Monday, September 29, 2014

Trip Report: Neversink River Fly Fishing 9/27/14 – 9/28/14

The early bear season ended last week, unsuccessfully for me. With the trout season ending in another two weeks, I wanted to get in another fishing trip while I could. So, I headed to the Neversink river. Specifically, I planned on camping at the Wolf Brook MUA, and from there take the trails down to the Neversink River Unique Area where I could do the fishing.

My goal for this trip was to test my completed portable fly fishing kit. I’ve been messing with it for some time now, and I think I have a workable fly fishing kit that I can carry without problem in my pack over distance. So, with waders, boots, and rod stuffed in the pack, I headed for the river early in the morning.

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Following one of the trails I was able to make my way to the river fairly quickly. I walked along for a bit until I found an area I liked.

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I put on my waders and wading boots, and set up my rod. I took some pictures of the equipment, and I will do a separate posts about it later this week, since I have been getting a lot of questions about my set up. Then I got into the river and got to fishing.

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The water was very cold. At first it felt fine because I was warm from backpacking to the location, but an hour or so later, the cold was hard to handle. To warm up I took some pictures of me fishing, which is an incredibly difficult activity. Setting the 30 second timer on my point and shoot camera, and then trying to get into the river without taking a dive, was challenging to say the least, but it does get the blood going.

I wasn’t having too much luck. I was determined to practice my dry fly casting, but there wasn’t a lot of surface action. There were some cadis flies hatching, but not a whole lot.


I didn’t have anything to match the color too well, so I tried a few different combination without luck. When in doubt, sit down and have lunch.

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By this time I had put on my puffy jacket. Much of the river was still in shadow, so despite the relatively warm weather we have been having, I was still cold from being in the water.

I continued the same routine for the rest of the day. I was planning on concentrating my efforts on fishing in the evening to maximize my chances, but by mid afternoon, tired, and decided to pack up and start looking for a camp site.

The waders, wading boots, and the rest of the gear made their way into the pack nicely, contained in a plastic trash bag that I brought to keep the rest of my gear dry. I picked a direction and started bushwhacking. Soon I reached a small stream, Wolf Brook to be exact. I stopped for water. It seemed to be a more trustworthy source than the larger river.

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I washed up, refilled my water, and kept going until I found a nice area in some pine woods where I could set up camp.

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It was still relatively early, which gave me plenty of time to relax. I got up early the next morning and headed back down to the river for another try.

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Finally, I managed to hook one on a #16 BWO.

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I decided to end things on a high note, so I packed up and headed out.


I was very happy with the way the gear worked together. I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but that is mostly due to lack of skill. It was a good trip. The only down side was that the mosquitoes were still active.

Now I’ll start working on the post about the gear itself. I hope to have it up by the end of the week.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Foothold Trap Modification: Dyeing, Waxing, and Dipping

This post is going to be the last one of the series showing the standard modifications I do to my foothold traps before they go into use. You can check out the first two posts here and here. I will have more trap modification posts coming up soon, but they will involve modifications designed to create a portable trapping kit rather than standard modifications.

As I mentioned before, some reasons to modify your traps include:

  1. To catch and hold the animal more effectively
  2. To minimize suffering for the animal and any damage to the fur
  3. To protect and preserve the traps

This post will focus on the last point: protecting the traps. By this I mean protecting your traps from environmental factors, primarily rust. Depending on how you trap, that will hold varying importance for you. How long you leave your traps out at a stretch, whether you use antifreeze to keep the soil loose, and whether the traps are in water will effect how much protection your traps need.

There are generally three ways to protect a trap: dyeing, waxing, and dipping. These methods then generally subdivide into two categories, with dyeing and waxing usually being done together and representing the traditional method, and dipping being a more modern method. Each trapper has his own preferences and will fight to the death to defend them. What I write here are just very general guidelines, and for everything you have heard that you should never do, there are a bunch of trappers doing that exact thing with great success. Keep that in mind as you read the post.

First, I am going to go over the three methods, and the general procedure for using them. This is just a very superficial overview. Then, further down in the post I will show you what I do, which is not necessarily the accepted wisdom.

The Methods:


Dyeing is an older method of treating traps, and many trappers no longer bother with it. The process uses either man made chemicals or natural materials rich in tannins to force a chemical reaction on the surface of the metal, and form a sort of patina on it. This should slow down the rusting process when the trap is exposed to the elements. The reason why this method is not used by many these days is that it doesn’t work too well. A dyed trap will still rust. As a result, this method is usually combined with waxing to provide adequate protection.


