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Plan Of Campaign


The first thing to be considered in reference to a campaign is
the selection of a trapping ground, and it is always desirable
to choose a locality where travel by water can be resorted to as
much as possible. Otter, mink, beaver and muskrat are among the
most desirable game for the trapper, and as these are all amphibious
animals, a watered district is therefore the best on all accounts.
Lakes, ponds, and streams, bordered by wild woods, form the best
possible grounds for general trapping, and the mountain lakes of the
Adirondacks and Alleghenies, and all similar regions are especially
desirable on this account. Almost any wild country, intersected
with streams, lakes, and rivers, is apt to abound with game, and
some trappers confine their labors to the borders of a single lake,
and adjoining forest. This plan is especially to be recommended to
the amateur, as much of the travelling to and fro can be done by boat,

the labor being thus much lightened. Having decided upon the seat
of operations, the young trappers should immediately set to work
at building their shanties and boats. The home shanty is of the
greatest importance, and should be constructed first. Select some
flat bit of land near the water and clear it of brush wood, or
other rubbish and proceed to work as described on page 242. A good
axe is the only tool required by an experienced trapper in the
construction of such a shanty. Should the trapping lines be very
extensive, additional bark shanties, page 245, will require to
be made at intervals along the line, for sleeping stations and
shelters in case of storm. The professional trapper generally attends
to the building of his shanties and boats before the trapping season
commences, and thus has everything in readiness for his campaign.
If in a birch bark country the Indian canoe, page 260, is the most
desirable craft, on account of its lightness and portability. The
dug-out, or bateau, described on page 259, will also do good service.

The trapping season begins in October, and everything should be
in readiness at this time, so that the trappers may devote all
their time strictly to business.

The route of the professional trapper often extends over fifty
miles, and the number and weight of traps and provisions which
these rough-and-ready individuals often carry as personal luggage
is most astounding. Fifty or sixty pounds apiece is considered a
fair burden, and they deem no one a fit physical subject for a
campaign who cannot at least manage thirty pounds with comparative
ease. The number of the trapping party generally consists of from
two to four. A few days prior to the opening of the trapping season,
the party start out, laden with their burden of traps and provisions,
and deposit them at intervals along the line, the provisions being
mainly kept in the home shanty. Several trips may be necessary to
complete these preparations, unless the trapping ground is readily
accessible by wagon or boat, in which case the transportation is
much easier.

The home shanty is generally built only when the trapping grounds
are far in the wilderness, miles away from civilization. If the
line extends from the outskirts of some town or village, such a
hut may be dispensed with. It is used principally as a storehouse
for furs, provisions, ammunition, tools, and other valuables, and
also serves as a point of rendezvous, or a home, for the trappers,
one of the number being generally left in charge to keep shanty
while his companions are on their tramps in search of game. If
desired, a boy may be taken

along for this especial purpose. In every case, some such guardian
is very necessary, and particularly in wild districts, abounding in
wolves and bears, as these animals have an odd trick of breaking
into unguarded shanties, and often make sad havoc with its stores.
Steel traps are almost exclusively used by the professional trapper,
and the supply for a single campaign will often exceed one hundred
and fifty. Many of the traps described in the early part of this
work are also used, and for the amateur who has not the ready cash
to layout in steel traps, are decidedly to be recommended and will
be found very efficient. From thirty to fifty traps would be a fair
number for an ordinary amateur trapping season, and the probable
cost of such a lot would be from $15 to $25. The sizes of the traps
will depend upon the game sought, No. 2-1/2 being a good average.
With this supply, relying somewhat on dead-falls, twitch-ups, and
the various other devices described in our early pages, we can
guarantee lively sport, of course, presuming that good judgment has
been used in the selection of a trapping ground. In later articles,
under the proper headings, we give full details concerning food
and cooking utensils, shelter and bedding, as well as many other
requisites for the trapper's comfort. To complete the list he should
provide himself with a good sharp axe, and hatchet, and if the
log canoe is in anticipation he will also require the other tools
mentioned on page 259 an oilstone being carried in order to keep the
various tools in good repair; an auger, saw, and some large nails are
also to be desired, and a small parcel containing needles, thread,
pins, scissors, etc., will be found indispensable. Cleanliness is
next to Godliness, and there are no more luxurious necessities
in camp life than a piece of soap and a clean towel. For light it
is advisable to carry a supply of candles, or a lantern with a can
of oil. The latter is, of course, more bulky, and for a campaign
wholly on foot is hardly to be recommended on this account.

Each trapper should be provided with a stout jack-knife, pocket-compass,
and a supply of matches, a number of these being always carried on
the person to provide for the emergencies to which the hunter is
always subject.

One of the party should carry a double-barrelled shot-gun and another
a rifle, or both may be combined in a single weapon. A revolver
is also a desirable acquisition. Purified neats-foot oil should
be used on the fire-arms, and in lieu of this, some trappers use
the melted fat of the grouse for the same purpose. A good supply
of fishing tackle is almost indispensable, and

with these valuable equipments the young trapper may defy the wilderness
with all its hazards. With his traps, gun and rod, together with his
store of provisions, he may look forward to a larder well stocked
and may calculate on an appetite which will do it justice.

