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1979 thru 1981

(Page 1 of 2 big pages!)

In Alabama the trapping season opened on November 20th and ran for three months until February 20th, but the anticipation of the season ran deep during the fall, triggered by the falling leave's and the brisk cool air. In the fall I would prepare all of my equipment, dye and wax traps, and begin scouting my territory on a regular basis.

The winter of 1980-81 was a particularly good trapping season for me because I'd just returned home from working in Alaska for a hunting and fishing outfitter and I had just put the finishing touches on my log cabin where my trapping operation would be based. It was a great time when I lived in the cabin... just me and my dog "Scooter". The following is just a small part of that great time and place.

GO CHECK THOSE TRAPS!

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First things first and getting those traps dyed and waxed was of utmost importance if I expected my traps to work properly and not rust. It was very important for my fox traps because the wax sealed in the metal odor and made them engage with lightning speed in the field.

I dyed my traps a dark black color by boiling them in a can of water mixed with the husks of walnuts, then I'd hang them to dry and then dip them in another clean tub of wax.

From my journal (December 16, 1980)..."The highlight of the day was when an 8-point buck deer came within only 30 feet of me! I had been crouched over still for about five minutes making a fox set when the deer came galloping up to me and suddenly stopped. He stood completely still as he turned his head with a drooped down tongue from all the running.We must have starred at each other for a full 15 seconds before it casually zig-zaged away in full trot across the field and into a swampy cover. WOW!"

(Although I loved to trap, it was moments like this that lured me back to the wood's each day.)

Here I am outside the cabin with a red fox on the right and a grey fox on the left. In my part of the state red fox were a rarity to catch, but I occasionaly did which I considered a prize! Grey fox really ran thick in most areas and they were also the main money maker for me, bringing $42.00 each

Although I'd catch a few strays here and there, grey fox usually ran in small packs of 4 to 8 and it was always great to discover a new "pocket" of grey's that hadn't yet been touched.

From my journal (December 22th)..."My friend Edward spent the night at the cabin and ran a few traps with me until he had to leave at 9:00a.m. for work. I caught a nice muskrat on a beaver dam crossing and a small beaver at a scent mound set.

"On the Ingram land I caught a mink at the place where the coon was walking in a muddy trail and the mink was walking a little higher on the dry clay where overhanging roots were present just at the streams edge. Mrs. Ingram gave me the name of another farmer who wanted me to trap on his place. Word of mouth sure is spreading fast! I had to quit early today when I filled both my waders up with ice cold creek water!"

Here I am on the porch with a couple of minks. Mink are sort of like the "bobcats" of the water world animals in that they seem to travel over very large territories, with great curiosity to explore up all the smaller tributary streams. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to get 'em but within a week they would be back around and your trap had better be ready! By studying the streams edge I learned that mink liked to slither through the narrow openings between roots and under the overhanging banks, so I never used a lure for them opting instead for blind sets near deep water where they would quickly drown.

From my journal (December 25th Christmas Day)..."My parents, brother and wife had come down to the cabin yesterday and we'd stayed up late with dad roasting chestnuts by the hearth fire until late. This morning I was first up at six oclock and was it cold! I caught one beaver in a scent mound set and one mink in a set that I'd actually made for coon on the Ingram land.

By the time I'd returned to the cabin everyone was up and around the fire. We had a big breakfast that Mike (brother) had made and it was a most perfect Christmas day!"

Here's Edward closely inspecting a beaver lodge. Ed had been a very close friend since we were about 12 or 13 years old. We both shared a great love of the outdoors and he often came down for the weekends to help me run traps, bow hunt, or just to poke around the woods.

From my journal (December 27th)..."This has been a great morning... White snow covered the ground until the morning sun evaporated and melted it away. I caught two grey fox in what appears to be an old strip pit after making two dirt hole sets near a drainage ditch. This was another one of those fox "hot" spots where another pocket of fur is found!

"I also caught a fine huge beaver in the same set that I had caught an otter several days ago. It was a 220 conibear trap set in a side channel off from the main stream path, leading to a den in the bank.

"I missed a bobcat whose tracks had been following an otter trail in an irregular pattern on the beaver dam. The freshly fallen snow had given him away when I saw where he'd hopped right over my conibear. I left the trap in place then blocked off other possible passages with dead debri, and left hoping that I'd get 'em on the next round!"

