The Tenth of Chapters_
Experienced trappers fully appreciate the importance of having a trap that when the animal is caught, it is caught to stay, and instantly killed instead of being held a captive by the foot or leg.
Many fully realize the importance of a humane trap that will accomplish this, and have found many good points in the Tree Trap. Most practical trappers know that one of the most successful ways to set steel traps for many kinds of animals, is to suspend the bait about two feet over the trap, compelling the animal to step on the pan of the trap in order to get at it. This may be very good, but in case of a heavy snow fall, a set of this kind means that your trap is snowed under, and you not only experience great difficulty in locating your trap, but often are unable to do so at all until spring, or when the snow disappears.
In order that readers may fully understand how the Tree Trap is used, two sketches are shown. One showing the trap set, with a mink approaching; the other one having caught Mr. Coon, and killed him instantly, not damaging the fur. This trap can be securely nailed to a tree, stump or stake, and should be at least two feet from the ground, though always in sight and easy to get to. In case of deep snow all you have to do is to bend the nails around, loosening the trap and renail it a few feet higher up.
How to Set_
If possible find a suitable tree over a den or close to a runway. Leave the trap set with the safety hook holding it (don't spring the trap unless nailed securely), place against the tree, two or three feet from the ground; mark the distance between the lower notches in the base of trap on the tree. Then drive two nails (six or eight-penny will do) leaving enough of the nail head so the two bottom notches will hook over the nail heads tightly, then drive the nails in the two upper notches as far as they will go. This will fasten the base of the trap tightly to the tree, which is important.
Next bait the hook; seeing that the bait is secure; some tie it on with a string or thread. Now release the safety hook and your trap is ready. Some trappers prefer to throw some dead grass, leaves or boughs on top of the trap, which help to conceal it, this is a good idea. A piece of a rabbit, squirrel, bird or chicken makes a splendid bait. Fish is good for mink.
One great advantage of Tree Trap over many other traps is that when it catches the animal, it not only holds, but kills it. While traps should be looked after every other day in good trapping weather; with the Tree Trap twice a week will do without the game escaping, as is often the case with common steel traps, but you cannot afford to take chances. Of course, in very warm weather, traps should be looked at more frequently. On the other hand, during very severe weather, the trapper need not make the rounds more than once a week. This is important to the trapper who has a long line of traps out.
Trappers should by all means have some Tree Traps among their outfit, in fact, as already mentioned, the most successful trappers have a supply of all kinds of traps.
The Tree Trap does not weigh as much as a steel trap required to catch the same size animals, and when set secured by safety hook, they are compact; occupying very little space. These traps are made by the Animal Trap Co., Lititz, Pa., and are highly recommended for marten.
Tree Traps are manufactured in four sizes adapted to catching the following animals: No. 0 the smallest size, for weasel; No. 1, for mink, marten, and civet; No. 2, for skunk and opossum; No. 3, for coon, fisher and wild cat.
This trap can be used to splendid advantage during deep snows as it can easily be set against the side of a tree at any height the trapper desires, thus proving what has been said before, that the most successful trapper has some of all kinds of traps.
The greatest field for the Tree Trap is the North, yet trappers in the Central and Southern States are already using them to a considerable extent for coon and opossum; also for skunk and mink.
The Eleventh of Chapters_
STOP THIEF TRAPS are manufactured by the Animal Trap Co. A great deal has been said for and against this trap, but like all traps, one must know how to use them. Trappers that have taken the trouble to learn how to set them report good results. A great many that were quick to condemn them at first now praise them highly.
The manufacturers say the No. 1 is for squirrels; No. 2, for mink and marten; No. 3, for skunk and opossum; No. 3 1/2 for fox and raccoon; No. 4, for wolves. But we think the larger sizes should be used for mink and skunk.
