Back during my high school baseball days I entertained somewhat ungrounded aspirations of being a big leaguer someday. I read Ted Williams’ “Science of Hitting” until it made my eyes cross. I did so Hoping that I would come up with something that would miraculously turn me in to something I wasn’t. Mr. Williams speaks at length in his book of the mental toughness and concentration needed to be a great or even above average hitter. An above average major league hitter can carry a .300 or better batting average. It is said, and truthfully, that a .300 average will keep you in the majors forever. One of Ted’s points that he makes again and again in his book is this; even an exceptional hitter, one that can hit at a .300 clip, is still failing seven out of ten times. He uses the fact to demonstrate how demanding it is to be a “good” hitter. A good hitter, a successful hitter is still failing more than they succeed. Thirty percent of the time you are winning. Seventy percent of the time you are striking out, hitting fly balls and grounding in to double plays. You are failing more than twice as often as you succeed. At a meager thirty percent success rate you are still one the stars in baseball. In essence, you can “fail” more than you “win” and still be one of the best.
In trapping you can achieve catch ratios of thirty percent or better on certain species for short periods of time. Over the long haul, and especially predator trapping, if you can take ten target animals out of every one hundred sets you are clicking along at a pretty fair pace. (Let’s keep these numbers nice and round to keep the math easy) Ten target animals a day for twenty or thirty days, that is a respectable catch. Twenty or thirty days and two or three hundred critters sounds like a lot of success. Let’s take a closer look. Three hundred animals in thirty days with an average line of one hundred sets and obviously ten target catches a day. That means that we checked three thousand sets to catch three hundred animals. Nine out of ten sets day after day didn’t catch anything. That is a lot of what my good friend Carroll Black calls “stare downs” you know, you stand there and “stare down” at an empty set. THAT IS A NINETY- PERCENT FAILURE RATE. Some days will be a little better than that and some days a little worse. Take a ninety percent failure rate and factor in mud, cold, snow, flat tires, low animal populations, and three dollar plus fuel and you can see how burn out occurs and why being tough mentally is so critical. If a fellow isn’t able to keep his chin up when things are going poorly, (which is a lot of the time) it can wear him down in a hurry.
The object of trapping, at it’s most basic, is having animals in traps plain and simple. Just like the object of a hitter in baseball is to get hits. In order to do these things and do them well, you have to fail. If you want to be a .300 hitter in baseball you don’t swing the bat three out of every ten times to the plate. You have to have the same serious approach at bat after at bat, and game after game. You have to step up there being confident of success while knowing that you will most likely fail. That is not an easy thing to wrap your mind around. Trapping parallels this. To catch ten animals a day you don’t make ten sets. You have to plan to fail. Every location has to be chosen, every set has to be made with the confidence that it will catch fur, even though the odds say that it won’t. Having that good approach. Knowing that the failures will lead to the successes. Staying up beat. Having confidence that there will be good times, as well as bad, as long as you put the work in to it. That is mental toughness. It is important and applicable to just about all we do in trapping and in life.