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Here's Edward displaying a fine (probably 40-45lb.) beaver. Beavers didn't bring much money averaging less than $10.00 per pelt and I actually lost dollars on every one considering the amount of time that it took to skin, scrape flesh and fat, then stretch out round on a piece of plywood and nail it down to cure with a ton of small finishing nails. I would have been more cost efficient to have just thrown them away, but my conscious just wouldn't let me do that.

But... in Alabama there was a severe overpopulation of beavers (over 500,000) and area farmers were always looking for responsible trappers to help thin them out of their pasture land, and they always let me trap their fox, coon, mink, otter, muskrat, etc. as payment for helping them. It was a win/win situation.

From my journal (December 28th)..."There was no new action with my three remaining fox sets so I pulled them and will re-check the area later. Had a mink trap sprung on the Kirkpatrick land where I have already caught several mink and muskrat.

"On this same creek I made some alterations with my snares. I have had several snares in the beaver den entrances but have caught nothing, so I changed one to a dam crossing. This is always a good set because every water animal crosses these hot trails.

"I did catch a skunk in a fox set which I shot perfectly through the head. I always approach skunk very slowly and keep talking to them until I'm just six feet away, then aim carefully and shoot a 22-short nice and clean."

Edward proudly displays a "jack-o-lope" just before cleaning it for an open hearth stew. On occasion I'd catch a rabbit in one of my conibear traps set on beaver dams which was always nice because eastern cottontails have a very delectable white meat when stewed slowly with vegetables makes for some special eating!

From my journal (December 29th)..."I checked traps on Mr. Hood's land first and I caught one medium size beaver on a dam crossing with a 330 conibear. Mr. Hood has a 10 acre section which includes about a hundred yard stretch of Spring Creek. I have seen some mink tracks at a few spots and have placed my one and a half longspring traps there. I would still have liked to put a couple of scent mound sets here but went on to the Ingram farm.

Here all of my traps remained untouched except one which had a medium sized silver coon in it. This was a blind set but I have also caught a mink in it a few days ago.

On the Boulton farm I found my prize of the day... an otter! Somehow he had evaded my drowning line and was swimming around in the pond held fast by only two toes! I managed to get a clean head shot with my 22 pistol."

Here I'm making a dirt-hole set for fox which is a very cunning animal to catch. The dirt-hole set consists of a small hole resembling a mouse hole drilled at an angle then filled with a scent and perhaps arousing the foxes curiosity for a free meal. If there is one word to describe a foxes behavior it would have to be "nervous" so great care must be taken not to leave any human odor around the set. Rubber gloves and boots are a good idea then keeping as still as possible until the set is made are good rules to follow when persuing the cunning fox!

From my journal (December 30th)..."The first trap that I checked was on the gas line near my cabin. I had made a flat set for fox yesterday evening and now a big ole 'possum was in it!

I caught a nice muskrat at the foot of a beaver slide and where I'd stuck some fresh green limbs in the bank above it. The muskrat must have passed by first looking for a free meal then a very effective drowning line took care of the rest. I also caught another fine muskrat on a pertruding log just out in the pond from a beaver dam. I had hoped this set would possibly take an otter but knew that a mink or rat would be a good possibility. The 'possibility' won out!"

The final part of the dirt-hole set is throwing a small cotton ball saturated with a good gland lure into the hole, then spraying some good fox urine nearby.

From my journal (December 31st)..."For New Year's Eve I caught my second muskrat in a row since making a pertruding log set which I had completely overlooked for several prior weeks. I set a No. 4 double longspring trap for a possible otter but I can't seem to keep the muskrats out of it... no complaints since the large trap drowns them immediately. This log must be a regular perching spot for the area muskrats."

"On the Ingram farm I caught two raccoons, both in blind sets which didn't require any lure so I also avoided catching any of the landowner's dogs. On Mr. Hood's portion of spring creek I caught a muskrat in a blind set for mink under an uprooted tree on the creeks edge. I made two new beaver sets then retired to my cabin where I spent the afternoon working on my new outhouse."

Another carefully made set pays off with a fine red fox!

From my journal (January 1st)..."New Year's Day went well and I caught several muskrats, then worked on the cabin for the rest of the day."

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Good landowner relations are very important when running a trapline and can assure you of plenty of territory to trap, hunt, and fish for many years. I always considered myself a watchful eye for the landowner, always reporting any trespassers, broken fences, or any irregularities while running my traps.

Join me on page 2 as I trap beaver and muskrat then prepare the pelts for auction.

click here for PAGE 2

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