Skye Goode Shares Her Love of Wisconsin Furs, Trapping
Skye Goode of rural Neillsville, Wisconsin, paused and weighed her answer, and then asked her own question: “Will you think I’m arrogant if I say yes?”
Goode, 31, was pondering whether fur trappers are the most savvy hunters roaming Wisconsin’s marshes, woodlots, forests and waterways.
Without waiting for an answer, Goode explained why she thinks skilled trappers are the most observant, obsessed, knowledgeable, well-rounded, and hardest working outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, no matter where they live.
“You have to know every furbearer and their habitats so well that you can get them to step on that one little spot in the woods that triggers your trap,” Goode said. “That’s so hard to do. The care and maintenance of each trap, and the details and information you need for making a good set; it never ends. I probably overthink it.”
Goode, a single mother, lives in the heart of the Clark County Forest with her sons Rene, 4, and Jackson, 10; and a menagerie of animals: a beagle, two collies, two housecats, two ranch foxes, four goats, six domestic rabbits, 12 free-range chickens, and a corn snake that mostly keeps to itself.
She works full-time for Clark County as a mental-health case manager, and routinely starts her autumn and winter days before dawn so she can check her traplines before punching in for her 8-to-5 job. After work and dinner, she often spends her nights helping her kids with homework; and then skinning, fleshing, stretching or sewing pelts.
All that work qualifies Goode to compare hunting, fishing and trapping skills. She grew up hunting and fishing around Neillsville. Her parents’ idea of daycare was letting her spend her summer days on riverbanks, where she fished, played in the sand, or arrowed carp with her bow. As an only-child she often learned skills and practiced on her own, but more often she tagged along with her mother, father, uncles and grandfather who hunted, fished and trapped.
These days, whether she’s heading into town for groceries or bouncing down icy roads to check her trapline, Goode constantly assesses tracks in nearby fields and woodlots.
“Trappers have to know what made every track they see,” she said. “When I’m driving around, I can tell what made a track from 100 yards away. And when I walk up on a set, I’m studying the tracks to learn why an animal walked around my trap or cable-restraint. You have to study those misses and learn from each one.”
Goode got serious about trapping about 10 years ago after coyotes devoured a buck she shot before she could find it. She was living near Barron at the time after graduating from UW-Stout, and quickly learned revenge does nothing to boost trapping success.
“I set traps for three months and never caught one coyote,” she said. “I never thought about giving up. I joined the Wisconsin Trappers Association to learn all I could about it. Larry Boettcher in Rice Lake taught me even more. I spent an entire day learning from him. After that, catching coyotes clicked. It suddenly became easier.”
Goode also took up turkey hunting in her early 20s, and says nothing compares to it for fun, excitement and challenge. She lives near the boundary of Wisconsin’s turkey-hunting zones 1, 3 and 4, and doesn’t quit buying left-over tags each spring until the season ends.
Even so, Goode is far better known for her trapping skills. She is a certified trapping instructor for Wisconsin’s mandatory trapper-education program, and manages the WTA’s social-media accounts. She also has her own YouTube channel, which has 11,000 subscribers. Her YouTube trapping videos have racked up 8.9 million views so far worldwide.
All that attention has its curses, of course. Anti-trappers often attack her with mean messages, which she blocks and ignores; while fellow trappers often talk down to her, which she accepts or deflects.
“It’s always interesting,” Goode said. “My harshest critics are often trappers and hunters. If I’m trying to trap fishers but catch a bobcat, they’ll accuse me of targeting bobcats. And when I post a video to teach people how to safely release a bobcat, they’ll criticize the shield I use, and tell me how to improve it, as if I had never thought about it.”
Goode also proves it’s still possible to make money trapping furs, even though they’re not as valuable as 40 years ago. She moonlights as a fur-hat maker with her Bearfoot Furs business (http://skyegoode.blogspot.com/2016/04/bearfoot-furs.html), hand-sewing each hat from a customer’s furs or those she trapped herself. She’s made enough hats to know instantly how many pelts she’ll need from each furbearer species to make each design.
She laughs when asked how she finds time to hand-sew hats, given all her other obligations. “It helps that I’m kind of a hermit,” she said. “I’ll usually sew after dinner while my boys and I are in the living room, reading books and doing homework. I can sew anywhere. I hate wasting time. I’ll sew while waiting in a blind, sitting in a hospital’s waiting room, or watching my sons’ games or practices. I was a three-sport athlete in high school,. I still like playing catch or basketball, but I’m not a good spectator.”
Above all, Goode strives to help others understand trapping and appreciate furs, especially girls and women. She said females are more likely to take classes when she’s the instructor, and so she teaches whenever possible.
And she’s not deterred when fellow hunters and trappers criticize her educational videos.
“They often say I shouldn’t post anything about trapping, or that I should never share a photo or video of an animal in a trap,” Goode said. “They think images of a trapped animal hurts trapping, even though I’m sharing information we teach at WTA seminars and school presentations.
“I think we need to be transparent,” she continued. “If we hide what we’re doing, people conjure up assumptions and repeat myths. My videos prove animals in foot-hold traps don’t chew off a leg. Foot-hold traps let you release animals to run away. We need to explain the truth about trapping every chance we get, and share the beauty of what we catch.”
Skye Goode inspects a rack of red fox pelts in her home near Neillsville, Wisconsin.
— Patrick Durkin photos
Fur hats are small enough to be sewn together nearly anywhere you must wait.
Skye Goode spends many hours in her basement during cold snaps to skin and stretch pelts from furbearers she traps.
SkyeGoode,BearfootFurs: Skye Goode hand sews a variety of fur hats for her Bearfoot Furs business. — Submitted photo