Waxing is another traditional method for protecting traps, I suppose when wax was available. This process uses molten wax to cover the surface of the trap. It is very effective at protecting the trap as the metal is not exposed to the elements. It is often done as a second step after dyeing the traps, but dyeing is not needed for waxing. General wisdom dictates that certain traps not be waxed. In particular body grip traps and traps for water sets are not waxed because it is considered that it makes the traps too easy to set off.


Dipping is a relatively modern method for protecting traps. It uses a dip to cover the surface of the trap much like you would with wax, except without the need for heating. There are different types of dips available. Some use gasoline to dilute the chemicals, others use water. To me they all resemble watered down paint. Just like wax, the dip coats the surface of the metal, protecting it from the elements. Many people make their own dip by diluting Rust-Oleum paint.

The Process:

Generally speaking, with all three methods you have to start by preparing the trap. The first step in the preparation is to clean the traps and remove all of the factory oils from them. The oils will not only interfere with the treatment of the traps, but hold a lot of scents that you may not want on your traps. Some people do that by boiling the traps in water mixed with lye. Keep in mind that lye will erode any aluminum pieces you may have on the trap. I’ve seen people use baking soda as an alternative. I personally just wash the traps with soap.

The next step in the preparation is generally to rust the traps. It’s counterintuitive, but in particular when using dye or dips, you need some rust on the surface of the trap for the chemicals to catch. Leaving the traps outside for a week does the trick.

At this point, the traps are ready for the desired treatment. Dyeing requires that you bring the dye to a boil, and leave the trap in it for the required time depending on what dye you are using. Once taken out it should have a dark color. If you are waxing the trap, heat up the wax (be careful not to ignite it), then submerge the trap, leave it in for a minute or two so that it reaches the same temperature as the wax, and then remove it. Some people like to use heated water with just a thin film of wax floating on the surface through which they pull the trap. Dipping doesn’t require boiling. Just mix the dip as directed, submerge the trap, pull it out, and dry.

What I do:

Here is my procedure for treating my traps:

First, I wash the trap. I use regular dish soap for the job. A lot of trappers worry about this imparting a scent to the trap. In my opinion, it doesn’t, and ultimately it’s not a huge issue. If you are trapping for an animal with a good sense of smell like coyote, they can smell everything you have done to the trap no matter how careful you are. They can smell wax on a trap, they can smell the metal itself, and they can certainly smell that you were digging in the ground. If a dog can track a person over miles just based on where a person stepped with their shoes, a coyote can smell that a human set a foreign object in the ground. My point being, I don’t obsess about it.

The second step is to etch the trap. I don’t like to rust my traps, but trying to dip a brand new trap will cause you all sorts of headaches because the dip will come right off. As an alternative to rusting the trap, I etch it. I do that the same way you would force a patina on a knife: I use a vinegar bath. In a container I put a bunch of vinegar, and top it off with water as needed. I then submerge the traps and leave them overnight. The result is that all the shine is removed from the trap, and the surface becomes much more receptive to a dip. In the picture below you can see an etched trap next to one that has not been.


As you can see, the process doesn’t work nearly as well on the stainless steel pieces on the chain as it does on the rest of the trap, but then, neither does rusting.

The third step is the dip the trap. I use dip instead of wax, or dye and wax because wax annoys me. I know it sounds silly, but I am very neat when it comes to my gear, and a trap covered in wax and all the dirt that gets imbedded in it just bugs me. For that reasons, I prefer dips. They are also much easier to apply because I don’t need to boil any liquid. The early dips used gasoline to dilute the dip, which made many trappers skeptical because there was a noticeable smell of gasoline on the finished trap, and people worried that it would just remain there. By now dips have been used successfully by many trappers, and have alleviated some of those fears, but it’s still something that always remained on the back of my mind. Fortunately these days there are water based dips. The one I use currently is Dakota Line dip. It works relatively well, it’s easy to wash off your hands before it sets, and it’s easy to use.


The last step, after letting the trap dry, is to clean up the dip off the important areas. Unavoidably, the dip will pool in certain areas. Most importantly, I like to remove it from the trigger mechanism and the tip of the dog using a small file. I don’t want the added friction on the dip there. I also clean up the areas between the jaws and where the arms meet the jaws.

And these are just some of the general methods available out there, and what I do to protect my traps. That being said, I’ve seen guys do everything from spray painting their traps to just leaving them untreated, and they have all been successful trappers.

