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Buckshot's Trappers Tales

The Conibear #220

The #220 conibear is a wonderful trap. I have talked to several beginner's who, after catching 10-12 coons in a week their first year, asked 'Why do I even used leg-holds?" This question will be answered in up coming articles. Like I said before, if you had 4 #220 conibears you would have plenty of coons to eat, especially, if you are in a high coon state like Iowa, or Nebraska. Most of the southern states also have high coon populations, and most of the northern states have good coon numbers. There are coons out west too, but not the high numbers you see elsewhere.

The Conibear #220 I will state again: You as a trapper have to be responsible. This trap kills dogs and cats, so make sure you are off the beaten trail before you set. Here in Michigan, we have to have the #220 in dog-proof boxes or 4 feet off the ground. If you are trapping a farm, explain to the farmer that you plan on using #220's on the ground and if it is ok with him, then ask where to set so no dog gets caught. I trap farms that want every coon gone and the farmer is responsible. They tie their pets up, and I don't set any #220's within 1/4 of a mile from a road or building.

There was a case last fall in New York that upset a bunch of people. A new trapper was setting dry 12" culverts at the ROAD'S EDGE. Someone was taking their dog for a walk and the dog stuck his head in the trap and was killed. The owner raised hell, and had a right to, because that's irresponsibility on the trapper's part and no one wants to lose a beloved pet. Please make sure you follow the 1/4 mile rule. I try my best to avoid catching pets. Enough on that. Just remember there is no letting the dog go alive in less it is a big dog.

Setting the #220

To set the #220, use the setting tool and compress the springs:

The Conibear Setting Tool

Now the trap is set. If you're setting in a 5 gal. bucket to make it dog proof, this is how you do it. When you make up the buckets, test them with a long stick to insure the trap closes tight with the lid on. A friend of mine uses this set-up in barns with great results. He keeps changing the bait with the buckets until every coon is caught. The farmer loves him for it, new coons move in every year and it is an ongoing event. He had one coon that wouldn't come in for fish, or lure, or corn, so one morning he was cooking bacon saved the grease, poured in two drops of peppermint cooking oil, some peanut butter, and tried it. The coon was caught the next morning.

Setting Traps on Animal Trails

All animals have trails. When you find a small trail going through thick brush, you will find a spot all narrowed down with brush over top. This is a perfect place for a trail set. On the farm I trap, I walk along the edge of the woods looking for coon trails. The coons drag the corn into the woods so the trail is easy to find. just follow the trail, and if you can't find a narrow spot, make one with sticks and wire. If you are in a high coon area, you can set 1 to 4 traps on one trail. If you only have 4 #220's, then find all the trails before season and narrow down 4 spots on each trail. There can be up to ten trails coming into a 40acre field. Set the traps, check them and move to the next trail every day. You can trap the cream of the crop from all the different coon families feeding in the field. In a top area you could get 2 coons a night for 10 nights that is 20 coons. With an average from $8.00 down south to $18.00 average on top northern coon. (Prices on fur vary every year so I'm quoting 1997's prices.) But even at $8.00 each, 20 coons is $160. Not bad for helping to pay for your equipment cost. Plus you have all the coons to eat.

If I was trapping with only four #220's this is how I would set: Two on the trail and two bucket sets. The best almost guaranteed set up is done by conditioning the coons. Two weeks before trapping season opens, set out 10 buckets without the traps, but baited with fish heads. The idea is to get the coons used to climbing into the bucket to get a free meal. Bait once a week. Then when the season opens set your four traps. The next day, when you move the traps, move the four to the next trail with the already baited buckets. Then take the 2 buckets and move to a new trail and pre-bait, get it? Just keep rotating. If you are lucky enough to find a farm with a pond then you can trap the muskrats in the pond at the same time. One farm with 4 coon traps, 6 muskrats traps and, if your real lucky, a couple of beaver will be there so you can set your #330's, then you have set all your traps. If one farm doesn't have all this, then trap on two farms. That all there is to it.

Get permission, of course, before trapping on farms. Talk to the farmer, and trap only where he wants you to. I carry a 22 rifle with me and add grouse and rabbits as I'm checking traps. Take the kids along. They love trapping and hunting and being with Dad. My one friend takes all his kids from the time they were 5 years old. His 10-year-old caught his first mink last year. Every year I take a friend and his son along the trapline with me. The kid has more fun then both of us and his Dad doesn't even trap.

The younger you start the kids, the better they learn to accept the cycles of life in the wilds, before the teachers and Disney can fill their heads with Thumper and cruelty. It will be better for the children to learn this lesson now before a survival situation where they might refuse to eat the meat or wear the fur, their health and maybe their survival depends on it.

Trapping Groundhogs

If a farmer has groundhog problems, sometimes you can make the following deal: You'll trap the groundhogs for him now if he gives you permission to trap for fur during the season. Groundhogs are easy to trap. As a friend of mine used to say, "I wasn't sure what was using the hole, so a #220 solved that mystery."

Place the #220 over the groundhog hole at the angle of the hole. Stabilize the trap and take the safety off. Don't forget to wire it off. If there is nothing to wire off to, then use a stake, a sharpen stick pounded in to the ground. Show the farmer the dead ones and skin and sell the hides to fishermen who use the fur for tying flies.

Another set for the #220 is the cubby set, which is used by bobcat trappers. I like making these next to beaver dams because the bobcat likes to hunt around the dams. All you do is make a small box against a tree (remember the wind) out of sticks. Cover the top with pine boughs and stabilize the #220 with sticks. Now, I'll tell you how to get the bobcats. Take a beaver tail and a head of a beaver for bait and use my beaver lure. The bobcat love to eat beaver and beaver lure makes it smell like a fresh kill, so the bobcat goes in for a free meal and gets a free neck brace instead. Works like a champ.

One last thing. Make sure if you are using bait or lure that you are set up for the wind. The animal has to smell it to get caught. So the wind should come across the back of the bucket to the trail. I will talk wind, location and good equipment over and over again. Pay attention to wind so you can get paid. That's it for now. I love all and any questions, so please feel free to reply. Don't wait until fall because I'll be trapping and it might take me a while to get back to you.


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