Archive for April, 2012
As fate would have it, we’re now getting the weather patterns in late April that would have been picture-perfect ideal back in mid-March. A continual push of cold fronts and rain systems coming thru for the past three weeks have kept muskrat activity above normal on my backyard pond. Where was this when we needed it during spring trapping season in March? How about upper 80s F now and upper 30s F then?
Yes, I do rear muskrats on purpose… or at least I provide conditions suitable for their inhabitation. The pond I dug in what was the soggy lowlands of our backyard borders a small spring-flow stream that never freezes. Ever. I don’t care if the air temps are -20s F for a week straight and everything else has turned to ice.
That little creek (Dynamite ditch) which bubbles out of the ground in numerous spring seeps to form a constant flow simply does not ice over. Needless to say it has muskrats, with some of that sprawling population made their way up the pond’s overflow to ideal habitat since last spring.
Back then we had what appeared to be a couple of muskrats just trying to get established in the somewhat dense rows of cattails and emergent water weeds. Now it’s obvious there is a full-fledged muskrat population populating our pond.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Watching them feed, groom, swim and submerge never gets old to me. I commonly pause in the midst of whatever I’m doing to watch what they’re doing now. Considering the pond view is right outside my office windows in living color, I truly have the best seat in this house :)
One thing I’ve noticed about muskrats… they waste little time. If they aren’t actively feeding, they are traveling from shelter to food and back. If on the shore grooming, they spend no more time than what it takes to keep their fur coats oiled and shining. Then it’s right back to completing the busy tasks at hand. So to speak.
It’s amazing how large a house muskrats can erect out of nearby vegetation. One day there is nothing but water, weeds and mud. Seemingly overnight, lodges the size of a double-bull blind pop up. How in the world does one little rodent who barely weighs three pounds on average make that happen?
One cattail stalk at a time.
Muskrats don’t need superior force or exceptional gifts to make something significant happen. nor do they need any outside leadership or role models to complete their individual tasks. Muskrats simply work together in common fashion to accomplish impressive feats in rapid order.
I have to admit I’ve found myself squandering time in wasted little chunks lately that, when all added up, gets me no nearer progress of completion to any projects worthwhile than if I did nothing at all. It’s easy to sit around, fritter away time on the internet with others and wind up with many hours invested and no payoff at all in exchange. In plainspeak, it’s nigh time I stopped wasting time with worthless tasks.
For the moment I’m finished with working over traps & equipment on hand. Everything I currently own is reading to be treated and fine-tuned once the hot, dry weather arrives for keeps. All of my water traps will be dipped with several layers of brown tinted speed dip and left to dry real hard in the summer heat. Once dipped, the dog-trigger settings will be checked on every single trap to make sure it fires perfectly upon setting.
There is a lot more gear to arrive, which will be handled and treated accordingly. Once the pending trip to North Dakota this time next month is complete, I’ll have a firm idea of what my approach will be there. Ideally it will be two trips for muskrats… one this fall and a second outing for the spring of 2013. That means construction of a couple hundred floats and enough foothold traps to deploy. All the wood needed for that project is either on hand or easy enough to secure for next to nothing. Same with foam board strips on bottom for flotation aid. Simply a matter of running the table saw, hammer and nails.
If the water conditions favor setting a bunch of colony type cage traps as my core approach, I need to build at least 100 of those and probably 200 while I’m at it. At first I pondered buying or making folding cage types to conserve space in transit. That’s still an option for some of my cages if I use them, but I do want bigger ones than what’s available commercially.
Homemade colony traps run between $3.50 and $4+ each depending on size and construction. I’d like at least half of my stock to be 7″ wide minimum and some at 8″ would be nice, too. In order to cover the wide, deep runs they need be wider than usual 5″ – 6″ inch models. Height can be shorter than width… nothing wrong with building 5″x7″ or 6″x8″ colony traps for muskrats. The only benefit to height is keeping inside rats towards the top instead of clogging doors shut. But there are other tactics of construction to help prevent that as well.
