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Oct
15

Almost There

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Friday, October 25th, 2013. The official start of this year’s land-line trapping. I’m almost ready for the three-weeks, all-day, all-out blitz for canines (with a side order of coon) about to commence :)

I’ve almost have all the traps waxed, packed and ready to deploy. There are still quite a bit of “little things” to be completed, loose ends tied up.

Almost have enough coon and canine baits made. Almost got a couple batches of my own lures made… for later season work when the critters have been exposed to off-shelf commercial lures.

Almost have my permissions secured. Still a few straggling properties I’m chasing landowners for, still not 100% sure exactly how every mile of my lines will map out. That’s always a somewhat dynamic, moving target based on weather conditions, crop harvests, other trapper’s pressure, etc.

Almost have my truck ready to go. Still needs a little bit of work to prepare it (best as possible) for some long miles straight ahead. Scheduled to complete and will be done by next Friday dawn’s early light.

**

Thru the years I have learned that no matter how early we start our preparations, there is never 100% completion before day one. At least that has always been the case for me. I suppose if my lines were shorter and less gear to manage, that could be different. But this year I find that the more I get done, the more there seems left to still do.

I’ll be ready for land season when the opening bell rings at 7am eastern next Friday. I won’t be ready for the waterlines to come until that time draws nigh. That whole operation will wait for now… plenty of time to deal with that when the actual time comes.

Meanwhile, this weekend marks the completion of gear to prep and routes mapped out. Monday thru Thursday will be spent invested pre-making sets, getting ready to deploy max number of traps out and functioning on day one.

Other than that… steady as she goes each day. By the time it’s time to get started, we’ll be ready. That includes blowing the off-season dust from this online journal, and detailing our season’s journey all along the way. Look forward to seeing you here inside :)

Tight Chains
Austin

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Oct
21

Rain Delay

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After a 3.5 drive from home yesterday, I finally reached the first destination to scout for fall muskrat trapping up north. Season opens Thursday next, and it was time for the final precision scouting effort to determine exactly where opening day should be spent.

Truck was pulled over at the same off-road launch that I used this past April at the spring season’s end. If you looked closely enough, you might still see some faint shards of surveyor ribbon left on shore by other trappers before me then. Water levels looked good. Loaded the canoe with a brand-new deep cycle battery to power the 40lb trolling motor for an effortless push back upstream.

This particular flow winds its way thru a cattail & grassy bottomland for about three miles as the crow flies before it meets the migthy St Lawrence river. I have trapped this location fall and/or spring, on & off for the past twenty five years or so. Muskrat populations have always fluctuated between pretty good to stacked like cordwood in the times I’ve been there before. As I paddled my way downstream for the first couple hundred yards of the three-mile trip, it struck me odd to see almost no fresh muskrat sign at all. No feedbeds. No toilets. No shiny cattail and mud houses nestled back in the cover.

Looking close at the bottom of this flow with polarized glasses on did not paint a prettier picture. No muskrat holes or runs visible at all. None. As I rounded a distance bend that heads for a fairly straight stretch, it all came crystal clear in a hurry. The section of flow I had been on with its normal three feet of water only existed because of a beaver dam. Below that dam and for the next three miles or so was nothing more than a trickle of water. And mud.

I gotta tell ya… that sight left me with an instant sinking heart inside. Pretty much knew right then & there what the rest of my scouting trip would find. If this flow, a tributary to the St Lawrence Seaway was nearly three feet below normal water levels, that must mean the whole big river itself was drawn down the same.

Mind you, these were the exact-same waters Holly and I spent a long weekend kayaking back in early August. At the time, water levels were normal and summertime muskrat sign was ample if not abundant. I saw no reason then why this time right now would be anything other than business as usual on the fall trapline up north.

But I guess ten week’s time can make all the difference in a historical drought event. The yellow line on this NY map outlines my road trip yesterday, which took from 7:30am departure from home to 8:30pm arrival at the same. Thirteen hours of driving with a few interludes of paddling or walking in the mud resulted in no trappable muskrat populations found.

All of the old-timers I’ve talked to or that others have talked to and relayed in conversation say to a man that they’ve never seen water levels this low in New York state. Not just up north… most everywhere.

So if the men who’ve lived here all their lives that are now in their 70s or 80s cannot ever recall drier times, what does that tell us? Suggests to me that this summer has been at least that long a historical mark for lack of surface water tables.

Regardless, one thing is clear. My plans for a marathon muskrat trapping season are on hold due to rain delay. Or more aptly put, total lack of rain this year. Yesterday was also the open of trapping season in North Dakota. I’ve heard from friends out there that muskrat populations are decent in the big waters but small flows and shallow sloughs are dried up and nonexistant for the most part. It’s not like NY is dry while most other parts of the country are normal to wet. The historical drought of 2012 has been constant news everywhere, all summer long.

Everywhere I looked yesterday, remnant muskrat populations remain. A couple of spring-fed sloughs along the highway were mushroomed with new muskrat houses as ample water levels = ample water animals present. Give those areas one winter and spring season of normal to high precipitation, and muskrat numbers should bounce right back again. I did see plenty of fresh beaver sign and if weather conditions permit I will be up there this spring for a flat-tail trapping trip. But as for muskrats spring or fall? Not this year.

