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#699 - 10/09/13 08:33 PM difficult muskrat trapping situation
Kart29 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/06/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Indiana
I've never had so much trouble catching muskrats.

I'm in an area of flat row crops in central Indiana. There is a ditch down the road that was dammed up by beavers and has made a little beaver pond about 8' wide and 900' long. It is chock stinking loaded with muskrats and I can't walk down the ditch without seeing about ten of them swimming around. But last year I could only catch three of them over the course of 10 days.

Here's the trouble:

1. The ditch was dredged with a backhoe about a year and half ago and the banks are very steep for about 7' above the water line and going right down to about 4 or 5 feet below the water line. I can get down to the water line to set traps in many places but have to be very careful I don't slide right down into the bottom of the ditch. Walking along the water's edge the length of the ditch is impossible. Therefore I can't find bank dens. The water is far to0 murky to see runs leading into bank dens to pinpoint their location.

2. I have used the floating traps successfully in other locations but in this spot the floating traps are completely ignored.

3. I've successfully used sets made of false mud slides and apples/baits on a stick over a foothold in the water at the water's edge at other locations. Here the only thing I can catch at this set is ducks.

4. I've tried making large feed beds baited with carrots, apples, turnips, lettuce, local plants and roots. These feed beds are completely ignored and the bait is never touched.

5. I've heard of other folks setting traps blind in the little tunnels where the tall grass has fallen over into the edge of the bank and into the water Here the grass is so thick that the root system extend right down into the water and the water's edge is just a thick mat of grass and weeds. Just to bed a trap at the water's edge you have to pull up about three inches of tangled, sodden grass before you can even get down to mud.

The few I caught last year were one in a body grip set in a tiny trickle where the water flows through a break in an old beaver dam. Two others were caught in a bank den I found near this old beaver dam.

Pocket sets might be an option but it would be extremely hard to dig a pocket in all that grass with one boot down in the muck and the other knee on the bank to keep from sliding down the incline and under water.

I have caught a few rats at rat toilets on semi-submerged logs in the past but I've not found anything like that at this location. The track-hoe took all that stuff out of the ditch.

I need some new set ideas - something I haven't thought about before. Anybody have any creative ideas on how I can catch those muskrats. It's killing me to have my favorite furbearer in such a concentrated area just a mile from my house and I can't catch them. If I would just go sit on the bank I could shoot them by the bucket-full with a .22 rimfire. I've found that idea pretty tempting but even if they floated I'd need a net or something to fish them out of the drink.

Ideas anyone?

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#700 - 10/10/13 07:54 PM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Hal Offline
Moderator

Registered: 07/17/00
Posts: 9987
Loc: Blue Creek, Ohio, USA
With the price of muskrats, get a boat.

Hal
_________________________
Endeavor to persevere.

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#701 - 10/10/13 11:26 PM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
brlawi Offline
Member

Registered: 02/23/10
Posts: 67
Loc: Wisconsin
If you are correct in your assumptions about seeing that many rats there are places that they congregate to feed. There should be some feed beds at strategic places that you should find lots of clippings and piles of chewed debris. If you don't find many feed beds or only a few smaller feed beds then you may not have as many rats as you assume you have. Rent a friends canoe and paddle the 900 feet to see what sign you can find. If all else fails wait until you get enough ice to walk on the top of the water and look for bubble trails i the clear ice. If you have lots of rats you will have lots of bubble trails. If you don't have bubble trails you don't have that many rats.

Bryce

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#702 - 10/11/13 07:16 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Kart29 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/06/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Indiana
Hmm. I own my own canoe. I could float it down the ditch but it would be too narrow to turn the boat around. I'd have to get permission from the farmer to drive my truck through his field to where the water is deep enough to get the canoe in. Just thinking out loud. Once I get the boat out there, I'd have to leave it in as long as the traps were out. No way could I put the canoe in and out every morning before I start work at 6:00 a.m.. Hope it wouldn't get stolen. Enough ice to walk on has been a rare occurrence here the past few winters.

Where I live, if you can find 20 muskrats living in 300 yards of ditch, you have a real hotspot. In most ditches and ponds around here, there just aren't that many around any more.

Maybe I can put the canoe in the ditch some time around Thanksgiving or Christmas when I have a few days off work and can spend more time checking traps during daylight.

I see some small feed beds here and there, just muskrat tracks in a small patch of mud with some chewed roots laying around - usually under an overhanging patch of weeds or brush. I've tried putting a #1 size trap just barely under the water at what looks like the likely approach to these spots but I've not connected with this type of set very often. 110's at these little feed beds have never worked for me. Baited or otherwise.

