Running a trap line on coyotes
(Reprinted from above link)
With the dead of winter here and big game seasons over, cabin fever can start to set in for outdoor enthusiasts, especially when temperatures drop below zero like we recently experienced. I’ve always made the most out of the winter months and enjoy the snow and cold that come with it. I know that, just like all of the other seasons, it will only last a few months.
One thing that has kept me busy during the bitter cold winter months is running a trap line. It’s been a learning experience and I have gained a lot of knowledge about all of the wildlife that roam our hills and hollows. When the ground is covered with snow, it’s like reading a book every day. Every critter’s track that moved the night before is laid out there to read like words on a page of a book. I know where the deer have been hanging out now that hunting season is over. The main drive behind waking up every morning to run the trap line is the number of coyotes that are out there now. I’ve already caught three and there are that many more that I’m still after.
Over the spring and summer I could hear them howling on any given night. Sometimes they were right at the edge of my front yard and too close to the house considering we have small dogs. My neighbor has livestock on the bordering property and lost 13 piglets this past summer. We’re almost certain that coyotes were the cause as one would come up missing every few days.
Add in the fact that I love to deer hunt — they are also in a coyote’s diet — and the urge to do something about it has grown into another pastime I enjoy. It was either complain about the wily predator or do something about them.
I’ve hunted on this particular piece of property for 28 years now. At the ripe ol’ age of 12 years old, I took my first squirrel here. Back then there were no sightings or even the word coyote mentioned as they didn’t exist. I never dreamed that I would not only be fortunate enough to live on the property I grew up hunting, but running a trap line for coyotes.
It’s a whole other ballgame when you’re hunting the predator instead of the prey. Predators like to roam the woods at night as most of them are nocturnal. The lower the temperatures are, the more they have to move to stay warm. There’s nothing that will make you feel more wide awake than running the trap line in minus-zero degree temperatures first thing in the morning. Your beard is instantly frozen and you can feel the bitter air as it tingles in your lungs with every breath taken.
The excitement is high as you round the bend on the way to the next trap. Most of the coyotes we catch, we get on simple dirt hole sets with a small dab of bait in the hole along with a gland or lure scent as well. I say we, as my good buddy Sammy is the one who introduced it to me and we trap together and make it a team effort.
We’ve found that less is more when it comes to coyotes. The less suspicious and more natural the sets look, the more chances a coyote will work them. The majority of our sets are along old logging roads that run around field edges. The predators like to hunt the field edge habitat as they feel safe with thick cover they can retreat to. This is also where the prey species like rabbits, grouse and other small mammals are found.
It still amazes me how much the coyote population has grown here in the Mountain State in my lifetime. Like I said before, I remember a time when coyotes simply didn’t exist. If you find yourself missing hunting season, you may consider giving trapping a try. Especially if you’ve complained about how many coyotes you see and hear nowadays.
For me, it feels good to help the local farmers as well as the prey species by eliminating a new predator that is now thriving in our own backyards. The fur from not only coyotes but other predator species caught can be sold to help cover the cost for the traps and trapping supplies. I look forward to waking up every morning and running the trap line as you never know what you may find and what you’ll see along the way.
Not to mention every minute spent in the outdoors is time well worth it to me. A new chapter has begun on the trap line as an otter has showed up at my pond. It’s well stocked with fish I paid for and has thankfully been frozen over on his visits so far. It thawed out this past week so otter traps have been deployed. The white book of snow revealed his tracks to me and made me aware of his presence. They are fish-eating machines and can clean a pond out, so I’m hoping I can catch it soon.
Here’s to another day on the trap line and another morning roaming the wild and wonderful hills of West Virginia.