It remains to be seen how the water season here in my part of NYS unfolds ahead. That opens about a month from now, on November 25th. Meanwhile the land season comes in here this Thursday, canine and coon trappers have no shortage of critters to work with out there. I’ll run some short lines for coon in the local area, but by no means will it be a concerted efforts. Gas prices are high, coon prices are low and my normal work day schedule is not conducive to longline efforts for canines.

A ten-day muskrat trip was carefully planned and scheduled starting Thursday. 500+ traps are all ready to go. Boats and canoes and motors and gear remain ready to deploy. And there is nowhere to go with nothing to catch when you get there.

So our first season opener comes in four days from now. I’ll shift to Plan B and dabble with some coon while I wait for the water season to commence here on 11/25. The only plans I have that remain intact for the season of 2012 – 13 are to enjoy the great outdoors, have lots of fun and catch some fur where found. Anything other than that is under rain delay for now.

Furever,
Austin

 

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Oct
12

Lucky Thirteen

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Seems like forever ago when the last batch of fur left my shed and made its way to the market, marking an end to the season of 2011-2012.

After all this time, the next batch of fur is scheduled to ride in that very same place of prominence in my truck… two weeks from today. The water season up north opens thirteen days from now, a day which will be spent setting traps somewhere or other from 7am to nightfall. The day after that, Friday Oct 26th will yield the first of this season’s fur as we check the line before spending the remainder of that day setting more traps until dark.

No doubt this year will be fun, exciting, entertaining, educational and memorable. Maybe a bunch of other good things too. But it won’t be one of recordbook catches for me or probably anyone else.

The historical summer drought and significantly lower fur populations are a limiting factor, a reality we face. Much like grain farmers this year watched sky-high corn prices rising in the futures market, while they looked out across parched cornfields with stunted stalks and maybe one smallish ear per stalk in the better fields. Muskrat prices may very well rise to $20 or more this season, but many if not most trappers across the country are staring at prime water locations in the past that are now barren mud.

Long-term, this drought impacts water animals only until normal water levels return. If ample moisture falls in the way of rain and snow this winter, a restoration of standing water sources will mean a return to solid furbearer populations post haste. But in place where the affects of drought may linger into next year, could be a reduction of water animals for some time to come.

Back in March and April, I had tentative plans to trap North Dakota first and then our regular season here in New York, followed by a potential trip (or two) to New Jersey and/or North Carolina (beaver & otter) and then back to North Dakota for the spring season to wrap things up. The key word there was “tentative” because everything was based on weather patterns. Unfortunately, we all know how this summer turned out.

That leaves me with starting and ending this fall & spring season ahead trapping rats and beaver up north, with the usual mode here at home in between. It’d be nice to visit New Jersey for a spell in late February / early March… something I still look forward to. North Dakota is simply too dry overall for me to make the 24+ hours drive each way and operate that far from home with fractional muskrat populations. That still remains possible next spring if reports out of the midwest on rat catches are more favorable than expected. But in reality, that probably waits until the fall of 2013 from what I hear direct from sources on location out there.

I’m also prepared for the fact that running out of available muskrat locations here is a very real possibility. Half the places I’ve scouted are either bone dry or too dry for sustained populations. That means half the places I had potential to trap and likewise others did too are non-existent this time. So that in turn means me and all those other guys are left with fewer spots that remain.

An early freeze-up and lots of ice this year would probably work well in my favor. Most muskrats trappers out there in my state are not willing to work thru the ice, they are open-water only. A relatively few guys look forward to working thru the ice, because they can pile up solid catches from locations that are inaccessible in open water. I prefer to trap open water but will not hesitate to run all-day lines thru the ice if/when normal winter weather conditions return. Last year we had no ice at all to work with in my area. Nor do I expect to ever see such a non-winter season during wintertime here again.

Other than that, I’m mostly prepared and ready to start. About all that’s left would be painting and flagging stakes, moving my gear to the staging area up north and a few other odds & ends. Any mid-season changes in plans such as more emphasis on coon or fox will be dealt with at the time. Each of those critters are simple to cold-roll prospect and set up for. Finding them and preparing gear for such efforts is not a problem.

Above & beyond all else, this trapping season will be another year of being outside, enjoying the depths of nature and wildlife to its fullest. Whether it all goes according to script or nothing as planned remains to be seen. I’m every bit excited about my 40th year stringing steel as I was my very first. Maybe a bit more. Looking back on all the years past… I know how much fun there is in store!

Luckily for me, only thirteen days left to go :)

Furever
Austin
ap@moderntrapper.com

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Sep
30

Stretch Run

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Spent a lot of time this week scouting muskrats wherever standing water existed thru the summer. Rats are definitely there… but how many in each spot remains to be seen. It won’t be until sometime mid-October before the annual muskrat houses start going up. I did see one location where a dozen or more fresh houses were built, those shiny black constructions were easy enough to spot against green vegetation backgrounds.

