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Title: How to Make and Set Traps - Including Hints on How to Trap Moles, Weasels, Otter, Rats, Squirrels and Birds; Also How to Cure Skins
Author: Keene, J. Harrington
Language: English
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HOW TO MAKE AND SET TRAPS

Including Hints on How to Trap Moles, Weasels, Otter, Rats, Squirrels
and Birds.

Also How to Cure Skins.

Copiously Illustrated.

by

J. HARRINGTON KEENE.



New York:
Frank Tousey, Publisher,
24 Union Square.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1902, by
Frank Tousey,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C.


HOW TO MAKE AND SET TRAPS.



I. THE MOLE.


Dirt has been defined as “matter in the wrong place.” It is very
useful, and, indeed, indispensable, as earth in a garden, but decidedly
unbecoming and dirty when on your face or clothes. In a similar way,
most of the creatures termed “vermin” are in themselves very graceful
and beautiful specimens of the Creator’s handiwork, but when they
encroach on man’s paths of progress and improvement they become
“vermin,” and though all life should be looked upon as a fearful and
wonderful thing, not to be lightly taken from its possessor, they are
then justifiably slain.

The little gentleman in black velvet--the mole--is a lovely-coated
little fellow, possessing many virtues, such as courage, industry, and
parental affection, but when he once gets into your father’s garden,
which has probably cost money and exceeding care to render it neat
and productive, our little friend is transformed into one of the most
troublesome of “vermin,” and must be relentlessly sacrificed by the
trapper. If this is not done, Master Mole will himself sacrifice the
crops in his efforts to get at the worms, which, as the late Charles
Darwin so conclusively showed, are one of the great regenerating forces
of the land’s fertility.

Look at rats again. See how lithe and agile they are, how fond of their
young, and provident in storing food for future consumption; yet they
are without a redeeming excellency if, like dirt, they are in the wrong
place--as they are, by the way, pretty certain to be.

Of the squirrel Mr. Ruskin, in his marvelously eloquent way, has said:
“Of all quadrupeds ... there is none so beautiful or so happy as the
squirrel. Innocent in all his ways, harmless in his food, playful as
a kitten, but without cruelty, and surpassing the dexterity of the
monkey, with the grace of a bird, the little dark-eyed miracle of the
forest goes from branch to branch more like a sunbeam than a living
thing. The chamois is slow to it, and the panther clumsy. It haunts
you, listens for you, hides from you, looks for you, loves you, as if
it were a plaything invented by the angel that walks by your children.”

Alas! there is a reverse side to this beautiful word-picture of the
great art critic. The gamekeeper will tell you that mischievous Master
“Squiggy” is very fond of birds’ eggs--many a tiny wren, and many a
sweet-voiced blackbird has discovered this also--and that he above all
will often suck the dove-hued eggs of the pheasant. Much, therefore, as
I admire this little creature when he is in his native firtree, I shall
tell you how to catch him alive, so that he may be kept away from doing
harm.

Again, the brilliant kingfisher, flashing by you like a beam of azure
light, is in his right place near the stickleback pond, but on my trout
river he is “vermin.” The same exposition of the properties of vermin
might be followed out in reference to all the creatures I intend to
hereafter teach you how to capture or destroy.

So much by way of introduction, and now suppose, as I have above
referred to “the little gentleman in the velvet suit,” we begin with
him. Do not be alarmed at the few items of natural history I am going
to give you in reference to each “varmint.” It is better for you
to know about the funny little ways of the lower creation now than
wait till you are men, and perhaps unable to devote much time to the
acquisition of such knowledge. Besides, there is nothing mean or paltry
in such studies. Why, the great German Heber and our hardly less great
Sir John Lubbock have devoted their lives to ants and such small fry
till marvels of intelligence in these insects have been unfolded to
their wondering vision. Even the wise and mighty King Solomon did
not forget them. Do not despise small things because they are small,
therefore, for are we not ourselves as motes and specks of dust in the
sunbeam in the immensity of God?

I most, however, return to the mole, or you may accuse me of preaching
a sermon when you were expecting to hear how to catch vermin.

Well, the scientific name of the mole is Talpa Europæa, and its
distribution is all over Europe. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal,
Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark alike produce it as well as our
own land. The main thing--or one of them--that arrests the attention
on first seeing the mole is the very hand-like fore paws. These
are attached to the body by a short forearm, and suggest immense
strength--which, as a matter of fact, they possess. They are used for
scooping the earth from before and throwing it on one side; and for
this purpose the claws are long and trenchant. The hind feet, which are
comparatively small, serve the purpose of throwing out the earth behind
with incredible quickness. The head also, being sharp-pointed, offers
no opposition to this boring through the soft soil, and the eyes, being
so tiny, are never injured by the soil through which the pointed snout
passes.

For a long time people failed to discover that the mole possessed eyes,
so rudimentary and hidden are they. They are covered by the soft fur,
and it is to be presumed that as they are of little or no use in the
total darkness of subterranean passages, they serve only to apprise
their owner of the approach of light whenever it may find itself near
the surface of the ground. It sometimes has happened to me to find a
mole strayed from its habitation, I suppose, and on the surface of
the soil. From the experiment of putting an obstacle in front of it,
and its avoidance thereof, I have come to the conclusion that it can
see slightly, though it is evident when you dissect the head that the
organs of hearing are vastly more developed than those of sight. The
sense of smell is perhaps stronger than that of hearing--as one would
infer from the long, pointed, greyhound-like snout; and this should
be borne in mind when setting the trap. If indeed, in the case of any
animal, you are told that the sense of smell is well developed, handle
the ginsnare or trap as little as possible with the naked hand. There
is a distinctive odor in the human hand which animals, whether vermin
or not, seem instantly to recognize.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

Moles construct a fortress, or habitation, under a hillock or some such
convenient protection as a sort of central position, from which they
proceed outwards through various “runs” or roads in search of food
(see Fig. 2). This fortress has a dome of earth, which is beaten hard
by the creature, and so rendered strong and impervious to rain, snow,
dews, or frost. A in Fig. 2 represents the hollow center, which is also
dry and hard, whilst B B B signify the ramifying tunnels leading into
the galleries of the central fortress, and outwards to the tracts for
feeding and exploration, as well as to the nests of the various pairs
of sexes forming the community. Along these tracts the individuals
travel and obtain their livelihood, never stopping to gossip; for
if, indeed, one mole meets another by chance, one must turn out of
the way into the nearest alley, or there is a “row,” which generally
means death to the weaker--for, let me tell you, Mr. Talpa is a very
pugnacious little man when thwarted.

Of course, you know that the food of the mole is chiefly comprised
of worms--and speaking of that reminds me of a method I once saw of
catching moles, which was cruel but very singular. I was fishing on the
Colne, near Wraysbury, and I noticed an old man in the field behind me
industriously going over the ground, and here and there drawing out a
live mole by means of what seemed a string.

I laid down my rod and went over to him, and after a little persuasion
I got to understand the whole bag of tricks. His method was to dig
down to a fresh tunnel and “lay” a lobworm, threaded on a rather small
fish-hook tied on fine brass wire, covering in the hole with leaves
and dirt and securing the wire by a string to a stout peg. The mole,
being almost sure to return, would thus take the bait, and in most
cases get hooked in the mouth. This seems to me, however, a needlessly
cruel way of mole-catching when there are others quite as effectual and
practically painless, and I shall therefore not go any farther into the
particulars necessary for its practice.

Moles are extremely voracious and, this being so, they crave and enjoy
large quantities of water. I have frequently watched moles descending
by a beaten run to the water--and, indeed, just opposite where I am
writing there is a tiny roadway from a mole hillock to the neighboring
ditch. Should a plentiful supply such as this not be handy, the little
animal sinks a well for himself, beating the interior hard and forming
quite a little shaft, which receives the rain and stores it. I came
across one some time ago which was quite a foot in depth and almost
full.

I have said that there is a fortress usually built by a colony of
moles in the approximate form of Fig. 2, and so there is. The aim
of the mole-catcher should be if possible to find out where this
central position is and cut off retreat. I have seen the mole-catcher
in Windsor Park dig the moles out on finding out this metropolis of
moles--as it might be fitly called.

It has been proved that immediately on anything very alarming
occurring, they forsake their explorations and flee into the citadel.
This is how it was done and who did it.

Monsieur le Court, a French gentleman, very sensibly believing that
there was little else but horror and danger in the tumult and bloodshed
of the great French Revolution, fled from the court where he had waited
on and been the companion of the highest, and secluded himself in the
depth of the country to become the historian and friend of the humble
La Taupe, as the French term the mole. M. Geoffrey St. Hillaire visited
him, and together they watched their opportunity till one of the moles
had penetrated far from the fortress in search of food.

Le Court then placed straws with little flags on the end out of the
ground at intervals in the passage behind the mole in such a way that
if the creature fled back again it would infallibly knock them down.
With a trumpet buried, leaving the mouth-piece out of the ground, he
blew a blast loud enough to shake the good-nature out of the best toy
of your acquaintance, and instantly one after the other, almost as fast
as a horse can trot, down went the little flags till the central home
was reached. The mole usually builds at the intersection of several of
the roads and not in the habitation. Its nest consists of fibers and
dried grass, straw, etc., and the young seldom number more than five.
Moles will sometimes take the water, but such instances are extremely
rare; there is no reason, however, why it should not be a good swimmer,
its front paws being so spatulous and strong.

[Illustration: Fig. 3. Fig. 4.]

Mole trapping is very seldom practiced, except by professionals, who
besides the blood money generally awarded on the production of each
mole’s tail, make a very nice little amount by selling the skins. Still
there is nothing difficult about mole catching, and the most stupid boy
could render himself successful if he observes a little and follows
the directions I am about to give. First, then as to tools, which are
indispensable when one is out for a day’s trap-setting. Fig. 3 shows
an implement which at A consists of an iron heavy spike which is used
for making holes for the insertion of the spring stick of the trap to
be described presently. B is the wooden haft--ash is as good as any; C
is a sort of spatula or little spade for digging into a mole run. Fig.
4 shows a light hatchet or a rather long handle for cutting hazel or
ash-spring sticks, pointing them, etc.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.]

Now as to the traps themselves. Fig. 5 shows the iron trap, usually
sold with galvanized uprights and claws. A indicates the spring which,
on the mole by placing its head in the circular orifice of B releasing
the latter, closes the claws to, killing the mole instantly. B, of
course, is a movable tongue of the shape shown at C, and ought to be
tied to the body of the trap in case the mole should by any means
escape, pulling the tongue (C) after it. This is, of course, a very
neat kind of trap, but a dozen of them would come expensive, and
besides, I do not prefer them in actual practice on a large scale, as
they are by no means so likely to be viewed without suspicion by the
mole as are the homespun traps I am going to describe.

Get a strip of wood (deal is as good as anything) about six inches long
by four broad and half an inch thick, like D, Fig. 6. Bore nine holes
in it, four for the reception of the ends of two half circular hoofs of
wood shown at A, and four smaller ones for the two wires at A2 A2 to
pass through. One largish hole is made in the center, and through this
passes a cord with a knot at the end (C). B shows a piece of wood cut
like a little spatula with a somewhat blunt handle or head (see B2).
This tongue is placed against the knot when the spring hazel stick E
is in position as in Fig. 7. I want you to look carefully at Fig. 6
because it very nearly explains itself.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.]

The whole apparatus is buried in the ground in the run of a mole, and
fastened down by sticks stuck athwart and across, as shown at Fig. 7.
The stick E is thus kept in position by the knot C and the tongue B and
B2. When a mole passes through the circular loops at A A it hits its
nose against B and knocks it out, releasing the knot C, which in turn
releases the bent stick, up this flies, and one of the wires A2 are
bound to catch the hapless Talpa, compressing it so strongly as to kill
it almost instantly.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.]

These are the details of how to set the trap. Having found out a run
where the mole-heaps are fresh, or have recently been thrown up, cut
down with the spade end of your tool (Fig. 3) into it, and with your
hands take out the dirt, feeling for and making clear the direction of
the passage each way. Now with the pointed end of Fig. 3 make a hole
slantwise, but not too much so, for the insertion of E (Fig. 6), which
should be a hazel, withy, or ash stick from half an inch in diameter.
Adjust the string of the trap to the top of it, and then set the
tongue, carefully spreading the loops of wire within the hoops. Now,
with the left hand on the trap, and assisted by the knee, bend the
spring stick down, place the trap in its position, and with the right
hand force in some short hazel sticks across and across, as shown in
Fig. 7. This done, your trap is set, and a turf can be broken up and
spread round the top of it, to keep out any light, from the interior
of the run. If my readers have carefully gone through this explanation
with me there is no fear but that they will be able to make and set the
trap--and also catch moles.

Damp weather, or after a warm shower, is the best time to set these
traps; and as many as twenty or thirty should be systematically set
per day while moles exist and good weather lasts. The straightened
character of the stick will infallibly indicate when the trap is
sprung, and if no mole be caught move it a little farther away, but not
away from the colony entirely, and set again.

The skins of the moles are in best condition in autumn, and if a
sufficient number be properly cured, and set together by a professional
furrier, a warm and rich garment, either cloak, hat, or waistcoat can
be made. I have a mole-skin waistcoat I have worn for four winters, and
it is far from being worn out yet. Queen Victoria has eight hundred
skins sent annually to Windsor Castle by the Park mole-catcher, for
preparation and making up. I dare say this man catches two or three
thousand moles every year, and yet the number seem not to decline, so
unfailing is the multiplication of these velvety little fellows.

The professional mole-catcher usually skins his moles in a very summary
manner. Simply passing a very sharp knife round the head, and cutting
off the forefeet, he turns the skin off inside out as I should do
an eel. Indeed, it is a more rapid process than eel-skinning, for I
once had a match with a mole-catcher, which was that I was to skin
six fair-sized eels, while he skinned six moles. I lost, though I am
exceedingly quick with eels, by one eel, much to my annoyance, for
I had loudly boasted of my dexterity. Having skinned his mole as I
described, the mole-catcher then simply stuffs a pledget of hay or
wadding into the skin and leaves it to dry.

If you have time, however, it is much better to skin the mole by making
an incision down the belly, and taking off the fur as you would do in
the case of a rabbit. It should then be tacked with small tin tacks to
a dry board, the inside toward you, and after removing with a blunt
knife any particles of fat, it should be dressed with a soap made as
follows:--whiting or chalk, 1-1/2 oz.; soft soap, 1 oz.; chloride of
lime, 2 oz. If these ingredients are not handy powdered alum will
serve, though not so well.

Now, one word in conclusion of this chapter on the mole, and it will
serve as good advice whenever you are trapping. Be quiet; do not go
lumbering all over the ground with the tread of a cart-horse, for it
must be borne in mind that the mole has not only a good perception of
actual sounds, but an exquisite sense of vibration. Like a trout, the
softest tread will in some cases apprise it of danger and cause it to
retire to its citadel. Your object is to catch moles by cutting off
their retreat, for if they are in the central habitation they may not
take the route when next a start is made that you desire and in which
the trap is set.



II. THE WEASEL, STOAT AND POLECAT.


“If we consider the animal creation on a broad scale, the aggregate
of living beings will be found to be the devourers and destroyers of
others.” The editor of Cassel’s Natural History is responsible for this
statement, and it struck me as a forcible and appropriate one for this
chapter on weasels, etc. Without doubt the weasel, next to the rat,
is one of the most destructive of our vermin, preying as it does with
extraordinary ferocity on leverets, chicken, young ducks, pigeons,
rabbits, in fact, on all creatures more timorous than itself. Truly it
is not a very formidable enemy to the farmer in connection with his
granaries and other stores, for it is an inveterate slayer of ruts and
mice, but the gamekeeper cannot tolerate it. Its “treasons, stratagems
and spoils” are, without exception, excessive above all other of the
spoiling mammalia whatsoever.

