Kentucky Sportsmen - Your Thoughts on Trapping

Discussion in 'General Hunting' started by Martin175, Nov 4, 2003.

  1. Martin175

    Martin175 Fawn

    Nov 4, 2003
    Stanton, KY, USA.
    Greetings Sportsmen. Ill go ahead and convey the obvious, I am a new guy here. It truly looks like a great site; I can’t imagine why I have never stumbled up onto it before now. Thank you Officer Finn for drawing my attention to this particular piece of cyberspace. It is nice to see a common meeting area for the outdoorsmen and women of Kentucky to congregate and share information, recount stories and tell big tales.

    As the title might suggest, I am a trapper. My trap lines have meandered through the flat lands of western Kentucky in Warren, Simpson, Logan, and Allen counties while saturating the Appalachian foothills in and around my home of Powell County. Regardless of where my travels find me knocking on doors for permission in this state, I always seem to run into one of two given responses. In light of exaggerated numbers of coyotes and coon in some counties, permission is often granted to, “Kill all of ‘em you can.” Otherwise, due to misconceptions of traps and trappers, or the Animal Planet mentality of live and let live, permission is just as often denied. In a Disney Channel world of talking animals and viscous serrated-edge traps, I can only understand why some people feel as though they do. Don’t short circuit your objective thinking here, I am not complaining about being denied access to private property to trap. Regardless of their reasons, I always respect a landowner’s wishes and move on to the next farm with no hard feelings. What does bother me however is the negative attitude that many of my fellow hunters harbor toward their brethren trappers.

    Furbearers, just like deer and grouse, rabbits and turkeys, are a renewable natural resource. Animal rights activists actively scrutinize hunters just as severely as their trapping counterparts. Trappers invest just as much if not more time, money, and effort into their recreation as hunters do. In addition to these facts, perhaps the strongest connection between the two groups is the fact that the vast majority of trappers are also hunters. If we are all so closely connected then, what is cause of so much friction?

    Maybe it’s the competition. Some hunters may claim that trappers rape the land. Because we run a trap line, a trapper is greedily taking all the wildlife for themselves and leaving nothing for the coon hunters or coyote callers. One coon or a hundred, all sportsmen alike are earmarked as evil by much of the “civilized” world. Given their way, meat would no longer be consumed, cattle would all be free range, and deer would be given contraceptives to control populations. While they are at it, pro gun control advocates might as well have our firearms since hunting would no longer be practiced. In light of all of these changes, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokeswoman Ingrid Newkirk should be elected president so that we all might follow her example. After all, Newkirk claims that she would rather see all children die of a disease before a laboratory rat died to find the cure. This comes from the same woman who has willed the skin of her own body to be fashioned into a purse after her death to prove that humans and animals are truly the same. Ultimately this leads me to a big question – If animals are people too and they eat each other, what is the problem with us eating them. Strange.

    Or perhaps it is a fear of the traps themselves. Those hunters, who while away the hours listening to a pair of Walkers harmonize at the tree or the excited chorus of a pack of beagles in hot pursuit, may fill this category. Traps are cruel mechanisms of pain, suffering, and injury. With bone crushing strength, they lay waiting, guarding a scent that even the most educated hound can’t resist. Or even worse, a snare, the true angels of death in a trapper’s arsenal sways gently in the breeze waiting for that prize birddog to stumble along. Despite most hounds living their lives on the end of a chain, if they get in a snare, you might as well start digging the grave. Sound ludicrous? Walt Disney and the Crocodile Hunter don’t seem to think so. Neither does hound clubs. What does this mean for Joe Trapper? Broken or stolen traps and equipment, death threats, vandalism to vehicles – shall I continue? What about the truth? Ok, here it is.

