Growing up watching frontiersman movies such as Jeremiah Johnson, and being introduced by my dad and uncles, trapping has always been in my blood. Fortunately I live in Alaska, where the opportunities to trap, and the high quality of fur make it a paradise for me!
From November through February, I spend every free minute either checking or preparing traps!
Alaska has a great variety of fur to catch, including ermine, mink, marten, otter, beaver, muskrat, fox, lynx, wolf and wolverine. Here is a good catch of marten and a couple of cross foxes. At an average of $55 a piece for marten, this is a hobby that can actually give me a little pocket change.
The marten is my most common target. They have luxurious coats and they are notorious for leaving even seasoned trappers stumped by disappearing for long periods of time!
Marten like the hills, and the area I trap is a tangled mess of burned timber which makes excellent habitat, but also a LOT of work clearing a trail.
Another example of surprises, I treed this marten as I was riding my snowmachine up the trail and shot him with my .22 pistol. I have only seen a marten (not in a trap) once in my life.
I love the challenge of trapping. It is a game of learning animals’ habits, and trying to predict their movements and behavior. Even when I think I have it all figured out, I will often end up with empty traps! I never caught the wolf that left these tracks in my trail.
Grouse and ptarmigan are a common sight along the trap line. They make for good eating and their feathers are excellent bait for marten and lynx!
Although trapping anything is exciting, it is something else to come up on animals as rarely seen as a lynx!
Three lynx in one trip made for an exciting day for us last February!
Another fun and very challenging animal to trap is the red fox, which is abundant in Alaska. They are crafty and have an excellent nose! Many of the old timers say that if you can successfully trap fox, then you can catch wolves. (I have yet to catch my first wolf)
A basic dirt hole set for fox before I covered the trap with snow. If I keep my trap clean and free of human scent, I should have a fox soon!
No matter how much experience you have, it’s always exciting coming up on a successful catch! It always feels like a new accomplishment every time I “out fox” a fox!
The first marten of the year. The winter promises to be long and cold and I hope to experience every bit of it!
To read about Freel’s sheep hunting adventures click here.
As long, dark nights and bitter cold approach, some outdoorsmen are put their gear away for the winter. For a few of us, however, it is only the beginning of a season full of challenges and excitement.