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The Fox


Foremost in the list of animals noted for their sly craft, and

the hero of a host of fables and well-authenticated stories, in

which artful cunning gains the advantage over human intelligence,

Reynard, the fox, reigns supreme. There is scarcely a professional

trapper in the land who has not, in his day, been hoodwinked by the

wily strategy of this sly creature, whose extreme cunning renders

him the most difficult of al
animals to trap. The fox belongs to

the Dog family, and there are six varieties inhabiting the United

States. The red species is the most common and is too well known

to need a description here. The Cross Fox considerably resembles

the above, only being much darker in color, the red hair being

thickly speckled with black. This species varies considerably in

color in different individuals, often much resembling the red variety,

and again approaching nearer in color to the Black or Silver Fox.

This variation, together with the name of the animal, has given

rise among trappers to the wide-spread belief of the animal being

a cross between the two species which it so nearly resembles. It

seems to be a permanent variety, however, the term cross being

applied, we believe, on account of a dark marking on the back,

between the shoulders of the animal, suggestive of that title.

The Silver or Black Fox is the most beautiful and most rare of the

genus, and yields the most valuable fur produced in this country.

Its color is black, with the exception of the tip of the tail,

which is white. The Prairie Fox is the largest of the species. It

inhabits the Western Prairies, and in color resembles the common

red variety, only being a trifle yellower.

The Kit, or Swift Fox, is smaller than the Red, and abounds in the

Western States.

The Gray Fox is a Southern variety, and is very beautiful. It is

less daring and cunning than the Common Fox, and seldom approaches

a farm-yard, where it is in close proximity to a dwelling.

The general habits and characteristics of all the foxes are similar.

For natural cunning they take the lead of all other animals. They

are all built for speed, and their senses of smell and hearing

are acutely developed. Their food consists of wild fowl of all

kinds, rabbits, squirrels, birds and their eggs, together with

many kinds of ripe fruits, sour grapes not included. They live

in burrows, often usurped, or crevices between rocks; and their

young, from three to nine in number, are brought forth in March.

We are strongly tempted to narrate a few remarkable instances of

the animal's cunning, but we forbear for want of space. Our reader

must take it for granted that when he attempts to trap a fox, he

will be likely to find more than his match in the superior craftiness

of that animal. If the trap is overturned and the bait gone, or if

repeatedly sprung and found empty, he must not be surprised or

discouraged, for he is experiencing only what all other trappers

have experienced before him. There are instances on record where

this knowing creature has sprung the trap by dropping a stick upon

the pan, afterwards removing the suspended bait to enjoy it at

his leisure. His movements are as lithe and subtile as those of

a snake, and when cornered there is no telling what caper that

cunning instinct and subtlety of body will not lead him to perform.

When pursued by hounds he has been known to lead them a long chase

at full speed up to the crest of a hill: here he leaps a shrub,

swiftly as an arrow, and landing on the ground on the opposite

declivity quickly returns beneath the brushwood and crouches down

closely upon the ground. Presently the hounds come along in full

cry, and blazing scent they dart over the shrub in full pursuit,

dash down the hillside, never stopping until at the bottom of the

hill they find they are off the trail. As soon as the hounds are

passed, sly Reynard cautiously takes to his legs: creeping adroitly

back over the brow of the hill, he runs for a considerable distance

on his back trail, and at last, after taking a series of long jumps

therefrom returns to his covert at leisure. Page after page might

be filled to the glory of this creature's cunning, but enough has

been said to give the young trapper an insight into the character

of the animal he hopes to victimize, and prepare him for a trial

of skill which, without this knowledge, would be a most one-sided


We would not advise our young amateur to calculate very confidently

on securing a fox at the first attempt, but we can truthfully vouch

that if the creature can be caught at all, it can be done by

following the directions we now give.

One of the most essential things in the trapping of this, as well

as nearly all animals, is that the trap should be perfectly clean

and free from rust. The steel trap No.2, page 141 is the best

for animals of the size of the Fox. The trap should be washed in

weak lye, being afterwards well greased and finally smoked over

burning hen's feathers.

All this and even more precaution is necessary. No matter how strongly

scented the trap may be, with the smoke, or other substances, a

mere touch of the bare hand will leave a human scent which the

fox perceives as soon as the other, and this is enough to deaden

his enthusiasm over the most tempting bait.

