I was thinking about last year and it being my first year and the 'learning curve'. A very good friend of mine mentored me in my first year, and I would like to pass on what I learned from him, and hopefully help a new trapper speed up his 'learning curve'. This is about trapping muskrats under ice, when we have enough to trap. Can be a little tricky but bear with me. First you will need the following supplies: A sled- for dragging equipment around on the ice and snow, it works better than a pack basket. Axe- for cutting your holes in ice, and possibly chopping out a rat that freezes to the underside of the ice. Traps- I preferred number 1 longsprings, but we did use a few 1.5 longsprings as well. 2-2.5 inch finish nails- These are used for the boards to hold your bait as well as hanging your traps on the board. Electrician Staples- These are heavy duty staples to secure cables to joists, here we use them for securing your trap chain to the bottom of the board. Boards- 6'-8' boards depending on how deep the water is and soft the bottom. 1"x4" are great for #1 longsprings old fence works good. Surveyors Tape- To mark your traps and your routes, makes following your trapline alot easier, especially in the dark or in a snow fall. Milk crate- These are handy to have to throw odds and ends in and ride nice and flat on top of the boards you lay on the sled. Bait- I preferred carrots and keep them nice and clean, really orange for better visibility, I know some fellas like potatoes, or apples. We had best results with carrots. Ok, those are the basic items you will need. We can move on to sites to set, and how to make your sets. Sites I had best results with were between feed huts and houses, and houses and feeding sites in the bottom where they have been digging at roots. Look for a rat house and usually within 50-100 ft you will find a feeder hut. They still use these in the winter time. Look for the most active runs, this will be apparent with bubbles. Rats do exhale some while they are swimming under water. You will see frozen bubbles on the underside of the ice in their runs, sometimes you will even see the bubbles moving around under the ice in a good run. Same thing with the digging sites near a bank or where they are digging around for roots on the bottom, lots of bubbles and vegetation frozen in the underside of the ice. Now we have our spot, a nice run bubbled up between a rat house and a feeder hut. Ohh before I forget, becareful around these runs....they wear them thin and sometimes they do not freeze....I got more than my share of soakers last winter! Here is a pic of a house This is a really big house that we pulled 14 rats off of before we hit a kit. Anyways, you find this you have a nice house and start to look for satelite feeders and the runs. When you have located a nice run and you want to set up, come back in the run about 10 ft off the house and chop a hole in the ice just wide enough to slide a board down into with the trap on it. Slide your board into the water at about 45degree angle. Look at your water line on the board and the bottom of the ice. Make sure you push the board into the mud a little to get a frim hold so the board doesn't wiggle or move. Next, take a finish nail and drive it into the board in the center, this is your bait nail....keep it off the bottom edge of the ice so it does not get frozen into it, but close. Next take another nail and pound it in below the bait nail where you can palce your trap below the bait on the board, without leaving more than a half inch gap in between your bait and your trap. Touching it is ok, this will prevent a rat from getting his foot between the bait and the trap on the board. Next, stretch out your trap chain to the bottom of the board, take your staple and nail it firmly thru the chain attaching it to your board. Ok, now it is pretty much ready to go in. Place your bait on the upper nail, set your trap and place it on the second nail. Make sure the chain is on secure, and try to keep the chain straight on the board. It will make sliding in the ice easier. Slide it in at a 45 degree angle and gently push it into the bottom, don't bounce or whack the board it can set off the trap or knock it off the board. The idea of this is to use the ice and the board to 'wedge' or guide the rat into the trap as it goes for the bait. It will swim up to the carrot, but he will drop his legs onto the board and usually its his hind legs that are in the pan. He is trying to get leverage to get the carrot off the nail, then he gets snapped. The trap falls off the nail, and the chain holds it to the board and the rat drowns. In turn this leaves the carrot there in place usually and another rat will come in and condition him to think that spot is ok, the trap is already gone with a rat in it, and the other rat will come back when you reset and get him and so forth and so on. Here is a pic of my son checking an ice set with a board. You can see the carrot on the nail on the board. Keep your holes small so a rat cannot come into the board from the side. You can add nails to the side to fence that area and force the rat into it more if it becomes a problem. Here is another pic of the lil man checking another set. This one is a miss, but you can see the second nail where the trap hangs, also you can see the staple and how it keeps the trap to the board. The mud on the bottom of the board also displays about how much you should push the board into the mud. Here is another pic of Jake checking another ice set. We have a catch here, note the nice high front leg catch. High catch on a rats leg is desirable, there is alot less chance he will wring himself out of it. It may seem a little complicated but its not. Make good sets and pay attention to what you are doing, better sets will way out produce sloppy ones. We were running about 60 sets, but were getting sloppy, we cut back to 40 and concentrated, and we started really producing nice catches. One last pic here of last years take with my son and my good friend Paul. 272 rats for my first season, all Jan and Feb rats....we got a damage permit for my area for another month. Ok well just one more of the little guy with some rats off sets he made himself. I hope this helps those who need it or are looking for some pointers on trapping muskrats under ice. I am really looking forward to my second season and expanding some horizons in my trapline. If any of the veterans here see that I have missed something, please feel free to add to this post. One more parting thought, if you are not already a member...please join the MTA....good group of men and women and they work their butts off for our way of life. Sincerely, Dean Smith Wanna kill these ads? We can help!