Cindy and I were enjoying supper at the Buffalo Trading Post where we heard the story of a legendary trapper named Jan Davis who is just down the road.
“He notices when he drives down the road where maybe he’s tracking a coyote. But he also notices if there’s a little bit of fur hanging on the fence,” said Vern McAreavey. “He notices, there’s so many little details that so many people. I spend a lot of time out here. I hardly see a coyote. But, to Jan, he sees coyotes all the time.”
Vern McAreavey of Montrose hunted and trapped with his good friend Jan Davis in the 70’s. “Back in the day, he’d throw a rock up in the air and shoot it with the, with the 22. You know, he, if you look at his eyes. They just like, they’re just sparkle and his eyesight. He’s just special,” said Vern McAreavey.
Jan Davis owns Jan Davis Construction in Colton, but around these parts he is as a trapping legend. He acquired the skill from his dad, Lowell. “I thought it was kind of boring because it’s like, this is a lot of messing around, it’s cold, and it’s… And, he had an International Travel-all. The dust just poured in it. We’re on gravel roads all day and, and you just get a headache from riding in it. It was, yeah. So, it’s a wonder I’d like trapping,” said Jan Davis.
Jan’s dad was a mail carrier. Extra income was always welcomed. “Mink were a good price. And he was a mail carrier and he got so many weeks a year vacation. And he’d take off vacation and he liked to do it. And he’d trap mink and that was some extra money,” said Jan Davis.
A mink pelt would garner $30 in the 60’s. Nowadays, a coyote pelt isn’t as valuable for fur collectors, but it is to farmers and ranchers trying to protect their livestock. Retired farmer Ron DeJong of Colton knows how thankful the livestock producers are of Jan. “It means a lot to like stock owners, you know. They got them coyotes out there getting their calves. They call Jan and he gets them. He’ll have them in a day or two,” said Ron DeJong.
“It probably costs you close to $2 to $3 dollars a day to feed a cow. And if you, and she has a calf, and you have trouble with, with the coyotes, and you lose one calf, it’s like losing a whole year’s worth of profitability out of that cow,” said Vern McAreavey. “If they kill a calf, you know, that’s $1000 out of their pocket right there. They’ve fed the cow the whole year for that and taking care of her. And all of that and that comes right out of their pocket you know,” said Jan Davis.
Jan is one of the best there is when it comes to tracking coyotes, racoons, skunks, possum, wood chucks, fox or other varmints. “Best trapper you’re gonna find. That’s the best story I can give you because he knows where all these animals are and he goes after them and he gets them,” said Ron DeJong. “It’s almost like community service and I don’t expect anybody to pay me or anything. If they thank me and appreciate what I’m doing, that’s tremendous pay for me,” said Jan Davis.
Predators are a concern all across KELOLAND. The Game, Fish and Parks reported 1,198 requests for assistance from 797 livestock producers. “What is he doing with Game, Fish and Parks?” asked Mike Huether. “Well, they used to fly in an airplane with him, you know, they had him. He could shoot out the window of the airplane and I don’t know if he ever missed. I don’t think he ever missed,” said Ron DeJong. “He’s probably the best shooter I’ve ever seen in my life.”
He’ll walk miles and miles, in thick cover, in the deepest snow, to achieve his goal. “Jan would go and track coyotes and he might track them for six miles. You know, I’m sure in the winter you get cold , but his fortitude is just… he’s just one of those people, he gets something on his mind and that’s what he does. He is just, he is just that competitive,” said Vern McAreavey. “Whatever he does, he just does to that next level that most people never achieve,” said Vern McAreavey.
His dog Kitty, Yes, I said Kitty, is a big key to Jan’s trapping success. “When daylight hits, they, they’re hiders and they want to just be out of sight. So, they’re in the cattails or in the farm trees, or shelter belts and stuff like that. And if I can get downwind of that, or put her on a fresh track, she can usually find it. Yeah, that’s amazing,” said Jan Davis.
When word got out that “On the Road” was doing Jan’s story, I received a bevy of calls about the trapping legend. “When they contact you, you’ll have that taken care of within 24 hours. Oh man, that’s a pretty big compliment,” said Mike Huether. “That’s a.. that’s a pretty big statement, too. Yeah, yeah, there’s an old saying in the coyote business: The guy called a trapper and said ‘The coyotes are eating my sheep’, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll get him eventually If you got enough sheep.”‘,” said Jan Davis.
“He’s been doing this so long, he almost thinks like a coyote. If you tell them the coyote was going north, he knows where he’s going to, where he’s going to come out a mile down the road,” said Vern McAreavey. “I don’t know why he likes to hunt coyotes as much as he does. I think it’s just, just the challenge you know. Some guys like to play cards. Jan likes to hunt coyotes,” said Vern McAreavey.
Hunters and conservationists also appreciate Jan’s hard work and skill. Jan once tracked a coyote in a slew and in one trip the coyote killed 3 hen pheasants. Other varmints impact wildlife game numbers, as well.