The Thirteenth of Chapters_
Caring for Traps_
Note that traps should be examined carefully just before being set to see if they will work properly. New traps should be thoroughly greased with almost any kind of grease that has no salt in it. Salt will rust traps. It is to guard against rust as much as anything else that you should grease your traps, for in that condition they are not so apt to give good service.
If you have a supply of traps that are badly rusted, kerosene poured over them and let stand for a few hours will tend to remove the rust. After you have cleaned all of the rust off possible, grease the trap carefully and thoroughly with some good fresh grease, such as lard or the fat of some animal. Good oil will answer if you can not get the animal fat. Trappers can usually get an animal or two and fry the fat from it. This is an easy task and with this grease your traps. If this is done with old traps at the close of the season it will help preserve them. It is a good idea, also just before trapping begins.
With new traps it is much more important that they be greased before setting as they will badly rust if not thus treated; old traps that have been greased a number of times can be neglected rather than the new ones. If possible it is best to attend to this several days before the traps are set, so that a part of the grease will be dried in, or evaporated so that in setting there will not be so much to get on your hands, clothes, etc.
In this connection it will not be amiss to say that traps should be carefully gone over before they are set, to see that every part is in working order. There may be broken links in the chain, or other defects. The swivel may be rusty and will not turn and the first animal caught is apt to break the chain. Many times have trappers gone to their traps only to find a part of the chain remaining as some animal had broken it and escaped. All traps should be very carefully gone over and mended, otherwise you may not only loose the trap but a valuable pelt as well.
What is best to apply to prevent their rusting? writes a number of trappers.
Almost any oil will answer, but perhaps animal fat is best and can be obtained by trappers easily. Many trappers prefer to have their traps somewhat rusty, or at least want the newness worn off. It is not a bad idea to smear traps in the blood of rabbits or birds.
To clean your traps, boil them in ashes and water, rinse clean in hot water, then dip in hot water with melted beeswax floating. Raise them slowly out of this so as to coat every part. Hang up to drain and dry and your traps are ready.
In what condition are your traps for beginning a vigorous campaign; have you boiled them in soft maple bark or the husks of walnuts, to stain and eliminate the coating of rust, so that they will work well and be free of the animal scent from last season? All second hand traps should have this attention before trapping is begun. New traps will not take the stain until they have been used and rusted.
If it is hard for you to get soft maple bark or black walnut husks, you can get a pound of logwood chips at the drug store which will be sufficient for a five-gallon kettle of water. After a good dye is made put in what traps the liquid will cover and boil 15 or 20 minutes for each lot. If the water gets low put on a pailful or so as it boils away. If you only have a few traps use less coloring material and less water. Logwood makes a jet black.
When the fall trapping is over, the traps will be somewhat rusty again. Not many will go to the trouble to color them again in the same season, but now that the weather is cold and the rusting process is slow and you can renovate them and lubricate in the following manner: Smear all the rusty and working parts with fresh lard; also, the chain and swivel, and then with a wire hook or iron rod hold the trap over a small fire until the grease is melted and smokes. The heat will not hurt the trap so long as you do not heat the spring too hot. When the trap is cool enough to handle, rub it well with old paper to remove loose grease and you will have a trap that will not play you false. A good greasing like this will last all winter.
This article will not appeal to the many, but to the few trappers who are so situated that their mode of trapping prevents them in bringing home their traps when the season is over. A man who has a long line of traps set out is often at loss as to their disposal for the summer months. To pack out on one's back a weight of iron at a season when walking in the bush is at its worst, especially if the trapper is to return and set up the same line the next season, is a useless labor and a heart and back breaking job.
To avoid this the best way is to "cache" them in bunches were they are to be used again. This I know is a risky plan where John Sneakum prowls the bush, yet it can be done in safety if one takes proper precaution to rub out his trail. The "caching" of them is not the only question to be considered but also to leave them hidden in such a way that when next required they may be at once serviceable for immediate use.
My first venture at leaving them in the bush says a Northern trapper was in this way. I began at the furthest end of my line and gathered them till I had twenty. These I tied securely together with a piece of twisted bale wire through the rings. I then stepped off the main line to a clump of evergreens and bending a sapling down bow fashion, secured the bunch to the top and let the tree fly back to its place.
Regaining the main line I took a memorandum in my note book as to the cache something like the following: Cache No. 1 — "Bunch of twenty No. 1 traps, left opposite rotten stump on left hand side of road in thicket of evergreens, about thirty paces away," and so on with each deposit always mentioning some land mark as a guide to my finding them the next autumn.
Well, this mode was not a success. It was alright as far as the safety of the traps were concerned, but I found them in a frightful state of rust from the action of the rain and atmosphere, and it took an hour of my time at each "cache" to rub them into a semblance of cleanliness. Moreover, there was a remote possibility of a bush fire running over that territory, which, while it might not consume the traps, the action of the flames would have drawn the temper from the springs to a degree that would have made them useless.
The accidental leaving of an otter trap set all summer led me to "caching" my traps under water, that is those that I could conveniently carry to a lake or river. This otter trap when I came to it the following fall was covered with a light fluffy rust the color of yellow ochre. It stained my hands like paint, but was readily washed off. I held the chain in my hand and by sousing the trap up and down several times in the water, was surprised to see the metal come as clear as when first the trap left the shop.
I therefore, ever afterwards hid those traps that were near a lake or river in the water. There were traps, however, which were too far from water to be easily transported and as the tree tops were voted bad, I set to considering other modes of storing them. The atmosphere being too corroding I decided to bury them underground. The result was that the next autumn I found those that were in clay or heavy Soil came out rusty, while those in sandy soil were very little acted upon, but the best conditioned were those hidden under rotten leaves or vegetable matter, so ever afterwards I kept my traps either in the water or hidden under the last conditions.
