Cat Scratch Fever
February 6, 2017
-Jordan Seitz-
Towards the end of the month, on January 27, I decided to move my weasel boxes to a new location. When I finally did, I cut a set of bobcat tracks that I strongly suspected was from the same cat that left tracks in December. The locations were close enough that it was more than likely, and fit into the plan I’d been slowly developing to make my first attempt to trap a bobcat.
That week I’d made final preparations by adding 4 feet of chain to my #3 Bridger coil-springs, and wiring them to t-posts I would haul to location for drags. On the morning of the 29th, I planned to make my set and left before everyone was up in search of a jackrabbit to use as bait. As luck would have it, there was one road killed just after I turned onto the country road! I decided not to waste a bullet or any more time, so I tossed it in the back of my truck and headed back home.

That afternoon, Brooke, Archie, and I headed to the spot on my weasel line I’d already pre-scouted. There was quite a bit of snow yet, however it had melted off at the base of random willow bunches, allowing me a clear patch of ground to work with. Freeze-thaw conditions and additional snows would not be conducive for my traps firing properly (they’d freeze to the ground or get covered with too much snow). However, I’d been monitoring the weather, and knew I had at least a week where it would be perfect trapping conditions. After that, it would get a bit dicey as more snow was forecasted.

Archie played with grass and sticks as I prepared my set. I wired the jackrabbit out of sight from above in the willow clump, and cleared away the leaves and chopped away at the dirt to make two level spots to place my traps in front. Any varmint coming to inspect my bait would hopefully step into one of them. My trapping trowel, along with most of my old trapping gear, was in Michigan, so I used Archie’s mini-shovel. Then I had to carry down several mini-shovelfuls of dry dirt from up the draw because my dirt was more frozen with moisture than I’d anticipated.

With my traps finally bedded firmly, I placed guiding sticks in strategic locations and Archie – 9 months old – helped by handing me some he found.
Ironically, on that weekend my buddy Anson in Iowa called in a bobcat that ended up getting shot by his hunting partner.

Nearly a month of weasel trapping helped keep the excitement down so that I didn’t rush and check my traps every day! I wanted to check them every other for scent control, and my own time management. I forgot to place shiny flagging in the branches above my set to catch a passing bobcat’s attention – I’d read that it was helpful, and Joe recommended it too. Therefore, on my first check early before work, I tied strips of folded tin-foil from three different branches to wave around and reflect light in the slightest breeze.

The next weekend, Archie started to get sick. He was in rough shape all day Monday, and I started to come down with flu-like symptoms. Legally I didn’t have to check my trap-line until the next day due to Wyoming’s 72 hour check limit on
live-catch traps, but I told Brooke my ethics required checking them even if I didn’t feel good. Plus, we had bad weather forecasted, and in the off-chance I’d actually caught something, I might need to track it down; something that would become exponentially more complicated if we got snow.

Parking my truck, I decided to leave my .22 mag revolver in the cab. Partially because I didn’t want to carry it (forgot my belt), and because being unprepared sometimes improves my odds when I’m hunting!

Half-way to my bobcat set, I heard a metallic rattle, and a crazy cat scream. Stopping, I told myself: “Nahh theres no way” and shrugged off the thought that I might have trapped a bobcat.

Slowly easing through the willows along the creek bottom, I looked about with paranoia. I’d read plenty of stories where trapped bobcats tried to attack the approaching human, and 4 feet of chain on a drag didn’t bode well for me.
Stopping where I could see my set through the branches, the torn up ground immediately told me something had gotten caught.
Movement about 6 feet further in drew my attention. My eyes about popped out when I focused on a bobcats face staring at me! Once I collected my thoughts, I slowly backed out and jogged back to my truck for my revolver. A bobcat! I can’t believe it! After procuring my Ruger, I snuck back towards the cat.
Paranoid that the cat might escape if it wasn’t trapped well and I scared it enough, I tried to minimize my disturbance. The cat growled at me as I approached with deep raspy voice. It was crazy. As I attempted to take a quick video to record the wild sounds being emitted, I got confused. One second the cat would look at me from the left side of the next willow clump it was behind, and the next second it would stare at me from the center of it. At first I thought it was thrashing around, but I suddenly realized there were TWO bobcats boring their eyes into me! They were so close together I wondered if they’d somehow gotten trapped in the same trap!

Easing forward just a little more, I decided I was as close as I dared. Another couple feet and I’d be within striking distance – or attacking distance – if the wildcats had full mobility with the chain and drag.

Looking down my open sights, I crouched to find a clear shot at the first bobcat, touching off a shot aimed at his shoulder as he quartered to me. He sunk to the ground and I lined up on the second cat, dropping it with a neck shot threaded between even more branches. I was a little taken aback when the first cat stood back up and squared off towards me, so I thumbed the hammer and dropped him for good.

I left them where they were so I could collect my thoughts, give them time to make sure they were dead before I tried removing them from the traps, and continued on to check my weasel boxes which ended up still being empty.

It was with disbelief and reverence that I knelt to untangle my first bobcats.
As a trapper, I actually accomplished quite the feat. I’d trapped two wildcats with two traps, placed at the same set. Turns out, they both got trapped separately, but then tangled themselves in exactly the same spot, so their feet and the traps were overlapping in the branches. One was beautifully clean, and the other looked like it had rolled in the mud puddle between my set and their entanglement. Leaving the traps behind – I’d get them later – I took pictures in the fading light.
I’ve trapped and shot a lot of different animals and critters, but these wildcats were something special.

The walk back to my pickup became increasingly difficult as my fever spiked and my chest constricted, I should have been on cloud-nine, but I felt too sick. That night I bagged them both and stuffed them in my freezer, displacing a lot of edibles to a pair of coolers. I assumed I’d trapped a mature female and juvenile.

Nearly a month later I removed them from the freezer to clean up the muddy one and  thaw them both to get them registered with our local Game Warden. Was I thought was a juvenile, began to grow as its fur dried and began to fluff. After a minute of inspection, the Warden told me I’d actually trapped a mature male and female that had been travelling as a pair! They weighed around 18 pounds, and stretched about 4 ½ feet toe to toe!