Wisdom from the WOODS - Trapping

Feb 21, 2015


Just after I finished my last article on the signs of spring, I got another portent of the coming season.  I looked up and saw a sky full of geese.  There must have been thousands that were flying high overhead and heading north.  The northern migration has begun.  Just another sign spring isn’t too far away.

Now for some words of wisdom about the outdoor activity of trapping fur bearers.  My first experience came while I was in grade school.  Dad set a few traps in Black River to catch a little game.  There are always some mink and muskrats along any river and the Black was no exception.  Dad used a boat to make the sets and run the lines after he got the traps set.  There wasn’t too much to catch but he got the occasional opossum and several rats.  He never called them muskrats but they were worth a little money which came in real handy at that time of year as work was hard to find during the winter.

There was a neighbor who lived in a shack near the watering hole at the end of Riverview Drive where we lived and he skinned whatever Dad caught for the meat.  He loved muskrats and said they were really good eating.  I never did try them but have seen them advertised on restaurant menus in the northeast area of the country.

After Dad’s age caught up with him, he quit trapping.  When I was in high school, I got out the few traps that were still around the house and set a few along the river near the house.  I also took a couple traps to a drain pipe which drained water under the Missouri Pacific railroad track.

That was a really good place for trapping as a lot of game used the drain to cross the track.  The drain was a pathway from the river to the pond which was on the west wide side of the tracks.

That winter during school vacation at Christmas, I caught over 20 opossums and two mink.  After the Christmas break, Dad ran the traps for me.  On one occasion, he caught a mink that hadn’t drowned and he bopped it in the head to kill it.  While he was eating his breakfast, Mom hollered at him to kill whatever he’d caught because it had come back to life.  He bopped it in the head harder that time and then skinned it.

My first paycheck for tapping along the Black River and the drain tile under the Missouri Pacific track, I received more for one opossum than anyone would probably believe.

Most people have heard the story about the hunter who would pick out a stretching board for the next opossum his dog would bring in and every time he did, the dog responded.  One day his wife set out the ironing board and the dog disappeared and was never seen again, presumably still looking for the possum to fill the board.

My opossum wasn’t that big, but it brought me $3 for the hide and a $25 premium for the biggest and best hide that F.C. Taylor of St. Louis handled that year of the species.  Along with that reward, the two mink brought $40 each and the other opossums averaged $1.50.  Not a bad handful of money for a kid just starting to trap.