Land Cruising - Prospecting:
Poor Man's Ore Mill
Prospecting For Fur
Prospecting For Pearls
Prospecting For Bees
Rations And Camp Cooking
Guns, Axes And Packstraps
Building Cabins, Tanning, Etc
The Red River Trapper
Read More Articles About: Land Cruising - Prospecting
Prospecting For Fur
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Land Cruiser and Prospector who spend many months each season in the woods and upon the plains are pretty well posted upon the best sections for game, fur, feathers and fish. Some of this class follow trapping to a certain extent while others do not. It is the latter class that give away much valuable information to the trapper.
Throughout the West and Northwest prospectors pay considerable attention to minerals as there are no doubt many times as many undiscovered mines as are known and being worked. The prospector for fur in these sections is a prospector for minerals as well. Some of the richest mines in America were discovered by prospectors looking up marten and other fur animal signs.
The successful trapper is the one who looks up his grounds-prospects-months in advance of the trapping season. While civilization ruined trapping in many parts of the United States and Canada in others it is about as good as when the Indians alone inhabited America before the coming of the White Trapper.
It is true in many of the older states the larger and more valuable fur bearers, such as beaver, otter, bear, marten, raccoon and fisher are gone, but in their stead the smaller fur bearers such as mink, muskrat, skunk, red and grey fox are still there some having increased with civilization.
The impression among many trappers is that to secure furs in paying quantities they must get far away from civilization and into the forests of Alaska, Northern Canada or the Rocky Mountain sections of the West and Northwest-ern parts of the United States. With the exception of a small per cent. of professional trappers who catch marten, lynx, black, silver and cross foxes in the little known sections, the majority of the large catches are made by trappers in the swamps of the South and Southwest while in old settled sections like the New England states some fine catches are made each season. In parts of New York and Pennsylvania more fox, mink and skunk are caught than generally supposed.
Along the marshes of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia large quantities of muskrat are annually caught. Other good rat producing sections are Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and the lake region of Canada.
Mink and raccoon are perhaps most plentiful in the swamps of the South -Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, ect.—while beaver and otter inhabit waters as secluded as possible from civilization. Bear are found in the mountainous sections of a great deal of the country, but their exact location each fall, in numbers, depends upon the mast. Marten and lynx are great rabbit devourers and are generally found where rabbits abound.
From this it will be seen that the "Prospector for Fur" should get busy weeks, if not months, in advance of the active trapping season. The professional trapper can tell by passing through a wooded section whether it is "rich in fur bearing" animals or not. Sign on logs of recent droppings, feathers where some animal has recently feasted, as well as many. other signs are plain to the experienced. Along the streams a glance is sufficient to reveal whether beaver, otter, mink or muskrat are there.
The best time to prospect for beaver and otter signs is in the early spring before the leaves are out and vegetation helps shield slides of otter and the beaver lodges. If the prospecting is done in the spring the trapper has months to get ready for the next season's campaign. other good time to prospect for water animals is early fall. Signs at that time will be more plentiful and unless the prospector is an experienced trapper will over estimate the amount of fur.
If beaver there will be cuttings in the water and on shore and probably dammed houses near; if otter their slides will be found but probably not until after considerable close observation; their dungs which is often largely composed of fish scales, is generally discovered near their slides; mink follow close to the water's edge and their tracks reveal their presence ; muskrat either have dens in the bank or build small dome shaped houses of weeds, grass, etc.
If you want to trap bear, keep a lookout for logs torn apart. This is the work of bruin hunting ants and other insects. While bear signs may be very plentiful in September and October, by November they den up in the more Northern sections for the winter. Of course the time of their denning up depends upon the weather, but in most sections they travel but little after snow comes.
The trapping of wolves and coyotes has be-come quite an industry in many parts of the United States as there is a state bounty as well as ranchers' bounty in some states. In Michigan we believe the state pays $25.00 and the county $10.00, making $35.00 bounty on a wolf scalp. Some of the western states pay a liberal bounty to which add the ranchers or stockmen bounty and the wolf catcher secures about the same as in Michigan. Wolves and coyotes are distributed in more or less numbers in nearly all states West Mississippi River.
