I was kind of struggling for a topic to write about this time. I’m not going to lie, I’ve started an article several times and they all got deleted before I got very far in to them. It’s a crazy busy time of the year for the Graham family, and it seems that I can’t ever get caught up. I’ve made the comment several times before that I’d just once like to have a year of 12 months of October and November.

I was way over the deadline when I got a text from my good friend and editor, Mike Wilhite, saying, “Hate to bother you, but … ”

I knew Mike had other things to work on before getting this issue to the press, so I finally just sat down after the rain had pushed me home for the day, and as they say, “I fired up the computer”.

I’ve decided to just write about what is going on in my life right now, because it’s fresh on my mind.

My youngest son Riley got to spend a lot of the fall hunting big game, beginning with a family friend on an out-of-state elk hunt; then back home to hunt in Wyoming. He’s picky and methodical, and he spent a fair amount of time “looking”. Eventually he harvested a really nice mule deer buck as well as a good antelope buck, all before he started his very first solo coyote trapline.

Being 16, and getting his driver’s license and the new-found freedom and opportunities that comes with it, reminded me of myself when I was that age. I think I was almost as excited as he was this fall.

He’d worked hard all year, starting with lambing in the spring for a rancher, followed by haying and working on a farm/ranch operation all summer, right up through Labor Day. He decided not to play sports this year, which was fine with me, as I knew he’d rather be in the outdoors anyway.

I knew he’d been scouting for his own trapping areas this fall, and I’d already had the conversation with my wife, Nicole, to let him use my older work pickup when the time came. It’d be an extra expense, but I’m not going to let that be an obstacle for him right now. I owe him that much, in my opinion. And the coyote market is good, so I know he’ll turn a profit at least.

Dependable wheels are an absolute must, and I had a new set of 10-ply tires put on that truck and had a mechanic check the plugs and various other things. My old 2008 F-250 was about to turn over 300,000 miles, and although it’s still going strong, I wanted to have the peace of mind that he’d not be left stranded somewhere. A 2-way radio and cell phone adds to the security blanket.

We had a few glitches right off the bat, as expected, and they came in the form of simple planning errors and mistakes. Running various lines with two vehicles and also a side by side, means that you have to keep switching equipment around, sometimes on a daily basis. We have lots of equipment available, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that it will load itself in to the right vehicle on a daily basis. So we came up with a simple solution: Just throw more equipment in the main pickup (mine), and borrow and replace out of it, as needed. He did fine for the most part, but he’s learned a few times that Dad isn’t always there to bail him out. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that it can be a long day of setting if you don’t have your favorite hammer.

He’s also had to get used to my daily speech and reminders, via my mental check list: Extra wolf fang driver, extra S-hook tool, a few spare traps for adding in sets, and don’t forget to fill your waxed dirt tub. Fill it out of the third tub in the garage

He has his own favorite lures, based on several years of smelling them at the shop then using them on the line. I have more in the pickup than I can use at any given time, but I still make sure he has some urine and a pint of bait in his bag.

Locations are his forte’, and I really didn’t need to go with him when he headed out on his first day of setting solo. We’d hunted deer one morning on one of the ranches, and a buddy from Michigan and I glassed for muley bucks while Riley hunted and scouted for exact set locations, to speed the process up when he returned a few weeks earlier. I learned the hard way a long time ago not to second-guess him in the sign reading department, since when I did, he usually proved me wrong. I was silently proud that his location choices had a little bit of my influence in most cases, but he also picked a few that were not my first pick. But I kept my mouth shut. He’s proven himself time and again, and I figured he’d do just fine. And I’m proud to say that, so far so good.

He’s got his favorite locations on some of my lines too, and he’s insisted a few times that I wait for him to set some up. I usually comply. He’ll check after school and on the 3-day weekends that his high school has, and be able to comply with the Wyoming check law with no problem. We’re all excited to watch him enjoy success that he’s created on his own.
I guess the only real surprise that I’ve had in the trapping department, at least, was the day Nicole told me that she was going to set a few traps of her own, and that she wanted to catch a few coyotes.

After being married for 24 for years, and riding along on the trapline with me hundreds of times, she decided that she’d seen enough and wanted to participate. I wasn’t completely shocked, as everyone else in the family had done the same too, but Nicole had always been content to be an observer. Sure, she’d put the finishing touches on a set before, or walked over to a set and re-lured while I was at another one, but now she wanted to set her own.

I had to laugh a little, as I’d first met her while hunting coyotes for her Dad, and I guess our first date was checking traps all day. Trapping has been what our life has revolved around 365 days a year, so I felt a touch guilty that I’d never offered to let her do it on her own.

I let her pick a location, and she chose one that was “pretty”. I didn’t argue, since it was a favorite of mine too. I let her look for an exact spot, while I used a drill to make a hole for my set, in a spot that already had an anchor at it from previous years.

She walked down a sandy draw a bit and said, “Right here.” When I walked over I realized that she had found a coyote track, and that the spot she’d chose was a location that would get most of the sun during the day to help keep it dry. It was on the north side of the overall location, which would take advantage of the prevailing wind.
I thought, “Hmm, I guess she really has been paying attention.”

The bank had a bit of a ledge, and was also sandy, but I didn’t want her to get any big surprises or get hurt, so I made sure she was holding on tight and started out slow when she used the drill and 4-inch auger to make a hole. She used my 3-pound hammer and a driver to get her anchor in, and she used the digging tang on the hammer to make a trap bed like an old pro.

Nicole has put 4-coil springs on hundreds of dozens of traps over the years, so setting the standard 2-coil trap wasn’t too hard for her. She understands the mechanics of a coilspring trap very well. She made sure the pan was level, and placed it in the right position, fairly tight to the hole she’d made with the auger.

I commented that I usually pack the loose dirt at the lip of the hole, to keep it from eventually falling in the hole, exposing the jaw of the trap. She just looked up at me and said, “I’ve got this.”

She picked up the free jaw of the trap, cupped the screen so it would slide under it, then over the pan, sliding it in until the far corners of it rested under the other jaw. She did it so fast that I was actually shocked. A sifter full of dirt and she was almost done.

She’d found a cow chip close by, and used it for an outside blocking to complete the desired walk-through that I preach, and she sprinkled some fox urine on it. I told her what I’d used on my set 75 feet away, and suggested that she use something different, which she did. She wadded up a tennis ball-size wad of grass and put down the hole, and stood up. Gathering up the bag in one hand, she used the T-handle on the anchor driver to brush out a few of her tennis shoe tracks as she went.

I was almost speechless. I had always assumed that she has never paid a lot of attention while I or one of the kids was setting traps, but had rather spent her time looking for tracks, pine cones, relics of years gone by, whatever. It was clear that I was wrong, and I vowed right then that I’d let her set as many as she wanted to.

Luckily for me, Nicole has run our business for the last several years, so I can be in the field. But she does go with me about once a week in the fall. It’s our time to get away, eat lunch together, and visit about life; and catch coyotes.

She wasn’t with me when I checked that first set she’d made, but a buddy of mine from here in Wyoming was, and he had a good camera along, so he took some great pictures of her coyote. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m sending her first coyote to Moyles to have it tanned for our collection. I’ll give her the money it would bring, too. Cash in hand is a great incentive to catch more, and it’s what inspired a lot of us.

Having raised our kids around trapping, and watching them evolve into confident, responsible, and successful trappers in their own right, has been rewarding for me. To see time usher in a new trapping partner, even if on a limited basis, has me smiling inside, all over again.