Archive for February 12th, 2012

Feb
12

Barrel’s Bottom

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We’ve got three trap checks left to go here in the southern zone of NY State before stakes are pulled until next fall. At least for here, anyways. I’m sitting on a season’s catch of 495 muskrats, and I like my chances of making the even 500 mark by sunset Feb 15th.

They are coming slowly now, from a combination of inclement weather and therefore poor conditions. I can see dozens of fresh, grassy houses within easy walking distance if only the ice were firm enough to hold me. The bottom definitely is not… I’m wrapping up the season in one of those places where an errant step sends my hat floating and oakleys to the bottom forever.

This area was an old dredged strip pit many years ago for the mining of marl clay used in building bricks formation. Some spots the bottom is a foot below and hard clay, while other spots are ten feet down and hidden by a deep layer of decades’ old silt. Open water lets me carefully pick my way around on foot or float it with a canoe. Hard ice and I can walk the top while setting on big bubble runs. But this in-between weather makes neither approach possible.

And that’s been the mode here all winter. We’ve said all there is to say before about this one’s extremely unusual patterns. Now it’s almost in the books and we turn the page to what comes next.

I have some big plans for the trapline next year. I also have an idea, a pre-plan concept in embyronic stage that is way bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. For that to grow from seed to oak in the next eight months, a lot of different variables have to align in place. So I’ll share with you what my plans are when they actually reach the stage of becoming actual plans :)

Looking back on this season almost past, I’m happy to have met an initial personal goal. Not a lot of part-time trappers boarded 500 rats in my part of the state, or maybe any part of the state. Some guys surely did more, many less. Whatever. I only compete with myself and what I’m capable of within my own limitations.

Had I been able to run all-day lines, had I been more prepared with preseason scouting and greater permissions I’d have easily hit the 1,000 rat mark. Had I been fully equipped with twice as many traps and all the right traps along with a flat-bottom boat and 5hp motor, I might have made a run at 1,500 rats. Had I started the season up north for their earlier opener and worked my way thru to the spring season ahead, I might have cracked 2,000 rats.

But I’ll never know for sure, because reality is what it is.

Regardless of fur prices or anything else, I will be well prepared for next season. Matter of fact, I’m already preparing for it now. This year was sort of a surprise, a last-minute whim coupled with permanent change in working hours that permitted more time on the lines than I’ve enjoyed in awhile. Next year will have more free time than that.

While I scrape the bottom of this season’s barrel to amass my own minimal target goal, I have my eyes on a much loftier prize. It’s not for the money, although money would be nice. My future plans ain’t for the glory, I couldn’t care less about contests and competition. My sights for achievement in the year ahead is all about personal discovery. What can I do with four decade’s of trapline experience inside of a body that still has enough youth and vigor left to see things thru.

I’m at a point in life where it’s time to do the things I’ve thought about for too long. Maybe it’s a bucket list from a bucket I don’t expect to kick for a long time to come. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis as I edge ever nearer to the half-century mark. Maybe it’s just a simple fact that it’s time to have fun. Time to enjoy life. Time to do more things that I’d do if money were no object and tomorrow wasn’t promised here on earth.

After all is said & done, is there any other way to live than that?

Tight Chains
Austin

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By: Luke Jackson

I had never targeted beaver solely, so one year I decided I was going to give it a try. A year and a half before I trapped two beavers using a castor mound, but that was the extent of it. With little experience of beaver trapping, I decided I had better read up on the subject. After reading all the old issues of Fur-Fish-Game I had, I felt I was ready to give it a try. But after taking a look in my fur shed I found that I wasn’t as equipped as I’d like to be.

I owned four footholds that would be able to hold and drown a beaver without trouble, so I already had enough of them. After looking at some prices I decided snares would be an economical way to put out quite a few traps without breaking the bank. I decided to buy three dozen beaver snares from a guy in Minnesota. Five days later the UPS man pulled into the drive way with my snares. Then, I read everything I could get my hands on about snaring beaver and otter. It looked pretty complicated at first, but I figured I’d get the hang of it soon enough. A couple nights later I sat on the floor drooling over the 330s listed in the Minnesota Trapline Products catalog. That’s all it took… next morning I was out forking manure in the barn. After saving up enough money to make an order, I bought a half dozen 330s, six ten foot slide wires to drown any beaver that stepped in my footholds, two dozen “pigtail” snare supports and a four ounce jar of “Timber” which is a castor based beaver lure.

A week later I had everything I would possibly need to trap beavers. I talked to my dad about bringing me up to our cabin in Northern Minnesota. My dad is a Forester for a big paper company that has land all over by our cabin. This would be perfect because we could mix the trapping in with work so he did not have to take of a day off. Three days before we were going to head up north me and my brother were driving by a thousand acre swamp that was owned by the state. I had tried trapping beavers out of there last year with no luck. As I was looking out the window I saw to my surprise, a beaver swimming in the ditch! My brother didn’t believe at first, so we pulled a U turn and drove by it again. “Yep, that’s a beaver!” I reported to my brother Zach.

