Thankful Outdoors: Responsible Trapping and Watching Deer

Thankful Outdoors: Outdoor Journal Weekend Activities

October 24th – Setting trapline

Out of all the outdoor hobbies that I do and share, trapping is the one that I’m the most novice. This season is only my second year of running a trap line. My definition of a trapline is minimal compared to many that I follow on the Wisconsin Trappers Facebook page.

Fisher Trap

Bryce, Connor, and I head out to my parents’ place to set for raccoon and fisher. Bryce drew a fisher tag this year, and it will be our main focus of the trapline this year. One of the most amazing facts about a fisher is that it makes the shortlist of being a predator to a porcupine. The other animals considered predators to porcupine are lynx, bobcat, coyote, wolves, great horned owls, and mountain lion. That seems like quite a list of sport team mascots, often determined to be fierce or forceful symbols. I don’t know of any sports team known as the fishers, though! As teams are going through decisions of changing mascots and team names, they should consider fisher as a possibility.

The afternoon started with us gathering tools, scent, and lures to be used in the sets. The boy’s noses wrinkled when I let them take a good whiff of the skunk essence that would be used as a calling lure at the fisher sets. A calling lure does just that; it calls or “draws” the target species into the area where the trap is located.

The type of set that I prefer to use for fisher is an elevated bottom entry enclosed set. This means that only the fisher can enter the trap by climbing the tree and accessing the set through the bottom. I prefer this set because it provides a very safe and targeted approach to only trapping a fisher.

One of the lessons taught in the trapping education class was to be a responsible trapper, using proper set techniques to prevent or avoid incidental catches. There are many regulations in trapping that pertain to how, where, and when you can set a trap. These regulations were created to create a safe and responsible sport of trapping.

For some of my trapping activity, I even run on public lands, so I do mostly water sets, and the trapline is never located on or off any major walking trails. I also don’t usually start to trap until after the rifle season. I do all of this because these public lands are shared resources among more than just trappers. I want to do as much as I can to avoid catching a family pet while doing an activity that I enjoy to help keep the predator numbers aligned with proper land carrying capacity.

October 25th – Set out a few more traps and pursue whitetail in the snow

Sunday morning, we decided to make another fisher set in the swamp. I told Bryce I recall a spot when I had been grouse hunting a few years back in the winter, where I had found lots of fisher sign.

Snowy view from treestand

This set was the perfect location because when the boys would be at their mom’s place, it would be within walking distance for them to check. Almost all trapping activity requires a daily check of the traps. Trapping is an activity that is timely and costly to pursue. The time and cost combined with the low fur prices are why many trappers have hung their steel up. The only thing that I’m looking for as an ROI on this hobby is making memories and learning a skill.

We went to check the traps by parents, no raccoon had been caught in our dog proof traps or also referred to as DP traps. The fisher sets we had made we empty also.

After having some lunch, Connor and I got ready to bow hunt the swamp for the evening. It was going to be Connor’s first solo sit with a bow this evening. The snow was starting to fall gently as we loaded up our gear. It was a slow and peaceful snowfall.

I was not meant to be in a tree that night; I had forgotten my climbing sticks, so I wasn’t able to get into a tree that evening. That was fine; there was an old ground blind made from stacked up logs that I would use as my cover for the evening sit.

As we got Connor into his stand, I pulled the SD card from the trail camera. Connor had several bucks showing up on camera and some pretty darn nice bucks at that. I had explained to Connor where to watch for deer and pointed the what would appear to be a pretty active scrape within shooting distance of his treestand.

As the evening went on and darkness was approaching, my bow and gear continued to get covered in snow. I had a doe walking down a runway at that 30 to 35-yard mark; I drew back on her but held off on releasing my arrow. She kept looking behind her and acted like something else was coming through the woods; this was a sign to me. I waited and kept looking to see if a buck was in pursuit of this doe. She eventually wandered off and got too far away to make a good ethical shot.

About 45 minutes to an hour later, I noticed another deer in front of me feeding in the distance. I watched this deer feed its way towards Connor’s location. As I sat there watching this, all I could do was keep praying to the deer gods to let this nice heathy doe walk in front of Connor’s stand.

The woods soon erupted with several deer being chased by a buck; they headed in Connor’s direction. Just as it was getting to be quitting time, I heard a deer go crashing back into the woods; I had sent Connor a text message asking if he had shot. I got no response and could see his headlamp turn on. I walked over to him and asked, “did you get a shot?” He excitedly said, “Dad, I was so close tonight, had nice doe at 20ish yards; I couldn’t draw my bow back though because my safety harness was in the way.”

I had felt bad that I did not educate Connor on the proper placement of his safety harness; it’s something that I had overlooked in our conversations. My main focus has always been wearing your safety harness.

We had a fun night watching the deer and knew that the rut activity is getting closer and closer. Looking forward to next weekend and getting back into that area to hunt again.

In closing, I hope you find a way to get into the outdoors, create your adventure and memories, but most importantly, find a way to “Celebrate the Experience.” Go check out www.thankfuloutdoors.com for more content and share your “Celebrate the Experience” moment with us!

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Scott Hopperdietzel
Author: Scott Hopperdietzel

Scott Hopperdietzel is the creator of an outdoor blog named Thankful Outdoors. He shares his passion for the outdoors with readers. The focus of the blog is to “Celebrate the Experience” in his stories; you feel what the connection to the outdoors means to him. His goal is to inspire others to get into the outdoors and create their own experience. Along with writing, he is a father to three boys who are often part of the adventures along with the family Weimaraner, Boone. You can find his writings on the website www.thankfuloutdoors.com or follow his social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.