Archive for February 16th, 2012

Feb
16

It Starts Today

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With trapping season now officially behind us here in this part of New York state, it is nigh time to start looking ahead. We’ve got a lot to do between now and next season’s marathon push that will have me questioning my own sanity many times before it’s thru :)

On the home front here, I do look forward to some coon and canine trapping when those furs begin to prime. I’ll probably begin sometime around the first week of November (as usual) and roll into the water season opener here. Then pause the land-line, with some coon sets managed along with muskrats where convenient and then fox sets once more when winter slows down the serious muskrat efforts.

But regardless of fur prices or any of that, next season for me is about personal goals, personal records and personal achievement. Not what someone else did or has done. Not what anyone else did or has done. I’m focused on next season for strictly personal objectives as always.

Some men deal with their “mid-life crisis” by trying to relive their youth in self-destructive ways. I’m not interested in drinking games… had enough of that in my youth to last three lifetimes. I’m not interested in wild women… again I refer back to my youth for that, I’m too ugly for new ones to be interested in me and the one I have now is all I can manage as it is. So that’s out. I love fast sports cars but I love diesel trucks even more. Climbing Mount Everest never had the least bit of interest to me, and still doesn’t. A triathalon would be fun, at least two-thirds of it before I summarily drowned.

Leaves those typical male midlife crisis behaviors off the table for me. So how about challenging myself to do something I’ve never done before. How about a commitment to not only break but totally obliterate my own personal record of muskrat catches in a single season?

My Own “Everest”
Perhaps that sounds lame to some. The idea of spending $30,000+ to climb Mt Everest simply because it’s there seems equally weak to me. I can relate to people who cannot relate to individual passions, whatever they might be. So I’m going to structure my life for the next year (and a bit more) in the quest for 2,000 muskrats boarded in my shed. If things fall into place that seem a bit far-fetched right now, it might even be doubled that or more.

The Plan
In order to put that many muskrats thru my shed in today’s world, I have to go outside of the local area… perhaps way outside.  It also requires a longer season than what we have here, with expectations of more seasonal winter cold to return next season.

My choices for an extended season are basically two: the northern zone of NY state with an opener in late October, and all the way across  country in North Dakota with a similar early-start date.

Each has advantages and disadvantages to ponder and weigh. Some of the comparisons are…

Northern Zone New York
ample public water to trap
within three hour’s drive of home
ample muskrat populations (depending on weather and other factors)
open water longer than ND
far less expense involved
less disruption to everyday life

North Dakota
water everywhere in places
much denser muskrat (depending on water and other factors)
plenty of available access to trap
far more liberal regulations… setting on houses, colony traps legal
distance from home
housing and living expenses involved
handling & storing catches logistics

Basically the comparison boils down to this: North Dakota has a lot more muskrats than New York under normal conditions. Whether that holds true this season or not hinges upon weather patterns out west thru spring and summer ahead. North Dakota allows trapping at/on muskrat houses AND the use of colony traps… which are monumental advantages over trapping conditions for big numbers here in NY.

There is no question at all that running & rotating 100 colony traps per day with 100+ mixed #160s and footholds sprinkled in thru fresh ground would average at least 100+ rats caught each day… if not double that. I have limited but enough experience with colony and funnel traps to know exactly how effective they are in dense muskrat habitats. Creeks, ditches, sloughs and marshes with any type of main channels or runs can be blocked with cage traps spread out in strategic fashion… and the catch results can be simply amazing.

Second to that is legality of setting muskrat house slides with footholds, a very efficient tactic as well. The combination of working colony traps as a core approach with fill-ins of bodygrips and footholds between is something that intrigues me no end. If I can find enough area in ND to keep rolling thru fresh muskrat habitat for ten days, I honestly believe I might be able to average 200 rats per day. Considering the Federal WPA zone I’ve researched in the Southeast corner encompasses 45,000+ acres alone, I’d say enough water exists there for at least one more trapper like me :)

The breakdown of all what’s involved there can and probably will take a couple of feature-length articles to cover in detail. Suffice it to say that is the one major factor in consideration of such a distant out-of-state experience.