The "prospecting" for a good wolf country means a great deal to the "wolfers." If a good wolf country is located the "wolfers" generally wait until the pups are born and secure the bounty on their scalps as well as the old ones. Of course the bounty is not so much on pups.
Many methods are adopted by the "wolfers" in locating dens. Those who have long been at the business know the kind of country they breed in, which is in caves, large dens, etc., found in the roughest places as a rule. Dogs are some-times used. At other times the hunter or trap-per conceals himself and watches the surrounding country. They generally use a field glass. It is pretty certain that when an animal is seen it is either coining from a den or going to one. Pups are generally born the latter part of March or fore part of April.
The "Prospector for Fur" has almost all of North America as his field. While in some of the older states the larger fur bearers are gone, yet there are parts of nearly every state where there is more or less fur. To find the best sections in the thickly settled states requires "prospecting."
In the Far North Northern Canada there are more valuable fox than any other part of the continent, although some good specimens of both black and silver are caught in Southern Canada and occasionally in the northern part of the United States. The fur-producing area of Canada that has been little "prospected" is still large about half as large as the United States. In addition to the several kinds of fox there are marten, mink, lynx, fisher, wild cat, bear, wolverine, weasel, otter, beaver and rat. In the southern part there are coon and skunk. This is the settled district.
In that part of Canada say three hundred miles north of the United States there is probably not more people than there is in a couple of cities the size of Cleveland, Ohio, but the territory is as large or larger than all of the United States east of the Mississippi. It is so cold and summers so short that it can never be farmed to advantage and unless something unforeseen happens will be the home of fur-producing animals for ages. This territory today contains some Indian trappers and a few professional white and half-breed trappers.
The trapper who has always lived in the South had best not "jump" to far North at once for the change will be too great and the cold too severe. The same conditions apply to the Far Northern trapper who goes South. If the move is say from one to three thousand miles the climate will be entirely different.
The fur prospector as a rule will look over grounds but a few hundred miles off and to a great extent the methods used are the same as they have been accustomed to. If the trapper in Northern Canada should try the swamps of the southern part of the United States he would encounter different trapping conditions and probably be attacked with fever. On the other hand, should the Southern trapper try his hand for a season in the Far North he would probably become discouraged at the deep snows and intense cold. During the winter months all traveling is done on snow shoes over snow from two to ten feet deep. All things considered, the trapper who traps in states whose climate he is accustomed to, will fare best.
There is no one section where all fur bearers, both land and water, are found in numbers, al-though in the Northwest, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia nearly all are found in some sections of the states and province named.
Generally speaking the Southern and South-western States are the best for mink, coon and opossum. These states also furnish a good many otter and considerable quantities of beaver. Such states as Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia and Virginia are good opossum producing ones. They also furnish considerable quantities of coon, mink and skunk. The states from New York and Pennsylvania west to Kansas and Nebraska which include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are good skunk states. All the Rocky Mountain States contain more or less bear, mountain lion, foxes and wolves and the Northern States are the home of marten in fairly good numbers. White weasel are found in all Northern States as well as throughout Canada. Mink are pretty generally distributed over all of North America; marten and fisher in the high wooded and sparsely settled regions.
Those who expect to make a paying business at trapping must prospect whether they expect to locate in the Far North and trap fox and marten or the plains for rat, mink and skunk or in the Southern swamps for coon and mink.
There are sections where fur-bearing animals are found in greater numbers than generally supposed, but it is not the purpose of this book to locate them, that is for you to investigate prospect. As a hint the following is given : Successful trappers as a rule do not give away the location of their trapping grounds. The looking up of trapping grounds in advance of the active season is really one of the most important things for the trapper. Before grounds are located nothing can be done towards active preparation for the season. When the grounds are located there is plenty to do such as building cabins and constructing deadfalls, if you expect to make a good catch. Supplies must also be gotten before the active season begins.
If trapping in a settled section, look up your "sets" and have traps ready. Also make arrangements for lodging if you wish. Some trappers, however, prefer to keep the fact that they are trapping in any place as quiet as possible which is not a bad idea.