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"Be Prepared" may be the Boy Scouts' motto, but it is also one that should be
adopted by every trapper. Pre-season preparation can mean the difference between
success and failure, and it can eliminate the frustrations that come from poor
planning. Time spent getting ready for the season can also whet the appetite and
increase the enjoyment of this outdoor activity.
First and foremost on every agenda should be a visit with the landowner to obtain
permission. It is not only common courtesy, but State Law requires that permission
be obtained. Remember, over 97% of the land in Nebraska is privately owned, and the
goodwill of the farmer and rancher is essential to the future of your sport. If you
make arrangements early, you'll have plenty of time to make your other preparations
at a leisurely pace. Your chat with the landowners can have side benefits, too,
since they may well recommend likely locations. You'll want to scout the areas
for animal signs and likely trap sites in advance, so remember to get permission
for that, too.
During your scouting trip, it can be helpful to take notes or make rough sketches of
potential trap locations. An October day spent prospecting a creek bottom for signs
of furbearers can be its own reward. It's an opportunity to just soak up the joys of
an autumn day outdoors.
While scouting, you can do some preliminary site work, such as placing obstacles
at the water's edge to force a mink or raccoon into the water, building cubbies,
or preparing dirt-hole sites. This will pay off in saved time and fewer disturbances
when the time comes to set out your traps.
Probably the most important part of your pre-season preparation, though, is a
thorough review of the trapping laws and regulations. These frequently change
from one year to the next, and it is the duty of every trapper to be completely
familiar with the rules and regulations governing this activity ... and to abide
by them. Trapping regulations are adopted by the Game and Parks Commission after
a public hearing and are published in the Nebraska Hunting Bulletin No. 2, which
is available from any permit vendor, conservation officer, or Game and Parks
Commission office. It's a good idea to slip an extra copy into your pack basket
or tool bag just to have handy for quick reference.
A permit is required for all trappers, regardless of age, to take, attempt to
take, or possess any fur-bearing animal, which includes beaver, marten, mink
(except mutations), muskrat, raccoon, opossum, and otter. In addition, all
nonresidents and any resident 16 years of age or older must have a valid
Habitat Stamp to trap. Since raccoon and opossum are also listed as game
animals, they may also be taken under a hunting permit by firearm or archery.
Although the entire state is open to trapping, this does not include state-owned
lakes or marshes or areas closed by federal, state, or municipal law. All state
wildlife management areas are open to trapping unless otherwise posted. Trapping
is prohibited on all state park system areas without special permission from the
Parks Division of the Game and Parks Com-mission. Special regulations apply to
those species determined by the Commission to be in need of conservation.
After making your landowner contacts and studying up on the regulations, spend a
little time checking your traps to make sure they are in good working order. This
is also the time to collect your gear and deodorize various pieces of equipment
like your hip boots and arm-length rubber gloves if water sets are planned.
Like other equipment, traps require some special care to insure proper functioning
and long life. Dying and waxing are two methods used to prevent rust, darken metal,
mask metal odor, and accelerate the action of the traps.
Allow new traps to form a light coat of rust before dying since new steel does not take
color well. To accomplish this, just hang the traps outside for about a month before
dying. If the new traps are covered with a heavy coat of grease or oil, it may be
necessary to boil them before hanging them out to rust.
Walnut bark or hulls and maple bark make good homemade dyes, or you can buy a commercial
dye like logged chips or crystals. Boil the traps in a solution of dye and water, but
first place a nail or similar object between the jaws to guarantee complete coverage.
The longer the traps are boiled, the darker their color will be. Some trappers prefer
to boil heavily rusted traps in the dye solution then let them soak for several days
so the tannic acid in the dye will remove the rust and etch the surface of the metal.
After traps are dyed, they can be used as is or waxed. Trap wax is available commercially;
however, you can get satisfactory results from a home brew. Combine a small piece of pine
gum (for adhesion) with paraffin or a mixture of paraffin and beeswax. Use a large double
boiler-type container and melt enough wax to completely cover the trap. BE CAREFUL WHEN
USING PARAFFIN, THOUGH, FOR IT IS HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. Submerge dry traps, preferably while
still hot from dying, in the wax and allow at least one minute for the trap temperature
to stabilize with that of the wax. The trap is then removed and hung up to dry.
After traps have been dyed and waxed, they should be protected from contamination by
foreign odors. Handle them only with a hook or wear a clean pair of gloves. Store traps
by hanging them in a clean odor-free area. Avoid areas like a garage, which is usually
permeated with gasoline fumes and automobile exhaust odors.
Although dying and waxing is relatively long-lasting, it will probably have to be repeated
each year, if for no other reason than to remove blood and other unwanted scents picked up
during the trapping season.
For upland sets, in addition to traps and stakes, you'll need a dirt-sifter box, claw hammer,
digging trowel, pan covers, back pack or basket, dry dirt, whisk broom, scents and lures, and
a canvas kneeling cloth unless you wear rubber boots and squat. If you plan to pelt your own
furs, you'll need stretchers, since furbearers should be skinned as soon as possible after
Now, you're ready to go when opening day rolls around.