WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 19, 2011, 09:56 AM

Art of beaver skinning passed on to a new generation

Becker County, Minn. (WDAY TV) - It's what brought the first Europeans of our area; beaver pelts. Now the skill of skinning those beavers is dying, but as Rob Kupec tells us a Becker county woman has found a new generation to pass her knowledge on to.

Catherine Bachman was introduced to trapping animals by her husband.

CATHERINE BACHMAN - Champion Skinner: “When my husband and I went on our first date, he was a trapper. I always said when you go on a date with a trapper and he takes you out digging fox holes out you know you’re in trouble.”

When they learned they could make more money by skinning what they trapped, Catherine took it up.

CATHERINE BACHMAN - Champion Skinner: “We had just built a house and we needed kitchen cupboards. I skinned over six thousand muskrats at 6 cents a rat to put my kitchen cupboards in.”

One year while attending a fur auction in Canada, someone suggested she compete in the timed beaver skinning. She's competed now 6 times in the women's division and 6 first places to show for it.

CATHERINE BACHMAN - Champion Skinner: “One year they put me in the men's division and my beaver was a lot bigger than theirs. I came in third. I only missed first place by a couple of minutes on that.”

Age and less skinning recently are catching up to her.

“I've slowed down this year. I'm two minutes slower than I was three years ago.”

But now Catherine has a protégé. Amber Pausch went along with Catherine to this year’s event because she interested in sewing pelts.

AMBER PAUSCH - New Skinner: “She was introducing me to someone and she said you know Amber doesn't know this but she's going to compete this weekend.

With some coaching by her master and mentor Amber took second in the competition on her first try. So now this skill from the past will be taken up by another generation and carried on. And while these two find skinning relaxing in the same way others do knitting or crocheting there is one down side to their hobby.

“I took my jeans out of the drier and I could still smell beaver on them.”