Trapping Stories 3 : Trapper Mac Safety First
Article Posted: April 23, 2013
Author: Mike McAlpin
It was a warm fall morning. A steady drizzle had started up making the trail impassable for the truck. Trapper Mac loaded up on supplies for the hike down the ravine. He grabbed a can of, Jack Mackeral, his raccoon scent bottle and his rubber gloves. He closed the truck door and headed down the narrow trail. He was headed toward a couple coon sets near a creek at the bottom of the ravine that was running into Clearwater Lake.
As he approached the first set he could tell he had a coon in it. The 3/30 Conibear had done its job well. A big boar coon lay dead in its neck breaking jaws. Trapper Mac opened the jaws and rolled the coon over, this would bring top dollar. His pelt was thick, full and very dark. He laid the coon next to the trail as he reset the set.
He used a metal bar on a hinge to assist him in squeezing the difficult springs on each side of the square trap. The trap was designed to have the animal stick it's head into the trap, trigger the springs and snap around it's neck. The intent to either break the neck, killing it instantly or at a minimum suffocating the larger animal. It was very effective and very difficult to set because it's springs were so strong. It literally snapped that big boar coon's neck like a twig.
Once he got the spring down, he used a safety holder to hold the spring in position, then switched to the other side and got that spring down. Trapper Mac was pretty dang good at setting these Conibear's and he skipped the safety latch on this side of the spring because once down he could grab the swing arms and fold them back and hold the trap set with one hand while he set the trigger with the offhand. It was faster than setting both safeties.
Once the trap was set, he made sure the chain was still secure. It was, it had been secured to a sapling with a wire lead twisted tight with pliers. He set the trap in the spot it had been, poured some Jack Mackeral right under the trigger and dipped a few small twigs in the scent.
He headed to the next set which was just across the creek in a small alcove carved out by a dead fall tree along the creek bank. Here too, he knew he had a coon, his trap was gone. This trap, a conibear as well would most assuredly send the animal into the creek once triggered. If the neck wasn't broken, it would certainly drown the animal in short order. To help, a twenty pound weight was attached to the end of the lead and hidden below in the water.
Mac reached into the creek and pulled up another boar coon. Slightly smaller than the other one but again, perfect fur. He quickly removed the animal, waded to the near side of the creek and tossed it up onto the trail in the area of the big boar he left on the trail. He waded back to reset the trap.
As before, quickly he pulled the spring together, set the safety, moved to the other side, as he pulled the arms together with his hand he released the set tool and the safety on the one spring. As he did so, he leaned in to clear some debris away from where he was going to put the trap and his glove slipped ever so slightly. SLAP!! The trap swung free and slammed shut.
Mac grimaced in pain as the trap slammed shut on him. This was a trap that could easily break the neck of a forty pound raccoon, and Mac had just trapped himself. As he struggled with the instant pain he lost his footing and fell into the creek. The creek carried him downstream rapidly. The fall rains having swelled the banks and sped its current.
With one hand trapped to his side and the other free, he was able to keep his head above water, barely. As the creek wound he looked frantically for a place to get out at. That didn't happen, not until the ride ended at a small sand bar where the creek spilled out into the lake. Choking on the water he had inhaled Mac coughed and spit wildly.
Once out of the water he realized his ordeal wasn't over by a long shot. There was still a 3/30 conibear attached to him. He surveyed the damage. His hand was caught by the glove in the spring itself, he could pull that free by tearing the glove, which he did to free both hands.
The problem was, the trap's jaws were set securely upon his belly as it overhung his belt. A full fistful of belly was trapped. The only saving grace was his jacket was in the way as well. He grabbed the springs on each side and squeezed... he couldn't budge the springs. It hurt so bad every time he moved the trap, the pain was excruciating. He lost his spring tool in the creek, there was no way he was getting this trap off his belly. He hoisted up the weight at the end of the line and headed back up the creek.
As he scrambled up the creek to the trail he was forced to negotiate saplings, deadfalls, and very uneven ground as he trudged his way to the trail. All the while with a conibear trap hanging off his belly and a twenty pound weight in his hands. Mac made the trail and then hiked up the trail to the truck.
From inside the truck, listening to the radio I heard him coming before I looked up to see him. A sight to behold actually. Here came Trapper Mac, soaking wet from head to foot, a steel weight in one hand, a conibear dangling off his belly in the other hand and the worst look of pain on his face I'd ever seen. My mouth hung open in the instant of eternity that I didn't know how to react. Then Matt giggled. I couldn't help it, I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. Then Mac bellered: "Get your asses out her and get this off me". We ran to his aid as fast as we could.
330 Conibear Trap with its 10" x 10" jaw spread
Matt grabbed one spring I the other and with two hands each we managed to open the trap enough for Mac to get out. As soon as he got out he stripped off his jacket and wet shirt. "I don't think it got me too bad, mostly my jacket," he said.
"Dad, look at your belly", Matt said. We all looked, it was horrible. It was already black, it was a deep black bruise about ten inches long and two or three inches wide. On top of that he had a stick hanging out his back where it must have stabbed him as he plunged into the water.
His reaction was typical. "OK, let's get out of here. You two run down there and get the two coon we got. Then we will run home and change clothes.
The scar on his belly lasted about a month. We all laughed about him trapping his belly for a long time. The stick in his back created a cyst that had to be surgically removed. The moral of the story... Use the spring safety clamps when setting conibear traps.
More Trapper Mac Stories
Thanks to PaulSteinJC for use of the raccoon photo.
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