Should water conditions steer me towards colony traps first with footholds and/or bodygrip traps to fill in spaces between, I need to get busy bending wire fencing. Fifty 5x7x24 and fifty 6x8x36 cages would be minimal deployment and possibly double that kept in rotation on the line. That’s a full summer of part-time efforts pieced together from an otherwise busy schedule.
Other than that, tentative fall muskrat lines here in NY and also winter canine lines are plotted on maps already. Just a matter of scouting them out late fall for exact specifics, but other than that we’re good to go here in-state. So I feel pretty good about where I’m at in preparations for this season ahead, but there is still much to do. Too much, unless I make it happen one bite-sized chunk of time at a time :)
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The alarm clock rang at 4:00am just as we instructed it to. No matter… it was late or I was early, having already been up and showered with hot coffee in hand and boots pulled on by the time that noisy little clock tolled for thee.
My breath hung heavy and suspended thru the frigid air, which measured 22F in the wee hours of that starlit morning ahead of the spring turkey season opener in Pennsylvania this year. I was here with a plan, on a mission and determined to right some wrongs from the prior season past.
Pennsylvania, late April 2011: opening day of spring turkey season found me on a high hillside in northern Tioga county. Warm, clear, sunny weather with active gobbling that echoed across the hills and valleys. I was setup near the crest of that steep hill which overlooked a grassy pasture section roughly two hundred yards in length from west to east and one hundred yards wide from north to south. The field in view is not quite flat… it crowns a bit towards the top (north) which leaves a blind spot in the depression where upper edge meets a wood line.
Above me to the north there is a mixed stand of hardwoods to create said wood line. To my left (west) there are a series of pasture grass and tilled fields. Below me (south) is an overgrown woodlot which was once someone’s extensive apple orchard, now in the middle stages of overgrowth with multiflora rose in the lower canopy and various species ash trees reaching for sunlight above.
On the eastern edge to my right, a thin woodlot connecting the hardwoods ridge and apple orchard below is right where birds tend to roost and stage soon as they fly down. This day was no different: predawn vocals had birds calling from all around, and I watched them gather some eighty yards in front of me before they strung out and walked off in the wrong direction for me to get things done.
It was barely past 6am when the entire flock of turkeys flew into the grassy field’s southeast corner as I expected they would. Seven hens and two mature toms quickly gathered and began making their way in my direction, before veering off course and slipping single file into the ancient apple orchard below me, never to be seen again.
I spent the next hour of daylight softly calling, listening and scrutinizing every stick and twig while waiting for a red & white head to appear. Alas, it was a futile wait as I never did see those birds again. The remainder of that day turned up absolutely zero further sign of them. I stalked around the open field edges across that entire hillside until noon came and season for that particular day, went.
Pennsylvania, late April 2012: opening day of spring turkey season in the exact-same location… one year later to the very day. That lesson learned about setup on that staging area from last season burned in the back of my brain ever since. It was an unscratched itch, a sand burr stuck, a nagging two-foot putt left hanging on the lip.
Same story this time as before. My partners dropped me off at the bottom of that hill, 5am est sharp. I hot-footed my way upwards and arrived on site around 5:20am. This time I slunk over to the extreme southeast corner where birds all stacked up and marched thru last time around.
As I arrived on scene and surveyed the immediate area for a good place to sit, I almost pressed it ten yards nearer to the wood line than where I presently stood. A little voice inside my head spoke of bad experiences learned before when crowding edges led to toms spooked off the roost. That kept me from closing the distance any further, and it’s a good thing. My very next step in place cracked a small branch that was answered by a thundering gobble from just sixty yards away… in the same direction I almost crowded. Pretty good chance that bird would have flown off the roost by the dawn’s early light had I tried getting too close.
