The tawny colored bobcat blended in so well with the milo stalks, that had it not moved I might have walked right up onto it. I’ve trapped here previous years, but because the field had always before been planted to new wheat, I’d driven in from a different direction. This year, besides planting milo here, the owner had left a nice field drive along one edge of the field. The field lays along the river and at one point makes a jog which is a good spot to look for animal tracks in the sandy soil. Coyote tracks were plentiful, and I caught a bobcat last year at nearly the exact location where this one awaited me, so setting traps here was a no-brainer. The traps were set at the very edge of the stalks which hid them from my sight as I approached. Trapped bobcats usually hunker down and lay perfectly still until you get too close, so this one surprised me as I stepped beyond the stalks to take a peek at the trap before moving on. It was a nice cat, but Kansas bobcats are not at their best until January. Besides that, I had just talked to my fur buyer and been told that bobcat prices will probably be appreciably lower this season than in the past few years. All things considered, I really didn’t want to catch any bobcats yet so I felt I needed to release this guy and try to catch it again later when its fur was at its absolute best.
A couple years back I attached two cabinet door handles to one side of a four foot square piece of plywood and cut a big notch on one edge. This works well to release critters from a trap by pushing the critter backwards with the plywood, setting the plywood on the ground so the notch is across its leg then popping open the trap to release its foot. With the plywood between you and the critter, it makes tracks for the nearest cover when released. It works great, but is worthless setting in the shed where mine was! My second choice was a catch-pole devise used by animal control people to catch and control dogs, etc. Because of their anatomical design, all felines suffocate very quickly with something tight around their throats, so once the noose was cinched tight I wouldn’t have much time. This works fairly well using two people, but today I was on my own.
Most bobcats I’ve caught before are on their feet snarling and following every move I make like a wrestler circling their opponent. A low growl constantly rumbled from its throat, but this one lay on its side facing me as if sunning itself on a windowsill, That allowed me to easily slip the noose around its neck, but once tightened, the rodeo was on. I needed to quickly get it pinned to the ground so I could open the trap, but it flipped and flopped around in the air like one of those tall, silly windsock puppets car dealerships deploy in their car lots during weekend “sales.” The trap was on one front foot and I finally managed to get the majority of my boot across its head and neck and held it to the ground. It took both hands to open the trap, so I momentarily laid the catch pole handle on the ground. Once its foot was free it suddenly dawned on me that I no longer held the handle of the pole and if the cat suddenly chose to head-for-the-hills my catch pole would go along with it! I grabbed the pole handle and managed to release the tension on the noose and lift it off the cats head, but instead of disappearing in a cloud-of-dust, it stood there, mere feet from me with an expression on its face like “What just happened here?” I backed slowly away from it but it still just stood there staring at me. I went to my nearby pickup to get my camera, but in the few seconds it took me to return, the cat was history.
People who know nothing about trappers or trapping can easily be of the opinion that we trappers are a heartless crew, when in actuality we trappers are some of the most avid conservationists on the planet. We understand that we harvest a God-given renewable resource that must be managed much like a farmer would manage livestock, and not harvest them until they are at their very best. I may not catch that bobcat again this season or any other bobcat this season for that matter. Even though its fur was not yet at its prime, it would still have been a nice addition to my fur check. But I would rather not have it to sell at all, than to sell it before it reaches its very best and then regret it. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected].