More Bad Press For Trappers

Bill Marchel: Tragedy a cautionary tale for hunting dog owners |

About three weeks ago I wrote a rebuttal piece on a blog post written negatively about trapping. In that instance, the writer interjected misleading information serving only to further reflect negatively on the sport of trapping. In this article, Marchel reports on an equally negative situation involving trapping, but the story is written with greater fairness and a purpose to inform bird hunters of the potential dangers/actions necessary to take.

While I cringe each time I read something negative about trapping, as a trapper I accept it when the author's intent is sincere and not spiteful.

©2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Rubutting A Blog Post On Trapping

This blog post is in direct response to Bill Klein’s recent posting on Club Outdoors where he describes an incident involving his dog getting caught in a trap.   You can read his comments HERE in their entirety.

First off, I want to begin by saying that I deeply regret that Bill’s new black lab, Doc, got caught in a trap and that Bill had to endure this truly unfortunate experience.   I can understandably appreciate why he is upset about the events, however, I take great umbrage to the manner in which he channels his emotion.   Let me repeat so this is NOT FORGOTTEN.   I regret Bill had to endure this experience with his black lab and I do not want this statement lost in any of the comments I am about to make in this rebuttal.

I don’t know much about trapping but this much I do know:  whoever wrote the ad appearing in the DNR’s Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook teaching “how to release a domestic animal from a trap” has never actually faced that situation.

Bill, first off, the instructions featured on page 53 of the 2009 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook describes a procedure on how to release a domestic animal from a body-gripping trap (often called a Conibear trap).   The reason these instructions are even included in the synopsis is because this type of trap, when used properly, is intended to kill the animal that is caught.   In other words, time is of the essence in removing the animal and if you’re not familiar with the operation of such a trap this paid advertisement by the Minnesota Trappers Association offers some basic information towards that end.

…The Minnesota Trappers Association ad in the rule book says: Step One: Remain calm and speak soothingly to the dog.  There’s our first clue that the ad writer is clueless.

As a long-time member of the Minnesota Trappers Association I can assure you this assertion made on your part is totally without merit.   The leaders of the MTA are some of the most upstanding and experienced trappers to be found anywhere in this country.   Their advice is sound and proven.   Again, your leg hold trap shown in the picture IS NOT the same type of trap for which this paid advertisement explains a release procedure.   This should be evident by comparing the instructional graphics to your picture.

I ultimately had to leave my dog trapped, run home, get a bolt cutter and my tractor, cut the trap chain and carry Doc, with trap still attached, home in the bucket of my tractor.  A crow bar finally freed him.

With all due respect, as someone familiar with traps and trapping, your choice of actions were a gross over reaction in my estimation.   Cutting the trap chain and carrying the dog (with trap still attached) home in the bucket of a tractor—you really think these actions were necessary, not to mention safe for the dog?   Furthermore, the manner in which YOU CHOSE to handle this situation sensationalizes an already unfortunate incident.   Seriously, a “crow bar” to free your dog?   C’mon, Bill…if you used such equipment to open a leg-hold trap you likely inflicted unnecessary pain on your dog by attempting to pry the jaws apart.   I’m sorry if you couldn’t get the jaws opened by simply stepping on the release levers…but in my experience it takes very little effort or strength to accomplish this task.   Oh, and by the way…I have a trap shed with dozens of traps just like the one shown.   Many have 4–springs and not just 2 like the one that caught Doc.   I know what I’m talking about.

Next day I found the trapper and determined he had no license, no ID on his traps, was setting his snare traps far above 16” off the ground, was setting traps in deer trails and, finally, gave me a false name.

Did you call the Conservation Officer and get him involved?   There’s no mention of that happening in your story.   You state how you found the trapper and how you determined he had no license.   It just seems to me that had a CO been acting in this capacity rather than you our sporting community as a whole would have been much better off.   Not only was this guy trespassing, he did not have proper identification on his traps plus a whole host of other law violations.   You state he gave you a false name.   Wonderful.   Too bad the name wasn’t given to the CO instead, because that would have been yet another law violation.   To you…he’s under no legal obligation to provide any of those facts.   To a law enforcement officer he cannot lie.

But the bigger issue here is whether dry land snare and spring loaded traps should be allowed at all in the Twin City seven-county area.  Certainly trapping has its place.  But is that place where people and dogs are likely to confront them?

