Archive for MTMagazine
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.
One thing that it depends on is the type of set. I will switch up my trap position for a standard dirt hole, step down, scent post, or my new favorite set which I call the Blueball’s dirt hole because that’s my nickname on the NYSTA site and around at the conventions.
This set is something I came up with through trials and tribulations this season and I will try to describe this set in as much detail as possible. I have caught a lot of k9s in this set and it will be my main set next year. Remember, this is not a set that is some secret and it may not work for everyone the way it did for me.
This set is basically a walk-through dirt hole/scent post. I set on sign so there is no guessing if they are there, because the best set in the world can’t catch a k9 if there is no k9 in the area. After I find some sign I get two pieces of backing (My favorite backing is clumps of grass). You can also use sticks, clump of hay or anything else as a backing that will preferably hold scent.
I grab my hammer and dig out a trench that gradually slopes toward the middle about 2 inches deep, 24 inches long, and 12 to 18 inches wide. I should add I prefer this trench/walk through to be going upwind to downwind so the wind goes “through” the walkthrough. Once you have done this, make a trap bed in the center and stake your trap down (I prefer a larger trap for this set.). After this is done, I then face upwind and in the center of the walkthrough at the deepest point I put my first clump of grass or backing on the top of the ledge at that point. Then I make a dirt hole against the ledge that is at about a 60 degree angle in front of that first backing.
Next step is to put the other clump of grass on opposite side of first backing, on top of that ledge right next to the ledge. This will be the scent post part of your set. Next is to bed the trap so it will not rock around. This is my go-to set when the ground is not too hard.
In the trapping world, the word “competition” seems to make people cringe. Some aspects of competition make me cringe as well. There are three types of competition to me and they all strive to make me a better trapper.
The first type of competition is the one most people experience, yet I have not had much exposure with it. This is the type where two or more trappers are trapping the same piece of property. One person in particular made a HUGE impact on the way I think of competition: John Rockwood, one of my favorite people in the industry and a member of my “Family” of trapping friends. He showed me a couple of key aspects when trapping land with other trappers. The first thing he told me is when trapping public land it is always a “rat race” on opening day to get to the “best” spots. John told me for a long time he was one who would go fast as possible to get to the spots that everyone thought of as being the “best” such as bridges and culverts.
He then went on to explain that this is not always best and sometimes you need to think outside the box. This will make you a better trapper. I had the luxury to ride with him when he showed me spots that people would rush to set, and in this rush to get there they would miss out on A LOT of better spots. One place in particular was a spot with culverts. He showed me where everyone else would set on top of each other and then went on to show me a spot just a few feet away where most of the animals were traveling. Most people overlooked this spot because they would not think outside the box. This gave me a whole new outlook on competition. Competition makes you a better trapper, although you may not like it.
The next type of competition is obtaining new property rights. I happen to run into this a lot. When driving around to get more permission, you will often be rejected for many reasons. I have been rejected because others already trap it, they do not like trapping, because I am young they may not trust me, some just say they don’t like people on their land. This forces me to again “think outside the box”. I try to look and be as professional as possible. I had business cards made up with my name, number and address along with my email address in order to show them that it is a “business” to me and that I am trying to be as professional as possible. I think this helps out a lot.
I also dress appropriately and usually wear some nice jeans, a collared shirt and good pair of work boots. Again I believe this helps to show them that I will not disrespect their property and that I am professional. I also bring a nice trap to show them how it works and help take away some of the common misconceptions about trapping. After I do all this and still get rejected I leave them my business card and let them know that if they need anything to call and I will try to help. The property I get rejected from may be the best around, but I then try to get surrounding properties and develop a strategy to get animals coming to and from that property. It may be harder and I may not have great locations but it teaches me to learn other tactics to get the animal I am after.
The third type of competition is friendly competition between friends. This is my FAVORITE type of competition. I was challenged by “Redbonechick” or Danielle for short. She is new to my area and I consider her one of my closest friends. Well, she challenged me on our local trapping website (another reason to join a forum) in front of everyone that she could whoop my butt even though she was new to the area. I gladly took this challenge thinking I would annihilate her. Wow, was I wrong! She is a great trapper and she won that round. Back to the topic though, being challenged and having someone to compete against drove me throughout the season to keep putting in new sets and keep going even when things became rough. I would like to thank her for this because without being challenged, I do not know if I would have done as good.