One thing is clearly evident everywhere I look: find a cornfield near woods or water and it is getting pummeled by the local coon. A real dearth of acorns, apples and wild grapes this year comes at the end of a summer season where the various berry crops were thin or totally non-existent. 80sF temps in March, followed by a week in the teens F nightly lows and then endless months of historical drought wreaked total mayhem on local mast crops from ground surface to tree tops.

It’s a case of existing coon populations concentrated on limited food sources this year. The “ridge-runner” coon that comb oak tree woods and fence row thickets for fall mast crops are pushed into cornfields or waterways now. Natural upland foods are scarce to nonexistent. I don’t recall any time in recent memory where coon trails are beaten so heavily into the ground at every corn field or water source edge as they are right now.

Gotta take advantage of fur concentrations when concentrated, and I’ve shifted gears in the thought process of single focus on rats to adding some spur lines for raccoon mixed in. Also, what I’m seeing in the early stages of muskrat scouting is pretty much as expected: lots of mud, limited standing water. For sure I’ve found rats in most locations where stable water existed, but how dense or thin those numbers will actually be is unknown until season actually arrives.

Also see plenty of beaver sign, no apparent shortage of those in the traditional stronghold areas. Considering beaver can either create their own waterways or move great distances to where water still exists, they wouldn’t be hit as hard with drought as muskrats are. So by sheer necessity of fewer rats overall and plenty of coon & beaver available, I’m flexible and poised to pursue whatever fair game may cross my lines :)

**

A couple of questions and answers from the email inbox…

Austin,

Well, finally got my footholds waxed today, one less job on the list…

After watching the dvd and thinking about it now and then, I had a couple questions.

First is incidentals—all those 160’s and 210’s in runs have to pick up an otter or small beaver now and then.

We unfortunately don’t have an otter season yet, and beaver season doesn’t start until after Christmas. I figure I’m on borrowed time and will be turning in an otter eventually. Oh, well, the more we take by accident, the quicker we’re get a season, I hope—I guess I’ll find out if there really is a $100 fine for accidentally killing one.

Do you have an otter season in that area? I know at one time they were transporting them down from the ‘Dacks…

Many of my rat places are overrun with beaver, in fact, near home, the best rat places are almost all active beaver colonies. I’m curious what the biggest beaver is one can take in a 160-I know I got a two year old once and have taken several kits.

One other thing and I’ll quit rambling-when you set a coni on land for mink or even rat in a dry trail, do you still turn them sideways? I’ve done it both ways and I’m still unsure which is best. I don’t run enough dry conis for mink to draw any solid conclusions, I guess, but I might run a few more this year-our mink population seems to fluctuate like crazy and I hope it’s better then last year! Think the springs floods really did them in last season.

Well, I have work to do, later, [Loren]

Those are excellent questions, Loren… worthy of sharing in group fashion here :)

I use single-spring #160s and #210s staked lightly (not solid) and every year a couple of them come up missing as in disappeared from the location. They are not stolen, because other sets all around remain intact. Just a completely missing trap every now and then.

Twice in the past I found mangled #210s some distance away on dry land and presumed it was the work of incidental otters releasing themselves. To my knowledge there is simply no way to avoid all otter catches in muskrat sets when you blanket a location in the key locations. In my opinion if you use single-spring traps staked lightly so any otter catch can reach dry land, they will work themselves out of said trap thru brute strength alone. If on the other hand it were staked firmly in the water, some percentage of those would drown before they open up the trap and release.

Other than that, I cannot think of a way to completely avoid otter in all water sets using any size or style trap other than maybe #110s. But the fact that otter exist in places with no open season (same right here at my home area) does not mean trappers must greatly inhibit themselves in turn. If for example our state regulated the larger bodygrips out of use for muskrats due to potential otter catches, they’d darn well better replace that with legal use of colony traps. Or it’d be quite the battle royal involved, for sure.

Knock on wood, I have made literally thousands and thousands of muskrat sets in shallow and deep runs locations using #160s or #210s and never once held & killed an incidental otter. Hopefully the use of single-spring traps and staked light enough for otters to easily pull and reach dry land.

**

Hello Austin I received the disc and like all the others it would not play in the dvd player. I downloaded the vlc thing and watched it on my laptop. Great info, Great presentation, you are good. I am by no means a beginner, but learned alot. I was just wondering if I could get the newly formatted version as others did to watch down the road without the having to use a laptop. Thanks again [Wade]

Thank you for the kind words and valued feedback. This production was designed to deliver maximum information in a minimal slot of time. I chose to do it in “narrative book” fashion rather than trapline recordings for that reason. The next production to come will be a compilation of video segments from the entire season ahead, all on-line footage. In my opinion that is more entertainment and validation than pure info-delivery… and of course there is a place for that too.

