Mar
27

The End?

By

I was fortunate to catch the heart of our spring-season muskrat dispersal in my time up north last week.

“Scent-post” toilet set locations were clicking right along with singles & double catches all the way. It was business as usual, laying steel in the high traffic areas for muskrats one day, shaking them out of traps the next.

Unfortunately, spring season turned to mid-summer practically overnight.

All-time record high temps over the past two weeks has all of nature upside down. Flowers and flowering trees normally seen in early May are in bloom now… or at least they were, before last night’s low-20s F temps hammered a bunch of budding buds. Apricots and peaches, cherries and magnolias, toads laying eggs and tree swallows inspecting next boxes. These are all things I’ve seen in the past few days… things not usually seen until May 1st turns the calendar page.

Whereas a “normal” spring season would gradually unlock winter’s grip in methodical fashion, this year’s Bahamas blast torched the ice from every blip of water in mere days. Instead of ice methodically receding from fast water first, then slower water, then still water in the shallows sunshine, then deeper water, then shaded water… it all disappeared at once.

Muskrats and beaver went from ice-out dispersal behavior right into house-keeping mode like summertime arrived. The fresh feedbeds and hot toilets along edges of flowing water went abruptly dead. Fresh cuttings and random droppings began to appear back inside the marshy stretches, away from easy reach and with congregation of cruising male rats.

And so with that, my trapping season of 2011-2012 has drawn to a close. The truck is unpacked for its final time until next fall sees where our first tire tracks pull up to when October arrives. One door closes and another door opens in life. Sometimes they swing on hinges at the very same time :)

**

We now move into next-season mode here in this forum. Lots to cover as we prepare for what comes next… and we’ll cover it in written text and video clips alike.

The first thing we need is a plan or plan. Knowing what we intend to do next year is the very first step in moving towards that goal. You need to plan yours, I need to plan mine. Perhaps by sharing mine we can help you better formulate yours?

Plan A for me next season begins with a trip to the midwest in late October for muskrats. I’d like to spend ten days – two weeks in hardcore rat trapping mode where populations are high and regulations liberal. The use of colony style traps is a deal-maker for me: if I can run somewhere between 100 and 200 colony traps daily in key locations at dense muskrat populations, it could get pretty scary for the hired skinners.

I’ll cover this subject more in the near future, but suffice it to say that many of the real key muskrat run locations are not readily visible to the casual observer… or even most of the veteran trappers out there. Guys who are able to set foothold traps on rat house slides and feedbeds pretty much arrest their development as rat trappers right there. From there they work on setting efficiency to do as much of that as humanly possible.

But instead of setting two footholds on every rat house in areas where eight to ten rat houses cluster, setting three – four colony traps in a fraction of that same time will yield more muskrats caught in much less time expended.

Truth is, most muskrats living in muskrat houses NEVER visit slide, never climb back on top once said house construction is done. Want proof? Why, the muskrats themselves will prove that for you. If indeed every muskrat living in a house eventually climbed up on top of said house, most rat trappers would nearly wipe them out of most contained marshes and sloughs.

Think about that for a moment. High-rolling rat trappers in Ohio and the Dakotas and other Great Lakes stakes where trapping at/on muskrat houses pretty much blanket every house and feeder hut with traps. Wherever legal, that is the go-to set because it is simple, easy and requires least amount of thought.

So the on-house foothold trappers work the same areas from fall thru winter and into spring. Guess what? They never run out of rats. If indeed every muskrat in every house visited said house’ slide, they’d all be wiped out sooner than later. Right or right?

There are much more time efficient ways to catch more muskrats per day than setting houses and feedbeds in the fall ;)

**

But I digress. So a trip to the midwest is top of my bucket list if conditions all align for that. I’ll make the final decision in September once I see first-hand what the water tables and rat populations look like where I’d like to go. Then it’s a matter of enough secured permissions and green-light go time from there.

If that fails to materialize, I’ll instead begin the season here in NY chasing fall muskrats as Plan B. Couple weeks of that and I should be over the 1,000 rats mark if, once again, normal water tables and muskrat numbers permit. Another drought year and thin rat numbers here in northern zone NY? I’ll shift gears and trap coon until the  southern zone water season opens near home.

Once winter settles in like it never did last season, I’ll split time between fox trapping and under-ice trapping for rats. Depending on which is more productive and/or my mood at the time, I might lean heavier towards one mode than the other. Again, we’ll let prevailing weather and animal populations dictate which way to lean.

On the back-burner is a possible trip slightly south for beaver & otter once our seasons here close on Feb 15th 2013. That too is weather dependent. I also have tentative plans for some ice-out beaver work here in NY which probably starts sometime in March 2013.

Depending on what happens with a midwest muskrat trip next fall, I might very well follow that up with a spring trapping trip in April of 2013.

At this moment in time I have a lot of tentatives based on variables, and not much set in stone. So I’m preparing for most everything on the menu and will be well prepared whichever way the winds blow me next :)

There are new traps to prep and and old traps to overhaul, with some going up for sale. I’m going to standardize my equipment to a large degree, not have so many various make & model foothold traps. That way my staking systems, my floats, my cross-use from water to land or vice versa is seamless.

Soon I’ll be cutting some wooden stakes out of staghorn sumac saplings before they leaf out and the sap begins to run. Gives them all summer long to dry out hard. Later on I’ll rip a pile of 2x4x8s into sturdy stakes for bodygrip traps. They will all need tips painted and flagged by fall.

I’m going to make 100 or even 200 various size collapsible colony traps for use out-of-state. A few at a time in my spare time = a pile of them finished by fall.

Still need to buy many dozen more footholds, bodygrip traps of various sizes and various supporting equipment. That’ll mostly wait until conventions season rolls around.

**

Thru all that process and more, we’ll chronicle each step of the way right in here. Look for a series of written works and also educational videos on the how-tos of all that above.  I’m going to blow the dust off my camcorder skills and try to catch some good stuff on film. We’ll work gear together, make equipment together and later on this fall we’ll scout traplines together.

I’m going to do some product reviews starting with my current traps of preference and why. You can be sure that anything I profile will be given my honest assessment including the strengths, weaknesses and compromise.

The season of 2011-2012 has officially ended for me. The season of 2012-2013 preparations have already begun. We’ll now turn our full attention towards that, with plenty of how-to info in here to come :)

Furever
Austin

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Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences on the trapline.

    If there is anything I can help you with regarding your trip to the Dakota’s feel free to contact me.

    FYI, there are some in ND who are at work trying to eliminate NR from trapping muskrats and mink.

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