Perhaps you doubt the conclusions to which I arrive in reference to
this pretty, brown-backed white-bodied little animal, and there are
some naturalists whose writings seem to clothe it with very different
characteristics. A certain Mademoiselle de Laistre seems to contradict,
in one of her letters, the commonly received opinion that it cannot be
domesticated. She describes with touching minuteness how her weasel
would drink milk out of her hands and fondle with her, showing signs
of satisfaction and enjoyment, which could scarcely be apart from
intelligence. “The little creature,” she says, “can distinguish my
voice amid twenty others, and springs over every one in the room till
it finds me. Nothing can exceed the lively and pleasing way it caresses
me with its two little paws; it frequently pats me on the chin in a
manner that expresses the utmost fondness. This, with a thousand other
kindnesses, convinces me of the sincerity of its attachment. He is
quite aware of my intention when dressed to go out, and then it is with
much difficulty I can rid myself of him. On these occasions he will
conceal himself behind a cabinet near the door and spring on me as I
pass with astonishing quickness.”

This testimony would seem to rather invest _mustela vulgaris_ with
domestic virtues at least rare in his family, and, sooth to say, there
is a vast crowd of witnesses waiting to be heard, whose report of his
character is far different. The weasel, agile and lithe as he is, is
ferocious to the degree which scorns fear, and there are many instances
wherein he has attacked the absolute viceroy of creation--man.

I recollect once chasing a weasel with some determination and finding
myself suddenly confronted by some seven or eight others, who ran up my
legs and endeavored to reach my face. Fortunately I beat them off and
killed seven with the stick I carried, but I feel satisfied I should
not have escaped so well if I had not stood my ground and luckily
possessed a stick.

I have frequently heard of similar experiences, and one I find is
recorded in a cutting from a Scotch newspaper in my scrap-book.

One night, it appears, the father of Captain Brown, the naturalist, was
returning from Gilmerton, near Edinburgh, by the Dalkeith road. He
observed on the high ground at a considerable distance betwixt him and
Craigmillar Castle a man who was leaping about performing a number of
antic gestures more like those of a madman than of a sane person. After
contemplating this apparently absurd conduct, he thought it might be
some unfortunate maniac, and, climbing over the walls, made directly
towards him. When he got pretty near he saw that the man had been
attacked, and was defending himself against the assaults of a number
of small animals which he at first took for rats, but which, in fact,
turned out on getting closer, to be a colony of from fifteen to twenty
weasels, which the unfortunate man was tearing from him and endeavoring
to keep from his throat. Had he not been a powerful man, capable of
sustaining the extreme fatigue of this singular exertion, he probably
would have succumbed to the repeated efforts made by the ferocious
little creatures to get at his throat. As it was, his hands were much
bitten, and bleeding profusely.

It further appears that the commencement of the battle was nearly as
follows. He was walking slowly through the park when he happened to
see a weasel. He ran at it, and made several unsuccessful attempts to
strike it with a small cane he held in his hand. On coming near the
rock, he got between it and the animal, and thus cut off retreat. The
weasel squeaked out aloud, when a sortie of the whole colony was made,
and the affray commenced.

Apropos of this, I have read somewhere of a colony of rats attacking
a condemned criminal in the sewers of Paris--or in a dungeon closely
contiguous--and I can quite believe that hunger and numbers would
render these horrible vermin capable of homicide.

I do not quite see how any one can pity the members of this weasel
family. Let any one of my boy readers hear the agonized cries of
a pursued rabbit as it finds its relentless foe chasing it with a
determination and persistence quite unequaled, and he will probably
find the American love of fair play prompt him to take the weaker
creature’s part.

Emphatically I declare it--a weasel never relinquishes its quarry till
the life’s blood has been sucked and the brain extracted and eaten.
Then wasteful as the little tyrant is, the rats may have the remainder,
whilst it seeks for more prey. Its little finger-thick body and black,
venom-leaden eyes seem the incarnation of destructiveness, whilst over
the sharp incisive teeth rows might well be written

  “Ch’entrate lasciate ogni speranza,”

the terrible epigraph Dante, in his wonderful “Divina Commedia,” saw
inscribed over the portals of the infernal regions.

Perhaps there is one redeeming feature in all this pitiless ferocity,
and that is the indomitable courage with which the weasel defends its
young against all marauders. It breeds as fast as a rabbit--that is,
two or three, or even more times in a year--and its nest of dried
herbage and undergrowth is generally made in the hollow of some old
tree or wall. Close by the nest may often be found the remains of
putrid mice, rats, birds, etc., which circumstance has suggested to
some naturalists the conclusion that the weasel prefers carrion to
fresh food. This is erroneous. It is true that it hunts, like some
dogs, entirely, or nearly so, by scent, and will even follow the
sightless mole through the interminable windings of its burrow; but
fresh flesh and blood are its delight, and if there be a plentitude
of food it disdains all the grosser parts of its prey with a
fastidiousness worthy of Apicius, the _gourmet_. The weasel generally
produces five or six young ones at a birth.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.]

I do not counsel sparing the weasel any more than the rat. The best
place for the gins to be set is underneath a wall whereby the weasel
is known to travel. The best trap unquestionably is the steel trap, or
gin, and the best bait is the inside of a newly-killed rabbit. This
is the concrete essence of my experience. You can scent the bait with
musk, and this addition will often prove of exceeding service. At the
ends of drains, in the hollows of old buildings, in the dry tracts of
ditches, by old trees--all these are likely places and a careful watch
will often discover their tracks. In setting the gin do not allow it
to spring hard as if you expected an elephant of the Jumbo type to
tread on the plate. On the contrary, let it spring very lightly, and
if possible hang the bait up, so that the creature puts a foot on the
plate and so gets caught. A very good sort of trap for open places is a
fall-trap, which may be made at home and is useful for nearly all kinds
of vermin, including even birds (See Fig. 11). Some little explanation
is needed for the complete understanding of this trap. A is a board
hollowed near the letter A to relieve _e_ when the trap falls. B is a
slab of lead or iron cut to admit _a_ and _f_; _h_ is a hinge holding
_c_, which, when adjusted at _g_, impinges on _a_, and so sustains
the slab B. On the little hooks _d_ the bait is fixed, and the weasel
confidently places his foot on _e_. Of course _f_ then springs from
_g_ and down falls the slab, crushing the captive instantly. A stone
slab is quite as useful, if not more so, than lead or iron, and it
is evident that this fall-trap can be set with the greatest ease and
delicacy.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.]

The next useful trap is termed “The Fig. 4 Trap,” from its resemblance
to that character, and is shown in the engraving (Fig. 12). This
consists of a large slab of stone, metal, or wood, propped up by three
pieces of wood (A, B and C). If the engraving be carefully examined it
will be seen to consist of a perpendicular A, of a horizontal bar C,
at one end of which is attached the bait D, and of a slanting stick
B. The upright A is usually half an inch square, and cut to a sort of
chisel-shape at top; a notch is also cut in the side of the stretcher
C, as shown in the side diagram _x_, to prevent it slipping down; and
a notch is also cut at the top of B to receive the upright, as well
as in C, to fix it, B being at this latter point of a chisel shape.
It will be obvious to the attentive reader that if this trap be set
carefully, and with a sufficiency of delicacy, a very slight tug at D
will be sufficient to bring down the slab, crushing the animal, or, if
a hollow be made in the ground, imprisoning it. This trap, for nearly
all vermin (of course, except moles), is very cheap and effective;
and for cats--in their wrong places, of course--is remarkably useful,
especially if D represent a sponge, on which tincture of valerian or
oil of rhodium has been sprinkled. One advantage of this trap is that
it is inexpensive, and not likely to be coveted by anybody else.
The gin has, however, preference in my mind over other artificial
traps for weasels, and I counsel all my readers to adopt it as the
surest if their pockets will sustain the initial expense. There is,
however, nothing lost in endeavoring to make your own traps, for such
perseverance implies interest in the pursuit of trapping, and this
necessarily is the central motive towards the acquirement of natural
knowledge.

There is one method of capturing weasels which I have found very
useful, though it entails the loss of an innocent live bird in many
cases. Form a sort of oblong square with brushwood and close it all
in except two narrow lanes leading to the center, at which point peg
down a young chicken or bird. Set the traps, as closely concealed as
possible at the ends of these lanes, so that neither by ingress nor
egress can the weasel escape without the chance of being caught. Each
trap should be set very lightly, and in some dry ditch near a covert,
or by the side of a wall, or, in fact, in any likely spot recognized by
the trained eye.

Here is another bad character in the polecat, or foumart, and as it is
the largest of the two, it commonly does most damage, though in saying
this I really am not sure I can place either or them first in this
respect. The weasel and polecat are unmitigated robbers and assassins,
and according to opportunity are given indifferently to bad habits of
the worst character. The polecat is, however, nearly sixteen inches
from that to eighteen inches in length, and its bite is terrific and
sometimes poisonous. Beware, therefore, of it when releasing one caught
in a trap; in fact, as I before impressed on you, “kill it first.” The
body of the polecat has a woolly undercoat of pale yellow, while the
longer hairs are of a deep glossy brown.

Its habits are very similar to those of the weasel, and it commonly
kills chickens by biting the head off and then sucking the blood,
leaving perhaps a dozen bodies as mementoes of its visitation. I have
known it to catch fish, and I caught one in a trap, set as I supposed
at the time, for an otter. The otter turned out to be a polecat,
however, which measured, exclusive of the tail, fourteen inches. Eels
seemed to be the prey for which it took water, as I had previously
found the remains of several half-eaten on the shore.

This circumstance was a strange one to me, and altogether exceptional,
until I looked up my natural history books, when I found that Bewick
refers to a similar fact in his “Quadrupeds.” He says:--“During a
severe storm one of these animals was traced in the snow from the side
of a rivulet to its hole at some distance from it.... Its hole was
examined, the foumart taken, and eleven fine eels were discovered as
the fruits of its nocturnal exertions. The marks on the snow were found
to have been made by the motions of the eels while in the creature’s
mouth.” We have no reason for doubting Bewick, but it is certain that
the polecat must have extracted the eels from either beneath stones
or mud, where, during cold weather such as described, it is their
infallible habit to retire in a semi-torpid condition.

In trapping it use a strong gin, and set very lightly. The baits are
precisely similar to those for the weasel. Be, above all, careful to
use the naked hands as little as possible.



III. RATS.


Rats may, I think, fairly lay claim to being the most mischievous of
all vermin. They are fellows of irreclaimably bad habits, and never
so happy as when devouring or destroying something. Artemus Ward has
placed it on record that “Injins is pisen wherever you meet ’em,”
and the same might be said of rats. In that exquisitely whimsical
poem of Browning’s, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” we are told that the
townspeople were plagued emphatically with

                                “Rats!
  They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
    And bit the babies in their cradles,
  And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
    And licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles.
  Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
  Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
  And even spoiled the women’s chats
    By drowning their speaking
    With shrieking and squeaking
  In fifty different sharps and flats.”

I have not the least doubt but that they did all this and other things
worse; hence I would say with no uncertainty, “Slay all and spare
none,” whenever you get a chance. I do not know of one redeeming
feature in the character of _Mus decumanus_ unless it be good in a pie,
as our friend the Rev. J. G. Wood hints that it is from experimental
trial.

Hundreds on hundreds of tales relating to its cunning or intelligence
might be cited until you were heartily tired of reading, much less I
of writing. How rats will bite holes in leaden pipes, attack the face
of a sleeping infant--an instance of which I might relate from actual
knowledge--how they devour each other, leaving only the skin turned
inside out as neatly as you could turn a stocking, and last, but far
from least, how they have been trained to perform a drama in pantomime
and various other tricks quite too numerous to refer to here. The rat
is practically omnivorous, and so gets his living where more select
appetites and digestions would starve. “Hit him ’ard, he ain’t a’ got
no friends,” as was said of the pauper boy in “Oliver Twist.” Every
creature’s hand seems turned against him, and we, agreeably to this
bent of nature, will now proceed to compass his destruction by means of
trapping.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.]

Unquestionably the best trap is the common iron gin. Everybody knows
what that is like, with its centre plate and formidable rows of teeth
on either side the jaws. I shall therefore spare you a drawing and
description of it, and content myself with simply advising that the
teeth be of the shape shown at Fig. 8--that is, square points fitting
when closed in half circles. Now this form of tooth does not cut
through the limb of the captured animal so readily as the saw-shaped
does, and is preferable on that account. Rats are very prone to gnaw
through a fractured limb and free themselves--they will not do this
nearly so readily, however, if the teeth be of the shape indicated.
This is also the best shape for the capture of other vermin, as we
shall see as these chapters proceed.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.]

In all cases a chain about eighteen inches is attached by means of an S
hook in the gin. A swivel should be placed about the middle, and a ring
of about an inch and a quarter should terminate it. A good stout stake,
about eighteen inches long, is also necessary, and ash is particularly
recommendable if it can be procured. If it be trimmed when cut, like
Fig. 9, so that a short piece of branch keeps the ring from slipping
off, so much the better. Another tool which is ever useful when gins
are being set (and that will be pretty frequent with the vermin I shall
speak about) is a hammer shaped something like Fig. 10. You will see
that it has a broad, hatchet-like form to it instead of the claws of
an ordinary hammer, and this is for cutting into the earth, separating
roots, etc. In twenty ways it comes in useful, so I advise my readers
to get one made after this pattern.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.]

Be careful in setting your trap to keep your fingers well away from
the teeth, and to do this observe the following method. Place your
right foot upon the spring firmly, and as the jaws fall back, quickly
lift the catch over with your right hand; then, without relaxing
pressure, raise the plate of the trap from underneath until it allows
of the catch to meet the nick in the plate. Set them lightly or hard,
according to the animal to be trapped. Experience will soon enable you
to judge how this should be for a rat. A fine sieve is generally used
by trappers to sift dirt over the trap when set, but you can dispense
with this if you wear gloves. In rat-trapping, by the by, always wear
thick gloves; rats can smell you infallibly.

You can easily detect a rat-run, and quite as easily tell if it be
fresh or not, by noticing the appearance of the excrement. Having
determined on a fresh run, endeavor so to set your trap that the catch
shall be light, and the whole affair completely hidden from sight, the
pan or plate being baited with whatever seems to have been the recent
food, or food most likely to be got near by the run. For rats in runs
where they come to feed, by walls, rick-sides, or places at which they
appear most, the traps should be set. When the run appear stale or not
much used, they should be shifted to other places. For rats a great
variety of baits may be used, but the best is generally something like
what they are in the habit of feeding upon on farm premises; grain,
with sufficient chaff or cut hay to cover the bottom, meal mixed with
sweet broth or small bits of meat. Rats may be enticed with oils of
aniseed, thyme, and rhodium, and when traps are new and smell of the
shop a few drops should be rubbed inside the bottom of the traps to
take the other smell away. By using a drag of these oils, rubbed on a
herring or a piece of clean rag, rats may be enticed a long way.

