The sun was just beginning to have an effect on my ability to see as we rolled up to our first set location of the day. I was riding along with a local trapper from Frenchtown, MT for a story and to learn the secrets of one of the most successful bobcat trappers I know. The Trappers name is Red, a nickname he’s carried since his earliest days trapping with his uncles.
With a worn and tired look he stepped out of the truck to look over a sprung trap. Deer had walked through the area and sprung the trap as evidenced by the tracks in the snow. Day 28 of Montana’s region 2 bobcat season was a snowy one and ten inches more of the white stuff were being called for by the weather man.
A combination of forest service roads and private lands were covered in Red’s pickup truck that banged and rattled as the snow piled higher the deeper we went into the forest. When the right ridge or valley was approached we jumped out of the truck and hiked, sometimes only 50 feet and others nearly a half mile. The locations were specific and picked based on years of experience knowing where a bobcat would cross. Big trees and cubbies were baited with lures and baits of a secret origin.
Road after road and set after set, hour after hour. Trappers work hard from daylight until dark and then sometimes keep going only to return to the woods the next day. Worn hands and tired feet keep the trappers going physically but something else keeps them going mentally. Is it the money they might earn for their incredible work ethic? Is it the thrill of killing? Perhaps it’s the anticipation of success. I doubt it’s any of these. It goes deeper than any tangible attribute or urbanite definition. It’s the raw and natural fire that burns in trapper’s bellies. It can’t be adequately described, but that fire fuels the trapper to press on.
One more trap in deep snow. A steep draw with thick trees building snow falls and a branch is moving. The weight of a bobcat pulling on a chain alerts Red that his set has worked to catch bobcat number five after 28 days of travelling roads and studying tracks. Heavy traps and waxed dirt carried with lures and baits to the perfect tree has paid off in a philosophical sense.
I mention to Red that anti-trappers have said that trappers pursue bobcats to “earn a quick buck”. He smiles an exhausted smile and we wonder where the quick went.
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