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Walter Scott: Trapping is cold, hard work

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.

Columnist Walter Scott
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Not many people run trap lines anymore, which is unfortunate. Years ago, a person could make good money by trapping predators for their fur. This also helped control the population of animals that are so destructive to other animals and birds.

Raccoons, skunks, weasels, and mink are some of the furbearing animals whose population growth due to lack of trapping and hunting has been hard on turkeys, pheasants and quail. Other furbearers, such as beavers and muskrats, are destructive to the environment, when they burrow through dams and cut down acres of trees.

When fur prices were high, there was an incentive to trap these animals and limit the damage. Now, the only people that trap do it mostly for the joy of being outside.

Years ago, back when fur prices were still high, a neighbor ran a trap line. I would go over to his place and help him occasionally. I soon discovered the hardest part of trapping is fighting the weather.

Trapping is only done during the winter which takes most of the fun out of it right there. Dick and I were still in school so time was limited on working the trap line.


The hours of daylight are short and temperature in Storm Lake always seemed to be bone chilling. The wind always blows.

Trapping in those days was not for the weak. Dick and I would trudge across the field from his house toward the creek that meandered through the pasture.

The pasture was almost useless as beavers had dammed up the creek in a few places and muskrats had burrowed in random spots making it dangerous for man or beast to walk across it. It seems we would generally have two or three muskrats, frozen fingers and wet feet from slipping into the creek.

On a good day, Dick would catch a mink or a beaver. I do not remember how much money he got from his pelts, but in my opinion, it was not enough for the work and misery put into the project.

Eventually, the trapping pasture was converted to a corn field. With most of the muskrats trapped out, Dick’s dad was able to straighten the creek and fill in the swampy areas. I do not think Dick was sorry to see his career as a trapper come to an end.

I cannot imagine making a living trapping. In the days when our country was being settled, trappers would venture into the wilderness and spend the entire winter trudging around catching animals for the fur trade. It had to be a hard life.

This bit of nostalgia was brought on by my most recent trapping experience. I was in the garage one morning and saw a mouse run behind the freezer. I sprang into action and sect a series of traps around in places I have had success in the past.

Now I can check my trap line in my bedroom slippers and sweat suit. My type of trapping is not very profitable but is much easier than going out into the cold. There is a lot of satisfaction in being a successful trapper, and it much more comfortable doing it from a heated garage.


More from Walter Scott:
Keep the dogs at home when coyotes around this time of year. Females have either just had their pups or are getting ready to do so, and males are protecting their territory.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.
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