An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Beaver Trapping with Musky Joe

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Contributor

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

Hello friends,

I have been running around with and writing about Joe Flater, “Musky Joe” for about 20-years now.

Joe Flater is the owner of Flater’s Resort which is a family-owned resort and tavern that has been around for about 80 years and is located where the Chippewa and Flambeau rivers meet.

Joe is an all-around “go for it” outdoorsman that guides on the Flambeau and Chippewa rivers for musky and does it by rowing down these rivers while his clients cast. In reality what Joe Flater is, an all-around old school, blue collar outdoorsman. His outdoor activities all have to do with the season of the year and this week I spent a couple of days setting and checking beaver traps with Joe on some remote Rusk County public land.

Monday, January 18th
High 26, Low 17

The fur market has been decimated the last five years by low or nonexistent fur prices.  My guess is that at least 50-percent of the people that were trapping five years ago are not laying steel anymore. Joe Flater has come up with a simple solution that is not going to get him rich but at least his pelts are being sold and a small profit is being made. In his tavern he is selling hats and gloves from muskrat, beaver and other animals, and this process requires a tanner and a hat maker.

Today there would be five of us on a beautiful day in the northwoods, Angie Mincoff is Joe’s girlfriend and these two are a very active team in the outdoor world. Also, Scott and Tina Litkowski who are both in the airline industry and great friends of Joe’s as they have a permanent campsite at Flater’s Resort.

Today we would travel into three remote and small bodies of water where beaver are spending the winter under the ice and in their lodges.

All three ponds had water that was at least four feet deep around the houses and this can make it very tough predicting where to put the 330 bodygrip trap.

In my opinion the beaver is one of the most interesting animals in North America. They purposely build dams with mud, sticks, and logs to hold back water so that they have more habitat. They build their homes with the same and spend their non-swimming, logging, dam building hours in a cavern in their lodge with visitors such as otter and muskrat.

Most trappers use the bodygrip trap, which has springs that you open, the beaver swims through, trips a trigger and is killed, somewhat like a rat trap. On that note, I have never heard of a person setting the 330 by hand. Everyone that I know, including myself, uses a tool that is still a challenge but doable.  Joe Flater uses his hands which requires so much strength it is almost impossible to comprehend.

The five of us spent a great day chopping holes looking for runs where the beaver swim and laughing a lot. When day became night, we had 12 sets made and then had a heck of a good time at Flater’s tavern.

Tuesday, January 19th
High 16, Low 10

It’s a good thing it has cooled off, this warm winter can make for some touchy situations on the ice. Crazy as it seems, the snowmobile trails are still closed in Rusk County on this date due to a lack of snow. Where beaver swim and feed under the ice, the ice can be very thin and that was a constant situation over this two day period, as near the lodges the ice was only about a half inch thick and if you were not thinking you would be very cold.

On our first set Musky Joe pulled up a beautiful 35-pound beaver that will make a very warm hat for someone and then we had another at our 3rd set. Again, I cannot stress how kind of crazy this is because of deep water and thin ice and very lethal traps. Six years ago, I was setting a 330 a one mile hike from my truck and I had the misfortune of the trap going off on my left hand.  That incident and a wood splitter the year before has made this lefty rather uncoordinated in that area. We ended our adventure with three beaver, and as always, a ton of laughs. Everyone in Flaterville knows that the tavern is not a tavern, it’s a home for happy people and everyone that knows Musky Joe is well aware that they broke the mold after his parents saw what they gave birth to.

Stay active, it works!   


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