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Different dimension, same trapline

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

This story began about a week ago at a different junction of the space-time continuum when I went by a different byline. Ok, I screwed up, forgot my own name, thought I was someone else when this story began. And can you really blame me? I am a kid again, going from trap to trap, each time hoping for a 30-pound raccoon or a 75-pound coyote, yet being thrilled with smaller raccoons and being outsmarted by fox, coyote and old raccoons.

If I can’t remember who I am, how can I be expected to outsmart a fox, even with the advice of a gray fox that visits my back yard most nights to snitch dog treats? What a cool looking critter. I have long wanted a gray fox pelt on my office wall.

For those who may have forgotten, or not read the last column, my return to youth was given to me by a young gentleman we will call Tim, because that’s his name. Several traps have been hanging in and on my shed for years because I could not bear to part with all my traps. My years running trap lines were very good times. Rapping may allow a person to escape civilization better than other outdoor sports.

Trapping may be regarded as simply sport now in Pennsylvania. Anyone who thinks trapping can be a profession is either in an extremely unlikely and lucky position to be able to support a household by trapping or a dreamer (which is certainly not a bad thing to be, I promise).

So the first critter to defeat us this week was a coyote, from appearances the biggest, baddest coyote on the good old ANF. It was the first trap on the line, and the first one set. The set-up was along an edge between semi-open and mature forest, a dirt hole set next to a largely rotten tree at the roots. We are not even sure which night it happened. The animal and we are only assuming coyote, snapped the welded not at the end of the metal stake, then slid the stake attachment up the stake and escaped. Nothing has turned up.

The first night the full line was out, something that appears to have been an old raccoon stole the baits from four, set off one of the traps and moved the other three. Another set down the line but in the same watershed had the bait stolen.

Finally, on the third night, we caught a medium raccoon. That was a relief. I was worried that either the area had been trapped out, or coyote had killed off most of the raccoons. I am not so sure if a coyote would care to tangle with a big raccoon, but they certainly would make a meal of a young one.

We have had several more baits stolen. The next miss worthy of note, pretty exciting really, was a set that made use of a cottontail carcass that was placed under the uplifted roots of a small tree. Rabbit hair was scattered all over the place. It looked like a great set.

Problem was, I anticipated a coyote or fox approaching from only one slot through the roots. This critter dug out another and escaped with the bunny leavings.

The set was repaired with regular coyote-fox bait and scent attractant, plus another trap. One night has passed already without event. We will see.

Ah, Thanksgiving morning and another medium raccoon. Like the first one, it was in a set chosen and designed by Tim. So let’s see now. I was showing him a few things about trapping and the count is two raccoons in sets he basically did himself, and nothing in any set I chose and designed.

Am I losing it? Have I lost it?

Yea. So what. I don’t really need it so long as I can slog along the trap line a considerable distance behind my partner. No, I can not keep up. So what? Grrrrr.

Of course, as our time on the trap line has progressed, we have made some adjustments, made some new sets. Thanksgiving day I had to check traps alone because my partner was out of town for the holiday dinner. I drove more than 60 miles. This was supposed to be just a short trap line that could be checked in a short time after school. We guys do sometimes get carried away with such things.

And still, for the miscues and getting beat a lot, this return to a trap line was my first thing to give thanks for on Thanksgiving Day. When is the last time you returned to your youth? I highly recommend it and within the company of someone who still really knows what youth is. The best part is seen through their eyes.

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