In a lot of ways I’ve been able to keep my lifestyle, and how I conduct the business of trapping, fairly simple, by just relying on the basics. I’ve never really considered myself a mountain man, woods runner, or buckskinner. Sure, the thought of just getting away from it all and living off the land sounds good at times, but reality has never made it an option for me. Pickup payments, gas bills, and equipment costs have always been a main concern of keeping a trapping operation going, and usually just keeping the expenses of those basics covered is a feat in itself. A lot of my mentors and friends had, and still use, horses to trap and hunt coyotes, and fondly described their earlier years trapping and denning coyotes on them. But I’ve always opted for vehicles of various kinds, and lots of shoe leather.

Virtually all of my family, and most of my friends, will tell you that I’ve never been big on change, or trying anything new, especialy if I don’t understand it. I’ve never really bought something unless I could see a definite way to make it pay for itself. Over the years, while raising a family, there always seemed to be a better place to spend any money earned, and I just never allowed myself to spend much on new things or gadgets. So, like a lot of you I’m sure, I’ve accumulated things slowly. I’ve always tried to project what income I could expect to make from an item, to justify spending the money on it.

We’ve used the long form for filing our taxes for the last 25 years of married life, and with the use of the proper IRS code we’re able to use a lot of expenditures as legitimate write-offs. It’s just good business sense to capitalize on such things. And, as things change, and the modern world advances to where even I myself have to take advantage of some things that make my job easier, I still do it cautiously. Or so I’d like to think.

It all came into perspective about a year ago, when I looked at all the stuff in the cab of my work pickup. I cringed a few times when I thought about how much a particular item had cost, but I could quickly justify it when I thought about how they’d came into play in my work. The same items, and a few more, became such game-changers for me that I decided to share a few.

On the center of my dashboard there is a small spot that seems to be a “catchall”. If you looked at it you’d see a few knives, an ink pen or two, probably a few cough drops in dirty wrappers, and most importantly, a Garmin GPS in a hard case.

That GPS is equipped with a chip that gives all the ownerships, property boundaries, streams, 2-track roads, and land features. When I bought it 10 years ago, and added in the $99 chip, it was a lifesaver in learning a whole new county. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used it, to find various pastures and parcels owned by a particular rancher.

Getting to know and learn country takes time, and in the old days it took a plat book and a lot of door knocking and visiting. But the Garmin changed a lot of that. Other than putting new AA batteries in it three or four times a year, it has never failed me.

Along with using it to determine ownership and finding roads and trails, I also use it in a way unique to predator control work.

While doing ground crew work for aerial predator control hunting, I use 2-way radios to communicate with the airplane. I have a dash-mounted Motorola radio, which has the capability to hit repeaters and various channels. I also have two hand-held walkie-talkie type radios that I use for when I’m away from the pickup, yet still need to be able to talk to the pilot. My radios have the same channels as the pilot, and I can communicate with him and tell him of any coyotes that I have located, which makes our time more cost effective and efficient.

At times there will be a coyote that needs to be checked, especially during the spring and summer, to see if a den needs to be located. It’s my job on the ground to find the coyote.

For years, the pilot would simply drop a ribbon or flag as close as possible to the coyote they’ve dispatched, which would make finding it a bit easier. Often they’d stay in the general area and wait for me to get there, which usually took a fair amount of time. In the hot spring and summer months, the first few hours of daylight are usually critical for success and you need to capitalize on it. But the GPS has come into play for me for a decade now. The pilot can radio me the GPS coordinates, which I write on a notepad, simply punch into the GPS, and hit “Go”. The icon and arrow head me in the right direction, and by making the screen larger or smaller, and the terrain more defined, I can see landmarks and reference points that will tell me which trail, road, and gates to go through.

That’s a fairly broad idea of how it works, but I can assure you that it saves a lot of time and hassle. It’s amazing how close these devices work; many times it will beep and say, “Arriving at coordinates”, just as the dispatched coyote comes into sight. I remember when using it for the first time years ago I thought, “Welcome to the 21st Century!”
I’m not the only one packing a GPS in our outfit. With many of our means of predator control comes the need of a dog. I simply don’t know how I’d function without help from my main dog, Bo, and his duties are plenty.

