NEAR SOLON SPRINGS, Wis. -- Jarid Rankila walked gingerly onto the frozen beaver pond, thumping the ice ahead of him with his ice spud -- a long-handled spear-like chisel. If the thunk was solid, he would take another couple steps.
Rankila, a 19-year-old from Lake Nebagamon, really hoped to find a beaver in an under-the-ice trap he placed in this pond. But his first priority was to not plunge through any weak ice into the frigid water below.
He had set the trap a couple of days earlier. Rankila had baited the beefy 330 Conibear-style trap with a few slices of potato. Affixed to a strong wooden pole, the trap hung submerged near the beaver lodge. The pond's surface had refrozen above the trap.
Then, while Rankila went to his law enforcement classes at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and to his job at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the trap was on the job full-time.
That's what Rankila likes about trapping.
"The appeal is knowing you have active sets out there 24-7," Rankila said. "It's just a matter of whether that animal comes by. You hope you can trick him."
Already in his young trapping career, he has tricked plenty of beavers, mink, muskrats, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, three gray wolves, a few otters and a couple of skunks.
"Skunks aren't much fun," he said.
The wolves were unintended catches -- no season was open -- and Rankila successfully released all three unharmed.
As Rankila traveled his trapline on this gray December afternoon, he at times wore the beaver-fur cap he had someone make from one of his pelts. He also wore a pair of beaver-fur mitts from one of the animals he had trapped. He sells some of the raw fur he harvests, but sometimes he has a piece tanned and sells the finished pelts online or keeps them.