The business of fur trapping for profit must be confined to the season between the first of October and the beginning of May, as furs of all kinds are worthless when taken during the other months of the year. The reason of this is obvious. A "prime fur" must be "thick" and "full," and as all our fur-bearing animals shed their heavy winter coats as warm weather approaches, it necessarily follows that the capture at this season would be unprofitable. Trapping of any kind should only be done when legal as stated by your particular state. As the autumn approaches the new growth appears, and the fur becomes thick and glossy. By the middle of October most furs are in their prime, but the heart of winter is the best time for general fur trapping. The furs of the mink, muskrat, fisher, marten and beaver are not in their perfect prime until this season. And all other furs are sure to be in good condition at this time.
From time immemorial, and in every nation of the world, the art of fur trapping has been more or less practiced; by some as a means of supplying their wants in the shape of daily food, and by others for the purpose of merchandise or profit.
To be a clever and successful trapper, much more is required than is generally supposed. It is best to keep reading and gathering trapping tips as much as possible. The mere fact of a person's being able to cleverly set a trap forms but a small part of his proficiency; and unless he enters deeper into the subject and learns something of the nature and habits of the animals he intends to catch, his traps will be set in vain, or at best meet with but mediocre success. The study of natural history here becomes a matter of necessity as well as pleasure and profit. And unless the trapper thoroughly acquaints himself with the habits of his various game, the shrewdness and cunning of his intended victim will often outwit his most shrewd actions, much to his chagrin. The sense of smell, so largely developed in many animals, becomes one of the trapper’s most serious obstacles, and seems at times to amount almost too positive reason, so perfectly do the creatures baffle the most ingenious attempts of man in his efforts to capture them. A little insight into the ways of these artful animals, however, and a little experience with their odd tricks soon enable one to cope with them successfully and overcome their whims.
In the art of fur trapping the bait is often entirely dispensed with, the traps being set and carefully concealed in the runways of the various animals. These by-paths are easily detected by an experienced trapper, and are indicated either by footprints or other evidences of the animal, together with the matted leaves and broken twigs and grasses.
Natural channels, such as hollow logs or crevices between rocks or fallen trees, offer excellent situations for steel traps, and a good trapper is always on the lookout for such chance advantages, thus often saving much of the time and labor which would otherwise be spent in the building of artificial enclosures, etc.
The most effective baits used in the art of fur trapping are those which are used to attract the animal through its sense of smell, as distinct from that of its mere appetite for food. These baits are known in the profession as "medicine," or scent baits and possess the most remarkable power of attracting the various animals from great distances, and leading them almost irresistibly to any desired spot. In all cases avoid handling the trap with the bare hand. Many an amateur has set and reset his traps in vain, and retired from the field of trapping in disgust, from the mere want of observing this rule. Animals of keen scent are quick in detecting the slightest odors, and that left by the touch of a human hand often suffices to drive the creature away from a trap which, under other circumstances, would have been its certain destruction. To be sure the various scent baits already alluded to, will in a measure overcome human traces, but not always effectually, and in order to insure success no precautions so simple should be neglected. A pair of clean gloves is invaluable to the trapper, and should always be "on hand" when setting or transporting fur traps. One can never have too many trapping tips and many more will follow in this series.