Mostly Trapping

Fur trapping dates back to antiquity, even Bible
Jan 12, 2020 14:44 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

Trapping wild animals for their furs probably goes back to the dawn of time. The Old Testament refers to trapping in Judges in 15:4, where Samson caught 300 foxes. And in Song of Solomon, a woman urges her man to “catch for us the foxes.” She probably wanted a fur coat. There seems to be something hard-wired to make us want to trap animals.?That applies to boys, anyway.

I?was around 9 or 10 when I learned to set a homemade box trap. I propped one end of a large cardboard box on a forked stick and tied a piece of carrot to the stick with a string. I placed the carrot under the box so when a rabbit nibbled it, it would yank the stick out and the box would drop, capturing the rabbit. It worked! Once, anyway. I never moved the trap out of the back yard, so I guess it wised up the local rabbits. Later, when I was a teenager, a friend and I went camping, planning to set the kind of traps you see in an old-timey woodcraft manual, like a rabbit snare tied to a bent sapling. We not only didn’t catch anything, we almost froze to death, and starved too. n n n It was only in the late 1970s that I learned the proper ways to trap. For a year or two I ran a trapline in Amite County. I?never was much good at it, but I sure learned a lot. Trapping was controversial back then, and no doubt still is. Not only animal rights folks opposed it, but so did fox hunters, who didn’t like trappers catching their prey and were concerned about their hounds stepping in traps. I only caught one dog — Vanessa, my beloved Shetland sheep dog — and that was because I made my set too close to the house. I?unfastened her foot and she crept away with nothing hurt but her feelings. The only other domestic animal I caught was a feral house cat. I threw my wool coat over it, which calmed it down, then released its paw. When I pulled the coat off and stepped back, the cat headed for the hills, uninjured. I didn’t put a dent in the fox population, either, as I targeted mainly raccoons, catching only an occasional fox, beaver, mink or possum. n n n There were three basic trap styles: foot-hold, body traps and snares. Foot traps came in single-spring, double-spring and coil-spring. Sizes ranged from No. 1, the smallest, to No. 4, big enough for beaver. I?started out with single-spring traps but discovered animals could pull their foot out the opposite end from the spring, so I switched to double-spring. Later I got coil-spring, which were more compact since the springs were under the trap rather than out to the side. Rubber-jawed traps became popular later as a way of preventing injury, which was more humane and also made sure non-target animals weren’t hurt. A body trap consisted of a square metal frame with a trigger in the middle so when an animal passed through it, it clamped shut, breaking its back. Those traps were bulky and expensive. Wire snares drew tight around the neck when an animal walked through, but getting an animal to walk through a snare is harder than getting it to put its foot on a trap pan. I did catch a beaver in a snare one time, and also a human. I had set the snare by a beaver dam and my friend and neighbor Randy Toler happened to walk by, entangling his foot in the snare. Fortunately he was good-natured about it. n n n Fur trappers have territories, as I discovered when working a creek in the Homochitto National?Forest and I came upon somebody else’s trap. Shortly thereafter I ran into the owner and we struck up a conversation. I offered to move my traps, but he said he was already through in that area and graciously told me to have at it. That was the late Gary Decker of Gloster. He was a true woodsman with a long beard and an intimate knowledge of the national forest. He not only trapped foxes, he raised them live. n n n Sometimes I took my son?Andy along with me on the trapline. He learned, as did I, that running a trapline means getting out every morning, no matter the weather, no matter how you feel.