You don't want to carry more gear than you need, so I've carved lines on my paddle to serve as a quick reference for depth. The bottom line on the paddle is carved at six inches. Swimming in from deep water, a beaver's chest will touch bottom at about six inches. You don't want the trap to close on the beaver's chest because it can't hold them and makes them wary.
Veteran's Day, November 11th, 2010: The day started out in the upper thirties and warmed up to eventually reach a high in the low fifties before the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. But, in the morning, as I canoed across the lake in my dugout, the water felt cold to the touch. I wasn't lookin' forward to steppin' into the water.
This is a hard lake to trap before the ice is solid enough to hold a man. You need a minimum of three feet of water to drown a beaver if you catch them by the front leg. You need four feet if you catch them by the back. This lake seldom reaches more than three feet in depth within 50 feet from shore. Since I never make a set unless I am sure I can drown the beaver, this lake doesn't provide me with many opportunities. But, by mid morning I had found a rocky bank that falls off rapidly. I set my wood table across my dugout and pull out one of the traps.
The second line is carved at 14". This line serves two purposes. When setting guide markers to funnel the beaver into the trap, you need to leave 14" between the markers for the beaver's wide body. This is also the depth you set your trap if you intend to take a beaver by the back leg. I plan on catching this beaver by the rear left leg, so I need to set the trap under the water at 14".
There are two more lines carved on the handle of the paddle. One, (just above the rawhide repair), is set at three feet. The last, near the head, shows when the water is four feet. The water needs to be four feet deep within six feet of the set for a rear leg drowning. I've got plenty of depth to set this trap for a rear leg hold, which is more secure than a front leg hold.
Right here, the water is between six inches and 14". I'll need to set the trap further from the back to get the rear leg hold.
Since I have plenty of depth within the six foot length of the chain, my ring stake will also mark one side of the funnel for the trap. The stake must be of hard dry wood the beaver won't chew through. This stake is Hickory.
As the cold water creeps up my legs, the thigh-high wool stocking under my leggin's soak up the water. My body heat warms the water in the
stockings, insulating my legs from the worst of the cold. With the water and air temperatures now in the 40s, I can endure this for quite a while before hypothermia begins to set in. Even at that, the blood in my feet thickens and my feet are less responsive to the pressure of the rocks.
I use a handy rock to hammer the ring stake down to water level. You don't want to leave any chance the beaver will drag your trap off to the bottom of the lake. There is a wide spot on the stake that will keep the ring from riding up over the top.
Using the 14" mark on my paddle, I plant a stick opposite the ring stake to guide the beaver into the trap.
The six foot chain is already staked to the ground. Now I tie a "tea kettle" size rock to the trap. The rock needs to be light enough the panicked beaver can drag it to deep water, but heavy enough the beaver can't get to the surface or back to shore. This is a bit of a guessing game. You don't want to come back to check your trap with an angry beaver sitting on the bank with your rock waiting for you.
Using the hickory wood pinchers, I compress the first spring and slap a spring dog on it.
While compresssin' the second spring, I use a beaver stick to knock down the jaws and lift the pan to engage the jaw dog. Then, when the jaw dog has slipped into the notch in the pan arm, I ease-off with the pinchers and allow the pan and dog to engage with the growing pressure from the jaws. I've seen guys do this with bare hands...I want to keep the use of my fingers. Anyone can make a mistake.
After takin' the spring dog off the other spring, the springs are bent around towards the jaw dog side of the trap. This is the position the trap will sit under the water. The edge of the jaw is just inside the guide post. This is set-up to take the left rear leg of the beaver when they come into the funnel and touch down to check out the bait. When the trap snaps closed, the beaver will head for deep water.
Next, I build the rest of the funnel that will discourage the beaver from bypassing the trap. There is a beaver slide above the funnel that leads to a tree that is being worked on. The beaver should come in from the deep water and head into the funnel. This isn't a very strong set, so I've placed a green branch in the middle of the funnel with the leaves right over the trap.
To generate a little more interest in this set, I dab a bit of castorum on the leaves and stem. Notice how farm I'm keepin' my toes from the trap area. At 14", I can't see the trap, don't want to get tangled in the chain, and the bottom drops off fast here. I'm already cold and miserable enough.
I figure I've got about a 50/50% chance of harvesting a plew in the morning.
Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy, with a chance of rain/snow mix on Saturday. It will be harsh checkin' the trap in the mornin', but once you've set it, you are responsible, no matter what the weather is like.