Category Archives: Articles

Fur Harvest Surveys

It’s the time of year when the Nebraska Game and Parks sends out their annual Fur Harvest Survey.  It is also the time when we will remind you to fill these out and send them in.

The importance of these surveys can not be stressed enough.

Without numbers and hard facts, wildlife biologists are left to guesswork when making strategic decisions on your trapping and fur harvesting future.  We, the fur harvesters of Nebraska, will be providing the decision makers with the data they need to do their jobs and protect our interests.  It is also completely anonymous.

Free Postage. If there is one thing trappers can agree on, its that free is good.

One thing of high importance on these surveys is the question about river otters.  Nebraska is getting close to having a trapping season of some sort on river otters, but it will never happen unless biologists get hard facts on how many are around.

It takes about 5 minutes of your time, no one will know its you, and it won’t cost you anything for postage.

Let’s all do the responsible thing and send in our surveys!

 

The Urban Coyote – Coming To A Town Near You

If you follow wildlife in the news, you can’t escape the stories.   Cities in California are struggling trying to manage the problem of cohabitating with wild canines.  Coyotes spotted in the park, coyote grabs dog, coyote bites Hastings, Nebraska boy…wait…what?

In a recent story in The Hastings Tribune talks about a 1 year old boy being bitten by a coyote at a fireworks celebration in Hastings, Nebraska.  Shay Burke, writer for the Hastings Tribune writes:

 “According to the report, the family was lighting fireworks and the coyote came walking up the sidewalk from the south. The coyote allegedly bit the child then ran off to the east between some houses.

“The witnesses, the child’s family, said they are positive it was a small coyote,” Hessler said. “They have hunted them in the past and know what they look like. It was mangy looking, hair was falling out.”

Sgt. Brian Hessler with the Hastings Police Department confirmed Wednesday morning that there was a report filed of a coyote allegedly biting a child in the 500 block of South Boston Avenue about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Coyotes aren’t the only wild canines that take up residence in our urban environments.  All too often, red fox get pushed out of their

Another common resident in our urban areas is the red fox.

natural habitat into town.  Once there, they find abundant food sources such as rabbits, stray cats and garbage.  Soon they take up permanent residence.  The sight of these creatures makes neighborly conversation and the cute and cuddly pups often earn offerings of table scraps and other food.  This is where urban wildlife problems begin.  This benevolency of citizens starts the wheels in motion for problem wildlife.  A situation that will not end well for the animal or the citizen.

I asked Dave Hastings for his opinion on the matter.  Dave is the editor of The Fur Taker Magazine, official magazine of the Fur Takers of America, and a long time fur harvester.  ” Well obviously we need to come to our senses and prioritize human and pet safety and health above wild predators. We are not “equal partners in the happy ship earth.” A coyote will eat a child in a heartbeat; not because the coyote is inherently evil, but because the coyote is a wild carnivore, and in his amoral eyes, meat is meat.”

When I asked Dave about what people need to understand about wildlife in urban areas, he had this to say:  “First, wildlife is beautiful, admirable, and morally important. But un-threatened populations become dangerous. Raccoons seem cute until a homeowner finds roundworm-infested scat everywhere. Disease, direct threats to people and pets, and ultimately the degenerated health of the animal populations themselves are the result of poor management. People die from this. Children are attacked. Beloved pets are killed and eaten. This is not Disney; this is real.”

For us fur harvesters, this opens up opportunities.  Check your plat maps and see who owns the cornfields at the edge of town.  Urban areas are usually the hunting grounds, not the residence, so they are coming from somewhere.  Check with your local authorities before taking any action against urban wildlife.  Above all, be a good example for trappers and hunters everywhere.  Practice common sense and obey all regulations.

-Mark Hajny
Nebraska Fur Harvesters Association

 

 

Summer School – Part 2

In the last article I talked about some of my favorite trapping dvds.  Now I would like to talk about some of my favorite books.  I am a self proclaimed bookworm, and if I am interested in a topic, I will read anything I can get my hands on about it.

