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Trapping Techniques of the Mountain Man (Page 2)

By: Kent Klein

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"Last evening, Drewyer visited his traps and caught a beaver and an otter. The beaver was large and fat. We have therefore fared sumptiously today. This we consider a great prize for another reason. It being full grown, was well supplied with the materials for making bate with which to catch others. This bate when properly prepared, will entice the beaver to visit the traps for as far as he can smell them. This, I believe can be safely judged by about one mile. Their sense of smelling is very accute. To prepare beaver bate, the castor or bark stone is taken as the base. This is gently pressed out of the bladderlike bag, which contains it into a phiol of four ounces with a wide mouth; if you have them you will put from four to six stone in a phiol of that capacity, to this you will add have a nutmeg, a douzen or 15 grains of cloves and thirty grains of cinimon finely pulverized, stir them well together and then add as much ardent sperits to the composition as will reduce it the consistency (of) mustard prepared at the table; when thus prepared it resembles mustard precisely to all appearance. When you cannot procure a phiol a bottle made of horn or a tight earthen vessel will answer, in all cases it must be excluded from the air or it will soon loose it's virtue; it is fit for uce immediately it is prepared but becomes much stronger and better in about four or five days and will keep for months provided it be perfectly secluded from the air. When cloves are not to be had use double the quantity of Allspice, and when no spice can be obtained use the bard of the root of sausafras; when sperits cannot be had use oil stone of the beaver adding mearly a sufficient quantity to moisten the other materials, or reduce it to a stif past(e). It appears to me that the principal use of the spices is only to give a variety to the scent of the bark stone and if so the mace vineller (vanilla) and other sweet smelling spices might be employed with equal advantage. The male beaver has six stones, two (of) which contain a substance much like finely pulverized bard of a pale yellow colour and not unlike tanner's ooz in smell, these are called the bark stones or castors; two others, which like the bark stone resemble small bladders, contain a pure oil of a strong rank disagreeable smell, and not unlike train oil, these are called the oil stones; and 2 others of generation. the Barkstones are about two inc(h)es in length, the others somewhat smaller all are of a long oval form, and lye in a bunch together between the skin and the root of the tail, beneath or behind the fundament with which they are closely connected and seem to communicate."(3)

It was not always necessary or accessable to trap beaver by wading into an icy stream to set and check traps:

"...the dams of the beaver causes water to overflow it's banks, and makes a swampy, marshy, country for miles round. People trapping on these streams are compelled to construct canoes of bull and buffaloe skins, in order to visit their traps."(4)

Apparently beaver castor had some medicinal qualities to it as well to the mountainmen. Osborne Russell was shot in the right hip and in the right leg above the knee with arrows by Blackfoot Indians and writes: "... I had bathed my wounds in salt water and made a salve of beavers oil and castoreum which I applied to them, this eased the pain and drawn out the swelling in a great measure."(5)


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