A capital bait for old poaching rats--such as would not hesitate to
kill your spring chickens or young rabbits--is the drawing of game of
any sort, or the young of pigeons or young birds. I have also found
the following a capital dodge to enable one to overcome the cunning
of an old buck rat. Get some sprats and pound them. Put them in glass
bottles and cork and seal, and hang them up in the sun for three weeks
or so, or put them on a dung-hill of moderate heat. This will entirely
decompose and resolve them into an oily substance exceedingly bad
smelling. Pour some of this on a rag and drag it about from a common
center where the trap is, and indeed it is well to drag it after one
as the traps are seen to successively. The trap bait should be roasted
salt fish. A kippered herring does famously, and a few drops of oil of
aniseed can be put on the bait. I have known this to be exceedingly
successful.

A similar sort of treatment is necessary for the water-rat. There is,
however, but little necessity to use baits if the trap be set under
water at the spot where the creature emerges. The precise place can be
easily seen, and its freshness or staleness as a “run” be determined
in the same way as that of a brown rat. The water-rat is easily
distinguished from its cousin the brown by the tail of the former being
covered with hair and that of the latter with scales, of which there
are 200 rows. It must not be supposed, however, because the water-rat
derives its living from the water chiefly that it is not a destructive
creature inland. A very interesting writer says: “We have seen
water-rats cross a wide meadow, climb the stalks of the dwarf beans,
and after detaching the pods with their teeth, shell the beans in a
most woman-like manner.” They are also said to mount vines and feed on
grapes, and I can verify that they are fond of plums from the following
incident:

Between my study window and the margin of a stream at the foot of
my garden stand two tall trees of the bullace plum, and this year
they have been unusually full of fruit. I placed a ladder against
one of the trees in order to pick the plums, but rain or some other
interference prevented my doing so at the intended time; thus the
ladder remained for some days. Now I have a large tabby cat, and
besides a good rat-killer she is fond of birds, and strangely enough
will climb trees and spring at a bird within reach, in nine cases out
of ten falling to the ground with her captive in her mouth. As I sat
writing one morning Tabby mounted her coign of vantage by means of the
ladder, and scaled to the topmost height, enjoying the sunshine, and
not, I fancy, on this occasion waiting for prey. However, good things
come when least expected, and presently Tabby and I both beheld a
large water-rat--unseen by the latter, of course--approach the ladder,
and after peering slyly round, began to mount it, which he did with
remarkable agility. On reaching the first large branch he stepped on
it, and without the least hesitation made for a cluster of the plums
and began his feast. I told you Tabby saw him as well as I, and I would
have given much too if she had not. As Mr. Rat sat absorbed with his
back to her, like a jungle leopard, creeping with silent certainty on
its innocent, unsuspecting prey, Tabby slowly approached, and the
steadfast glare in her greenish eyes was full of a deadly purpose,
which gathered strength as she progressed. Presently, when within three
feet of the still gourmandizing rat, her fell purpose culminated in
a terrific but unerring spring, which tumbled rat and cat out of the
tree to the ground. Habet! alas! he had it, and after a few terrific
crunches of her jaws Tabby rose from the body proudly, with swinging
tail and a victorious air, which as plainly as language conveyed
infinite self-complacency at the death-dealing deed.

These rats are more clever in boring their tunnels than the brown
species, resembling, in fact, the ingenuity of the mole rather than the
rat. They are much more cleanly also. Should you get an apple or pear
or melon which has been bitten by a brown rat you will instantly detect
it by its peculiar musty odor and taste. The water-rat is, on the
contrary, a much more cleanly animal, and its flesh is not uncommonly
eaten by the French peasants on _maigre_ days. It breeds in the spring,
and again in autumn if the spring litter be very early, bringing forth
five or six at a time. The nest is usually by the side of a river or
stream. In the roots of an old willow tree just opposite my house
I found six nests this year. Not that these rats will not at times
build away from the water. I know of several instances, as a neighbor
was plowing in a dry, chalky field, far removed from any water, he
turned out a water rat that was curiously laid up in an _hybernaculum_
artificially formed of grass and leaves. At one end lay about a gallon
of potatoes, regularly stowed, on which it was to have supported itself
for the winter.

When a rat is caught in a gin always be careful to keep your hand at a
distance on releasing it. In fact, do not let it go at all, but kill
it at once. I do not like the idea of letting a suffering animal be
farther tormented by dogs, or even cats. There can be no true sport in
it except, perhaps, to the savage instincts of the dog, and why a human
being should find cruel sport for a dog I cannot tell you.

The other species, the black rat (_Mus rattus_), is perhaps a more
ancient importation even than the brown. It is, however, scarcer
than either of the others. Its colors are grayish black above and
ash-colored, and beneath it is about seven and a half inches long when
full grown.

Ferrets are often employed to aid in exterminating the brown rat. The
ferret is of no use whatever for the water-rat, though it is certainly
extremely useful when barns, wood-heaps, and such like erections
are infested. The gun is the thing, in the hands of an experienced
sportsman, to kill them as the ferrets force them to leave their homes,
but a few sharp dogs and a half dozen sharp school-fellows with sticks
will produce very certain destruction. Be careful not to mistake
the head of a ferret coming out of a hole for that of a rat, as once
happened to me in this wise. I was staying at a farm-house, and it was
proposed one fine December morning to try an hour or two’s ferreting.
My school chum, with whom I was staying, possessed some very tame and
good working ferrets, one in particular, a fine brownish dog ferret, by
which he set great store. The great wheat barn was to be laid siege to,
and he being a good shot and older than I, took down his gun and loaded
it preparatory to starting.

“Jack,” said he to me, “you can shoot, can’t you?” I was but fourteen
then and a school boy, and I fear I answered rather too readily and
without sufficient modesty, “Oh, yes; have you a gun to spare?” Yes, he
had a single-barrel pretty little weapon, and, proud as a cock-robin, I
sallied forth, on mighty shots intent. “Now,” said he, with emphasis,
“stand here; watch that hole, and as soon as you see the _whole_ of a
rat’s body fire away, but be careful not to kill a ferret, which you
may easily do if you fire too hastily.” I recollect I rather scorned
the idea of mistaking a ferret for a rat, and with steadfast attention
prepared to kill the first of the rodents that appeared. It seemed an
age, and then one swiftly popped his head out and bolted past me, my
fire hitting the ground at least a yard behind him. How savage I was!
not to speak of the half sneers of my companions. Next time I would be
ready. Ah! there was a slight movement in the hole, a small nose poked
itself out and then disappeared. I pointed the gun straight for the
hole. Out it came again, and then a brown head swiftly appeared. Bang!
Hurrah! I had killed him. Round came the boys. “Well done,” said my
friend Ted, as he stooped to draw out the murdered wretch. “Why, you
duffing idiot, you’ve killed my best dog ferret!” Moral, do not jump at
conclusions.



IV. THE OTTER.


The otter is one of the most graceful of living creatures, but as a
fisherman and fishculturist, I candidly confess that I look on him as a
detestable nuisance on my river. What says the poet!

                        “Nor spears
  That bristle on his back defend the perch
  From his wide, greedy jaws; nor burnished mail
  The yellow carp; nor all his arts can save
  Th’ insinuating eel, that hides his head
  Beneath the slimy mud; nor yet escapes
  The crimson-spotted trout, the river’s pride
  And beauty of the stream.”

This is a faithful picture of the otter’s remorseless and predacious
nature. I caught one the other day in an eel-grate, whither he had
doubtless gone for the eels. The biter was, however, bit, for the rush
of water was too powerful, and on opening the door in the morning I
found him dead and stiff.

The otter usually kills many more fish than it actually wants for
food, and as otters generally hunt in pairs, it is not uncommon to
find in the morning as many as thirteen or fourteen prime trout--in an
ordinarily plentiful river, of course--killed and only partly eaten.
Like the lord mayor’s jester, however, the otter knows what is good,
or, indeed, best, for it eats away the shoulders of the fish, leaving
the rest to rot or be devoured by rats.

I have said it is graceful, and so it is, in a remarkable degree.
Let me advise you, if you live in New York, to visit the Zoological
Gardens, in Central Park, and watch the fine sinuous turns and sweeps
as the otter seizes or seeks for its prey. Its body is long and
flexible, and its feet short and webbed, and the adjacent muscles are
of immense muscular power. Its eyes are large, the ears short, and it
is bewhiskered like a Viking. Its coat is double, like that of the
seal. Long glossy hairs form the outer one, and a short waterproof
woolly waistcoat comprises the inner, so that neither cold nor wet
can affect the well-being of this amphibious hunter. In the daytime
it hides itself in its hole, which usually is some feet deep in the
bank, _above_ highwater mark, but at night its depredations commence;
and when the female has young, say five, and the male otter works with
her, as he generally does, I estimate that from thirty to forty fish
per night are, if anything, rather within the number than beyond. Can
any one deny, therefore, that the otter comes within the common-sense
definition of vermin?

If the otter be taken young, and great kindness and care be shown it,
it may be transferred from the category of vermin into that of “pets,”
and I do not think there is a much more interesting pet in existence,
and I recollect one which used to run about after its master at Eton,
England, some years since. A friend of mine (head river-keeper on a
nobleman’s estate) took a tame one from an old poacher which the latter
had constantly employed to catch fish and bring to him. My friend
tells me that when he caught the poacher he had some sixty fine trout,
scarcely injured, in a bag, all of which had been captured by the otter.

There are many instances of a similar character referred to in the
natural history books which I cannot produce here. It is sufficient
to say that otter-taming, and even the utilizing of the creature for
fishing purposes, is by no means uncommon.

The otter is usually hunted with dogs of a particular breed, but I
shall not attempt to describe this species of sport in this place.
There are those who object to hunting on principle, and I am not
bigoted enough to say they are altogether wrong. Certain, however,
it is that otter hunting is remarkably exhilarating, and there is a
great deal of fun to be got out of the mishaps which are sure to ensue
to the hunters as they scamper and splash and rush and dash over the
bowlders, through bush and brier and stream and rivulet, till the wily
brute is either caught or “kenneled.” So far as we are now concerned,
I shall content myself with telling you how to trap this vermin of the
water, and if ever you become possessed of a stream or lake of fish do
not forget that the otter is your chiefest enemy--excepting the human
poacher, of course.

Now we will presume you are one morning early taking a walk by the side
of your favorite stream. On each side the willows and alders bend over
the water and their roots clutch the banks with rugged fingers, forming
coverts for rats, moorhens, dabchicks, and other small fry, as well as
for the quiet-loving trout.

Presently, as you attentively note these features, you are aware of
a sort of footpath proceeding from the stream, and on looking closer
you notice that fresh excrement has been left and that footprints of
a dog-like animal are to be seen in the soft earth. Follow this trail
and perchance, ere many steps have been taken, you come upon the
carmine-spotted body of a two-pound trout, minus head and shoulders, or
a pound silver eel with its broadest part eaten away. You now know that
an otter has been at work, and you must vow that he shall die. But how?
Listen. The track is fresh. Good! Procure the largest rabbit-gin you
can, and after attaching it firmly to a stake driven under water, drive
two more sticks under water exactly where the otter comes ashore, and
set it upon them. Do not bait the trap at all, or the otter will not
come near, but simply set it under water, so that when his ottership
comes to bank with his ill-gotten booty he puts his foot on the plate
of the gin. A good plan also, where this one is not practicable, is to
carefully cut up a sod of dirt in the pathway of the otter, and set
the gin very gingerly, covering it up completely with short grass and
a sprinkling of dirt. In any case use gloves, so that your hands are
not smelt, for, strange as it may seem in an animal getting its food by
sight, the sense of smell is exquisitely developed in the otter. When
caught be very careful not to handle him. His teeth are “orful.”

Daniel, in his “Rural Sports,” says “the trap must be set in and
covered with mud to prevent the otter seeing it. The instant the trap
strikes, the otter plunges into the water with it, when its weight
preventing his rising to the surface soon destroys him.” But I incline
to my own plan in preference. Of course, if the “spoor,” “spraint,” or
“seal” cannot be seen it is advisable to set several traps at intervals
along the bank, covering them lightly with moss.



V. THE SQUIRREL.


At the commencement of this series of articles I referred to the
squirrel, and quoted the words in which Mr. Ruskin describes his
unbounded admiration for this sprightly little fellow. The squirrel
has a very voracious appetite, however, and if he once by accident or
design tastes the luscious richness of pheasant or partridge egg he
becomes a poacher of very extreme character. Game-keepers do not object
to squirrels as a rule, as long as they confine themselves to those
parts of a covert where game are not, though in the case of largely
stocked preserves these parts are not easily found.

When Master “Squiggy,” however, takes to sucking eggs and teaching his
grandmother and uncles, aunts and cousins, to do the same, then it
becomes a manifest duty to snare him and take him away if you do not
kill him. Of course it is not likely that my boy readers will be called
upon to assist professionally in such a proceeding, but I will briefly
describe how squirrels may be caught alive, for when removed from the
place of mischief they make capital pets after a time of patience and
taming.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.]

It is necessary for two to embark in the proceedings that follow. One
is the climber, and he, I need scarcely say, should be a tolerably good
one. A pair of climbing irons are almost indispensable, and I should
certainly advise boys to get them. He is also provided with a long pole
with a loop of fine twisted brass wire attached to it (Fig. 1).

Now let us term these two warriors A and B. Having spotted a squirrel
and observed him run up a tree, A attaches his irons and prepares to
climb. Before this is done B stands beneath the tree and attracts the
squirrel’s attention, and keeps his eye fixed on him, B never moving
from where he stands. Meanwhile A is gradually approaching from behind
the squirrel, and when he is near enough he slips the loop over the
creature’s head, gives a sharp wrench, and lets the pole, squirrel, and
all drop to the ground to be secured by B. Of course the squirrel is
almost choked, but a firm hand in a thick leather glove soon releases
the frightened animal, and you have to do with him as your pleasure
will. You ought to take a bag with you and instantly pop him into it.
This is the way the men catch squirrels in the country, and is far
better than trapping them so as to cause pain.

I have thus told you how to catch squirrels without materially hurting
them, and I suppose I may as well tell you how to keep them. Well,
having caught the lively young gentleman, keep him in the dark for a
day or two, only occasionally letting him get a glance of the outer
world. Feed him during this period with beechnuts, chestnuts, and by
all means let him have plenty of water. After a time you may take
away all covering from his cage and let him, like yourself, enjoy the
glories of the sunlight. In a very short space of time his captivity
will cease to be so irksome, especially if for the first week or two
you use him to only seeing yourself near.

The squirrel, or at least the common red one of our forest, seems
remarkably intelligent, and its humors vary almost as much in
comparison as those of a child. I kept four, having brought them up
from the nest, and their antics and different moods were a source of
continued amusement. Sometimes Tom would quarrel with a sort of mimic
anger with Jill, and Jim and Sam were almost continually finding fault
with each other over poor unfortunate Lady Jill, whose chief misfortune
seemed to be that she preferred Tom to either of the others. The
affection seemed to be returned, for if we gave a piece of potato to
Tom he instantly passed it over to Jill and shared it. Sometimes entire
good-humor would prevail, when the gambols with each other were a very
pretty sight. This was generally on a fine sunny spring morning after a
good meal of nuts. The cage was large, and a sort of leap-frog was kept
up for half an hour, ending by somebody getting Tom’s temper out over
Miss Jill. I never had a bite from either, and this I attribute to my
never handling them unnecessarily, and never being afraid to take hold
of them carefully but firmly.

