Trapper Bob was born in 1935 and raised in Wilmington Massachusetts. Young Bob’s dad was a carpenter by trade and a fur trapper out of necessity. There were many lean times and carpenters were generally unemployed for much of the winter in an era before all the modern government safety net programs now in place. In fact with all the changes in construction technology, carpenters seldom have as significant a seasonal slowdown. Today’s construction activity cycles with the economy much more than the seasons. For the Westcott family living in Massachusetts circa 1943, trapping was a seasonal necessity that put an interesting variety of protein on the dinner table and produced a meager cash flow in an era of twenty-five cent muskrat pelts. It was during this era, that eight-year-old Bob Westcott began the life long journey of becoming and being a trapper. This was an era before formal Trapper Education programs, when friends and family played a most significant part in teaching and mentoring. So it was that Bob met the country trapper Proctor Hammon, while along during a trip with his dad to a construction project in Candia, New Hampshire. Proctor took a shine to the carrot topped nine-year old boy, so interested in trapping, and shared much experience learned from his years of running traps for furbearers. During his youth many had taken to calling the boy Red. Perhaps there are many who crossed his path as the trapper who knew him buy no name other than Red. By thirteen, Bob had taken his first mink, which was a milestone for the youth as it is for many trappers alike. The ethics expressed by his mentor Mr. Hammon and those of his father would define the boy who would one day be a father and grandfather of trappers himself. During his adult years to come, Bob would be just as committed when passing his knowledge or sincere concern for wildlife and the environment on to the next two generations of Westcotts. Bob had seasonally trapped with his dad all during his youth but hung up the traps during the formative years of his own young and growing family. This is a pattern experienced by many trappers when due to the requirements of life, an avocation is set aside. Often after many years and changing circumstances the individual may find another opportunity to once again choose the commitment required of a trapline. The Westcotts had three sons and a daughter. It was during these early years of the growing Westcott clan, with three small boys to look after and a daughter not yet born, that Bob and wife Dolores moved the family to Nashua New Hampshire in 1963. Each son would take a turn on the trapline with dad learning the art and craft of trapping, along with the ethics and concern of an outdoorsman who was passionate about the value of trapping as a means to manage furbearer populations and the important position a trapper plays in the larger scheme of things. All three sons are now regular fur trappers, tempered only by circumstances in life, which do not always allow the level and commitment required to run a trapline. The ethics of a trapper requires that traps be visited daily, that animals be respected, that landowners property be respected and their interests be of your concern, that the resource be conserved, that the game laws be obeyed and understood, and much more. Bob was very outspoken in his love and commitment to ethical trapping, none of his boys will set traps or run a line if they do not have the time and means to do it properly. This is the kind of ideology we work to instill in all trappers, it is the backbone of our modern Trapper Education Program, and is woven throughout the regulations we trappers help to establish and support. The knowledge of right and wrong can be learned in a classroom, plus the skill to determine what is appropriate with varying conditions can be further developed over time. Ethics is how one with knowledge chooses when no one is watching. Learning good ethical behavior, or the will to do what is right, starts in the family.
We will continue our story referring to the main character, Robert Westcott Senior, as Bob. Though a natural outdoor lifestyle beckoned the trapper, thoughts and inclinations had been repressed. Now comes the first of three sons, all of whom would develop an interest in trapping, but each in his own time. Around 1975 the oldest son of the same name whom we will call Bobby, began to ask an increasing number of questions about the old traps hanging in the shed along with various other related inquires. “How do you catch a beaver?” “What kind of animal could you catch with this trap?” “What does a fisher look like?” “Have you ever been scratched by a mountain lion?” “Does it hurt to get sprayed by a skunk?” “Will you take me trapping?” Young son Bobby turned over the rock, which revealed the truth of his father, and released his true spirit. And so it was, that Bob was drawn back into the lifestyle he had loved so much during his youth.
