Pelts, heritage and YouTube: A day on a Labrador trapline

CBC's Jacob Barker recently spent a day on the trapline with William Larkham Jr., whose videos about hunting, fishing and trapping have found an audience around the world.

William Larkham Jr. grew up trapping animals; now uses the internet

William Larkham Jr.'s pelts fetched him some good returns at a fur auction this year, with two selling for nearly $800 in a top lot. (Submitted by William Larkham Jr.)

William Larkham Jr. is standing at the entrance to a wooded area along his trapline, somewhere off the Trans-Labrador Highway. After checking a number of traps and coming up with nothing but a weasel, he finally spots what he's been after. 

Before heading in, he breaks out a tool you don't often associate with the gear of a trapline: a GoPro camera.

"It's another large day here in the big land," says Larkham, who narrates the scene for an audience who will eventually see his exploits on the YouTube channel. 

Larkham, 43, says he started his YouTube channel to get the word out about his beloved Labrador. It's been nine years since his first post.

One of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay man's goals is to explain what life is like on the land, particularly for someone who fishes, hunts and traps.

"We got a marten, thank goodness," he says. "A nice brown, probably a select pelt — that's an above-average marten. He'll do well in the auction."

A calling as much as a career

On this day, Larkham was checking his traps during one of his last runs of the year before marten trapping season ended on March 20.

"My main occupation is fishing, but you get a nice bonus some years from trapping," Larkham says. "Don't get me wrong, trapping is very difficult when the prices are low."

Larkham says he uses his YouTube channel to explain how trapping is a sustainable practice, and how developing areas over natural habitat can have a much more detrimental effect. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

This year was not a down year for Larkham, who did well at a recent fur auction. A couple of his marten pelts were in a top lot and sold for nearly $400 each.

But Larkham says that for him and for many others, trapping is not about the money.

"A lot of trappers [say] if the pelts are a dollar, they'll still trap, because it's in your blood," Larkham said in an interview.  

Larkham shows a marten caught in one of his traps. He said it was a good year for selling at a fur auction in Helsinki. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"You could haul 50 traps and not get ne'er a catch but before you approach the next trap you get excited because that could be the trap you got your catch in," he said. "There's always that anticipation that keeps your drive going."

Trapping viewers

Any one of Larkham's activities could show up on his channel. Some of his videos garner tens of thousands of views. 

You can't just live the old lifestyle. It's got to be a blend of both.- William Larkham Jr.

"Trapping is always a big hit," Larkham said. "Sealing, sometimes for the wrong reason."

He started the YouTube channel to fill a void. 

"At the time, there was nothing really coming out of Labrador," Larkham said.  "I said, we got a hidden treasure and I want to share it to the world really."

Through his channel, he says, he's made friends all over the world.

Spend some time on Labrador trapper William Larkham Jr.'s trapline just off the trans Labrador highway and find out how he's getting the word about Labrador culture out to the world. 5:18

"Some of them, I imagine we're going to meet down the road sometime," Larkham said. 

"We look at each other's videos and share, comment and get ideas from each other as well."

Larkham uploads videos about hunting, fishing and trapping, as a way of showing Labrador culture and life to the world. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Larkham, who is part Inuit, on his grandmother's side of the family, said cultural ties were strong for him growing up but he never realized their importance until he was older.

Now, he wants to share it with his children, including his five-year-old son.

Larkham's family enjoying the porcupine he hunted while out with the CBC. He hopes to pass trapping skills on to his five-year-old son William, seen here with grandmother Muriel Anderson and sister Anna. (Submitted by William Larkham Jr.)

"I want to see [him] take over the trapline when he gets older. I'll go along with him and teach him," Larkham said. 

"I think the way it is with culture now, you can't just live the old lifestyle. It's got to be a blend of both."

Hunter and trapper William Larkham Jr. spent the day on a trapline and hoped to find a porcupine for dinner along the way. Finally tracking one down hanging high up in the branches of a tree, he walks us through his process of skinning and butchering it. 2:57

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.