STEUBENVILLE - His sisters call him "Frontier Boy."
Fourteen-and-a-half-year-old Gabe Nelson doesn't mind the nickname. He just enjoys the outdoors.
"I do all of this stuff out in the woods," said Nelson of Steubenville. "I like to be outside. In the woods I like to watch animals."
YOUNG HUNTER’S BOUNTY — Fourteen-year-old trapper Gabe Nelson, second from right, is shown with his bounty from the 2010-11 season. Also shown are Gabe’s assistants, brothers , from left, Max, Dominic and Jake.
One way he studies animals is by trapping them on the 120-acre farm his family lives on. Nelson also loves to hunt and prepare animal skins for tanning.
Nelson traps a variety of wild animals, including fox, raccoon, groundhog, coyote and mink. He also prepares the hides for display and to sell.
Nelson does get some help from his siblings (four sisters and three brothers) and parents, Mark and Gretchen. But, Nelson usually works the traplines by himself.
Nelson's bounty over the last three years has included about 25 coyotes, two mink and several foxes and raccoons. "We only got three coyotes this year. They're wising up to us. Last year we got 10 and six the year before," Nelson said.
According to the young trapper, this season he got a late start due to warmer weather in the region. For coyotes though, it's open season all year round, so Nelson said he'll keep trying.
Nelson traps the animals with foot hold traps and snares.
He learned the skills from his dad, who also trapped animals as a youngster. Nelson said a few years ago he trapped some groundhogs around the family barn by himself and since then has been walking the traplines solo.
Nelson said he recalls one funny story from his young trapping days. One day last year he was sick and couldn't make his trapline round so his dad and one sister took over. An afternoon run resulted in one wily coyote getting loose, and it began dragging the foot hold and chain around the farm. "You could hear it clanking in the woods," Nelson said. "And after that we would hear him wandering around the farm, but we never did get him."
When Nelson is not trapping he said he loves to hunt deer, turkey, squirrel and raccoon. His prize deer was a nice 14-point buck taken with a 20-gauge shotgun last season on opening day. He also tans his own hides to keep around the house and sells them at two local festivals - the Ohio Valley (Fort Steuben) Frontier Days and Medieval Festival at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
"I get a booth at the festivals and sell wood swords, shields and skins. My dad helps me make the swords and shields," said Nelson. He saves some of the money from profits of sales and buys more traps and snares for trapping as needed.
Something that surprises him at local festivals is many people don't know what the different animal skins and furs look like.
"They have no idea," Nelson said. And he has no problem advising others about the pelts. "I like to talk to people about the different animals," he said.
Nelson said he'd like to run heavy equipment when he gets older, "and work on machinery." Right now he's home-schooled and spends no time playing video games.
"No video games. I like it outside. I guess it's good parenting," said Nelson.
Mark Nelson said all of his "bigger kids are hunters, fishers and love the outdoors."
The "Frontier Boy" just loves it a little more.