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WOODS: Today is the 24th of January and we’re here at The Proving Grounds where I live in Branson, Missouri and Bill and I are getting ready to go run our traps. We have about 39 traps out. These are just cage traps; little box traps or traps called Lil Griz. We’ll show them to you and how they work and our mission right now is to catch raccoons and opossums or skunks. All three very big nest predators. I love turkey hunting. I love hearing turkeys and seeing turkeys, so I want to remove them and take less competition out for turkeys.
WOODS: All right. We’ve come to our first trap. We call this Mailbox. It’s not too far off my driveway. We’ve got 39 out and we’re one for one so far. Now, those odds will drop really quickly. A good day would be, you know, 20-30% of our traps. 30% would be huge. 20% is great. Sometimes 1% is good, depending on the weather. We’ve got one coon in here. You can tell the door is down. I want to be careful because coons are super quick, lightening quick and a vicious predator. I know why they kill so many turkeys, adult and poults and eat the eggs, because man when you come to a coon like this; he’s getting fired up now. I would rather come up to a bobcat or a coyote in a trap than a coon. Because a coon wants to get me. He wants to eat me. They're super fast; razor sharp teeth, so be careful. Don’t be sticking your fingers in there trying to be a man, because you’ll come back with a nubby trigger finger. We’ll start calling you nubby if you start sticking your fingers in a coon trap. So, we’re gonna dispatch this coon and then I weigh and sex them all and keep a record. And I’ve noted here at The Proving Grounds with years and years of trapping now, over 200 critters, that we catch a big portion of males. I think we’ve removed a lot of females, but predators way more than deer, move in. If you create a void, remove a bunch of predators, don’t think, “Well I’m good for four or five years.” Because, again, I’ve been removing about 50 predators, bobcats, coyotes, coons, opossums, couple skunks, couple foxes, every year for four years. This is the fifth year. Now, we’ve already caught 30 this year, after four years of removing 50. And our turkey population has absolutely exploded and we’re seeing some quail now, so, you know, coons are nocturnal. Rocky’s starting to come to, he, he’s eyeing me here. He’s thinking about making a charge, but this metal will stop him or I’d be scared. We’re seeing a big response in our game. And for those of you who aren’t trapping because right now pelts or fur prices are really low. Trappers are not motivated to go trap for money because they’re getting a dollar to two dollars per coyote. Not much more or less for a coon, so they can’t pay for their gas. If you're really trying to increase the number of deer or turkey on your land, you're gonna have to pay the trapper or do what I do and learn how to trap yourself. Coons and opossums are easy. Coyotes and bobcats are a little tougher. I’m getting growled at here. I’m getting a little nervous.
WOODS: Raccoons don’t truly hibernate. But they will certainly wait out a long, cold spell, you know, zero or teen temperatures in an old hollow tree or den tree or cave or something for several days in a row. They may not move for several days in a row. And if that’s the case, when they do move, usually, you have a pretty good catch that day. And that’s what we hope to experience.
WOODS: All right. Let’s go put him in the bucket and do another one.
WOODS: So, one down for today’s trap run.
WOODS: We have traps spread out over about 1500 acres here at The Proving Grounds. We have 39 traps out. Uh, it takes a lot of time to run a trap line. That’s the only negative. It’s inexpensive, it removes predators, you get to learn a lot about all critters, because you're seeing deer and turkey and trails and sign and evidence and if you can get good enough to make a predator stick it’s hand in a little two inch circle, you can figure out how to pattern deer. So, trapping makes me a better deer hunter. In addition, it makes my hunting better. It’s just a great all around scenario.
WOODS: This is trap three or four of 39 and Bill, who’s been running my traps for me while I’ve been out of town, has moved a few and is just doing an outstanding job, because you see now, we’ve got another raccoon. There’s a lot of turkeys that nest in this bottom. And when turkey’s are wet, they really smell. It’s, actually, it’s called the “wet hen theory.” Some guys from Mississippi State developed this years ago and a turkey will be up here on the ridge somewhere nesting and in the, of course, when it’s cold at night, that scent’s drifting down towards the bottoms and an ole’ coon just walking this road, he can smell every wet hen up there and go right to that nest and you know, eat all the eggs first night. May or may not kill the adult hens, so they're tremendous predators on turkeys and quail nests and will take, will eat a little fawn at that time of year if it stumbles on it. These are really strong predators. We’re gonna make fur out of him. We don’t just throw these away, by the way. We, we save the fur off of every animal we trap and have it tanned out. We use Moyle Tannery up in Idaho. Just great family business. Do a plush, wonderful job. Get them back and we either keep them or give them away as gifts or whatever. So, nothing’s going to waste here. Well, I gotta admit, now, Tracy, my wife, did not want to have coon for lunch today so the carcass may not be consumed on this coon, but the pelt is certainly going to be used, so I never mind running my traps because I want to see what’s in there and how the animals are responding to weather. Coons and predators respond a lot like deer. I mean, I’ll get up some mornings, and everything’s lined up, humidity, what-not. Rain coming in, whatever it is and I know my traps are going to be loaded. Other days, I know I’m not going to catch much. Just like deer hunting, you can learn a lot from trappers and reading the sign is really good training to be a good deer hunter.