Their end was a sad one. I acquired a splendid Persian cat, and the
strangeness of a new habitation made Miss Pussy very spiteful and
bad-tempered. One day I had turned out the four squirrels in order
to clean the cage thoroughly, and they as usual betook themselves out
of the window. With a sudden bound Puss had poor Jill, and with one
scrunch she was dead. Puss then bounded after the others, and they
escaping up a large yew tree I lost sight of all but one forever. What
ultimately became of Jim and Sam I never knew, but Tom would often
show himself in the tree and look down with eyes which seemed to say
mournfully, “Ah, you’ve killed my little wife between you, and I’m
not such a coon as to trust myself within range of her murderers.”
Shortly after this we removed, and thus ended my squirrel-keeping, not,
however, without much regret on my side at least.



VI. BIRD TRAPPING.


Bird-catching has always a fascination for boys, and, indeed, in my
opinion, as a harmless but most interesting pastime, it may be compared
not unfavorably with fishing.

“But,” I hear some one say, “is it not cruel to catch and imprison or
kill our pretty feathered friends, and if so, is it not wrong to teach
boys cruelty?” I answer emphatically “No” to the first of these, and
that reply does away with the other question.

It is not cruel to catch the hawk that preys on kindred species, as
does the shark or pike, or the beautiful kingfisher that ruthlessly
slaughters your innocent baby trout, or the weird and ghostly heron,
whose insatiable maw will ever cry, “Give! Give!” like the daughters of
the horseleech, from every inhabited stream, or the bad-mannered crow,
or the mischievous jay with his egg-eating proclivities.

Then there are some birds, such as pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes,
redwings and plovers, and the water-fowl, such as moorhens, widgeon,
teal, ducks, etc., which are excellent eating, and who shall say that
to kill and eat necessarily implies cruelty?

“But about the pretty song-birds?” you say. Well, now, what bird
is happier in captivity than your consequential cock bullfinch, or
merry-voiced chaffinch? And are there more annoying birds in existence
to those who live by the soil? If you doubt me, go and ask the gardener
and hear what he says about Chaffy’s and Bully’s work on the fruitbuds.
Then remember what present pleasure the joyous song of the well-fed and
warmly-caged linnet or siskin gives to all; but perchance most of all
to some one whose hours are spent wearily on the bed of pain.

Of course, catching birds for the mere sake of doing it is wrong, and
pray is not fishing liable to the same objection? To go out for the
mere purpose of bringing home lots of fish, which are afterwards put
to no use, is an abuse of an otherwise harmless sport to which such
great and good men as Izaak Walton, Sir Henry Wotton, Archbishop Paley,
Charles Kingsley, Mr. John Bright, and many others, have been and are
devoted.

Besides, the methods I shall explain, except for the larger birds of
prey--_vermin_, in fact--need cause no pain to the captured bird, or
if it does, only of the most instant character, which is over when the
bird is dead or caged. The wildest birds require only proper treatment
to render them happy in confinement, and of this fact I was never more
forcibly convinced than when, visiting a very experienced bird-catcher
the other day, I saw a huge tabby tom-cat reposing in the cage of a
cock gold-finch, whose sweet song must have lulled the cat to sleep and
a forgetfulness of its fierce destroying instincts. Hearing it sing, I
could not help recalling Walton’s pious and beautiful reflection anent
the nightingale: “Lord, what music hast Thou provided for Thy saints in
heaven when Thou affordest bad men such music on earth!”

Finally, in defense of the bird catcher’s art, let me urge the benefit
young people derive from an intimate knowledge of the natural history
of birds and their surroundings. As in fishing the best naturalist in
fish is invariably the best angler, so whether he be scientific or not,
the best ornithologist is, by virtue of his knowledge, inevitably the
most successful bird-catcher. Nothing can conduce to an unaffected love
of nature--the “time vesture” of God, Carlyle terms it--more readily
than close observation of the habits, instincts, and intelligences of
the creatures over which man has been given dominion.

Birds, the flight of which man, with all his mechanical ingenuity, had
never yet been able to imitate, are of the most beautiful and wonderful
of these, and their capture within the limits I have laid down is a
pastime at once innocent, amusing, instructive and profitable. One word
more. Be gentle boys, and then presently become gentle_men_ in the true
sense of the word, and handle each captive, if it be alive, mercifully,
“as if you loved him,” inflicting no unnecessary pain or discomfort in
any wise.

Having then in some sort justified bird-catching, if indeed this
was needed, let me say how I intend treating the subject in the few
following chapters. First, with your attention, I will refer to
bird-catching by net; secondly, catching birds by bird-lime; and
thirdly, trapping birds, which latter division will embrace the various
use of the springs, traps, snares, gins, etc., in vogue amongst
professional trappers, game-keepers and others. As the directions
will be severely practical, any one will be able to succeed from
them--assuming, of course, he has the requisite patience. There is
one thing, however, to be borne in mind, that is--there is a Wild
Birds’ Preservation Act, which, inefficient and muddling as it is, is
nevertheless the law of the land, and in it a close time is provided,
during which bird-catching is illegal.



VII. BIRD-CATCHING BY NET.


There are several sorts of nets used for various species of birds, but
for song birds the most common is termed the clap-net, of which Fig. 1
is an outline representation. In looking carefully at it you will see
I have left one side without netting; this, however, should of course
have a net; consider, therefore, the two sides as similar to that on
which the net is shown.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.]

Now the net from which the drawing was taken was somewhat different
from the usual kind. Those ordinarily used are of twine, and netted
diagonally with mesh three quarter inches.

This one, however, if of silk undressed fishing line, and of half-inch
mesh, netted with a square mesh instead of diamond-shape or diagonal.
At each end of it are attached jointed poles which fit in each other
like joints of a fishing-rod; these are when put together six feet six
inches in length, but the net itself is broader to allow of a certain
amount of bagging.

If this were not so the birds would be liable to run along underneath
the net and escape, whereas as now arranged they entangle themselves in
the soft silk meshes. Of course silk is not necessary, but it is best
if expense is no object. A twine net will do very well for boys, and
if they have mastered the instructions for netting they need have no
difficulty in making their own.

The engraving, if carefully looked into, explains itself, but I will,
to further elucidate the matter, tell you how it is laid. First, bear
in mind the net in the cut is now placed on the ground as it should
be laid; this is how to do it. Place both nets spread out as shown,
roughly on the ground (you can measure their proper relative distances
afterward), and drive in the farthest peg (_i. e._, farthest from
bird-catcher), to which is attached both the “top” and “bottom” line
(see cut). Let this peg be firmly driven in, for on it the chief strain
falls. Now plant the peg at the end of the jointed pole farthest from
the bird-catcher (E). The pole is linked to this peg either by means
of two staples or loops of rope attached to both in such a way as to
act as a hinge. Now stretch the bottom between the two jointed poles
as shown, driving the peg in firmly as before. Finally plant the peg
_nearest_ E, having stretched the bottom line tightly throughout.

Measure now a space of width sufficient to allow the two nets when
drawn over toward each other to fall, covering their _top_ edges about
six inches with each other. Thus, as in the cut, if the net be six feet
six inches broad you must allow twelve feet six inches between them.
Having done this, fix the other net in a manner precisely similar to
its fellow. C on the engraving, as can be seen, is the pull-line, and
it is joined as is shown to a line stretching at right angles between
the four top line ends of the jointed poles. The effect of pulling this
is to bring the nets up and over, both falling in the twelve feet six
inches space, and thus inclosing anything within that space. The birds
are enticed by the cage-birds in the first instance (see cut), and
finally by the play-birds perched on the play-stick (B).

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

The play-bird is a bird of the same kind as those sought to be
captured, which is attached by means of miniature harness (to be
presently shown) to the play-stick, and it being comparatively free it
proves very attractive (see Fig. 2). C is the bird. This stick is of
three parts: A, a piece of wood made like Fig. 3; and B, a piece of
brass tubing beaten flat at one end and placed on the stick, which may
be a hazel or ash twig. A hole is punctured through this tube, and a
peg passed through it holds it in its place, as well as serving as an
axle on which its movements work as prompted by the play-line, which
passes also through A, as shown in Fig. 2.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.]

I have said the bird is harnessed and tethered to the stick at C (Fig.
2). This harnessing is perfectly painless to the little fellow, and
consists of a sort of double loop affixed to a swivel (Fig. 6). The
head of the bird is passed through and the loops are drawn down over
and round its wings close to the body. Of course they are drawn and
tied just tight enough to fit the body, and the swivel is attached;
then a piece of fine twine of about a foot and a half in length
connects the play-bird with its stick. The method of using this bird
is as follows: Directly the call-birds--which are cock birds in full
song--have attracted others of their species, the bird-catcher gently
pulls the play line, raising and lowering the stick. This prompts the
play-bird to use its wings in a perfectly natural manner, and the
consequence is, the wild birds becoming bolder at seeing one of their
brethren so apparently unrestrained, venture in the forbidden space,
and with no fear visible at once proceed to exchange civilities. As
soon as the bird-catcher observes the bird well in the reach of the
nets, he pulls swiftly and strongly at C (Fig. 1), and the nets close
over both the play or decoy bird and those he has innocently lured to
their captivity. Now this in no case injures them, and running up,
the bird-catcher places them in a large airy cage opening inwards,
and commonly covers them over with a cloth, lest in the first moments
of restraint they injure themselves against the bars. Two or more
play-birds should be used, so that not one may be over-tired.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.]

Thus you have the whole apparatus of “clap”-netting and its use
explained. Now for a few hints as to where to set a net. First, do not
forget to mark the habits of the birds yourself, and so learn where to
find them at all seasons. Larks and linnets are easily found in open
plains and by water brooks, goldfinches come in autumn to feed off the
thistledown, starling swarm as winter comes on and are met with in all
sorts of pastures where some growth of underwood or deciduous trees
are found. For shy birds let your full line be quite forty yards long;
and a good plan for blackbirds, starlings, and other wary birds is to
lay your nets and get behind a hedge or other hiding-place. A little
ingenuity in this way will often procure a goodly stroke of success.
The other morning after a frost I caught fourteen blackbirds close to a
long laurel hedge, hiding myself in a large rhododendron.

Sometimes hawks, and even birds of a non-preying but quite different
species to your call-bird, are caught in the clap-net. The former
usually pounces down upon or near the poor little play-bird, and thus
the biter is bitten. “Serve him right,” say you; so say I. The other
birds are probably only curious to know what it is all about.

This kind of net is the best for amateurs, and I shall therefore not
describe that sort which is used by professionals for lark and other
birds at night time, often, I am sorry to say, when it is illegal, and
when partridges and pheasants can be taken. Kingfishers may be caught
by stretching a fine net loosely across an archway of a stream on which
they are known to be, and sparrows may be taken in any numbers from old
thatches, barn, rick, etc., at night in the following manner:

Stretch your net on two cane poles and let two people carry it upright;
another holds a lantern at about the middle of this net on the outer
side from the barn to be “netted.” Let another, taking a long pole,
buffet about the interior under the eaves and in the nooks and
corners; the birds will then fly out and make for the light, only to
be entangled in the net. Beating the hedgerows at night will produce
the same effect; and, let me tell you, sparrow pudding is not to be
despised.

Water-birds, such as dabchicks, moorhens, and even ducks, may be
taken by means of nets stretched across ditches and “drawns” which
they frequent. I have especially been successful with those little
nuisances of the fish culturist, the dabchick, or dapper as they are
called in some places, by means of a common dragnet, which I use for
trout catching in spawning time, but as my readers have already the
facilities I have in this direction, I need not say more about that
style of netting.



VIII. BIRD-CATCHING WITH TRAPS.


The word “trap” in the title of this book is intended to be made use
of in a somewhat wide and also narrow sense. Under it I shall include
what would otherwise be called a snare--namely, the “springe,” or
“springle.” On the other hand I shall make use of it in what may seem
a rather restricted sense, inasmuch as that I do not intend to tell
you how to catch birds by means of the “gin,” or steel trap. Mind
you, there are some birds--such as the magpie and crow--which it is
almost impossible to catch in any other manner. For them the deadly,
pain-dealing “gin” is justifiable. For the use of boys, I do not,
however, recommend it in bird-catching; it always maims if it does not
kill outright, and thus, should any of you desire to stuff the bird you
have captured, its injured plight is much against its appearance.

The springe, as many of you know, is a horse-hair loop fixed to some
immovable object, such as the branch of a tree, etc. Mr. Montagu Brown,
in his “Practical Taxidermy,” thus describes the making of it. “Here,”
he says, “I have a black horsehair about two feet long; I double it,
holding it between the right hand finger and thumb, leaving a little
loose loop about half an inch long; from this point I proceed by an
overhand motion of the thumb to twist it up. On reaching the bottom I
make a small knot to prevent it unrolling, then pushing the knotted end
through the eye of the loop, I thus form a loose noose. I then attach
a piece of wire to the free end by a twisted loop (Fig. 7). With about
half a dozen of these coiled in an oval tin box I am ready to snare any
small bird whose haunt I may discover.”

[Illustration: Fig. 7.]

This springe is varied in a variety of ways, but it is remarkably
deadly for nearly all birds. The piece of wire is of course twisted
round a branch or other fixed point, and the noose, for such it is, is
so arranged that the bird pecks through it, and so gets “haltered.”
I always make my springes of silkworm gut, used in fishing, as being
stronger and practically invisible.

Ducks, moorhens, and dabchicks can be caught with nooses or springes
made of a sufficient number of hairs or strands of gut, and suspended
to a line fixed across the ditches and small streams they are known to
frequent. A springe mounted as shown in Fig. 8 (A in 9) can also be
fixed in the ground, with the noose hanging over the probable spot of
emergence from the water of either of these birds. Their exact “run”
can easily be determined by the freshness of the excrement. Snipes are
to be taken by simply attaching the springe to a bullet and burying
this in the soft oose or mud where snipe are known to feed or run.
Plovers can be taken in a similar way.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.]

On the Continent, according to Mr. Box, the following is the method
of using the springe for the capture of thrushes and such birds. The
springes being made, the snarer cuts as many twigs about eighteen
inches in length as he intends hanging springes. There are two methods
of hanging them--in one the twig is bent in the form of figure 6, the
tail end running through a slit cut in the upper part of the twig. The
other way is to sharpen a twig at both ends, and insert the points into
a stem of underwood, thus forming a bow, of which the stem forms the
string below the springe, and hanging from the lower part of the bow is
placed a small branch with three or four berries of the mountain-ash;
this is fixed to the bow by inserting the stalk into a slit in the wood.

The bird-catcher is provided with a basket, one compartment of which
holds his twigs, bent or straight, another his berries; his springes
being already attached to the twigs, he very rapidly drives his knife
into a lateral branch, and fixes them, taking care that the springe
hangs neatly in the middle of the bow, and that the lower part of
the springe is about three fingers’ breadth from the bottom. By this
arrangement the bird, alighting on the lower side of the bow, and
bending his neck to reach the berries below, places his head in the
noose, finding himself obstructed in his movements, attempts to fly
away, but the treacherous noose tightens around his neck, and he is
found by the sportsman hanging by the neck, a victim of misplaced
confidence.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.]

Another adaptation of the springe is shown at Fig. 9. It consists of
a wand of hazel, willow, or any other suitable wood, which is set in
the ground firmly. A short piece of string, hair, or gut connects it
with a cross piece of wood, and to this string also several (two or
more) horse-hair or gut springes are attached, set in precisely the
same manner as shown in Fig. 8. A in Fig. 9 is a piece of wood which
is so cut as to present an arm at right angles to the perpendicular.
This piece of wood is driven in the ground and the wand bent over;
the cross-piece is now placed to the edge of the arm of A, and there
retained as “ticklishly” as possible.