The last thing I would like to talk about is Hard Work.
Many believe that people like Mark Zagger or others that succeed are infested with target animals or have a mystery set. The one thing that makes these people successful is hard work. People like Mark that go out and catch 100 plus k9s a year, or John Rockwood that catch hundreds of beaver a year are working hard EVERY day to do that. They wake up each morning and are going all day. They are running to check traps, dispatch animals, remake sets and put in new sets.
After trapping all k9 season, I know how hard it is to get up and get moving and how hard it is to put in new sets when you know you have more traps to check. Although most people may not be able to drive 100 plus miles a day or run 100 plus traps, if you want to succeed you have to keep going and push forward.
I hope this article was enjoyable for everyone and if you would like to see more pictures or see how my season progresses I have a thread
Also, bring a friend every now and again, makes for a fun time!
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My name is Cody Petersen. I am a 17 year old high-school senior into my third year in this wonderful sport of trapping, and I’m proud to say that I am improving each year. It seems that is a direct correlation to a few key things which we’ll discuss. First is how I got into this sport and why I have succeeded.
When I was younger, my Dad used to love trapping and from what I remember he was pretty darn good at it! I remember going to his house on weekends and running the line with him or going down in the basement and wearing a freshly skinned out muskrat as a glove. Some of my fondest memories I have. When the fur market took a dive, he stopped and never got back in. Although he could never refrain from noticing a muskrat hut on the side of the road or how he would set it up. I’m beginning to notice that I am the same way. I cannot drive past anything involving trapping without talking about it or just smiling to myself.
Jumping ahead a few years, a couple of my buddies started talking at school about who could skin a muskrat faster and how much they loved trapping. I convinced a buddy to come over and set a few traps for the weekend with me, and it is almost funny looking back at it now because he knew nothing and neither did I. I still pick on him because he has not changed. We set a few coon traps and rat traps in spots I would never set now. We ended up catching nothing much.
I started looking everywhere for a trapper’s training course since that’s a requirement in New York State. I could not find a trapping course for some time, but finally found one an hour away that I convinced my step dad to take me. He is also a huge reason I am the trapper I am today. Well, I ended up having the flu that day so it had to wait until after season. I started reading every single forum I could and gathering as much information as possible, which I still do. Trapperman.com became a huge help.
I ran into a trapper named Gary who lived a couple miles away. I wound up talking to him and noticed his location was close to me, little did I know but he would become one of my best friends and mentors! Gary convinced me to go for high quality traps and start out with “Cadillac’s” as he would say. He took me around to some properties I had permission to trap and just showed me sign for a full day, which I highly recommend taking the time out of your schedule to scout and watch animals’ habits.
We talked on a regular basis by phone, which took my parents getting used to but they soon understood it was much better for me to talk trapping all of the time instead of getting into trouble and doing stupid things such as drugs or partying. Gary took me to my first convention. I soon realized that these things and online forums were a huge part in becoming a successful trapper.
First thing that I have noticed is WHO YOU KNOW and how you go about talking to people plays a huge role in the style of trapping you do. As I stated earlier, my first mentor was Gary and he has a thing for trapping k9s, which I am obsessed with. I believe a huge part of my obsession with trapping k9s is my mentor always talked about them. I did not start out with cheaper traps because I was told, “ save for a few Cadillac’s instead of buying a lot of cheaper traps”. And I did just that.
I bought 6 mb650s inside laminated because I was told how awesome these traps are (although I now favor a different trap). Once I started being an active contributor on the forums and going to conventions I was becoming better, these people that I was talking to had already had made mistakes and they had trials and had errors that I could learn from. This accelerated my learning curve tenfold.
I then started talking to some bigger named trappers such as Mark Zagger, and I cannot thank him enough for all the information that he has given me and for taking me under his wing. The trappers that have taken me under their wing such as Gary, Mark, John Rockwood (and more) I believe are the reason for my success.
My first year I ended up catching 3 coyote, 2 fox, 21 muskrat, 4 mink, 2 fisher and a couple of other critters. My second year I improved greatly with k9s as I went from 5 to 15. This year I caught 29 k9s but I also had a few thefts of fur, one being a coyote came and took a fox from my trap. One reason for my improvement on k9s is because of these great mentors, but also another concept that they had taught me.