So, this wraps up the standard foothold trap modifications that I do. This year I don’t actually plan on running a standard trap line, but I still wanted to replace the trap that went missing, which gave me an opportunity to show you my method. I will have another post shortly, showing the modified lightweight set up that I will try to use this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back to Back Episode 1: Rain Gear

In the past few months a fellow blogger, Cesar, from Cesar and The Woods and I have been talking about starting a video project where we can exchange ideas on different subjects. The goal is to have it be a casual conversation where we go back and forth and address topics that come to mind related to the outdoors. With Cesar living in Sweden and being focused on ultralight long distance backpacking, and me being located in northeastern United States, and focusing on the mess of things I focus on, we thought it may offer some interesting perspectives.

The first set of videos is on our rain gear; what we use and why we use it. Cesar started out the series, as the project was his idea, and the first video just outlines what we are trying to do. The second and third videos show each of our takes on the issue.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

We’ll have more episodes coming up as time allows. I hope you guys find this of some use.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wood Trekker Questions and Topic Requests

As you guys know, I’ve been writing this blog for going on five years now. I’ve tried to document as best I can my journey as an outdoorsman and my thoughts on the subject. I write the blog largely as my journal, so I can express my ideas without fear of censorship, and to that end I have been happy to write about the topics that cross my mind, or I think may help other. That being said, I do understand, that many of you read my posts, and you certainly have ideas about what you do and don’t find interesting. I understand that people come to this blog to search for information they may be interested in. Sadly, I don’t always know what that information is.


If I was to judge by the most visited posts, I could reach the conclusion that the subjects that are most interesting to people are as follows, in descending order of all time most visited posts:

  1. Cody Lundin Fired From Dual Survival 
  2. Dave Canterbury, Former Host of Dual Survival Apologizes to Fans
  3. Dual Survival Season 3 – Drama!
  4. Dual Survival Season 3 – Cast Changes
  5. Dave Canterbury’s Military Record and Other Background Notes

If I was to give the people what they want, judging by the above, I should focus my writing on Dual Survival and other survival show related drama. Of course, that would be rather boring for me, and hopefully is not what really brings people to this blog.

Over the years I’ve written about numerous subjects. My focus and interest has shifted from topic to topic over time. Sometimes that is the result of me figuring out exactly what I want, other times it has been due to the introduction of new interests, as I have been striving to expand my horizons as a woodsman.

All that being said, I come to you, the readers. What topics are you interested in? What areas would you like to see me write about? If you have any ideas or interests, no matter what they may be, post them in the comments, and I will do my best to develop more writing on them. The topics can span anything from “beginner” subjects to more controversial questions. I can’t promise that I will be able to address all of them, but I will try to guide more posts in that direction.

So, what would you like to see Wood Trekker write about? What subjects interest you? What questions do you have?

Thank you in advance, and as always, thank you for reading.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Long Term Wilderness Living: Blanket vs. Sleeping Bag

Recently one of the guys I follow on YouTube had an interesting video discussing the merits of carrying a blanket vs. a sleeping bag as part of your gear when attempting long term wilderness living. I thought it was an interesting subject, so I figured I would share some of my thoughts with you. For more of my ramblings on long term wilderness living you can check out the post here.

So, for this discussion I will assume a scenario where a person is going to carry all of his gear on his back, travel into the wilderness, away from any civilization or human contact, and spend anywhere from a month to a year there. Shorter than a month is just a regular camping trip, and longer than a year becomes problematic for any set of gear. Keeping that in mind, what are the benefits of carrying a blanket(s) for your insulation as opposed to carrying a sleeping bag?


Before I begin with the discussion, I just want to say that for purposes of this post I’m assuming that we are using wool blankets of appropriate size and thickness. With respect to sleeping bags, I’m assuming we are using high quality modern sleeping bags. I will NOT be discussing the US Modular Sleep System (MSS). Very often it is presented as a representative of “sleeping bags”. The MSS is very old and outdated technology, and for that matter it wasn’t even cutting edge technology when it first came out. The current state of technology has moved way past that. I will also assume here that all other gear stays the same, and that the only choice being made is between carrying a blanket and a sleeping bag. 

Advantages of Blankets:

  • Blankets are more durable than sleeping bags. Because blankets have a solid construction and do not include things like baffle tubes and shell materials, they are more durable and easier to maintain.
  • Wool blankets are more fire resistant, so they can be used closer to a fire and can be dried out more easily near a fire.
  • Blankets lose less loft than sleeping bags when wet. Because blankets have a solid construction instead of using fill to create loft for insulation like sleeping bags, they lose less insulation when wet because their thickness doesn’t diminish due to the presence of moisture like it does in sleeping bags.
  • Blankets can more easily be used as makeshift clothing items than sleeping bags.

