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                           THE 1970 TRAPPING SEASON-MEMORIES

                    by Steven G. Trosper

I planned to run an extensive one week trapline in November. The 1970-71 season would be the first one in which I trapped with no concern about anything else. I put in for a one week leave-of-absence, beginning on November 15, a Sunday, to November 22-the following Sunday. The two previous seasons, I was on second shift and trapped in the mornings.

The 1970-71 season was the first season I kept a journal, not just of the trapping season itself, but the pre-season as well. Over the years, what with moving from one house to another, I have misplaced that journal. I will try to give as accurate an account of the 1970-71 season as I can, from memory.

I bet all of you, when you reflect upon past trapping seasons, have forgotten the money made or the numbers caught. Opening day of the 1970-71 season, I topped the hill, and looked west, over my right shoulder. The sun, a large red orb, floated on the horizon. Now, 35 years later, the sun setting, on that November 15 evening, is my most vivid memory of the 1970-71 trapping season.

But, the most distinct memory need not be the sun as a large red ball, floating on the horizon. It could be the sound made by water trickling over rocks. The feel of a frosty morning as you make your way to the first set. The frost has made a lace work of the trees and weeds. Your breath floating in front of you. The moist and mellow smell of a hole dug in wood’s dirt. All of these and many more make up the memories of any trapline-yours, mine, theirs!

Throughout the summer months, I sent for every trapper supply catalog advertised in FUR-FISH-GAME. I bought traps, from number 1 jumps to fox traps. At this time, the number 2 coil or underspring traps were fox traps. Besides traps, I also bought all the books by O.L. Butcher, E.J,. Dailey, and S. Stanley Hawbaker. Plus several Pleasure and Profit books from FUR-FISH-GAME. I bought a copy of Pat Sedlak’s THE SCHOOLBOY TRAPPER. This was 10 years after it came out in 1960. I well remember my dad, when this book came out, telling me he wished he could get it for me, but just did not have the money. I sense it was also the kind of book dad had searched for when he was a kid. This was the only book I ever bought dad wanted to read before I read it.

It was the 1970 season I came very close to becoming a lure maker. A man I worked with at the time, had a dog which rolled on anything and everything which smelled. This mutt had a powerful odor problem and I tried to never pet him. Once, when I was there, the dog had just been given a bath, he found something to roll on and rolled to his heart’s content. I also noticed it got up and looked for something to pee on. It seemed to be beyond its control, this looking for anything to pee on. Another time I saw this dog roll on a dead animal it drug from the road and once more, peed on something as as soon as it got done rolling.

A light went on and I got an idea. Fox are in the same family as dogs and I wondered of fox also liked to roll in foul smelling things also. If so, would a fox, immediately upon getting up from rolling, look for something to pee on. I decided to find out.

I started to make this lure in June. I remembered the possum lure dad made in the summer of 1963. This was some rancid lard and fish placed in a jar and hung in a tree for the sun to work on. The smell from this could reach out and touch someone!

I found a gallon glass jar with a metal lid at a junk shop in Eugene. Also, I got a quart jar with metal lid at this place. I took both lids to work and the machinist put the lids on the lathe and cut a hole in the center of each. This hole was just large enough to let a piece of garden hose fit in. The gallon jar had a wire bail on it and I was able to carry it to Meadows’ woods. Meadow’s is pronounced Meddahs. I had a couple of pounds of lard in this jar. Water was in the small jar-the lid on the small jar had some holes punched in it to allow the gases to escape.

A six foot piece of old garden hose was inserted into the hole in the lid on the gallon jar. The hose was placed into the hole into the smaller jar, the end of hose was stuck down into the water in this jar. The gas produced from the lard would go out the water and keep flies from getting into the lard.

The large jar was placed in a tree on the south side of the woods and a piece of baling wire used to tie it to the tree. The sun was beating on this jar. The small jar was placed on the north side of the tree and wired to the tree with a piece of baling wire.

Every time I went fishing, I placed the fish in the large jar and stirred the whole slop. Besides fish, I bought a dozen eggs from Mrs. Meadows and put them in this concoction. Each time I add anything to it, I would stir the stuff. The smell got to be very rank! As I stirred this, I would gag.

In one book I got that summer, it mentioned a nature photographer used skunk essence to hide his scent while photographing deer and other wildlife. I sent to O.L. Butcher for an ounce of skunk essence. This was sent in a small jar with a little bottle inside, wrapped in packing. When I took the lid off, I could smell the skunk-without even taking the lid off the small jar of essence.

In September, I put a capful of skunk essence in this lure and stirred it. By now, the smell was bad enough I would gag when stirring it. After a week, I checked the smell and could not detect any skunk, so poured another capful of essence and stirred. A week later, I was able to smell some essence, but not a lot. I put no more in, I was afraid if I put more in, I would ruin the lure.