My first year trapping was on my land and my family’s land right next to me. The second year I trapped, I expanded a few miles and in turn I caught more k9s. This year I greatly expanded the number of miles and caught even more k9s. This brings me to another key concept.
This concept can apply to a number of things. First thing that comes to mind is when I first set a trap. First thing I think of is, “Will this set work if it rains?” It usually rains on opening day in upstate New York. When I am looking at a set location I think, “if it rains will this set still be able to produce fur?” In order to help I look for a set that is on a downhill slope… another thing I learned from mentors along with online forums. It allows for water to run off and makes so the animal exerts more force when it steps because it is stepping down. I use a lot of peat moss to help keep it dry and working.
One of my main problems, like most kids, is SCHOOL… but I have a different problem than most. Because I am in school, I either have to wake up at unbearable hours or let my animals sit through the day. I wake up early most of the time to get it done before school. Waking up at 3:30 A.M. or sometimes earlier makes for a long trapping season and it is sometimes hard to motivate yourself to keep putting in new sets and to keep fixing sets that you caught animals in.
One thing that kept me motivated was my family, whether that be my actual family or my trapping family. Another problem with having to wake up this early is that you can actually scare off a lot of critters going into your sets this early which I often experienced throughout the season.
Another item I have seen and noticed is people thinking that there is one secret set or mystery set that pro’s use to rack up k9s and they will not tell people their secret. This is completely FALSE. Many people also believe there is one position that the trap HAS to be at, such as 9 inches back and 2 inches offset. For me, and remember I am not a pro or anywhere close to it so take this lightly, my trap position depends on quite a few things.
One thing that it depends on is the type of set. I will switch up my trap position for a standard dirt hole, step down, scent post, or my new favorite set which I call the Blueball’s dirt hole because that’s my nickname on the NYSTA site and around at the conventions.
[to be continued]
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By: Luke Jackson
I had never targeted beaver solely, so one year I decided I was going to give it a try. A year and a half before I trapped two beavers using a castor mound, but that was the extent of it. With little experience of beaver trapping, I decided I had better read up on the subject. After reading all the old issues of Fur-Fish-Game I had, I felt I was ready to give it a try. But after taking a look in my fur shed I found that I wasn’t as equipped as I’d like to be.
I owned four footholds that would be able to hold and drown a beaver without trouble, so I already had enough of them. After looking at some prices I decided snares would be an economical way to put out quite a few traps without breaking the bank. I decided to buy three dozen beaver snares from a guy in Minnesota. Five days later the UPS man pulled into the drive way with my snares. Then, I read everything I could get my hands on about snaring beaver and otter. It looked pretty complicated at first, but I figured I’d get the hang of it soon enough. A couple nights later I sat on the floor drooling over the 330s listed in the Minnesota Trapline Products catalog. That’s all it took… next morning I was out forking manure in the barn. After saving up enough money to make an order, I bought a half dozen 330s, six ten foot slide wires to drown any beaver that stepped in my footholds, two dozen “pigtail” snare supports and a four ounce jar of “Timber” which is a castor based beaver lure.
A week later I had everything I would possibly need to trap beavers. I talked to my dad about bringing me up to our cabin in Northern Minnesota. My dad is a Forester for a big paper company that has land all over by our cabin. This would be perfect because we could mix the trapping in with work so he did not have to take of a day off. Three days before we were going to head up north me and my brother were driving by a thousand acre swamp that was owned by the state. I had tried trapping beavers out of there last year with no luck. As I was looking out the window I saw to my surprise, a beaver swimming in the ditch! My brother didn’t believe at first, so we pulled a U turn and drove by it again. “Yep, that’s a beaver!” I reported to my brother Zach.
Five minutes later I was home loading the truck up with my traps. A little while later I had my waders on and my hands full of traps! The first area I found was just asking for a snare. It consisted of a trail coming out of the water to some nearby trees. I decided to set it up; I grabbed a snare support, a new snare, and a T-bar stake. The first thing I did was pound the stake in with the snare support attached to it. I hooked up the snare and played with the wire until it was about four inches above the ground and the loop was ten inches wide. I put my head at close to the ground as if a beaver, everything looked to be good. The last thing I did was added some lure three feet behind the snare on a trail, and, for a finishing touch I fluffed up the grass on both sides of the trail and called it good.
