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The "Uphill" Trapping Adventures of Slim Pedersen

Mr. Slim Pedersen, who needs no introduction, was kind enough to write the following reminiscence about some of his early "uphill" trapping experiences.  Thank you Mr. Pedersen for sharing these great memories!

As I have been getting older I often find myself telling "back in the day" stories, so be prepared. This is probably going to be another one of those "had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, then uphill again to return home" stories. I have written several times about my very first trapping experience attempting to catch a skunk that was getting into the chicken house, so I will spare you that here. However, I will say that removing the big housecat from the trap, as well as the skunk that had sprayed me and everything else in the chicken house, was a bit of an "uphill" experience.

While I was hanging around in the local feed store a man brought in a few muskrats to sell.  Inching close enough to listen to most of the conversations, I heard the man tell another that he thought rock salt was the best bait he had used to catch muskrats with. Not realizing that the traps for muskrats should be placed under water, I made a set on dry land on the bank of a creek where I had seen muskrats swimming, and used some rock salt for bait. I caught a large skunk the first night. The skunk had at least drowned in the water, so I did not have to endure the smell of dispatching it anyway. The next night I caught a cottontail rabbit, then a porcupine, and after that the deer kept springing the trap. So I decided I needed to try something different. Hiding in some brush near the creek, I observed the muskrats swimming around just before dark.  One crawled up on a slight ledge, (uphill!) just under the water, on the side of the creek bank to eat some moss he had in his mouth. So I put my trap there and used some rock salt on the edge of the creek bank. I caught another skunk!

The next night it snowed and the creek froze over, and the trap was under ice. I was getting quite frustrated with the whole experience, but I broke away some of the ice and decided to try one more night. In the morning I had caught my first muskrat. I took the muskrat to the feed store to sell, but the man told me he would not buy it whole, and that I would have to skin and dry it first. I had skinned several rabbits to eat, so I took the muskrat home and proceeded to skin it like I had the rabbits—by slitting it up the belly. Then I tacked it on the wall to dry. When I again took it to the feed store to sell, they all laughed at me. (Dang, was everything always going to be uphill?)

A few days later, I caught a beaver in the small trap, and as I was approaching him he jumped into the water and I could not figure out how to hit it on the head to dispatch it.  But between the beaver slapping his tail and me striking the water with my club, I did manage to get very wet with the cold water. (Sure seemed like this trapping thing was always an uphill battle of some kind or other!)

A few years later, I caught my first bobcat under an over hanging sandstone rock and thought I had dispatched it with my hammer.  I threw it up higher under the rock where it was dry, away from all the mud and snow, while I was remaking the set. When I heard a low mumbling growl, I looked up into the eyes of the bobcat that had recuperated. I ducked, expecting to get bitten and clawed, but the cat jumped and landed on my back, then jumped off and ran away. (Yup, still uphill!)

Driving my old 47 Ford coupe car on a slippery county road, I was afraid I would get stuck in the mud, so I backed down the road and attempted to back into a field approach that was just past a metal cattle guard. Looking over my shoulder, and being careful not to back into the guard rails of the cattle guard, the front wheels that were cramped as I turned suddenly fell through the space between two of the rails of the cattle guard. The car was stuck better than if I would have gotten stuck in the mud! (And yes, dang it, it WAS a long uphill walk to go find some help!)

The first coyote that I caught was in a snare under a woven wire fence line, in a dig-under where the coyotes had been crawling through. It was a warm dry fall day, and I had walked down into the bottom of the drainage where the coyote had been caught. It was a steep UPHILL climb to drag the coyote back to where I had left my old pickup parked.

The first red fox that I caught was also caught in a snare under a woven wire sheep fence, and I had a long walk to get back where my pickup was. So without hesitating I draped it over my shoulders to carry, since I had snares in one hand and a roll of wire in the other, and only needed to hold the hind legs to keep it balanced on my shoulders. I do not remember if it was an uphill walk to get to my truck, but I soon learned how many fleas were on red fox, as I believe every one of them left the dead fox for easier pickings on me. I scratched uphill, downhill, and sideways!

I got stuck in a county road and had to walk almost thirty miles before anyone came along to give me a ride. Yes it was uphill, downhill, uphill again! The worst part was that it was late at night when I returned with help to pull the pickup from the mud, only the mud had refrozen in the dark, and I just drove the pickup away without needing to be towed. (Oh well, it would have been an uphill tow anyway!)

One spring I decided to attempt some serious beaver trapping after the fox and coyotes had started rubbing bad enough that the fur was not worth trapping for. I got plumb carried away, putting out leg hold traps, conibear traps, and snares for two days before I checked any of the traps. The first of checking traps I had caught ten beaver—the next day I caught eight more beavers—the third day I again caught ten beavers. Skinning, fleshing, and stretching on the few stretchers I did have, then putting the rest of the skinned (but yet unfleshed) hides into a deep freeze, I again caught seven more beavers. I pulled all the traps and snares the next day! I soon learned that I could catch more beaver than I could skin, stretch, and dry! (Yes, beaver trapping is a constant uphill work load!)

While trapping coyotes and bobcats in Colorado with a partner I saw several mink along a stretch of river, so I put out a few pocket sets and made several trail sets along the edge of the stream. I did not have any hip waders with me, since I was suppose to be trapping on land for the predators, but I did have rubber pack boots. One day while standing on the side of a steep slippery bank, stretching to reach a place to put a trap, my foot slipped down the steep bank and I fell into water up to my waist. Did you ever try to dry out a pair of felt liners under the blower of a heater in a pickup? Let me tell you that walking UPHILL to check traps set for bobcats was not much fun the rest of the day in below zero temperatures!

Another time I caught four fingers on one hand in a 330 conibear trap while attempting to remove a small bit of debris that had floated against the top of the jaws. The trap was fastened on the opposite bank, under water, around a large tree root that had been washed out. The creek had risen considerably, and I could not get to where the trap was fastened. I was standing on a slick bank. To shorten the story a bit, let me just say that while sliding down and climbing back up that slick hill, several times, I did somehow manage to get the trap off. However, I slid down often and had to climb out of the water UPHILL several times.

So let me end this story like I started it. Even though I only had to walk to school UPHILL one way, "back in the day", I did have to learn and experience trapping UPHILL both ways, and several other ways as well!

However don’t let me discourage you young and inexperienced trappers! Making mistakes and learning from them while you struggle uphill will be your best memories when you finally get around to telling your own "back in day" stories later in your life.

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