An experienced trapper soon discovers natural openings between rocks or trees, which may be easily modified, and by the addition of a few logs so improved upon as to answer his purpose as well as a more elaborate enclosure, with much less trouble. Any arrangement whereby the bear will be obliged to tread upon the trap in order to secure the bait, is, of course, all that is required. The bait may be hung on the edge of a rock five feet from the ground, and the trap set on a smaller rock beneath it. He will thus be almost sure to rest his forefoot on the latter rock in order to reach the bait, and will thus be captured.
Another way is to set the trap in a spring of water or swampy [Page 172] spot. Lay a lump of moss over the pan, suspending the bait beyond the trap. The moss will offer a natural foot-rest, and the offending paw will be secured.
Bears possess but little cunning, and will enter any nook or corner without the slightest compunction when in quest of food. They are especially fond of sweets, and, as we have said, are strongly attracted by honey, being able to scent it from a great distance. On this account it is always used, when possible, by trappers in connection with other baits. These may consist of a fowl, fruit, or flesh of any kind, and the honey should be smeared over it. Skunk cabbage is said to be an excellent bait for the bear; and in all cases a free use of the Oil of Anise page 152, sprinkling it about the traps, is also advisable. Should the device fail, it is well to make a trail (see page 153) in several directions from the trap, and extending for several rods. A piece of wood, wet with Oil of Anise, will answer for the purpose.
The general method of skinning the bear consists in first cutting from the front of the lower jaw down the belly to the vent, after which the hide may be easily removed. The hoop-stretcher page 275, will then come into good use in the drying and preparing of the skin for market.
Although allied to the Bear family, this animal possesses much in common with the fox, as regards its general disposition and character. It has the same slyness and cunning, the same stealthy tread, besides an additional mischievousness and greed. It is too common to need any description here, being found plentifully throughout nearly the whole United States. The bushy tail, with its dark rings, will be sufficient to identify the animal in any community. Raccoon hunts form the subject of many very exciting and laughable stories, and a “coon chase,” to this day is a favorite sport all over the country. The raccoon, or “coon,” as he is popularly styled, is generally hunted by moonlight. An experienced dog is usually set on the trail and the fugitive soon seeks refuge in a tree, when its destruction is almost certain. Hence the term “treed coon,” as applied to an individual when in a dangerous predicament. Besides possessing many of the peculiarities of the fox, the “coon” has the additional accomplishment of being a most agile and expert climber, holding so firmly to the limb by its sharp claws as to defy all attempts to shake it off.