In trapping for mink, fish, bird or muskrat is the best bait but a hungry mink will eat almost any kind of fresh meat. When convenient, scatter dry grass or leaves over the trap but do not cover the hole. If no hole is found, make one or two in earth or snow.
Fasten the trap with a chain or piece of wire to a stake or drag of some kind, when near the water. No fastening is needed if there is no water near. Find where the raccoon, skunk, civet cat, opossum, etc., frequent and set the trap in the same way as for mink. Bait with bird, chicken and the like. Oil the working parts of trap to prevent rust.
The Stop Thief Trap is thought very highly of by some trappers for use in a peculiar situation and like the New Tree Trap, tho not as yet well known, it is likely to prove a very effective machine in the hands of men who know how to use it.
I procure a crotched stick, writes a Pennsylvania trapper, the prongs of which are about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and of sufficient spread to fit the trap with which they are to be used. I send a drawing which will make it plainer than a page of description. The best way of setting a trap thus equipped will readily suggest itself according to the place selected.
When setting at a hole which the animal is known to be in, the wood part or crotch may be placed next the hole or ground and there will not be much of the iron of the trap exposed to the animal as it comes out. Or, if setting where the animal is expected to come and enter the hole, the trap would be best placed with the wood out. With the latter set one would have to be careful to place the trap so that nothing would interfere with the working.
Traps thus rigged will, of course, weigh more than the bare trap and are more bulky and cumbersome, but where one is trapping in a timbered country the crotch need not be cut until upon the ground where it is to be used, or if in a section where timber is scarce, could be placed beforehand where it is to be used, just as one would do with stakes, rocks, drags, or clogs, spring poles and the like, when setting steel jaw traps. Dry timber could be used instead of green which would lighten materially. However, I prefer the heavier, as I think it holds the trap more firmly in place, thus requiring less fastening. Small wire is best to fasten the trap to the crotch as mice and squirrels will cut twine.
While I feel that the Stop Thief will never begin to equal any steel jaw trap, I think there are times when it may be used to advantage, and I expect to try mine again the coming season and expect to do better with them than last season.
The Twelfth of Chapters_
Wide Spreading Jaws_
Occasionally I see in H-T-T, trappers advocating a large spreading trap, writes an experienced Canadian trapper, and some even go so far as to invite the trap manufacturers to make still wider ones than are now on the market. My experience in trapping, which was varied and extended over a number of years, is that it's a mistake to have a trap that catches the animals too high up.
The best and most enduring hold a trap can have on an animal is the paw or just above where it joins the bottom of the leg. I have found this with beaver, foxes, marten, lynx, bear, and in fact all animals I have caught. Just above and the paw itself is a mass of sinews and muscle enveloped with a stronger skin than any part of the leg, and therefore must give more resistance. I have found a fox that was caught in a No. 2 Newhouse after three nights' struggle as secure as if newly seized. The jaws having closed securely across the thick part of the forepaw.
Again from a shortness of a proper sized trap I once set a No. 4, for a fox. The fox was caught between midnight and daylight, and when I visited the trap at the latter limit (six o'clock), it was high time, for another half hour of struggling and the fox would have been clear and away. The jaws had caught him half way up the foreleg and snapped the bone like a pipe shank. With his twisting and leaping there only remained a strip of skin and one tendon that kept him prisoner.
For mink I have found a No. 0 trap, if carefully set with proper precaution, is as good and lucky as a No. 1 or 1 1/2 trap, as some trappers advocate. I used a bunch on a considerable sized lake last fall. The lake had numerous small creeks and rivers falling into it. At the junction of these with the lake I set my traps. They were all No. 0 selected on account of their lightness. As there was a long carry to get to the lake from a traveled route and added to the canoe, my gun, blanket and provisions, the traps were somewhat of a consideration, and I therefore took the one of less weight. I made two visits to the lake before it froze and got twenty mink, one marten and a female fisher.
