By Josh Boyd
As the first feeble rays of light illuminate the rural landscape, you methodically traverse the terrain ahead, eager for a glance at what awaits. As you crest the next ridge, you observe that all is not how you left it. As you move closer, a smile adorns your face. Just as you had hoped, a healthy, full furred raccoon awaits your return, held on behalf of a small foot-hold trap.
If you are a trapper, this heightened level of anticipation never grows old. There are far fewer circumstances that will cause an individual to forsake the relative warmth of their bed in such an enthusiastic manner.
Every morning carries a level of excitement that can only be described as being closely related to that felt on Christmas morning during the days of your youth.
As enjoyable as trapping can be, any successful trapper knows that you only get out of your trapline what you are willing to put in. This is especially true when it comes to preseason preparation work.
Before season can ever begin, there is a wide array of projects to attend to for the frugal trapper. There are traps to be prepped, scouting to be done, and fur handling supplies to gather.
A meticulous trapper who has ensured that no details have been overlooked, spends their season catching and putting up fur. On the other had, the ill-prepared among us spends their season managing tasks that should have been handled long before the first steel of the year was ever set.
Prepare Your Traps
It is immensely important to know that a well-prepared trap, is an efficient trap. By making sure that all of your traps are in the highest working order prior to season, you will have less catch-hindering issues and minimize down-time on the trapline.
All traps that have seen previous use should be inspected for damage. Foothold traps are especially susceptible to damage from a wayward coyote, which can easily damage chains, bend pans, and distort bases. If any such damage is noted, repairs should be made at this time.
If you own conibear traps, it is of note to inspect their trigger, dog, and latch mechanisms for damage or distortion. Likewise, cage traps should be checked for functionality with special attention given to ensuring that all moving parts are cycling freely.
Once the inspection and repair of your traps is complete, you can proceed to dying your traps. Traps are dyed for a number of reasons.
New traps are shipped with a light sheen of oil applied to prevent rust while in transit. Dying traps removes this scent. Dying traps, both new and old alike, also assists in camouflaging their presence, as well as protecting them from the negative effects of rust and corrosion.
Many trappers choose to use logwood dye in either liquid or crystal form, as the catalyst in the dying process. Alternatively, walnut hulls can be used to achieve much the same effect.
Once your choice of dye agent has been made, the contents of your mixture can be placed into a large metal pot with water and then heated to a boil. Once a steady boil has been achieved, the water temp can be dialed back in order to facilitate a slow simmer. Traps can then be submerged and left to soak until the desired affect is obtained.
After your traps have been boiled and dyed, the waxing process begins. The waxing process serves to remove foreign odors, prevent rust, and speed up the action of your traps.
You will want to submerge your traps in a large pot of water. The water will now be brought to a boil. Once a boil has been reached, your trap wax can be added to the pot and allowed to boil until fully melted.
Once this is complete, the pot can be removed from the heat source and left to stand. You will now take a bent coat hanger, or other similar object, and remove your traps from the mixture.
It is important to note that when working around boiling water during the dying and waxing process, appropriate precautions must be taken to avoid becoming burnt.
It is advisable to wear heat-resistant gloves during the duration of these processes.
Prepare Fur Handling Supplies
If you are to be successful on your yearly trapline, you will certainly have some fur handling chores to attend to. In knowing this, you will want to gather all supplies needed for the process in advance of opening day.
Items such as skinning knives, fleshing knives, stretching boards, fur combs, and tail strippers should all be located and checked for functionality.
By preparing these items in advance, you save yourself an extensive amount of potential hardship when it is time to get down to business. Nobody wants to have an evening worth of furbearer skinning ahead of them, and not be able to locate the necessary tools of the trade.
Scout, Scout, Scout
As season grows near, now is the time to spend an afternoon scouting the areas that you intend to trap in the months ahead. By knowing ahead of time where you intend to set your traps, you save valuable time and put yourself in contention for a successful catch.
Fence lines can be walked in order to locate under fence crossings that are used by coyotes and other furbearers. These locations are often supreme spots for utilizing a snare set.
Walking river, pond, and creek banks are also often great sources of scouting intelligence. This is a wonderful way to locate beaver slides, as well as the tracks of other furbearer species.
When forgoing preseason scouting, valuable signs can go unseen, leading to missed opportunity. These oversights can easily be enough to significantly affect your total catch tally at the end of the season.
Trapping is an undeniably intriguing past time. However, success does not come without toil. The saying, “work hard, play hard” has seldom fit as aptly as it does within the context of trapping. Through preseason diligence, you will be well on your way to a winter’s worth of success. Begin making trapline preparations today, in order to reap a bountiful reward tomorrow.