Needless to say I learned about everything there is to experience with things that can go wrong production-wise and postal mailing as well. For awhile we had orders and replacement discs coming & going every which way imagineable. At this point in time we have most everyone in the latter stages of settlement and good from here. If anybody has not heard from me yet in response to emails or other forms of cummunication and need to have something resolved, please email me directly at ap@moderntrapper.com which ensures I’ll get it, see it and directly respond :)

That’s about all we have to cover for now. Just 25 1/2 days left until the first traps are deployed in the new season ahead. Look for a stady diet of trapline reports and picture here as we chronicle my season’s experience from start to finish. Gonna be a long, busy ride from late October 2012 thru late April 2013. I’m about ready to get started right now… counting down the days until nothing remains except for air and opportunity in front of me! 

Tight Chains
Austin

 

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Sep
24

Ringtail Addiction

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A funny thing happened on my way to scouting preseason muskrat lines. I keep running into raccoon sign. Lots of it.

Now that’s not good for a longtime coon trapper addict, someone who spent a lot of years chasing ringtails in the daylight and dark. There was a time I thought that addiction might be cured, or at the very least quelled. But each time I run across hot, smoking coon toilet locations or beaten-down trail networks connecting food and travel zones, that oldtime itch to lay out some steel and block those paths tends to flare up again.

My general area of the state used to have a lot more coon around than it does today. But just like too many other places across the country, we’ve had our bouts with rabies and distemper to knock raccoon numbers back.

Add to that progressive habitat loss, with decades of intensive logging and of late the heightened land clearing for small grain crops and a lot of ancient, hollow den trees are gone for my lifetime. It takes an oak or sugar maple too near 100 years of growth to get big enough and hollow enough for sheltering coon. I don’t have that kind of time left in me to wait for today’s ten-inch trees to get there again.

Today’s coon that cannot find enough open room in remaining hollow trees for shelter are more and more taking to ground dens for winter shelter. Whether that affects fur quality overall or not, I can’t say. I do know that fur buyers used to tell me that coon denning in hardwood trees would have the glossiest fur from frequent rubbing against oils in the wood.

Regardless, my travels thru the state take me past roadside trail locations much like the one pictured here. That specific place does not have a cornfield this season and likewise no rutted path of travel this time around. But more years than not for the past three decades and counting, a creek on one side and a corn field on the other side of that highway = what you see right there.

In the past I ran mostly #220s in such trails with a mix of #11 longsprings for blind and baited sets along with #1.5 coils when available steel began to run low. The difference now will be #160s replacing the #220s by law and prudence, along with new dogproof (DP) traps where crisp trail set locations don’t exist and baited sets take over.

I’ll still rely on #11 longs for some blind and baited locations as needed, too. They are my preferred foothold trap for coon on dryland sets and in shallow water: perfect grip across paw for comfortable, secure hold and they do a fine job with incidental mink, red and gray fox as well.

I’ve used #160 size bodygrip traps a fair bit for blind-setting coon trails in recent years with near equal results to the #220 days. Early on when vegetation is thick and natural pinch points exist, either trap is about equal.

As the season wears on and vegetation opens up, then we see some coon balk at the smaller #160 that would probably still steer into a #220. Eventually all bodygrip traps become less effective than baited sets late in the season, overall.

A pair of coon taken with #220s in late November (as pictured) naturally gravitated against those tag alder saplings, which served as a natural pinch point, albeit open air. I’m not sure that would work equally well with #160s set legal (in blind trails without bait) here in NY, which mandates the top of jaws be no higher than 8″ off the ground. That eliminates jacking the trap up 4 – 6 inches off ground and creating a higher window presentation for snaring coon.

But, as the opening picture showed, big coon naturally squeeze themselves under, into and thru some pretty narrow places by choice. It’s simply a matter of being a bit more picky at where we deploy those #160s to nail even the biggest coon that come along.

As with any lethal trap, my #160s will only be used in places where pet traffic is not an issue. That’s where the DP traps really shine. It’s easy (or at least somewhat easier) to secure permission when the landowner sees how DP traps function. A quick demo of what’s deployed usually gets the green light where dogs or small livestock happen to roam. Even cats can be discouraged from catches if sweet or fruity baits are used.

Those #11s are key in heavily-used but open trails where no pinch points exist to blend in bodygrips. Then it’s simply a matter of bedding in the little foothold where coon traffic dictates, and they’ll be there in the morning when we come.

Although I’m mentally committed to a primary focus on muskrats this year, I will allow myself some time in distraction for putting some ringtails in the truck. Also, if I happen to run out of muskrat locations far from home before our local water season opens one month later, it’s no big deal to stretch out the coon line and shift gears in that direction for a little while.

Either way and anyways, I look forward to a mixed bag of fur this season ahead. Thirty days left until the first stakes get stuck in the mud. I’m ready get started right now!

Tight Chains
Austin

 

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Sep
22

Students Of The Game

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I just got my copy of your coon book, and I have to tell you that I’m very happy with it. I read the whole book, cover to cover last night. I can honestly say that I learned more about coons from that than I knew beforehand. Never really a coon trapper, but I expect I will have a good foundation to learn from now.

A really big thing that got me was a dilemma that I couldn’t get through last year. Our water season is short, maybe only 9 days like last fall, before freeze up. There is no reason for me to wait for it before starting on coon, but I never knew that. Coon start to prime the last week in october, I’m losing 10 days of coon trapping I never knew about. It all just kind of fit together for me.

