CARING FOR TRAPS
Note that traps should be examined carefully just before being set to see if they will work properly. New traps should be thoroughly greased with almost any kind of grease that has no salt in it. Salt will rust traps. It is to guard against rust as much as anything else that you should grease your traps, for in that condition they are not so apt to give good service.
If you have a supply of traps that are badly rusted, kerosene poured over them and let stand for a few hours will tend to remove the rust. After you have cleaned all of the rust off possible, grease the trap carefully and thoroughly with some good fresh grease, such as lard or the fat of some animal. Good oil will answer if you can not get the animal fat. Trappers can usually get an animal or two and fry the fat from it. This is an easy task and with this grease your traps. If this is done with old traps at the close of the season it will help preserve them. It is a good idea, also just before trapping begins.
With new traps it is much more important that they be greased before setting as they will badly rust if not thus treated; old traps that have been greased a number of times can be neglected rather than the new ones. If possible it is best to attend to this several days before the traps are set, so that a part of the grease will be dried in, or evaporated so that in setting there will not be so much to get on your hands, clothes, etc.
In this connection it will not be amiss to say that traps should be carefully gone over before they are set, to see that every part is in working order. There may be broken links in the chain, or other defects. The swivel may be rusty and will not turn and the first animal caught is apt to break the chain. Many times have trappers gone to their traps only to find a part of the chain remaining as some animal had broken it and escaped. All traps should be very carefully gone over and mended, otherwise you may not only loose the trap but a valuable pelt as well.
What is best to apply to prevent their rusting? Writes a number of trappers.
Almost any oil will answer, but perhaps animal fat is best and can be obtained by trappers easily. Many trappers prefer to have their traps somewhat rusty, or at least want the newness worn off. It is not a bad idea to smear traps in the blood of rabbits or birds.
To clean your traps, boil them in ashes and water, rinse clean in hot water, then dip in hot water with melted beeswax floating. Raise them slowly out of this so as to coat every part. Hang up to drain and dry and your traps are ready.
In what condition are your traps for beginning a vigorous campaign; have you boiled them in soft maple bark or the husks of walnuts, to stain and eliminate the coating of rust, so that they will work well and be free of the animal scent from last season? All second hand traps should have this attention before trapping is begun. New traps will not take the stain until they have been used and rusted.
If it is hard for you to get soft maple bark or black walnut husks, you can get a pound of logwood chips at the drug store which will be sufficient for a five-gallon kettle of water. After a good dye is made put in what traps the liquid will cover and boil 15 or 20 minutes for each lot. If the water gets low put on a pailful or so as it boils away. If you only have a few traps use less coloring material and less water. Logwood makes a jet black.
When the fall trapping is over, the traps will be somewhat rusty again. Not many will go to the trouble to color them again in the same season, but now that the weather is cold and the rusting process is slow and you can renovate them and lubricate in the following manner: Smear all the rusty and working parts with fresh lard; also, the chain and swivel, and then with a wire hook or iron rod hold the trap over a small fire until the grease is melted and smokes. The heat will not hurt the trap so long as you do not heat the spring too hot. When the trap is cool enough to handle, rub it well with old paper to remove loose grease and you will have a trap that will not play you false. A good greasing like this will last all winter.
This article will not appeal to the many, but to the few trappers who are so situated that their mode of trapping prevents them in bringing home their traps when the season is over. A man who has a long line of traps set out is often at loss as to their disposal for the summer months. To pack out on one's back a weight of iron at a season when walking in the bush is at its worst, especially if the trapper is to return and set up the same line the next season, is a useless labor and a heart and back breaking job.
To avoid this the best way is to "cache" them in bunches were they are to be used again. This I know is a risky plan where John Sneakum prowls the bush, yet it can be done in safety if one takes proper precaution to rub out his trail. The "caching" of them is not the only question to be considered but also to leave them hidden in such a way that when next required they may be at once serviceable for immediate use.
My first venture at leaving them in the bush says a Northern trapper was in this way. I began at the furthest end of my line and gathered them till I had twenty. These I tied securely together with a piece of twisted bale wire through the rings. I then stepped off the main line to a clump of evergreens and bending a sapling down bow fashion, secured the bunch to the top and let the tree fly back to its place.
Regaining the main line I took a memorandum in my note book as to the cache something like the following: Cache No. 1 — "Bunch of twenty No. 1 traps, left opposite rotten stump on left hand side of road in thicket of evergreens, about thirty paces away," and so on with each deposit always mentioning some land mark as a guide to my finding them the next autumn.
Well, this mode was not a success. It was alright as far as the safety of the traps were concerned, but I found them in a frightful state of rust from the action of the rain and atmosphere, and it took an hour of my time at each "cache" to rub them into a semblance of cleanliness.
Moreover, there was a remote possibility of a bush fire running over that territory, which, while it might not consume the traps, the action of the flames would have drawn the temper from the springs to a degree that would have made them useless.
The accidental leaving of an otter trap set all summer led me to "caching" my traps under water, that is those that I could conveniently carry to a lake or river. This otter trap when I came to it the following fall was covered with a light fluffy rust the color of yellow ochre. It stained my hands like paint, but was readily washed off. I held the chain in my hand and by sousing the trap up and down several times in the water, was surprised to see the metal come as clear as when first the trap left the shop.
I therefore, ever afterwards hid those traps that were near a lake or river in the water. There were traps, however, which were too far from water to be easily transported and as the tree tops were voted bad, I set to considering other modes of storing them. The atmosphere being too corroding I decided to bury them underground.
The result was that the next autumn I found those that were in clay or heavy Soil came out rusty, while those in sandy soil were very little acted upon, but the best conditioned were those hidden under rotten leaves or vegetable matter, so ever afterwards I kept my traps either in the water or hidden under the last conditions.
When leaving a bunch in the water I simply tied the bunch together, went a little to one side of the direct canoe route and dropped them overboard in about three or four feet of water, being careful to have some noticeable object ashore in direct line.
When next required I merely lashed a large cod hook to a short pole, fished them up, took them aboard my canoe and washed the bunch clean at a portage. In any case I do not think it is adding to the luck of a trap to have them greased and hung up in or about the house. The smell imparted to them is worse than the odor of clean iron. If I found a trap slow in snapping I usually rubbed a little odorless polish into the joints of the jaws and carried a rabbit's foot to use as a brush.
Harding, A. R. Steel Traps. Columbus, OH: A.R. Harding Pub., 1907. Print.
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