While I sat there in the cold frozen air waiting for first rays of sun to peak over the eastern horizon, a tom in front of me to the north and the bird in my back to the east traded gobbles back & forth. I gave two series of soft yelps followed by clucks and purrs on the slate call, then kept quiet.
Around 5:45am I heard several birds fly down thru the hardwood branches uphill from me to the north. Five minutes later, the nearby bird on my right followed suit. Now it was time to sit perfectly still, not move a muscle that might rustle leaves and twigs made crispy by the heavy frost which might give my position away.
Right at 6am, two toms appeared from the southeast corner of that field on my immediate right. A young tom with 6″ – 7″ beard was quartering towards me on a slow walk inside of forty yards. Dead bird, if I wanted him. But just inside the connecting tree line edge was a fanned-out strutter with bright white head glowing in the still early dawn. At fifty-plus yards and inside the trees, he was not in range to harvest yet.
Both birds spent about five long minutes staring hard in my direction, looking for that feathered seductress who purred at them while still in their trees. The lead tom at thirty-five yards gave my half-hidden blob the hard stare with no apparent reaction either way.
Suddenly, both toms took off running uphill in front of me like they were coyote spooked. My heart sank as what seemed to be the perfect plan coming apart and redemption from last season’s near miss in real danger of repeating itself once more. I quickly looked north and thru the hardwoods there saw another tom entering the field with other birds.
“Oh great”, I thought. “Here’s the boss tom with several hens, all of them with join up and walk away from me in the opposite direction of last year”, I thought.
“Drat!” Or at least I quietly muttered something like that to myself.
Turns out there were no other hens to rival my attention… it was four more toms and now a total of six gobblers all congregated in the middle of this field right in front of me. For the next fifteen minutes all six birds engaged in an epic battle where they took turns hopping and pecking and spurring and wrestling one another. Gobbles and yelps and growls and sounds I’ve never before heard a turkey make rumbled thru the hillsides. Feathers flew and floated in the air as the six-bird melee’ worked its way north and away from me.
It was one of those epic moments in the woods we all dream about. I had never witnessed a group of wild toms all fighting en masse before, and probably never will see it again. Those birds were so loud, efforts to yelp and cluck to get their attention was drowned out and ignored.
By now the birds had worked their way over the crown of that field and were just barely out of visual sight. The perfect opportunity for me to slightly shift my body position, get the blood flow restored to numbed body parts and prepare for what may come next.
Suddenly, a goshawk or sharp-shinned hawk swooped into view above the toms and let out a couple of screams. At first the toms totally ignored that, but then grew quiet as the royal rumble paused. Here was my chance to get some hen talk heard, so I laid on the slate call with yelps, cackles and clucks.
No response. All I saw was empty, frost-covered field ahead of me.
A few more minutes passed and the sight of heads and tail feathers started to appear above the field’s knoll. The gobbler group heard me, settled their differences and were joining forces to find that willing hen. Six big toms were standing on the crest, some sixty yards uphill and all staring hard in my direction.
Both of the initial birds which walked past me earlier led the charge back down that hill. Same lead bird walking, same strutter fanned out in full display following. They soon closed the distance to roughly forty yards and hung up sideways right there. With a lead bird I did not want to harvest blocking the path to rear bird targeted, I laid there patiently and waited.
Soon the birds separated enough to offer clear shots at either one, and I sent a 3.5″ round of hevi-shot 5,6,7 blend towards the strutting tom still in full display. Same result as usual with that load from my Remington 870 Supermag: hevi-shot out, very dead bird on the ground.
To be honest I never once saw the beard or spurs on my harvested bird before walking up to fill-out the tag and take possession. He remained in full strut the whole time I saw him, which was good enough reason to choose that bird for me. It wasn’t the biggest bird ever, a nine inch beard and 7/8″ spurs along with broomed-off wingtips made him a respectable harvest any day.
