GANDER, NL – Like clockwork, Dwayne Keefe makes a trip into the woods to check his snares almost every other day.
His interest in hunting started early, at 13 or 14 years of age, Keefe said.
“My father took me hunting, but it was a schoolmate of mine who was a few years older and had a trapping licence that took me out and got me interested,” Keefe says.
And he has not stopped since, spending time outdoors whenever he can.
“I was raised doing it – I grew up hunting and fishing. It’s two of my favourite past times. It keeps me active and out of the house as I am retired,” Keefe adds.
Keefe checks his snares around a trail he has groomed over the past four years. It has brought him many bounties – Keefe estimates between 50 to 60 rabbits a season.
Keefe explained regulations were recently changed regarding the type of wire to be used for snares.
“This is proper rabbit wire – it has to be 22-gauge or less,” says Keefe. “Five or six years ago, stainless steel snaring wires were used, and they figure it was killing the pine marten.”
Keefe’s snares are well hidden – they’re easy for an untrained eye to miss.
But Keefe does not miss any. He set 40 to 50 snares around the loop, and he pauses to inspect each one.
The process to check each snare is fairly quick – Keefe ensures kinks are removed and the snares are open, and repositions branches or posts as needed to direct the animal through the snare.
“It is important to remove the kinks out of the snares,” Keefe says. “I use a set measurement of 21 inches on the snare to make the loop. This is the length I need for most sticks to tie one, and I wrap it around twice because I found, in my years of hunting, they (rabbits) pull it off the stick if you don’t wrap around it twice.”
Keefe pauses on occasions to have a closer look at the trail, and stops to set up new snares in what he determines to be an ideal location.
“I look for the cuttings to see if they are fresh, and look for fresh rabbit poop or buttons,” Keefe says.
“I also look for leads, or rabbit trails. Sometimes new leads are formed as children of their parents make new trails – you never know.”
A lead or path is made over many years, and is visible as flattened areas on the ground.
After setting a new snare, Keefe marks it with bright pink tape that he ties to a branch.
“I can’t remember them all – I am getting old,” Keefe laughs.
As the season closes in December, Keefe will either “close them down or take it all out.
“It is better to take them out because the weather rots out the snares,” he says.
Even after years of snaring, Keefe never tires of it.
“I love the smell, what you can see, and the excitement of what you can catch. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s not,” Keefe says.
“Smell that? That is rotten vegetation – best smell in the world,” Keefe chuckles as he carries on to inspect the next snare.