On this fine setting everything depends. Now get some short grass and
cover up the cross-piece at A, so that it cannot be seen, then arrange
your hair springes on the surface, and strew some crumbs or grains of
rice, wheat, etc. The bird will settle on the cross-piece or on A, and
peck at the crumbs, etc., and then will be caught by the legs or head.
I have had excellent results with this.

Another springle shown at Fig. 10 is a remarkably good one for
moorhens, or, in fact, any bird having a run, for the description of
which quote “Practical Trapping,” by Moorman (though, indeed, I believe
he got his description from Doucie’s “Rural Sports”). “The wand, or
spring-stick,” he says, “cross-piece and nooses as before, but instead
of the simple crutch use a complete bow with both ends stuck in the
ground. At some distance from this drive in a straight piece of stick;
next procure a piece of stick with a complete fork or crutch at one
end. To set it draw down the spring-stick and pull the cross-piece
under the bow by the top side farthest from the spring-stick. Now hold
it firmly with one hand while you place the forked stick with its
crutch pressing against the opposite upright stick and bring its free
end against the lower end of the cross-piece, and adjust as firmly as
you can. Finally arrange the nooses in such a manner that if one of
them or the crutched stick is touched the latter falls, and releasing
the cross-piece the spring-stick flies up and the bird with it.” (A)
indicates the cross-piece, (B) the forked stick, (C) the adjustment.
(Fig. 10).

[Illustration: Fig. 10.]



IX. BIRD-CATCHING WITH TRAPS, ETC.


Yet another of the springle traps which I have seen used with very
great success for the capture of flesh-eating birds is shown in Fig.
11. A and B are two sapling oak or ash-trees, growing near each other.
Two holes are bored in A with a large gimlet; at C, in B, a wire loop
is attached, and the loop E is passed through the upper perforation,
as shown. At D a piece of cord with a round knot in it is passed
through after B is bent toward A. F is a piece of wood, the point of
which is shaped like a blunt cone, and this is sustained on the knot
in the position shown by the spring of B, being similar, in fact, to
the tongue of a wooden mole-trap, shown in a previous number. On this
piece of wood is tied a fresh lump of meat, or a pigeon’s egg may be
blown and stuck on. Indeed, any bait may be used, providing it is not
too heavy. The bird, of course, pecks strongly at it through the loop
E, and is instantly caught, or if it attempts to alight, which is often
the case, the noose catches it alive by the legs. My drawing is a rough
one, but sufficiently explains what is meant.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.]

I have thus given a brief sketch of what boys can do in bird-catching
with no more expense than a few cents--if we except the net, and that
need not cost much if one is disposed to make it. There are many other
traps which are variously successful. There is, for example, the
trap-cage, which contains on one side a decoy bird, and a very useful
one it is, and easily procured from a bird-fancier. Then there is the
old sieve and string and brick trap, about which no boy needs to be
told. I have taken twenty and thirty wild fowl in a night by baiting
with pieces of sheep’s lights or lungs a large eel-hook. Then again for
kingfishers there is a round spring-trap, which catches them by the
legs, and is cruel therefore. Herons may be taken on a baited hook--the
bait-fish, of course. When all is said and done, however, for general
bird-catching, where sport and not torture is the means here set forth
are decidedly the most satisfactory.

First and foremost, however, if you would be successful, take this
practical counsel to yourself. Study the natures and habits of the
birds; the droppings and footprints will always indicate a favorite
resort. Why, I took a dozen birds the other day with half a dozen of
Figure 9 traps in less than four hours by simply setting and resetting
in the right places, and then retiring out of sight.

And not merely out of sight, let me tell the tyro, but out of the
range of the sense of smell. Never get to windward of any birds if
you are intent on catching them. It is a curious fact amongst the
lower animals, especially those brought under domestication, that they
perceive and appreciate at its value against themselves the presence
of man by smell as well as sight. Creatures of prey, from the hatred
with which they are held, seem to possess this faculty in the highest
degree. Were it not so, indeed, the struggle for existence with them
would soon end, and many at least of the species--whether fish, flesh
or fowl--would become extinct as the dodo.

The bird-lime itself is the next consideration under this heading. I do
not advise any boy to make it himself, but if he nevertheless chooses
to do so, here is a recipe which will produce a very good “lime.” Half
a pint of Linseed-oil should be put into an iron pot and carefully
boiled over the fire for four hours, or, in fact, till it thickens
sufficiently, stirring it repeatedly the while with a stick. The oil is
smooth when it boils. In order to ascertain when it is done take out
the stick and immerse it in water, after which see if it sticks to the
fingers. If it does, the oil is ready to be poured into cold water,
and thereafter placed in little flat tin boxes--the most convenient
receptacles, as they fit in the waistcoat pocket, and can be used as
required.

Birdlime is also made from holly bark, but according to the directions
given in the “Encyclopædia Britannica” the process is much too
troublesome for boys, and as one can buy birdlime enough to stick
a flock of rooks together for a few pence from a professional
bird-catcher, life may be considered too short for that process at
this time. As I am some distance from a town, much less a professional
bird-catcher, I make mine as above, and find it little if any inferior
to that I have been in the habit of buying.

During winter time, when frost and snow cover the earth, birdlime is
very useful, for at that time the “clap” net is of very little use. A
good plan then is to sweep a bare place anywhere near a plantation or
wooded garden, or even in the farm-yards, and having anointed a few
dozen wheat ears with the straw attached--or rather, having anointed
the straw for about a foot nearest the ear--to spread them about in the
patch. The birds will attempt to take the ears away, and will so get
limed and drop to the ground. You must very quickly pick them up or you
will lose some, as their struggles not infrequently release them, at
least partially, and they flutter out of reach.

Sometimes it will be found that a few handfuls of oats, barley or
wheat thrown down where the limed straws are will be of service when
they do not seem to care for the wheat ears themselves. There is the
probability of the little fellows coming in contact with the ears, and
so getting limed. These methods are chiefly applicable, as I have said,
to cold weather.

A different mode of procedure may be practiced when the weather is
very hot. Cut, say, a hundred twigs of some smooth, thin wood, such as
withy, and after liming, stick them down by the side of any rivulet of
water near woody growths, and of course not near a large tract of water
such as a lake or river. Cover over the stream with brush or fern, so
that the birds can come only by where your limed twigs are placed. I
have had remarkable sport in this way when the birds have been coming
to drink during the forenoon and afternoon.

I tried an experiment for rooks with bird-lime some little time ago. We
all know that in winter, during a thaw, rooks will frequent pastures
in great numbers, especially if cattle be present. About fifty yards
to the west of where I am now sitting is a long waterside pasture,
and thousands of rooks could be seen digging right lustily. Rooks are
too strong and wily to be limed in the usual way with bristles or
twigs, so I made some paper cones--funnel-shaped, you know, like the
grocers use for packing sugar--and anointed the inside with bird-lime,
sticking also a few grains of wheat round the inner side. The result
was ridiculous in the extreme. After scattering a few grains of corn
about and placing about a dozen of these limed brown-paper funnels
in a likely manner, I retired to a distance, and with my field-glass
watched. A flock soon found out the scattered grain, and one after the
other the cones were inspected, but for some time no one ventured to
do more. Presently, however, after the loose grain was apparently all
eaten, one of the wily birds had the temerity to poke his head inside a
cone. The result was much to his evident surprise, for the cone stuck
tight, and there he was tumbling and attempting to fly with a foolscap
on which blindfolded him, and which stuck tight enough to allow me
time to go up and release the poor fellow. I did not kill him, for
old rook pie is by no means palatable. I tried this plan for a heron
which continually frequented a little pond wherein my last year’s trout
are kept, but did not succeed in capturing him, though he took both
the cone and fish used for a bait away somehow. Anyhow it has most
thoroughly frightened my gentleman, for I have not seen him since.

One fine morning some time since I had a delightful ramble with a
quaint old character living hereabouts who gets his living by mole
and bird catching. Old “Twiddle” he is familiarly called. One faculty
he has, and that is a natural love for nature’s works and a gift of
observation which has, perhaps almost unknown to himself, forced him
into being a natural naturalist, if I may so use the expression.
He can tell any bird on the wing by its flight, he knows all the
fancies--some of them old, imagined fancies--of bees, each fly as it
flits from the water’s edge has a name, though far from being that
given it by science. No matter for that; a rose by any other name would
smell as sweet and old Twiddle can tell something of its life-history.
Well, Twiddle and I started on our ramble, and this was how he was
equipped. A cage containing a beautiful little cock gold-finch duly
and comfortably furnished with food and water, and protected from the
sharp though clear air of the bright November day by means of an old
silk handkerchief. Some dozen or two of prepared bristles, a small box
of birdlime, and a “dummy” or stuffed gold-finch set up on a branch of
wood with one end sharpened so that the latter could be stuck in the
ground and then the bird retained in any position deemed desirable.
The bristles were of the best shoemaker’s kind, and, were arranged in
bunches of three on a stout carpet-needle.

By the by I have improved on these by substituting a fish-hook
straightened (see Fig. 6). To do this take an ordinary eel-hook and
make it red-hot in the gas or candle flame, holding it the while by
means of a pair of pliers. It can be readily straightened after this,
whether hot or cold, as the heating softens the wire. The utility of
the barb lies in the fact that the bird cannot by any chance fly away
with the bristle or lose it for you in its struggles, because of the
barb’s holding power when thrust into the branch of a tree, etc.

But to return. Chatting about this and that we journeyed along till
after old Twiddle had craned his neck over a ledge to regard the
other side of a field he announced our walk for the present ended.
On creeping through a hole in the hedge this field turned out to be
a piece of evidently waste water meadow, so-called because the crops
are, as it were, manured with water from the neighboring river, and
a perfect little forest of thistles with their downy heads swaying
in the breeze indicated the probable presence of the goldfinch. Some
thorn-trees grew in a row down the center of the field, and hither and
thither the sparrows flitted amongst their branches busily chattering
the news of sparrowdom. But I saw no finches. “Twiddle,” said I, “where
are the goldfinches?” “Ye’ll see where they be, sir, presently,” he
answered, setting down the caged bird near the largest of the thorns.
“Now, Billy,” he added, speaking to the bird, “crow away,” and with
that he removed the handkerchief. Billy needed no second bidding, and
his little throat quivered and trembled with the glad song which came
thrilling forth.

Twiddle now placed the dummy bird just beneath a branch of the thorn
close to the cage and so as to be easily seen, and all around it and
round the cage the bristles carefully limed were stuck. All was now
ready. We retired behind the hedge where we could see and not be seen.

Presently the singing was answered and we saw a gold-finch hopping
about amongst the branches of the thorn. Suddenly it caught sight of
the dummy bird and with a pleased swiftness flew towards it. In another
second it had touched a limed bristle and was rolling over and over
hopelessly liming its wings with every fresh bristle it touched.

Very carefully the little chap was dusted with a little fine earth
to mitigate the stickiness and placed in another cage which the
bird-catcher always carries for the wild birds. It is flat and long and
well supplied with food and water; in the upper part of it is a hole
sufficiently large to admit the hand, and to the two edges of this hole
is tacked the leg of an old stocking, which falls inwards. Then the
bird can easily be placed inside, but cannot escape, because the folds
of the stocking fold together.

We caught five there and, as the market value of the birds was about
twenty-five cents, Twiddle, it must be owned, had a very profitable
morning’s work. Let me express a hope that my readers may be so
successful.

       *       *       *       *       *



The Art of Stretching and Curing Skins.


The market value of skins are greatly affected by the care used in
skinning and curing. We take the following from The Trapper’s Guide,
the best known authority on these matters:

In drying skins it is important that they should be stretched tight
like a strained drum head. This can be done after a fashion by simply
nailing them flat on a wide board or a barn door. But this method,
besides being impracticable on a large scale in the woods (where most
skins have to be cured) is objectionable, because it exposes only one
side of the pelt to the air. The stretchers that are generally approved
and used by good trappers, are of three kinds, adapted to the skins of
different classes of animals, and shall call them the board-stretcher,
the bow-stretcher, and the hoop-stretcher, and will describe them,
indicating the different animals to which each is adapted.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE BOARD-STRETCHER.--This contrivance is made in the following manner:
Prepare a board of bass-wood or other light material, two feet three
inches long, three inches and a half wide at one end, and two inches
and an eighth at the other, and three-eighths of an inch thick. Chamfer
it from the center to the sides almost to an edge. Round and chamfer
the small end about an inch up on the sides. Split this board through
the center with a knife or saw. Finally, prepare a wedge of the same
length and thickness, one inch wide at the large end, and tapering
to three-eighths of an inch at the small end, to be driven between
the halves of the board. This is a stretcher suitable for a mink or a
marten. Two larger sizes, with similar proportions, are required for
the larger animals. The largest size, suitable for the full grown otter
or wolf, should be five feet and a half long, seven inches wide at the
large end when fully spread by the wedge, and six inches at the small
end. An intermediate size is required for the fisher, raccoon, fox, and
some other animals, the proportions of which can be easily figured out.

These stretchers require that the skin of the animal should not be
ripped through the belly, but should be stripped off whole. This is
done in the following manner: Commence with the knife at the hind feet,
and slit down to the vent. Cut around the vent, and strip the skin from
the bone of the tail with the help of the thumb nail or a split slick.
Make no other slits in the skin, except in the case of the otter, whose
tail requires to be split, spread, and tacked on to the board. Peel
the skin from the body by drawing it over itself, leaving the fur side
inward.

In this condition the skin should be drawn on to the split board, (with
the back on one side and the belly on the other) to its utmost length,
and fastened with tacks or by notches cut in the edge of the board, and
then the wedge should be driven between the two halves. Finally, make
all fast by a tack at the root of the tail, and another on the opposite
side. The skin is then stretched to its utmost capacity, as a boot-leg
is stretched by the shoe-maker’s “tree,” and it may be hung away in the
proper place, by a hole in one end of the stretcher, and left to dry.

A modification of this kind of stretcher, often used in curing the
skins of the muskrat and other small animals, is a simple board,
without split or wedge, three-sixteenths of an inch thick, twenty
inches long, six inches wide at the large end, and tapering to five and
a half inches at six inches from the small end, chamfered and rounded
as in the other cases. The animal should be skinned as before directed,
and the skin drawn tightly on to the board and fastened with about four
tacks. Sets of these boards, sufficient for a muskrat campaign, can
easily be made and transported. They are very light and take up but
little room in packing, thirty-two of them making but six inches in
thickness.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE BOW STRETCHER.--The most common way of treating the muskrat is to
cut off its feet with a hatchet, and rip with a knife from between the
two teeth in the lower jaw, down the belly, about two inches below
where the fore-legs come out. Then the skin is started by cutting
around the lips, eyes, and ears, and is stripped over the body with
the fur side inward. Finally a stick of birch, water-beech, ironwood,
hickory, or elm, an inch in diameter at the butt, and three feet and a
half long, is bent into the shape of an oxbow and shoved into the skin,
which is drawn tight, and fastened by splitting down a sliver in the
bow and drawing the skin of the lip into it.