Trapping books vary widely in subject matter.  One of my all time favorite predator books is Ray Milligan’s Coyote Fever.  Ray knows the coyote like few do.  The book is very much to the point and goes through the equipment and sets you need to be successful.

Other predator books worth mentioning are the ones by Charles Dobbins.  Anyone who is familiar with the late Charles Dobbins, knows that anything he has written is worth reading.  My two favorites are The Dirt Hole and its Variations, and Variations of the Flat Set.   Not only are these entertaining to read, but I also use these books as reference manuals.  When things get slow on the line, I can always find a new set to use from these books.  The print is small in these books and Dobbins packs a massive amount of content in them.

When it comes to coons and water trapping, there are also many choices.  One of my personal favorite authors on the subject is Mike “Red” O’Hern.  If you have not met Red, you owe it to yourself to do so.   He is quite a character, and very interesting to read and to listen to.  Red wrote Coon Trapping – the Untold Story and Mink Trapping – The Quest For Prime Mink.  If you want to become a better coon and mink trapper, this is a good start.

If you are looking for something a bit more modern, don’t pass up Trapline Principles, 8 Keys To Success by Kellen Kaatz.  Not only is Kellen a super helpful guy, but he is also a very knowledgeable trapper and lure maker.  Upon finishing this book, you will understand what Kellen believes is the 8 biggest things you need to work at to be a good trapper.  An excellent book for making yourself a better trapper.

Last but not least, I wanted to mention another favorite of mine.  Chronicles of a Longliner by Gary Jepson.  This isn’t a “how to make a dirthole” book, but rather a book full of Gary’s experiences on and off the trapline since the 1950’s.  Gary talks of the hardships faced on his ranch, and the good years during the fur boom.  Gary documents his travels to conventions, his lure making adventures, and battling the harsh winters in North Dakota through the years.

Go out and pick up a book or two.  You are almost guaranteed to learn something, and you will most definitely be entertained in the process!

My next article will talk about some of the youtubers I have found to be helpful in gaining some more knowledge of the craft!

 

Summer School

When I was a kid the thought of having to go to summer school was enough to make me do my math homework.  After all, summer was time for swimming, baseball and catching bullheads.  It was definitely not for doing school work.

But fast forward to modern times.  For us trappers, the summer is our “off season”.  But is it really?  Even if you don’t do any animal damage control work, there are still things to be done in the summer.  Remember those dog proofs you put away that were all crusted up from bait?  How about those 1 1/2s still packed with mud and grass, and those Bridger #3’s with the bent dogs and the chains all tangled in corn husks?  Not to mention the bucket of “miscellaneous snare parts” that always gets put away for a rainy day.

Forget all of that stuff for now.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is catch up on all those books and DVD’s I bought during the year.  I am the type of person that retains information better if I take notes.  My system of learning from a DVD involves watching them at least three times.  The first time I watch the DVD I watch it for the entertainment value only.  I like to watch the guy making sets, seeing the scenery and just watching one of my favorite activities being done by someone knowledgeable.  The second time I watch the DVD I will come prepared with a notebook.  I stop, start, rewind, fast forward and try to take in and write down tips and information the instructor is offering.  The third time I will watch again with my notebook, going over my notes as they are talked about in the DVD and picking up the new information I missed in the last viewing.  After all this, if it is a good DVD, it will still get watched again.  Books are kind of the same way.

Some of my favorites

Like anyone else, I have my favorites when it comes to dvds.  One of my all time favorites is Coyote Trapping with Mark June.  This is one I watch at the beginning of the season every year.  Mark is a high energy guy and understands both trapping and the coyote itself.  This dvd was filmed in Nebraska as well which makes it close to home.

Another of my favorites is Trapping the Elusive Coyote by Gary Jepson.  Gary is a cowboy from North Dakota and his trapping experience is vast.  Gary is a man of few words, but when he talks, one is inclined to listen.  The first 10 minutes or so of that dvd, Gary talks about family units and habits of the coyote, and the information presented there is well worth the price of the dvd.

