Herb Lenon Trapper's Hall of Fame Article
Here is a story that was published in The Trapper magazine in the August, 1981 issue about Herb Lenon being in The Trapper's (magazine) Hall of Fame
Herb Lenon was born March 14, 1902 in Remus, a small farming community in central Lower Michigan. His father, a farmer, had never set a trap. However, the hills were roamed by fox and the farm ponds and streams were inhabited by mink, muskrat, and raccoon. One of Herb's uncles was a proficient part-time trapper. After continuous pleading from Herb, age 6, and his older brother and sister, the uncle finally conceded to show them how to make a muskrat set. Each one was given a small trap nailed to a board for a float, smeared with uncle's "Special Lure," and told to stake them back at the pond and not return until morning. Herb, not being able to sleep all night, raced to the pond at the crack of dawn. There on his float he could see some brown fur. Charging through the water to the float, he couldn't believe his eyes. The anticipated muskrat was a mink. Imagine the excitement of a 6-year-old, running to his uncle's farm with this news. Herb described this incident many times throughout his life, saying "I decided right then and there I was going to become a professional trapper!"
The mink was sold, more traps were purchased, and the uncle had Herb on his doorsteap every free moment after school requesting further instructions. The uncle told him, "You become a proficient mink trapper and I will teach you fox trapping when you are 12 years old. With this initiative in mind, Herb was a good, student. He listened carefully and was inquisitive about every detail. By age 12 Herb was one of the best mink trappers in the two county area. The uncle kept his word and the fox trapping instructions began. At age 16 Herb was the best fox trapper around.
During this 10 year period, Herb was always intrigued and inquisitive about these bottles of "Special Lures" the uncle had for each animal he trapped. The uncle explained that other trappers in the area all used generally about the same type of bait and that by adding simple essential oils to his bait he increased its appeal, giving him "one up" on the other trappers. This led Herb's inquisitive mind into further lure experimentation. It wasn't long and Herb had created superior complex lures of 12 and more ingredients of oils, tinctures, powders, glands, musks, and food. This continuous experimentation eventually led to Herb's success as one of America's leading animal lure makers.
Herb finished school at age 16. Trapping and lure experimentation was his only love, but times were hard so he worked at many odd jobs and trapped when he could. Scarcity of employment near home sent him to Arkansas and across the plain states to Montana. The traps went wherever he went and valuable trapping and lure making experience was attained from trappers along the way. He learned to trap animals that were not native to Lower Michigan.
Back home again in 1923 at the age of 21, he again out performed all the best mink and fox trappers in his area. Many trappers came to him wanting to buy some of the lure he used. He declined selling any, but gave free samples to some of the better trappers of the area. When the Fall trapping season of 1924 was nearing, they were all back with other trappers wanting to buy some more lure. Realizing this was his opportunity for a "grub stake" to fulfill his dream of being a full time professional trapper, he made large batches for sale to anyone who inquired. He trapped to November 15th, sold his furs and lures, and bought more traps and equipment necessary for the survival of a professional trapper in Michigan's rugged Upper Peninsula. He married his wife, Laura, on November 24, 1924 and they set out for the Upper Peninsula wilderness.
The next 8 years were spent trapping timber wolf, coyote, fox, bobcat, mink, muskrat, beaver, otter, and weasel from remote wilderness trappers' shacks in Chipewa county, coming out only on occasion to the post office, fur buyer, and general store. Word spread quickly from the fur buyer of this successful trapper. Each visit to the post office found more orders for lure from Lower Michigan and inquiries from Upper Peninsula trappers requesting lures and trapping instructions. More batches of lure were made for sale and occasional students were taken for instruction.
Herb was forced to return to civilization in 1933. A son, Edward, born in 1025 was now past school age and couldn't be kept out any longer. A move near the small village of Gulliver was made that year. Being closer to a post office also enabled him to service his ever increasing demand for lures and instructions. He continued trapping professionally, giving instructions, and experimenting with new lure ideas. Corresponding often with Walter Arnold, they shared their trapline experiences. Realizing that professional lures were of little value to the trapper without know-how, Herb wrote his first booklet, Professional Trapline Secrets, in 1933.