Anyway, thanks again. [South Dakota]

**

Read your coon book this summer, picked it up at the NTA convention from a dealer there. To this point I have been a pocket set man for coon but want to expand into dryland snaring for locations where water is absent. That is particularly the case this year but every season I find coon traffic away from water and try to figure out how to approach that without using #220s because of hunting dogs traffic.

Your book has been instrumental in my preseason scouting efforts already and I have found so many key funnels I never even knew existed before. My only wish is that I’d picked up your books years ago instead of now. Better late than never, I guess! [North Dakota]

**

Your muskrat/mink book was the difference maker in my trapping for the past ten years. Before then I was one of the guys you describe who tried to catch surface swimming muskrats with #110s on stakes. After reading your book and trying sets on the bottom (with skepticism) it all came together. If your latest dvd is half as good as your books have been, I can’t wait to see it! [MI]

**

Received the dvd today at long last. Been anxiously waiting for this day to come! As someone who has read all your books, this one picks up right where the muskrat book left off. I see you’ve mad some refinements thru the years which was expected. By far my two favorite segments were your staking method and also the google map tutorial. I’ve done something similar with staking in the past, but never thought of applying it as you do to compensate for any depth of ancher at each location. Simply ingenious!

The google map section was real enlightening, gave me a sense of centering and direction on how to approach a new location. I’d like to see more time spent in that regard for future works, I think your descriptions of how to zero in on prime spots and rotate the lines around, etc is where the real value is. Most of us already know how to set feedbeds and floats and 110s across denholes. I notice you spent no time with that which is wise because youtube is filled with such material. You hinted that another muskrat video will be produced this season, I for one am looking forward to it. Especially if it shows set locations and check results thru all weather conditions including high water and snow covered ice.

Congrats on a successful production. You hit the mark :) Regards, [M.G., NY)]

===

If you’ve read this far or at least skimmed your way down to this point by now, you might mistake this post for a personal advertisement. It is not. The books you see featured above were written by me in the past but are owned by Sterling Fur Co and I receive no further compensation from them. However, the reason I wrote them in the first place was to share knowledge and information with other trappers on whatever tidbits they might find of value.

Since starting this blog last December and other recent interactions with trappers, a whole bunch of people have told me they picked up copies of these books (and others) I wrote in the past. Substantial feedback thru the years has been positive to outright glowing… but let’s be honest, if someone thought the books sucked they would probably not sit down to author such a letter of feedback. So by no means do I imply these books are greater than anything else anyone else ever authored.

I do hope to make the point here that knowledge is power. All the time we see where guys go out and buy lots of equipment and admittedly don’t really know what to do with it in the actual field. Matter of fact, too many guys buy too much of the wrong equipment and/or stuff they don’t even need in the first place.

Basic human nature compels most people to just dive in first without reading instructions. Lest you doubt that for one second, this is why when you open a package that contains anything with moving parts, the instruction manual and/or quick-start guide are right on top with lots of red ink and large bold fonts to grab your attention. But, most people just toss all that aside and wade right in to start hooking up cables and pushing buttons asap.

Knowledge is power. In the world of trapping, knowledge is cheap, too. I have a growing collection of books and dvds thru the years that is substantial, with total cost less than $1,000 overall. That decades’ long collection of educational material doesn’t even equal my best single day’s catch of muskrats last season alone. What price can be put on education and the ability to do more, faster and with less?

The purpose of this brief note is encouragement, maybe even firm prodding for you to invest a little bit of money and time in yourself. Pick up one new book or dvd on the primary animal you intend to target this season, or the one you understand least about right now. Arm yourself with a bit more knowledge than you have right now. Build upon that from day one of season to the end. Repeat the same process next year.

That’s how you take yourself from where you are today to where you wish to be in the pursuit of trapping. The same rule of building knowledge with new books and dvd applies to me like everyone else. And you can be real sure I’m applying what I preach in actual practice right now, myself :)

Tight Chains
Austin

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Sep
18

Counting Down

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Well, as of 7am this morning we’re down to merely 37 days and counting before the season of 2012-13 officially begins. Seems like forever ago when I pulled stakes last back in April, and settled myself in for a long summer break to follow.

I’m not quite ready yet for the start and quite frankly I don’t know if any of us ever really are. Seems like there’s always something or other we forget until last minute. This year I’ve been pretty good about steady pacing the workload, picking away at something or other most every day.

Noah Would’ve Understood If we’re gonna get serious about trapping, we’re gonna need two (or more) of everything. I have two canoes, and that’s about it. I need two 50lb thrust electric motors and enough batteries to not run dry during two day’s hard use. Also need two pairs of fresh waders… the ones I have on hand are pretty chewed up from rough going in beaver-snag infested waters. Neoprene and sharp sticks submerged in the silt and muck do not play nice together.

All the misc gear such as gloves and socks, inside-wader pants (fleece sweats) and insulation, jackets and coats including rain gear, polarized sunglasses for sunny days, patch kits, duct tape, first aid kits, etc are just as vital as traps and terminal gear. It takes all that stuff to operate traplines at high levels of efficiency.

