Rankila, who has been trapping for eight or nine years, isn't in it for the money. Hardly any trapper can be in it for the money these days, with fur prices very low.
"For the money, it's not worth it one bit," Rankila said.
Running the trapline
Rankila thumped his way to the beaver lodge and chipped his wooden pole free of the pond's ice. He twisted the pole loose from the pond's muck and began to lift it -- and his trap -- from the water.
"Feels light," Rankila said.
By that, he meant there wasn't 25 or 35 pounds of wet, dead beaver in the trap. Sure enough, when he lifted the trap into the cool December afternoon, it had not been sprung. Rankila lowered it into the water again where it would go back to working 24-7.
The trick is to place these 10-inch-by-10-inch double-spring body traps in channels where beavers swim beneath the ice to retrieve food from their food caches. He has baited his beaver traps with potatoes, carrots and pieces of aspen or alder. The traps are powerful, killing a beaver almost instantly.
Rankila does much of his beaver trapping to assist landowners or townships where beavers -- and their dams -- are backing up water over roads.
After checking that trap, Rankila was off to run the rest of his trapline, driving his Jeep from set to set. As he drove, he constantly monitored the roadside snow for tracks.
"Those are bobcat tracks," he said, pointing out the window.