Editor’s Call: Losing Can Be Good

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Trappers can learn a lot by considering other opinions


Trappers like to argue, and one of the most common things we argue about is the “right” way of doing things. The thing in question doesn’t matter much — making a dirthole set for coyotes, waxing traps, making bait or laying out your trapline. All you have to do to get an argument started is come up with a topic like those and express your opinion on how it ought to be done. Before you can get a cup of coffee poured, any number of folks will come along to tell you how wrong-headed you are.

That can be aggravating, but what can be even more aggravating is that very often, these folks are right. I’ve been in this game a long time now, and over the 50-odd years I’ve been planting steel, I’ve been proven wrong so many times I can’t remember them all. Or maybe I just don’t want to remember them all.

The advent of the so-called dog-proof raccoon trap was one such time. I can remember very clearly not many years ago telling anybody who would listen that the DP would never catch as many ’coons as bodygrippers in buckets.

Boy, was I wrong. Just about as wrong as I’d been six or seven years before that, when I was going around telling everybody that bodygrippers in buckets would never catch as many raccoons as foothold traps.

I’ve finally gotten most of the egg wiped off my face, and nowadays, all three systems have a place on my traplines. I use footholds, buckets and DPs, because none of the methods are perfect, and none of them will catch every raccoon that walks by. But each of the three has its place, and a wise ’coon trapper will use them all.

In another arena, I just recently shook off the shackles of mediocrity and am finally — well into my seventh decade on this planet — learning to be a decent bobcat trapper. You can read about that elsewhere in this issue, but here it is in a nutshell: I knew there were good ’cat trappers out there, I knew they made sets specifically for bobcats and I knew they used lots of tricks to catch the attention of their targeted species. Yet I continued to plod along with my one-set-fits-all predator trapping style, using the same set over and over again to target coyotes, foxes and bobcats.

Yes, I caught bobcats. No, I was not a good ’cat trapper.

I’m still not a good one, for that matter. But someday I will be, and when that happens, it will be because I changed my way of doing things. In other words, I lost the argument.

What’s the point? Just this: Your preferred way of doing things on the trapline might feel comfortable, but it might not be the best way to get the job done. Listen to those other arguments. Keep an open mind. Never hesitate to try something new. Maybe it’ll be a bust, but maybe it’ll help you become a better trapper.

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.

december-2013-tpThis column appeared in the December 2013 issue of Trapper & Predator Caller.

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