Advantages of Sleeping Bags:

  • Sleeping bags offer much, much, much more insulation for the same weight than a blanket. A 5lb blanket is generally considered to be good enough stand alone insulation for temperatures down to 32F (0C). On the other hand, a 5lb sleeping bag like the Western Mountaineering Bison GWS can give you a temperature rating of –40F (-40C). That is a huge difference. You can achieve the same insulation rating (32F/0C) of a single 5lb blanket with a sleeping bag that weighs 1lb or even less.
  • Sleeping bags compress much, much, much better than blankets. Since sleeping bags use fill based materials to provide loft for insulation, they compress significantly better than blankets which have a solid construction.

So, looking at the above lists, you can easily reach the conclusion that if you are going to undertake a long term trip into the wilderness, you should bring blankets with you rather than a sleeping bag. After all, they are more durable, loose less insulation when wet, are easier to dry out, and can be used in more configurations.

However, I would assert that the advantages of the sleeping bag are so significant that they trump any advantages that might be presented by a blanket, and as such, the sleeping bag would be my choice for insulation in a long term wilderness living scenario. Let me explain.

In my opinion, and from my experiences, every advantage offered by blankets can be compensated for when using a sleeping bag. However, you can not make up with blankets for the advantages of a sleeping bag. Let me give some examples to show what you can do to compensate for the disadvantages of a sleeping bag.

  • Problem: Sleeping bags are more easily damaged by fire, and as a result harder to dry with the use of a fire. Solution: A properly rated sleeping bag does not require the use of a fire to keep you warm. It can be dried out even in winter by leaving it out in the sun during the day. It can also be dried out by placing warm rocks in the bag contained in a sock, which will drive out the moisture, or keeping it by a small, well controlled fire. It’s a bit more work than drying out a blanket, but you can certainly compensate for the disadvantage.
  • Problem: You can not use a fire to supplement the warmth of a sleeping bag as you can with a blanket. Solution: This is only a theoretical problem. You do not need a fire to stay warm when using a properly rated sleeping bag. If for some reason you have to, heating up some water on the fire and placing a hot water bottle in the bag will supplement the insulation. If you have a tent with a wood burning stove, you can easily use it with a sleeping bag. Relying on a fire to keep warm during the night is only an emergency measure. It is not suited for long term living. Only half sleeping during the night in order to keep a fire burning, and then spending a large part of the day gathering sufficient fire wood is a poor long term living strategy.
  • Problem: Sleeping bags are harder to use as makeshift clothing. Solution: You can actually quite easily wrap a sleeping bag around you to stay warm. Better yet, since your sleeping bag is about five times lighter than your blanket, you can afford to bring a proper jacket and still have a lighter set up than the single blanket; and you can then use the sleeping bag and jacket together for added insulation.  
  • Problem: Sleeping bags lose more insulation when wet than blankets. Solution: There is no good solution here other than keeping your gear dry. A small stuff sack will keep your sleeping bag dry no matter what. That being said, whether you get your blanket or sleeping bag wet, you have to resort to alternate solutions for insulation. While a wet blanket is warmer than a wet sleeping bag, you will freeze is either if the weather is bad. If on the other hand we are talking about gradual moisture build up like condensation, then drying your bag out each day and using a vapor barrier liner (VBL) will eliminate the problem.

While the above solutions are not perfect, and can be annoying, you can certainly maintain a sleeping bag in working condition in a long term wilderness living situation. This is especially true if you have a tent, and even more so if you have a tent with a wood burning stove. The blanket however has no way of making up for the advantages of the sleeping bag. No matter what, for the same insulation, blankets will be much heavier and much bulkier than a sleeping bag.

Well, you are a strong lad, you may not think that is a problem. However, look at it this way: You have a limit on how much weight you can carry, whatever that may be. As such, the weight of the gear you carry is a zero sum game. For every pound of gear you add in one department, you have to take it out somewhere else. So, if instead of a 1lb sleeping bag, you have to carry a 5lb blanket, those 4lb by which your sleep system has been increased have to come out of somewhere. Now, instead of those 4lb of extra blanket weight, you could bring:

  • Five #1 foothold traps
  • 548 rounds of .22LR ammo
  • 3lb scoped rifle with 137 rounds of .22LR ammo
  • four extra sleeping bags
  • An extra sleeping bag and two jackets
  • A tent with a wood burning stove (SL3 Fly: 1lb 8oz and Titanium Goat 12” stove; 1lb 10oz)

In my mind that significantly shifts the equation. I will gladly deal with the added difficulties of drying out my sleeping bag if in exchange I got a rifle and 137 rounds of ammo, or five extra traps. For me that has a lot more benefit in a long term wilderness living situation than the fact that the blanket will get less pin holes when close to the fire than the sleeping bag.

