by Mark Walters
Misadventures on a Long Distance Trapline
This week I am writing to you about my experiences of trying to catch my first Fisher and also trying to catch an Otter and most importantly, trying to survive on what for the most part, was 7-mile treks while checking my traps.
On December 16th, I started setting traps for Fisher, which consisted of a square 3-galllon bucket with either beaver or venison inside of it and just inside of the bucket a 160 body grip trap.
I have never attempted to catch a Fisher before and my real plan was to make an adventure out of this trap line, so what I did was have four locations where I had sets with the furthest walk being about 2.5 miles, round trip.
All my treks were done on frozen dikes in The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area in northern Juneau County. After 3 weeks, I have had some insane experiences with melting ice, due to either warm temperatures or the rise and fall of the water level on these dikes due to melting snow, rain or cranberry growers who often hold back or release water.
All together I had 10 sets out for Fisher and although I did not make any Otter sets right away I would end up with five under the ice, 330 body grip traps set for Otter.
Here is what is kind of a big stressor, in my opinion, on the Fisher trapping season.
Fisher trapping closes on December 31st and my thoughts are why the heck when Otter, Beaver and Muskrat are open all winter why does Fisher season close before we have reliable ice on our marshes, lakes and rivers and also when the average trapper is pretty busy with the holidays.
Anyways, here is a typical day for Mark Walters. Mark arrives at his first dike and is wearing hipboots. Mark observes that the water under the 2-inches of ice has dropped six-inches. This means that Marks treks will be walking on a long egg shell that if he breaks through, Mark will be in a foot to 7-feet of water.
Mark is always in a hurry these days, Mark uses an ice spud and travels closest to shore as best he can, but stays on the ice as it is much faster then through the dense forest.
Mark breaks through the ice on any given day 5-20 times a day, but most of these experiences are more of a danger to Marks lower leg, then drowning as he is traveling so fast that when he breaks through, lets say up to his knee, his momentum propels him forward and there were dozens of close calls over this three weeks with injuries.
On Wednesday, December 21st Mark went through the ice up to his belly and this experience was not pleasant. The walk to the truck, the frozen feet and the drive home were stressful.
On Christmas Eve, I fell through the ice in the dark, this experience was much worse as I went through up to my chest but as my momentum carried me forward the ice broke and Mark was now under the ice. In this particular experience, I was a mile from my truck and my legs were literally dead when I made it to my horse on wheels.
On Thursday, December 29 I was in a very big rush to cover my 7-mile journey as I had other obligations. I was setting a 330-bodygrip trap for Otter when I made a huge mistake and sprung it and completely caught my left hand (the one that that I crushed with a wood splitter 2-years ago).
This, my friends, is any trappers worst “or closest” nightmare. I now had one hand to get a trap set that many people cannot set with two. I knew I had to accomplish this task fast or I would lose my hand.
I focused, used my right hand and my knees and must admit I could not believe that I got myself out of that mess.
On New Years weekend, I was checking an under-the-ice Otter set, and low and behold I had what turned out to be a 54-pound beaver in it Beaver can get much larger but 54-pounds is a good one and if I do not catch an Otter over 55-inches (I have a 58 dried) I think I might have another beautiful memory for my livingroom.
I love living on the edge, am not very technical and so far, I always heal! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank