The University of Minnesota is proud of its mascot, Goldy Gopher.
I share that pride, but I'm not that proud of Goldy's cousin, the pocket gopher who can cause farmers and land owners lots of headaches.
It's nearly spring and that's when this little guy begins moving soil anywhere he can.
This little critter can be a real menace in leaving mounds to trademark his/her presence.
I was first introduced to this little monster when I was growing up on a small dairy farm in Newry Township. My dad became very disgusted when seeing pocket gopher mounds all over our 80-acre parcel of land.
"Can you help your dad out?" my father asked.
Accepting the challenge, like Bill Murray did in Caddyshack, I was sure I could help remove this menace from our farm land.
A distant relative, Alvin Halverson, lived in the neighboring Moscow Township. Alvin was a self-proclaimed expert at trapping pocket gophers.
He said I could follow him on his trapping routes, and he would share tips on how to trap this little varmint.
I'm sure there are different ways to trap or eliminate this pest but trapping was the best solution for me in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Jack Bruns and Carter Bishop are two highly successful trappers. Jack, every year, donates his trapping services to the Blooming Prairie Education Foundation for its annual auction.
Alvin met me at our farm, carrying a large "gunny sack" filled with the old style traps. He also brought several stakes to hold down the traps. It's also a must to wear a good pair of gloves when setting these traps.
Alvin told me that it was imperative that, as a trapper, you outsmart this sneaky little gopher.
Using one of the stakes as a probe, Alvin began the experience by poking holes into the Earth. As I followed his advice, I poked holes into the dirt until the stake went smoothly into the ground. This meant that we had struck one of the gopher's runways or mode of travel.
Next step is to remove some dirt, either by acting like a gopher or by choosing to use a spade to dig down toward the gopher tunnels.
After finding the runway, Alvin said it was best to find two intersecting tunnels. Then, dig deep into the two runways and place the trap below them.
The next step was the key to my trapping success. Alvin said I should act like a gopher by covering the hole I made.
We did this by finding some weeds or grass and placing that over the hole. After completing that step, Alvin used his hands to place dirt over the hole now covered by grass or weeds. This process had to be delicately done to prevent the traps from being triggered.
Oh yeah, it is most important to set the trap gingerly and then placing it carefully by the gopher runways.
After setting a series of traps in our farm field, I then had to wait. It's best to set a certain time to check the traps. Give the gopher time to make his travels under ground. I always checked early in the morning.
It was joy when, after removing the dirt and grass, to find a gopher in the trap.
It was disappointment when finding the trap set off and nothing in it. Sometimes the runways were plugged by the smart little pocket gopher without even triggering the trap.
Upon finding gophers in the traps, I would take part of the dead varmint to the Newry Town Hall where I collected a bounty.
I don't know if bounties are currently paid in most area townships. I think I received 25 cents a gopher. That money helped buy me some more baseball cards.
I bet I could still successfully trap some gophers but methods have changed.