This method is too common to be easily abolished, and is tolerable when
circumstances make it necessary; but the former method of stretching
by a tapering board, in the case of muskrats as well as other small
animals, is much the best. Skins treated in that way keep their proper
shape, and pack better than those stretched on bows, and in the long
run boards are more economical than bows, as a set of them can be used
many times, and will last several years, whereas bows are seldom used
more than once, being generally broken in taking out.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE HOOP STRETCHER.--The skins of large animals, such as the beaver and
the bear, are best dried by spreading them, at full size, in a hoop.
For this purpose, a stick of hickory or other flexible wood should be
cut, long enough to entirely surround the skin when bent. (If a single
stick long enough is not at hand, two smaller ones can be spliced
together.) The ends should be brought around, lapped, and tied with a
string or a withe of bark. The skin should be taken from the animal by
ripping from the lower front teeth to the vent, and peeling around the
lips, eyes, and ears, but without ripping up the legs. It should then
be placed inside the hoop and fastened at opposite sides, with twine
or bark, till all loose parts are taken up, and the whole stretched so
that it is nearly round and as tight as a drum-head. When it is dry it
may be taken from the hoop, and is ready for packing and transportation.

This is the proper method of treating the skin of the deer. Some prefer
it for the wolf and raccoon. In many cases the trapper may take his
choice between the hoop and the board method. One or the other methods
will be found satisfactory for curing all kinds of skins.



Dressing and Tanning Skins and Furs.


       *       *       *       *       *

DRESSING SKINS WITH FUR WOOL ON.--The cheapest and readiest as well as
the best method of dressing skins for use with the hair or wool on, is
to first scrape off all the fat with a knife rather blunt on the edge,
so as not to cut holes into the hide, upon a round smooth log. The log
for convenience sake should have a couple of legs in one end, like a
tressle; the other end should rest upon the ground.

After the fat is well cleaned off, take the brains of the animal, or
the brains of any other recently killed, and work them thoroughly
into the hide. This renders the hide pliable. Then to preserve from
the ravages of insects scatter on it some powdered alum and a little
saltpeter. If the hair side has become greasy, a little weak lye will
take it out. Sheep-skins may be dressed in the same way, though the
wool should be cleaned with soapsuds before using the brains. Another
way, but more expensive, is to use a paste made of the yolk of eggs and
whiting instead of brains, working it in the same way, letting it dry
and brushing off the whiting. Then add the powdered alum as before.
Deer-skins and even small calf-skins are often tawed as the process
is called with the hair on for garments. If it is desired to give the
deer-skin a yellow color, yellow ocher or chrome yellow may be used in
combination with the brains or yolks of eggs and afterwards brushed off.

If it is simply desired to preserve skins until they are sold, it is
only necessary to dry them thoroughly. If the weather should be damp
and warm, salt the flesh side slightly with fine salt.

       *       *       *       *       *

WITHOUT THE WOOL OR HAIR.--Sheep-skin, deer-skin, dog-skin, calf-skin,
&c., for gloves, &c., are also tawed, but the hair must be taken off.
The skins are first soaked in warm water, scraped on the flesh side to
get off fat, and hung in a warm room until they begin to give a slight
smell of hartshorn. The wool or fur then comes off rapidly. The hair
side should now be thoroughly scraped against the hair. The skin is
next soaked two or three weeks in weak lime water, changing the water
two or three times. Then they are brought out again, scraped smooth
and trimmed. Then rinsed in clean water, then soaked in wheat bran
and water for two or three weeks. After this they are well stirred
around in pickle of alum, salt and water. Then they are thrown again
into the bran and water for two or three days. Then stretched and
dried somewhat in a warm room. After this they are soaked in warm
water and then worked or trodden on in a trough or pail filled with
yolk of eggs, salt, alum, flour and water, beaten to a froth. They are
finally stretched and dried in an airy room, and last of all smoothed
with a warm smoothing iron. This makes the beautiful leather we see in
gloves, military trimmings, &c. The proportions for the egg paste are
as follows: 3-1/2 pounds salt, 8 pounds alum, 21 pounds wheat flour and
yolks of nine dozen eggs. Make a paste with water, dissolving first the
alum and salt. A little of this paste is used as wanted with a great
deal of water.

Chamois skin and deer skins not wanted for gloves are similarly
treated up to the point of treating with egg paste. Instead of using
this process, they are oiled on the hair side with very clean animal
oil, rolled into balls and thrown into the trough of a fulling mill,
well beaten two or three hours, aired, re-oiled, beaten again and the
process repeated a third time. They are then put into a warm room
until they begin to give out a decided smell, then scoured in weak
lye to take out superfluous grease. Here the intention is merely to
get a thick felt-like skin of good color, a nicely grained surface is
not required as in gloves. The skins are finally rinsed, wrung out,
stretched and dried, and when nearly dry, slightly rub with a smooth,
hard, round stick.

These are the fine processes. A dried skin oiled so as to become smooth
and pliable will retain the hair or wool a considerable time.

Or it may be made more durable where the color of the flesh side is no
object by scraping, washing in soapsuds and then putting directly into
the tan pit. For ordinary purposes rabbit, squirrel and other small
skins can be efficiently preserved with the hair by the application of
powdered alum and fine salt, put on them when fresh, or if not fresh
by dampening them first. Squirrel skins when wanted without the hair
will tan very well in wheat bran tea, the fat and hair having been
previously removed by soaking in lime-water and scraping. Old tea
leaves afford tannin enough for small skins, but they give a color
not nearly so pleasant as bran. Almost any of the barks afford tannin
enough for small skins--willow, pine, poplar, hemlock of course,
sumach, etc.



Coloring or Dyeing Skins and Furs.


Furs are dyed by dealers, to suit some fashion, to conceal defects or
to pass off inferior furs for better ones.

The best way is to brush the dye over the fur with a good sponge,
brushing with the hair. As a matter of course, you can only dye them
of a darker color than they are, and retain the handsome lustrous look
peculiar to fur. They may be bleached, but the process leaves the fur
looking like coarse flax or even hemp.

       *       *       *       *       *

BLUE.--Sulphate of indigo, (soluble indigo, sold by all druggists,)
is the readiest and best to get a blue with. Furs are never dyed blue
for sale, for that would be spoiling a white fur, but sheep-skins are.
The skin should be dipped several times in a bath of hot alum water,
allowed to drain, and then dipped into a solution of sulphate of indigo
and water, with a few drops of sulphuric acid added, this gives a pale
blue. Aniline blue is very fine, and dyeing with it is very simple. A
solution of the color in water is made, a hot solution, and the skin
put in all at once, (if a part of the skin is put in first that part
will be darkest, so quick is the absorption of these colors). Fancy
sheep-skin mats are colored blue, red, green, and yellow, and have a
ready sale when they are new.

       *       *       *       *       *

BLACK.--The best black is obtained by first dyeing the skin a
blue. Then boil one-quarter pound gall nuts, powdered, and one and
one-quarter ounces of logwood, in three gallons of water. If the flesh
side is to be blue, while the fur or wool is another, this decoction
must be sponged on.

Get the wool or hair thoroughly impregnated with this and then add
one-quarter pound copperas to the dye and go over the fur or wool
many times with the sponge. The process above given will answer
without previous blueing, but the black is not so brilliant. Another
“home-made” dye which will answer for dyeing clothes a black, as well
as sheep-skins, is this: Just make a bath of eight ounces of bichromate
of potash, six ounces alum, four ounces fustic; boil in water enough to
cover five pounds of yarn, cloth or a single sheep-skin. Make another
bath of four pounds of logwood, four ounces each bar wood and fustic,
or eight ounces fustic; same amount of boiling water as last. Stir the
goods well around in the first bath, keeping the water hot for an hour;
then work it in the second bath the same length of time. Take them and
wring them; then, adding one-quarter pound of copperas to the last
bath, put the goods in again and give them a good stirring. This is a
good black dye for wool goods or furs, but not for silks or cottons.

       *       *       *       *       *

RED.--Furs of course are never dyed red, at least in this country.
Sheep-skins might be dyed with madder or cochineal, but in the former
case, the skin would of necessity be boiled with the dye, as that is
necessary in using madder. Cochineal would be expensive and require
much working, while as brilliant reds and purples may be got from the
aniline colors, dissolved in moderately warm water, the skum taken
off, and skin dipped. These colors are the cheapest, too, as they go
very far. But always have the wool as free from grease as possible by
working in weak hot lye or hot soapsuds.

       *       *       *       *       *

YELLOW.--Can be got on sheep-skins with black oak bark, (quercitron
bark) old fustic, annotta, and Persian (also called French) berries.
The skin should be previously dipped into a hot bath of alum, cream of
tartar or spirit of tin, about two ounces to the gallon. About one-half
pound of annotta, or a pound of the other articles, are enough for a
single skin. If you wish to use fustic, be particular to ask for old
fustic, as what is known in the trade as young fustic, is a different
article and gives a different color. There is also now an aniline
yellow which works like the other colors.

       *       *       *       *       *

GREEN.--Dye first blue as explained above, then pass through a yellow
dye, until you get the shade required. An alum bath, cream of tartar,
or spirits of tin, as above, must be used before the blue is given.

       *       *       *       *       *

PRESERVATION OF FURS.--While in use furs should be occasionally combed.
When not wanted, dry them first, then let them cool, and mix among
them bitter apples from the druggists, in small muslin bags, sewing
them in several folds of linen, carefully turned in at the edges and
kept from damp. Camphor or pepper used in the same manner, will have a
similar effect. Well cleaned furs are much less liable to be attacked
by moths, than those affording rich repasts of dried flesh, though no
furs are absolutely safe without great watchfulness. Wrapping well in
good brown paper and keeping in a tight paper box, are all helps to the
preservation of furs. Sunshine and fresh air kill the fur and wool moth
grub. Therefore taking out the furs occasionally and airing, sunning
and beating them is necessary.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO TAN MUSKRAT SKINS WITH THE FUR ON.--First for soaking, to 10 gallons
of cold soft water add 8 parts of wheat bran, 1/2 pint of old soap, 1
ounce of borax; by adding 2 ounces of sulphuric acid, the soaking may
be done in one-half the time. If the hides have not been salted, add a
pint of salt. Green hides should not be soaked more than 8 or 10 hours.
Dry ones should soak till very soft.

For tan liquor, to ten gallons warm soft water add 1/2 bushel bran;
stir well and let stand in a warm room till it ferments. Then add
slowly 2-1/2 pounds sulphuric acid; stir all the while. Muskrat hides
should remain in about 4 hours. Then take out and rub with a fleshing
knife--an old chopping knife with the edge taken off will do. Then work
it over a beam until entirely dry.



Some Additional Valuable Miscellaneous Information Useful Alike to the
Hunter, Trapper and Angler.


       *       *       *       *       *

HINTS TO TRAPPERS.--The skins of animals trapped are always valued
higher than those shot, as shot not only make holes, but frequently
plow along the skin, making furrows, as well as shaving off the fur.
To realize the utmost for skins they must be taken care of, and also
cleaned and prepared properly. Newhouse gives these general rules
derived from experience.

1. Be careful to visit your traps often enough, so that the skin will
not have time to get tainted.

2. As soon as possible after the animal is dead and dry, attend to the
skinning and curing.

3. Scrape off all superfluous flesh and fat, and be careful not to go
so deep as to cut the fiber of the skin.

4. Never dry a skin by the fire or in the sun, but in a cool, shady
place, sheltered from rain. If you use a barn door for a stretcher (as
boys sometimes do), nail the skin on the inside of the door.

5. Never use preparations of any kind in curing skins, nor even wash
them in water, but simply stretch and dry them as they are taken from
the animal.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO DRESS BEAVER SKINS.--You must rip the skin the same as you would a
sheep. Stretch it in all ways as much as possible; then it is to be
dressed with equal parts of rock salt and alum dissolved in water, and
made about as thick as cream, by stirring in coarse flour. This should
be spread on nearly half an inch thick, and scraped off when dry, and
repeated if one time is not enough. This same process of dressing
applies likewise to otter skins.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO TRAP QUAIL.--A quail trap may be any kind of coop, supported by a
figure 4. The spindle of the figure must either be so made as to hold
grain, or, what is better, some grains of wheat or buckwheat are strung
over a strong thread with the aid of a needle, and tied to the spindle.
Quails and prairie hens easily enter a trap when the ground is covered
with snow. At other times it is rather difficult to catch them.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO TRAP WILD TURKEY.--A wild turkey trap is made by first digging a
ditch; then over one end is built a rude structure of logs, covered at
the top.

The structure should not be tight, but, of course, sufficiently close
not to let the birds through. Indian corn is scattered about and in the
ditch, and inside of the pen. The turkeys follow up corn in the ditch,
and emerge from it on the inside. Once there, the silly birds never
think of descending into the ditch, but walk round and round the pen,
looking through the chinks of the logs for escape that way. To make all
sure, the ditch should end about the centre of the pen, and a bridge
of sticks, grass and earth should be built over the ditch, just inside
of the pen, and close to the logs; otherwise, in going around the bird
might step inside the ditch, and once there, it would follow the light
and thereby reach the outside of the pen.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO CATCH MUSKRATS WITHOUT TRAPS.--It is a mystery to many how muskrats,
beavers, and other animals, are able to remain so long under water,
apparently without breathing, especially in winter. The way they
manage is, they take in a good breath at starting, and then remain
under water as long as possible. Then they rise up to the ice and
breathe out the air in their lungs, which remains in a bubble against
the lower part of the ice.

The water near the ice is highly charged with oxygen, which it readily
imparts to the air breathed out. After a time, this air is taken back
in the lungs, and the animal again goes under the water, repeating
this process from time to time. In this way they can travel almost any
distance, and live almost any length of time under the ice. The hunter
takes advantage of this habit of the muskrat in the following manner.
When the marshes and ponds where the muskrat abounds are first frozen
over, and the ice is thin and clear, on striking into their houses
with his hatchet, for the purpose of setting his trap, he frequently
sees a whole family plunge into the water and swim away under the ice.
Following one for some distance, he sees him come up to recover his
breath, in the manner above described. After the animal has breathed
against the ice, and before he has time to take his bubble in again,
the hunter strikes with his hatchet directly over him, and drives him
away from his breath. In this case he drowns in swimming a few rods,
and the hunter, cutting a hole in the ice, takes him out.

       *       *       *       *       *

BLEACHING WOOL ON TANNED PELTS.--Put an old pot or other iron vessel in
the bottom of a hogshead, and in the vessel a roll of brimstone. Fasten
near the top a stick or two to place the skin on. The wool must be wet
when hung on the sticks. Heat an old iron red hot, or take live coals
to start the brimstone. When it is burning briskly, cover the hogshead
tight to keep the smoke in. If not white enough, repeat the process.

The Esquimaux mode of tanning is very simple, and the material employed
the cheapest and cost accessible of any used in the art, viz: the urine
of man and beast. The skins are prepared in the fur, and softened and
tanned in urine, which is usually kept in tubs in the porches of their
huts, for use in dressing deer, seal and other skins. They show great
skill in the preparation of whale, seal and deer skins, and these, on
the whole, are equal to the best oil skins made in England. It imparts
to them firmness and durability, and makes them waterproof. The boots
worn by the Esquimaux are generally made from seal or walrus hides, and
resist the encroachments of water.

       *       *       *       *       *

HAWK AND OWL TRAPS.--To catch hawks or owls, take a pole 20 feet long,
to be set a short distance from the house or barn or on the poultry
house. Split the top so as to admit the base of a common steel trap,
which should be made fast. When both trap and pole are set you may be
sure of game of some kind. These birds naturally light on high objects,
such as dead branches of trees or tops of stacks, and one should use
judgment about the place where he puts the traps. An open field near
the chicken yard is probably the best.

