Jesse's Pheasant Trapping Story
- by Jesse Putnam -
As Timmons says in Dances with Wolves, "I'll bet someone back east is going, 'Now why don't he write?'" Well, it's cold, very cold. Three days in a row of sub zero temperatures. Normally I would never complain about temperatures below zero, with the real feel near -25, but…..When you add several miles a day on a snowmobile, that real feel is amplified. It was cold today. The local Montanans were even complaining about how cold it was.
Success, a word that really makes you feel good! Yesterday, Saturday was our first day of trapping. Jason and I set traps at two locations early in the morning. Yesterday was -9 when we set the first traps, but did not feel anywhere near as cold as it did today. Our trap locations were about 30 miles but 50 minutes apart. It has been very interesting this year to not be able to drive any prairie road we come across. Most are drifted in with several feet of snow.
Jason and I decided it would be OK to try a road we drove on a week ago. Well, we would have been stuck if it had not been so cold. The snow drifts had actually frozen solid, frozen enough to be like cement! We drove the truck and snowmobile trailer over drift after drift that would have swallowed a H3 Hummer if the temperatures had been warmer. Really its unbelievable that there is anything left to drift…One would think that after freezing rain and temperatures in the 40's that there would be no snow left to drift. I would never have believed it without seeing it. When the wind blows, it blows so fierce that it breaks up the icy crust and blows it around like snow flakes. Really it's something I have never seen. The thought that the wind is blowing hard enough to peel ice off the ground and move it around, it's too much to think about sometimes.
After this wild seemingly off-road trip, we got our traps set. Jason and I drove back to Tom's farm by means of better roads and put together a few more traps. We also put enough straw in the pheasant pen to make a somewhat cozy place to sleep if you had no other options.
With fear of frost bite and hypothermia, we set out to check traps as the sun set. Jason and I were rewarded with the best day of trapping I have ever seen!!!!! A single trapping location yielding 46 birds! It was so exciting to see eleven out of fourteen traps jumping with pheasants! Two hens flew away before we were able to capture them, but still being able to yield 47 birds is amazing. The best day we had last year was 31, and that was trapping 19 locations! It was so exciting to see those results! Tom and Mike were able to grab 13 more hens at the other trap site, though we had some mortality issues with a nice chocolate lab.
Our first day of trapping we amassed a total of 57 birds, 6 of which are roosters.
Day two proved to be a great day, but much more normal. Jason and I headed north very early, we put out some more traps and then headed to our site with traps set to move traps that were ruined by the dog and check the others. We moved the traps far enough away from the house that the dog should no longer be a problem, at least with the snow and cold. At days end, after checking traps twice, we were able to add another 25 birds to our total. To date we have 69 Hens and 11 Roosters! Not too bad for two days of trapping. Tom should have his two sleds up and running by Tuesday.
Jason and I plan to head to Sidney, Montana tomorrow for veterinary services. The temperatures should be a little better for us to work in for awhile now. Braving frost bite and death is not something I enjoy doing for longer than two days. Call me crazy, but I like my skin, fingers and toes!