Pre-season scouting helps you identify specific locations for sets and make plans for the equipment you will need. By planning ahead, you will be able to:
- Set your traps as soon as the season opens.
- Make sets and leave the area quickly, without making excessive commotion that could alert wary furbearers.
Try scouting for fur on an autumn fishing trip. October is a good month for scouting.
- Look first in wetland areas: creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes. Furbearers are most numerous around water. This makes water areas best for trapping.
- In the fall, also look near sources of food.
- Furbearers fatten in the fall while food is still plentiful.
- Signs of muskrat are common in wetlands near fields of corn. Raccoons often gather in or near cornfields.
- Remember that each furbearer leaves some distinctive sign. To scout effectively, you must learn to recognize signs of furbearers.
- Signs include tracks, scat (droppings), food remains, trails, and homesites.
- Places to watch for tracks include soft mud, trails leading in and out of the water, feeding locations, and dens.
- Muskrat tracks often can be recognized by the tail drag mark. Raccoons leave large hind footprints shaped much like a baby's foot. Mink tracks are usually paired.
- The scat of each furbearer are often distinctive in size, content, or place of deposit. Scat may point the way to good trapping sites.
- Muskrats leave their pellets on rocks or logs protruding from the water. The large scats of raccoons are deposited on logs or drift piles; and they are often filled with corn, berries, grapes, and other fruit.
- Make notes and sketches to record what you see. Include numbers. For example, record the following information:
- The number of furbearers present
- Locations where productive sets can be placed
- The number of traps needed