High-Volume Coon, 2012 StyleBy
The older we get, the faster time passes by. Now I realize we have a long ways to go and a lot of time to get there between now and next season’s land trapping opener for coon. But that doesn’t mean we can wait until last minute to get things properly planned and in order by then :)
At this moment in time, even while in the midst of actively trapping this season, I’m already planning for next season to come. First of all, I’m focused on a major push for muskrats next season. Regardless of pelt prices or anything else, if weather conditions and widespread populations permit, I’m shooting for two thousand muskrats stretched & dried in 2112-13 season. Thru some parts of this country (and Canada) 2,000 muskrats trapped would be no big deal. Here in the east, in New York state it will take a well-planned, efficient and herculean effort. To make it happen, I need to skim a number of locations while working amongst other trappers on mostly public water areas. So that’ll require a fair bit of travel time to and from some of the locations I’m researching now.
Incidental mink come with the concentrated efforts on muskrats. Beaver (and otter in the open zones) come along with the territory when it’s not much extra time & effort involved to set for them. So that goes along with the overall lofty muskrat goal I currently have in mind. My work schedule keeps me occupied from roughly 5am est thru late morning, most days. I can shuffle my schedule on certain days where season openers and/or weather patterns dictate, but by & large I am not free to run land lines from first light in the morning onward.
Land line trapping seasons in this part of my state open at the end of October and run thru Feb 15th of the following calendar year. Along with that comes archery, firearms and blackpowder seasons for deer. The primetime archery period for mature bucks (in particular) overlaps the land trapping season in my zone. That leaves me with too many choices and too little time for everything. I need to prioritize my free time, and commit to that pursuit whatever it will be.
It’s been a long while since I’ve long-lined for coon, and I won’t be able to run 100% full-day operations for weeks on end this time around. But I can manage some efficient, part-time efforts that will scratch the proverbial itch of piling up ringtails.
My own immediate area here is in the midst of a years’ long bout with some strain(s) of distemper disease outbreaks. Several years ago, our coon and gray fox population got pretty much wiped out, for the most part. Just this season I began to see a return of real coon populations, a return of beaten-down paths and trails that can only happen when solid numbers of animals pad the same course. And wouldn’t you know it… a resurgence of that disease swept thru and left staggering and/or dead raccoons seemingly everywhere late fall.
With the combination of a morning work schedule and sketchy coon population here in my immediate area, I probably have to venture out a ways from home to find good numbers of animals. But that can’t happen on a regular basis until late morning or midday start thru dark. So I’d much prefer to have my catches already dispatched and waiting for me rather than held in footholds of whatever kind.
Early coon trapping here is limited to dry land locations at least twenty-five feet from any permanent body of water, measured from its high water flow until water season opens a month later. By the time I’m off coon and onto muskrats, which negates use of waterline set locations, drowning rig setups, etc for early coon work. My choices for operating lines will be highway setting where legal and available, private ground with cornfields and/or woods, and float trips along rivers where high bank trail zones are far enough from waterlines to set. I can secure enough permission for either approach to provide more than enough locations to manage in season.
Dog-proof (DP) style traps have their place for specialty use, but my overall coon trapping approach will center on baited sets using #160 size bodygrip traps. That is the best compromise for getting a late start on daily checks, keeping catches secured and discreet, targeting coon at key locations without limiting myself to blind trail sets only.
Baited bodygrip setups within legal limits here in New York are designed to avoid domestic non-target catches, first and foremost. The old-school style of setting baited buckets or box cubbies with #220s on land are no longer legal, and in my personal opinion not a good choice anywhere near suburbia at all.
Whether legal or not, we trappers have a primary responsibility to this sport of working in harmony with the general public. It is a statistical fact that most people out there in the general public have a neutral stance on hunting and trapping. They can objectively see all sides of a discussion, they are open to positive aspects and facts. It is solely up to us, each of us and all of us to hold ourselves accountable to highest standards of operation with consideration for this majority of general public in mind.
For me personally, the #220 size bodygrip trap is no longer a viable primary option on land. My area of the state is too populated, too fragmented of ownerships and too well-traveled by people for comfortable use of the bigger bodytraps. Nor are they necessary, either. We are free to use them in dogproof sets as regulated in the NYS DEC link above. I personally choose to work with the smaller #160 style, 6″ opening traps for the vast majority of my coon work instead. They offer a solid compromise of non-target resistant and rapid, humane dispatch of targeted catch species in equal fashion.
So the past is gone, the future lies ahead. I’ve caught enough coon in blind trail sets and baited box sets to know that 6″ size bodyrips handle all size coon extremely well. Blind trail sets with the 160 traps do meet more resistance, experience more rejection = avoidance than the 220 size frames. But the vast majority of my coon trapping will not be sets in blind trails. That style of operation requires solid populations to work with, extensive scouting to locate active trails, selective setting to avoid non-target catch potential.
My personal limitations for part-time rolling mandate minimal scouting and maximum set location preparations. Like most trappers out there with job, career and family obligations, it’s simply not possible to dedicate 13 – 14 hours daily from preseason until well past the opener for stringing steel. So I’m going to work hard AND smart in ultra-efficient manner. That includes construction of legal-use boxes and buckets within the parameters of my state regulations. It also includes preseason placement of those containers along with prebaiting efforts to establish coon traffic ahead of time.
At this point in time I’m gathering buckets with lids from various restaurant outlets, which will be cut to fit and painted or dipped in camoflauge colors my mid-summer. Those type of containers stack well and transports easily in bulk for water lines.
I’m also going to construct a bunch of wooden boxes made from hemlocl rough cut and/or slabwood materials. Hemlock wood is the naturally rot-resistance species available in my area. I can get piles of slabwood for next to nothing, and milled slabwood custom cut for reasonable cost. Those are for the set locations I consider semi-permanent, high coon traffic and low-profile visibility. They also double as effective mink setups once water season comes in.
The prebaiting efforts will be mostly waste fish and fish scraps, along with other natural foods. One of my summertime passions is bowfishing for carp, so that gives me a convenient excuse to float the local shallows all summer poking holes in big bronze scales. Because I’ll run 48 to 120 active coon sets at times, a lot of bait is going to be required. In the past I made my own concoction based on ground fish and apples base, with a bunch of other critter goodies blended in. The results are killer attraction for coon and canines alike… along with the usual possums and skunks. Trappers who use small amounts of bait are often better served to buy their own. Big quantities are a different story.
We’ll be sure to chronicle the process here from set container construction to scouting and placement, prebaiting and game camera scouting, traps preparation – setting – catch management. From start to finish. Hopefully the end result will be some lessons shared and good times experienced along a high-production coon line soon to come :)