Youth is a personal thing, but many young boys might share some things in common. At an early age, shortly after I learned to read, I was fascinated with critters. It didn’t matter much whether the critter was a rabbit, mink, squirrel, muskrat or even larger like deer, elk and moose.
I dreamed of catching or hunting all kinds of critters. I would read everything about trapping, hunting and fishing and pester elders to tell tales of their critter encounters.
I discovered that the A. H. Harding Company, Publisher of Fur Fish and Game Magazine, also printed and sold a series of little books on trapping which gave detailed “How To” directions on the fine art of catching all kinds of critters from mice to bears.
I believe they are still available and I highly recommend them to people, especially youngsters, wanting to learn about traps and trapping.
One of my favorites was titled “Trails to Successful Trapping” and another was “Deadfalls and Snares.”
Armed with the information gleaned from these books I first began trapping muskrats, mink and rabbits at about age seven. A pastime I enjoyed well into manhood, assuming that I have actually achieved that lofty status somewhere along the way.
At the time I was attending college, I spent Christmas break at home and joined with a friend, Paul, to enjoy nighttime pleasures at the local hotspots as well as run a small muskrat trap-line.
At ages 18 to 21 we had actually improved our trapping skills to the point we regularly caught muskrats which we processed each day and eventually sold the furs for about $5 apiece, big money for us then.
We had about two dozen traps and were working a small creek in snowy winter weather. Our trap-line creek flowed parallel to a road so we would drive down and walk the line removing our catch and resetting the traps about 8 p.m. and then again about 1 or 2 a.m. after we had had our fun for the day.
Often we would catch two rats in a good set on the same night. All was going well and our tracks in the often replenished snow were a sure sign that we were working a trap-line.
One night, at the early morning check of our traps, we discovered that five or six of the traps had been found and stolen by someone else! It still makes me angry to think that people steal stuff, but stealing our traps was unforgivable.
We discussed our dilemma and immediately agreed to meet at the creek in mid-morning to seek a method of revenge. Remembering the lessons and techniques learned from all of the great “How to Trap” literature, we had decided to try to catch a thief! We brought a length of braided picture wire, a hatchet, knife and lots of enthusiasm.
Our plan was to build a great snare in hopes of catching our trap thief. We selected a sturdy aspen sapling growing near one of the sets that had been stolen and with our weight determined that it could be bent enough to provide about four feet of hefty lift. Using a finger latch trigger attached to the wire and staked to an embedded fixed-finger we created a flat loop snare in the path which would be tripped by anyone walking the trap-line who didn’t know its location.
With the snare set and our traps replaced we returned to our routine. Everything seemed as it had been before the thefts. We caught muskrats, we had fun and we avoided our snare.
A couple nights later when we made our early rounds we approached the snare location and heard cussing voices of several men. It was clear that they weren’t having fun! Paul and I listened and finally were able to determine that although the great snare had done its job, the multiple thieves had managed to free their hapless mate and were heading toward town. So we hightailed up a ridge and ran, far ahead of them and hid behind a huge tree alongside the road.
When the three crooks were abreast of us, Paul and I jumped out screaming like banshees, waving my hatchet and a big stick. At the sight of us, the three thieves probably wet their pants and they ran like the wind after dropping their flashlights and some of our traps on the road.
Actually, Paul and I remember that night as a highlight of our trapping experiences.