       *       *       *       *       *

DOMESTIC MANUFACTURE OF FURS.--The skins of raccoons, minks, muskrats,
rabbits, foxes, deer, cats, dogs, woodchucks and skunks are all
valuable. Handsome robes may be made from the skins of the last two
animals, and the writer has seen fur coats made from the skins of
woodchucks, well tanned, dyed and trimmed, which were elegant as well
as comfortable, and no one but a connoisseur would be able to guess
their origin. Of the finer and nicer furs, beautiful collars, muffs,
cuffs, caps, gloves and trimmings may be made with a little ingenuity
and perseverance; and who would not feel a greater satisfaction in
wearing a nice article, from the fact that it was something of their
own manufacture--a product of their own taste and genius?

Very handsome floor-mats are made by tanning sheep pelts and dyeing
them some bright color, which is done with very little trouble; the art
of dyeing is now so familiar to almost every household. Furs may be
dyed as easily as woolen goods, notwithstanding the impression that it
is an art known only to the trade. Any dye that will color woolens will
also dye furs, only care must be taken not to have the dye too hot, or
the texture of the skin will be injured.

The mode of tanning usually followed by city furriers is to rub the
skins well with rancid butter, then tread them thoroughly in a tub or
vat, after which a large quantity of sawdust is mixed with them, and
the process of treading continued until all the grease is absorbed,
when they are finished off by beating, working and rubbing with chalk
and potter’s clay, whipping and brushing. An old trapper practiced this
method with small skins, first washing with a suds of soap and sal-soda
to free them from grease, then rinsing in clear water to cleanse them
from the suds, then rubbing as dry as possible, after which they were
put in a mixture of two ounces of salt to a quart of water, added
to three quarts of milk or bran-water containing one ounce of best
sulphuric acid, and stirred briskly for forty or fifty minutes; from
this they are taken dripping into a strong solution of sal-soda and
stirred till they will no longer foam; they are then hung to dry, when
they are very soft and pliable.

A very good and simple process in use among farmers is to sprinkle the
flesh side, after scraping it well, with equal parts of pulverized alum
and salt, or washing it well with a strong solution of the same, then
folding the flesh side together and rolling it compactly, in which
state it should remain for eight or ten days; then it is opened,
sprinkled with bran or sawdust to absorb the moisture, and rolled up
again, and after remaining twenty-four hours, the process is completed
by a thorough rubbing and manipulation, on which the pliability
depends. Skins, when taken off, should be freed from grease or flesh
by thorough scraping, when they may be dried, and left to await the
leisure of the owner. Previous to tanning they must be well soaked and
wrung dry.

It is no extravagance to assert that every farmer’s family may furnish
their own fur collars, gloves, robes, and other articles of dress and
ornament, with trifling expense, from the resources within their own
reach; but from want of more knowledge on the subject valuable skins
are wasted or disposed of for a mere fraction of their real value,
and articles of apparel that should be made from them are bought at
extravagant prices of fur dealers.

       *       *       *       *       *

INDIAN MODE OF TANNING BUFFALO SKINS.--The hard and incessant labor
that is necessary to properly “Indian tan” a robe is not easily to
realize unless one may see the work go on day by day from the first
step, which is to spread out the pelt or undressed hide upon the
ground, where it is pinned fast by means of wooden pins driven through
little cuts in the edge of the robe into the earth. The flesh side of
the robe, being uppermost, is then worked over by two and sometimes
three squaws. The tools used are very rude, some being simply provided
with sharp stones or buffalo bones. Others, more wealthy, have a
something that much resembles a drawing-knife or shave of the cooper.
The work in hand is to free the hide from every particle of flesh, and
to reduce the thickness of the robe nearly one half, and sometimes even
more.

This fleshing, as it is termed, having been thoroughly accomplished,
the hide is thoroughly moistened with water in which the buffalo
brains have been steeped. For ten days the hide is kept damp with this
brain water. Once each day the hide is taken up and every portion of
it rubbed and re-rubbed by the squaws, who do not have recourse to
anything like a rubbing-board, but use their hands until it would seem
as if the skin would soon be worn off. There seems to be no definite
rule as to the length of time which the robe shall occupy in curing.
The squaw labors until the hide becomes a robe, which may require the
work of one week or two, sometimes even more; but I think that ten days
may be considered as the average time which it takes to properly cure a
robe.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO DRESS DEER SKINS.--Put the skin into the liquid while warm, viz:
eight quarts rain water to one pint soft soap. Warm it. Then punch the
hide, or work it with a soft stick, and let it lay one day. It is then
to be taken out and wrung--rolled between two logs--or even a wringing
machine will be better. Then stretch it until it is dry, in the sun is
best, or by a hot fire. Then oil it thoroughly with any oil convenient.

It should then be treated to the same bath of suds (heated quite warm),
and lay another day. Then pull it out and dry as before. Any oil will
do, but good fresh butter is better than anything else. When the skin
is dry rub it with ochre, which will give it a splendid yellow color.

       *       *       *       *       *

TANNING AND BUFFING FOR DEER SKIN GLOVES.--For each skin take a bucket
of water and put into it 1 quart of lime; let the skin or skins lay in
from 3 to 4 days; then rinse in clean water, hair and grain; then soak
them in cold water to get out the glue; now scour or pound in good soap
suds for half an hour; after which take white vitriol, alum and salt,
one tablespoon of each to a skin; this will be dissolved in sufficient
water to cover the skin and remain in it for 24 hours; wring out as dry
as convenient, and spread on with a brush 1/2 pint of currier’s oil,
and hang in the sun about two days; after which you will scour out the
oil with soap suds, and hang out again until perfectly dry; then pull
and work them until they are soft; and if a reasonable time does not
make them soft, scour out in suds again as before, until complete.

The oil may be saved by pouring or taking it from the top of the suds,
if left standing a short time. The buff color is given by spreading
yellow ochre evenly over the surface of the skin, when finished,
rubbing it in well with a brush.

       *       *       *       *       *

DYEING FOR BUCKSKIN, (Buff.)--5 parts of whiting to 2 parts of ochre
(yellow), and mix them with water to a paste; make into cakes and dry.
When a dressed skin is dry, rub one of the balls over the surface;
rub the powder in. Take a piece of sand-paper and raise a nap on the
leather by going over it. (Black.)--Take clear logwood; after it is
dry use copperas water to blacken it. Be careful and not use too much.
(Dark Brown.)--5 pounds of oak bark; 4 pounds of fustic; 14 ounces of
logwood. Use alum water (strong) to make it strike in. (Drab.)--Mix
blue clay with soft soap; add blue vitriol to shade the color. It can
be made any shade you wish.

       *       *       *       *       *

DYEING FOR MOROCCO AND SHEEP LEATHER.--The following colors may be
imparted to leather, according to the various uses for which it is
intended. (Blue.)--Blue is given by steeping the subject a day in urine
and indigo, then boiling it with alum; or it may be given by tempering
the indigo with red wine, and washing the skins therewith.

(Another.)--Boil elderberries or dwarf elder, then smear and wash
the skins therewith and wring them out; then boil the elderberries
as before in a solution of alum water, and wet the skins in the
same manner once or twice; dry them, and they will be very blue.
(Red.)--Red is given by washing the skin and laying them two hours
in galls, then wringing them out, dipping them in a liquor made with
ligustrum, alum and verdigris; in water, and lastly in a dye made of
Brazil wood boiled with lye. (Purple.)--Purple is given by wetting the
skins with a solution of roche alum in warm water, and when dry, again
rubbing them with the hand with a decoction of logwood in cold water.
(Green.)--Green is given by smearing the skin with sap green and alum
water, boiled. (Dark Green.)--Dark green is given with steel filings
and sal ammoniac, steeped in urine till soft, then smeared over the
skin, which is to be dried in the shade. (Yellow.)--Yellow is given
by smearing the skin over with aloes and linseed oil, dissolved and
strained, or by infusing it in weld. (Light Orange.)--Orange color is
given by smearing it with fustic berries boiled in alum water, or,
for a deep orange, with turmeric. (Sky color.)--Sky color is given
with indigo steeped in boiling water, and the next morning warmed and
smeared over the skin.

       *       *       *       *       *

OPERATION OF TANNING.--The first operation is to soak the hide, as no
hide can be properly tanned unless it has been soaked and broken on a
fleshing beam. If the hide has not been salted add a little salt and
soak it in soft water. In order to be thoroughly soaked, green hides
should remain in this liquor from 9 to 12 days; of coarse the lime
varies with the thickness of the hide. The following liquor is used
to remove hair or wool, viz: 10 gallons cold water (soft), 8 quarts
slacked lime, and same quantity of wood ashes. Soak until the hair or
wool will pull off easily.

As it frequently happens it is desirable to cure the hide and keep the
hair clean, the following paste should be made, viz: equal parts of
lime and hard-wood ashes, (lime should be slacked,) and made into a
paste with soft water. This should be spread on the flesh side of the
hide and the skin rolled up, flesh side in, and placed in a tub, just
covering it with water. It should remain 10 days, or until the hair
will pull out easily, then scrape off with a knife.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO DEODERIZE SKUNK SKINS.--To deoderize skunk skins or articles for
clothing scented, hold them over a fire of red cedar boughs, and
sprinkle with chloride of lime; or wrap them in green hemlock boughs
when they are to be had, and in 24 hours they will be cleansed.

       *       *       *       *       *

HOW TO SHOOT SNIPE.--To the beginner no bird is more puzzling, and,
therefore, more difficult to shoot. Its flight is most uncertain, most
variable, and most irregular--rising at one time as evenly as a lark,
and flying close to the ground with scarcely the slightest deviation
from a straight line; at another, springing from the ground as if
fired from a gun, and then flying in a zig-zag course to the right or
left, and, indeed, in every direction; and sometimes, again, rising
to a great height, and then going straight away with the rapidity of
lightning. And yet, with all these apparent difficulties, when the
knack is once acquired, it becomes comparatively easy--indeed, is
reduced almost to a certainty. The great art in this kind of shooting
is coolness, and to avoid too much hurry. And, in this, as in every
other kind of shooting, the first sight is the best; the moment you
are “well on” your bird, the trigger should be pulled. In cross shots,
fire well before your bird. Contrary to the usual practice, you should
always walk down wind; the reason for this is that snipe always rise
against it. Sometimes snipe are very wild, and at others will lie until
they are almost trodden upon. If there be much wind, your best chance
is to “down with them” as soon as they rise from the ground, or you
have little hope of getting a bag.

       *       *       *       *       *

PRESEVERATIVES FOR SKINS.--The best material for the preseveration of
skins of animals consists in powdered arsenious acid, or the common
arsenic of the shops. This may be used in two ways: either applied in
dry powder on the moist skin, or, still better, mixed with alcohol or
water to the consistency of molasses, and put on with a brush. Some
camphor may be added to the alcoholic solution, and a little strychnine
will undoubtedly increase its efficacy. There are no satisfactory
substitutes for arsenic, but, in its entire absence, corrosive
sublimate, camphor, alum, etc., may be employed.

Many persons prefer the arsenical soap to the pure arsenic. This is
composed of the following ingredients, arsenic, 1 ounce; white soap, 1
ounce; carbonate of potash, 1 dram; water, 6 drams; camphor, 2 drams.
Cut the soap into thin slices, and melt over a slow fire with the
water, stirring it continually; when dissolved, remove from the fire,
and add the potash and arsenic by degrees; dissolve the camphor in a
little alcohol, and when the mixture is nearly cold, stir it in.

The proper materials for stuffing out skins will depend much upon the
size of the animal. For small birds and quadrupeds, cotton will be
found most convenient; for the larger, tow; for those still larger,
dry grass, straw, sawdust, bran, or other vegetable substances, may
be used. Whatever substance be used, care must be taken to have it
perfectly dry. Under no circumstances should animal matter, as hair,
wool, or feathers, be employed.

The bills and loral region, as well as the legs and feet of birds,
and the ears, lips and toes of mammals, may, as most exposed to the
ravages of insects, be washed with an alcoholic solution of strychnine
applied with a brush to the dried skin; this will be an almost certain
safeguard against injury.

       *       *       *       *       *

FISHING WITH NATURAL FLY.--This consists in fishing with the natural
flies, grasshoppers, etc., which are found on the banks of the
rivers or lakes where you are fishing. It is practiced with a long
rod, running tackle, and fine line. When learning this system of
angling, begin by fishing close under the banks, gradually increasing
your distance until you can throw your live bait across the stream,
screening yourself behind a tree, a bush, or a cluster of weeds,
otherwise you will not have the satisfaction of lifting a single fish
out of the water. In rivers where immense quantities of weeds grow in
the summer, so as almost to check the current, you must fish where the
stream runs most rapidly, taking care that in throwing your line into
those parts you do not entangle it among the weeds. Draw out only as
much line as will let the fly touch the surface, and if the wind is at
your back it will be of no material service to you in carrying the fly
lightly over the water. In such places the water is generally still,
and your bait must, if possible, be dropped with no more noise than the
living fly would make if it fell into the water.

Keep the top of your rod a little elevated, and frequently raise and
depress it and move it to and fro very gently, in order that the fly
by its shifting about may deceive the fish and tempt them to make a
bite. The instant your bait is taken, strike smartly, and if the fish
is not so large as to overstrain and snap your tackle, haul it out
immediately, as you may scare away many while trying to secure one.
There are very many baits which may be used with success in natural fly
fishing, of which, however, we shall content ourselves with enumerating
some of the most usual and useful.

Wasps, hornets and bumble bees are esteemed good baits for dace, eels,
roach, bream and chub; they should be dried in an oven over the fire,
and if not overdone, they will keep a long while.

       *       *       *       *       *

HOW TO SELECT FURS.--In purchasing furs, a sure test of what dealers
call a “prime” fur is the length and density of the down next the skin;
this can be readily determined by blowing a brisk current of air from
the mouth against the set of fur. If the fibers open readily, exposing
the skin to the view, reject the article; but if the down is so dense
that the breath cannot penetrate it, or at most shows but a small
portion of the skin, the article may be accepted.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO CLEAN FURS.--Strip the fur articles of their stuffing and binding,
and lay them as much as possible in a flat position. They must then be
subjected to a very brisk brushing, with a stiff clothes brush; after
that, any moth-eaten parts must be cut out, and be neatly replaced by
new bits of fur to match. Sable, chinchilla, squirrel, fitch, etc.,
should be treated as follows: Warm a quantity of new bran in a pan,
taking care that it does not burn, to prevent which it must be actively
stirred. When well warmed, rub it thoroughly into the fur with the
hand. Repeat this two or three times; then shake the fur, and give
it another sharp brushing until free from dust. White furs, ermine,
etc., may be cleaned as follows: Lay the fur on the table, and rub it
well with bran made moist with warm water; rub until quite dry, and
afterward with dry bran. The wet bran should be put on with flannel,
and the dry with a piece of book-muslin.

The light furs, in addition to the above, should be well rubbed with
magnesia, or a piece of book-muslin after the bran process. Furs are
usually much improved by stretching, which may be managed as follows:
to a pint of soft water add three ounces of salt; dissolve; with this
solution sponge the inside of the skin (taking care not to wet the
fur) until it becomes thoroughly saturated; then lay it carefully on
a board with the fur side downward, in its natural disposition, then
stretch as much as it will bear, to the required shape, and fasten with
small tacks. The drying may be quickened by placing the skin a little
distance from the fire or stove.