    In truth, as technology and education tends to inspire, traps have evolved from those of yester year. Trappers have learned a great deal more about the tools of their trade. Traps have become smaller, stronger, and safer. A generation ago, weak traps utilized teeth and size to contain the animal. Understandably, these steel traps were referred to as “leghold” traps. The oversized traps were designed to catch and hold high up on the leg. Swivels were almost non-existent, save for the “J” hook to connect the chain to the trap. The terminal end of the chain included a flimsy steel ring for securing the trap. Today however, ongoing testing by objective participants is furthering the development of even more humane trap designs. Such modifications include padded “cushion” jaws, laminations to increase the thickness of trap jaws (which basically has the exact same result as padding the jaws – a greater contact surface area on the animals foot to effectively reduce the potential for lacerations), and multiple swivels in the chain to prevent the trap from binding and causing injury when the animal tries to turn. These swivels bring up another important point. That is the notion of wring out. Let us consider a small furbearer such as a muskrat. This is a creature with very small, easily broken leg bones. If a muskrat is caught in a trap that does not permit it to drown, and the bone in the leg gets broke, it is likely that the muskrat will “wring out” or twist off its foot at the broken point. This same concept was common with those old larger traps that caught high on the leg above the flexible ankle joint on other furbearers. Thus the terminology of “chewing out” was born. Some folks will argue this point until they are blue in the face. It’s a myth, plain and simple. I have trapped for 15 years and never have I witnessed a furbearer chew its own leg off above the trap. A trapper worth his or her salt will not further persuade people to believe this myth either. Some people will argue that Kentucky has a 24-hour check law, requiring a trapper to run his or her line every day. True enough. Western states do not necessarily have the same laws though. There are some states requiring a trap check every other day. These guys don’t have “chew outs” either. What about coons? Yes, coons will chew at their toes below the trap jaws if the trap is so large that they can get to them. How many have been to the dentist for some tooth work and bit your lip or tongue before the numbing medicine wore off. Didn’t feel it did you? Same concept. Today’s traps are unlike earlier models whereas they don’t use sheer force to contain an animal. More appropriately, they can be related to handcuffs. In some instances, the circulation to the toes can be restricted, essentially causing the paw below the trap to go numb. In the first few minutes of fighting a trap (which is all the time an animal tries to escape – more often than not, the trapper will find the animal curled up asleep when he arrives in the morning, It is not a 24 hour life or death struggle that some folks believe it to be) a coon can self inflict injuries on those numb toes. But, it is time to put down the myth of chew-out forever. The fact that today’s traps are smaller and designed to hold the animal’s foot, they are more appropriately deemed foothold traps. Traps are designed to hold, not torture. Dogs come into contact with traps, it just happens. For that reason, it is always a good idea for hound hunters to know how traps function so that they can safely remove their dog if it is captured. Here is another little nugget of information. That dog will learn to avoid a trap faster than you taught it how to sit or shake hands, I will guarantee that. Even a blockhead like a Rottweiler usually learns to avoid a trap after the first time he gets a toe pinched. Besides hurting their feelings for a few minutes, except in the most rare of cases, that dog will go on and keep hunting. Let us not forget snares.

    Snares are more forgiving that people think. Snares find a lot of use on my trapline. In a lot of situations, they are the only practical tools to be used. Folks tend to believe that a snared animal is as good as dead. Not so, and I'll tell you why. As a general rule, a snared animal, whether it’s a dog, coon, or whatever isn’t going to pull enough to choke itself out. Exceptions to this rule are if something antagonizes the snared animal to the point that it asphyxiates, or some other bizarre reason. A trapper can be very selective when it comes to snaring, not only the type of animal to be caught but also whether it can tangle up or not. For instance, a snare set for beaver is usually set on the ground or within 2 inches above it. The larger coyote or coonhound will knock the snare down when it passes. Accordingly, a snare set for a coyote that is 12 inches above the ground will permit a beagle, coon, or other similarly sized animal to pass under it. Life or death in a snare is decided by two key factors. First, the trapper incorporates some type of killing device on the snare. These range from powered springs called Ram snares to simple compression springs near the lock of the snare. Compression springs work to exert a constant choking force on the animal until it asphyxiates. Both are illegal in Kentucky. Snare manufactures understand that some trappers want a snared animal dead to prevent the possibility of escape (most often wolves and coyotes on 48 hour checks). They also know that the design of the lock whether relaxing (oxymoronic as that is) or non-relaxing doesn’t contribute to the death of the snared animal. For that reason, they sell these killing devices to interested buyers. Second, the location of the snare is perhaps the most important. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a snared animal that can swivel and not wrap around anything will be alive and well when the trapper returns. When it comes to entanglement situations though, relaxing lock or not, it will be dead. Animals do not have the reasoning ability to back up when it comes to snares or even dog chains for that matter. If a snared animal can start winding the snare cable around something, it will asphyxiate. It keeps circling until it asphyxiates. A dog on a chain that does not swivel (after getting clogged up or for the lack of swivels) and gets wrapped around something small is as good as dead. I buried a great Mt. Cur one time because of a faulty swivel on this dog chain.

    Hunters and trappers need to find a common ground and find it fast. Battling one group against another only makes our resistance to outside forces weaker. There are million dollar organizations in our nation that lobby against our very way of life. Hunting, trapping, and fishing is not only a privilege, it’s our heritage. I promise you, when trapping goes, hunting is the obvious second.

    I have made my opinion blatantly obvious, now I would like to hear from you. The glory of the Internet is its anonymous nature. Don’t be shy; let us hear your honest opinions on trappers, their equipment, or their practices.

