By Chuck Smick
Tom Beaudette, from Model, Colo., is the owner of High Country Control.
He is an animal damage control (ADC) trapper and fur trapper with over 41 years in the ADC and fur trapping business.
I’ve had several conversations with Tom over the last several months, and our schedules finally allowed us to do an interview by phone recently.
He has worked in federal, state and private animal damage control programs in his home state of Colorado, and has fur trapped in New Mexico, Texas, Alaska, Nevada, and Idaho during his career as a trapper.
Tom has formulated his own lures and baits that can be used in all types of weather, and can withstand hot and cold, snow, rain and dry conditions.
This has allowed him to trap many tough-to-catch coyotes, beaver and other critters that were causing depredation or damage to landowners’ property; or state and federal property over the years.
Tom and I discussed what a fur trapper could learn from an animal damage control trapper, during our conversations.
I asked Tom what a fur trapper could learn from an animal damage control trapper, which would help the fur trapper catch more fur in any area of the country.
Tom said: “ADC trappers have to learn very quickly about a particular animal that is causing damage, and work harder to catch the particular animal to stop the damage.
“The ADC trapper has to learn about the particular habits of an animal, such as specific travel paths and patterns, how a particular animal works a set, and determine if the animal is aggressive or skittish, so he can take advantage of those habits to catch it.”
Animal damage control trapping is a year-round effort in most cases, and ADC trappers have to constantly learn from their quarry, to be able to adapt and successfully catch them as quickly as possible.
Fur trappers can take a clue from this and learn a lot from their chosen quarry, also.
ADC trappers are exposed to more animals, in a greater variety of terrain, and have the opportunity to learn more about animals, their habits and habitat than most fur trappers.
This exposure is due to year-round efforts to stop damage by animals that are killing livestock or damaging property.
Exposure to more animals is the key to learning about the animals, and learning ways to take advantage of their habits to catch them in the shortest period of time and minimize the landowner’s losses.
Fur trappers can pick up this additional knowledge from ADC trappers that offer personal instructions, books and videos if they will take the time and effort to learn from these men.
Fur trappers can learn in the same manner, by spending more time in the field throughout the year, studying animals all year long, not just in the fall and winter.
Animal travel patterns and habits change, as the season changes. A fur trapper that spends time in the field year-round can pick up this extra knowledge about animal habits and travel patterns, which can help him, put more fur on the stretches each season.
According to Tom, animal damage control trappers experience a lot of pressure from landowners, or government agencies to stop the animal damage quickly.
Whether a rancher is losing thousands of dollars worth of lambs or calves, or beaver have a major road flooded, the pressure is always on the ADC trapper to stop the damage, and get it done quickly!
The pressure is ON when the trapper spends two or three weeks trying to catch a specific animal, and livestock is being lost nightly.
I asked Tom, “What are some of the things a fur trapper can do, to increase his success and catch more furbearers?”
Tom said: “Good equipment and good lures and baits will help trappers become more successful at catching most animals, and especially coyotes.”
Coyotes are one tough animal, when it comes to equipment. These animals fight a trap constantly, and can damage or destroy traps that are not up to the ABSOLUTE POUNDING a coyote can give a trap!
I’ve experienced this myself, when I had fox traps destroyed in the early 1980s. I didn’t realize there were coyotes in the area where I was trapping in Kentucky when I was stationed there with the U.S. Army.
Tom said: “Good lure and bait will increase a trapper’s catch substantially, when used correctly at sets.”
A good lure or bait will last days and weeks at the set, and still attract animals despite weather changes and large amounts of precipitation.
Successful usage of lure and baits entails placing the bait and lure so the animal must work to get at the smell. Good lure and/or bait will cause the target animal to intensely work the set harder and longer, and give the trapper a greater chance to catch that animal.
They will dig, rub on and urinate on the set. These same lures and baits will cause the animal to bite and attempt to eat the bait or lure, also.