A couple other favorites of mine are Lesel Reuwsaat Professional Farmland Trapping Methods and Ed Schneider’s Fall and Winter Coyote Trapping, both of which were filmed in Kansas, or otherwise close to home.

 

 

 

In the next article I will talk about some of my favorite books, some awesome youtubers you should be watching, and some water trapping dvd’s.

-Mark Hajny, Nebraska Fur Harvesters Association

 

 

Spring Trapping Part 2 – Beaver

The largest rodent found in North America is also the animal that started the North American fur trade.  Countless entrepreneurs have made and lost fortunes on it’s pelt  throughout history.  Native Americans knew it for it’s warm fur and meat.

Today the beaver has lost some of it’s luster but still remains a staple furbearer in some parts of the country.  In Nebraska, we have the added advantage of trapping them an extra month compared to some of the other furbearers.  The equipment used and the methods of take vary as widely as the pursuers of this classic animal.  We will take a look at what it takes to trap beaver in Nebraska.

Being considerably larger than the muskrat, beaver trapping equipment is proportionally larger, bulkier and more expensive.  Yet some of your existing equipment can be used for beaver trapping.  A number 3 coil spring or long spring trap can be utilized in some sets.   A better choice would be a #4 or larger, since beaver have extremely large back feet.   If you go the body grip route for beaver, the 330 conibear is the best body grip to use.

The sets you make for beaver can also vary widely.  A couple of  my favorites are the castor mound and “dam break” set.  The castor mound set involves digging up some mud and plopping it on the bank

The castor mound set. Courtesy of www.trappersline.com

of a creek, pond or river.  On this mound, place a dab of castor based beaver lure.  Beavers make castor mounds to mark their territory and your mound will signal them that an intruder is in the area. The beaver will naturally attempt to put more mud on your mound, and top it with his own castor, showing you he’s the boss.  Be prepared for him by placing a trap (or two) where you suspect he will come out of the water.

The dam break set capitalizes on the beaver’s ingenuity and dam building skills.  Use your shovel, a stick, or your foot to break away part of the beaver dam and place a trap near this break.  The beaver will be caught in the process of attempting to rebuild what you have broken.  This also doubles as a good way to determine if there are still beaver in the area.  Be cautious of where you place your trap or you may find after the the beaver has finished it’s repair job, your trap has become part of the dam!

Bob Miers of Sandy’s Fur Buying gives the following advice on beaver sets:  “Spring is a time they travel as the young are kicked out and made to move on so to speak.

Bob Miers with his fur ready for auction.

Even if you have little or no sign in your area on a river or creek, make a few scent mound sets and you will probably catch any passing beaver. I give an area 5 days and move on no matter how many I catch.  I use scent mounds the most, some blind sets, and if there is a dam I use the broken dam set, and runs and trails what some guys call slides.”

Getting around with all this heavy equipment can be another challenge.  Dave Hastings, Fur Takers Of America College Instructor, overcomes this challenge by using a boat.  “I use a 6.5 horse Mud Buddy motor on my 12′ narrow John boat. I almost never get a “boat ramp” to launch or pick up, so the small motor makes it possible to drag it,  or remove the motor and carry to launch most anywhere.

Dave Hastings pilots his boat and trapping equipment up the river.

If there is snow, I can generally drag the unloaded boat down to the water by hand, and in the pull out, I have strung rope and chain for a long ways, using the bumper hitch to drag the boat up to a “loadabale” point. Before that, I ran a 17′ aluminum canoe. It was more pleasing, but I found I had to skin on the river when the catch is good, because of the weight and maneuverability issues of the canoe, and heavy beaver.”  Dave also offers the following advice on spring beaver sets:  “Beaver interest in castor lure is very high at this time. Generally I select active set locations (feed piles, bank den/lodge combinations, etc.) but I generally set the downstream end of most

A castor based lure is essential for targeting spring beaver.

good sized islands, even without sign. Dispersing 2 and 3 year olds are out looking for other beaver, and the point at the bottom of an island for beaver is like the fire hydrant at the park for dogs.  I almost always make at least two, sometimes 4 sets if I stop. I try to use a

castor based lure on one, and a food based lure (no castor) on the other. For the first two catches, it won’t matter, but I think beaver can get wise to a particular smell.”

