School Days: Mink Rancher Offers Muskrat Opportunity

Mink Rancher Offers Muskrat Opportunity

Riley Johnson
Medford, Wisconsin, Age 15

Last season was my first try at trapping. With little help — and almost an obsession for it — I started out, learning as I went.

I had to go to school on opening day, and after I got home, I didn’t have time to make any sets. I was anxious to start, but I waited until the weekend. Then, when Friday rolled around, my boss called and said I had to work Saturday.

I work on a mink ranch owned by George Kalmon.

On Saturday morning, I showed up for work at 7 a.m. I started putting skinned mink on the boards to dry. Then, about 8 a.m., George showed up to see how we were getting along. For reasons I don’t remember, he mentioned having muskrats in a pond behind his house.

I spent all day thinking about those muskrats. After work, I talked to him and asked him if I could trap his pond. He said I could, but only on the condition that I showed him what I caught.

We shook hands and I headed home with dreams of catching muskrats.

The following Saturday, I showed up for work with a pail full of trapping supplies. After work, I punched out, picked up my bucket and headed to the pond.

When I got to the pond, I saw there was ice on the surface, and I tread lightly around the edges. Apparently, I wasn’t careful enough and ended up falling in. Twice.

With wet legs, I headed to the other side of the pond to set up feedbeds and runs.

I saw five lodges and found holes in the ice where the muskrats had been climbing on top.

I walked out to the holes cautiously, and the ice held. I chopped off the layer of ice over a hole and found thick sticks to shove in the springs of my #110. Then, I placed the trap down the hole.

The next day, I couldn’t wait to get home from church to check my traps.

When we got home, I encouraged my dad to take me there quicker by saying we could eat on the way there.

Soon, my dad and I were walking back to the pond. We didn’t find any ‘rats in the #1 and #2 foothold traps I had placed on drowners. But then, we went to check my bodygrip trap on the other side of the pond.

I still don’t know who was more excited about me pulling up the only muskrat of the day. It got my dad hooked on trapping.

The muskrat had a thick coat and weighed 31/2 pounds. I sold it in the round to my local fur buyer.

I’d like to thank my boss, George Kalmon, for letting me trap on his land, for keeping me obsessed with trapping and for getting my dad hooked so bad that he’s itching to come with me next year.

Win Traps and a Membership for Writing:

Young readers who share their stories in The Trapper & Predator Caller can win six traps, a trapper education video and an NTA handbook. A membership to their state’s trappers association or a membership to the Wisconsin Trappers Association for nonparticipating states is also included.

To be considered, send a 300- to 500-word story and a clearly focused original photograph of the trapper or hunter with a catch, kill, fur or trap to: School Days, The Trapper & Predator Caller, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990.

The best stories capture the excitement and joys of trapping and predator calling experiences.

School Days is sponsored by Duke Traps and the Wisconsin Trappers Association.

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