After deer season last year, my husband, Jimmy, introduced me to trapping furbearers. I see trapping as a way to continue being outdoors and another challenge. Can I outsmart and capture these wily furbearers?
My typical day last December and January started with a 4:30 a.m. wake up. I’d get my warm clothes on and go check my traps. If I was fortunate enough to have something in a trap, I would then skin it. After checking and skinning, I would go to work. There were times where something tripped my trap, but got away. So, after work, I would go back to the woods and reset the traps.
I started out using some of Jimmy’s old double-coil and double-long spring traps. After several days of finding triggered and empty traps I decided these “antique” traps might be a little slow and weak. I did some research online and found Minnesota Trapline Products, Inc.—a family-owned business that offers quality products and outstanding customer service. I really like the Minnesota Brand double-coil traps. I used the MB-450 that is a #1 ½ size trap and the MB-550s. The traps are ready to go after you clean, dye and wax them, and they are the right size for coyote, bobcat and fox.
Jimmy started our how-to-trap course by teaching me how to make a basic dirt-hole set..A dirt-hole set has a little hole at the back of the trap where the bait or lure is placed. Then, we dug down a little just in front of the hole and got an even and firm bed to set the trap. Anchoring the trap so animals can’t drag it off is also important. The trap should be good and solid, with no wobble if an animal steps on the sides of it. We carefully placed the set trap in the bed, and then used a dirt sifter to cover the trap with enough loose dirt to make it look natural. Setting a trap must be done with safety in mind; if it goes off on your hand or fingers it is going to hurt, or possibly even break bones.
Merry Christmas to me
I had pictures of bobcats, raccoons, possums and coyotes on my Moultrie trail cameras prior to trapping season. In addition to the double-coil traps, we tried some of the dog-proof (DP) raccoon traps. These are like the other traps in that it is a leg-hold, live trap. However, they are made of a square or round pipe with a trigger in the bottom. I like to bait them with dog food and/or marshmallows. When the raccoon reaches into the pipe for the bait, the trigger trips and the trap takes hold of the raccoon’s foot.
Jimmy ran the traps with me on Christmas morning. As we got to one of our last traps, we eased around the end of a brush line and saw eyes glowing in the dark. I had finally trapped my first animal and it was a beautiful spotted bobcat. This was one of the cats I had seen on my trail camera. What a great Christmas present! On January 6, at the same trap set, I caught a large male bobcat. He wasn’t spotted like the first one, but still a beautiful animal. (Fur buyers refer to cats that lack spots as rabbit-back.) I also trapped a nice big raccoon in one of the DP traps, as well as several possums. After I skinned a few of the possums, I found out their hides were only bringing $1, and I decided to catch-and-release any future possum.
I highly recommend the book “Trapping North American Furbearers ,”by S. Stanley Hawbaker. The first edition of this book came out in 1941 and my copy is the revised 20th edition. I call this book the “trappers’ bible.”
If you’re interested in trapping, there are a lot of resources available for beginners. I suggest visiting the National Trappers Association (NTA) website. NTA is the nations largest trapping organization. Most states have their own individual trapping organizations. Visit Trapper’s Post to go to your state’s association.
All in all, for my first trapping season, I think I did pretty well. I learned a lot and made enough money from selling my hides to pay for that first set of new traps. I’ve already purchased additional traps and I am starting to think ahead to this year’s trapping season.
Visit the National Trappers Association for more information on trapping.