My first snare set turned out better than I thought it would. As me and my brother walked down the drainage ditch we found an area were the stream narrowed down a bit, just the perfect with for a 330 conibear. We decided we would set the trap on the way back. We walked maybe another twenty yards upstream to find a “U” shaped inlet on the side of the bank. While I was fitting a 330 into the front of the inlet, my brother walked up with a big grin on his face. Come to find out he found the right side of and eight-point buck antler shed. After a little looking around for the other one with no luck we went back to setting traps. As I was putting the rest of the castor lure on a mud pie I heard a splash. “What was that?” I asked my brother. “Oh, nothing much, just a beaver swimming through the narrow area where we were going to put the trap.” He replied. So, we hurried over to put are trap in place before another one swam through! After we got done popping in that set we headed back towards the truck.
After arriving back at the truck, I saw another beaver. I grabbed a foothold out of the truck and hurried over there to put in a castor mound. Five minutes later the set was ready to rock! We then hopped in the truck and drove fifty yards and put in another set quick because day light was fading. At this area there was a trail leading into some willow brush. Setting this was easy enough: I just put a 330 were it narrowed down. After making sure the bodygrip was half submerged, I put a dab of castor farther up a trail. I collected my gear and headed back to the truck.
On our way back home we stopped at another area to see if it held beaver. Sure enough, there were beaver swimming around. I ran to the truck and got the rest of my traps. The first set we put in this area was a castor mound guarded by a foothold. After putting the slide wire in four foot deep water, my brother and I each grabbed a trap. He headed downstream and I head up stream. I was twenty feet from the lodge when I put my set in, just a 330 guarding a slide. After meeting my brother we packed up and headed to the truck. He told me he put a 330 in a run that was used recently. We both thought the last traps we put in the best traps of the day, but, I guess we’ll find out when we check them tomorrow.
The next day I was antsy to go check the traps. It seemed like a week later by the time my brother got home from work. I had my waders on by the time he put the truck in park. We then loaded the traps and gear into the back of the pickup. Five minutes later we were on our way to check traps. As we pulled up to the first set, I saw that my snare had been messed up. I hopped out of the truck and ran towards my snare. To my surprise, I had caught a skunk. I was happy with my first snared fur bearer though.
After throwing the skunk in the back of the pickup we headed down stream. As we approached are second set I seen the something was different. Sure enough, sitting in the 330 conibear was big ole beaver! It could have been the same beaver we seen here yesterday. As I took the beaver out of the conibear, my brother headed down stream to check the third set. But this one didn’t do so well. I then threw the beaver over my back and we headed down stream. After the two hundred yard walk we got to the pickup. I put the beaver right next to the skunk and headed up stream.
The first set which was a castor mound yielded nothing. But, as I arrived at the second set, we had caught a nice flat tail. I reset the trap and carried my prized possession to the truck. I was happy with are two beavers so far. After a five minute drive we showed up at are second location. I hopped out of the truck and headed towards the beaver lodge. The first place we checked is where we had set the castor mound. I looked at the set and found the trap was missing. I jumped into the creek and walked for the drowning cable. After finding the cable with my hand in icy cold water I pulled on it. Up came a nice two year old beaver.
I pulled the trap and catch to the top of the cable and went to work resetting the trap. As I was doing this my brother was checking his blind set. He had gotten a two year old male also. After resetting the trap I headed towards the last trap of the day. Upon arriving I found it held nothing. We lugged the beavers two hundred-fifty yards to the truck. We had caught four beavers and a skunk. Not bad :)
After a little more trapping I ended my first spring season with fourteen beaver! Next year, I’ll be hitting the rivers as soon as the ice goes off to see if I can get a few more!
Luke Jackson, MinnesotaShare on Facebook
About a year ago now, I was cleaning out my collection of traps in the barn and trying to decide on the fate of some. There were #1 longsprings and #1.75 coils that I hadn’t used for several years and didn’t know if I’d take them afield any time soon.
A couple of guys on Trapperman.com had given away traps to young people just getting started in our sport. I thought that was an excellent idea, and exactly what I was looking for at that time. I proceeded to qualify a few young people and divided what I had to share amongst them. Threw in some books and other goodies for good measure as well.