I've been wanting to make a little homemade wooden skiff boat. Too late for this year but maybe next. Plus, a boat on this ditch would let me put sets on both sides of the ditch which is normally next to impossible. Each side of the ditch is like its own separate trap line when you are on foot.

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#703 - 10/12/13 06:42 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
redsnow Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 06/11/06
Posts: 2142
Loc: WV
How deep is the water in the ditch below the beaver dam? What is the dam made of? Corn stalks or just brush?

If the dam is only 8 feet wide, you could probably get in there with an ax or maddock, and rip/tear a little hole in the dam. And maybe drop the water level 2' or 3' so you could wade the ditch? Without looking at it, it might take you an hour or two?

I wouldn't think the landowner would mind, the ditch is there for draining his fields. Ask him first.

And you should be able to turn around in your canoe and paddle back to where you put in. smile

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#704 - 10/12/13 10:11 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Ric Offline


Registered: 07/22/00
Posts: 3670
Loc: Wellington,OH=USA
Wading those drainage ditches is problematic.

1) they commonly have a very soft bottom

2) there is no way to easily get out if you get in trouble

Be careful

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#705 - 10/14/13 07:25 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Ric Offline


Registered: 07/22/00
Posts: 3670
Loc: Wellington,OH=USA
From Kart29

Yes, it has a very soft bottom and the muck is pretty deep, too. For some reason I think it's even worse after they dredged it than it was before.

I did cut a relief slot in the dam last year to put some body grips in because I've had good luck setting them in the flow over the dam. This lowered the water level in the ditch but I think this may have disturbed the rats and disrupted their behavior because of the sudden change in the water level.

(Moved from wrong thread..Ric)

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#706 - 10/15/13 07:42 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
redsnow Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 06/11/06
Posts: 2142
Loc: WV
I'm thinking about a local ditch, similar to what you describe. One side is nearly vertical, the other side is fairly steep, but if you watch your step you can walk it.

If the ditch was just dredged, a year or 2 ago, has it had time to be sodded over yet? If there's no grass and weeds, you may not have as many rats as you think?

I believe I'd rip a hole in the dam, a foot and a half or 2 feet deep. With that much water, it'll take a day or 2 for the water level to even out. At least then you'd be able to walk the ditch bank, and check for tracks.

I'll tell you I really like to set on floating logs, boards work good too. If you can get your hands on a couple of old pallets, you'd have all the lumber you'd need.

If the place is infested with rats, it might be worth the time/effort to build a few platforms. And don't forget about the beaver. smile

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#707 - 10/15/13 08:30 AM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Dale F Offline
Member

Registered: 01/09/01
Posts: 552
Loc: Erie, IL
I leave a boat at places sometimes till I'm done there and (knock on wood) haven't had any problems yet. I always flip it over and brush it quick (only takes a couple minutes) so it does not stick out so much.

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#708 - 10/15/13 10:53 PM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
brlawi Offline
Member

Registered: 02/23/10
Posts: 67
Loc: Wisconsin
You will find most if not all of your rat feed beds in the shallow shelfs underneath the overhanging grass. If there is little vegetation in the newly dug ditch the rats should have slides where they need to go up the bank to clip plants and dig roots.
You don't need to turn your canoe around. Just turn around in the canoe and paddle back. Most canoes if they are narrow ended or have a flaired stern can be paddle both directions. As to theft if the conditions getting down and into the water are as dificult as you state I don't see how theft would be as likely as you state.
Another thought would be to find the feed beds and bring a long say 30 inch stake along and a piece of say 20 foot rope and set the stake up on the bank and repel down the bank and use the rope to allow you to set your traps and not continue down into the bottom of the ditch. You could also buy some ice cleats and that would help you slip and slide less as you climb up and down the slippery bare, wet soil.

Bryce

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#709 - 11/14/13 12:24 PM Re: difficult muskrat trapping situation
Kart29 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/06/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Indiana
Well, they must have torn up the dam downstream on another property because the water is only a little over knee deep this year.

Unfortunately I am not seeing any muskrats or ducks like I did last year.

Landowners don't seem to like beavers but the ponds they build sure make some good wildlife habitat. I have one landowner who says he has never let anyone hunt or trap his property since the 1970's but he wants the beaver gone so gave me permission. Then he rented a Caterpillar bat wing mower like the kind they use along the side of the roads and went down his ditch line and cut down all the brush and little trees just like the beaver were doing for him free of charge in the first place. That's one way to get rid of the beaver - destroy their habitat and food source!

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