Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Coyote Trapping During the October Early Season

           Predator control (primarily for coyotes) has an extremely positive impact on whitetail deer survival rates. As such, every sportsman should do their part to help keep this wilily invader on the retreat. While many sportsmen pursue coyotes with firearms, luring canines into range with bait sites and wounded rabbit calls, another effective means of controlling this predator is by trapping.
Traps allow for the “passive” taking of game animals, meaning that traps work while a sportsman is involved doing other tasks. For the busy sportsman, running a short trap line consisting of half a dozen traps makes sense. The only constraint on time being that Maine law stipulates that traps must be checked every 24 hours to ensure a trapped animal is not left to suffer. While technically classified as a “passive” means of catching and killing predators, a person thinking of trapping coyotes should understand that this is a challenging endeavor. I like to describe trapping as a sport simple in principle but complex in the undertaking.
            To begin with, those new to trapping should start with a good solidly build leg-hold trap. For the money, there are few traps better designed and simpler to use than the #3 Bridger dog less coil spring trap with off set jaws. This sized trap is practically guaranteed to have enough strength to hold even the largest Maine coyote. Traps need to be secured to the ground or a tree using stakes or cabling to prevent trapped coyotes from dragging the traps into the wilds and never found. Traps, connectors, stakes and/or cabling will all need to be “dipped” to prevent rust, I suggest using “full metal jacket”, as this product is easy to apply and works very well.
Prime areas to place traps include abandoned skid roads, game tails leading in and out of fields, old sandpits and dried up creek beds, all make great spots to trap coyotes. Gravel pits like the expansive pit bordering Route 9 in T31 (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 25, A-4), the roads surrounding the Great Heath (Map 25, C-3) in Columbia Falls and the extensive network of roads surrounding the blueberry barrens in T24 (Map 25, B-3) all provide almost limitless opportunities to trap coyotes.
Once a suitable location has been found, a trapper needs to make some type of “set” to lure the coyote into the jaws of the trap. While dozens of books and videos have been made showing how to trap coyotes, for me, I prefer the tried, true and simple method of constructing a dirt hole set. The dirt hole set is simply a hole in the ground with the trap positioned in front of it. The trap should be securely fastened to the ground with a stake or cabled to a nearby tree so that the animal cannot escape. Once the trap is set, it should be carefully camouflaged with sifted soil and blended into the forest floor using pine needles and leaves. Some type of bait is then placed in the hole. When the coyote comes close to investigate, SNAP, he is trapped.
The early coyote and fox trapping season runs from October 16 to October 29, 2016, while the general trapping season for coyote and fox as well as bobcat, marten, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon, red squirrel, skunk, weasel runs from October 30 to December 31, 2016.

Scout Bobcats with Game Cameras Now, for Winter Success
Sportsmen looking for a unique challenge should try their hand at hunting bobcats. Being primarily nocturnal, sporting a well-camouflaged coat and possessing the ability to sit motionless for long periods of time, bobcats are elusive creatures and despite years in the woods, many sportsmen have never seen a bobcat in the wild. This leads some uninformed individuals to believe that bobcats are rare or endangered. Scientists, however, estimate bobcat populations to be quite large, with as many as two-thousand existing in Maine and close to one million bobcats in the United States.
Most harvested bobcats are incidentals, shot while hunting other predators like coyotes so to specifically target bobcats; hunters need to know the particular habits of these crafty and methodical felines. To be successful, hunting bobcats, hunters must identify areas where cats are concentrated. The first tactic to employ when hunting bobcats is to locate where they are hiding.
Game cameras provide a viable means of tracking the movement of bobcats and while October may seem early to begin scouting, the last two bobcats I shot were initially seen in game camera photographs taken during the early fall. While I was originally attempting to capture deer movements, seeing these capable deer killing predators on my property lead me to devise a plan to hunt them during the open season running December 1st to February 14th. While territory sizes vary widely for bobcats, measuring up to thirty-six square miles for males to about eighteen square miles for females, I knew that it would be highly probable that a bobcat seen on camera during the summer would likely be prowling nearby come December.
Bobcats have short attention spans, when it comes to erratic prey sounds, so an effective technique employed, to call them to within shooting range, is to turn on an electronic call and letting it play constantly. Popular sounds for luring bobcats into shooting range include a variety of bird and rodent distress noises with wounded woodpecker being a personal favorite. Because of this, electronic calls are superior for bobcats, over hand held calls, as they alleviate the necessity of the caller to attempt to blow on a call for long amounts of time.
Motion decoys also work well for cats as they rely on their eyesight more than their noses when stalking prey. Decoys need not be overly complicated and can be as simple as a turkey feather or tin can lid suspended from a tree branch with a piece of thread and allowed to move in the breeze.
Success at calling in a bobcat is an incredible undertaking and any sportsman able to accomplish the feat certainly deserves a pat on the back. The Stud Mill Road parallels many swampy spruce thickets that hold healthy populations of small game and are magnets for bobcats. Past favorites include the area surrounding Monroe Lake and Monroe Brook and stretching north up South Brook and the Little River (Map 25, C-4, C-5).

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