Michael Johnson | Mossy Oak ProStaff
Last Christmas, my children received rabbit-in-distress calls and duck calls as presents. For six months after they got those calls, my wife was thrilled. My wife is always excited when we bring home a possum, a raccoon or fox and skin the critter out on her island in the kitchen. My wife really is a good sport. She takes all we do like a champ, because she realizes our sons like to spend time with me and are very proud of the critters they’ve caught. She also realizes they could be getting into lots more trouble than just trapping and skinning the animals they’ve trapped.
My partners and I have some landowners we were trapping for who were having problems with beavers flooding much of their hunting lands. When they asked us to trap beavers, we agreed and bought some Conibear traps. We learned that trapping beavers was a lot of hard work. You have to break the dam, which takes about three hours, set the trap and catch the beaver. But then those beavers left will return and have that break you’ve made in the dam built back overnight.
We’re really just getting started on beaver trapping, and we’ve caught about five. We’ve heard that beavers are good to eat, and we’re going to cook the next one we catch the same way we cook raccoons. But beavers aren’t our main target. If some of the landowners we work with are having problems with beavers, we’ll try to solve that problem too.
My favorite animals to catch are coyotes and bobcats. They’re the two smartest animals in the woods as far as I’m concerned. Those animals realize you’re in the woods, and when I get one of those animals to put its paw on a 2-3 inch trigger, I feel I’ve really done something.
Stephen and I also have learned that various areas produce different types of predators. In the regions where we catch gray foxes and bobcats, we don’t catch very many coyotes. However, in the places where we do catch numbers of coyotes, we don’t see very many bobcats and gray foxes. We’ve learned that the bobcats and foxes don’t like coyotes, and the coyotes don’t like the bobcats and foxes.
When we go out at night to predator hunt, if dark falls before bedtime and my boys don’t have to go to school the next day, my boys are right in my back pocket. I love that. Once my boys catch critters in their traps. They get prideful and will say, “I caught that coon,” or “my trap caught that coyote.” At 9 and 7 years old, my boys are much better trappers than I ever was at their ages. I recommend that anyone who enjoys hunting, wants to have more game animals where he hunts and likes to spend time with his children should teach and take kids trapping.
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.