When I made a water set I saw that the bank outside went down pretty bold and I always tied a stone to the trap and thus insured the animal drowning. Where I set on land without fail I attached the chain to a tossing pole, thereby preventing the fur being damaged by mice or the animal being eaten by some other. Some may question the possibility of such small traps being for any length of time in order as a water set, but I must explain. The lake was of considerable size and the season the latter part of October. Such a lake at that season of the year is not subject to any fluctuations in the height of water.
I may say in conclusion about this particular sized trap that on that trapping tour I only lost one mink, I found the trap sprung with a single toe in the jaws. The trap had been a dry set one, and by reading the signs I found some snow had melted and dripped from an overhanging branch on to the junctions of the jaws. This had frozen (the trap being in the shade) and prevented its usual activity. As a consequence It only caught on as the mink was in the act of lifting his foot, so I was satisfied it was the circumstances and not the fault of the trap that caused the missing of this mink.
Another undesirable point about any trap is to have the springs too powerful for its intended use. One only wants a trap's jaws to close up sudden enough and to hold what it catches secure against any possibility of the animal withdrawing its foot. Once you have this it's all that's required or necessary. A trap with springs with a strength out of reason is awkward and vexatious to open, and when the animal is caught goes on with its continued pressure until the jaws of their own action almost sever the paw or leg, and the animal with very little struggling finishing the amputation.
I knew an Indian once who had a bear trap which was not much larger in spread than a No. 4 trap. An ordinary man by placing a foot on each spring could set it, and yet that trap was his most reliable one. He had others too, but he took his "Davy" on that. It acted like that celebrated motto, "What we have, we hold."
This trap was made from his own directions, and he had the jaws at their inner edge three-quarters of an inch thick and bevelled off to a quarter of an inch at the outer sides. As he aptly put it — "I want the trap to hold the bear until I go there and shoot it, not to chop off its foot."
Another point about a bear trap that I consider could be remedied with advantage to the trapper, is to have the ordinary chains lengthened by a few links. It is not always possible to place the drag stick close up to the open trap, but where the chain is longer no difficulty would be found. A few more links would add very little to the weight or cost.
To a lone trapper setting bear traps miles away from any human beings, it's a tricky and dangerous job. I consider a man so situated should, as a precaution, carry one of those patent clamps for depressing the springs, in his pocket. I am aware some do not use them, as they consider them too slow, preferring a couple of short levers jammed under a root and pressed down with the knees while the hands open the jaws and place the trigger. Others use a piece of stout cord to tie down one spring, while with their weight on the other the jaws fall apart.
But accidents will happen to the most careful persons; by some inadvertence he might get caught by the hand or thoughtlessly step into it, and if he did not perish would have considerable difficulty in getting out, while with a cool head and a clamp within reach he could promptly free himself. I knew one man who lost his life in a bear trap and another who had almost succumbed to his suffering when found and released. There are three things with a trapper's life that I was always extremely polite and careful with — a bark canoe, a bear trap, and a gun. I handled these for forty years but never fooled with them.
Had the Indian mentioned used the celebrated Newhouse traps, we feel sure that he would have found no cause to complain. While to some trappers the springs may sometimes appear to be too stiff, yet the face of the jaws are wide and as the manufacturers are always in correspondence with bear and other trappers, there is no question but that they know and are now manufacturing what meets the views of the majority of trappers.
We believe that of some sizes they are making the face of the jaws even wider than formerly.
The Newhouse bear traps are furnished with bear chain, clevis and bolt, illustrated and described under Newhouse Traps, but briefly described here. This chain is five feet long and with clevis can be fastened around any log which the trapper will want to use.
One thing must be born in mind, viz: That when traps are set, they are covered, and should severe weather follow, freezing this covering, it requires a stiff spring to throw the jaws together quickly. Our belief is that more large animals escape from traps too weak than from the too strong ones. Yet there are times, no doubt, when had the spring been weaker and the face of the jaws wider, the results would have been fully as satisfactory.