In all cases avoid handling the trap with the bare hand. Many an amateur has set and reset his traps in vain, and retired from the field of trapping in disgust, from the mere want of observing this rule. Animals of keen scent are quick in detecting the slightest odors, and that left by the touch of a human hand often suffices to drive the creature away from a trap which, under other circumstances, would have been its certain destruction. To be sure the various scent baits already alluded to, will in a measure overcome human traces, but not always effectually, and in order to insure success no precautions so simple should be neglected. A pair of clean buckskin gloves are valuable requisites to the trapper, and should always be “on hand” when setting or transporting traps.
“MEDICINES,” OR SCENT BAITS.
These form one of the most important requisites of the trapper’s art. A trap baited simply with the food of the [Page 150] required animal, may and often will be successful, but with the addition of the trapper’s “medicine” judicially applied, success is almost a certainty. These scent baits are of various kinds, some being almost universal in their usefulness, while others are attractive only to some particular species of animal. We give a few of the recipes of the most valued preparations used by trappers throughout the land. The application and use of each is fully described in its proper place hereafter.
This substance, commonly known as “Barkstone,” by trappers and fur dealers, is obtained from the beaver, and is a remarkable aid in the capture of that animal. It is an acrid secretion of a powerful musky odor, found in two glands beneath the root of the tail of the beaver. These glands are about two inches in length. They are cut out and the contents are squeezed into a small bottle. When fresh the substance is of a yellowish-red color, changing to a light-brown when dried. Both male and female animals yield the castoreum, but that of the male is generally considered the best. Castoreum is a commercial drug, and in many beaver countries it is quite an article of trade. There are other sacs lying directly behind the castor glands which contain a strong oil of rancid smell. This should not be confounded with the Castoreum.
The Barkstone is used both pure and in combination with other substances, the following prescription being much used: Into the contents of about ten of the castor bags, mix two ground nutmegs, thirty or forty cloves, also powdered, one drop essence of peppermint, and about two thimblefuls of ground cinnamon. Into this stir as much whisky as will give the whole the consistency of paste, after which the preparation should be bottled and kept carefully corked. At the expiration of a few days the odor increases ten-fold in power and is ready for use. A bottle, if thus prepared, will retain its strength for nearly a half year, provided it is kept closely corked. A few drops of either the pure castoreum or the combination spread upon the bait or in the neighborhood of the trap, as described under the chapter on the Beaver, will entice that animal from a great distance.