This is the opportunity cost of using a blanket. What do you have to give up in exchange for carrying the extra weight and volume of the blanket? When compared to a sleeping bag, the answer is A LOT! Whatever benefit a blanket may hold over a sleeping bag, it is significantly outweighed by the its bulk and weight. If all other gear stays the same, by replacing a blanket with a sleeping bag, and keeping the overall weight of your pack the same, you can bring significant amount of extra crucial gear like traps and ammo.

The numbers become even more extreme when we consider lower temperatures. To achieve the temperature rating of –40F(-40C) that you can get from a 5lb sleeping bag, you will need at least five blankets (being optimistic), which will run you about 25lb. What crucial gear will you have to give up for those extra 20lb? That is about 25 #1 foothold traps. That is a full trap line and then some! Or, you can outright bring two rifles and a year's supply of ammo.

This calculus is nothing new. We keep telling ourselves that mountain men of the past used blankets, so they must have been great. The long hunters and mountain men knew that blankets were not great insulation. Virtually every journal entry or account from the 18th and 19th century where cold weather travel was involved, people had a single blanket and the rest of the insulation was provided by furs. The outcome was that gear had to be carried on pack horses or sleds, but even then no one carried five blankets. The numbers just don’t add up. The moment down sleeping bags appeared on the market such as the Woods Arctic Robe in the late 19th century, they quickly replaced blankets for the woodsman, becoming the standard for expeditions in the early 20th century. 

The usual response to the above argument is that a blanket will not be heavier than a sleeping bag because you only need one small, light blanket because you will sleep by the fire to stay warm. Let me know how well that is working out after day five of sleeping only an hour at a time so you can feed the fire, and then spending several hours each winter morning gathering fire wood for the night. Then let me know how well that is working out when you have fallen sick, or sprained an ankle or shoulder but still need the firewood so you don’t die during the night. On a short trip blankets can be fun and entertaining. For long term use however, you just have to give up too much in order to bring proper insulation comprised of blankets. With all of its limitations, in my opinion the sleeping bag is the clear choice for long term wilderness living.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Foothold Trap Modification: Chain Alterations

In my previous post on foothold trap modifications, I discussed how I make a night latch trigger adjustment to my traps. You can see the post here. I also outlined the three areas where I think trap modifications could be beneficial to the trapper:

  1. To catch and hold the animal more effectively
  2. To minimize suffering for the animal and any damage to the fur
  3. To protect and preserve the traps

This post will address a modification that will effect the first and second of the above points. It will allow the trap to hold the animal more effectively, and will decrease any suffering to the animal and potential damage to the fur.

Foothold traps, much more so than body grip traps require secure anchoring in order to effectively hold the trapped animal. An animal caught in such a trap will naturally struggle to get out of the trap for a period of time. In so doing, if the trap is not properly secured, the animal may pull away the trap. Furthermore, if the trap is not properly anchored, the struggling animal may hurt itself in the process. Modifying the trap chain is a good way to address both of those concerns. As I mentioned previously, just about all modern traps are good enough to use out of the box. These modifications just make them better.

For this post I will be continuing to work on the same Oneida Victor #1 foothold trap that you saw in the previous foothold trap modification post.


For this modification you will need a specialized tool, called a J-Hook Tool. While it is possible to do the work without it, it makes things much, much easier, and I wouldn’t work without it. You will need the tool to open and close the J-hook connectors for the chain and swivel links.


As you can see, on this particular Oneida Victor trap the chain is attached to the side of the trap. For a lot of people, the ideal place for the chain attachment is the bottom center of the trap, not the side. It is believed that this reduces potential damage to the animal because it gives it less leverage when pulling. I have no idea if this is actually true. It is how I was thought to do it, so it is what I do on my traps. In all honesty, leaving the chain attachment on the side of the trap will serve you just fine. For this post, because the trap allows for it to be easily done, I will relocate the chain to a center mount.

Either way, begin by opening the J-hook on the side of the trap and removing the chain. Once the J-hook is opened, you can thread it out of the hole and remove it from the trap.



