 Kami Imdieke
2002 Carmen Imdieke
2003 Jeff Beard
2003 Karina Olson
2003 Randane Olson
2004 Kaycie Melby
2005 Mac Hilburn
2006 Katie Bauer
2007 Eli Gindele
2007 Dawson Sample
2008 Toby Armstrong
2008 Evan Sipnvieri
2009 Remington Moran
2010 N/A
2011 Robert John Nelson
2011 Lexi Winscher
— 2012 Hosting NTA Convention
2013 Blake Moran
2013 Joseph Cocherell
2014 Aaron Padden
2014 Marc Lisic
2014 Caden Hammer
2015 Logan Nelson
2016 Jacob Miller
2016 Leah Schmitt
2016 Dakota Olson
2017 Leah Remer
2018 N/A
2019 N/A
— 2020 COVID -Convention Cancelled
2021 Evan Rollofson
2021 Caleb Englund
2022 Amber McElmury

Hall of Fame Honorees

1996 Rob “Timber” Dahlberg
1996 Robert “Bob” Himes
1996 Sidney L. Berg
1996 Leo Jewett
1996 John Elavsk
1997 Bob Gessner
1998 Alvin Ladd
1999 Jim Thompson
2000 N/A
2002 Dan Croke
2005 Tim Caven
2006 Richard Raeker
2007 Al Kasper
2008 N/A
2009 Tom Marks
2009 Dennis Strand
2009 Butch Dykhoff
2009 Russ “Rusty” Cumberland SR
2010 Gene Anderson
2011 Gary Strand
2013 Curt Carter
2014 Russ “Rusty” Cumberland JR
2014 Tim Bauer
2015 N/A
2016 Terry McElmury
2016 Tim Sawatzky
2017 N/A

MTA Education Award

2010 Wayne Thom
2011 Mark Palas on behalf of District 6 Trapper Ed Dream Team
Will Elliott, Mike Tucker, Drake Jackson, Tim Donnay, Dan Nalezny, and Company
— 2012 Hosting NTA Convention
2013 Dallas Erickson
2014 Dana Klos
2015 James Tonkin
2016 Brad Wobbrock
2017 Dana Klos
2018 N/A
2019 N/A
— 2020 COVID-Convention Cancelled
2021 N/A
2022 Pete Jacobson
2023 Craig Hilburn

Legislative Award

2022 Senator Thomas Bakk
2022 Senator Davis Tomassini
2023 Tim Spreck

Minnesota Trappers Association and the
National Trappers Association

The first fur auction in Minnesota was held in 1961 at the fairgrounds in Hibbing. Local buyers, as well as buyers from Canada, attended. The local buyers felt betrayed and seemed to resent the Canadian buyers and therefore outbid them, much to the delight of the trappers. Unfortunately, the local fur buyers’ practice of “grubstaking” soon ended after the auction. This practice was a way to be “Paid in Advance” for many trappers since the fur buyer would advance the trapper $500 or more, and the future catch became the buyer’s property. Anything above the dollar amount would be paid at the going rate.

1963 the MTA helped to host a National Trappers Association meeting at Itasca State Park. Minnesota Trappers made up a good share of the first 100 members of the National Trappers Association. They were:

#18 W. H. Bingelen
#19 L.R. Dickenson
#36 Buck Snyder
#56 Mel Smith
#57 Mart Kerr
#58 Phil Christianson
#59 Albert Erickson
#60 Ruben Peterson
#61 Eugene Sandberg
#62 William K. O’Connor
#71 Dick Marinucci
#72 Del Sogard
#73 Archie Harder
#74 Del Fairbanks
#75 Russel Bartz
#76 William Vicari
#94 Chet Christianson

The MTA has also hosted two other NTA conventions.
In 1985 the 26th NTA Convention was held at Duluth, and in 1997 the 38th NTA Convention was held at Rochester, MN.
In 2012 the 65th NTA Convention was held in Owatonna, MN, on August 2 – 5, 2012; our third NTA convention.

Minnesota Trappers Association Hall of Fame

The History of the Fur Trade in Minnesota

We all should acknowledge the long heritage and prominent role the fur trade has played in the history of the Great State of Minnesota. From the initial exploration by The French fur trader Rene Cavelier (Sieur de La Salle), who traveled down the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and helped to establish a chain of fur trading posts all along the Mississippi from New Orleans to the Great Lakes to the first expedition of Lewis and Clark from August 1805-April 1806 commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the lands of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 to its essential modern-day role in wildlife management and economics, trappers and trapping have long been a part of the State’s foundational fabric that continues to have an impact on our collective futures as well.
The MTA Trapper Hall of Fame was established in 1996 to recognize members for their exemplary leadership in promoting and advocating for the sport of fur trapping at all levels, local, state, and national. These individuals stand in the presence of those pioneers and trappers today and owe a debt of gratitude to all they have accomplished on our behalf.
Being inducted into the MTA Trapper Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member of the MTA and, as such, is not taken lightly. Many trappers trap huge numbers each year, but that is not the main focus of this esteemed award. Hall of Fame members are not only accomplished trappers but also have contributed to the trapping world in various other ways. In their bios to the right, you will read about some of Minnesota’s most noteworthy trappers and their contributions to the trapping community.
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