An array of castor based lures available from Minnesota Trapline Supplies

Some other points to remember on beaver trapping pertain to equipment.  One way sliding drowner cables should be used whenever possible.  Anything heavy can be used as a weight at the end.  To cut down on carrying weight, bring empty feed sacks and fill them with rocks and gravel at the set site.  Empty feed sacks can be had for cheap at most feed stores.  If you use 330’s, remember that Nebraska law states that body gripping traps with a jaw spread over 8″ must be placed under water.  Also make sure you obtain permission on any private land and water.  In Nebraska, if a river runs through the property, you must obtain permission from the landowner.  You must also have landowner permission to trap under bridges that are in the county road right-of-way. (This can vary by county in Nebraska, check with your local game warden if in doubt).

Once you have caught your beaver, you can skin them yourself or

Putting up beaver requires a different skinning technique and special equipment.

take them to a fur buyer whole.  There are many useful parts on a beaver other than the fur.  The meat,  oil sacks, and castor glands have value to lure makers.  The tails do as well, and the tails can also be skinned and processed like leather.  Many people also eat the meat, saying it is akin to venison.

Last but not least, is the aspect of safety.  Being on a river this time (or any time) of year can be hazardous.  Dave Hastings has the following advice on safety:  “If you are just starting out, you will need to experiment to see how long a line you should put in. Being on a shallow river after dark, when it is cold, is a very dangerous activity (don’t ask how I know, or how many times that lesson was taught…).   Carry “dry bags” for extra clothes, flashlights, and first aid.  Buy a cell phone waterproof kit/bag. (Cabelas, even Walmart.) A wet phone is immediately useless. And bear in mind that you likely will often be out of cell service. Be sure someone knows generally where you are and generally when you should be back.  Don’t kid yourself. You may only be a few miles from a road or farmhouse, but if a catastrophe occurs, you might as well be on the moon. Consider, plan–think through decisions with safety in mind. Bad cuts, hypothermia, injuries, other health issues–all can be deadly.”

Don’t put those traps away just because spring is starting!  We still have some time left.  Get out there and enjoy what we have to offer in Nebraska.

-Mark Hajny, NFH member.  Bob Miers is the NFH Secretary and owner of Sandy’s Fur Buying of Seward, Nebraska.  Dave Hastings is an avid trapper, the editor of the Furtaker, (official magazine of the FTA) and instructs at the Furtaker’s College in the fall. 

 

Spring Trapping Part 1 – The Muskrat

For some trappers, when the winter is winding down and the coon and coyote pelts are starting to show their wear, it means only one thing…beaver and muskrat trapping!

The season on most furbearers in Nebraska comes to an end on February 28th.  For muskrat and beaver, however, the season extends another month to March 31st.  The pelts on these two furbearers remain prime through this time and for many reasons it is a good time to go after them.

If you are a trapper, the muskrat will provide fun for all ages!  Muskrats can be found in marshes, rivers, small creeks and some farm ponds.  Back in my early days (nineteen eighty something…) You could drive by any public waterfowl area and see “muskrat huts”.  These were large piles of sticks and reeds and other vegetation that muskrats used as homes and feeding areas.  I haven’t seen a muskrat hut in several years.  Muskrat numbers have declined in the past years and they can be hard to find.

The equipment used for muskrat trapping is small, lighter weight and relatively less expensive than most traps and equipment.  Size 1 foot holds (coil or long spring) and 110 body grip traps are effective tools against the ‘rat.  Bob Miers of Sandy’s Fur Buying gives the following advice on equipment for muskrat trapping:  “If you use leg holds make sure to use one way drowners and have deep enough water or you will find legs and not rats.  If shallow water, use sureholds, conibear and colony traps work great in places as well.”

The Duke brand guard trap. Also known as “sure-hold” or “stop-loss” by other manufacturers.