Michigan instituted a high paying bounty system on coyote and timber wolf in 1936. This brought depression starved trappers out by the droves. Herb's notoriety spread rapidly through the old American Trappers when he bountied 48% of all coyotes and timber wolves from his district. Soon trappers from all over the Midwest were requesting lures, booklets, and personal trapping instruction.
The bounty system was discontinued in 1937 to be replaced by a state trapper system through the Department of Conservation. Herb was promptly contacted by the Department and asked to train other state trappers and farmers to handle their own predation of livestock by wolves and coyote. He accepted, and was soon made, supervisor of the Department. The bounty system was reinstituted in 1939 and Herb was asked to stay in the state employ as a conservation officer.
A son, Herb Jr., was born in 1940 and another son, Asa, in 1942. Herb wanted to return to full time professional trapping, trapping instruction, and expand his lure business so he could raise his latest two sons in the trapping profession and art of lure making. He gave his resignation to the Department of Conservation in 1942. He promptly began to write a complete library of trapping books he felt would instruct anyone who would study them seriously. Completed in 1944, 15,000 copies were sold throughout the years. They were The Secrets of Successful Trapping (Wolf, Coyote, Fox & Bobcat), Mink & Muskrat Trapping, Beaver& Otter Trapping, Raccoon - Skunk & Weasel Trapping, Bounty Den Hunting, and 25 Professional Lure Formulas. None were reprinted after the first editions were sold out.
Herb's reputation as a trapper, animal lure maker, and expert trapping instructor was now growing by leaps and bounds. Orders and requests for lures, books, trapping supplies, and personal trapping instructions flooded in from every State, Canadian Province, Alaska, and several foreign countries. This did not phase his first love, trapping. He continued to operate long professional traplines each and every year, and continued to experiment with new animal lure ideas, saying "No trapper will ever live long enough to have learned all there is to know."
Herb loved the outdoors, nature, and the animals. He always maintained that no trapper would be very successful who did not respect wildlife and live in harmony with nature. He generally kept wild animals in pens for experimentation and urine collection, and some were tamed as house pets. He would sometimes talk to the animals for long periods of time and could generally tame the wildest ones this way. He especially had a fondness for the coyote which he termed "almost human."
Herb also had a special feeling for the trapper, always referring to trappers as "the salt of the earth" and "the world's best, most honest group of people." He believed the trappers closeness to nature was responsible for such "good people." For this reason, Herb took a particular interest in the young trapper. He once retorted to an anti-trapper who was giving him hell for teaching her young nephew to trap. "Lady, I would much rather see every young man leaning on an oak tree with a trap in his hand, than on an oak bar, drunk, with a beer in his hand." Herb never refused to help or answer questions for the young trapper. Even after long hard days on the trapline and long hours in the lure shed in the busiest season, the typewriter cracked hours into the night, night after night, answering trapping questions asked by what he called "his young trapper friends." Herb wrote countless helpful trapping instruction articles for such trapping publications as Fur-Fish-Come, The Trappers World, and The National Trappers Digest. He also wrote the question & answer column for The Trappers World. Herb never shirked his responsibility to perpetuate trapping for future generations. Lots of time, effort, and money were spent throughout his life to fight the anti-movements. Having once worked for the Department of Conservation gave credence to his testimony before Michigan legislators and conservation officials and his opinions were sought and respected.
Herb's 52 year trapping career ended in 1960 when he suffered a disabling stroke which left him speech impaired and paralyzed on one side of his body. Herb never lost his keen interest in trapping, trappers, or the continuation of his animal lure business throughout the remaining years of his life. He passed away August 11, 1979 at the age of 77. His loyal wife, Laura, an expert trapper herself who tread thousands of miles with him on the trapline, passed away a short time later. The animal lure business is being carried on by their son, Asa.
Upon knowledge of Herb's passing, a touching amount of letters and sympathy cards arrived from trappers everywhere. One trapper and 30 year lure customer from the State of Washington who had never met Herb personally, summed it up in one short paragraph, "I was very saddened to hear about the passing of the grand old trapper, Herb Lenon. He leaves an empty spot in our hearts."
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