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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Trapping Eastern Coyotes With “the Animal”

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, January 24, 2009.)

Trappers don’t do it for the money.
They do it for the joy.

Animal trapping often has a negative image these days, an image that it doesn’t deserve. I wish those who are critical of trapping would see the new DVD by Warren, PA coyote trapper Darin Freeborough.

Coyotes have a long history in America, and here in the east it’s longer than most people realize. I have photos of Pennsylvania coyotes taken in 1941, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that they regularly began to cross paths with man. Now, eastern coyotes are common, and hunters and trappers pursue them with enthusiasm.

Darin’s video is called “Animalistics,” a take-off on a nickname he earned on the softball diamond. But Darin “the Animal” is one of the most good-natured, fun-loving, nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and he’s a committed family man. His approach to all things outdoors is one that’s friendly, joyful, and tough to criticize.

Anyone who views his video will see that trappers are not Neanderthals draped in raw furs. Darin is an intelligent, creative guy, deeply connected to the natural world. He’s a student of animal behavior who displays enormous respect for the animals he traps.

Go along with Darin in his video, and watch him destroy the falsehoods and negative stereotypes of trapping.

One of the misperceptions is that an animal in a trap may suffer for hours, or even days. That’s simply not so. Some have probably been in the trap for mere minutes. Actual video footage shows animals sitting calmly while Darin approaches. Unless the animal is aggressive by nature, it’s usually very submissive.

And it’s surprising how comfortable an animal can be in a trap. Sometimes they lie down. Occasionally one even falls asleep.

Well-designed traps rarely do physical harm to the animal. In fact, the trapper tries to prevent injury, because it’s to his benefit that the condition of the animal be as good as it can be. A modern trap grips the paw of the animal above the pads or knuckles. Animals exhibit no physical pain – even when pulling against the trap. There’s no blood, and the video shows no killing, and no cruelty.

Another myth about trapping is that animals are exploited for selfish profit. Today’s economics makes that impossible. Darin is a very successful trapper, but he’s lucky if the money he makes pays for the expenses of his hobby.

Trappers don’t do it for the money. They do it for the joy. And Darin enjoys it more when sharing the secrets to his success with others – which is the real reason for the video.

Opponents of trapping generally fail to consider the benefits that trapping brings to animal populations. One benefit is the removal of diseased animals. A handful of the 40 or so coyotes Darin traps each year have mange, which causes them to suffer and die. Worse – until they die they will infect other canines as well as prey animals with the same dreadful condition.

Darin believes that the trapper shouldn’t hide what he is doing. He should be up-front. Keep the landowner informed. Talk to the others you meet in the field. You might learn something from them, and they can probably learn something from you.

Whether you’re a trapper, hunter, hiker, or dog walker, you should respect others who use the land. “We’re all in this together,” Darin says, so if you’re one who can’t tolerate the presence of others, don’t hassle people. “Just go on down the road and find a place to yourself.”

For the serious trapper, Darin shows step-by-step instructions for several kinds of sets, with special attention on what a set looks like and the reasons a coyote will get caught in it. He teaches tricks that catch the coyote’s eye, because sometimes that’s the secret to catching them by the foot.

He advocates “smorgasbord trapping” – giving the animal a variety of scents. He mentions the lures he uses, and the types of traps and tools – what works, how you can improve on the things you buy, and what you can make yourself.

More than anything, he wants to pass on a heritage -- to other trappers, and to kids. To illustrate this, he includes great footage of his daughter Lindsay shooting her first buck.

“Animalistics” is not only two hours of canine trapping instruction on eastern coyotes; it’s a lesson in what an outdoorsman’s attitude should be. For more information, check it out at www.animalisticstrapping.com.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gear that adds to your stamina

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, January 10, 2009.)

I got out the Sit-Drag and
quickly decided it was something I needed for myself.

In this day of lower deer populations, stand hunting remains a very popular method. For many hunters it’s less successful than it once was, yet many continue to station themselves at a single location. Unless you’re in a real hotspot, you may not be seeing many deer from your stand because few hunters are walking around causing the deer to move.

My answer to that dilemma has been to improve my skills as a still-hunter. But all-day still-hunting takes a toll on your legs. Extra effort is required to put your feet down noiselessly, to avoid breaking sticks, to stay balanced, and to be ready to shoot in a fraction of a second. That extra effort, made continuously from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, will send you home exhausted. The still-hunter must, if he is going to be effective, stop at intervals and rest his legs.

I’ve discovered a new piece of equipment that helps me do that and adds to my stamina. In fact, it’s perfect for still-hunters or stand hunters, or any hunter using a combination of those methods. It’s a new seat that enables you to stop anywhere and give your legs a rest. It’s called the Sit-Drag.

You won’t have to look for a stump that’s the right height. You won’t have to brush the snow from a log. You won’t get a wet seat and you won’t have a heavy, cumbersome stool to carry. And you will be able to sit down anywhere there is a tree.

When I got the Sit-Drag I actually had my dad in mind. I took it with me one day on a hunt in New York State, figuring I’d try it out so I could offer my dad some tips on using it. The snow was up to my waist. With no place to sit and rest, I got out the Sit-Drag and quickly decided it was something I needed for myself.

It is a simple sling-style seat, similar to a child’s swing. A grip-strap goes around any tree up to a foot in diameter (an extension strap is available for larger trees), and the sling-style seat hangs from that strap. It’s quick to set up or take down, so it’s worth using even on a brief stop. It rolls up into a compact package, so it’s much easier to carry than any other kind of seat and it’s hardly noticeable in your pack or hanging from your belt.

The seat takes virtually all the weight off your legs, yet allows you total freedom of movement. You can rotate silently as if in slow motion, see 360-degrees around you, and use the tree as a shooting rest.

If you get tired of sitting, stay in the seat but stand up -- leaning back away from the tree will take most of the weight off your legs. In the first half hour you use it, you’ll discover various positions that will keep you comfortable and ready to shoot when that buck comes along.

It weighs less than 9 ounces, but is rated to support 300 pounds. Instructions are provided that describe how to set it up. I added a heavy duty carabiner clip, which makes it quicker to set up. I also use the clip to fasten the carrying bag to my belt when I’m walking.

Once you get a deer, it doubles as an efficient deer drag. It spreads the pressure out across your torso, keeping your hands and arms free. It also works for bowhunting from the ground, for fishing from the bank, or for roasting marshmallows by the fire -- anywhere there is a tree.

If your legs don’t carry you as far as they once did, or they get restless like mine do when on a stand, the Sit-Drag is perfect for you. You won’t get nearly as tired, and you’ll be more willing to move -- or to stop moving -- as the situation dictates.

It’s an inexpensive piece of gear, and once you try it you won’t go hunting without it. Find out more details and ordering information online at www.SitDrag.com.