One of the recipients, Braden Miller in South Dakota sent me this picture and note a short while later. Sure looks like he had a good time on the spring muskrat line in early 2011! The following brief exchange below describes this season for him so far:
[BM] Hey! I’m doing good, and ended the coyote season with 11, and got just over 400 rats so far! How have u done?
[AP] a few less rats than you so far! <lol> big congrats on an excellent season!
[BM] Yep, but the spring trapping will be very good! Your traps worked great this year and the majority of the coyotes I caught were with them! Thanks again!
As it turns out, I could have made use of those #1.75s this year had I hung onto them. But ya know what? I’m still glad I gave them away, and I’m especially glad Braden was able to some midwest coyotes with them.
After all… isn’t life itself all about give and take?
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There is Nothing Like Your First
by Wade Looker
I started trapping muskrats with my dad when I was 8 years old. He started taking me on the line with him from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper. Ever since those days I have been catching fox, coyote and bobcat on my own.
It seems like every time I talk to a trapper about how they got started this is the answer I receive. Well, it’s not my story. I actually just started last year! I had always been interested in trapping but did not have a good source of information to form a basis to start from, nor did I have time in my rigorous fall and winter basketball schedule. Finally, I started college and was no longer tied to the court. I was able to run a small trapline with a college friend on weekends and Christmas break. I soaked up all the information that I could from books and websites and other sources.
I gawked at the pictures that I saw of huge catches of raccoon and muskrat and dreamt of having my own catches, but what really caught my eye was the coyote pictures. Something about going out and catching the smartest animal in the woods just spoke to me. I read as much as I could about catching the elusive “songdog.”
I did not make any sets during the weekends because I only had 2 check days, however, once Thanksgiving break came I made some sets. My family had routinely seen a coyote running the fencerow behind our house. I took two traps (I had heard about gang setting) and made a dirthole set and a urine post set at the fencerow. A couple nights later I heard lots of howling from the fence row and I was restless with anticipation at the thought of having a coyote in the morning.
I awoke first thing in the morning and went to check. It became painfully obvious that I did not have a coyote awaiting me. But the news only got worse. As I got closer I started to see how events unfolded. I went to where the trap was supposed to be and found an empty trap bed, and a few feet later found a stake. According to the books, a trap cross staked with two 18” rebar stakes should hold coyotes. In this case, the books were wrong. I had made a catch but unfortunately the coyote has pumped the stakes out of the ground and ran off with my trap. A few days later, one of my neighbors shot the coyote and was able to return my trap. Lesson one: coyotes are powerful animals.
A few weeks had passed with me away at school. I read something about cable stakes on a website and ordered a dozen. There would be no escaping next time! Finally Christmas break arrived and found me back on the line. While deer hunting a property, I saw 4 coyotes and was able to secure permission. I immediately went to where a finger of the woods protruded into a cut corn field. In this finger of woods was a pond. I set a trap at each side of the pond’s dam. One was a urine post on a corn stalk. The other was a double dirthole with sheep’s wool.
I also went back to the fencerow to make more sets. I had read about something called a post hole set. It is where you dig a hole about a foot deep and about a foot across. You put small holes in the side of the bottom of the hole for bait and lure. Directly in the bottom you put a trap. I also put another dirt hole and another urine post set there.
Each day I checked I became less and less confident in myself. There were tracks ALL OVER the sets at the fence row but I could never connect. I had traps dug up and snapped which taught me lesson number 2: bed your traps ROCK SOLID. After learning this lesson I remade all my sets.
Finally, after another few days of waiting I came upon this… my first ever trapped coyote! I can’t describe to you the elation I felt. I had finally done it. I went out and caught the top natural predator in my area. I had been able to get the smartest animal around to step on a tiny piece of ground! I felt more accomplished than I have ever been as a trapper. It was caught at the pond dam set! While this was definitely not the biggest coyote I have now caught it is without a doubt the most memorable.
It was finally time for me to go back to school and end my season. I pulled all my traps except the ones at the post hole set. The field was still pretty wet and I did not want to drive across his wet field with the four-wheeler. I awoke the next morning, the morning that I had to leave, and saw this beautiful female awaiting me. Every other trap was frozen except for the one that caught her. I sure am glad I decided to wait that extra day.
So even if you don’t start trapping like most others do, there is still time to catch up. I encourage everyone to get someone else involved in trapping no matter their age.At 20 years old, I caught my first coyote and I can honestly say that there is nothing like your first.