I spent the next little while enjoying the actual sunrise, soaking in my view of the surrounding hills and valleys that stretched for miles far as the eye could see. At the precise spot where last year’s PA birds walked on out of my life, this year’s bird lay resting and tagged. An entire year spent relived, planned, strategized and visualized in my mind had come to pass and come to completion. On this particular day I had just witnessed an epic scene played out in front of me that most hunters never have the privilege to see.
It was a great day to be alive, on the mountain side and part of the great outdoors experience.
I’ve reached the point in strategizing next season’s trapline plans where it’s time to put my boots on the ground. Booked a trip to the southeast sector of North Dakota for the Memorial Day weekend in May.
At first I pondered the logistics between flying and driving out there for the limited time available. Considering it is +/- 24 hours on the road versus 5+ travel hours with one layover in Chicago, that wasn’t too much of a mental debate. Flight costs and rental car fees were very reasonable… that it’s a one-man show with flexible schedule and itinerary, should be fun ad-libbing my way around.
The trip starts out in Fargo when my plane lands Friday morning. From then to Saturday night I’ll wander my way along thru Bismarck and up towards Minot. Sunday morning finds me leaving the Minot area and on my way to Grand Forks. By Monday night I’ll be back in Fargo preparing for the early flight out next day.
The timeframe of late May should be a decent blend of vegetation just starting to emerge in the waters and row crops alike. That’l give me an idea what to expect for both muskrats and bonus coon trapping opportunities there. Lots of cornfields bordering ditches and water = pack plenty of new Bridger #160s for the trip. I’m all over that if the right conditions are seen :)
Mainly I need to know what to expect, so I can know how to best prepare. I need to see the various waters, the terrain and the soil types to determine my plan of action. First preference would be a muskrat line centered on managed rotation of 100 to 200 colony traps at the core. If I’m able to do that, if existing conditions permit, that is hands down the easiest route to massive catches.
100 colony traps set properly in key travel zones should average 150 – 200 rats per check and some days might top 300+ if it rains during the night. Anything approaching 200 traps maintained on fresh sign and rotated continuously into new water could be a serious problem for the skinning end of logistics.
Maybe I won’t see ideal conditions for colony traps to that extent. Then what? Do I apply the bodygrip traps approach? Foothold traps instead? Blend of each? Blend of all three?
None of those questions can be answered for out there from here. I have to don the hipboots, wade around in the muck and eyeball it in living color myself. I’m completely open-minded about what to expect and how to best approach whatever conditions faced. Doesn’t matter to me what traps or sets or tactics I use… I’ll use whatever appears to be best suited for what’s on site.
I will be taking copious quantities of notes, collecting local maps and contact numbers, categorizing public lands and noting prime looking private ground, things like that. Once I see a few choices on where exactly I’d like to set up shop for muskrats next fall, I can go to work on finding places for lodging, supplies and handling the catches. This trip is not about firming up plans… it is more about creating loose ends that will get tied up later.
Once I take the grand tour late May, then weather conditions and water levels can be monitored summer & fall. Barring any severe droughts or floods, a return trip in September to nail down final plans is in order. Meanwhile I can spend the months in between gearing up and prepping for best course of action.
There is a chance that muskrat populations out there might very well be on the low side this season ahead. For all we know this summer could be the worst drought in 100 years or so. Even if I’m salivating at the chance to go out west and work some distant lands for adventure, I’ll also spend the summer preparing Plan B.
Plan B for me includes muskrat work in the northern zone of NY if North Dakota this fall somehow falls thru. If muskrat populations in both states are low, I’ll switch gears and prepare to work some serious land lines for canines instead. Hopefully my choices aren’t dictated by adverse conditions like that, but one never knows.
So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The next step major in planning comes six weeks from now when I’m far from home, driving past and standing in waters I’ve never seen before. From there it all unfolds accordingly. Plan A is a successful, fun-filled water line out west this fall which sets up a return trip for more of the same in spring of 2013. Plans B and C will align as needed.
