Cold-Rolling Heats Up


I pulled out of my driveway at 7am on Monday, cold-rolling my way thru the north country of New York seeking elbow room for muskrat trapping. What I found were clusters of beaver traps at every culvert and bridge, no possible chance at securing permissions to trap any private waters and no public grounds with nary a sign of muskrats present. Things weren’t looking so good, to say the least.

The area I toured was familiar to me, but I hadn’t ever trapped there before. What good on a map may or may not be good when your boots are standing on site in the mud. Such was the case in this situation. About the best I could do was find a small piece of public ground that everyone around warned me not to set due to theft. Little did they know, I have ways of deterring that in some cases and this was just such a case. Other than that, there was another stretch of creek not too far away that took some paddling to reach fruitful muskrat zones.

When I wrote a muskrat trapping book nearly two decades ago, it focused on the use of bodygrip traps in runs. When I wrote some stuff in this site complete with myriad photos earlier this season, that too was centered on bodygrip trapping. Hopefully that didn’t cause too many people to mistakenly assume think I am a one-trick pony who is clueless to the use of foothold traps for muskrats. Such is not the case. Springtime trapping is all about using footholds… bodygrip traps are extremely limited at best.

The photo up top shows an example of what I saw numerous times today: one or two (or three) muskrats in sight of each other at communal toilet locations. A lot of guys rely on float sets in the spring which do work to varying degrees of effectiveness… imo much better out west than here in the east. For whatever reason(s) the rats around here simply do not mob floats and stools that work so well in the prairie lands elsewhere.

Regardless, I’ve always found it most effective to set on fresh sign. If there is no fresh sign existing, you’ve got bigger problems than exactly which traps or sets to use… starting with no rats to work with. Muskrats present = fresh sign. It’s that simple. If you don’t see mud banks clawed up and fresh piles of droppings in the usual spots, there is no use setting it heavily for muskrats. They ain’t there in numbers.


Tuesday morning I laid out roughly 100 such toilet sets on the edge of a brushy swamp where it meets a grassy flowing stream. Perfect habitat for dispersing muskrats cruising thru. I believe it would have been better if daytime and night time temps weren’t running mid-July levels. Speaking of levels, the water dropped nearly two inches from the time I finished setting Tuesday afternoon to the first traps checked at 6:30am as dawn slowly broke. It’d be mighty nice to get some rainy systems passing thru… evenings preferred. Maybe we’ll see some of that between now and when I pull stakes for the season on Sunday April 1st.

Nevertheless, 38 muskrats joined me for the trip back home. Fibonacci numbers have a way of working their universal magic in all walks of life… including my one-check bag today. Two traps were snapped & empty, the rest made it all worthwhile.

There should be more time for me to write at some length inside here once I settle in to the motel stays up north, and then a steady dose of material coming your way as we lay the groundwork for a season to remember straight ahead. Last week I ordered several dozen Bridger #1.5 coils strictly for water work. They arrived on Monday, I got my hands on them at 3pm this afternoon and by the time I go to bed, all will have name-tags and 16ga wire leads  as terminal connections for stakes. By this time tomorrow, all of them will be in the water and guarding primetime locations for the next ten days. Should be a great way to prep them for summertime treatment while earning their keep posthaste.

Must say I am very impressed with these traps and the new bodygrips, too. But more on that to come, topic of interest for our next visit here this week. Right now I have to finish that prep work, pack the truck and get ready to re-deploy once more. After setting traps was finished last night, I took a ride thru one more location that looks very promising. And it’s big. And there is only one other muskrat trapper present, in one little corner of the region. He’s about to have company tomorrow. Me and about 200 of my little steel friends are going to join the party there starting tomorrow, and the party will last for me until Sunday next.

Considering it is more than three hours’ drive from my door to the location, I’ll be spending two nights there a shuttling home for a third to drop off furs, resupply and do it again. So here’s to some sleepless days & nights, sore elbows and stiff backs, tender hands from cracking open too many traps per day, and hopefully a return to some seasonal weather. I didn’t go into the spring-thing here with high expectations of record catches. That won’t happen… but we might make a respectable pile of pelts to dispose of properly when the dust settles and canoe wakes clear.

We’ll soon find out :)




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