Austin, I am a transplanted water trapper to the Nebraska panhandle, just moved here two months ago. I have secured permission to trap some ground and somehow managed to get a piece with flowing water. I would love to set for mink and rat but I have a problem that I have never faced before. This particular creek flows through a cattle pasture and has no cattails and a little bit of long grass on the banks. On the other side of the road, where I can’t trap, it’s your typical brushy, long grass creek banks. I am assuming I can catch a few mink running the edges and probably some coon, but how do I go about catching rats? What types of things would they eat out here? Grass roots etc? Any help on how to trap a pasture creek is greatly appreciated.
Best, Dan Turvey Jr
Hi Dan, and thank you for writing. That’s a somewhat unusual situation, but I’ve run into it several times before. The creeks that I trapped inside cattle pastures were all loam or clay bottom, slow moving waters. There is a natural propensity for these type of creeks to have undercut banks, and banks that collapsed to create island hummocks = side channels along the main current.
Both of those specific locations are what I targeted: bodygrips in channels, bodygrips submerged at undercuts or footholds dry beneath undercut banks. I’m also a big advocate of “setting on sign” for muskrats, but oftentimes these pasture creeks have nil sign even when critters are there. They are feeding on grasses and grass roots primarily, which washes away easily without leaving much visible evidence behind.
Setting the culvert area where creek passes beneath the road would be first order of importance. Setting any side channels in “bottom edge” fashion if possible, or footholds on flat rocks if shallow.
I would expect heavy catches from such locations, but a few rats from numerous small locations add up to pretty impressive catches over time :)
The Light Came On [by Rod Gipson]
Upon hearing this, my youngest son’s (14 yrs. old) eyes lit up and Momma said “do it”. Well after not running a trapline for almost a decade, having quit from being burnt out on long-lining for the coyote and fox live market since the late 80′s or early 90′s, I thought what the heck, a few water sets will be fun and the boy will enjoy it.
I went to the shed and grabbed a 1/2 dozen mixed small traps, a roll of wire, a pair of hip boots (that I hoped didn’t leak from dry rot) and what trapping tools I could find laying around. I figured a 1/2 dozen blind sets for mink might work out. I had taught a few younger guys how to land trap in the years that I had “taken off”…made a couple of phone calls and instantly had permission to get to it. I also asked if I could reclaim some of the gear I had loaned them over the years.
My son and I headed to the creek and I made 6 quick blind sets with the boy watching and learning. It was no big deal that night and I slept good, not even thinking about our sets. Nov. 27th at 7:00am we walked to our first set. I looked under the root wad and there sat a buck mink staring back, held securely in a 1.5 coilspring. Something happened at that moment like an electric shock or something and all those old feelings that I had not felt in a very long time rushed back into me, it was amazing.
I imagine my son could see the joy of life rush back into me that had been missing for so long. You see I have been very depressed along with some other physical problems for the last few years. I have been in a “dark place” as I call it and at that moment life was definitely worth living.
The next set held a boar coon. We immediately went and skinned, then drove to gather up my loaned-out gear. The guys were giving me lure, bait, dry dirt and etc. They also gave me back my old trapping areas that I had turned them onto so many years ago. They were as excited as I was to see me back in the game so to speak.
I stayed small, didn’t use much gas and after two weeks on the short line my small freezer was full. We sold fur on Dec. 11th, we had caught = 7 buck mink, 1 female mink, 1 male otter, 1 tom bobcat, 1 dog red fox, 11 coon, 2 beavers, 7 muskrats and 4 possum. They brought a nice price and we were happy as was Momma.
Tomorrow my son and I will get up before daylight to run a lot of sets, how many I won’t say but most of them are water sets. You see, I’m back in the game with a vengeance, and it doesn’t take long to fill the freezer up now. I would like to leave you with a couple of pics from the short line and my re-finding of the joy of life. Trap on and tight chains my friends!
Rod GipsonShare on Facebook
The older we get, the faster time passes by. Now I realize we have a long ways to go and a lot of time to get there between now and next season’s land trapping opener for coon. But that doesn’t mean we can wait until last minute to get things properly planned and in order by then :)
At this moment in time, even while in the midst of actively trapping this season, I’m already planning for next season to come. First of all, I’m focused on a major push for muskrats next season. Regardless of pelt prices or anything else, if weather conditions and widespread populations permit, I’m shooting for two thousand muskrats stretched & dried in 2112-13 season. Thru some parts of this country (and Canada) 2,000 muskrats trapped would be no big deal. Here in the east, in New York state it will take a well-planned, efficient and herculean effort. To make it happen, I need to skim a number of locations while working amongst other trappers on mostly public water areas. So that’ll require a fair bit of travel time to and from some of the locations I’m researching now.
