After a long winter and trapping beaver through the ice, I was chompin’ at the bit waiting to get on to the spring beaver that over ran the Ninemile Creek .My take wasn’t too impressive due to the difficulty of low water and lots of ice. But the spring and open water was about to change all that. Before I could get started, I had some planning to do, and sometimes those plans are subject to change due to circumstances. Those changes always seem to rear their ugly heads when it comes to trapping. But the ability for a trapper to adapt to those changes will determine his/hers success. Due to my own circumstances, I didn’t have a freezer or my fur shed at this time, so one of my main concerns was pelt handling and carcass disposal. Carcasses could have been disposed of along the line, but I hate seeing things go to waste if it can be utilized, plus I didn’t want to be attracting bears on my line.
I made arrangements with a furbuyer, to take the fur in the grease. My arrangement for carcasses, oil sacs, and castor, were made with Jack Hill of
Abrams, Wisconsin, for his lure and baiting making business. Jack is also the newly elected
president of the new FTA chapter, Wisconsin 35-A. Now that I had those things taken care of, the game plan was to hit the Ninemile in sections, doing one section at a time. Then once the catch startrd dropping off, I would start setting up the next section while leaving some sets in the previous section to take the hold-outs. Due to limited locations to put a canoe in, I had a couple canoes lined up at different points on the Ninemile. All the trapping was done by canoe. Some sections I had to paddle upstream two to four miles, then paddle back. Another spot I could paddle down then when I got to the end I could walk logging roads back to the truck. A lot was
determined by water levels, rain, muddy roads etc. on what I could do. For traps I had my #3 Bridgers and Northwoods with inside/outside laminations and four coiled that I used for coyotes. I just put a slide lock on the chain about four inches from the trap and ran them on drowners. I had neck snares rigged with drowner locks as well. For body grippers I used Duke 330s , I gotta say I
was impressed with the Duke 330; good strong springs and I like the trigger. It is not coming off. I can normally set 330s by hand, but the Dukes I needed a setter every time. The Duke magnums seemed to knock the beaver dead in their tracks with the trap not moved out of the stabilizer.
I started setting up the line around the 20th of March. The creek was pretty much open with some shelf ice and ice covering the ponds near the dams. Some spots I chopped a path with my axe to get through with the canoe or just pulled the canoe over the ice. Other spots were low water with the canoe dragging bottom due to the fact that some dams were out of commission, but that would soon change as the beaver repaired them. I could see that the beaver were starting to
move due to the fresh castor mounds I was seeing as well. My plan for castor mounds was to set them up with using feed sacks filled with rocks for weight on the drowners. But that didn’t pan
out due to the lack of rock in most of this silt laden creek. So I used fresh peeled sticks or poles that beaver left behind. I’d take about a six foot pole and tie my eleven-gauge wire about a foot from the end of the pole and drive that end into the creek bottom as far as it would go, then run my wire up to the mound. After putting my trap on the wire, I’d anchor that end of the wire using soft ground Berkshire disposable stakes. It worked pretty slick and cut down on weight I had to carry in the canoe. Other times I’d just wire off to another dead pole driven into the ground on the bank. One particular castor mound yielded nine beaver in nine days. It was set at the fork in the
creek and a 330 set up stream about fifty yards in a channel took five beaver, and another castor
mound setup about ten yards from the first took three beaver. That fork was a hotspot for travelers. For lures I used Dobbins “Backbreaker” and Caven’s “Timber” and my own concoction of green castor mixed with cooking oil and flour to make a paste. I’d switch the lures around, using one in a section, then changing over to the other when things started tapering off. The 330s I set up on the houses and a few channels, but mostly on the houses. If I could get two 330s in a run on a house, I would; one run on a house yielded five beaver in three days with two traps set in it and probably would have caught six if I would have taken the safety gripper off the one. My setup on the houses was to gang set them, put in as many traps as possible, and hit them fast and hard before they got wise to what was going on. Leaving seed was not in the works here for the restoration project; all beaver had to be removed. The most traps I had on one particular house was eight and took fifteen beaver off the house in six days.
I didn’t think I’d catch that many on this house to begin with since I caught only two kits off it under ice. It didn’t seem all that active then along with some of the runs freezing to the bottom then. But I had other houses with quite a few as well, usually eight or nine beaver in them. I didn’t utilize the snares as much as I thought I would, just placing a few in channels hooked up to drowners to deeper water. But one thing about utilizing all three types of traps, I was able to keep a line going when the weather changed. We had a snow storm that raised water levels that completely covered my castor mounds and rendered them useless, but the 330s and snares set in runs or on houses were still operational and connecting. I came across some veterans as well; a few large peg legs and some missing toes from years past. I managed to clip a toe nail on one myself that bothered me for a week until the female turned up in a 330 blind set.
More than just trapping
This all sounds easy enough, but there is more to it than just trapping. One, it was hard work, dealing with weather, mostly the wind and paddling against it which seemed about every day. The snow squalls that would come made crossing dams slippery and treacherous. One particular dam was really tough getting over on a good day but throw and inch of wet snow on it and made a good diving platform that helped me take a cold spring swim with nothing spared. Then heading back to my truck was able to get a second bath for the day before I got off the water. I guess it’s better to get that stuff all done in one day and out of the way so a guy can get down to serious trapping. Another difficulty was getting through with the canoe. Some areas required portaging due to the creek being littered with logs and shallow water. The upside to all of this was taking my son along on a few occasions when I was in an easy to travel area and sharing the experience
with him. Also, along with that, were the couple of times my Dad came along for the day
and sharing the experience with him as well. My son Hunter summed it up one day, he said, “This is awesome Dad.” The scenery was great, back in the middle of nowhere; the ducks and geese, shorebirds, deer, etc. One image I’ll never forget is a nice sunny day coming up to a dam and everything erupted in wings and water and the noise of it all, as I spooked a pond loaded with Canadian geese. Or the week eagles and hawks were cruising the Ninemile feeding on muskrats and Hooded Mergansers as they migrated through the area. All in all it was a great experience and also reinforced in my mind how tough those early mountain men had to have been without all
the comforts we have these days and the traps and tools. Jim was still coming along when he could and was a great help in getting things together to make it possible to trap the Ninemile. I just wish he hadn’t falling asleep on the camera when I went swimming, lol. Right now I’m
just doing clean-up on the Ninemile looking for a few strays I may have missed. Soon the USDA APHIS guys will come in and blow the dams to get this creek flowing again. I ended up taking out eighty-five beaver as of this writing this spring
with the total taken out of the Ninemileat 148. My best day was nine beaver when my Dad was along; that was quite a workout.It was a rewarding experience throughout the spring as hard as it was at times, but it was well worth it. At least that’s what I tell my stiff back. Stay tuned for some blasting video of the dams and what some of it looks like today a year after the blasting.
Sometimes the going was rough going getting into every nook and cranny
Starting out there was still ice on some of the river, had to break my way through
Dam being blown
The blasts make some awesome pics
Not bad for a day
Typical first check for a lodge
One of the last beaver taken in that stretch
Sandhills setting up camp
All paddle power in here
My son along
Enjoying the ride
Seen lots of sights like this