In recent weeks I have spent some time away from the computer, some time in the field and on the water doing a variety of things. There is too much to tell in one blog post, so let me break it up and begin with a quick report from the field. . . .
It will disappoint some of my fur-harvesting friends, but I have to honestly confess to you that right now I am a casual fur harvester. My trapping and predator calling efforts occur when my schedule allows and conditions are right. You all know that if I can fish, especially ice-fish, then I will be fishing. We had some very early fishable ice this winter, clear back around Thanksgiving, but then it warmed up and all of that ice melted. That left me with some free time and I was NOT going to sit at home. So, I dusted off a few traps and set out to trap some muskrats. I wandered back to a spot I trapped a couple years ago, a spot where I did very well on some muskrats and mink until a blizzard covered everything in snow and ice. Things looked favorable again this year, but my sets just did not come up with much. There were some muskrats but not many; I wonder if some of the heavy rains and flooding we had last fall may have flooded them out? I also saw a little bit of fresh mink sign, but again my mink sets came up empty; I wonder if those mink were roaming far and wide while the weather was mild? As I made my rounds, I noticed a lot of mice and voles in the grass, and I wonder if even the mink were frequenting grassy areas mousing?
Anyway, one thing about trapping that never gets old is that every day is Christmas morning! Every run I get a little bit anxious wondering what prizes I might have caught? Muskrats are generally plentiful and relatively easy to catch, kind of the bluegills of trapping, but I never get tired of catching them.
I am fully aware that every time I blog about fur trapping, some muskrat-hugging, anti-trapper will drop me a personal message or e-mail to point out what a barbaric, idiot, Neanderthal I am. Let me preemptively take some of that on right now. Muskrats are like aquatic cottontail rabbits–everything loves to eat them; they compensate by reproducing like, well, rabbits. Muskrats and cottontails live fast and die young whether they are trapped and hunted or not. Predators take a lot of muskrats, mink/muskrat is another classic predator/prey relationship, but they also can over-populate themselves out of house and home and there are a variety of diseases, and catastrophes that keep muskrat numbers in check. “Mother Nature” is a cruel witch.
Muskrats are a renewable resource. They easily produce a surplus every year and regulated trapping can utilize that resource without harming muskrat populations in the least. I had a marsh I trapped way back in my high school days that would produce right around 30-some muskrats every year, year after year. Harvesting of fur, whether muskrats, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, coyotes or whatever is simply the utilization of a natural resource, the harvesting of a “crop”, something that pretty much all Nebraskans understand and approve of.
In addition, muskrat hats are warm and just plain look great!
Likewise, I would love to be able to spend more time calling predators. There is nothing that is more of a rush than calling any kind of creature to you, and that is doubly true when you have a smart coyote loping in, a wise fox prancing towards you, or a beautiful bobcat sneaking into your set. We had some fresh snow and cold temperatures recently while spending some time “out west” on some of my old stomping grounds. My son, nephew and I sat out one day with every intention of calling a coyote or bobcat.
The predators never heard our calling, and then we got distracted by some pheasants. Unfortunately, the roosters ended up being a lot spookier than I expected them to be. My son, Daniel, did scratch one fried pheasant dinner for us!
I can remember a time when I was a lot younger and we used to see jackrabbits all the time in western Nebraska. I can remember seeing them burrowed into snow drifts. Drove by another one recently, was great to see.
That “jack” had a tunnel in through that snow drift. After posing for a couple of pictures, he turned and vanished.
That is all for now. We have safe ice and I have fish to catch, more about that later!