12/4/2013 9:19:00 AM Curt Carter enters Minnesota Trappers Association Hall of Fame
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
It came as a surprise to him last August, but maybe it shouldn't have. Curt Carter was inducted into the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA) Hall of Fame at their annual convention. I'm sure the always humble Curt never sought such an honor but it couldn't have been given to a more deserving person. Born in '34, Curt has been fur trapping and doing animal control work where needed for 70 years. I probably first met Curt in the 1970s when he was busy working full-time for South Central Electric. He was also working a second job each fall as a fur trapper. That was back when red fox were plentiful and their fur was valuable. Some would call his seasonal job of fur trapping a lot of hard work. If so, why did he do it before and after his regular job each day, weekends and also during his vacations? I guess you'd have to say he simply loved it. His life as a trapper in the Jeffers area borders on legendary. I have heard about the trapping abilities of Curt for nearly my entire life in Cottonwood County which goes back to 1965. Starting at the age of seven, I'm guessing, he picked up a few muskrats and raccoons and was extremely proud of that first mink he caught. Back then, mink were the gold standard of a person's trapping skill and a big buck mink brought as high as $35 in that era. That would probably be equal to $250 or so in our current value of the dollar. I've even got one of Curts' mink pelts hanging in my garage, a gift from him some 20 years ago. By the way, it's not for sale. Then in the late '70s red fox dominated his trapping. He perfected the dirt hole set as a means to outsmart Mr. Red, one of the smartest rascals out there. In the '80s, coyotes, a fox's worst enemy, and mange, their second worst enemy, invaded our area. Today, with a minor comeback, only a few red fox are caught by trappers that seek them. Coyotes and coon have taken over the landscape. Nowadays Curt continues his trapping. He would probably say he's a bit less active in his pursuit of $30-$40 raccoons but others would say, "I couldn't keep up with him." Curt recognizes the importance of his sport in keeping the predator-prey relationship more balanced. Without trapping, our wildlife scene would be a feast or famine situation. Too many fur bearing predators would result in too few prey for them. A predator overpopulation with fewer prey and you would soon see nature control the predator by a die off from disease. And the cycle would repeat itself over and over again. Well, Curt has sure done his part in being an ethical trapper and has taught many how to go about it. It was really good that the MTA recognized him for a lifetime of trapping. His best reward for all that work? I've never seen a overweight trapper. Jackson County bobcat Jeff Lillquist, a Lakefield trapper, had a surprise waiting for him in one of his traps a couple of weeks ago near Kilen Woods. At first glance, from a distance, he thought his Conibear held a big feral tom cat. Then when he got closer he realized he had caught something more than twice as big, a bobcat. Unusual to our area of the state, Jeff realized it would be illegal for him to take possession of the now dead bobcat so he called for Mike Guhlke, Jackson County conservation officer. After a short wait Mike arrived on the scene, realized it was an accidental catch in a trap set for a raccoon and removed it. He took possession of it and it is now in the cooler at the Minnesota DNR building in Windom. A Conibear trap is a body gripping trap and usually catches raccoons by the neck, killing them almost instantly. The bobcat had followed the coon trail where Jeff had placed his trap and was killed instantly. Minnesota DNR District Wildlife Manager Randy Markl of Windom told me the bobcat weighed 27 pounds, was a healthy young male and appeared to leave no doubt it was entirely wild. I've been receiving increasing reports of sightings of bobcats in our area recently and one report of a bobcat screaming in the night during mating season. So, although it was unfortunate that one would be accidentally caught in a trap it surely confirms their presence in our area. Fish Lake seined A licensed fish seiner from Waterville, MN recently was permitted to pull his seine through part of Fish Lake. Working in the lake for several days the father-son team of netters with two helpers brought in a estimated 16,000-17,000 pounds of carp and buffalo, according to the son. Using a net, with a five-inch mesh that goes to depths of 28 feet, they were able to achieve some success. Most game fish and smaller rough fish passed through the net. A couple of larger walleye were rescued and returned to the lake. The five-pound average carp will be sold to a northern Iowa buyer for about $.18 per pound. The 10- to 20-pound buffalo will be shipped live to the east cost and bring $.80 per pound. According to Ryan Doorenbos, Minnesota DNR regional fisheries manager, that is less than 10% of the rough fish in the lake and will probably have little effect. Both fish species feed on vegetation at the bottom of the lake, resuspending phosphorus into the water column which results in annual algae blooms that can turn a warming lake green in just a couple of days.