It was a rapid escalation in effort to make up for those seasons missed, and provide maximum quality time to be shared between a father and son on the trapline. The territory expanded rapidly beyond Nashua to take in Amherst, Hollis, Litchfield, Milford, Merrimack, and Londonderry. Bob and his oldest son set traps for all legal furbearers that were in season except for otter. Occasionally they would take an otter in a beaver set, but Bob would not target them. Bob considered otter entertaining and often enjoyed their antics when out in nature. Bob also had a soft spot for the gray fox, since there did not seem to be many in his area. So gray fox were safe from this trapper and his sons who were instructed to turn them loose unharmed when occasionally they would be caught in a set intended for the red fox or coyote. Bob pulled all the stops to allow his oldest son the trapping lifestyle and they ran steel together for ten years until employment required Bobby to move away. Long before Bobby needed to focus on making his mark in the world number two son Mike, and number three son Donald, were also running traps with dad. Soon the daughter Robin dragged home her man Mike Makela. Darned if the new son-in-law didn’t also need mentoring so he could know and enjoy the trapper lifestyle. Bob just kept continuing to expand his trapping related activities. He got involved with the New Hampshire Trappers Association becoming a Director and volunteering much time and effort toward the organization’s activities. He like many trappers slowly drifted into helping folks with problem critters during the off-season. Starting with beaver, coons, and skunks, soon there was much work with bats and problem squirrels. Just when things could have slowed down, along comes Mike Westcott’s son Joshua who wanted his fair share of Grandpa’s time on the trapline. Joshua was the fourth generation of this trapping clan, with three generations often together to run the traps or attend a trapping event. Joshua started trapping with Grandpa Bob when he was just six years old and stuck by his side until the last trapline played out. Bob’s partner in marriage and family was Dolores who predeceased him by a short period. Bob took his wife’s death very hard and was long to show signs of recovering. The life force had left him and the desire to run traps or carry on was in jeopardy. Slowly with the passing of time Bob began to recover his interest and energy when without notice a heart attack took him on January 23, 2001
All three sons continue to run traps when circumstances allow. The son-in-law Mike Makela continues to operate and expand the animal damage control trapping business started by Bob and also took over for him as a NH Trappers Association Director from Hillsboro County. Grandson Joshua continues the family tradition by expanding his trapping activities also. Thanks to Bob, all the boys know what ethical trapping is and carry on with his spirit always there beside them. Bob will long be remembered when setting traps next to the old beaver dam, when saving animal glands for the next seasons effort, when eating a fine beaver roast. Bill Hall Jr. remembers when he first met Bob in 1964 at his dairy farm in Hollis. There were a lot of pheasant around then and Bob had stopped to ask permission to use his bird dogs on the property. After his first hunt on the property Bob noticed mink sign at the stock watering hole and asked permission to trap. The busy farmer had no idea that such critters were frequenting his property. A few days later the traps held two mink, and a lasting impression was formed of the man so in tune with nature. The author remembers my first long talk with Bob when we both hung out together for a few hours at the 2000 New England Trappers Rendezvous in Bethel Maine. Bob was a soft-spoken gentleman who was a truly friendly individual. Much of what we talked about expressed his lifelong love of trapping and a deep commitment to family and a moral lifestyle learned by and passed on by example. The Directors of the New Hampshire Trappers Association had long worked with Bob toward the benefit of trapping in our state and knew him for the quality and selfless individual that he was. Bob Westcott was posthumously inducted into the New Hampshire Trappers Association Hall of Fame at the 2003 Fall Meeting. This is the highest honor that the small and tightly knit trapping community of New Hampshire can bestow on one of our members. Many knew and have fond memories of Bob Westcott the trapper, and those glimpses which are specific to all who crossed his path through life are something to make his memory special and unique for each. It is hoped that this story may compliment that memory and help it to endure while we await the next meeting with Bob somewhere beyond the edge of the forest.
Four Generations of Westcotts "Pop" his Son Bob Sr., Son Bobby, Infant Joshua
Son Bobby and Dad Bob Sr with 1987 Season Catch at the Shed
Nice Westcott Season
Another View of 87 Catch
Westcott Fur Shed Insulated for Winter
Bob and Grandson Joshua in the Fur Shed circa 1994
Bob With a Season Catch Leaning Against the Red Trooper Trapping Rig
Another Shot of 1999 Season Catch Against the Trooper
The Tradition Lives on With Grandson Joshua,
Son Michael, and Son-in-Law Mike Makela circa 2003
This picture was taken in November of 1980 and shows Bob with his oldest son and the first coyote caught in Nashua by a trapper. Bob Westcott was a significant trapper in his area, a long time Director of the NH Trappers Association, and a very nice, well liked, and respected man. Bob passed away very unexpectedly on January 23, 2001 but his legacy of trapping lives on in three sons, a son in law, and a grandson. With cooperation from is family, the story of Trapper Bob Westcott is being researched, and should soon be available in tribute to his memory.