I grew up in a household full of survivalists; the youngest of three boys. We lived about seven miles from the nearest town, which itself had a population of just over 1,000. We subsisted; my father was theoretically a commercial fisherman, but most of his catch was either consumed by us or traded to neighbors for other goods.
Naturally, I came to learn how to do most of the things one needs to know to live entirely off of the land -- or at least with minimal materials. I learned how to make most things I needed; for example, the only non-natural thing I needed to take a wild animal and turn it into dinner was a pocketknife, for making a bow and arrow and dressing the animal.
It probably won't surprise any of you to learn that I was raised to be a pretty extreme libertarian; leave a person alone if they're not hurting anyone else. We lived by that creed, to the point of growing marijuana and making various home-distilled drinks for trade. The local law enforcement saw my family as more of an amusement than anything and left us to our own ends; of course, I do also have memories of my old man giving the county sheriff a bottle or two of moonshine over the years.
So, I had an unusual background and a lack of legal common sense when I first went off to college; think John-Boy leaving Walton Mountain. I had a good sense of expected behavior, so it wasn't like The Clampetts Go To Maui, but I also had little idea of what exactly was allowed and what was not. I knew that things that hurt other people were wrong, but that was about it.
On my first day on campus, I observed an abundance of tame rabbits running around to the point that you would almost trip over them walking down the sidewalk. I considered this ridiculous, and I also knew that the rabbit fur market was pretty strong at the time; I also knew that I was in sore need of some pocket money.
When I got back to my dorm room that evening, I took out two empty soda cans and a metal cutter and sat down to work.
18thCandidate's Trapping Tip #1: The first reaction that many people have to this story is that a single aluminum can is far too small to catch a rabbit. This is simply not true. All one has to do is strongly attach the trap to a nearby bush and the trap will have more than enough security to hold the rabbit.
The first thing you have to do is cut the top and bottom off of one can and the top off of another, which is easy enough, and then unroll the aluminum sheet that makes up the side of the double-open can. This will be the source of the small pieces you'll need. Essentially, the goal is to trick the rabbit into inserting their paw into the open-ended can, which is set up to appear to have easy entrance, but when they go to remove their paw, the angle of the flaps allowing entrance will not allow their paw to pull back out. If the pop can trap is secured, then the rabbit will be caught, as a rabbit isn't strong enough to break the trap.
18thCandidate's Trapping Tip #2: An intelligent rabbit will stick his paw forward to retrieve food if the rabbit's nose convinces him or her that the food is tasty enough. This surprises many people, who observe rabbits eating much more casually with the food on the ground in front of them.
I bend the four "one way" flaps into place with my metal cutter tips, then stuff some lettuce down into the can. A couple of quick holes and a piece of string through the can and voila! - I'm ready to go secure the can and catch a rabbit.
I built several of these traps and set them out around campus that evening, then early the next morning, I took a walk around to see what I had caught. Each trap had a rabbit in it. I quickly killed them, took them back to my dorm room, dressed them, and left the furs out to dry.
18thCandidate's Trapping Tip #3: Don't expect this trap to work well against wild rabbits or other game. You might get lucky and catch one or two, but more likely an intelligent foe such as a raccoon will show you what sort of neat destruction can happen to such a simplistic trap. These were only successful for me due to the tameness of the rabbits in the population.
On the third day of this, I was spotted in the act of collecting a rabbit by a young woman jogging across campus. She stopped and stared, slack jawed at what I was doing. I looked over at her and calmly collected the rabbit; she ran away from me in complete horror. That was my last successful morning in the trapping business.
On the third night, I had twenty eight pelts hanging in my dorm room, much to the amusement of my roommate, who was quite fond of recreational drug use. My roommate was so taken with this, in fact, that he insisted that he go with me the next morning to see what I did while collecting them. This was a mistake.
18thCandidate's Trapping Tip #4: Trapping is not inhumane, as many people believe; in fact, it is one of the most humane ways of catching an animal. Animals who are easily caught in such traps are caught due to an overpopulation issue; otherwise, they would have an abundance of food and resources available to them and would ignore such a device that smelled of human. Trapping provides a quick and painless end for the animal, rather than a painful life full of starvation and fighting for resources.
The next morning, I started to collect the rabbits as usual, but when I reached the third trap, a police officer was waiting for me. It turns out that I had violated several game and public safety laws, which I knew nothing about. My roommate and I were both arrested and our dorm room searched, but we were released without pressing charges when they realized that I really had no idea that there were any such laws.
18thCandidate's Trapping Tip #5: Be careful when doing this. Many areas have statutes guarding against free trapping of animals, collection of animals, and so forth without a proper permit.
In the end, I merely had to remove all of my rabbit traps and sell my furs as quietly as possible, which was a reasonable agreement. This also began my education into the extent at which law enforcement guides daily life in America, which has reinforced my libertarian philosophy.