To trap them, find where it appears they are entering their dens at the waters edge.  This can be a partially submerged hole that looks used, or get your waders on,  get in the water and feel around with your foot to find the “runs”.  These are channels down in the mud that muskrats use to travel to and from their dens, much like a land animal uses a trail.  A 110 or foot trap placed in the run or mouth of the hole is your best bet.  These runs are also good places for colony traps.

Shane Claeys of Papio Creek Trap Supply manufactures and sells the Magnum Power Clip conversion kit

Magnum Power Clip from Papio Creek Trapping Supplies attached to rod.

which allows you to attach your 110’s to a rod, such as an electric fence post, and allows you to hold steady and adjust the height of your 110.  This is an effective way to cover den holes in the bank.  There is a link to Papio Creek trap supply on our vendor showcase page.

 

Muskrat floats are another fun way to target this furbearer.  This is simply a raft made of wood, floating on the water, with some bait on it and a trap or two.

Muskrat float, sold by Minnesota Trapline Supplies.

For bait, muskrats are especially fond of carrots, apples, and parsnips.  Don’t forget to anchor your trap to the float and employ some method to keep your float from floating away! The designs of floats and methods of use are numerous.  You can buy them pre-made or make your own.  A google search will turn up numerous options on making a muskrat float.

If you skin your own catch, don’t throw away those carcasses.  Muskrats have glands that are used in some lures, and their meat also makes good predator bait.  The carcasses also make good mink bait when used whole or cut in smaller chunks.

Since muskrat numbers are down, it is good advice to not completely trap-out an area.  Leave some of the numbers for “seed”, so you can have some breeding stock for next year.

In part 2, we will talk about beaver and the equipment and methods used.

-Mark Hajny – NFH Member.  Bob Miers is the NFH Treasurer and owner of Sandy’s Fur Buying of Seward, Nebraska.

 

 

Fur Season Is Upon Us, But The Experts Say Not So Fast

The famous line used by ESPN College Football analyst Lee Corso could be applied to fur season, “Not so fast, my friend”.

Even though the Nebraska fur harvest season officially starts November 1st for most furbearers, the experts are saying hold off and use some restraint.

In a facebook post from October 27th, 2016, Greg Petska of Petska fur, says “Coon market very Weak yet. We are only going to buy better colors and better sizes from better sections for between $1-4. Don’t want any coon taken before thanksgiving.

Fur primes up based on the amount of daylight and some say it is affected by the temperature.  If such is the case, the unseasonably warm October temperatures have not helped it any.

According to information posted on Groenewold Fur and Wool Company’s website, prices are flat for raccoon, beaver and muskrats.  In a nutshell it looks like not a lot has changed from last year.

Be selective and start later.  Get a catch pole and learn to use it.  The warm temperatures offer a good opportunity to go out and do some extra scouting.  Take your shotgun with you and take advantage of our rebounding upland game bird populations.

It will be here before you know it.

Tips On Obtaining Permission

If you are not a landowner or have a close relative that is a landowner, you probably rely on other people’s ground or public ground to do your trapping.  One of the hardest things for a lot of trappers is contacting a landowner and asking for permission to trap.  This is especially hard if you are a younger person or have moved into a new area where you do not know many people.  I would like to share some tips that I have found useful in getting permission throughout the years.

Before I go into the tips, I would like to explain a little bit about private property.  This varies by state, but some people are under the impression that if a property is not “posted” then it is OK to be on it.  In Nebraska, this could not be further from the truth.  In Nebraska, being on private property without consent is trespassing.  If the property is posted, then it moves from a first degree offense to a second degree offense.   Make no mistake about it, when it comes to hunting/trapping/fishing ground in Nebraska, landowners are pretty serious about it!

What I really meant to convey in the previous paragraph is that we have an obligation as outdoorsmen and women to act responsibly and lead by example.

So you want to trap and you don’t have any place to do it?  How do you start?  The first thing to do is to mentally run through a list of all your relatives.  Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, work acquaintances, family friends, anyone you know.  Do they own land?  Are they outdoorsmen?  Where do they hunt?  Who do they know that might let you on to some property?  Those are all questions you need to ask.

