Michael Johnson | Mossy Oak ProStaff
I have two boys, ages 7 and 9, and fellow Mossy Oak GameKeepers ProStaffer Stephen Moore has an 11-year-old daughter. The most fun that Stephen and I get out of trapping is coming around a corner with the kids in the truck and seeing a coyote in a dog-proof set with a coil spring on its foot. The kids get so excited and so fired-up any time we catch any critters, but especially when we catch a coyote.
Our children aren’t just spectators in our trapping, they’re also participants. All three of them can set dog-proof raccoon traps and cage traps. There’s nothing more fun for us and them than running our traplines. On those trapping excursions, we spend quality time with our children, and we’re teaching them not only how to trap but also why to trap predators and why removing them is a good thing for both the land and the game that lives on that land. Being able to spend that time with our children is invaluable.
When our kids see a coyote bouncing up and down in a trap in the morning, they’re like kids in a candy store and can’t wait to get to that coyote. The only thing that excites them more is if they pick out a place to set a trap and the next day they find a critter in their trap. They understand they may have saved a momma turkey and her babies or a fawn deer. Our kids also get to use the .22 rifle to dispatch the critter. Stephen and I have taught them where to aim to take a predator quickly and not damage the hide.
After they’ve dispatched the animal, each gets to carry the critter back to the truck. If they don’t get to do that, there’s usually a fight. My children have ridden with me and Uncle Stephen, who’s really not their uncle, and have seen us set traps and catch predators. We’ve let them play with small traps that won’t hurt them to begin to learn how to set traps. Generally Stephen or I will set the trap, and the children will dig the hole, hide the trap and bait the trap.
The kids became interested in setting traps when Stephen and I were boiling and dipping some new traps. We use a speed dip to eliminate unwanted scents and then wax the traps to make the traps work better and faster. That’s when the conversation began about the youngsters doing their own trapping with us when we go out to trap.
Something else that Stephen and I do is we’ve taught our children how to look for predator sign and how to identify places to set traps. One of the biggest rewards has been watching our children, even as young as they are, honing their skills to become effective trappers and to understand that predator trapping helps to improve the land for wildlife. Of course, we’ve really enjoyed spending time with our children and building relationships with them. We’ve taught them to appreciate the woods and everything God has given us.
My oldest son started hunting with me when he was 3 or 4 years old. I rigged up a dog harness to create a body harness for him to insure he didn’t fall out of the tree. I used carabiners and a 3/8-inch braided rope to make his safety harness. So far, I haven’t seen any company making safety harnesses for children, and I wanted to teach my son to be as safe in a tree as I was and not to climb a tree without wearing a safety harness. My purposes for trapping are two-fold. I use trapping and predator hunting to improve our hunting lands for wildlife and to spend quality time with my children.
To have more wildlife on your property, especially deer and turkeys, you must manage predators. Mossy Oak GameKeepers ProStaffer Michael C. Johnson of Plainfield, Georgia, started trapping and harvesting predators about nine years ago. Johnson has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for three years.