I use him mainly to help as a decoy for calling, especially during the spring and summer months, to capitalize on the coyotes’ instinct and urge to defend their denning area and turf.

When I load Bo up in the morning, I make sure his waterer is full of fresh water, and that I have a few snacks for “Atta boy!” moments. I also put a Garmin GPS collar on him. The collar has come into play so many times over the years that it’s been worth its cost many times over. It’s coupled with a handheld unit that has a fairly large screen, and I can put multiple dogs on it, and track them alone, or in combination if needed. Mountain lion hunters use them a lot too, and I’ve seen it in action; they’re priceless. Being able to locate and follow a dog in brush or terrain that keeps you from maintaining visual contact is great.

Many times when calling I’ve had my dog go out of sight, to range out farther and farther as I’m calling. At times he has spotted a coyote or coyotes coming to my calling efforts, and he is engaging them. I’m usually busy glassing the terrain in front of me to try to spot them as they approach.

I’ve learned to keep my handheld GPS unit turned on in case he gets out of sight. I lay it beside me so I can tell at a glance where he is at all times. It’s really amazing to watch the screen and see the yardage change as he closes in; 356 yards, 310, 250, 99, etc. And, more often than not, a coyote or two will be accompanying him. It helps me get set up for the shot by adjusting my position, getting the bipod nestled in, etc.

The last major purchase, which I admittedly dug both my feet to buy, is a suppressor for my rifles. I’ve been aware of them for years, as many of my friends and colleagues use them, and virtually all have given them rave reviews. After some research I purchased a titanium one which will handle any caliber from .22 up to .30. It’s 9 inches long, so it adds to the overall length of the rifle, but the weight is virtually unnoticeable after a while. Like anyone else who has bought one, I had to apply to the ATF with the appropriate paperwork, filing fees, fingerprint cards, and law enforcement endorsement.

A long year of waiting slowly ticked by, but in the meantime I was having the barrels of my main rifles threaded so they’d accommodate the adapter and suppressor when it arrived.

The first time I used it was on my 25/06, which is fairly loud. I’ve carried that gun for many summers doing control work, as I like the heavier 100-grain bullet over most .22 caliber bullets in the windy conditions of the prairie. But many times, I felt that its loud report was a negative factor in getting a second or third shot on multiple coyotes or after a miss. I know it’s much louder than my 22-250, and I spent a few years considering a suppressor just for that factor alone.

I was told that the suppressor would change the gun’s point of impact, and it did. Left to right never changed a bit, but elevation dropped about 1½ inches at 100 yards. That was an easy fix. I noticed right away that it not only changed the noise level tremendously (I’d guess by 70-80%) but also reduced recoil a lot. I’m not afraid of the recoil, but it sometimes makes you lose sight of your target when it causes your scope to raise or move a bit. That all disappeared with the use of the suppressor. I found right way that I could literally watch the target and impact.

The disappearance of the loud crack of the rifle was shocking, although it wasn’t completely gone, of course. I guess “changed” would be the right term. It was also considerably less.

I soon found the value of it on the third stand I made after sighting in, when I called in a pair of coyotes. I quickly got on target and took the second coyote after making an easy 125-yard shot on the first. The second coyote knew something was up after I’d shot, but it didn’t retreat far or fast, and was easily stopped by a coyote-in-distress sound on my Crit’R Call. To say it was a game changer would be the understatement of the year, and I’ve been kicking myself to think that I waited so long to buy one!

All of these things have their place in my daily game plan. Sure, I could get by without them, as I did for years. But these were all great choices and great purchases. Like I’ve been told for years, “You have to spend money to make money.” Over time, that became my philosophy.

I guess the next item on the list has been inspired by a buddy of mine, who brought a new ‘toy’ over for me to look at, and watch in use. I can now see a drone in my future!