The point totally being missed in your assertion that trapping should be outlawed is how you encountered one law violator and chose to paint the entire trapping community with negativism and misguided information for the sole purpose to make a point in your blog post.


Okay, Bill…let me ask you this.   Forget everything I’ve just said and let’s change this scenario just a bit.   If rather than a trapper let’s say a wandering pheasant hunter was on your property and broke a window in your shed with stray pellets…would you call for the abolishment of pheasant hunting?   Or how about a deer hunter who shoots at a deer clearly on your property when he’s hunting a neighbor’s land?   Should we do away with deer hunting because a few individuals each year engage in unethical and illegal activities in their sport?


I guess more than anything I’m deeply disappointed in your breaking the unwritten sportsman’s code of behavior by letting your emotions clearly cloud your good judgment.   Rather than focus on the criminal acts and call them out solely for what they were…instead you chose to condemn a very proud, responsible and legal trapping heritage that many of us enjoy without these sort of incidents.


Indeed, in my opinion, your decision to focus disparaging remarks directed toward the trapping community as a whole is equally as unfortunate as the incident that most recently occurred to your dog, Doc.

Challenged By The Cunning Coyote

It’s been said that when the world comes to an end the last two living creatures will be cockroaches and coyotes.    While I have little experience with the bug, I certainly have a great deal of respect for the wily canine predator.   In fact, in just a few short decades the coyote has greatly expanded its range from mostly the southwestern reaches of Minnesota to now nearly the entire state.IMG5__00524

Yesterday, I attended a coyote trapping seminar held in Owatonna at Northwest Trapper’s Supply and given by renowned predator trapper, Mark June, from Nebraska.   June, who holds a master’s degree in wildlife biology, has spent a lifetime studying and teaching the ways of the coyote.   He was on hand to share his thoughts on how Minnesota’s trappers can better meet the challenge of catching coyotes.

Here’s a few key points gleaned from Mark June’s seminar:

  • Trapping coyotes and fox are two totally different challenges.
  • Coyotes are a family unit most often traveling in pairs.   Fox tend to be a solitary hunter.
  • Fox tend to have a small home range (within a section or two of land).   Coyotes, on the other hand, can range over several miles.   In fact, one in five coyotes are considered transient with no “home” range.
  • Juvenile coyotes from this year’s litter will be kicked out of the family unit sometime during the next month or so — creating more coyotes on the move.
  • Studies have shown you cannot adversely affect the coyote population by trapping.   Even if all the coyotes were removed from a section, within a matter of weeks new family units would move back into the available territory.
  • When coyotes disperse (or become on the move) the number one route of travel is along railroad beds.
  • Trappers should especially look for coyotes just outside of most city limits.   It may be more difficult to obtain permission, but these tend to be hot coyote population areas.
  • Also, look for major funnel points in the land’s topography.   Long fence-lines can also make for good zones of coyote travel.
  • When seeking landowner permission, use a business card and act professional.   #1. Tell the landowner who you are and where you are from.  #2. Explain to the landowner what you intend to do. (this approach minimizes landowner fears because people who are up to no good generally won’t tell you who they are)
  • In terms of trap placement, get in location and observe closely for coyote sign.   When you find it…place the trap there.   Coyotes are extremely neophobic meaning they have a fear of anything new.   It takes a coyote at least 3–5 days to acclimate to new objects.   Understand you can’t make a coyote do something they don’t want to do.
  • Set more traps in one location.   Because coyotes typically travel in groups they are susceptible to multiple catches.
  • Use a typical dirt hole set with a small backing.   The smaller the backing the more direct coyotes will come in.   Coyotes typically investigate things at a 45 degree angle.
  • When placing the trap…look for a spot in the landscape that isn’t too green.   Brown is better.
  • The typical coyote’s gait is about 12 inches, so when placing trap make sure the pan is 9 inches from dirt hole/backing and then 3 inches off center.   Studies have shown this distance will yield the best results for trap placement.
  • Be sure to use a small piece of wool to cover bait as it adds to the curiosity of the set.

Keep in mind that for many of us coyote trapping represents a unique challenge pitting our skills as outdoorsmen against one of nature’s most difficult animals to trap.   Even with fur prices expected to be substantially depressed this season, thousands of trappers throughout Minnesota will still be answering the challenge afforded them by pursuing this wily canine predator.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.