Incidental mink come with the concentrated efforts on muskrats. Beaver (and otter in the open zones) come along with the territory when it’s not much extra time & effort involved to set for them. So that goes along with the overall lofty muskrat goal I currently have in mind. My work schedule keeps me occupied from roughly 5am est thru late morning, most days. I can shuffle my schedule on certain days where season openers and/or weather patterns dictate, but by & large I am not free to run land lines from first light in the morning onward.
Land line trapping seasons in this part of my state open at the end of October and run thru Feb 15th of the following calendar year. Along with that comes archery, firearms and blackpowder seasons for deer. The primetime archery period for mature bucks (in particular) overlaps the land trapping season in my zone. That leaves me with too many choices and too little time for everything. I need to prioritize my free time, and commit to that pursuit whatever it will be.
It’s been a long while since I’ve long-lined for coon, and I won’t be able to run 100% full-day operations for weeks on end this time around. But I can manage some efficient, part-time efforts that will scratch the proverbial itch of piling up ringtails.
My own immediate area here is in the midst of a years’ long bout with some strain(s) of distemper disease outbreaks. Several years ago, our coon and gray fox population got pretty much wiped out, for the most part. Just this season I began to see a return of real coon populations, a return of beaten-down paths and trails that can only happen when solid numbers of animals pad the same course. And wouldn’t you know it… a resurgence of that disease swept thru and left staggering and/or dead raccoons seemingly everywhere late fall.
With the combination of a morning work schedule and sketchy coon population here in my immediate area, I probably have to venture out a ways from home to find good numbers of animals. But that can’t happen on a regular basis until late morning or midday start thru dark. So I’d much prefer to have my catches already dispatched and waiting for me rather than held in footholds of whatever kind.
Early coon trapping here is limited to dry land locations at least twenty-five feet from any permanent body of water, measured from its high water flow until water season opens a month later. By the time I’m off coon and onto muskrats, which negates use of waterline set locations, drowning rig setups, etc for early coon work. My choices for operating lines will be highway setting where legal and available, private ground with cornfields and/or woods, and float trips along rivers where high bank trail zones are far enough from waterlines to set. I can secure enough permission for either approach to provide more than enough locations to manage in season.
Dog-proof (DP) style traps have their place for specialty use, but my overall coon trapping approach will center on baited sets using #160 size bodygrip traps. That is the best compromise for getting a late start on daily checks, keeping catches secured and discreet, targeting coon at key locations without limiting myself to blind trail sets only.
Baited bodygrip setups within legal limits here in New York are designed to avoid domestic non-target catches, first and foremost. The old-school style of setting baited buckets or box cubbies with #220s on land are no longer legal, and in my personal opinion not a good choice anywhere near suburbia at all.
Whether legal or not, we trappers have a primary responsibility to this sport of working in harmony with the general public. It is a statistical fact that most people out there in the general public have a neutral stance on hunting and trapping. They can objectively see all sides of a discussion, they are open to positive aspects and facts. It is solely up to us, each of us and all of us to hold ourselves accountable to highest standards of operation with consideration for this majority of general public in mind.
For me personally, the #220 size bodygrip trap is no longer a viable primary option on land. My area of the state is too populated, too fragmented of ownerships and too well-traveled by people for comfortable use of the bigger bodytraps. Nor are they necessary, either. We are free to use them in dogproof sets as regulated in the NYS DEC link above. I personally choose to work with the smaller #160 style, 6″ opening traps for the vast majority of my coon work instead. They offer a solid compromise of non-target resistant and rapid, humane dispatch of targeted catch species in equal fashion.
So the past is gone, the future lies ahead. I’ve caught enough coon in blind trail sets and baited box sets to know that 6″ size bodyrips handle all size coon extremely well. Blind trail sets with the 160 traps do meet more resistance, experience more rejection = avoidance than the 220 size frames. But the vast majority of my coon trapping will not be sets in blind trails. That style of operation requires solid populations to work with, extensive scouting to locate active trails, selective setting to avoid non-target catch potential.
