AMONG TRAPPERS as a class, and especially among those who operate in the Northern States, there is a tendency to lose interest in trapping when the cold weather of winter arrives. And there are reasons for this state of affairs. The cold weather and snow make it difficult to keep traps in working condition, animals travel less, and the extensive trapping during the early part of the season has greatly diminished the ranks of the fur-bearers. These are all very stubborn facts, and are sufficient to make trapping, at least by ordinary methods, unprofitable, and to many of us uninteresting. If we add to these reasons the fact that cold, stormy weather makes outdoor work unpleasant at times, and also that the forming of ice on the streams has destroyed most of the good locations for traps, we have sufficient incentive for many of us to spend valuable hours sitting by the side of the stove and burning good tobacco to kill time.
But we are all inclined to look too much on the dark side of things, and we do not have to search far to see that those who are accustomed to looking for the silver lining of the cloud are the ones who get farthest along and enjoy the going most. So it is with winter trapping. It is more profitable and less unpleasant than it appears at first glance.
I do not contend that the trapper can catch as many animals in winter as in the first days of November, for he cannot, however expert he may be, or however abundant he may find the game. But he can, by careful, diligent work, make a good collection of winter furs, and they will, if market conditions have not changed, bring better prices, because of their superior quality.
There is satisfaction in gloating over the fall's catch of furs; but it is their monetary value that is ever foremost in our minds. It is different when the furs are taken in winter, for we no longer look on trapping from a purely commercial standpoint. In the fall we caught, among other animals, the young and foolish mink, and, perhaps, a few foxes that had not lived long enough to acquire their full share of knowledge of man's deadly ways. The foxes, mink and other animals that have escaped the fall trapping have their superior knowledge and cautiousness to credit for the fact that they are still alive and at liberty. The trapper will find these animals doubly hard to outwit, and added to this are the many other difficulties and vexations incident to the freezing weather. After weeks of the most careful work the trapper may get some old sly fox to visiting a bait, only to find that the trap has been blocked by snow and ice, so that all his labor has been in vain. Or by days of searching and study he may find an ideal place to catch a mink, but it may be so long before the mink comes that way that the trap becomes securely locked in ice or frozen covering and the mink passes over it unharmed.
These trials make the trapper appreciate more fully every piece of fur he secures, and add a zest to trapping quite distinct from the lure of gold.
I am an advocate of blind sets for mink, especially for the wary ones that are often sought in midwinter. Whether or not a mink learns to associate the odor of bait with the constant menace of the steel trap I cannot say, but it seems to be so, for many a wise, old mink has fallen victim to a trap skillfully set in his runway after dodging baited traps an entire season or longer. Bait also freezes in cold weather and gives very little odor, so that a mink may pass close by without discovering it. Anyway, we know that it is easier to catch these wise ones in blind sets, if we can find a suitable place, but there is where trouble commences.
The difficulty in locating an appropriate place for a set has discouraged many young trappers, and old ones, too, for that matter. They read instructions in that kind of trapping, and the enthusiastic reports of brother trappers until it seems to be a very easy matter to make a few sets that will catch all the mink in the country. Filled with hope, the reader starts out with his traps in search of locations like those the writers have described as ideal for blind sets; but he may tramp for miles along the stream and not one of the necessary overhanging banks or undermined trees will be found. Instead, he finds flat or sloping banks, with few obstructions, at least so it seems, and if he finds a straight bank anywhere the ice and snow discourage any attempt at setting a trap. The trouble is that the writers on blind set methods describe only ideal places, and such locations are rarely found. The type of country has much to do with this (Continued on Page 60). EVERAL years ago I lived in a small town with my parents. I was getting to be quite an old boy; but, being still single, I came and went as I pleased. I trapped in fall and spring, and summers worked at various things, went fishing a great deal and hunted frogs for market frequently. I had also hunted rabbits winters with a ferret and picked up considerable money through their sale. But finally our illustrious Legislature enacted a law prohibiting the use of ferrets, which knocked the legs from under us market hunters completely, for even the sale was forbidden, no matter how captured or killed. Then a lot of ferrets were for sale cheap, and no buyers. Some killed their weasels, while others turned them loose to run wild and hunt their own living.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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