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Frozen waterway

Waterways become highways for wildlife once they are frozen.

Hello friends,

Last spring I applied for a permit to trap fisher in Wisconsin’s southern zone, which includes Juneau and Wood Counties. I received a permit, and for the last month I attempted to catch a fisher by using 160-body-grip traps.

In the end, my trap line included 12 sets, was spread out over 58 miles, and was more of an outdoor adventure than an attempt to make a dime, as you are only allowed one fisher, and if I caught one, I planned on doing a full-body mount.

Thursday, Dec. 13

High 30, low 16

I would start my trap line near my house, and the furthest set would be 28 miles away on the Jackson, Wood and Juneau county lines. Other than a dozen hikes in either forests or on frozen dikes, I would be using my pickup.

In reality, fisher trapping for someone like me is more of a way of checking out nature in the winter and getting a lot of exercise, and I was a winner either way. If I harvested one, I would have a very unique mount in my living room. If I did not harvest one, I would not have to come up with the money for a taxidermist.

Today I made six sets, and each was a cubby set, which can either be made with a bucket and bait inside of it, and a trap at the entrance, or by digging a hole in the ground with the same theory.

I have to admit that I saw a lot more otter sign than fisher sign, and I had an otter tag, but decided not to use it, as the fur price is very low for otter, and I have a 57-inch otter on my wall.

Trapping fisher in either the big forest, or by foot travel on ice, is physical and a constant education. If you have snow that will allow tracks, every day is a new day, as the wolf, deer, otter, fisher, weasel, mink and beaver all leave tracks.

This year we had either excellent ice for foot travel or very scary ice, which means you better know how to get out of the ice if you fall through. Another very interesting part of trapping in very remote country is making sure that you do not get your truck stuck. Much of the time I was driving on gravel or sand roads that were snow-covered, and if you go in a water-filled ditch, you have a pretty good-sized problem.

I consciously practiced by driving in two wheel drive as often as possible, and I have to admit this made me a better off-road driver.

The fisher season ended on Jan. 6, and I personally do not see why it cannot go until at least February. Trapping keeps men and women outdoors and in touch with nature. With the winters that we have these days, December often has unfrozen back roads or very scary ice to negotiate, and with a limit of one animal that most trappers do not catch, I say let us keep trapping.

One day I saw where several otter had been catching mud minnows. The mud minnows like open water and the otter just hang out by the open water, eat their fill, sleep and eat more.

I saw a very large otter — generally they average 38-45 inches — and I have to admit that I really wanted to lay some steel, but I told myself, “maybe next year,” when the money train comes back to town, and it will be a super big otter.

The last two weeks I had 12 sets out, and trail cameras by two of them. Other than a raccoon, I did not get a decent picture.

Three years ago, while in very remote country, I got my left hand caught in a 330-body-grip trap (beaver size). Getting my hand out of that trap before my hand was dead on the scene was a lesson in not to panic, and use your knee and other hand to get free.

Two years before that, I smashed that same hand in a wood splitter, and broke three fingers. This winter that hand is starting to show signs of those injuries, and my guess is they will become more evident as time passes.

I wish fur prices would come back. I set my first trap as a very young boy and love this outdoor sport.

Stay active, you will have no regrets!

Sunset