March 21, 2017 at 7:37 am #1920
Several trappers started out trapping muskrats. Why, you might ask? Probably because muskrat traps are inexpensive, muskrats are plentiful and easy to catch which keeps the attention span of the youngsters. Another reason is they are for the most part water oriented animals so narrowing down their location is already done for the trapper.
I grew up trapping drainage ditches that ran through farmers fields. I trapped them almost exclusively and didn’t do much creek or large body of water trapping. I was running approx. 75 dry land traps and then started water trapping when it came in season. The drainage ditches were on my route while I was trapping fox and coyote so it made it easy for me.
One tip I like to share, and believe me because if you can make a mistake trapping, I’ve made it, always walk upstream. If the water is running from the East to the West, start downstream at the farthest western end of your ditch if at all possible. Start checking and setting traps by walking the ditch upstream. Don’t walk downstream. If you walk up stream to start, you are fresh and walking upstream against the current is not as hard on you while you are fresh. If you are tired and try to walk against the current, it makes it that much more difficult. Another big reason is when you walk the drainage ditches, they are almost always soft bottomed and you stir up a lot of silt and mud. By walking up stream, the mud goes away from you and leaves clear water ahead of you to locate dens and runs. Nothing is worse then mud and silt floating ahead of you and it looks like chocolate milk, you can’t see anything.
Another thing I do is have a friend go with me. Take your kids and they will enjoy themselves. It gets them off the couch and away from the video games. I have my girlfriend go with me and she loves it. I walk the water and she rides the 4 wheeler up on the bank. When I find what I’m looking for, I tell her I need a 110 trap or a leg trap or a colony trap. She then tosses it down to me. I make the set and off we go again. She knows the difference between all the traps and is a very good trapper herself. We even switch off at times and she makes some sets. Also it is very fast trapping. I take the muskrat out of the trap and toss it up to her. She puts it in the 5 gallon bucket that is strapped on the front rack of the 4 wheeler. If you don’t have a 4 wheeler, you can use your pickup truck if it is not too wet and muddy. There is almost always an easement that runs along the drainage ditch. If it is a county ditch, the county owns on both sides of the ditch. The county will almost always allow permission to trap because animals do damage and the county is responsible to maintain the ditches. My home county personnel pay me to trap the drainage ditches since I own a nuisance control business.
If you have a partner that is not willing to go with you, have them drop you off at the road where the ditch goes underneath it. They can go run some errands and then pick you up at the next road where the ditch goes under it. If you have no one at all, I learned this from cat fishing the rivers, chain a bicycle to a post along the county road where the ditch intersect with it. Drive downstream a ways and park your truck. You can check / set traps while you are walking towards your bicycle. When you get to your bicycle, ride it back to your truck. That works great. It is a lot better than walking.
Muskrat dens are simple to locate. You can put a 110 conibear trap in front of the hole or you can put a colony trap in front of it. If you are not familiar with a 110 conibear trap, it is a 1 catch at a time trap. Once you catch a muskrat the trap needs reset for it to work again. A colony trap can catch multiple muskrats at once. Some people use small foot hold traps like a # 1 or a # 1 1/2 coil spring. If you are going to leg trap muskrats, it is recommended to allow them to get out in deep water so they can drown. This eliminates the muskrat from getting away. They have very small leg bones and they break easily . Once they break, they are hanging on by flesh and they are able to escape. You should drown them quickly if leg trapping them. Some people think the animal chewed their leg off. That is false. They actually “wring” out after the bone breaks. Make sure if you are leg trapping you have plenty of swivels on the chain to eliminate the trap chain from binding up. There needs to be a swivel on the trap where the chain connects as well.
Some trappers use bait and or lure. It sure doesn’t hurt anything and I’m sure it does bring in some that you might not have caught without it. I use the small 1 ounce or 4 ounce jars of bait / lure. It fits easily in your pockets. Muskrat dens and runs are fairly easy to locate. Some trappers will say that you really don’t need any bait. It is just personal opinion.
I mentioned muskrats during this article but this technique will work on mink as well. I seriously doubt that you will catch a raccoon in a 110 trap or a colony trap. You can catch them in a foothold but again, run them out in deep water on a one way slide to drown them.
I hope this information makes muskrat / mink trapping a little easier for you.
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