By Joel Schnell December 13, 2015
I rescued my Brittany Maggie from a body grip trap last week. A harrowing experience but she is fine now. This month of the season we share the woods with trappers. There’s a few things to keep in mind to keep your dog safe.
Finding Traps Afield
I was with a couple buddies on a Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Project Area I hunted three times earlier this fall. It’s a big area. The gate was open so we drove to the terminus of the forest road and put dogs down on ground. We immediately encountered a body grip (conibear-type) trap in a wooden box set. It had a pheasant wing on fish line suspended above it and was baited with bird parts. We moved away from that area but not before Dave found another trap. At the truck Dave grabbed his leatherman, and a big zip tie we got from the MN Trappers Association at Game Fair, and put them in his vest.
We drove back down the trail a bit to the next intersection, to move away from the trapping area. We lined up off the trail and pushed parallel to it. After our push as we turned back to the trail to cross it, we all heard Maggie howling in pain. I ran the 50 yards towards her and Dave arrived about the same time. Her head was in the trap and pulled from the box but still chained to it. She could still breathe and struggled and whined. I dropped my gun nearby, and with gloves on, grabbed the spring on one side and compressed it. That released the pressure somewhat. Dave removed his gloves and was trying to get the zip tie out. I shouted at him to just grab the spring on the other side. I had to lift the trap up for him to access the other side, and he moved next to me to grab it. He compressed the spring, and Maggie was able to back out of the trap.
We kneeled there a moment to catch our breath. We saw two other traps nearby so we leashed the dogs and walked back to the truck.
Back at the intersection where we parked we observed pink ribbon on branches, the same as near the trap. I guess that was our notification traps were nearby. Problem is, we see ribbon in these areas all the time. Often marking deer stand paths, or old abandoned logging roads now deer trails. In fact I often deliberately follow those ribbons, there’s good grouse hunting down those old trails.
Observations About the Experience
Trappers are hunters too, and probably have dogs. They don’t want to catch non-target species. The traps I encountered were legal sets, and the wood boxes with overhang helped prevent Maggie from getting her head far enough into the box to expose her windpipe to the trap jaws. An issue with the sets is the location. The trapper drove right by a parking lot with an eight-foot sign declaring it a ruffed grouse area, and a gate next to it. If he scouted the area on weekends earlier in the season, he would see that it is frequented by hunters with dogs. I myself saw other hunters there every time. A poor choice to set traps there, it was likely to catch a dog. A simple warning sign that traps were present would have helped, we would have moved to another spot in that case. If he is worried about his traps being tampered with, then I guess he is more worried about his traps than about my dog.
Body Grip Traps in Minnesota
There has been an effort to legislate more restrictions on these traps. A very poor bill circulated last session that included a requirement to get permission from landowners. That’s a bad idea as it relates to timber company lands, which both hunters and trappers have access to by virtue of forest crop laws, and possibly public easements purchased by our Legacy Act money. A better proposal is currently being drafted by the MN DNR, which requires better enclosures and placement for body grip traps.
Education About Traps
This is the third time, in two different states, that I’ve removed traps from my dogs. Two were the less dangerous leg hold traps.
Here’s a few resources related to trapping in Minnesota.
Late season hunting is a special time afield. I could just stay home. Yeah, right. I’ll be out there, but keeping trap release safety in mind.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com