Gotta make our extensive lists and check them twice. Details, details :)

Unofficially, I’ve been plugging along most every day with preparations and tasks to get ready… and still there’s more to go. Just finished dip-treating the last twenty-five dozen #160s, about five-dozen assorted footholds and three dozen #330s to complete the task.

Next up is the process of removing one spring from all the #160 and #220 size traps. That will include a few hour’s time standing in front of a table vice with music playing to break the monotony or better yet, volunteer help to converse the time away. For those who asked, I always remove the spring without chain, leaving trap chain on the lone spring for these traps. Factory chain is a vital part of my staking system for muskrat-mink bodygrip traps.

Basically this offseason I swapped out all of my existing #110 size traps for #160s instead. So my overall numbers of traps didn’t increase… just changed the assortment. I do have more steel to accumulate real soon (can we ever really have too many traps?) which include Bridger #150 and #159 bodygrip traps designed for muskrat (mink) specifically.

Also adding a couple different selections of canine foothold traps, but there’s no pressing need to get them ready for service right away.

Childhood Memories Have a 12′ aluminum car-top boat that my uncle recently gave me. It’s at least 50+ years old or more but great shape still. I recall him having that from my youngest memories as a child. Always fantasized about motoring around in it when I was a kid… now it’ll be serviced on the water lines for muskrat and beaver where flows are big enough to warrant but calm enough to handle that size. Right now it is just plain shiny aluminum, but about to get two coats of flat brown paint to kill the glare on sunny days. Next couple of sunny days that come along, that little boat will get its first major facelift since sometime before I was born :)

Stakes Are High
So far I have 30-dozen sumac saplings cut for stakes… 7′ and 8′ lengths for footholds in the big marshes where visibility sucks, and also under-ice work with baited bodygrips and deep runs. Last season never saw more than one day of ice hard enough to walk before it mushed up and/or went away repeatedly. Ice walking and the knowledge on how to systematically pick off rats from beneath its cover separates catches in the 100s versus catches in the 1,000s for New York trappers. Really looking forward to stretches of under-ice trapping this season where different areas inaccessible during open water become readily available once things harden up.

I need to paint the ends of those some bright flourescent color, and do the same thing to several hundred 4′ stakes for the #160s and #210s deployed. Right now there is a rainbow of vary-colored tapes on what I have… need to consolidate a color scheme so I know at a glance which are mine versus all the other stakes expected to be seen that don’t belong to me.

Scouting?
This summer’s historical drought has left the remaining local waterways with enough depth to cover a rat’s back choked beneath a thick covering of duckweed and algae that cooked in the sun for months on end. Normally we have several gully-washer storms during the summer that flush slow moving waters from warm weather weed coatings. Not this time. The same algae and duckweed that formed in May is still pretty much right there in the same spots. By now it has aged in the relentless summer sun. And it does not smell like fine wine or cheese, both of which tend to age well.

Considering the local “flows” which in fact ain’t flowed one bit since April are choked with vegetive sewage, I’m saving my fall scouting until the last few weekends before game time arrives. About half the places I intend to cover are very familiar waters while the other half are completely new to me. We deal with pretty much the same general situations in each location, but each location tends to have a personality all its own. I really prefer to cover the water at least once before loading up equipment and paddling (motoring?) out into the vast unknown.

Waiting
Other than all that, just a matter of keeping busy with small tasks each day and marking off the days on our dwindling calendar until no days remain between us and the long-awaited start of 2012-2013 season’s fun.

Furever,
Austin

 

 

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Sep
11

First

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After a long wait thru production errors (my fault) and production delays (not directly my fault) and order shipment errors (not my fault at all) we finally have our first edition,  High Volume Muskrat Trapping dvd end-product in hand. Likewise, our first viewer feedback report arrived by email today as well. I’ll admit I opened it with some bit of trepidation. What if they tell me it sucks? That always goes thru the mind of every author with every book or video product known to man.

Anyways , the first report was a positive one. Reprinted as follows…

Austin,
Received the dvd today at long last. Been anxiously waiting for this day to come! As someone who has read all your books, this one picks up right where the muskrat book left off. I see you’ve mad some refinements thru the years which was expected. By far my two favorite segments were your staking method and also the google map tutorial. I’ve done something similar with staking in the past, but never thought of applying it as you do to compensate for any depth of ancher at each location. Simply ingenious!

The google map section was real enlightening, gave me a sense of centering and direction on how to approach a new location. I’d like to see more time spent in that regard for future works, I think your descriptions of how to zero in on prime spots and rotate the lines around, etc is where the real value is. Most of us already know how to set feedbeds and floats and 110s across denholes. I notice you spent no time with that which is wise because youtube is filled with such material. You hinted that another muskrat video will be produced this season, I for one am looking forward to it. Especially if it shows set locations and check results thru all weather conditions including high water and snow covered ice.

Congrats on a successful production. You hit the mark :)

Regards, [M.G., NY)]

**

I certainly do appreciate all honest feedback from viewers to let me know where we hit strong points and equally important, what can be done more of or better (or both) in future productions. So there is the first feedback on the first dvd of whatever else is yet to come.