The list of portable provisions and cooking utensils best adapted
for a campaign are given under their proper title, and will be
found to cover all the wants of the most fastidious. The stove
is the most cumbersome article, but trappers generally dispense
with its use altogether, looking at it rather in the light of a
luxury as well as a nuisance. The open camp fire will answer every
purpose, both for cooking and for comfort in cold weather.

For clothing it is desirable to carry at least two suits, in order
to have a change. They should be of woolen, and from the hunter's
point of view, should be of a sombre shade, so as to be as inconspicuous
as possible. The use of high-top boots is to be deprecated, as they
are tiresome and unwieldy. Short boots, with thick, iron-pegged
soles, are generally preferred by trappers, and in order to render
them soft, pliable, and waterproof they may be soaked or smeared
with a hot mixture, composed of one part rosin, two parts beeswax,
and three parts tallow. Simple tallow, or even the fat of the deer,
is sometimes used for the same purpose.

Calculating on a successful campaign, a supply of board-stretchers,
page 273, will be needed for the curing of the skins, and if our
adventurous enthusiasts should extend their experience along into
the winter, the toboggan and snow-shoes will come into good use
for convenient winter travel.

The trapping season properly commences in October and ends in April.
The pelts of fur bearing animals are in their best condition during
this time, and in the winter are in their prime. The various modes
of setting and baiting traps for all our leading animals are clearly
set forth in another part of this volume. And in the accompanying
engravings will be found life like representations of each species.

In a trapping campaign it is an excellent plan to select a central
point for the home shanty, extending the trapping lines in several
directions therefrom, following the borders of the lakes or streams
for the otter, beaver, mink and muskrat; and setting a few lines
inland for the capture of martens, racoons, foxes, etc.

For an amateur campaign this a most excellent and convenient

arrangement, the lines may extend all the way from one to five miles
each, and connect at their edges, the whole ground plan resembling the
form of a wheel, the shanty corresponding to the hub, and the trapping
lines the spokes, the tire representing the circuit connecting the
various lines. Where the latter extend over many miles it is well
to construct bark shanties at the limits. Let each trapper take
a certain spoke, and follow it to its terminus, returning on the
adjacent line. On his arrival at the shanty he should immediately
set to work skinning the animals taken, and stretching their furs.
Full directions for skinning the various game are given under their
respective titles, and the curing of skins is treated in detail
in another chapter of this work. We also present a table of the
comparative values of the various American furs at the present
date of publication. Of course these values are constantly varying,
but the table will serve at least to gauge the relative values
of common and scarce furs. Great care should always be used in
removing the skins from the various animals, as the final value
of the fur much depends upon this. They should not be removed from
the stretchers until perfectly dry, and should then be laid in a
cool, airy place. When near a village or settlement it is advisable
to send into town every few days with a batch of furs for safe
keeping, and particularly so when the skins are valuable, and in
cases where the home shanty is left unguarded. The value of prime
otter or mink pelt is a matter of no small importance, and a good
trapping ground furnishes a rare field for light fingered prowlers
who are well posted on the market price of raw furs, and who are
constantly on the lookout for such prizes, either in the shape
of the prepared skin, or on the back of the live animal. These
trap robbers, or poachers, are the pests of trappers, and many
have learned from dear experience the advisability of placing their
choice furs beyond the reach of the marauders.

The hut in which they are stored is nearly always kept guarded,
and, where this is impracticable, the skins are hid in hollow trees,
or carried to some near settlement, as we have already mentioned.

If the campaign proves successful and promises well for another
season, it is customary to hide the traps beneath rocks, thus saving
the labor of a second transportation. In order to keep the traps
from rusting, it is well to cover them with oat or buckwheat chaff.
The rock should be first rolled from its resting place, and a bed
of the chaff made beneath it, in which the traps should be covered,
the rock being afterwards replaced. In a few such

places all the traps may be effectually stored away, and they will
be found in prime order and ready for business on the following

In the months of September and October trappers are much annoyed by
gnats and mosquitoes, and, as a preventive against the attacks of
these pests, we give on page 255 some valuable receipts, which have
stood the test of time, and are still the most effective remedies.
The smudge, consisting of a smouldering pile of birch bark is
also used where the insects infest the tents or shanties by night.
The bark should be dry, and should not be allowed to blaze. The
smudge is generally placed at the entrance of the tent, and the
trapper may then take his choice between smoke or mosquitoes, both
cannot exist together, and a tent infested with the blood-thirsty
pests may be effectually cleared in a few minutes by the introduction
of smoking brand for a few seconds. If the tent is now closely
buttoned and the smudge kept burning directly outside, there will
be no further trouble with the mosquitoes, and the odor of the
smoke is, after all, but a slight annoyance and to some is even
enjoyable after being once accustomed to it. When the home shanty
is infested, it may be cleared in the same way, and by the aid of
two or more smudges on the windward side may be kept free from
the insects.

Next: Food And Cooking Utensils

Previous: Shooting And Poisoning

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