    Skin that'un pilgrim and I'll get ye another'n.
  2. GSP

    GSP 14 Pointer Staff Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Good post Martin and welcome to the site. Though you seem to be a man of few words![:D]
  3. RutNBuck

    RutNBuck 12 pointer

    Dec 10, 2001
    Northern Ky
    people dont realize how much time ,effort, and pride a trapper places in each of his sets..when fur prices were worth a trappers effort

    i would awaken many mornings and ready myself for the trek to each set....each day was a new day and every empty set only made you desire a catch even more...trapping is indeed a great sport reguardless what others might each his own and i say trek forward and think of the many that have walked in the same footsteps..
    being a trapper i think makes you pay attention to detail

    "A wise indian once said,the more you move the less you will see,the less you move the more you will see"

    " I live to hunt, but my wife says i may be hunting a place to live"
  4. CPA Hunter

    CPA Hunter 8 pointer

    Dec 10, 2001
    I support all outdoorsman and women – be they trappers or even them low life NONRESIDENTS that come to take over the planet or maybe just your hunting spot (me).

    Seriously, I think we should all support each other. Houndsman (Beagle types in particular in Indiana) are taking a beating now that the trapping industry has been run in the ground. In Indiana the head of some IN Deer Hunters Assoc is spearheading the attack on houndsman (pathetic). Our (hunters) days are numbered, but if we stick together maybe it won’t be in our children’s lifetime or ours.
  5. Hammer

    Hammer 12 pointer

    Sep 2, 2002
    Bowling Green, Ky.
    I wish there were more trappers. I think that would lead to more turkeys and small game. I heard some guys in Daviess County just yesterday talking about their darned beavers and how they were going to get out around dusk and try to pick off a few. You must have a PHd in trapping, quite a post!
  6. Finn209

    Finn209 Cyber-Hunter

    Mar 13, 2003
    Lewisburg, KY. USA
    Good to hear from you. Thanks again for the help you gave to the farmers in this area.

  7. Larry Carter

    Larry Carter 8 pointer

    Mar 2, 2003
    Crab Orchard, Ky, USA.
    Trapping does teach a lot about how animals really act in the wild. I wish more kids could get to run the before school traplines like in days past. We'd raise a lot more outdoors folks and like stated above up small game populations.
  8. joekat46

    joekat46 8 pointer

    Jun 19, 2003
    North Port, Fl.
    Trapping is always the first target of the antis. Your post and knowledge is great. Thank you.
  9. Xtreme

    Xtreme Cyber-Hunter

    Dec 12, 2001
    Well, let another old trapper of few words welcome you to this site[:D] I first started trapping in the early 70's. By the time the early 80's rolled I was trapping semi-pro. There were many times this young married man's family would have been in a hurt if it were not for fur.

    The thrill of entering a creek or pond in chest waders anticipating the day's catch, the absolute awe of seeing a red or grey on a frosty morning in the ole handcuffs? It just does not get any better.

    Trappers provide a very valuable service. They help control water borne animals such as muskrats and beavers when left un checked do considerable damage to ponds and crops. As for predators...distemper and rabies are virtually un heard of during a healthy fur market. Ever notice that small game populations are at all time highs during healthy fur markets?

    I recently read where fur may be making a come back. I think I may string some steel myself after Thanksgiving. 15.oo coons, 40.00 coyotes....4 dollar rats...[:)]

    Trappers do not rape anything. I know of no trapper ever that "over trapped" any area on purpose. It's obvious that fur is a renewable resource and we always wanted to have plenty for "next year". As for "chewing out" you are right on target Martin. a trapper wants an aquatic animal to jump in deep water and drown quickly and a land animal to be held gently by the pads of the foot. No teeth or any other such horrible attachments need apply.

    Jim Helfrich, Russ Carmen, Stanley Hawbaker, A. M. Grawe, Ray Milligan our own Tom Landers and all the folks who ever wrote and advertised in Fur, Fish and Game were my heroes!!!!!

    Any fool can tromp through the woods, trappers practice their art to the step. I am and always shall consider myself a trapper with as much admiration and pride to this sport as I can possibly muster.
  10. Martin175

    Martin175 Fawn

    Nov 4, 2003
    Stanton, KY, USA.
    Watching the world come alive on a cold spring morning while the old boss thunders his warnings to the pestering crows is aw inspiring. But even that can’t compare to the rush of watching January river water flood your chest high waders. That feeling is a close second to the blast of adrenaline you experience as the first crack moans out from under your feet when you are on the deep side of the ice. It’s hard, physically demanding, mentally draining work, but yet we volunteer for it year after year and even pay considerable sums of money to put ourselves through it all. If an employer asked even a fraction of this commitment from us we would have the Union Reps on the phone in 20 minutes. No matter how bad a day on the line truly is the next is always like Christmas morning all over again. Simply amazing.

    Rut, at the moment, I don’t place much of a monetary value on trapping. True, I never trapped through the fur boom, but as far as I understand it to have been, I didn’t miss anything. Trap/fur thieves still cause trouble but to hear the fur boom trappers talk about it, they were more of a plague in those days. No thanks, I’ll take my three-dollar muskrats and twenty-dollar blanket beaver and be happy with them. Besides, the way I see it, no one ever paid me to deer or turkey hunt. I typically make a profit, but as small as it usually is, I don’t complain.

