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Trapper, beekeeper, saw mill operator - Jim is a jack of all trades

In this edition of Fishing in the North, David Reid talks to trapper (and more) Jim Gibb
2019-02-01 Jim Gibb
Photo courtesy of Jim Gibb

I came across a video from a former Timmins resident, Jim Gibb, while checking my Facebook account last weekend. Some of you may remember Jim as a past contributor to some of my articles relating to the outdoors or his work with the Timmins Fur Council.

After watching his two videos, I loved his idea of teaching others through his knowledge and experiences in the great outdoors while living in the north.

Although Jim was currently in Ottawa on business, he was kind enough to find some time to answer some questions about why he decided to make some videos on trapping, beekeeping, portable saw mills and other outdoor activities.

Here is a little background on Jim’s journey in the outdoors over the years and what viewers can expect to learn from his YouTube videos.

Q: How long did you live in Timmins before moving to North Bay?

A: I was born and raised in Timmins (and) moved to North Bay in 2005 for work. I still consider Timmins my hometown, planning on moving back in a couple more years.

Q: What year did you start trapping? What reason/s that lead you to become a trapper?

A: I started trapping in 1979. At first I would tag along with my best friend whose father was a trapper. His name was Eddie Vien. Every Saturday morning during the winter, Eddie would pick me up at the end of our driveway on Dalton Road. We would spend the day checking traps and making new sets. Eddie trapped with his brother Vic. Their trapline was in Enid Township. Today I trap the trapline just north of that trapline in Fortune Township. Growing up beside the Vien family was a great experience. Both Eddie and Vic were the hardest working men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Q: What past and current titles have you held over the years relating to trapping?

A: I first became involved with the Timmins Fur Council starting out as a member then eventually became the president. The Timmins Fur Council was always a very active group, one of the most active trapping council’s in the whole province. To this day, I am very proud of this organization and what they have accomplished over the years. One of the most interesting projects was the reintroduction of sturgeon to the upper part of the Mattagami River system.

Becoming a trapping instructor for the province of Ontario was also a highlight for me working with Bill Russel, Larry Courville and Larry Reeve, teaching trapping courses to new trappers who wanted to become licensed trappers. All three of those men were very dedicated individuals who deserve a lot of credit for efforts.

I have been very lucky to have been able to travel across most of Canada sharing my experience, knowledge and skills on trapping. I have travelled to just about every community in the NWT, Yukon and many places in Nunavut teaching fur handling and learning methods from other trappers.

I spend 20 years being involved with FHA in North Bay. Today I am involved with NAFA in Toronto where I sit on their board of directors. This company does almost $300 million in gross fur sales a year. NAFA is the second largest fur auction house in the world. One of the major accomplishments I have had there was working with the NAWFSC on producing fur handling videos. We just released the third video this month on YouTube in both English and French. This video details the proper way to handle both fox and coyotes.

I am also involved with the Fur Institute of Canada. This organization is a round table of the fur trade in Canada. One of their primary functions has been testing traps.

Canada is recognized as the world leader in trap research and development. I was the very first trapper to be the chairperson for the Trap Research Committee, a personal milestone for me. I have been involved with the FIC for more than 20 years as a director and have chaired just about every committee. This past year at our June AGM in Kelowna, B.C., I was honoured to be the elected chairperson for the FIC for the next two years.

Q: Have you been involved with any MNRF programs or research programs over the years?

A: While I lived in Timmins as a member of the Timmins Fur Council, we were involved with a number of projects – walleye spawning beds, fish stocking, wood duck nesting boxes, sturgeon relocation. One project the council still does is their annual clean-up. It's both disappointing and rewarding at the same time. Disappointing to see the disrespect that some people have for the environment but on the other hand very rewarding to see the effort the local trappers put in cleaning up the mess.

Q: How long have you been trapping, a beekeeper, and running your own home saw mill?

A: I have had my own registered trapline since 1983 in Fortune Township. I have always been fascinated by the renewable, low impact to the land that trapping has. No other industry in Canada has a 400-year history. One of the most powerful statements that I have ever read was by the Quebec Cree of the James Bay area. They have lived there for more then 10,000 years and never changed the landscape, hunting, fishing and trapping. I ask you what other industry can make that claim?

My only imprint on my trapline is my camp – 16 feet by 20 feet in over 30 years. I have harvested fur every year without changing the land.

I started keeping bees five years ago. Honey bees are very interesting and there is much to learn about them. I consider myself to be a novice beekeeper and have learned that there is no such thing as free bees. For me, keeping bees is in part about taking care of the environment and producing honey that has many health benefits. I am fascinated by how the bees collectively work together centred around the one queen bee.

I learned from my late father-in-law, Fred Dubory, how to saw logs on his bandsaw mill. Taking round logs and milling them into usable wood. When Fred passed away, he left me his mill and I still mill wood to this day. Again, this fits with my nature to be self-sufficiant using a renewable product. I planted about 100 White Spruce trees on my lot about 25 years ago and it is amazing to me to see how much those trees have grown. I will be able to cut some of these trees in the next few years to thin out the stand and make lumber from them. How cool is that?