What I need to do first is see for myself… so now let’s go see :)
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There was a time when I used to put off tackling various projects in life until such time that I had lots of time to do such projects with.
Trouble is, big blocks of spare time don’t come easy in today’s modern life with myriad distractions all around.
I learned that lots can be accomplished in little bits of time if we use those periods effectively. At any point I usually have some task (or three) in various stages of completion. Right now for example, I’m going thru all my beaver traps in preparation for some tentative work in 2013 both out-of-state in February and then back home in-state during March. Depending on weather patterns and when ice-out arrives here versus out in the midwest, I might have time for some ice-out beaver work here before heading west for spring muskrats elsewhere. If not, then not. If so… I’ll be well prepared.
Sold a fair pile of used traps recently to standardize my gear. Like most established trappers, I had odds & ends of every make & model trap you could imagine. If/when I make it out west to trap muskrats in the spring of 2013, it’ll probably be North Dakota and state restrictions on float sets there include covering them with some sort of roof material and/or submerging the trap greater than 2″ below surface to prevent non-target catches of ducks and geese. I have a couple different design concepts in mind that include covered floats or submerged trap floats. In either case the measurements need be specific enough that one or two trap designs would fit well. It’s not like I’m sizing floats to the 1/4″ or anything like that, but I don’t want a half-dozen varied traps to handle in random fashion.
With that in mind I sold off my #2 square-jaw coilsprings to other rat trappers that like them as I did and still do. One of the pending deals fell thru, and I find myself still the owner of 15 old-style Victor #2 coils with reverse-tip jaws that enter the frame base from outside pointing in. This was Victor’s initial answer to pleas for a redesigned trap to hold eastern coyotes a few decades ago when they began showing up in numbers and dismantled traps on location became too much of a routine.
Once Victor traps made that design change, coyotes no longer popped the jaws from frame with ease. They did however bend the trap frame base into a bow, which in part spawned the advent of baseplating modifications to traps.
Also, the jawspread on these style traps is smaller than the older square-jaw style… more of a #1.5 coil trap that was squared off and jawtips reversed into the frame base. Anyway, they did and still do make a nice little fox trap that will coyotes or coon as incidental catches. I decided to keep these strays rather than relist them for sale, but they need some tweaks. Cut the chains off from side frame anchor and will switch to bottom swivel off the center of trap frame. The base is still rather thin, but rather than spending $1.50 each to plate them I’ll kick in another $2 for mid-chain shock springs instead. That will keep any catches from bending the bases while cushioning the hold as well.
Got a fair amount of true 2/0 twist chain laying around from various sources, so beefing up the chains with crunchproof swivels and inline shock springs will make these aged tools modern day fox gear. Three of them need coil springs replaced, and I might just do all of them at once while I’m at it. So there’s about an hour or so of vice = pliers work waiting for me to fill some bits of spare time.
Still need to start cutting staghorn sumac stakes for foothold muskrat trapping in deeper water before the sap starts running heavy. We’ll chronicle that process with pics when I get to it this weekend. Speaking of pics… I need to float some local flows to compile a pile of specific situation pics for a preoject I’m working on, too. Winds have been too strong lately for capturing good photos at/below the surface of water. Weather forecast looks favorable for this weekend, and need to get it done before new emergent growth shoots up too much.
I keep making a list of all the “little things” that need my attention and somehow or other that list continues to grow instead of shrink. Hopefully that’s not a case of me getting further behind as it is getting a bunch of things done, little bits at a time :)
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I’ve read thru and been part of numerous discussions on the topic of bodygrip traps and spring strength when it comes to offseason storage with springs left depressed versus springs stored in the “closed” position. Some guys swear it makes no difference to overall spring strength which way they’re stored, because spring steel does not have “memory” to bend regardless how it’s left. Others swear that storing a load of pressure in spring-set position rather than unset will weaken the spring over time simply because.