One small point of concern still remains. Out of a couple hundred dvds shipped so far, three individuals contacted me to say they experienced playback issues. Those issues included their player giving an error message and/or playing audio with black screen video.

Now, I made sure the video format in this production was vanilla, generic AVI (which stands for audio video interface) and is the most widely accepted format for most playback software in computers and dvd players. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a small percentage of viewers with playback glitches. We have solutions available for them :)

First, the standard editions of Microsoft Windows Media Player downloaded to just about any computer will solve playback issues immediately. This official MSFT productis what I have on all the computers in my house, and all of them play any dvd (including mine as pictured while playing, above) without a hitch. That download in wide range of update choices can be found in the link right here for convenience sake :)

There is also a freeware videos player I’ve used that is akin to wordpress software. It is available at www.videolan.org free of cost. That too will play our dvd and just about any others in existence as well.

Again, I have no idea how many individuals experienced playback glitches with this dvd product. It seems that most people had no issues, and for the handful I’ve heard from to date, the easy solutions are suggested above. As a third choice, I can record single editions by request in” MP4″ format which is the same thing youtube videos use. That is not a good choice for all-around recording as the file size is larger but will likewise certain;y play in any computer that is capable of viewing youtube videos successfully.

So today marks the first feedback of our first dvd product with hopefully more to come. Later this week we’ll update the countdown to opening day and first piece of steel planted in the ground.

Tight Chains
Austin
ap@moderntrapper.com

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Sep
02

Dawn Cuts Grease

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When I sold my spring muskrats from the March trip to northern-zone NY this past season, I actually swapped them for new traps instead of cash. Twenty dozen new Duke #160s followed me home from the show in Herkimer yesterday, along with some vintage B&L stoploss traps and other sundry items.

Cocolamus Creek in southern PA was the buyer, and I’ve waited until the NYSTA convention this weekend to take delivery. Saved the shipping costs involved and leaves me plenty of time to get them prepped for the fall season opener in late October straight ahead.

These traps need to lose the boxes, lose the factory grease, gain a light coating of rust followed by a couple coats of trap dip in time to dry by October 25th. Tall order? Nope… piece of cake :)

First step was unloading the truck. As you can see, I did it by myself and there was no careful stacking of the boxes from truck to ground. Gentle enough not to hurt the traps, boxes were already half opened in the process. We also have some 30-gallon containers to put them in, and a creek full of running water as well.

I’ve read a lot of tactics for removing factory grease from traps. Some suggest taking to a car wash. I’ve never found that to be effective at total removal of oils at all. Some suggest running traps thru an automatic dishwasher. I’m sure that works… but we’re talking 20 dozen pieces of steel here. My dishwasher is not quite big enough for that!

Many years ago I watched oil-soaked waterfowl and mammals being cleaned by hand using nothing more than Dawn dish detergent and water. How many times have you seen the t.v. commercials touting Dawn cuts grease?

Me too.


So the easiest way I’ve found to strip factory grease from new metal is fill a container with traps, add some water, add a 1/4 cup (or so) of dish detergent to the water, finish filling said container with poured water to suds it all up nice. I’m able to fit about five dozen of these #160s into a standard trash can sized container.


From there I let the steel soak a couple of days minimum or until I’m ready to take the next step. Each day I agitate the containers by shaking them sideways to swirl the mix and refoam soapy suds. Not sure if that really matters or not… but who doesn’t like making bubbles anyway?

Next step, a few days from now is to pour off the soapy water, load traps in the bed of my truck and finish rinsing them off at the car wash. We’ll continue this story when that time comes. Once totally cleaned, traps go back in a water – white vinegar bath mixture to etch the steel and promote light rusting in rapid fashion. Then we rinse them again, let dry and dip with trap treatment coating of our choice.

This leaves me with +/- forty dozen #160s and maybe five dozen #210s to begin the season with. I’ll add another twenty dozen Bridger #159 single-spring 6″ traps to round out the collection. Need more than enough inventory on hand in case of heavy theft or other unforeseen loss potential, in addition to trapline rotation strategies. Where 48-hour check laws permit skipping a trapline check on the third or fourth day and setting a fresh line elsewhere, checking both lines next day and continuing the shift from old line to fresh sets require lots of extra steel.

To this point in time I’ve liked Duke #160s best of all for muskrats specifically, but the Bridger #159 is equally effective and more feature laden for the same general price. Considering I remove one spring from my Dukes to begin with, the Bridger #159 saves me that extra step to bother with in preparations.

All brands work and each trapper has their own preferences. How you set the trap, how you position the triggers and specifically where you set each trap means everything in the end. What brand or particular size said trap means least of all in the equation for success.

That’s it for the first step in this simple trap-cleaning process for now. More to come, this week :)

Furever
Austin

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Aug
24

I Dip – You Dip – We Dip

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The summer season gradually winds to an end. Days are getting shorter. Nights are getting cooler. Opening days for trapping seasons 2012 – 13 are drawing nearer.  Crunch time is on the distant horizon. time to get serious about getting ready for the big events!

