Today was spent mostly indoors, mostly sitting down, mostly in front of computer screens. Definitely not what I prefer to do at this time of the year… or any time, for that matter. My heart & mind are somewhere else, many miles from here in the water and cattails and mud along one long drive northward from here.
While late-winter winds blew and snow squalls competed for air time with the sun, I combed thru umpteen stretches of distant waters courtesy of Google Earth viewpoints. Good Lord… how did I ever get anything done before that program was invented? <lol>
Seriously though, what a priceless scouting tool it is for outdoorsmen of all puruit.
Long story short: I have two initial areas of public water lined up for the launch of my spring season operations. One is a controlled area by permit only, the other open to all. The former may have too much pressure already, the latter probably has little to none. All a matter of easy access and likewise lack thereof.
In addition to those, I also have a bunch of other “fallback” locations tentatively planned. Everything is within a three-hour drive from my house, and I have friends with vacation property in the general area to potentially run a base camp operation from. Now it’s simply a matter of nosing my canoe into the waters, see what shapes up and react accordingly from there.
This time of the year I’ll be packing a mixture of both bodygrip traps and foothold traps, for the most part everything I own that’s worthy of setting for muskrats. The usual dens and runs and feedbeds are always in vogue when setting on fresh sign. A special emphasis will be placed on “toilet” locations where piles of droppings from aged mush to glistening wet (and sometimes steaming) collect as passersby stop to mark the territory. Call it “pee-mail” if you will. Male rats are full of musk and ready to mark territory anywhere others see fit.
That’s the whole premise behind float sets, which are effective and certainly do work. But the basis of my approach will start out setting any locations already established as active scentpost areas for local area muskrats. You can be sure the transients soon to pass thru will suck right into those like black sand on magnets.
In my opinion, float sets work great in marshy areas with lots of cattails and open water. Places where rat travel is somewhat dispersed and landing pads are limited. But when it comes to grassy bank creeks and rivers, muskrat travel is naturally directed along the shore. Traditional haul-out spots for toilets are prevalent. And the fresh ones I find are about to be guarded with all manner of foothold traps staked in deep water :)
I’ve been asked by various trappers how I intend to deal with calling it quits… when to know when the spring season period is effectively over with. There are two different aspects to that decision. The first one is easy: season legally closes on April 15th. Pretty clear-cut on that side of the ledger.
The other limiting factor is fur quality or lack thereof. I’m going to keep rolling thru this month and possibly into April unless – until I see evidence of dark kidney spots on the leather side which indicates fur is shedding and pelts are past prime.
From the perspective of potential bites and damage issue, that’s something I deal with all season. There wasn’t a month from the opener where I didn’t catch a number of “swiss-cheese” rats. Even the worst of those beaten-up specimens still fetched $8+ to $12 at auction. Now who is to say that overall muskrat prices won’t back off substantially from price paid this season one year from now? Or less. If I’m still catching rats in the late spring that are downgraded to $8 averages or so, let’s be realistic here… those are prices any muskrat trapper would think he hit the jackpot with in any other year for the past 100 or so behind us.
So how do you define “damaged” or “low grade” if late spring rats still sell for $7 to $10 and still find willing end-use takers fur products that are worn by purchasers just the same? In my case I’ll judge fur quality on the skin side alone and call it a season when I no longer like what I see. Or when April 15th rolls around. Whichever comes first :)
Not really much more to say than that. The planning, waiting and anticipating is almost done. Almost time to get back on the line, start setting some lines and pushing fur thru the shed once more.
I sure am looking forward to the next few weeks ahead… can almost smell that sweet perfume of musk on the dew-laden morning air. How about you?
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