I’m in no position to debate the scientific aspects of this chicken & egg controversy, except to say that my own experiences over time with many different sizes and makes of bodygrip traps does suggest to me that there is a difference over time.
A most recent lesson happened few years ago. I loaned out a half-dozen #220s that were almost new and very strong to someone who wanted them for off-season woodchuck control. One thing led to another and I never got them back until two years later. They had remained with springs latched in “set” position all that time. When I prepped them for the fur line that fall, spring strength had weakened to a point where I wasn’t sure they were fast enough lock time for snapping muskrats.
The standard in this equation was the other six traps bought at the same time as one dozen. Those traps were used on the line for two seasons, only remaining set wide open for a week or three before snapped and waiting to be deployed elsewhere. Whereas the loaned-out six which were unused and practically new had springs degraded to borderline use, their “sister” traps which had caught fur for two seasons in the elements but stored offseason in relaxed-spring position remained plenty strong enough.
Now if that were an isolated example, I probably wouldn’t give it any further thought. But it’s been my experience over and over and over again that #330s, and #220s and #160s will weaken if springs are left compressed over long periods of time. Have noticed that with my own gear thru the years, all various makes and models so we’re not talking any specific brand of trap or grade of steel, nothing like that.
Again, I’ll make the point that I don’t have any scientific knowledge on the properties of spring steel and how it holds form versus changes form under tension, etc. All I’m working with here is what I’ve observed and experienced several times in the past. With that in mind, I now take the extra step to release all bodygrip springs before offseason storage.
It’s not something I lay awake at night worrying about… been a couple of weeks now since I trapped, and I’m just getting around to doing with single-spring 7″ and 6″ rat traps. My #220s and #330s are already stored and waiting for the dry heat of summer before everything gets dip-treated again. Been a few years since my older bodygrips were dipped, time to layer on several thin coats to last them another few years of hard use before they need my attention again.
That’s just one of the many “little things” I’m doing between now and next season to come. Only six more months until I’m cracking open steel for muskrats and coon… it’ll be here before we know it! <laugh>
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Today’s trapper is faced with so many choices when it comes to terminal gear that sometimes I wonder how in the world anyone decides exactly what to buy and use. Never before have we been blessed with such a vast array of modern, humane and highly effective traps to work with.
In my view there are no “poor” traps or “junk” traps offered to the public from mass manufacture. There are low-priced brands of traps that offer the bare essentials for least purchase cost, some mid-price brands that offer excellent value for cost and some high-price brands that offer every possible feature known to man. It’s not than any are better or worse, per se… it is more about the myriad choices offering each trapper the features = price that fits a particular need.
I’m in the process of gearing up for some rather extensive traplines in the coming years ahead. That means buying traps by the 10, 20 and 40-dozen lots at a time. At the same time I have reduced most of my menagerie of traps accumulated thru the years like most other trappers tend to do. It’s not that they aren’t effective or don’t work… it’s simply because I want no more than one or two specific models per use for the sake of speed and efficiency. When I reach for traps, I want to handle the same ones over and over and over again.
Between foothold and bodygrip traps for muskrats, mink, canines and beaver… I’ve got a long ways to go before fully overstocked across the board. But I’ve got a good start on things, and I started with my all-purpose footholds first :)
First & foremost, my own specific needs.
Land trapping here in my area means lots of people, lots of hunters all season, lots of recreational hikers and walkers accompanied by their dogs. Much of my canine work, probably 50% or more historically happens on public Wildlife Management Areas. These are multiple use lands that are shared for many purposes by many users. I have every right to be there with as much trap as our regulations legally permit. But is that the smart thing to do?
If someone’s dog gets hung up in a #1.5 coilspring trap, they are easy to release. That type of trap is not very intimidating to most people. Public perception is very different when the same incident happens with a #3 coil all laminated, base-plated and tricked out. To you and me that looks like a fine piece of machinery. To a lot of common people with no bias against trapping, that looks like a proverbial bear trap.