Pre “Season” Scouting
I’ll use the northern zone of New York’s trapping season as a quasi-scouting effort. I plan of spot-hopping a couple of different locations, and I’m going to tour several more between now and the end of April when aquatic growth gets too tall. Late winter and early spring is prime-time for scouting next year’s water locations. Vegetation is lowest, the area is wide open then than it ever will be with general topography plainly visible.

My scouting for a potential trip to North Dakota is map work… extensive mapping along with phone calls to the game & fish department, federal marshes, etc. If that excursion actually comes to pass, I’ll make at least one trip out there for boots in the mud examination sometime this spring or summer.

Geared Up
Regardless of all else, I need twenty dozen new coilsprings and twenty dozen new #160s for next season and beyond. Both of those purchases will wait for the summer trapper’s convention seasons where I can purchase outright for best prices and skip the shipping charges. Meanwhile, I keep my eyes open for acceptable used traps at favorable prices to fill in for use at certain spots as well.

If the ND trip looks promising, I’ll also need 100 folding-style colony traps as the core of my approach. Those can be had commercially and similar summertime purchase decisions at the conventions. Just a matter of shopping around, settling on price and having them available for pickup at whichever convention works best.

Other than new & used steel, I need to rip a few hundred new stakes from salvaged 2×4 boards, need to tune and treat every single trap, need to make minor repairs on some, need more used freezer space and a walk-in cooler setup would be ideal. No doubt there are a lot more “little things” that will come to mind later, but those are the bigger needs right now.

Get Fit
I know what it takes to run full-day, all-out trap-line efforts. One of the nation’s top fox trappers who also finds himself chasing muskrats told me he’s never experienced more challenging, grueling conditions than his fall muskrat line. I can totally relate to that… and we are both of similar age. My body needs to be in peak physical condition to withstand 10 – 12 hour trap-line days and the remaining time managing chores while getting enough nutrition and sleep.

My weight lifting efforts always ebb during the winter while outdoor seasons are open. Now it’s time to step up the compound lift work… bench press, military press, shrugs, dead lift, squat, leg extensions and hamstring curls, standing barbell curls, lat pull downs and especially forearm & hands work. All that, and a lot more pure cardio work this year than I’ve done in a long, long time.

Anyone who thinks water trapping is easy has never done it on a long-line basis. I’ve done a little bit of everything thru the years, and by far canine trapping is least physical followed by coon trapping, then muskrat, then beaver when it comes to pure physical exertion. A body that is not in top condition cannot perform at peak levels for extended periods of time.

Sacrifice
Whether I decide to trap the northern zone of NY for muskrats and then on thru the southern zone season, whether I can make the much bigger leap and pull together a trip to ND first and then work NY afterwards remains a long ways off in certainties. What I do know for sure is that any added push on the trap-line = subtraction from archery & firearms deer hunting, other work projects that = lost income, some family time and holiday events, etc.

We all lead pretty full lives. No one really has extra hours every day to fritter away. Time allotted in any new direction means time subtracted from somewhere else. Also a major factor in what I ultimately decide to do. Trapping itself is something I do for enjoyment, for relaxation, for fun. A distraction from the stress and rigors of daily life, a connection to the land, my ancestors and my youth. It’s not some petty contest with anyone else over anything else to “see who measures up” type of nonsense.

The goals I set, the numbers I have in sight, what I’m able to make happen in reality does not define anyone or anything. It’s all just a collage of memories to look back on with fondness in the twilight of my time here on earth.

Get Ready
For now I’m getting ready for whatever comes next, one day at a time. From phone calls to map study, state regulations research, equipment maintenance and upkeep, study of new gear comparisons before purchase and about a hundred other things need be taken care of. Suffice it to say that next year’s success hinges upon what I can accomplish in preparations all the way.

In other words, next season already started today :)

Tight Chains
Austin

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