This type of reaction will hold a target animal at the set, and cause them to work the set until caught, as long as the set is made properly and the trap is bedded properly.
Lures and baits designed and developed for other animals will cause intense reactions at your sets, also; with the same purpose… to attract the animal at the set and cause the target animal to work the set until it is caught.
These are the requirements you need to be looking for, in the lures and baits that you purchase. If an animal only gives the lure a quick sniff and leaves, either the lure or bait isn’t of high quality or it is the wrong time of year for that particular lure or bait.
Another factor is, have you tested it long enough to determine the lure or bait’s value as an attractor? This needs to be done, to determine a lure’s attractiveness to animals in your area.
Good lure and bait does not work miracles, though, you have to make a quality set, on location, with good equipment to catch the animal.
Lure and bait can pull animals only so far. If the wind is wrong, no matter how good the lure or bait is, they cannot smell it up wind.
There can be other stimuli in an area that can cause an animal to ignore your sets, also, which I experienced recently on my trapline.
I was trapping an area for coons recently, with high quality lures and baits. I knew my baits were attractive to coons, but my sets were near deer feeders.
The coons ignored my sets for several days, and trail camera footage revealed this. The coons went to the scattered corn on the ground, walking right by my sets a few feet away.
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However, they finally couldn’t resist my offerings and I was able to catch them.
The same thing could happen on your trapline, and you may need to adjust your presentation to account for other stimuli or food sources in the area.
You may need to ad visual attractors, place lures up off the ground to pull animals from a distance or add additional sets to account for the change in wind direction or shifting wind currents in the area.
Any change that will increase your chances of catching the animals is what you are seeking to accomplish.
Tom said that listening and looking for what is going on in your trapping area will help you catch more fur. Some of the information provided above will help you get started in the right direction.
Become more alert, look and listen to what is happening in your trapping area. Weather changes, hunting seasons starting and stopping, additional food sources and other factors will influence how animals locate and work your sets.
Make notes on this information, so you can capitalize on this and catch more fur. Being an adaptable trapper will help you improve your fur catch.
I asked Tom what advice he could give to a fur trapper during our conversations. Tom said that besides using good equipment, lure and bait, using a clean setting cloth was important when pursuing hard-to-catch animals, especially coyotes.
A clean setting cloth or heavy piece of plastic helps keep human odors off the set location and can be carried off by the trapper.
Reducing human odor at sets is as important in catching trap-wise animals, as it is when you are pursuing that trophy buck, bear or bull.
I personally wash my trapping clothing in scent-eliminating laundry detergent and bathe in scent-eliminating body wash, just like I do before going deer hunting.
I practice good scent control techniques during the trapping season for the same purpose: reducing human odor at my sets.
Tom passed on some other advice as far as using bait and lure. He recommended using natural bait at sets, when you are targeting trap-shy animals.
Natural baits are attractive to predators and are not as apt to produce lure-shy animals in your trapping area.
Tom also suggested that trappers should not over-use a particular lure or bait in an area; but use a variety of lures and baits, and sets so animals do not become wise to your sets and methods. This is important, especially when it comes to trapping coyotes.
These animals often hunt as pairs or small packs in many cases. The coyotes can associate lure odors with their trapped relatives and avoid sets made with the same lure or bait.
Tom said that coyotes have outstanding noses and trappers should avoid over-luring sets; this is especially important in milder weather.
He gave some examples of his sets being covered with two feet of snow for a couple of months, and having fresh caught coyotes in those sets when the snow melted off.
I have experienced similar actions by coyotes on my own line years ago, so I can attest to that fact!
Catching bobcats can be challenging in some areas, too. Tom gave some advice on catching bobcats: use a good visual attractor at your sets, and use quality bobcat urine on the backing.
Cats use their eyes to locate and catch prey, and a good visual attractor will catch their attention and pull them into your sets.
Cats also like to check out others of their own kind, and urine and droppings add a lot of appeal to cat sets. As a sidebar, Tom stated that intense coyote control will help the bobcat and gray fox population in your area.