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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 11-13-2013

by Mark Walters

A Traditional Trap Line

Hello friends,

If you are a full time outdoor adventure writer, and you are not run down come the end of November, please tell me your secret!

This week I am again writing to you about my experiences while trapping, camping, and hunting ducks on backwaters of the Wisconsin River in Columbia County.

Friday, November 1st
High 45, low 30

I want to make it clear that I am not an annual trapper, I have not run a regular trapline since I was in high school, other then some otter sets and a little bit of coon, and muskrat trapping. In no way am I an authority on the subject.

When I was a very young boy, growing up in Poynette, I taught myself how to trap and did that on Rowan Creek. I would run my line and come home with a rat or two a day, maybe a couple of coon a week, and I always carried a shotgun so ducks, pheasant, and rabbit were also a part of the daily bag.

Today made the fourth day in a row that I caught a muskrat in the same #1 Victor long spring “stop loss trap”! To a pro-trapper this is not of much interest, but to me it was a trip down memory lane.

My next-door neighbor was a retired man, by the name of Harlan Bartels and Harlan was a very good man. Harlan really enjoyed my outdoor enthusiasm and also my love for gardening. Harlan’s days of trapping were over and he gave me that Victor trap as well as several others. That was forty years ago and the trap is flawless, and when I set it I always remember my friend Harlan Bartels.

I was hoping that I would really load up on a lot of muskrat on this trip and just was not meant to be as there was not that many here.

Here is my typical day, up before it is light, (this morning there was a duck hunter on the marsh 3-hours before daylight) put on the chest waders that will not come off until it gets dark out and run my raccoon line, which is by foot. I am averaging about one raccoon a day.

When I get back to camp, I try to take the time to eat some yogurt and a granola bar but most days I throw it in the canoe and hopefully eat it by dark. I travel by canoe for about six hours and explore! For anyone that is not aware of it, trappers that trap by foot or canoe are explorers and are the folks that mapped out the United States.

My daughter’s dog Fire is always with me, and this trip has been phenomenal for her. Fire is becoming one tough cookie and that is a requirement in my life. Today we were canoeing by shore, which is entirely cattails and we could both hear something running only about 10-feet away. It was a huge beaver, which was not used to people being in this part of the world, and it stood on its hind legs and stared at us.

Something about that experience that got me thinking was, that in seven days I had not seen a single sign of a beaver as in tree cuttings or slides where it came in and out of the water.

I try to end my day in the canoe with an hour watching the marsh and hoping to get a shot at a duck. I get about one shooting experience per hunt and today’s was a classic.

I was actually talking on my cell phone to my “old” buddy Jeff Moll when I looked up and there was a pair of ring neck approaching at warp speed. I put the phone down, dropped both of them, and Fire did an excellent job of retrieving both of the ducks that had hit the water a solid 40-yards away.

My “trapper shack” is my Eskimo “Fat Shack” ice fishing shack, which is my portable winter cabin. This setup pops up in seconds, is about 13-feet long and I suggest the folks at Eskimo give me a call and I will tell you about a great marketing idea that I have for you!

I ended this trip four days later and loved every minute of it but I have to tell you. I was tired of walking in the muck, being wet, and living in pain from a couple of leg injuries that are getting worse instead of better.

I was so tired of this trip that as I spent the last hours of daylight pulling traps by canoe, in a steady rain, without my rain jacket, that all I could think about is what I will do differently when I come back next year.

Anybody that is against trapping needs to wear a fur cap or jacket in the winter, versus the other products on the market, swallow a happy pill, and realize that the start of that GPS on the dash of your car came from real men that explored this country 300-years ago and paid their bills by setting traps and living in the muck!

Smile lots! Sunset