Happy to join Illinois Outdoor News blogging team, share story of trapping
I’ve been writing for Illinois Outdoor News since 2015, concentrating mostly on trapping and furbearers. I’m happy to join the blogging team for the online version of Outdoor News.
A little background: I’ve lived in central Illinois since I was 6 and set my first traps way back in 1966 when I was 9. My catch that year was a opossum. I was hooked.
I struggled for the next few years. Back in the 60s, there was no internet or YouTube. There weren’t a lot of books on the subject either. Experienced trappers tended toward secrecy and were loath to show a grade school kid how to be successful. No one in my immediate family trapped. My grandfather had back during the depression and I loved listening to his stories. I remember he caught a mink in the early 30s and it fed the family of 12 for a month (they lived on a farm so in retrospect they probably didn’t need to buy much). I wanted to do this and be successful really bad.
Finally, one of our neighbors down the street who worked for DNR got wind that I was interested and gloriously took me along his coon and muskrat line. Finally, I was learning where to set and how to make the set to maximize chances of a catch (thank you Bill Sinkus!).
Until I could drive, if it couldn’t be reached by a bike it was out of my range, so I mostly set the small drainage ditch creek behind our house, and mostly for muskrats. By this time I had collected maybe 12 traps or so, mostly #1 single longsprings (you could buy #1s at K-Mart for 50 cents apiece at the time). I caught a few rats that year, maybe 8, learned how to skin then and took them to a local furbuyer in Chatham, Illinois. I was very proud of my catch and the buyer, Gene McDonald, spent a lot of time with me. I complained that setting the traps at muskrat dens was an art. Too close and they sprung the trap with their chest, too far away from the hole and they missed the trap entirely.
Mr. McDonald said he had just the thing for me and went into the back of the shop and brought out a box. “Ever seen these?” he said, as he pulled out a #110 Conibear (an early bodygrip trap that set the standard for future bodygrip traps). Yep, I’d seen them in K-Mart but couldn’t figure out how they worked. He set one and said this is the ticket for muskrat holes. Now my rats were worth sixty cents apiece and if I remember right a dozen #110s was close to $10. I told Mr. McDonald that I wasn’t going to have enough money for the traps – maybe next time. He told me he’d give me the traps in trade for my 8 muskrats with the consideration that I would sell my future catch to him. Deal.
And I kept my promise until he shut his doors in the early 70s.
It’s a great story (and it’s my story!), and it’s true. All trappers, after they’ve been around a while have stories to tell. Things they saw on the line, experiences they had, set’s they make, furbearers they’ve handled – a myriad of stories, tips, and useful trapline information that used to only get passed verbally. This blog will give me the opportunity to talk about the things I know (and have heard) to other folks interested in trapping.
It’s my chance to pass things along.