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  1. 1 point
    The things that makes Homo sapiens special, the things that makes us unique, the very things that set us apart from all the other animals started a long, long time ago with the first ever trap. “What about spiders?” You might ask. “They use traps, they were here before us, and there’s nothing particularly special about them.” I would argue that spiders’ webs aren’t traps, just air-hung nets fishing for flies, no different than the flowing filaments of a mindless jelly fish. “Ant lions then? They dig pit traps.” Again no. Ants would walk, with impunity, in and out of these pits if the little monsters were not sitting at the bottom flicking sand at them. There’s no skill involved there. “Venus Fly Traps?” Ah, well there you may have me. But whatever ancient, unfathomable intellect conspired to transform a plant’s leaves into gin-traps will have theologians and philosophers arguing until the end of days. It’s simply on a different level to this story. A trap is not simply a tool; ape men’s spears and hand axes were tools, and little more than sticks and stones, they don’t define humanity. Thrushes use tools, so do crows, so do monkeys. No, it was the earliest traps that gave humanity that vital jump start. Maybe the first trap was a huge pit, bristling with flint topped stakes, designed to catch a bison, or a mammoth, or a sabre toothed tiger! More likely it was a simple snare or a precariously balanced rock. The point is; as soon as that first treadle tipped open, or cord tightened or rock dropped, the world changed and something new was born; strategy, technology, humanity! Only one species could comprehend the significance of a foot print in the mud or snow. Only one species could read it, form a plan, set a trap and now catch their pray from the safety of their own cave, feed themselves, feed their families, even feed their whole clan. Now not only the biggest and the fiercest survived. No longer did a man have to be the fastest, or strongest, or be a crack shot with spears or stones to win a meal. With traps came not only strategy, technology and humanity, but also society. As I’m writing this article, thousands of years later and possibly on a different continent to that first trap, I have some of its distant descendents on the bench next to me. The closest one, if you’re interested, is a Fen MK6, of the sub-order: Sprung kill-traps. It’s not the most inspiring piece of human ingenuity, particularly when compared to later inventions like rifles, or aircraft, or the Large Hadron Collider, but it serves its purpose, and it does so very well. It’s strong enough to kill a rabbit and sensitive enough to trap a rat. My trap can still feed me: either directly through catches, or as a part of gainful employment. What is more; my trap has been ordered ‘Approved’ by the British government; quite literally licensed to kill! It has sprung through the legislative hoops held out to appease the outcry of a childish public’s anti-trapping squeamishness (part, I believe, of the larger epidemic of cerebral infantilisation that now seems to be sweeping though our towns and cities). In the eyes of the law my trap is as ethical a way to end a life as an abattoir’s bolt gun or a kosher butcher’s blade. Even in today’s nannying blizzard of safety regulations, when you push a trap’s jaws apart you can feel it push back. It could easily break your skin, or even your fingers, but you can’t be scared of it, no more than you could be scared of your own dogs and still expect them to work for you. Like a wise man once said ‘there’s an ocean of difference between fear and respect’. Respect traps, they’ve earned it, and if you obey their rules they’ll never bite you. So take traps seriously, use them thoughtfully, set them carefully, and they become more than mere tools. They become your workmates, your hunting partners and eventually your old friends.
  2. 1 point
    One of the finer things about farming, is that even in the midst of work, there is often the time and inclination for a little hunting. I can keep my pack with me on many jobs, and foxes have a habit of turning up unexpectedly. This particular occasion was little different, nothing more involved than checking stock, fences and water-supply, when the dog'uns started insisting that one tree was worth further notice. It was, too!. In spite of the minimal slope, there was an old dog-fox in the fork to the upper-right of the photograph, some 12 feet off the ground. The damned things can climb like cats. This is a remnant native eucalypt in an agri-forestry block, the fallen timber is thick, and the fox was able to play dodgems amongst it long enough to beat my girls to an old rabbit-warren that he'd recently opened out . The digging in my locality is never easy. Call me lazy if you like, but I find more enjoyment in having the fox bolt, and watching the running-dogs mow it down in the open. Plus I'm not always carrying digging tools when I'm on the job. But when a fox has been driven to ground and cornered in an earth with only a single exit, my experience is that they are unlikely to take to the open again. Nothing for it but to block him in and fetch the shovel. Fortunately, the unusually high rainfall over the previous months had softened the tight clay, and the earth was relatively new and short. Even then, the digging is never easy when your "helpers" tend to get a little "buried" in their work. My young Kelpie has been spending too much time with the terriers. Under close - sometimes very close - supervision, I dig on. Pausing every now and agains so that progress can be checked by the experts. "We're nearly there, Boss!" ..... and there he is! A very tight hole and any amount of kicked-in earth meant that little was revealed other than a nose, a set of dusty whiskers, and teeth. But then it ........ twitched. One of the things that I love about the dog'uns is their enthusiasm, but I defy anyone to do much digging with that lot in the road. With the hole packed tight and their prey jammed at the shoulders, there was little that the girls could do to shift him. I could hear big yellow Tessa's teeth crunching the back of his skull, but he wasn't coming out. I let them work off the first of their enthusasm, then clear the decks for a little more shovel work, ...... aand out he comes. As usual, the running-dogs are the first to decide that it is indeed "dead". Shortie the terrier takes a little more convincing, and continues to dispute ownership with the beagle and my black kelpie. Like an old lady killing a snake, she believes that if it's still moving, she should hit it again. She doesn't really care what's making it move. Me? I'm for smokoh and then back to work. Contributed by Tsayad from Australia.
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