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My First Season

by Mark Knackstedt

Several of the neighbor boys and myself started hunting around the age of 14.  We were lucky enough to be out one day and kill a skunk.  That skunk and the neighbors starting to trap, helped me catch the fever.  I bought several trapping books and 1/2 dozen each of  #2 double springs, #1 double jaws, 1-1/2 stop loss single springs and 110 conibears. This was about the time Montgomery started touting the dogless trap so I got one of them as well.   My hope was to catch coon and muskrats on the small creek that ran by the house.  I worked several weekends before season dying the traps with walnut hulls and waxing the traps up for use.  In between I scouted the creek looking for sign and getting sets ready for opening day.

The season finally got started and I played hookie from school that day to get my traps in.  I made several sets and caught a few rats and a couple of possums through the first week.  No coons though.  We had a cool winter that year and the creek froze up early so trapping seemed done.

During the Christmas holiday I was dying to get more traps set.  I wanted to catch my first coon.  I had thought over and over about where to set traps.  Finally decided to walk about a mile to an old apple orchard on property my uncle owned.  I carried about a dozen traps, sifter, trowel, hammer, and a bottle of water along with coon lure and bait.  Got out to the orchard and found three sets in the area.  The only one I remember was a tree that was open on one side and hollow in the middle.  It was a natural cubby.  I used a fence staple to anchor the Montgomery dogless #2 in the opening and carefully covered it with the rotten dirt from in the stump.  Used the bottle of water to sprinkle the set and make it look old.  Topped it off with a big gob of Hawbakers coon bait on a stick in the back of the hollow.

I was up at daybreak the next morning in anticipation of possibly catching a coon in these three sets.  As I walked up to the first set in the hollow tree I was about 75 yards away when the grey fox struggling to get away caught my attention.  I was in awe.  I had read about how hard fox were to catch and never dreamed that I might catch one of the wary critters.  I dispatched the fox and had a hard time covering trap back up.  I thought about pulling the trap, but finally got it covered although not as good as the first time.  I kept checking the traps and on the third day I caught another grey fox.  Reset the trap and about a week later as I walked up a coyote started howling and I had caught my first coyote.  I never did catch a coon that season but the memory of the foxes and the coyote still remain in my memory 25 years later.  I also learned that while some critters are harder to catch, even a beginner has a chance.  Now that I’ve started trapping again after about a 15 year break I am still trying to catch my first bobcat.  Maybe I’ll be successful one day.  Never give up, and one day you’ll make that first catch.