If you are just starting with trapping, it helps to find a mentor.  Find someone that is willing to show you the ropes.  There was a time when the old trappers guarded their secrets tighter than the CIA and wouldn’t tell you anything;  even worse, send you down the wrong path.  There are still a few of those around but by and large they are being replaced by people who enjoy sharing their knowledge.  If you find such person, see if you can ride around with them, learn from them and eventually make a few sets of your own on some land they trap.  They also may know some landowners that you could contact.

Attend a Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited banquet in your area.  There are usually lots of land owners at these events.  Find some guys that “look like farmers”, introduce yourself and tell them you are interested in doing some trapping and if they have any land you could get on.

But what do you say when you ask?  One thing that helps some people is to write out something like a script before making contact with someone.  It does not need to be exact, but just some phrases to use and points to talk about before you actually talk to someone.  This can help with those of us who are a little bit timid or lack conversational confidence.

Let them know exactly what it is you are after.  From what I have seen in Nebraska, obtaining permission to trap is easier than obtaining permission to hunt deer.  Let them know you are only looking for permission to trap.

Once I have gotten the OK for trapping I will always ask two additional questions.  I will ask if it is acceptable to drive onto the property.  Do not assume it is OK to drive on the property just because you have permission to trap on it.  A lot of guys do not want tracks and ruts in their fields.  Another reason is because once people see there are tracks driving into a field, they think that anyone can drive in there, and you have a brand new, well traveled road!

The second question I will ask is if anyone is hunting deer or anything else on the property.  I do this for two reasons.  For one, I do not want to get in someones way when they are hunting.  Secondly, if there are upland bird hunters or waterfowl hunters I will not use conibears or certain kinds of snares because of the hunting dogs.  If there are going to be deer hunters, tell the landowner you will wait until after rifle deer season to trap.  Make sure to ask if the hunters are hunting other seasons as well (muzzle loader, late rifle or archery).  The other reason I ask this question about hunters, is it may open up another property for you for hunting, if no one is currently on it!

I will point out a couple other things to be aware of when it comes to farmers and landowners.  Always leave gates as you found them.  If the gate was open, it may have been left open for a reason.  Also, the guy who is farming it may not be the landowner.  Typically, landowners and their tenants communicate about these things.  But this can get complicated if the landowner has given permission to someone and and the tenant gives permission to you, unbeknownst of each other.  Sorting this out beforehand can eliminate an uncomfortable situation later on.

Some other miscellaneous tips that may not seem like much but it all helps:
– Do not act like a know-it-all.
– Try to listen more than you talk.
– Smile and use a friendly voice and gestures.
– Be appreciative of their time.
– Make it known that you will respect their natural resources.
– If you are wearing sunglasses, take them off so you can make proper eye contact.
– Be prepared to accept rejection and handle it gracefully.
– Keep a notebook of when you contacted landowners, dates, times and notes from the conversations.  This is a good tool to refer back to and to remember what you talked about.

Your first season on a new property is a critical one.  Make sure you keep your promises you made, if any, about driving into the fields, etc.  If someone has driven in there and made ruts in the field, you are the one that will get blamed, so make sure you notify the landowner that the damage caused was not from you.

A permission is a season to season thing.  Do not assume that once you have been given permission you have it for the rest of your life.  Things change that you are not aware of.  Maybe the farmer has a new son-in-law who traps.  Land gets bought and sold, tenants change, etc.  Follow up every season with the landowner to make sure it is still OK to trap.

At the end of the season make sure the landowner knows you have appreciated using his land.  You can do this through a phone call, Thank You card, or if you see them at the store.  Some people go as far as to give out small gifts.  Gift giving certainly isn’t necessary, but do as you feel appropriate.

In conclusion, the best way to obtain permission is with honesty and integrity.  The best way to keep it successfully from year to year is respecting the landowners wishes and property.

Mark Hajny – Nebraska Fur Harvesters Association