I had no real notion on how I would use this lure. Perhaps, just pour some on the ground and place a trap within 10 feet of the lure. Or whatever. I did know that it was be at a spot where there was no other objects for the fox to be attracted to. In other words, I would cross that bridge when I got to it.

Mom and dad went on vacation in June and traveled out to Iowa to visit a man dad grew up with. While in Iowa, they also stopped to visit Bill Nelson. On their way home, they visited P. L. Stamp in Stronghurst, Illinois. During my years in high school, I bought all my lure and trapping supplies from Stamp. The lure Stamp sold was Lenon’s lure.

A month later, I went on vacation and turned 22 that week. Mom and dad gave me two bottles of Nelson lure for my birthday. I wish I still had those two bottles, just for old time’s sake. Dad had suggested we go over to Stronghurst that Friday to see if Stamp had any Blake and Lamb number 2 double underspring traps. These were the traps I used for fox trapping at the time. That Friday morning, dad, my sister and I drove to Stronghurst. Mom had to work and dad had Fridays off. My sister had graduated from high school that year and had not gotten a job yet. She had been out to California to visit our cousin for a couple of weeks. She had been home only a few weeks at this time.

It was around noon we got to Stronghurst, Interstate 74 did not go all the way to Iowa. We would drive on it for a while, then detour onto another road. Today, it would be a couple of hours to Stronghurst. Stamp was recovering from a heart attack and was to rest some during the day. We visited with his wife, who was running their paint store. His wife called him.

He came in and we visited for a while. He did not have any B&L number 2 double underspring, but did have some number 3's. I had no use for number 3's at the time. I did buy a couple of bottles of lure from him, then we left to go home. When we left Stronghurst, we drove to Laport, Illinois; this is where an old man named Smay had lived. Smay wrote articles for the old TRAPPER’S WORLD in the late 40's. Dad said he thought Smay had been very old when he wrote for that magazine.

In September, I went with dad to a farm north of Perrysville, Indiana and looked for ginseng. We found some plants and dug the roots from a few plus bury the seeds from those plants. Dad was beginning his ginseng garden this year. He had two beds ready and had sent for some seed to plant in the beds. He planned to retire in 1980 and wanted something to make money with. While in the woods, we heard a commotion up ahead and saw a white tail flicker as a deer jumped over a log. This was the first time I had come near a deer and got a glimpse of it.

Speaking of deer. I noticed after the deer became numerous, coyotes became prevalent. The first deer I saw was in 1970 and the first reports of people seeing packs of "wild dogs" were in 1970 around here. Looking back, I wonder if those "wild dogs" were coyotes. In 1971, the week-end before trapping season opened, Alan Wait and I were hunting quail. Alan walked through some weeds and scared up a pack of what we thought were "wild dogs". They trotted off and looked back at us then took off running.

Trapping season opened on November 15 at noon. It has since changed to open at 8:00 a.m. I started in Fountain County, across the Wabash River. A man I worked with lived over near a crick called Coal Creek. Coal Creek is actually a small river, I never understood why it was called a creek. I set a couple of fox traps in the field this man owned and some traps for muskrat and coon in Coal Creek.

From here, I drove back to the blacktop driving by Coffing Brothers’ Orchard. If you pick up a bag of apples in the grocery store and look for the name of the apples, if it says Coffing Brothers’ Orchard, Covington, Indiana, it is the orchard I drove by. It was along this stretch of road a deer ran out in front of me and ran down the road a piece before running off into the orchard. This was the first deer I saw for more than a brief second.

Another man I worked with lived on Indiana 234 in Parke County and he said I could put some traps out on his place. I only got a few traps out at his crick, it was a very small crick with little sign.

From here, I traveled on 234 toward Indiana 63 and went through Cayuga. Cayuga is pronounced Quga, the "u" is long. If you want to sound like an old timer, you would pronounce it Qugy. West of Cayuga, I turned north and went through Eugene. Eugene, Oregon is named after this town. Here I crossed the Big Vermillion River and drove north on Flat Iron Road. A few miles north, I turned off Flat Iron Road onto a gravel road, going west. On this gravel road I stopped at a farm my dad trapped from 1959 to around 1964 when he stopped trapping it to trap other farms that took most of his time to trap.

I trapped here for sentimental reasons. This farm is large and I parked next to the barn. The farmer who farmed this place stopped me and told me about some fox at another part of the place and wanted to show me. He was not able to shoe me at the moment, but wanted to know if he could show me Tuesday. That sounded fine to me.

This first trap I set here was ½ mile back from the barn and was at a large rock. This rock was about 4 or 5 feet long, 2 ½ feet high and 2 feet wide. Every year dad trapped here, he had a fox set at this rock and caught fox at it. Once, I asked him how it was he could catch fox there when all the books said it could not be done. Dad said, "Fox don’t read method books. If it works, that’s all that matters." Like dad, I caught a red fox at this rock a few days later.