WOODS: What have we got Bill?
BILL: Got a male, another male raccoon, weighs, oh, right at ten and three-quarter pounds.
WOODS: So just about the same size. Yearlings, again, we’ve trapped for several years in a row now. So, we’ve reduced the base population, but these yearlings keep dispersing.
WOODS: We weigh and sex all the animals we catch, because I’m keeping a running log over time. It just, you know, I’m a biologist. I’ve gotta have that data to play with. And it’s interesting to watch the trends. Over the years, the number of females we catch has greatly decreased. We’ve removed the base population of predators off our property. People think they can just have a trapper come in one year and really work it hard; they're good for four or five years. I’ve clearly proven here at The Proving Grounds, that’s not true. When we first started trapping we would catch about 50/50 sex ratio. Now, it’s predominately male, because constantly, you have these yearling males; raccoons, opossums, coyotes, bobcats, moving back into The Proving Grounds. We’re gonna have to trap every year to keep our predator population down.
BILL: My name’s Bill. And I currently live in Branson, Missouri with my wife, Marge of almost 33 years now. And I was born and raised in south Missouri. I’ve lived in southwest Missouri almost my entire life. I’ve been around trapping for many years and been around wildlife management for over 30 years. I find it very exciting to run the traps here on The Proving Grounds. I, I, I’ve been astonished at how many critters there are, even after several years of trapping out here and again, this year, we’ve been very successful.
WOODS: Just using dog food. Cheap dog food. Actually, the cheaper dog food tends to smell a little more and we want smell. And we always lay a little Hanzel and Gretel trail out there, just, you know, if they're anywhere in the neighborhood, they're gonna find that little trail and then they're gonna trail it into the bulk of the food, which is on the trigger of the trap. And then we set that, you want the trap very sturdy so it won’t be wobbling. When the coon steps in there, that would feel very unreal, if it was real wobbly. They like it real solid. And then Bill’s gonna reset that trigger so it’s a little bit more of a hair trigger. You don’t want it too hairy because sometimes, coons will step right on the top of your trap and set it off. So we set it where it’s, I guess about a medium trigger. You can see all that bait there on the, on the pan or the trigger on the back and set the latch where if he’s nuzzling around back there to go off, but if he’s just bumping it on the side or deer’s bumping on the side, it won’t go off, so. All right. Off to the next trap set.
WOODS: The end result of trapping, of course, is not just removing predators, but you get these great furs. And this is an opossum fur. Now, everyone makes fun of opossums. They think they're, you know, they're dumb and they're lazy. But I gotta tell ya, this fur is so soft and so pliable and my kids love them. My kids, of course, this is called case skinning where you just skin it like a, like a sausage wrapper, actually. But, my kids do the puppet deal with them, but, you laugh at that, but they take these to school. And my kids happen to be fairly popular in school, you know, they're swimmers and they're physically fit and they hunt and we have everything at our house that makes kids want to come over here. The basketball goal and games and snacks and all that stuff. And there’s a reason for that. Because we want to keep our kids safe. We want to know who they're messing around with. We want our house to be the central place for children. And we want to teach our kids about the outdoors. And if you’ve got some hides hanging around where they can touch and feel and ask questions, all of a sudden, hunters aren’t bad guys. Hunters are people that play basketball and take kids to swimming and have snacks in their house. What a tremendous way to introduce people that hunting is part of society. That’s it’s not a negative. Non-offset group. So there’s a real advantage to trapping and just having the hides skinned out. If you don’t have time, take them to a local taxidermist. That’s what I do. They’ll flesh them out. The leather is unbelievable. And then you can preserve the hides. Have a tan, a tannery preserve them. Look how thick the fur is on this raccoon hide. You know, and fur prices are horrible. No one’s trapping anymore because there’s no market for furs. But as decorative items, they're wonderful. So, trap for multiple reasons. It’s a great way to get your kids and neighboring kids involved in the outdoors.
WOODS: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.