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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 2-17-2016

First Otter

by Mark Walters

Hello friends,

It was back at deer camp that my good buddy from my days of growing up, Doug Cibulka told me that his 16-year-old son, Derek, and himself had otter trapping tags.

All that needed to be said was that we would put some time into seeing that both of these guys, who would be trapping under the ice, would try their best to be successful in harvesting their first otter.

Our adventure which would last 18-days, would take place on public land in northern Juneau County and would be just as much of a study in Wisconsin’s wildlife in the winter, as it would be a chance to harvest an otter.

Saturday, January 23rd
High 16, low minus 2

On this 3-day weekend, Doug and Derek would be staying at my “trappers shack” and we would be trying to call in and harvest a coyote,also. Each day we would walk about 8-miles which most of it was on ice.

Yesterday, we put out 5-sets under the ice using 330-Coniber body grip traps.

Each set is made with the thought being that an otter will swim under the ice, into the trap and hooray Doug or Derek just caught an otter.

Folks it is not that simple. This winter it is either pretty darn cold or very warm and that means almost constantly changing ice conditions. One day you may be walking on 4-inches of ice and the next you may be wading in open water on the same spot.

When you are covering the kind of miles that we made the choice to cover, you have to move fast and an eye for reading ice conditions can be a matter of life and death. Today not a one of Doug or Derek’s sets had an otter. We hunted coyote until after dark and we found a really cool place where some fishers live.

Like myself, fisher love to eat meet and for about ¾’s of a mile there was a lot of blood in the snow.

We ended our day back at the trapper shack where the woodstove, a fine meal and a couple of cold beers were a fitting way to end a big day.

Friday, January 29th
High 23, low 9

Day 8 of our adventure has once again, told us that there is one heck of a lot of gray wolf in this part of the world. Of all the animal sign that we see, wolf is the most constant. There are so many wolves on these flowages and forests that we had to think that for every deer here, life has to be a constant game of where are the wolves.

When it comes to deer, they are always where the logging jobs are taking place or have in the last three-years. Logging is good for wildlife and our economy.

So we are doing our walks, trying to make good time and Doug is checking one of his sets. I had a good feeling and it was confirmed after he chopped out the 330 and pulled it out of the water. My buddy, Doug Cibulka had his first otter and life was good.

Sunday, February 7th
High 37, low 14

Today my 15-year-old daughter, Selina, would be along with Doug, Derek and I while Derek checked his traps. The air temp was warm and snowball fights were a constant on a picture perfect day.

During one of the recent thaws, Doug and Derek could see where the otter, beaver and muskrat were swimming under the ice. Derek had made a set at this under the ice animal highway and today when he was carefully chopping out his trap to check it, he said he could feel something, and then he said it was a body.

The stars were lined just perfectly and Derek Cibulka had his first otter. The pelt will be tanned and put on a wall like a buck, duck, or a fish.

Selina has decided she wants to take the Wisconsin Trappers Education Course and another goal and adventure was achieved and put into the memory book.

I will hate to see winter end!  Sunset