On this account, it is necessary always to handle the trap with

buckskin gloves, never allowing the bare hand to come in contact

with it, on any account, after once prepared for setting.

Before arranging the trap for its work, it is necessary to construct

what is called a bed. There are several methods of doing this;

but from all we can learn from the most experienced trappers, the

following is the most successful. The bed should be made on flat

ground, using any of the following substances: Buckwheat chaff,

which is the best, oat, wheat, or hay chaff, or in lieu of these,

moss or wood ashes. Let the bed be three feet in diameter, and an

inch and a half in depth. To insure success it is the best plan

to bait the bed itself for several days with scraps of beef or

cheese strewn upon, and near it. If the fox once visits the place,

discovers the tempting morsels and enjoys a good meal unmolested,

he will be sure to revisit the spot so long as he finds a free

lunch awaiting him. When he is found to come regularly and take

the bait, he is as good as caught, provided our instructions are

carefully followed. Take the trap, previously prepared as already

described, chain it securely to a small log of wood about two feet

long. Dig a hole in the earth in the centre of the bed, large enough

to receive the trap, with its log, and chain. Set the traps, supporting

the pan by pushing some of the chaff beneath it. Now lay a piece

of paper over the pan and sprinkle the chaff over it evenly and

smoothly, until every trace of the trap and its appendages is

obliterated. Endeavor to make the bed look as it has previously

done, and bait it with the same materials. Avoid treading much

about the bed and step in the same tracks as far as possible. Touch

nothing with the naked hands. Cover up all the footprints as much

as possible, and leave the trap to take care of itself and any

intruder. If our directions have been accurately followed, and due

care has been exercised on the part of the young trapper, there

is every probability that the next morning will reward him with

his fox. But if a day or two elapse without success, it is well to

resort to the scent baits described on page 149. Take the trap

out of the bed, and with a feather smear it with melted beeswax,

or rub it with a little Oil of Rhodium, Assafoetida, or Musk. Oil

of Amber, and Lavender water are also used for the same

purpose by many professional trappers. These are not always necessary

but are often used as a last resort, and will most always insure


Another method of baiting is shown in our page illustration opposite,

and consists in suspending the bait by a stick in such a position

that the fox will be obliged to step upon the trap in order to

reach it. The bed should be baited in this way several times before

the trap is set. This method is very commonly employed.

Another still, is to bury the dead body of a rabbit or bird in

loose earth, covering the whole with chaff. Sprinkle a few drops

of Musk, or Oil of Amber over the bed. After the fox has taken

the bait, the place should be rebaited and the trap inserted in

the mound and covered with the chaff, being scented as before.

Some trappers employ the following method with good results: The

trap is set, in a spring or at the edge of a small shallow brook

and attached by a chain to a stake in the bank, the chain being

under water. There should be only about an inch and a half of water

over the trap, and its distance from the shore should be about

a foot and a half, or even less. In order to induce the fox to

place his foot in the trap it is necessary to cut a sod of grass,

just the size of the inside of the jaws of the trap, and place it

over the pan, so that it will project above the water and offer

a tempting foot rest for the animal while he reaches for the bait

which rests in the water just beyond. To accomplish this device

without springing the trap by the weight of the sod, it is necessary

to brace up the pan from beneath with a small perpendicular stick,

sufficiently to neutralize the pressure from above. The bait may

be a dead rabbit or bird thrown on the water outside of the trap

and about a foot from it, being secured by a string and peg. If

the fox spies the bait he will be almost sure to step upon the

sod to reach it, and thus get caught.

If none of these methods are successful, the young trapper may at

least content himself with the idea that the particular fox he is

after is an old fellow and is not to be caught with chaff or

any thing else,--for if these devices will not secure him nothing

will. If he is a young and comparatively unsophisticated specimen,

he will fall an easy victim to any of the foregoing stratagems.

Although steel traps are generally used in the capture of foxes,

a cleverly constructed and baited dead-fall such as is described

on page 113 will often do capital service in that direction. By

arranging and baiting the trap as therein described, even a fox

is likely to become its prey.

To skin the fox the pelt should be first ripped down each hind

leg to the vent. The skin being cut loose around this point, the

bone of the tail should next be removed. This may be done by holding

a split stick tightly over the bone after which the latter may be

easily pulled out of the skin.

The hide should then be drawn back, and carefully removed, working

with caution around the legs, and particularly so about the eyes,

ears, and lips when these points are reached. The skin should be

stretched as described on page 273.