The next step is to center mount the J-hook on the trap. As I said, it is easy to do on these Oneida Victor traps because they have a center mount hole on the base through which you can thread a new J-hook. That will give you a mountain point for the new chain.


Some traps don’t have such an option. Some people weld center mounting brackets on the base for the conversion. I don’t think there is a point in doing so much work on a trap this size. I would say that if your trap doesn’t easily allow for the switch, leave the chain side mounted, unless you are doing a four spring conversion to the trap, in which case the welded base plate is needed for reinforcement to prevent bending of the base.

As far as the chain itself, I like to use single link #2/0 stainless steel chain. I also like to place additional swivels on the chain, as well as a quick release connector at the end. Be very careful when selecting chain components. Products that look the same may have very different strength characteristics. For these traps, the factory chain has a tensile strength of about 200lb. That is enough to hold target animals up through raccoon and opossum. I try to pick replacement components that are stronger, keeping in mind that your chain will only be as strong as its weakest link. Here is how I set it up:


I start with the J-hook threaded through the trap base/frame. I then add a single link of #2/0 chain, then a swivel, then three links of #2/0 chain, then another swivel, and a quick link connector at the end. The result is quite a bit shorter than the factory chain, about nine inches overall.


I like a shorter chain because it gives the animal less pulling ability because it can’t get any momentum going. Close all of the J-hooks using the J-Hook Tool.


For this modification I used just hand tools because I know not everyone has access to a work shop. The tools and parts I used are as follows:


  1. Hammer
  2. Metal working chisel (Home Depot)
  3. J-Hook Tool
  4. Standard 3/16” J-hooks (1)
  5. Standard swivels (2)
  6. Large quick link connectors (1)
  7. #2/0 single link stainless steel chain (Home Depot)

All of the above link are from Fur Harvester’s Trading Post so you can combine the shipping if you are thinking of purchasing the items. The owner is a great guy and orders ship out immediately. That being said, you can get the same supplies at many good distributors. The hammer and chisel are used to cut the chain links. It is probably the hardest part of the job if you are only using hand tools.

This modification will increase the overall weight of the trap. The factory chain weighs 2.6oz, while the new modified chain weighs 4.7oz. This brings up the weight of the completed trap to 14oz. Of course, the modifications I am showing you here are the ones for my standard traps. When I attempt to make a more easily portable set, I will have to implement different modifications, which I will discuss at a later time. Just for comparison, my Belisle 110 body grip traps weight about 15oz each.

You may be wondering why I use a quick link connector at the end of the chain. I do it so I can attach whatever end piece I want. If I am using wire anchors, I can connect them directly to the quick link, if I am using wooden stakes, I can attach a larger loop, or I can link directly to a drowner lock (have to enlarge the hole on the drowner lock to use with the large quick link connectors). 


So, what’s the point? Well, I think these modifications make the trap anchor stronger and more secure. The components are stronger, and the shorter length gives the animal less momentum when pulling. The center mount also allows (theoretically) for less leverage when the animal is pulling. This, combined with the additional swivel points (three overall counting the J-hook itself) will decrease any damage that can be caused to the animal.

Nothing says that this is how you have to modify your chains, or that you should modify them at all, but it’s what I like to do to my traps. Only one step left before I can put this trap to use…

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nanook of the North by Robert J. Flaherty

Nanook of the North is a documentary/docudrama film released in 1922 and filmed by Robert J. Flaherty. The film follows the Inuit man Nanook and his family over a period of three years between 1914 and 1916 in Quebec, Canada.


You an see the film in its entirety here:

Now, it is important to remember that the film was created before there was a concept of documentary film making. As a result, many of the aspects of the film are dramatized, and not accurate. For example, Nanook’s real name was actually Allakariallak, and the woman in the movie was not actually his wife.

More importantly, by the early 1900s, Inuit in Canada had already started using western clothing, and hunting was routinely done with rifles, not traditional weapons as depicted in the movie. Flaherty had asked the participants to use the traditional means instead. Even so, the techniques used were genuine, and it is generally agreed that the components of the movie relating to the demonstration of skills including hunting, are real and represent the communal knowledge of the people in the area. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Trip Report: Early Season Bear Hunt 9/6/14 – 9/7/14

This year New York State has opened an early bear season in September because bear numbers in certain areas have increased. I decided to take advantage of that and do some bear hunting before the regular season. That way I can avoid the competition from deer hunters, as the deer season overlaps with the bear season. So, I grabbed my gear and got going.

