Even though it is too warm yet for prime plews, a guy's got to get his kit ready for the season. It dawned on me that folks may like to take a look at some of the classic beaver huntin' gear.
Every year, the traps have to be seasoned by boilin' 'em in Every year, the traps have to be seasoned by boilin' 'em in walnut hulls. This blackens the traps and makes 'em less noticeable. I also think it softens the feel of the metal so it's not so metallic.
On the left is a trap that hasn't been boiled, on the right is one fresh out'a the bucket. If you're doin' this in the kitchen, you best have an under-standing wife.
These #5s are made with Bridger springs, replacement, and homemade parts. They have elements from many different historical examples, but don't fall into the category of any specific make.
From the book, "Firearms, Traps, & Tools of the Mountain Men", by Carl P. Russell, the parts correspond to different illustrations. The jaws and pan are like those in Fig. 26b, on page 121.
The swivel, cross, and dog, are like those illustrated in Fig. 26d, on page 121. The base and wire chain are like those in Fig. 23d, on page 114.
Here are some of the basic tools required for settin' the traps. The long hickory pinchers are spring compressers. These are important if you are settin' your traps from a dugout and don't have any solid ground to stand on. Along the bottom, from left to right, you have your castorum container, what I call spring dogs, and a skinner/scraper.
The skinner/scraper is made from the pan from an old trap, wedged into a saw-cut in the side of the deer antler. The tine is handy for separating the plew from the carcass without the danger of knife cuts in the plew. The extended tine also makes it easy to use the scraper with two hands when fleshin' the plew.
The "spring dogs" hold the compressed springs together when you are workin' with the trap. There is a hole drilled for a cut nail to slid down into, to make sure the dog doesn't slip off the spring. That would be bad. During regular trap settin' you only need one dog, but if something goes wrong, and you need to keep both springs compressed, you've got 'em both right there.
The castorum container is made of some old drift wood, deer rawhide, brain tanned deer hide laces, and a hickory spoon in the cap for scoopin' out the castorum. The container is hung around the neck so the trapper has their hands free. The lid has a cord so it don't get dropped in the water and float off. You wear it under your coat so the castorum stays warm and easy to spread.
The beaver have two castor glands at the base of their tail. The secretion from these glands, mixed with the beaver's urine, are used to mark their territory. They build small mounds of mud and work their scent into it as a marker for other beavers. If a beaver smells a strange marking in their territory, they check it out.
A stick, stuck in the bottom of the lake or stream, and hanging above the trap, can be baited by smearing a little of the castorum on the exposed end of the stick.
The recipe for making castorum was recorded in the journals of the "Voyage of Discovery", and is still used to this day. As written in one of the journals, you take:
6 - castor glands, 1 - nutmeg,
12 - cloves
30 grams - cinnamon.
The ingredients are finely ground with a mortar and pestle, and enough ardent spirits added to achieve a mustard like paste.
The castorum can be detected by the beavers for miles. Being very territorial animals, they will always check it out.
When I go on the first beaver hunt of this year, I will chronicle how I do it. There are several effective ways to set leg-hold traps. Some of them will have to wait till the ice will support a man's weight.