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, bord
red 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.