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Time to trap those furbearers

Jan. 6—As many Indiana hunting seasons slow down, trapping season picks up. Winter is the best time to harvest furbearers because their fur is prime; when it is the thickest and in the best condition.

Furs aren't the only parts you can harvest from animals you trap. Meats of many furbearers, including beaver, muskrat, and raccoon are enjoyed within many hunting communities. You can cook beaver meat in ways similar to how you cook beef, and raccoon tastes great when slow-cooked in the style of pulled pork. For more information and season dates for each species, check out our hunting & trapping webpage at: https://www.in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/hunting-and-trapping/.

As a child, I had a fascination with wildlife one might say was borderline obsessive. I had all kinds of wild critters for pets and spent most of my time outdoors. I considered myself to be an excellent outdoorsman, and a real hunter, fisherman and trapper.

The truth be known, I was far from a crack marksman. I didn't catch many fish, and I had to be the worst trapper in the history of the tradition. One entire trapping season early in my career, all I caught was a cold. It's pretty depressing for a budding mountain man to realize he's being outsmarted by the likes of a muskrat.

Still, morning after morning, I'd get up way before dawn to check my trap line. Slogging around in over-size hip waders and wandering through the dark guided by the weak, flickering light from my old, two-cell flashlight, I made my appointed rounds checking the muskrat sets. I didn't like to bunch the traps up. Rather, I spread them out about a half-mile stretch along the Big Flatrock River. If I didn't spread them out, it wouldn't take long to check the trap line, considering I only had four old traps I found in grandpa's barn.

Not even taking into consideration the wear and tear on my hip boots, and the drain on my flashlight's batteries, financially, my trapping career was an absolute bust.

About the time I was ready to call it quits, our neighbor across the road, Anderson Mantooth asked me how my trapping career was going.

Before I could tell Anders every muskrat in Flatrock River had an advanced degree in trap avoidance skills, he said, "If you catch a possum, keep me in mind. I'll pay you 25 cents for a small one and 50 cents for a big one."

Eureka ... my little eyes had dollar signs for pupils! Old Anders had just made me a rich man. I knew I could catch possums. Possums were everywhere. Rush County was ate-up with possums. Heck, sometimes Mom would hit a couple of them on the county roads just driving to town.

The bargain struck with Mr. Mantooth gave me renewed incentive and confidence. And, sure enough, I found I could outsmart a possum.

All I had to do was get the critters into a gunny sack and drop them off on Anders porch. Soon the silver was rolling in. My best week racked up three possums. I sacked up one small one and two 50-centers for Anders! I was swimming in cash.

With the end of trapping season, I took stock of things. I had made enough to buy a kit to patch my hip boots, buy a new three-battery flashlight, and I saved a little money too.

One day the following summer, Anders asked if I would like to eat supper with him and his wife Clara. Being a good neighbor and always half-starved, I readily agreed, washed up, and took a seat at the table. Clara's kitchen always smelled good, but this particular evening, it smelled especially good.

I asked Anders, "What's for supper?"

Anders smiled and said, "Something special I know you will like."

Clara opened the oven, pulled out a roasting pan and set the main course on the table. There looking back at me while swimming in a half-inch of grease was one of the 50-centers from last fall.

As I recall the meal ... the potatoes and corn were excellent and the whole milk was nice and cold. As for the possum ... it was good. It was kind of sweet, just a little stringy and a bit greasy; and with a few small bites, very filling.

Contact Jack Spaulding by writing to this publication, or by e-mail to jackspaulding1971@outlook.com.