Getting Ready for Trapping Season
I was going through my trapping equipment the other day, I do this often. Checking and cleaning the traps up. On the conibears I checked them over to make sure my trap tag is on. Most states require a trap tag on traps with your name and address on them. I checked the safety catches and set the trap, then fired it, to make sure all is in working order. Sometimes, on the larger #330 conibear's the eye opens a little. If the eye opens too much, then the jaws can pop out. If they are open a little, I just whack them closed with a hammer. Then, if the trap checks out, I place them in the dye pile. If I can't fix them quickly, I put those traps are in the repair pile. I have hundreds of traps to check.
The fox and coyote leghold traps take more time. I clean them up, set the trap and test fire with a 2 1/2-pound lifting weight. First, I place a 1 pound hammer on the center of the pan. The trap should not fire on the hammer. If it does, I tighten the adjustment screw and try again. Once it will support the hammer then I try the 2 1/2-pound weight. The trap should fire crisp and smooth. I bought some used traps a few years back, I tested the trap with a weight, some fired at 6 pounds. Some fire at 8 oz.., they were all in the same pile. So, I always test the pan. Nothing in the world is more frustrating then seeing fox tracks on the dirt above the trap pan. That means the trap didn't fire and you missed the fox. Yes, it has happened to me.
Next, I check the trap chain and look for any weak spots. I also make sure the trap tag make is still attached. Make sure all the swivels are working correctly. Sometimes, a coyote will chew up a swivel so bad it has to be replaced. Set the trap and make sure the pan is level with the top of the base plate. All my leg-holds are laminated. What that means is that I welded #9 wire on the top of the jaws of the trap. What this does is increase the size of the jaws giving you more holding power on the animal. I check to make sure the welds are holding . Once that is done that trap is set in the dye pile.
Your equipment will directly reflect your success in trapping. If you buy a pile of old used traps that have not been stored properly, the springs on the coilspring trap will be weak and need replacing. I would put them in the pile of traps to be worked on, if there was a lot of rust on them, you know they will always need a lot of work. I bought a pile like that a few years back for muskrat trapping. After going through them, 2 of 12 failed to meet my standards. What was wrong with them ? Weak rusted chain that would break on an animal. They were missing trap pans, so the trap could not even be set. Weak springs that would not close fast. Misaligned jaws so when the trap closed, the jaws weren't even. This will cause pull outs because the trap needs both surface jaws to close and hold together for the full strength of the trap to hold the animal.
So good equipment holds more animals. If you bought conibears, they are so nice. Very few adjustments. The springs stay strong for years. Set the trap, once the animal sticks his head in he is yours. Once in awhile you will find a conibear set off with nothing in it. Sometimes, it is a do-gooder setting the trap off. Sometimes, the animal is carrying a stick and trips the trap. Or, sometimes it is a trap shy animal that set it off. I look the area over and try to determine why it happened. 99% of the time I move the trap to a new location.
Now, when you are ready to dye your fox and coyote traps, make sure they are clean, being clean should be foremost in your mind. I boiled my traps in plain water to remove all the junk from last year. Then I poured the water off and rinsed the traps in hot water. Hang them up in a tree and allow them to air out for a few days. Then I pour in some trap dye, after I have scrubbed the pot clean. Get the dye at a low boil. The first thing I do is clean my Rubber Made Rough Necks that I use to store my traps in. I have already washed them and rinsed them three times in hot water and allow them to air for a few days. Now, I take some hot dye and splash it in, about a pint and stake it up so that the logwood scent is all over the inside. I dump that outside. Now, that storage container is ready to store traps. So, I seal the top on and store outside.
I boil the traps for 30 minutes and I have them all wired together, so I can just lift the wire up and haul the traps up and out of the pot I am boiling them in. I then allow them to dry by hanging on the outside of my porch. I get another batch going in the pot. Then I get the trap wax melted in a different pot. When the first traps are dry I set them in the hot wax and let them set a minute and slowly pull them out of the wax. You only want a thin light coat of wax. Make sure you are wearing gloves for everything you have handled with your hands. Clean rubber gloves work best for this.
Hang the traps in a tree for a few days, then store in the Rubber Made containers. It is best to do the waxing part outside. So after you pull the traps up you can shake off the excess wax. Some people melt the wax on top of the dye. Some have just a wax pot. Whatever way you decide, make sure you are thinking safety. Wax will catch on fire, if the wax is smoking your heat is too hot. Make sure you keep the kids back from this hot wax, melted wax will cause severe burns. Be careful. Have a tarp standing by to smother any flames. Wax is made from petroleum so using water on this type of fire will only spread the fire. THINK SAFETY!
So, you have your traps ready and the wife is ready to kill you for the mess in the kitchen. Now is the time to go scouting. By the time you get back the wife will have calmed down. Maybe you should make it an overnight camping trip if it is a real mess. It's good practice anyway, so grab your gear and go camping. Some women get upset with me after I get their husband into trapping. Just because the house smell like the woods. What kind of woman would be upset with the beautiful refreshing smell of logwood dye is beyond me. Wait, maybe it's when the guys starts late season predator trapping. Oh, the wonderful smell of long-distance fox lure that has a skunk base. OOPS, sorry guys, I shouldn't have told the women.
One friend of mine had this brilliant idea of washing his traps. He wanted them sparking clean before he dyed them. Let us think about this one, sparkling clean, oh yea, that's a TV commercial, what was the name of that dishwashing soap ? Oh, how did you guess, he placed his traps in the dishwasher. There was skunk smell, wax, dye, dirt, leaves, grass and other assorted junk all over the inside of the dishwasher. Can you believe that ? I must admit it did do a pretty fair job on the traps though. We had to dye them at my house that year for some reason. I don't remember when his wife started talking to me again. I think it was a few years. Something about it being all your fault, if he would have never met you this could not have happened! Or some like that. I think that was what she was yelling at me when we loaded the truck with traps. Women!
I was too excited about trapping season to let a little thing like a dirty dishwasher bother me. Besides, since it was dirty I thought we should do all the traps that way. Why clean it twice ? For some reason the husband wouldn't let me ask her if I could do my traps in her dishwasher. She'll get over it. Besides, we are going to get piles of fur this year so when she sees that fur check all will be forgiven. Well, in 3 months that is, when the first fur check will come. Hey friend, my basement has a little room, you can sleep there for a few nights.
Scouting the fur. First, you have to decide what you want to trap. So, lets trap muskrat, mink, coon, and beaver. Ok, sounds like a plan. Besides, that will keep us away from all them famous black and white foxes (skunks). So, go out and find ponds, rivers, streams, marshes and other assorted wetlands. Walk around the woods looking for sign. Muskrats will be climbing on logs and leaving their droppings on them. You will see this on logs that are partially in the water. Look for feed beds where the muskrat can climb up on and leave pieces of roots and green stalks of cattails.
Check for raccoon tracks in the mud. You will see mink tracks also. Where they enter the water and come out. Follow the tracks for a while and see where they go and why the animal does different things. You can learn so much from observing what animal tracks tell you. All you need to do is ask why ? So, when the wife runs you out of the house because of a little dirt in the dishwasher you know it must be scouting time.
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