Trapped By My Own Stupidity

I have a confession to make…something I’ve admitted to few people in my life up until now.   In fact, the little story I’m about to relate remains one of the most embarrassing moments in my sportsman’s career.   So why am I about to share this with you now?   Two reasons…first, as I reflect back now nearly 30 years later I have to admit it is rather funny.   Not to mention I also just finished reading about another outdoors writer who had the very same thing occur to him…almost down to the detail.   Somehow, I’m now taking some solace in the fact I have not experienced this life event completely alone.

What happened?   Well, during my second year of trapping (when I was about 14 or 15 years old) I actually trapped myself.   Due to my negligence and youthful inexperience of placing the trap…it released and my right arm happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   The jaws clamped around my wrist so tight I’m not sure if it was the surprise of the trap unexpectantly being triggered or the pressure it immediately placed on my wrist that got me most excited.

It happened like this.   I had just purchased a new Victor Conibear #220 trap for use during the water trapping season mostly for use on raccoons.   The conibear trap is intended to be a “killer style” trapping device because the springs release with such power and velocity that it will either snap the neck on the captured prey or it will eventually choke off the air supply.   It’s an effective trap when used properly, but it’s also a trap that’s not forgiving because of the nature in how it works.


As I recall the details…I had just gotten home from school and I rushed out into the woods to tend my trap-line.   On this particularly November evening, I decided to place my new trap in a promising spot.   For those who are not familiar with the operations of the trap, you will see there are two springs on either side of the device.   These springs have to be compressed together on both sides of the trap which is no easy task…at least not without the use of the proper setting tool.   The particular tool I used required BOTH hands to compress one spring at the time on either side…then you moved on to the other.   Eventually with both springs compressed…you can set the triggering mechanism to fire when an animal attempts to move through the square opening.

I had just finished driving a long stake into the hard ground to secure the trap when I foolishly decided that the triggering mechanism had some debris on it that had to be removed.   Instead of placing the safety catches on both of the springs…in my youthful exuberance I chose to carefully tempt fate.   SNAP!!!!    Before I could even react to the surprise of the device clamped on my wrist a flood of thoughts passed through my mind.   First and foremost was the thought of how I would explain breaking my wrist to my mother if indeed I had injured myself.   Secondly, my trapping buddy was due to come walking by on the river at any time and I most certainly didn’t want to have him see me in this predicament.

The problem is how do you release a trap from your arm when it ordinarily takes two hands to operate the springs in the first place?   Furthermore, when your hand is growing more numb with each passing moment and you are unsure if you have broken any bones…the situation seems to be quite desperate.

Well, after several agonizing minutes which seemed almost like an eternity…I finally used my free hand and a knee to carefully compress each of the springs.   Once free, I immediately laid on a log and dowsed my sore wrist into the cool running river water to help relieve the swelling.   Fortunately, the trap released shut on the narrow side of my wrist…because had it closed on my wrist turned at a 90 degree angle it most certainly would have done some damage to my arm.

As I recall it that particular trap did not see a whole lot of use for the remainder of that particular trapping season.   Oh sure, I did use it again in seasons to come…but I had a whole new respect for the conibear “body-gripping” style of trap.

Over the years I did share my mis-adventure of being trapped by my own trap with a few select friends…and of course they laughed quite heartily.   But to this very day I have not had the courage to tell my mother what happened for fear she might still somehow attempt to take my traps away from me.   You see…every night when I left the house heading for the trap-line she admonished me…“Don’t get hurt or I will take those traps away from you!”   To a young trapper…the only thing worse than being embarrassed by getting caught in your own trapset would be to lose the privileges to participate thanks to a parent who was concerned you might get hurt out just having some fun in the woods.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.