Bits Of Time


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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Categories : AP Lines

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