So I need to be extra-considerate of who is using the same lands I am during canine trapping season. I can be fully within my rights, but if something happens on private land that upsets the landowner and his wife, my permission to trap can be easily rescinded forever. Yours can, too.
I also want most/all of my foothold traps to server double-duty in the water during muskrat season… especially in the spring. There’s an excellent chance I’ll be running 200 – 300 float sets with two traps apiece somewhere west of here in the spring 2013. That means 400 to 600 foothold traps just to man those floats alone. We’re talking fifty-dozen pieces of steel. I darn sure want to make sure my gear is versatile as possible!
When it’s all said & done, a lot of different traps would serve my needs. So I settled on a brand & style that suits me best all around. The Bridger #1.5 coilspring will be my primary foothold trap for canines, muskrats and mink. Here’s why…
Features: I want a solid, well-built trap that won’t come apart at the seams when a big coyote tests the connection. More importantly, I want a dense, “chunky” trap that will send every muskrat straight to the bottom without ability to ascend and swim around or reach dry land with bracelet on. The Bridger line is all of that. Heavy frames and jaws along with machine-link chain creates a very dense trap. Strong and weighty. Just what I want for all uses.
The paws-i-trip style pan with nightlatch is also a big plus. No sideways pan wobble, no guessing when the trigger dog is “just right” tension before it dry fires in your hand. Easy to adjust in any lighting conditions… simply listen for the click and you know it’s perfectly set to go.
Rectangular pans are my preference for water trapping. I want the biggest target zone possible for muskrats and mink passing thru. By the same token, that’s a bonus on land lines for fox & coyotes imo. Too big a pan might result in toe catches. Too small a pan might result in no catches when paws land on the trigger-dog post and trap never fires. Which by the way tends to be more of an issue when it comes to post-type pan mounts rather than paws-i-trip style pan mounts.
Strength and ease of setting by hand are critical, too. When running water lines, I might very well set – reset – reset 100+ footholds per day. That can get very hand fatiguing by day’s end. A former injury to my right thumb at the joint left it less than 100% functional when healed. It definitely needed reconstructive surgery, I didn’t go that route and now work with a less than perfect thumb.
So cracking open a ton of traps by hand can flare up some old injury pains if straining with steel. I find the Bridger #1.5 coils a breeze to set by hand… even easier than my former go-to water traps, the #2 square-jaw coilsprings.
I like to have all my foothold traps lay perfectly flat when set, and the Bridger #1.5 coil does that. I also like to run my pans level to if not slightly above the jawline. That’s easily adjusted with these traps. Less chance of debris clogging beneath the pan to get clean snaps on land. Water animals tend to push down on the first firm object their foot touches when transitioning from swimming to walking on land.
So a somewhat higher pan than the textbook concept of “below jawline” is what actual experience has taught me works best.
Overall, the Bridger line of traps today is owned and managed by a family of lifelong trappers who know what works and what doesn’t in the field, in the mud. That factor alone is enough to grab my attention and steer it towards a product. Hard to beat something that is tested and tweaked by veterans of any profession in the actual field of use.
The Bridger #1.5 coil has a couple of shortcomings, too. First one being a side-frame anchored chain versus center-swiveled from the base. Not a problem for muskrats or mink, they are found on the bottom of whatever flow you are trapping, every time.
When it comes to canines on land, side-swivel chains equal movement of the paw between jaws and grip sliding to the far side of trap against its spring lever. If a thick-legged animal like coyotes pul from a side-anchored chain, they can actually depress that opposite spring lever and weaken the trap’s grip on that side.
In addition to that, the Bridger #1.5 closes tight in the middle of its jaws but leaves slight gaps on either side along the levers. One could easily cure that by grinding the inside jaw surfaces until they close with tight tolerance flush across. Not a big issue for me, considering my dryland trapping will be minimal compared to water trapping for these specific traps.
