March 10, 2024

What Every Trapper Needs, or Not

When I started camera-trapping for omivores like bears or foxes, I tried baiting them with dry cat or dog food. I figured it would not hurt anyone who ate a few kibbles. Camera-trapper Chris Wemmer, who has just written a book on the topic, said he used punctured tuna cans in rock piles and such places to intrigue certain animals and make them pause to get their pictures taken.

As I read the regs, hunting over bait is illegal, but camera-trapping is not. Nevertheless, I quit using the kibbles after a neighbor's far-ranging dog showed up at one of my sites on an obscure game trail — and then kept coming back. 

I decided to switch to scent lures and went looking online, which led me to F&T Fur Harvester's Trading Post (physically located in Alpina, Mich.) where I ordered such items as "Dunlap's War Paint Lure,"  "Dabbins' All-Call Lure," and some others.

When nothing's happening, play cards with
a deck of famous Walker hounds.
They arrived, "packed by Gabbie" and "checked by Don? Den?" — well, whoever, it was all fine.  They included a copy of their paper catalog—130 pages of everything needed by fur trappers, hound hunters, predator callers, dog trainers, and people who want to wear fantasy-mountain man-style fur hats.

The feeling when you think you might know a tiny bit about something, and then you open the door — and it's a universe! All I trap are the field mice that make it past the gray foxes and into the house, and I have a neighbor who goes out with the houndsmen after mountain lions. So this was eye-opening.

Pages and pages of traps, trap parts, trap accessories, books and DVDs, fur-processing tools, dog gear, coon-hunters' clothing, and don't forget your working apron and skull-bleaching kit. 

Not just scent lures, but ingredients to make your own: "Cheese Essence Oil: Gives off a powerful blue cheese odor that is excellent for canines."

There were high-end headlamps, sort of like the old ones with the case of four D cells that rode on your belt with the cord going up under your jacket in back to the lamp on your cap or hard hat. 

Today these have lasers and multiple LED lights and rechargeable batteries. Not cheap — $200 and up! Still, tempting.

Hang around the fishing-lures department in any outdoor sports emporium, and someone will say, "Most lures are designed to catch anglers, not fish." 

That passes for wisdom. But there is truth in it. Does the bass really respond to a perfect photographic replica of baitfish scales? Or does it just look good to the customer?

I was leafing through F&T's "Set-Making Equipment and Supplies" pages (shovels, trowels, sifters, pan covers, etc.) when I saw "Track Makers."

That is the photo up top. It's a molded paw of a coyote, fox, or bobcat, $6.95 each, which the trapper may press into the carefully sifted soil around the waiting trap.

Now I have to say, after carefully hiding human scent and deploying animal-attracting scent and maybe even placing a visual decoy that moves like an injured bird or something, are little paw prints going to make a difference in persuading Mr. Fox to take one step more? 

Smells matter, sounds matter, prey movement matters, but would a predator say to itself, "I ain't going there. I don't see any footprints"?

They might be useful if you want to teach a tracking class though.

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