In a trapping campaign it is an excellent plan to select a central point for the home shanty, extending the trapping lines in several directions therefrom, following the borders of the lakes or streams for the otter, beaver, mink and muskrat; and setting a few lines inland for the capture of martens, racoons, foxes, etc.
For an amateur campaign this a most excellent and convenient [Page 229] arrangement, the lines may extend all the way from one to five miles each, and connect at their edges, the whole ground plan resembling the form of a wheel, the shanty corresponding to the hub, and the trapping lines the spokes, the tire representing the circuit connecting the various lines. Where the latter extend over many miles it is well to construct bark shanties at the limits. Let each trapper take a certain “spoke,” and follow it to its terminus, returning on the adjacent line. On his arrival at the shanty he should immediately set to work skinning the animals taken, and stretching their furs. Full directions for skinning the various game are given under their respective titles, and the curing of skins is treated in detail in another chapter of this work. We also present a table of the comparative values of the various American furs at the present date of publication. Of course these values are constantly varying, but the table will serve at least to gauge the relative values of common and scarce furs. Great care should always be used in removing the skins from the various animals, as the final value of the fur much depends upon this. They should not be removed from the stretchers until perfectly dry, and should then be laid in a cool, airy place. When near a village or settlement it is advisable to send “into town” every few days with a batch of furs for safe keeping, and particularly so when the skins are valuable, and in cases where the home shanty is left unguarded. The value of prime otter or mink pelt is a matter of no small importance, and a good trapping ground furnishes a rare field for light fingered prowlers who are well posted on the market price of raw furs, and who are constantly on the lookout for such prizes, either in the shape of the prepared skin, or on the back of the live animal. These “trap robbers,” or poachers, are the pests of trappers, and many have learned from dear experience the advisability of placing their choice furs beyond the reach of the marauders.
The hut in which they are stored is nearly always kept guarded, and, where this is impracticable, the skins are hid in hollow trees, or carried to some near settlement, as we have already mentioned.
If the campaign proves successful and promises well for another season, it is customary to hide the traps beneath rocks, thus saving the labor of a second transportation. In order to keep the traps from rusting, it is well to cover them with oat or buckwheat chaff. The rock should be first rolled from its resting place, and a bed of the chaff made beneath it, in which the traps should be covered, the rock being afterwards replaced. In a few such [Page 230] places all the traps may be effectually stored away, and they will be found in prime order and ready for business on the following season.