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  • Trapping

    Catching Critters

    One season that gets very little fanfare in South Carolina is trapping season. The season runs from January 1st through March 1st and a special “fur harvesters” license is required. The license is $25 and allows the license holder to trap foxes, coyotes, bobcat, skunk, otter, beaver, weasel, raccoon, opossum, mink, and muskrat. The licensee can then sell the pelts or the whole animals.

    At one time pelt prices allowed a man to make a nice supplemental income, but nowadays trapping in South Carolina is done more to remove predators of quail and turkey from hunting grounds. These pesky furbearers can literally destroy nests, eggs, and live quail and young turkeys and can keep the population of these birds down to virtually unnoticeable numbers. If you fail to see turkey or quail on your property, chances are good that you could very well benefit from trapping these predators and removing them from the picture.

    I recently went trapping with Pee Dee-area hunting guide John Coit, and we had a little success. John showed me the process of setting and baiting a trap, and then we checked about a dozen traps he had set the day before.

    Looking for sign is a good way to pick out a spot to set a trap. The better you are at reading sign, the better chance you have of setting a trap where you want to catch a certain animal. The traps are soft-jawed traps that clamp down on one leg but are not strong enough to crush the leg. This allows you to set the animals free if you wish. Apart from selling the hides, live coyotes and foxes can be sold to operators of hunting-enclosures, where the animals are set free to be hunted in the future.

    Upon finding a good spot to set a trap, John pushed a short piece of rebar into the ground, creating a small hole that he baited with a little fatback and some commercial attractant. He then drove a small anchor with a 12-inch cable into the ground. The cable was then attached to the trap which was spread open and carefully buried. The idea, of course, is for the animal to put it’s snout into the baited hole, stepping on the trap in the process. John uses small sticks and other debris to clutter the area, hoping the animals will avoid those and step right where the trap is set. It doesn’t always work out, and he notes that while most of the animals are “right-footed,” the occasional “left-footed” one will thieve from him without setting off the trap. This and other details make it a bit of a mind game between human and prey.

    The day I trapped with John, we checked a number of traps that were undisturbed, a couple that had been cleanly stolen from, and caught two raccoons. He had also caught two foxes before I arrived. The raccoons were quickly dispatched to be sold, and John had made arrangements to carry the foxes to a hunting-enclosure operator. In days of yore, these few trapped furbearers would have paid the bills for him, but the demand for the product just isn’t there anymore. He made a little bit of pocket change, but he said that’s not why he does it anyway. He is committed to helping increase the population of turkeys and quail on his hunt club property, and removing their most prevalent predators from the scene is the best way to do that.

    Brian Cope
    SC Sportsman Field Representative