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In my experience, animals, including bears, are most active in the mornings and evenings. To take advantage of that, I started out early. I was out and making my way through the forest by 4:30 am. I had scouted the area before, and knew there was a large adult bear in the area. I had had an encounter with him earlier in the year and kept my rifle at the ready in case I ran into him. Small bears tend to run away if you cross paths, but the big ones my charge.

Hunting big game this early in the year is not my favorite activity, especially here in the northeast. The forests here are dense enough as it is, but while all the vegetations is still out, visibility is almost non existent. Unlike out west, where long range hunting is common, here in the east, hunting out in the forests happens at very close range. Unless you are in a man made clearing, out in the woods typical range for a shot is about 20 yards. If you have a 50 yard clear shot, you are very lucky. Glassing for game is not a realistic hunting technique here. Your best bet is to ambush or call in the animal. That is why you see so much tree stand hunting.

The signs weren’t optimistic. I found a good amount of deer and turkey sign (naturally because I wasn’t hunting either), but no sign of bear.




Because it is early in the year, and probably because it has been warm and humid, the plants and animals were abundant, including the mosquitoes. I am currently covered in bites.




This area of the forest is comprised of mixture of deciduous trees and pines. The deciduous parts of the forest were overgrown, so I made my way towards the more open pine areas. Just as I was nearing my desired location, I heard some loud hauling. It sounded like a person was trying to imitate a coyote, but wasn’t doing a very good job. I figured someone else was hunting in the area, so I proceeded carefully. A few minutes later, I saw a large coyote running away about 30 yards to my right. Apparently that’s what some coyote’s actually sound like.

I found a somewhat open area, and set up. My set up doesn’t really mean much. I just get low to the ground, and make sure that I have a line of sight 270 degrees in front of me, and that there is dense vegetation to my back. I’ve had good luck with this set up before.

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My tools were simple. All I brought was a Buck Gardner predator call (distressed rabbit/mouse combo call), a T.A.G. game bag kit, a 25 gallon trash bag, and my Savage 11/111 rifle chambered in .308.


By the time I got to the location it was a bit after 9:00 am. I got into position and started making distressed rabbit calls and listening. Even though I was in a relatively open area, I still didn’t have visibility much past 50 yards, with clear lines of sight for no more than 20 to 30 yards. I would hear any animal coming long before I saw it.

Not long after, I heard a noise to my left. It wasn’t a bear, but rather a young buck. He was clearly attracted by my calls. He wasn’t randomly passing through the area, but instead was headed straight for me. He would look at me, grunt, mark the area, circle a bit, then do the same.



I couldn’t tell the exact number of points, but the main antlers were about a foot long. My hope was to be able to see them more clearly from the pictures, but this is the best my point and shoot camera can do. Of course, this was all happening because it isn’t deer season yet. Once deer season starts, I’m sure I’m not going to see a single one.

Keeping with the tradition of only seeing animals that you are not hunting, a nice, fat, gray squirrel decided to come down from the trees and pose in front of me, knowing that all I had with me was my .308.


Anyway, I kept calling for the rest of the morning with no luck. Shortly after noon, I took a brake and ate some lunch.


After that I decided to change locations. There was another relatively open area further east. I packed up and started moving. I had to go through some dense vegetations in order to get there.

I kept going for about half hour through the brush, trying to navigate. I broke through some thick brush, and to my great surprise, about 5 to 10 yards ahead of me was a small black bear. Clearly it was as surprised as I was. I threw down my map, and tried to shoulder the rifle. I’m used to lifting the rifle into position with nothing on my shoulder, and didn’t account for the fact that I had my backpack on, which has rather thick shoulder straps. The but of the rifle caught on the strap, so, I had to reposition it. All this took about two seconds, but by that time the bear was running like there was no tomorrow. I didn’t want to take a shot at a running animal.

I got low to the ground, and tried to call it back, but with no luck. It wasn’t the bear I had come for, but I was still disappointed to have missed it. I don’t really mind unsuccessful hunt. I enjoy being out in the woods, and hunting is just a bonus. However, when you get that close and miss, it keeps me up at night for a long time afterwards. All I could do was make my way out of the thick brush.

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I didn’t bother doing any calling in the evening. I’m not a fan of trying to call in a bear and then going to sleep in the same area. I just pulled out the mat and sleeping bag for some rest. Lately I’ve stopped using the tent unless I expect rain or snow.


Anyway, that was it for the hunting. I had to make my way out, and I wasn’t going to take a bear unless I had the time to process it properly.