    Jeff, I owe you and those farmers a lot of gratitude. City life can be hard on a country boy – those nuisance calls allowed me to put the big city life behind me and get back to my roots, working with farmers. It’s ironic how far home seemed to be when I was in Bowling Green, but how close I realize it was now that I’m back. I really do miss those flat lands sometimes. Once you got into the country, the people were as good as anybody I would expect to meet from around here. Provided I ever get hired, maybe I can spend some of my F&W career back in western Kentucky.

    Xtreme, those prices seem pretty close to what I was getting in Bowling Green two seasons ago. The $40 on coyotes seems to be a little steep, but four-dollar rats and fifteen-dollar coons seem about right according to last year’s trends. I have heard that the longhaired furs are going to be up this year but I’ll just wait and see. Those fur market predictions don’t really do much for me. I prefer to just take a conservative approach (a.k.a. pessimistic) and just try to be surprised if they are higher.

    To the rest of you collectively, thanks for the replies. Actually I am shocked to see trapping held at such a high regard among the members. Then again, this is Kentucky, how could I have ever doubted you guys. Honestly though, even one hunter absolutely against trapping is one too many. Love it or hate it, hunters and trappers must work together to form a unified front. It is our responsibility to protect our heritages and fight tooth and nail against those who oppose us. To often I see outdoorsmen sitting idly by, ignoring the ever-increasing danger of activists groups. The threat is here and it is real. Most supporters of these radical groups such as PETA, ALF, and ELF, are much more active than even the most die-hard hunter and even some trappers who feel even more pressure. Don’t be fooled by those cleverly disguised groups either. Though not as extreme, groups such as the humane society of the United States are even more deadly as they kill you under the guise of animal abuse saviors. Luckily, we have some supporters in our ranks. The National Trappers Association continually goes to bat for the trapper’s rights, but they need support. Hammer mentioned the correlation between predators/scavengers and sporting game populations, which is a very important point. A popular conservation minded club is Delta Waterfowl – they openly advertise the contributions trappers make on duck/goose populations in and around nesting sites. This kind of support and publicity is always welcome and helpful, but the greatest voice comes from the thousands of united sportsmen and women who back these organizations and ideals. We may be losing ground ladies and gentleman but the war is far from over. Get with a trapper and tag along. Most will be glad to have the company and you may just get hooked in the process. Hands on learning will give you the greatest educated platform from which to plan your rebuttals. Talk to friends and family and let them know how you feel. Those redundant legislative initiatives to ban trapping and other outdoor related activities may seem futile, but just ask California, Florida, or the other 11 states where trapping has been outlawed how serious they truly are.

    Ok, who is next in line for the soapbox? lol

    Skin that'un pilgrim and I'll get ye another'n.
  11. polcat

    polcat 6 pointer

    Aug 5, 2003
    corbin, ky, USA.
    i can remember the mid 70s when there was good money in fur,i was 15 then ,back when we had real winters and would roam the woods looking for something that would bring me a few deer then where i lived so small game was all there was....but i got most of my money from the side of the road....i tried trappig but no one i knew..had ever trapped so i was stuck on my own...but it was fun....

    The more i learn about deer hunting...The less i seem to know
  12. schuyler olt

    schuyler olt 12 pointer

    Dec 10, 2002

    First, welcome to the site. Your thoughts are great to read.

    I'm firmly committed to the concept that the heritage of the outdoors is vital to the survival of our lifestyle. Trapping is a key component of that heritage. Therefore, I am committed to the survival of trapping, pure and simple.
  13. thunderstorm

    thunderstorm 8 pointer

    Dec 13, 2001
    I love trapping!! I haven't trapped since I left home in 83. I've been known to set traps at midnight on opening day (legal??) and go back and check them at daylight. I learned more about wildlife in those 3 or 4 years than I have in the last 20.
    I believe trapping was the beginning of my obsessive, compulsive behavior.[:)]
  14. Bowcrazy

    Bowcrazy Cyber-Hunter

    Dec 12, 2001
    Nancy, KY.
    I too, trapped back in the 70's and early 80's and support those who continue this past time. One of the reasons I've always been a strong supporter of the WLFA is their willingness to fight for trappers.
  15. Well Martin, looks like you have ample support here!
    I did some trapping with my older brother when I was about 8yrs old. Shortly after that they banned "leg hold" traps here. I have always wanted to trap again and hopefully by this time next year I will be running my own trap line in Pennsylvania after I move there.
    Its quite a rush when your standing there at 8yrs old w/a bat and a coon on the end of a 2ft chain takes a 4ft run for ya! WHAM!
    My very first serious adrenaline rush!

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