Every year things grow, whether it is fur bearers like beaver and marten, honey from the bees or trees that grow into lumber. Being able to use sustainable resources in a renewal way keeping conservation in the wise use is for me a guiding principle that I live my life by.

Q: What made you decide to start your own YouTube channel?

A: I just recently launched a YouTube channel to showcase how we, as rural people, live our lives. I am very disappointed by how people are portrayed by others who don’t understand trapping, hunting, fishing, gathering blueberries/berries in general, making maple syrup, cutting logs in to lumber, beekeeping along with all the different activities that folks do and take for granted over the course of a year. My plan is to showcase what we do and how we do it so that those who are interested can see for themselves.

I am hoping to put a human face to our activities to show how rural people care and cherish the land we live on and all the bounty it offers.

Q: What can people expect from your trapping videos?

A: I am hoping, with the help of my daughter, to share my knowledge that I have gained in over 50 plus years of living in the north, whether it’s animal tracks or behaviours, trees, or birds. In order to be successful as a trapper, you have to be a keen observer. That is (primarily) what I want to share. A year from now, folks can look back at my channel and be able to tell me how I have done.

Q: After watching your trapping videos, can viewers head out and set up their own traps and snares?

A: In order to legally trap in Ontario, you first have to take a mandatory 40-hour trapper education course by a qualified provincial trapping instructor. Courses are hands-on training with a written exam and an in-field test. Andy Chartrand is one of the local instructors in the Timmins area who teaches the course. You have to have your gun license and hunting outdoors as a pre-requisite before you can take the trapping course. In my videos, I hope to share my trapping experiences and try to include practical tips and suggestions on how to trap.

Q: How long have you been a beekeeper?

A: For the last five years, I have been keeping bees, but consider myself to be only a beginner. Working with honey bees is not easy or simple. Starting out, it is a sharp learning curve and not cheap. I do find it very rewarding on a personal level. I can spend hours during the summer watching the bees work, checking to see what flowers they are working. Beekeeping really opened my eyes to another level of learning about our environment and what plants bloom during different times of the year. For example, dandelions are considered a weed by most people but in fact are a critical flower for springtime for the bees. The nectar and the pollen provide a key source of food in the springtime to boost the bee colony.

Q: What can viewers expect to learn from your beekeeping videos?

A: My plan is to show hive inspections right on through the season from spring until honey harvest time and winter feeding preparation.

Q: Can anyone become a beekeeper?

A: Anyone can keep bees, but you need a place to keep them that has room and available food sources. Also check your local bylaws. Some areas have restrictions on the locations. If you are interested in keeping bees, I highly recommend you start out by joining a local bee club and before you start, take a bee course. I belong to two bee clubs, one in Powassan and another in Guelph. Also, read as many books on the subject as you can, plus there are some good resources on the internet. I will leave you with this – one lesson I have learned there is no such thing as free bees!

Q: What are some of benefits of being a beekeeper besides having honey?

A: Bees are critical for our food supply as bees pollinate food crops. I highly recommend that people do a little research on bees and their importance to us. I also highly recommend that you support local beekeepers by buying their honey and other products that bees produce. Unpasteurized honey is full of local pollens which can really help people who suffer from some allergies. A teaspoon as day of locally produced honey can really help you.

Q: Do you need a permit or license to be a beekeeper? (if they do, where can they go to get one)

A: I would start by joining a local bee club they will help you learn about the bees and beekeeping rules. Besides provincial and local laws, you also have to deal with black bears in the North. Start with this website.

Q: What made you decide to do videos on portable saw mills?

A: Later on as I develop my YouTube channel, I want to show people how to make lumber from trees. I think it is really important for urban people to know what a finished product was before they bought it. Today, many people do not understand or make the connection between what they use in their everyday lives and what that product was before they use it. For example, we all use tissue paper everyday, well what was that before you flush it away? It came from a tree at one point.

Q: What will viewers learn from them?

A: To start with, I just want to show basic milling, taking a round tree and making flat planks. Just like trapping or beekeeping, there is way more to it then just cutting down a tree.

Q: What permits do you need to run your own saw mill?

A: I have been fortunate to have access to private property for a wood source and my activities are very minor. I only mill logs for myself. There are many rules and regulations about harvesting wood that a person must follow and respect. My angle will be just to show cutting logs at a small scale and what is involved in the process.

I hope viewers will enjoy my YouTube channel. My personal goal is to put a human face to many of the things we do as a regular seasonal activity. For now, it will be mainly about trapping because that is the season we are in. Come spring, I plan on making one video on maple syrup, beekeeping, cutting firewood.

Living in the north is more than just trapping hunting and fishing. My goal is to share this.

If you would like to learn more on any of these actives, I encourage you to visit Jim’s YouTube channel and become a subscriber. Like the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.”