The pack you see in the pictures is my Gregory Palisade 80. It’s my big pack, and I brought it in case I had to carry out meat and fur. Unfortunately there was no need for its intended purpose. I kept it somewhat filled with my uncompressed sleeping bag. It was very disappointing to be heading out of the forest with a very light pack, especially under the circumstances. That being said, I was very happy to get away from the mosquitoes. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Foothold Trap Modification: Night Latch Trigger

Foothold traps are my favorite kind of trap, and I use them almost exclusively with the exception of a few body grip traps. Foothold traps these days from all of the manufacturers are very usable out of the box, and do not require any modification. There are plenty of trappers who do nothing at all to their traps. That being said, I modify all of my traps. Some of the modifications make practical sense, others are just what I was taught to do and are things I like to see in my traps. There are a few reasons why one may want to modify their foothold traps:

  1. To catch and hold the animal more effectively
  2. To minimize suffering for the animal and any damage to the fur
  3. To protect and preserve the traps

In this post I will discuss a modification designed to address the first point. A night latch is a foothold trap trigger modification designed to make the trigger more sensitive and to easily allow the setting of a hair trigger. I do it on all of my traps, and have been happy with the results. Similar effect can be achieved through several different means, but this is how I like to do it.

The goal of the modification is to make a secondary catch point on the pan for the dog to catch on that is closer to the edge of the pan trigger, thereby making the trigger easier to set off and requiring less pan travel. As an added benefit, you get an audible click when the dog engages the secondary catch. That is where the modification gets it’s name; the click allows you to set the trigger at night. Confused yet? It’s actually not hard at all. Let’s start with a diagram from the New Brunswick Trappers and Fur Harvesters Federation:


The above diagram shows the pan and dog mechanism of the trap. On top you have a standard trigger. On the bottom you have the night latch modification. Here is how I do it:

All you will need for the night latch modification is a metal file. I like to have a second small file as well for clean up work. You will also need a trap of course. Here you see a brand new Oneida Victor #1 trap. They are one of my favorite traps, and this one will be a replacement for one that previously went missing, once all of the modifications are completed. As a side note, if you are using traps like the MBs, which have a pan that does not allow any filing (you know it if you have such traps), you can do the same modification by filing a notch into the top of the dog instead.


Here is the trap set without any trigger modification. Specifically note the dog and pan.


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The first step in doing the modification is to clean up the dog. Even on traps from high end manufacturers, the end of the dog tends to be sloppy, left the way it was stamped by the factory machines. It will work alright, but there are usually burs and uneven points that we don’t want. So, take your file, and make sure there is nothing protruding from any of the corners of the dog. I like to make sure that starting from the top edge of the dog, I file the rest back at a 30 degree angle. That way the top edge of the dog is smooth and is the furthest protruding point on the dog.


The next step it to modify the pan trigger. With a closed trap, and the pan sitting leveled, take the edge of the file and file out a notch on the bottom corner of the pan trigger.


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The size of the notch is a matter of personal preference. There is no practical need for the notch to be very deep vertically. All you need is enough of an indentation up so that you can feel when the dog catches is. Horizontally, the indentation has to be deep enough so that the trap does not accidentally trigger. If it is too deep however, the purpose of the modification will be defeated. I like to make the notches on my traps 1/16 inch by 1/16 inch. I find it gives me nice and crisp releases without any accidental triggers.

Here is the finished product, a set trap with a night latch trigger modification.



Now that you have the night latch set up complete, all that is left is to do some adjustments to make sure everything is leveled properly.

Depending on how the trap was set up prior to the modification, creating a night latch may alter the way the pan sits. In particular, if the pan was completely leveled when the trap was set prior to the modification, after the mod it may stand a bit higher when the trap is set. The goal is to have the pan be completely level when the trap is set. If it is either too high or too low, we need to make some adjustments to get it to be leveled.

The process for doing that is very simple. The dog is attached to the trap by an arm.

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You can take a pair of pliers and bend that arm towards or away from the trap. You don’t have to do much. Very small movements in the arm will produce noticeable results on the pan.

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By bending the arm in, towards the trap, the pan will be lower when the trap is set. Similarly, if you bend the arm away from the trap, the pan will be higher up when the trap is set. Like I said before, small movements in the arm will have noticeable effects on the pan. While there are special tools which allow you to do that, I’ve always been able to do it with just a pair of pliers as long as you don’t need to do any significant bends in the arm.

And that’s all there is to it. Like many other modifications, it is not necessary, but I think it makes for a better trap.