Archive for April 4th, 2012
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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