By Larry Dablemont
A few weeks ago I wrote about setting deadfalls to control small predators from weasels to raccoons. Deadfalls sets are illegal and in this time of over-populations of the egg eaters that keep quail numbers low and impact wild turkey numbers, they should be put in use. Many landowners don’t own steel traps, because they are expensive and not easy to use without some trapping knowledge. But deadfalls can be very efficient in control of raccoons, possums, skunks, groundhogs and armadillos. all of those species, being tremendously overpopulated. Deadfalls are easy to use, and they do not leave an animal suffering with its foot in a steel trap. They kill quickly and efficiently.
You know why they are illegal? Well, back in the 20’s and early thirties, when fur prices were really good, the trap manufacturers, like Victor and felt deadfalls were a great threat to the sale and manufacture of steel traps. So they really campaigned against them, saying that small dogs and pet cats were in danger where they were used.
Their big concern was that country boys buying steel traps from them were going to use deadfalls instead. And my dad and his brother did indeed. My grandfather was a big time river trapper, and traps were his way of supporting his family in the winter. He owned a large number of traps, some he bought, but most from trading with old timers who were getting too old to take and sell furs. While he trapped the Big Piney and Gasconade rivers, he taught his sons at a young age to run deadfall lines, skin and stretch the furs they took. In 1927 the F.C. Taylor fur company in St Louis tagged my grandfather as the number 1 individual fur trapper selling to them, and it continued for several years. Many of those furs were taken via dry-land deadfalls. And indeed, some were of feral cats, whose fur brought from 25 to 40 cents apiece. But those were not someone’s pet, and they never, ever killed a dog. Dogs were too large and in the wild areas of the river, where they lived and trapped, there weren’t many farms. It took my dad and his brother, Norten, most of the morning to run 40 or 50 deadfalls and skin what they caught, but possums and skunks brought about a dollar each and raccoons considerably more. In those days the Ozarks were spared the scourge of armadillos. Fish heads attached to the trigger were the best baits, and deadfalls had to have bait. You could set small deadfalls for rabbits or groundhogs using a carrot for bait, so if you are looking for survival tips in all those hokie survival classes being taught, the first thing you need to learn is the techniques for setting deadfalls. You can see what you need to have to set a deadfall on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors. It doesn’t take much time to whittle out triggers for a deadfall if you have a good knife.
I don’t suppose that anyone has ever been fined for setting deadfalls in the Ozarks, because old-time game wardens for the Mo Conservation Commission just knew the ways of country people and since all of them were country people themselves they understood the necessity of it. Pairs of game wardens in this day and time stays close to their state-owned new pickup and they do not walk back to look for such things on private land or even public land. One fellow who uses deadfalls to exterminate overpopulated predators says if any of his are found he intends to blame it on someone else! The deadfalls, he told me, are much of the reason he has more quail and turkey on his land. fewer egg eaters. And don’t get to thinking you can wipe out the predators, you cannot. But you sure can bring them back to reasonable numbers. My maternal grandparents were farmers, not outdoorsmen, but they and some neighbors protected their chicken houses with a couple of deadfalls, put up at dark and easily disassembled come first light. Having deadfalls around gardens back then were a big help when someone wanted to protect their roastin’-ears. You need to see how to use them and some of the old adds trap manufacturing companies, and the triggers you will need make and use. Those are posted this week on that website with past columns and lots of photos. But use some common sense; don’t set deadfalls where you have small dogs or cats.
I like to hear common sense opinions about what I write, from readers, so send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 And if you want to subscribe to my magazines or acquire one of my books, see them on www.larrydablemont.com