If I gear them up for long lines on land, I’d merely cut the factory chain swivel at its frame, switch the anchor to mid-frame on bottom and add a mid-chain crunch-proof swivel there. A quick touch of the grinder on jaw faces wouldn’t hurt, either way. Other than that, these traps are good to go for dryland fox or waterlines for muskrat, mink and coon on drowners.
Like we said in the beginning: there are no perfect traps for everyone alike. Choice of terminal gear is very individual specific. For me, a modest-size foothold on lands where human traffic concerns is one factor. A solid, chunky foothold that sends muskrats straight to the bottom and keeps them there is another. Unit cost is a third factor when it comes to buying several hundred at a time.
For sure I’ll have need for some #2 coils on private ground during winter canine work. I also have need for some #1 guard type traps in shallow water muskrat situations. But the bulk of my foothold traps inventory will be the Bridger #1.5 coils going forward. The massive buildup has already begun :)
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I spent the past two evenings putting up the last few muskrats for this season. Really no big hurry to get them done… other than the fact that what they sell for will be directly applied to new steel purchased for muskrat season 2012-13 and beyond.
While I have some fairly big plans for next season in the water, my thoughts continually turn towards land.
Three different times in my past I have caught ten fox in a day. Never more. Now that of course comes from the fact that I never ran exclusive lines for fox alone. Nor will that happen anytime soon. My land trapping in the past always began with coon alone for the first two weeks until fox began to show signs of primeness.
Even then by early November here in NY, the mane and flanks have barely begun to fill out. It seems such a shame to catch nice clear reds while they’re flat, when just a few weeks later they’ll be all puffed out with that gorgeous underfur and long guard hairs.
This year I’ll definitely make some time to work the local canines… local being a relative term as I’m sure my travels will wander thru bits of four – five counties in the process. Canine trapping here is a much more wide-open opportunity than water trapping. Lots of public land, and a lot of that public land has little human travel at all once deer seasons close.
Most area farmers and deer leases will throw their gates wide open to the first (and sometimes second) trapper who shows any interest in catching coyotes. Private permissions are not hard to get, although current fox & coyote prices may change that a bit come next season.
But for me personally, I can wrangle enough mixture of public and private ground to keep myself busy for a few weeks with winter fox. From early December thru early February, I’ll be working in a good bit of fox trapping along with under-ice muskrats. Trappers who work hard and know what they’re doing can really rack up some heavy catches of heavy winter rats. But I’ll be rolling with them in this state or another from the end of October until freezeup. No doubt I’ll be ready for a mental break, a change of pace.
It’s not that I love muskrat trapping more than any other. I really enjoyed my years longlining coon and would happily do that again. Alas, between changing land use and urban sprawl here along with trap restrictions and disease-riddled coon populations, what used to be no longer is. A person can still rack up some numbers of coon around here, but that’d be more in the style of taking it to them around feeding areas such as cornfields or waterways versus trapping the trails while the coon come to you.
Full-time fox trapping would be great, but I cannot take full time away from work to devout solely towards trapping. Even 1,000 fox season wouldn’t make the difference in that regard for me, and nobody is going to catch anywhere near 1,000 fox in the state of New York. Because my primary working hours are 8am thru noon est, muskrat traps holding expired catches under water is the most user-friendly approach for me. That said, I will make time to run a few dozen canine sets for a few weeks next season.
Winter-time fox trapping has always had a special place in my heart. Nothing like stepping out on a frigid morning at first light, burning your lungs with the first few breaths of air while fresh snow glistens and sparkles underfoot. You know for a fact that the frontal system which just rolled thru had canines moving on the prowl, and you know there will be some red gold curled up in the snow waiting for you somewhere on the trapline ahead.
Much as anything else that waits to unfold in the next fur season ahead, I cannot wait for mornings just like that :)
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