by Clint Locklear
This little rant is not about the location to place a trap, but more about the understanding of why 2-6 locations on most farms are not enough. That is, if the idea of catching most if not close to all of the predators on a single track or several tracks of ground is your goal. Fur is high this year and will probably be that way for a while. Gas is high and so the cost to produce the fur is high. We as trappers may need to be thinking of running our lines with a little more concern in response to the higher cost of doing business, so our net profit is higher. One simple way to do this is to catch the fur on the ground we are trapping on, not just take the easy cream and run like a crazed fuel burning man of the seventies.
What I am going to say may make you re-think the idea of what a good location is and if we need to be covering more minor locations to put more animals in the shop per acre.
My personal experience on the amount of locations comes from many areas: fur trapping, control trapping, studying wolfers, learning primary and secondary locations and federal and university coyote studies.
In the beginning with my coyote trapping, I would search out and find the most used locations from locating sign. Over a couple of years of a lot of time spent with my eyes to the ground looking for tracks, kickbacks, kills and scat, picking these locations became routine. After a while it turned into a game. I would see a good location and then I would go see if sign was present. Anyone that spends a little time looking for coyotes will become good at picking the location then catching a coyote without the need to see sign. You will start to see patterns in terms of road, draws, water, fences, gates, passes, road kills, fields, deer trails and travel ways. The better I got at picking “THE” locations, the more coyotes I could catch faster. I was a long lining junky that would cover a lot of ground. Over time however, another pattern started to rear its head. I was setting and finding “THE” locations and seeing smaller less used locations that I was not setting. These less used locations might only have a set of tracks or a pile of crap or two. My way of thinking at the time was, set the “HOT” locations and the coyotes would show up in the traps. Everything was working like clockwork and I saw no reason to explore the smaller, less used locations.
After I was comfortable with my traps, snaring became legal in the counties I was trapping. I started setting up the crawl under at the fences. In the beginning I would drive the fence line and look for hair in the fence and slam in a snare. A lot of coyotes were caught setting this way. Then one day, I looked up and looked around as I cut the cable off of an old female coyote. What was the reason for the craw under to be so heavily used, why? That day and the rest of the season I became obsessed with trying to understand why the coyotes were crossing the fence where they were. A lot of times there seemed to be no reason at all. The more time that was spent trying to get a grasp on why coyotes would use a section of the fence, something became obvious. Most of the time, the travel ways that the coyotes were using WERE NOT ON LOCATION. I was catching the coyotes. I was seeing the holes and hair, but they did not seem to know that they should be where I had decided they should be. This conclusion rocked my confidence on where coyotes spend their time traveling. Later that year I was trapping on a 7,000 acres of re-claimed strip pit land. I started the line with traps. After about a week the weather was so bad that keeping traps working was a nightmare. It rained, snowed, and sleeted about every other day. The ground would freeze every night and thaw to a muddy mess during the day. Enough is enough, so I pulled the traps and started setting snares. On this 7,000 acres there ended up being about 220 snares. If I even thought that a coyote might walk somewhere, in went at least one snare. I set the roads, 4-wheeler trails, beaver dams, high and low bank trails, game trails, side trails and about every opening in the draws. I forced a lot of snares into places that they really should not been. This snare line will always be in the back of my mind. A little over 60 coyotes and 15 to 20 cats fell victim to the madness of my snare line. Besides the needed money of the furs, this snare line opened up my eyes to the world of a coyote in a different light. A pattern became clear; coyotes go where they want to, not where we think they should be. Sure they travel the “HOT” locations, but they were just as likely to be running on a not so story-book location. Believe it or not more coyotes were caught on smaller locations than were taken on the “trapper” locations. Even though I knew more coyotes were taken in the less obvious locations, I was reluctant to apply this to my foot holds.
As my control business started to transition to more coyotes and less beaver, the next series of lessons began. I would get hired by a client and most of the time I would only trap for the client for a period of time. So there I was on 1,000 to 8,000 acres 24 hours a day. Sometimes the client would be on the property every day or every few days. At the minimum I would get a call every couple of days for a catch report. Keep in mind that most of these clients are wealthy and are used to having things happen to their schedule and they expect results. After two weeks or so and you have 20-30 coyotes, it just sounds better than a daily report of 0-6 coyotes in a 24 hour period. Plus if I am staying on the property away from home the time that is spent on a single piece of property is obvious to the land manager or owner. There is no way that the client would be happy to pay me my bill if I were to set 2-10 locations on the farm. I would be done by 8 or 9 in the morning and sitting on my butt for the rest of the day. This would be hard to explain to a man that you only caught two coyotes today and you’re resting for the rest of the day that. Most clients don’t understand trapping, but they want results if they are paying you for your service. So I found myself in the situation that I needed to be working on the trap line, setting and checking traps for several hours in a day. This started as a way to keep the client happy and to show him that I was earning my money. So when I worked on a job, I just keep setting traps, lots of traps. When I started this procedure on control jobs it was more to keep the client happy. Today however, when I keep setting traps it is for the practically of it. I will first set the major locations and then set up the minor locations. I basically set my trap line just like I did with the snare line on the strip pit. The more clients that I trapped for and the more traps I would set on a piece of ground the more patterns I noticed with locations. The pattern matched the snare line on the strip pit. As many or more coyotes were caught on what most trappers would call minor locations over the time that traps are set.
Most trappers that trap year round or a trapper that spends a lot of time in the woods hunting, fishing or maybe his job has him outside more to perform his occupation will see coyotes during the day. I have seen coyotes during the day all over the country and have noticed the same pattern. Now I want you to take a moment and think of the coyotes you have seen in the field. Take another moment and see in your mind’s eye where you saw the coyotes. Personally I have never seen a coyote where I would put in a set. Many times a lot of time was spent trying to figure out some rhyme or reason as to why the coyote was where they were. I could dismiss this observation, but I have seen many coyotes from the truck and not one matched what has been taught as to where coyotes should be in reference to major locations.
So I guess the question is; is the “HOT” location more important to hammering coyotes than the minor locations? If as many coyotes are caught in the minor locations, are they really minor locations when a coyote man is trying to catch most of the coyotes off of a track of ground?
Yes I know setting more traps on a track of ground is more work. I understand that this mindset may go against the normal information that has been preached from the mountain top since the last fur boom. Just keep one thing in mind, fur prices are rising, so does it make sense to drive by more fur than you have traps set on your next farm?
Here is my latest. I had a guy ask me if I could come catch a coon for him that had been knocking over his trash can outside the house. Since he lived on the edge of town I asked if he was sure it was a coon. He said that he was sure because he had seen it come through the yard and knock over the can a few times. I then made the mistake of asking how big it was. His reply was '' it's so big he is punting the trash can through the yard like a football''. Lol