When leaving a bunch in the water I simply tied the bunch together, went a little to one side of the direct canoe route and dropped them overboard in about three or four feet of water, being careful to have some noticeable object ashore in direct line.
When next required I merely lashed a large cod hook to a short pole, fished them up, took them aboard my canoe and washed the bunch clean at a portage. In any case I do not think it is adding to the luck of a trap to have them greased and hung up in or about the house. The smell imparted to them is worse than the odor of clean iron. If I found a trap slow in snapping I usually rubbed a little odorless polish into the joints of the jaws and carried a rabbit's foot to use as a brush.
The Fourteenth of Chapters_
Every trapper, like all other classes, have many things to contend with. One of the worst, perhaps, is the trap stealer, who having once found one of your traps will follow up your line and take them all. If he can not find them by your tracks, he is apt to hide close by and wait until you go the round, then follow up and take your entire outfit of traps. To be sure that they are your property you should mark each and every trap before the trapping season or just as soon as they are bought, at any rate before they are set.
There are several ways to mark traps. One of the easiest and best ways is with a file. Select your mark or marks and file on each trap. Several notches filed on the under side of the trap will not injure the trap and will be a good means of identifying your property, should you ever happen upon them again. Place all the notches in the same position and at the same place on each trap and you have a good mark. The notches may be filed almost any place, excepting on the spring, and they should be filed on two or three different parts of the trap. Should the person who stole the traps attempt to file out the notches, you can tell from the places filed if they are your traps, as all have been marked exactly alike.
The trap stealer, if he knows that they are marked with the owner's private mark, is not so apt to take them, for he knows that the owner, should he find them in his possession, can easily prove property. Whereas if there was no mark on the trap, the thief could not be convicted unless seen taking them. The thief also knows that if he is discovered, his trapping grounds will be watched. So having all traps marked in some way it lessens the chances of their being stolen as well as helps to identify them after they are taken. By all means mark all your traps — you may happen on some of them unexpectedly that have been missing for years. After you have marked a trap never trade or sell it, as you would then not be able, should you happen upon traps bearing your mark, to tell whether they had been sold or stolen.
Many trappers who lose traps by "Sneakum" each year do not have them marked. Often your traps are stolen by some one in your own vicinity as they know they can set them.
How about this if your traps are stamped with your own initials? The thief will know that you can identify your property, and will not be so apt to steal as he will be afraid to set them.
When you mark your traps, never sell them, so that you know every trap bearing your initial is your property, making no difference where found.
The Fifteenth of Chapters_
How to Fasten_
Before a trapper has much experience he loses much of his game, after it has been caught, by not having his traps properly fastened. Having his traps so securely staked that anything caught can get a dead pull is usually the way the trapper with little experience fails.
How many of you are still driving stakes into the ground and otherwise fastening your traps so that when an animal is caught, it pulls on the chain? In trapping for muskrat, the stake may be used, but for any other animal, never. Even in the case of the muskrat the sliding pole is much better. This device is made as follows: Cut a pole or bush, say six or eight feet long, trimming off the branches so that the ring will readily slide nearly the length of the pole. On the end leave a few branches or short twigs so the ring will not slide off. The other end can be stuck into the bank or tied with the small end extending out into deep water. When a rat is caught, it makes for deep water and is drowned. If you use stakes to fasten your traps for muskrat, set them out into the water as far as possible so that your game cannot get to the land and will soon drown.
The proper way to secure your trap, when trapping for other animals than muskrat, is to drive the staple into a small bush as shown in illustration, or the chain can be looped around the bush near the end, with a branch or two left on to keep the chain from slipping off. The size of the bush can be determined from the sized animals you are trapping. If there are no bushes convenient, a piece of fence rail or chunk will answer, altho these will not give so readily as the bush, which will move easily with each and every lunge of the animal caught so that its chances of getting out of the trap are lessened.
When your trap is thus fastened, the game will often get several feet or perhaps rods away from the den, but it is an easy matter to find the trap and game. If in an open field, a glance around will usually find the bush and game, while if in the woods, a trail will be left that can easily be followed.
The important fact that traps thus fastened give with each and every pull and struggle of the animal should not be overlooked; in fact, if the trap has not a firm hold, the bush gives so easily that there is no chance for the animal to get a dead pull — that is, a solid one. See that all traps are fastened as above described and one of the principal causes of failure will have been remedied to a great extent and your game will not get away after once being caught.
In case a trapper cannot visit his traps very often, or he is annoyed by the presence of those animals that are liable to destroy his catch, the use of the spring pole for dry land trapping will be found very efficient in preventing the loss of game.
This contrivance is designed to lift the trapped animal high in the air and thus both hamper it in its efforts to escape and prevent other animals from devouring it. It is made as follows: If possible, select a standing sapling for the purpose. If this cannot be done, then cut a pole from some elastic wood, trim and drive it firmly in the ground, then fasten the trap chain to the upper end. Now bend down and catch the small end under a notched peg or root in such a way that the least struggle of an animal in the trap will release the pole and lift him high in the air. Of course the trapper will proportion the strength of his pole to the size of his intended victim.
All trappers have experienced a feeling of regret when visiting traps where game has been caught and escaped. The ones who properly fasten traps seldom have their game escape, altho occasionally, when not securely caught and the trapper does not make his rounds often, an animal will get away.
For a shallow water set we commend the one shown above. Place a second stake eight or ten inches from the fastening stake having short stubs on both and the animal will soon wind himself up around the two and drown.