My personal limitations for part-time rolling mandate minimal scouting and maximum set location preparations. Like most trappers out there with job, career and family obligations, it’s simply not possible to dedicate 13 – 14 hours daily from preseason until well past the opener for stringing steel. So I’m going to work hard AND smart in ultra-efficient manner. That includes construction of legal-use boxes and buckets within the parameters of my state regulations. It also includes preseason placement of those containers along with prebaiting efforts to establish coon traffic ahead of time.
At this point in time I’m gathering buckets with lids from various restaurant outlets, which will be cut to fit and painted or dipped in camoflauge colors my mid-summer. Those type of containers stack well and transports easily in bulk for water lines.
I’m also going to construct a bunch of wooden boxes made from hemlocl rough cut and/or slabwood materials. Hemlock wood is the naturally rot-resistance species available in my area. I can get piles of slabwood for next to nothing, and milled slabwood custom cut for reasonable cost. Those are for the set locations I consider semi-permanent, high coon traffic and low-profile visibility. They also double as effective mink setups once water season comes in.
The prebaiting efforts will be mostly waste fish and fish scraps, along with other natural foods. One of my summertime passions is bowfishing for carp, so that gives me a convenient excuse to float the local shallows all summer poking holes in big bronze scales. Because I’ll run 48 to 120 active coon sets at times, a lot of bait is going to be required. In the past I made my own concoction based on ground fish and apples base, with a bunch of other critter goodies blended in. The results are killer attraction for coon and canines alike… along with the usual possums and skunks. Trappers who use small amounts of bait are often better served to buy their own. Big quantities are a different story.
We’ll be sure to chronicle the process here from set container construction to scouting and placement, prebaiting and game camera scouting, traps preparation – setting – catch management. From start to finish. Hopefully the end result will be some lessons shared and good times experienced along a high-production coon line soon to come :)
[Q] “You sound like you know a lot about rat trapping in creeks so I thought I’d shoot you a PM, I hope you don’t mind a few questions. The creek is about calf deep. But in a few select holes, it can get waist or deeper. It can choke down to 1ft and widen to 6-8ft. It is a slow moving current with a silty bottom. I’m not sure what you call “vegetation choked” but I don’t think it is. Some people have suggested making bottom edge sets, how shallow can you set these with 110s? I have 11 muskrat traps: (6) 110 conibears, (3) #1 coilsprings, and (2) #1.65 OS coilsprings. To most effectively cover this creek, what sets should I make with what traps and what should it be baited with if needed? Any tips would be AWESOME! Thanks alot!”
First, the available traps sizes and styles you have on hand to work with, and second the trapline conditions that exist. Let’s start with the traps on hand. Your #110 bodygrips are pretty much limited to sets right at den / feeder hole entrances and channels beneath undercut banks, thru thick vegetation along the bank edges, etc. They are too small a window for covering middle runways and current flows in the bigger stretches. The foothold traps are perfectly fine, but limited to shallow water sets where fresh muskrat sign is present and/or bait sets.
Based on your description of the water, I would look for pinch points in the narrows (one foot) stretches that are probably nearer to the ankle deep levels and block them with #110s set on the bottom. If the run there looks slicked up and actively used, don’t be afraid to set two traps within 18″ or 24″ of each other. Double setting three hot pinch points will catch more rats than scattering six traps at iffy locations just to put them in water somewhere.
The footholds can be set anywhere you see fresh sign of rats coming into shallow water: tracks and trails in mud or snow, fresh piles of droppings on objects above water, any piles of clipped feedings, etc. Make sure they are set near water at least 24″ deep and staked out towards the middle so any catches can easily reach the bottom depths. Do not set those traps in shallow stretches where catches cannot reach deeper water… such locations are limited to your #110s.
Lastly, you can try fresh dug pocket sets along the water’s edge and baited with apple, carrots or parsnips. Apples dry out fast, turn colors and attract raccoon. Parsnips are rather pricy at the grocery store. Carrots are less expensive and offer bright eye appeal to muskrats. You can also dig up cattail roots from shallow water anywhere, and use those for bait in short sections that cost nothing at all :)
Those are pretty much your choices to apply at the location described with equipment available. Good luck, and keep us posted on progress!Share on Facebook