       *       *       *       *       *

FISHING WITH ARTIFICIAL FLY.--Artificial fly fishing consists in the
use of imitations of these flies and of other fancy flies, and is
unquestionably the most scientific mode of angling, requiring great
tact and practice to make the flies with neatness and to use them
successfully, and calling forth as it does so much more skill than the
ordinary method of bottom fishing, it merits its superior reputation.

It possesses many advantages over bottom fishing, but at the same time
it has its disadvantages; it is much more cleanly in its preparations,
inasmuch as it does not require the angler to grub for clay and work up
a quantity of ground baits, and is not so toilsome in its practice, for
the only encumbrances which the fly fisher has are simply a light rod,
a book of flies and whatever fish he may chance to catch; but there are
several kinds of fish which will not rise at a fly, and even those that
do will not be lured from their quiet retreat during very wet or cold
weather. It would be well if the young angler could go out for some
little time with an old experienced hand, to observe and imitate his
movements as closely as possible.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO PREPARE SHEEP SKINS FOR MATS.--Make a strong lather with hot water
and let it stand till cold; wash the fresh skin in it, carefully
squeezing out all the dirt from the wool; wash it in cold water till
all the soap is taken out. Dissolve a pound each of salt and alum in
two gallons of hot water, and put the skin into a tub sufficient to
cover it; let it soak for twelve hours, and hang it over a pole to
drain. When well drained stretch it carefully on a board to dry, and
stretch several times while drying. Before it is quite dry, sprinkle on
the flesh side one ounce each of finely pulverized alum and saltpetre,
rubbing it in well.

Try if the wool be firm on the skin; if not, let it remain a day or
two, then rub again with alum; fold the flesh sides together and hang
in the shade for two or three days, turning them over each day till
quite dry. Scrape the flesh side with a blunt knife, and rub it with
pumice or rotten stone.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO TAN SHEEP SKINS.--Sheep skins, which are used for a variety of
purposes, such as gloves, book-covers, etc., and which when dyed, are
converted into mock Morocco leather, are dressed as follows: They are
first to be soaked in water and handled, to separate all impurities,
which may be scraped off by a blunt knife on a beam. They are then to
be hung up in a close, warm room to putrefy. This putrefaction loosens
the wool, and causes the exudation of an oily and slimy matter, all
which are to be removed by the knife. The skins are now to be steeped
in milk of lime, to harden and thicken; here they remain for 1 month
or 6 weeks, according to circumstances, and when taken out, they are
to be smoothed on the fleshy side with a sharp knife. They are now to
be steeped in a bath of bran and water, where they undergo a partial
fermentation, and become thinner in their substance.

The skins, which are now called pelts, are to be immersed in a solution
of alum and common salt in water; in the proportion of 120 skins to
three pounds of alum and five pounds of salt. They are to be much
agitated in this compound saline bath, in order to become firm and
tough. From this bath they are to be removed to another, composed
of bran and water, where they remain until quite pliant by a slight
fermentation. To give their upper surface a gloss, they are to be
trodden in a wooden tub, with a solution of yolks of eggs in water,
previously well beaten up. When this solution has become transparent,
it is a proof that the skins have absorbed the glazing matter. The pelt
may now be said to be converted into leather, which is to be drained
from moisture, hung upon hooks in a warm apartment to dry, and smoothed
over with warm hand-irons.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO TRAP YOUNG MINK.--MINK BREEDING.--Adult minks are almost untamable,
but young ones readily submit to handling, and are easily domesticated.
The time to secure young minks is in May and June, when they begin
to run with their dams. The streams must be quietly watched for mink
trails, and these tracked to the nest.

When they leave the hole the old one may be shot, and the young ones
secured, or they may be dug out. Those who own a breeding stock of
minks ask high prices for them; but trappers represent to us that it
is an easy matter to get the wild young ones. _Habits._--A successful
breeder says that he does not attempt to tame the wild mink, but only
aims to supply for it in a small space all the necessities of its
natural instincts. He says the mating season commences about the first
of March, and lasts two weeks, never varying much from that date.

The female carries her young about six weeks. In the minkery, where
diet, water, temperature, etc., are similar with each animal, there is
so little difference in the time of mating and time of bearing young in
different animals, that five out of six litters dropped last spring,
were born within twelve hours of each other. The young are blind from
four to five weeks, but are very active, and playful as kittens. The
mother weans them at from eight to ten weeks old. At four weeks the
mother begins to feed them meat; this they learn to suck before they
have teeth to eat it.

The nests in which the young are born are lined by the mother with some
soft material, and are made in the hollow of some old stump, or between
the projecting roots of some old tree, and always where it is perfectly
dry. The nest is located near pure running water, which the mother
visits twice every twenty-four hours. She feeds her young on frogs,
fish, birds, mice, crabs, etc., etc. The mink is from birth a pattern
of neatness and cleanliness, and as soon as a nest begins to get foul
and offensive, she takes one of the young in her mouth, and depositing
it in a clean, suitable place, builds a nest about it, and then brings
the balance of the litter. She feeds and cares for them until they are
three and a half or four months old. When the young are weaned, about
the 10th of July, she builds her nest near the water, in which the
young soon learn to play. There are usually four in a litter, though
the number ranges from two to six. Towards fall the mother separates
them into pairs. One pair--or if the number be odd, the odd one--is
left in the nest; the other pair or pairs, she places them often half a
mile from each other, and then seeks new quarters for herself.

The young soon separate, and each one catches his own frogs, etc. They
do not pair, but the male is a sort of rover and free-lover. Minks are
unsociable, petulant, vicious in play, savage in war. Late in the fall
they establish regular runaways from one stream to another, and usually
under brush-fallen trees, weeds swale, and under banks--anywhere, in
fact, where they can avoid the sunshine, and escape the chances of
observation. The mink is a sure prophet, and just before hard winter
begins, he lays by a store of food for the winter in safe places near
his winter nests, of which he has several. As the snows fall he burrows
under the snow, where he remains until about February, when his supply
of food is exhausted, and he is forced to seek further for food.

       *       *       *       *       *

MANAGEMENT OF.--Mink being by nature solitary, wandering creatures,
being seldom seen in company except during the breeding season, are,
therefore, impossible to be reared successfully, if large numbers are
kept constantly together, therefore their inclosure should be a large
one.

The male and female should be permitted to be together frequently from
the middle of February until the middle of March. At all other times
keep them entirely separate. The young mink make their appearance about
the first of May. When wild in the woods they will seldom vary five
days from this time, but when kept in confinement there is greater
variation. About this season they should have plenty of fine hay, which
they will carry into their boxes to make nests. A box three or four
feet long and eighteen inches wide is the shape they prefer. It should
be placed as far as possible from the water to prevent the mink from
carrying water and mud into it.

The young mink when first born are small and delicate, destitute of any
kind of fur, and much resembling young rats. If the old mink is tame
the young ones may be taken out of the nest and handled when they are
three weeks old. They will soon learn to drink milk, and may feed every
day. At five weeks old they may be taken from the mother and put into a
pen by themselves, when they will soon become very playful and pretty,
and make much better mothers than they would if allowed to run with the
old ones.

The shelter should be in the shape of a long box, 5 or 6 feet wide,
and 3 or 4 feet high, set upon legs, and with a good floor and roof.
Divide it into separate compartments, 6 feet long (or longer would be
better,) the front of each apartment to be furnished with a swinging
door of strong wire screen, with the hinges at the top, and a button or
some kind of fastener at the bottom. A trough 6 inches square, made by
nailing three boards together, should run the whole length of the pen
on the back side; one end of the trough should be made several inches
lower than the other, so that the water can be drawn off. With this
arrangement, the water can be turned in at one end of the trough, and
drawn off and changed as often as desired. The lower end of the trough
should be a little deeper than the other, to prevent the water from
running over. Each apartment is furnished with a box 3 feet long and
eighteen inches wide. On one side of the box and near one end is made a
round hole, 2-1/2 inches in diameter, and provided with a sliding cover
so that by means of a stick it can be opened or closed from the outside.

This is so the mink can be shut up when the pen is being cleaned
out. On the top of the box and at the other end should be a door
large enough to put in hay for the nest and take out the young. It is
necessary that they have abundance of pure, soft water, fresh air,
desirable shade and plenty of exercise. These conditions secure to the
mink a good quality of dark fur and good health. Brush, weeds, etc.,
are allowed to grow in the yard, but not near enough the wall to admit
of their climbing up and out.

In addition to the above directions for breeding mink, we give the
following experience of a gentleman in Vermont: “I purchased one
female and her litter of five, two males and four females in all, and
constructed a building of rough boards, 10 by 4 feet, for a minkery.
It had a floor tight enough to prevent the escape of the animals, was
properly ventilated, and divided into six apartments, one of which is
an ante-room in which to step from the outside and close the door.
Water is supplied by a lead pipe running in at one side through all the
rooms, and out at the other into a trough where small fish are kept,
and occasionally given to the minks.

“They were kept together until December the 18th, when the males were
put in an apartment by themselves. On the 10th of March each male was
put in with a female, each pair separate, and after a couple of days,
one of the males was put in with another female, and finally with the
third. They were separated about the 1st of April, each female being
kept alone and supplied with a suitable box, with warm material for a
nest. When it was supposed they were about to bring forth their young,
they were disturbed as little as possible; anything to excite them at
this time, should be avoided, for when irritated, they will sometimes
eat their young. The first female put with the perfect male, brought
forth seven, one of which disappeared after they began to crawl around
out of their nest. The other two females had each a pair, all of which
(but the one mentioned) are now alive, fine, fat, sleek fellows, and
fully grown. They are very easily kept, being fed once a day upon warm
milk with wheat bread crumbs--a quart sufficing for the whole lot, and
once upon fresh meat, care being taken not to over-feed.

“Any kind of meat and offal that is not too fat will answer. They are
very fond of beef liver, chickens’ heads and entrails, woodchucks
(being careful not to give them the gall or the liver, which is
poisonous), rats, mice, etc. They are more easily cared for than one
hog and much more cheaply kept. Nothing was paid out for meat for them
until after 1st July, when a contract was made with a butcher to leave
a bullock’s head once a week. I am confident that the increase of the
minkery would have been fully one-third more if both the males had
been perfect. I intend to keep them in pairs hereafter. They are not
easily handled, but struggle when caught against their will and exude
the thick fetid substance from glands near the vent. They will bite
severely, but can be handled safely with thick buckskin gloves.”

[Illustration: THE END.]

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Tousey, Publisher, N. Y.

HOW TO DO SIXTY TRICKS WITH CARDS--Embracing all of the latest and most
deceptive card tricks with illustrations. By A. Anderson. Price 10
cents. For sale by all newsdealers, or we will send it to you by mail,
postage free, upon receipt of price. Address Frank Tousey, Publisher,
N. Y.

HOW TO MAKE ELECTRICAL MACHINES--Containing full directions for making
electrical machines, induction coils, dynamos, and many novel toys to
be worked by electricity. By R. A. R. Bennett. Fully illustrated. Price
10 cents. For sale by all newsdealers in the United States and Canada,
or will be sent to your address, post-paid, on receipt of price.
Address Frank Tousey, publisher, New York.

HOW TO BECOME A BOWLER--A complete manual of bowling. Containing full
instructions for playing all the standard American and German games,
together with rules and systems of sporting in use by the principal
bowling clubs in the United States. By Bartholomew Batterson. Price 10
cents. For sale by all newsdealers in the United States and Canada, or
sent to your address, postage free, on receipt of the price. Address
Frank Tousey, publisher, New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

OUR TEN CENT HAND BOOKS.

USEFUL, INSTRUCTIVE AND AMUSING.

Containing valuable information on almost every subject, such as
=Writing=, =Speaking=, =Dancing=, =Cooking=; also =Rules of Etiquette=,
=The Art of Ventriloquism=, =Gymnastic Exercises=, and =The Science of
Self-Defense=, =etc.=, =etc.=

1 Napoleon’s Oraculum and Dream Book.

2 How to Do Tricks.

3 How to Flirt.

4 How to Dance.

5 How to Make Love.

6 How to Become an Athlete.

7 How to Keep Birds.

8 How to Become a Scientist.

9 How to Become a Ventriloquist.

10 How to Box.

11 How to Write Love Letters.

12 How to Write Letters to Ladies.

13 How to Do It; or, Book of Etiquette.

14 How to Make Candy.

15 How to Become Rich.

16 How to Keep a Window Garden.

17 How to Dress.

18 How to Become Beautiful.

19 Frank Tousey’s U. S. Distance Tables, Pocket Companion and Guide.

20 How to Entertain an Evening Party.

21 How to Hunt and Fish.

22 How to Do Second Sight.

23 How to Explain Dreams.

24 How to Write Letters to Gentlemen.

25 How to Become a Gymnast.

26 How to Row, Sail and Build a Boat.

27 How to Recite and Book of Recitations.

28 How to Tell Fortunes.

29 How to Become an Inventor.

30 How to Cook.

31 How to Become a Speaker.

32 How to Ride a Bicycle.

33 How to Behave.

34 How to Fence.

35 How to Play Games.

36 How to Solve Conundrums.

37 How to Keep House.

38 How to Become Your Own Doctor.

39 How to Raise Dogs, Poultry, Pigeons and Rabbits.

40 How to Make and Set Traps.

41 The Boys of New York End Men’s Joke Book.

42 The Boys of New York Stump Speaker.

43 How to Become a Magician.

44 How to Write in an Album.

45 The Boys of New York Minstrel Guide and Joke Book.

46 How to Make and Use Electricity.

47 How to Break, Ride and Drive a Horse.

48 How to Build and Sail Canoes.

49 How to Debate.

50 How to Stuff Birds and Animals.

51 How to Do Tricks with Cards.

52 How to Play Cards.

53 How to Write Letters.

54 How to Keep and Manage Pets.

55 How to Collect Stamps and Coins.

56 How to Become an Engineer.

57 How to Make Musical Instruments.

58 How to Become a Detective.

59 How to Make a Magic Lantern.

60 How to Become a Photographer.

61 How to Become a Bowler.

62 How to Become a West Point Military Cadet.

63 How to Become a Naval Cadet.

64 How to Make Electrical Machines.

65 Muldoon’s Jokes.

66 How to Do Puzzles.

67 How to Do Electrical Tricks.

68 How to Do Chemical Tricks.

69 How to Do Sleight of Hand.

70 How to Make Magic Toys.

71 How to Do Mechanical Tricks.

72 How to Do Sixty Tricks with Cards.

73 How to Do Tricks with Numbers.

74 How to Write Letters Correctly.

75 How to Become a Conjuror.

76 How to Tell Fortunes by the Hand.

77 How to Do Forty Tricks with Cards.

78 How to Do the Black Art.

79 How to Become an Actor

80 Gus Williams’ Joke Book.

All the above books are for sale by newsdealers throughout the United
States and Canada, or they will be sent, post-paid, to your address, on
receipt of 10c. each.

_Send Your Name and Address for Our Latest Illustrated Catalogue._

FRANK TOUSEY, Publisher,

24 UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber’s note:

Illustrations have been moved to paragraph breaks near where they are
mentioned.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors
have been corrected.

Changes have been made as follows:

The notation 1 2 for fractions has been changed to 1/2.

p. 11: muste la changed to mustela (invest _mustela vulgaris_)

p. 30: 5 changed to 6 [(Fig. 6). The]

p. 39: Fig. 6 referenced here does not exist.





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