I still like to boil and wax my canine gear in typical “old school” style out of part nostalgia, part habit and part fear that changing things up might impact results in negative fashion.

Truth is, I’m probably just as well off to dip every trap I own and then wax or otherwise seal the canine traps afterward. Regardless, I have dipped all of my water traps (and footholds for coon) with various dip products thru the years dating back to 1990 if not earlier.

Definitely learned a few things in the past two decades and counting when it comes to dip-treating traps.  By no means is any rocket science involved here. Matter of fact, I think a lot of trappers probably over complicate the project. So let’s walk thru the past two days in my yard here for an overview of what I personally do.

Weather is perfect this week for treating traps. Gotta make hay while the sun shines… or in my case make both old and newer steel shine while time is still on our side.


I had roughly ten dozen #160s, four dozen #220s, seven dozen #1.5 coils and two dozen #2 coils with a few other misc make & model traps prepped to dip. Not a big pile of steel to deal with… couple gallons of liquid dip and an hour’s messy labor should get the job done :)

All foothold traps get some type of small object between the jaws to prop those inner surfaces open. I have a bunch of miscellaneous nails and screws laying around, so I grabbed something short and used those for this process. These traps are Bridger #1.5 coils new last spring, their first trip thru the speed dip baptism process.

Compare those prior to some aged #2 Victor reverse-jaw coils that were pretreated with a vinegar soak to strip old rust, dirt and debris away from bare steel. These traps are as open-pore steel ready to accept dye coating as you will ever see.


Step one is always pouring the liquid medium in our selected container first, then gradually stir the dip product in for smooth, even dilution. I learned long ago not to simply pour in globs of dip to an empty container and then add the gas dilution afterwards while expecting that mess to slurry real nice. Doesn’t work well that way at all… pour the gas first, gradually stir in dip and allow it to mix thoroughly to begin with. As with most any project in life you can think of, prep work is everything.

My personal preference has always been white gas or stove gas, aka coleman camping fuel. I have used unleaded gas before and it works fine, but the white gas seems to dry quicker and leave a more even coat finish. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I didn’t work with gasoline enough. By no means do I imply that my way is the only way, or that other liquids won’t work as well.

But hey… this is my story, my chronicle and that’s what I do, dammit! <laugh>


Once the dip mix is properly diluted and stirred, time for the bathing to begin. I like to dunk my traps by the dozen when it comes to small footholds. Bodygrip traps are laid flat in piles until they just stick out above the surface of liquid, whereupon a little sideways sloshing gives everything a nice even soak.


A mix of brand new #160s and some three years old now that haven’t been treated since their first time dipped, three seasons ago. I expect a lot more time afield and in the water for them this season alone than the past three seasons combined, so everything gets well coated ahead of time this time around.

Nice, smooth coat after the second round dipped. First bath on Wednesday, second bath today (Friday) and that’s it for them… ready for a lot of long, hard use in their future straight ahead.


Those aged Victor #2 coils sucked up that coating like thirsty sponges. Nice thin, even coats of coverage with no globs, drips or runs anywhere.


Our virgin Bridger #1.5s took on two thin coats of cover, but in usual patchy fashion for new steel. They were cleaned of all grease and grime but not completely rusted, so I expect they will need be dipped again before next season begins.

**

A few pointers I keep in mind from experience learned the hard way…

Always wear old, worthless, decrepit clothing from head to footwear at all times while working dips. Whatever you have on will be spattered and ruined for anything else but the next paint job or septic tank inside inspection you have in mind. So don’t even almost think about wearing anything you care about for this job. A trip to salvo for used clothes is a much better idea than “trying to be careful” than attire you don’t want ruined. Believe me, it will be ruined when you’re done :)

Prepare the dip mix well diluted and blended before traps hit the surface. Add gas to your chosen container first, gradually pour in the dip medium from its can and stir, stir, stir, stir like you are mixing your own kid’s wedding cake. If you mix the dip solution thoroughly first, everything else is a breeze from there.

Dip traps in the solution once, remove when wetted and soaked, then shake them vigorously to remove drips and runs. This is where the ruined clothing aspect comes from. Flecks and drops of dip will be flying all over the place. An outdoors project well away from anything you don’t want stained, for sure.

Better to dip traps a second or third time than try to get one thick coat of coverage. Like any other paint project, thin coats layered are much more durable than a thick coat on its own.

Traps that have been dipped before do not need be stripped of old dip before retreating. Just clean any dirt and debris from them, redip once or twice and good to go. Those #220s of mine in that pile have several coats of dip on them dating back fifteen years or so now. I have no plans on taking them back to bare steel any decade soon. Dip, redip and redip some more.

That’s more or less the preseason drill for me. I’ve dipped traps during beastly hot weather, barely above freezing weather, high humidity, low humidity. Never once have I had major issues with finishes drying hard enough soon enough for expedient use. I think the important steps are stirring the blend well, dipping several thin coats and shaking off excess liquid in between.

Follow similar steps = enjoy similar results for yourself. Dip away!

Furever
Austin

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