I could see the set had been disturbed. The lake had risen an inch with the rain. Since I couldn't see the bottom, I probed ahead of my feet with a stick. A critter could get tangled in the chain and pull the trap away from its original spot. A feller doesn't want to find his own trap by steppin' in it. When I was close enough, I probed between the guide sticks. No trap, that's good!
I lit out the morning after makin' my sets. It was in the upper 30s and rainin', but once a trap is set, you have the responsibility to check it daily. Because it was also blustery, I chose to hike in to the trap site rather than canoe across the lake. I was already wet and miserable before I ever got to the water.
After makin' sure the trap wasn't around the ring stake, I slid my hand down the stake to find the chain. The ring was still there, and I began to pull in the chain. It was comin' in from out in the lake, so I was sure I had somethin'.
What I found at the end of the chain didn't make me happy. Someone had stuck an old rotten stick right down on top of the pan and tripped the trap. Then they tossed it out into the lake. This has always been a warning among trappers. "You are trappin' my territory. Next time I won't leave you the trap!" In the days of the mountaineers, it would'a caused a fella to quick look over his shoulder.
I thought about it some and realized I hadn't seen any signs of anyone else trappin' this lake in all my year-round visits here. So, I decided it wasn't another trapper who sprung my trap, but someone who doesn't want me trappin'. Well, it's a free country, (for a little while longer yet), I've got a fur bearing license, it's public land, and I don't reckon anyone has a right to stop me from lawfully pursuin' a beaver plew!
So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to rebuildin' my set. This time, I built a territorial monument at the depth to catch a beaver by the hind leg. I made it within the runway I had made the day before. I stacked up rocks till they were a couple inches above the water. I figure with the rain that's comin' down, it will add at least another two inches before tomorrow. Then, I dredged up some black stinkin' mud on a rock, and used a stick to scrape it off onto the monument rocks. I didn't want my scent on the mud at all. Then, I worked a good bit of castorum into the top of the mud. I didn't' want the rain washin' all the scent off into the lake before night fall.
Not only will the castorum attract the beaver, but the sight of fresh mud as a territorial monument will drive 'em nuts! That's a declaration of war in the beaver world. It isn't the strongest set, but it's one I feel comfortable about.
At this deep area near shore, a large cache of winter limbs are bein' put up. This set is far enough away from the heavy storage that I don't have to worry about my beaver gettin' tangled up in the underwater pile and me not bein' able to pull him out.
By ignoring the warning left for me, I'm runnin' the risk of loosin' my trap. But, with the weather lookin' to hold wet and gloomy through the weekend, I'm hopin' whoever sprung my trap won't be that interested in comin' out in the cold to do it again. Tomorrow there is a chance of snow and freezin' rain in my area. They got snow today in the northwest portion of Ioway country. I might be out hikin' in snow to check on this set.
By the time I was done makin' the set, my hands were stingin' and sluggish. My feet were fine, but it was plenty cold. As soon as I started walkin' again, everything warmed right up and I was comfortable, except when an exceptionally blustery breeze would drive rain right in my face.
My feet ache and I've had problems with cramps in my legs. I presume it's from standin' in the near freezin' water. It seemed to me that the ol' time mountaineers had some sort of lineament they would rub into their legs for cramps. Seems like camphor was mentioned, but my memory 'aint what it never really was in the first place.
I was talkin' with my wife about the discomfort and long term effects associated with the life of a beaver huntin' mountaineer. I was tryin' to figure out why anyone would choose such a life of discomfort and danger. Freedom was the only reason I could come up with. My wife, who is too smart to wade around in freezin' water playin' with toys that can take your fingers off, said, "Life back then wasn't all that comfortable as a general rule. You had to chop wood to stay warm if you lived in a house, cabin, or tipi. If you got sick, it would most likely kill you unless it didn't, whether you had access to a doctor or not. It wasn't that much of a stretch of comfort to leave what little comfort there was behind." I'd never thought of it that way. I'll keep that in mind while I look forward to goin' out in the freezin' rain tomorrow to check on the trap!
I'll let you know how that works out for me.
Well, to make a long story short, it was hard to find time to trap. I finally made a push to trap every day for a week in March of 2011. In Ioway country, the pelts are the finest in February/March. I took four mid-size beaver and was pretty dissapointed in the harvest. However, at least I could say I cought something and I was done for the season.
Pressed for time, I made willow hoops and laced the plews to the hoops with deer rawhide. I boiled down two of the skulls, and hung the tails on the back porch with the plews to dry. My second oldest daughter, (home from South Africa after seven years as a missionary), took this picture and posted it on her facebook page, (after some other posts and photos of the dead beaver in her back yard). She called 'em her dad's red-neck wind chimes, or something like that.
Her friends around the world think it's funny that she comes home and finds dead animals in the back yard, or her dad outside cuttin' things up. Some of 'em never believed her stories about what it was like growin' up, till she started postin' photos to prove it.
I hope to do a pen-and-ink sketch on the flesh side of one of these plews. They have twisted some as they continued to dry, but I don't think that will take away from the sketch. I plan on using different colored inks to make it more of an illustration. Since I've never tried this before, (or even heard of someone inkin' on beaver hide, this will be an interesting experiment.