The Outdoorsman: Learning to trap by snaring Mom

Chuck Carpenter

I had the best parents any kid could ever have. My dad and mom spent every minute they could with me and my two brothers. Most of the time we were fishing, hunting, camping, trapping and things like that. When my dad was working, my mom was with us most of the time. She should have a big blue ribbon with a gold medal on it just because she had the stamina to put up with the three of us.

In the early 60’s, we lived in Alaska. My parents rented a place out of town so us kids had plenty of room to roam around and hunt and fish. Just like most of the places out of town, the house was heated with wood. We either had a spring or hauled water and, yep, we had a outside toilet as most places had at that time, at least out of town.

My dad was working for the US Fish and Wildlife Services helping livestock producers that were losing livestock to predators. Some of the problems were caused by bears. At the time the Regional Director for the program flew up from the Regional Office in the States to visit with my dad about coming up with some type of a foot snare to catch bears instead of using traps. After he flew back to the lower 48, my dad spent a few days in the shop working on foot snares. Within a few days he had a few proto types he wanted to try out. He would set them and put his arm or foot in them to see how they worked and go back to the shop and tweak them then try it again.

My two brothers and I were always interested in trapping so we were ready to help when we could. He would set a snare and we would volunteer to step into it. It was great fun.

One morning Dad left early and after breakfast my brothers and I were outside hanging out like we did most of the time. We were close to the shop and all Dad’s new foot snares were hanging on the side of it. We heard the house door close and we looked toward the house and there was Mom headed for the ole outhouse. We all looked at each other and smiled. We had just thought of a wonderful way to really test Dad’s new foot snares.

Ole Mom went back in the house so we grabbed a couple of the new foot snares and sneaked over to the trail that went from the house to the outhouse. Two of us went to work setting up the snares while the third kept an eye out for Mom. We slipped out into the brush where she wouldn’t notice us and patiently waited until she headed to the outhouse again. She was hiking right along when all of a sudden she stepped right where we wanted her to. There was a big puff of dust that flew into the air followed by a thump when the snare grabbed her by the leg. The next few moments was really exciting. I didn’t realize that ole Mom could jump that high. I think she went straight up to the end of the snare and then back down. I don’t think any of us boys realized what was really going to happen. We had never heard our mother use such language either.

We stayed hidden out in the brush for quite a while. Over the next few months we snared poor ole Mom many times. I will tell you, though, I think that’s how we were able to become proficient trappers. Each trip to the outhouse she was harder to catch than the last time. She was almost what trappers call “Trap wise.”

One evening after supper was over, my brothers and I was out in the yard and Dad approached us with a smile on his face. “I need to visit with you fellers a minute,” he said.

“You boys might want to cut your mom some slack,” he smiled and said. “She might chop off yur groceries if ya don’t quit snaring her on the way to outhouse!”

She never did chop off our groceries. We did slow down on snaring Mom. My dad always said she had as much to do with making us trappers as he did.

Chuck Carpenter, originally of Montana but now of Idaho, likes to hunt, fish and trap. He worked on a farm as a boy; then, as an adult, he took a job with the Department of Interior’s Animal Damage Control, now called USDA Wildlife Services. He ultimately became a district supervisor. He retired in 2011.

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