Sunday, January 13, 2013

Trapline 2012

    Trapping has long been a part of the American heritage and was the original basis for most of the early exploration.  Fur was often regarded as currency in these early days and the trappers of the time were known to disappear into large watersheds for months at a time in pursuit of beaver pelts.  While most modern day trappers are not so dedicated, but rather pursue the fur bearers in more of a recreational manner, there are a few motivated individuals who still pursue the fur in the deep woods for long periods of time.
    I am in the category of recreational trappers who pursue the fur bearers of Northern Maine on a part time basis.  I got my start in trapping thanks to my uncle Bob Hersey.  As a kid we would always go visit around the holidays and I was awe struck by the piles of fur in his shed.  My fascination grew and then Bob offered for me to tag along on his trapline.  I quickly agreed, jumping at the opportunity and desperate to learn more about this fascinating hobby.  His patience was unending as I asked question after question soaking up information faster than a sponge.  I quickly learned that when trapping, every morning feels like Christmas, as you never know what might await you.  After tagging along once, I was hooked.  I proceeded to take the Trapping Safety Course, which is a requirement for all new trappers in Maine, learning additional information from the instructor Jerry.  I wanted to go back and take the course every year, as I had so much fun.  That first fall, Bob very generously offered to set a joint line with me.  I know he did so sacrificially, because had I not been hanging traps next to his, the likelihood of his catches would have been increased, but he showed me the ropes and I had a blast.  We trapped muskrats, mink, otter, fisher and beaver.  I had a very successful first season, in large part due to the fact that Bob guided me and taught me how to read animal sign.  I was familiar with looking at deer sign, but the small signs that I would have otherwise missed Bob pointed out.  He also showed me how to handle the fur after I caught it.  The painstaking process of preparing a beaver hide, the delicate cuts on a mink to miss the scent glands and skinning muskrat quickly were all lessons that were taught and committed to memory.  Check out the picture below for the fur picture from my first season.

My First Trapline
     I have trapped a little almost every year, only missing one or two years when I was in college and not able to find a place to put up my fur and store my traps.  This past year I had decided to do a little more targeting fisher and marten.  I knew that I would not have the time to devote this past year for canines or to put up any beaver catches, so I focused my efforts on what I could handle.
      Starting the first week of November, I started hanging steel at every opportunity I had, before work or on my lunch break and before I knew it, I had a respectable trapline set up.  I tried to keep about two dozen traps up for most of the season.  I was very pleased with my results, as I had a minimal amount of time to devote to trapping and all in all put up some good numbers.  I like to look back at the pictures and see the transition as the season progressed.  The season started with temps up into the 40's and rainy then got gradually colder until we finished the season with more snow than I could navigate through with my four-wheel drive pickup.  The season ended with the following total - 19 muskrats, 10 raccoon, 5 fisher, 5 marten, 2 mink, 1 beaver and one weasel.












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