It was November 18th and the first big snowstorm of the year was finally on its way. The wind was blowing hard from the southwest and a bank of clouds began to shroud the mountains. Since I’ve moved to Montana, it’s taken some time to adjust to a couple of things. One is the weather, which is more unpredictable than you can imagine. The other is the hunting season. With such a long season, so many different animals to hunt for, and such liberal bag limits, I’d been booked solid with hunting and meat processing for about a month. The wife and I both breathed a sigh of relief when the last of the meat packages went into the freezer and our hunting season was pretty well over. We could still hunt, but didn’t have any freezer space left to put any of the meat.
I had been thinking about trapping all hunting season, and when things began to slow down, I decided it was time to get after some fur. The fact that it was my birthday the day I started trapping for the season made me feel a little less guilty about taking the afternoon off to set traps. But that slight feeling of guilt turned into one of those ‘I must be crazy’ feelings when I reached the farm pond to set muskrat traps. The hard blowing wind brought subfreezing air and moisture with it, and encouraged me to work a little quicker than I might otherwise have.
I’d trapped this pond before and knew it held muskrats. It was pretty big as far as farm ponds go, probably 3 acres or more of surface area, but most of the ‘rats were concentrated near the dirt berm at the pond’s outlet. This was the deepest area of the pond, and the muskrats had been digging den holes into the dirt berm for years. That’s were I would place my traps.
I threw on a pair of hip waders and grabbed a bucket full of 110 conibear traps in one hand and a stack of lathes in the other. Then I got to work. The plan was to walk along the bank and feel around for den holes with my boots. Wherever I felt a hole, I set a trap, secured the lathe onto the spring to support it, then anchored the trap in the run in front of the hole.
All trappers experience a time in their career when things seem to go just right. With the storm front moving in causing the critters to be active, and perhaps a little birthday luck, I guess maybe my time had come.
I’d set four traps and was starting on number five when I heard something splashing. I looked back as muskrat number one was already caught in a trap I’d set just a couple of minutes before! Filled with excitement, I hurried to set the rest of the traps. I got a dozen conibears set out and started working my way back to the truck. I reached the muskrat that had been caught earlier and removed it from the trap. As I placed it on the bank and remade the set, another splashing sound broke through the sound of the howling wind and I looked ahead to see muskrat number two caught in another trap! To top it off, I walked back to the truck and had a third muskrat in the very first set I had made!
In a period of less than two hours that afternoon, I had set twelve traps and caught 3 muskrats. That’s something that has never happened to me before, and it sure was memorable. You can imagine my excitement when I returned during the snowstorm the next morning to check the traps and found seven more muskrats caught in the twelve traps! Ten muskrats in a dozen traps in less than 24 hours. Now that’s trapping!