Five minutes later I was home loading the truck up with my traps. A little while later I had my waders on and my hands full of traps! The first area I found was just asking for a snare. It consisted of a trail coming out of the water to some nearby trees. I decided to set it up; I grabbed a snare support, a new snare, and a T-bar stake. The first thing I did was pound the stake in with the snare support attached to it. I hooked up the snare and played with the wire until it was about four inches above the ground and the loop was ten inches wide. I put my head at close to the ground as if a beaver, everything looked to be good. The last thing I did was added some lure three feet behind the snare on a trail, and, for a finishing touch I fluffed up the grass on both sides of the trail and called it good.

My first snare set turned out better than I thought it would. As me and my brother walked down the drainage ditch we found an area were the stream narrowed down a bit, just the perfect with for a 330 conibear. We decided we would set the trap on the way back. We walked maybe another twenty yards upstream to find a “U” shaped inlet on the side of the bank. While I was fitting a 330 into the front of the inlet, my brother walked up with a big grin on his face. Come to find out he found the right side of and eight-point buck antler shed. After a little looking around for the other one with no luck we went back to setting traps. As I was putting the rest of the castor lure on a mud pie I heard a splash. “What was that?” I asked my brother. “Oh, nothing much, just a beaver swimming through the narrow area where we were going to put the trap.” He replied. So, we hurried over to put are trap in place before another one swam through! After we got done popping in that set we headed back towards the truck.

After arriving back at the truck, I saw another beaver. I grabbed a foothold out of the truck and hurried over there to put in a castor mound. Five minutes later the set was ready to rock! We then hopped in the truck and drove fifty yards and put in another set quick because day light was fading. At this area there was a trail leading into some willow brush. Setting this was easy enough: I just put a 330 were it narrowed down. After making sure the bodygrip was half submerged, I put a dab of castor farther up a trail. I collected my gear and headed back to the truck.

On our way back home we stopped at another area to see if it held beaver. Sure enough, there were beaver swimming around. I ran to the truck and got the rest of my traps. The first set we put in this area was a castor mound guarded by a foothold. After putting the slide wire in four foot deep water, my brother and I each grabbed a trap. He headed downstream and I head up stream. I was twenty feet from the lodge when I put my set in, just a 330 guarding a slide. After meeting my brother we packed up and headed to the truck. He told me he put a 330 in a run that was used recently. We both thought the last traps we put in the best traps of the day, but, I guess we’ll find out when we check them tomorrow.

The next day I was antsy to go check the traps. It seemed like a week later by the time my brother got home from work. I had my waders on by the time he put the truck in park. We then loaded the traps and gear into the back of the pickup. Five minutes later we were on our way to check traps. As we pulled up to the first set, I saw that my snare had been messed up. I hopped out of the truck and ran towards my snare. To my surprise, I had caught a skunk. I was happy with my first snared fur bearer though.

After throwing the skunk in the back of the pickup we headed down stream. As we approached are second set I seen the something was different. Sure enough, sitting in the 330 conibear was big ole beaver! It could have been the same beaver we seen here yesterday. As I took the beaver out of the conibear, my brother headed down stream to check the third set. But this one didn’t do so well. I then threw the beaver over my back and we headed down stream. After the two hundred yard walk we got to the pickup. I put the beaver right next to the skunk and headed up stream.

The first set which was a castor mound yielded nothing. But, as I arrived at the second set, we had caught a nice flat tail. I reset the trap and carried my prized possession to the truck. I was happy with are two beavers so far. After a five minute drive we showed up at are second location. I hopped out of the truck and headed towards the beaver lodge. The first place we checked is where we had set the castor mound. I looked at the set and found the trap was missing. I jumped into the creek and walked for the drowning cable. After finding the cable with my hand in icy cold water I pulled on it. Up came a nice two year old beaver.

I pulled the trap and catch to the top of the cable and went to work resetting the trap. As I was doing this my brother was checking his blind set. He had gotten a two year old male also. After resetting the trap I headed towards the last trap of the day. Upon arriving I found it held nothing. We lugged the beavers two hundred-fifty yards to the truck. We had caught four beavers and a skunk. Not bad :)

After a little more trapping I ended my first spring season with fourteen beaver! Next year, I’ll be hitting the rivers as soon as the ice goes off to see if I can get a few more!

Luke Jackson, Minnesota

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Feb
12

Give And Take

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About a year ago now, I was cleaning out my collection of traps in the barn and trying to decide on the fate of some. There were #1 longsprings and #1.75 coils that I hadn’t used for several years and didn’t know if I’d take them afield any time soon.

A couple of guys on Trapperman.com had given away traps to young people just getting started in our sport. I thought that was an excellent idea, and exactly what I was looking for at that time. I proceeded to qualify a few young people and divided what I had to share amongst them. Threw in some books and other goodies for good measure as well.

One of the recipients, Braden Miller in South Dakota sent me this picture and note a short while later. Sure looks like he had a good time on the spring muskrat line in  early 2011! The following brief exchange below describes this season for him so far:

[BM] Hey! I’m doing good, and ended the coyote season with 11, and got just over 400 rats so far! How have u done?

[AP] a few less rats than you so far! <lol> big congrats on an excellent season!

[BM] Yep, but the spring trapping will be very good! Your traps worked great this year and the majority of the coyotes I caught were with them! Thanks again!

**

As it turns out, I could have made use of those #1.75s this year had I hung onto them. But ya know what? I’m still glad I gave them away, and I’m especially glad Braden was able to some midwest coyotes with them.

After all… isn’t life itself all about give and take?

Tight Chains
Austin

 

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