Walking pass this rock, I walked down a small ditch that further east became a deep ravine. At this point it was only a small five foot deep dip in the pasture. On the other side of this dip, I spotted a stump or what was left of a stump. It was at ground level it had been cut and was orange colored. The wood was spongy. There was nothing around it but short grass. I poured some of the lure I made on this stump and walked over to the fence line and chopped a dead branch off a dead tree. The branch was only a couple of feet long and perhaps two inches in diameter. I carried it to a spot about 10 feet beyond the stump. I broke off a small limb from this branch and used it to spread the lure over the stump. The small limb was left on the stump. I bedded a trap at the limb I cut off the tree and poured a few drops of fox urine on the limb.

Further along, the pasture dropped down and there was a crick. A lot of muskrat and coon sign all along this crick. I spent the remainder of the afternoon setting coon and rat traps in the crick. At one point was the tree dad caught a mink in 1963. He had made a possum set at the base of this tree where two roots connected to the tree and a small hole in the trunk of the tree. Dad had used some of the possum lure he made out of lard and fish. The next morning he had a mink. Dad always said he caught that mink because he was on location. It was not from the lure he made. I set a trap at this spot in hopes of catching a mink here also. If a mink came by I never caught him, this trap held a possum every morning. From this tree, I walked up the hill and looked over my right shoulder to see the sun setting.

Because I spent so much time at the big farm, I was not able to get out as many traps as I had planned. The next morning, after checking all the sets, I began to set traps out at places I trapped during school. One of these places was Meadows’ woods. It was in this woods I caught fox when in school. I set a few traps in the woods then went west of the woods. A short ways from the woods is a hill going down to the other field. This hill is brushy and covered with weeds. It was in this area Alan Wait would scare up the pack of "wild dogs" the following year. Also, in 1966, dad caught a silver fox in this area. It was the only silver fox he ever saw or caught. Dad tanned the hide and kept it in the bedroom for several years until moths destroyed it. I set a few fox traps here in hopes of catching a silver fox also.

Tuesday, the farmer showed me where he had been seeing fox and I set some traps in this part of his farm. This was about a mile north of where I set on Sunday. Following a small stream that began at a large tile, I saw sign of coons and a few muskrats. I had taken the traps set over in Fountain County and Parke County up that morning. These traps, I set along the small stream.

That evening, we went to my Aunt and Uncle’s, my cousin was home from Viet Nam. He got out a month early because of Nixon’s early withdrawal. Rather than being in Viet Nam for 12 months, he was only there for 11. A month may not seem much, but my cousin took it.

Wednesday, I caught a red fox at the set I used my home made lure!!!! When I skinned it, the unmistakable smell told me the fox had rolled in the lure. I began to have dreams of bottling it and giving Hawbaker, Dailey, Lenon, Butcher, and Nelson some stiff competition. Except, I have a weak stomach and did me in as far as cornering the fox lure market. Had I had a strong stomach, I might have made a fortune in the late 70's selling my fox lure, and methods.

Who knows, I might have been interviewed for THE TRAPPER back in the boom years. Whatever I said would be taken as gospel and have a lot of imitators. Imitators not only of my methods, but my lure too. Plus, I could advertise ‘not sold within 300 miles of Perrysville, Indiana’. Which would make it seem I had a great secret lure and methods. However, the remaining lure, the jar ruptured and I was out of the lure business.

Some years later, I read in one of Charles Dobbins’ books a lure formula similar to what I made in 1970. Except, he used fish oil and SFE. He also poured it onto patches of fur, which I never even thought of in 1970. Maybe, had I gone ahead and bottled that lure, and everything, we could have gotten some heated arguments as to whether I invented it or Dobbins. It may have come down to armed combat with both sides taking pot shots at each other and other exciting events.

November 22, I pulled the traps, I would have to go back to work the next day. I do not remember how many rats, coons and fox I caught. Like I referred to earlier, I have since mislaid the trapping journal for the 1970-71 season.

Since I do not remember the numbers, or the money, just what then do I remember about the 1970 trapping season? The trip to Stronghurst to see P.L. Stamp. The two bottles of lure from Nelson. Seeing deer, not just once but twice. Looking for and finding ginseng with dad in September. Making that lure and gagging when stirring it, plus catching a fox with it.

The large rock dad caught fox at and I did the same. The tree dad caught the mink at in 1963 was still there. The big red ball the sun made, as I climbed to the top of the hill the first day. Plus, my cousin coming back from Viet Nam.

All of these memories, to non-trappers, probably seem drab. But, unless you have been there and done that, it is hard to understand why we trap. Then, again, I find it hard to comprehend why someone would NOT want to trap.