SPORTSMEN and women of New England are well known for, among many other traits, their toughness.
The climate alone forces a resiliency that is unique and exists well beyond the fair-weather conditions of other sports. When the December days of early winter get shorter and colder, most — perhaps subconsciously — seek the comforts of the indoors, and those who are inspired by the opposite can be considered genuinely tough.
Nothing exemplifies this as much as the period from Oct. 15 to April 10, when trappers submerge themselves into the cold, wet habitats of certain furbearers. In addition to those seeking mink, otter and muskrat, trappers who target beavers are inspired by the cold and find significant advantages to winter trapping. The work is hard, the payoff is low and processing the animal is time consuming, but beaver trappers share an incredible dedication to the resources they share.
Successful trappers rely on an ability to recognize the past movements of animals and also predict those of the future. When the most frequent avenues for travel are hidden by snow and ice, this can become difficult and these challenges sharpen one’s perception and foster a deeper understanding of animal behavior.
Preseason scouting is a great advantage to beaver trapping where finding, understanding and remembering locations with signs of active beavers will always pay off. The flowing water of channels and slow runs are hard to identify once frozen, but they remain one of the most likely paths of movement. Some trappers mark these areas with sturdy sticks that might later be used to secure traps or attract animals.
It is also advantageous to identify the directions of travel as they relate to a beaver’s lodge. Those locations most frequently used for access in open water will remain the same under ice and are important areas to target. Marking areas with beaver-chewed sticks leaves the appearance of a natural, undisturbed area and will provide valuable materials that might be hard to find under snow and ice of mid-winter.
Food sources for beaver include maple, birch, beech and aspen. During the winter months, they may be in limited supply and therefore, a greater attractant to beavers. While most animals store a cache of food, they are still in a constant searching pattern, and successful trappers will have a supply of those succulent trees and branches that they seek. A trap baited with or near these hard-to-find food sources will always be inviting to a hungry beaver.
Where open water provides a vast area for travel, winter brings significant restrictions and limited opportunity. A beaver might be forced to use the same location to access open water, and skilled trappers are keen to the signs. Freezing temperatures and frequent snow events might make these areas hard to identify, but mud, thin ice and bubbles indicate frequent use.
Trapping is one of the most regulated methods of take of all of New Hampshire’s resources. Those who undertake it must be familiar with dates, methods, landowners and most of all, the biology that governs their quarry. As a result, trapping can be one of the best management tools in preserving this resource.
In winter, skills are tested, fingers are cold and New Hampshire trappers are very happy to serve this role.