Editor’s Call: Keeping a Trapline Journal

A simple record of the events of your trapline can be a big help

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Ever since I started trapping, I’ve kept a daily record of the things that happen on the line. Not just a tally of the catch, but a brief accounting of each day’s events — seeing a flock of turkeys, finding an arrowhead, catching a double on otters, getting an opossum by the nose in a dog-proof trap or finding a ’coon track with a missing toe. Unusual and noteworthy stuff like that.

Keeping a running catch tally is definitely part of my daily trapline journal, as is recording the daily high and low, the weather in general and the moon phase. But keeping track of those things is secondary. I really do it so I can look back through the journal and jog my memory.

See, when a fellow gets older and has as many trapline miles behind him as I have, things start to run together. Past events get forgotten — even memorable ones. A trapline journal brings them back and makes them as fresh in your mind as if they’d happened this morning instead of 20 years ago.

How else besides reading my journal could I possibly remember that it was Jan. 11, 2007, when that stupid root broke off in my hand and I fell in the river beside the boat? Fact is, I’d almost forgotten I’d even done it until I looked through my old records just now. But after reading about it, I remember also that it was cloudy and misting rain that morning, and that the reason I was up on that bank in the first place was because I’d just remade a blind set after taking a big ’coon out of it.

I also remember how slowly that river water seemed to come up to meet me as I fell toward it, how cold it was as it closed over my head and how bad I was shivering by the time we got back to the truck. Those are pleasant things to remember when you’re sitting in a recliner in front of a lively fire.

How else besides reading about it could I remember that it was on the 10th day of the season last year when we got 4 inches of rain overnight? That translated into an 8-foot rise on the river, and we spent a long, difficult day fishing around for submerged traps. That, too, is a nice thing to remember when you’re warm and dry.

It’s not just bad stuff you remember, either. My journal tells me that in five consecutive nights at the same otter toilet, Bill and I once caught five furbearer species. They were a gray fox, a coyote, a bobcat, a raccoon and, on the fifth night, the otter we’d made the set for in the first place. I’d forgotten it, but journaling brought it back. I could take you to that spot tomorrow.

I suppose this journaling stuff is a natural by-product of my profession. I am, after all, a writer. But it’s not difficult, and I encourage every trapper to do it. It doesn’t have to be a piece of literature; just a straight-forward listing of the small and large events of your days on the line. Finding a shed antler or an arrowhead is as worthy of noting as a double on bobcats. And I promise you, if you don’t write it down, when you get to be an old crock like me, you won’t remember it.

Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.

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