Leghold traps have a few basic types of sets. The main one is referred to as a dirt hole set and is by far the most common and popular for this style of trap. A depression slightly larger than the trap is dug out and the trap is set down into it and “bedded”. This means to solidly seat the trap to reduce any movement at all. Most animals will immediately leave the set area, if they feel the trap move as they step on it. Once the trap is bedded, then use the screen to sift fine dry dirt over the whole trap, covering it completely. Using your hands press down and solidly pack the dirt around the trap itself being careful to avoid depressing the trigger pan and setting the trap off. Level the loose dirt out and apply one last layer of fine undisturbed dirt over the whole trap area. Next use a stick or metal rod to open up a hole in front to the trap. Six to nine inches from the trap is a reasonable distance. You can add a backer of a rock, log, or any larger item just past the edge of the hole to force the animal to investigate on the trap side. Insert your bait or lure into the hole and step back. Examine everything and try to arrange the area as naturally as possible.
Some tricks for this type of set are:
- Place small rocks or sticks in a position that the animal must step over or around them and will direct their paw right onto the trap pan trigger.
- Vary the depth and angle of the bait hole for certain animals.
- Cover the bait hole with loose grass or leaves to force the animal to move around to investigate and increase the chances of their foot getting into the trap.
Other sets for the leghold traps that should be studied are: Cubby set, Scent Post set, Walk Thru set, Water sets, and drowning sets.
Leghold traps must be prepared for best results. Boiling, dyeing, and waxing are common to remove scent and prevent rust. Tuning of the traps for specific animals will greatly increase the effectiveness. Proper pan tension and adjusting the trigger system is simple and easily done. A little research will pull up a variety of resources on how best to accomplish this task with just basic hand tools.
Conibear traps are spring-loaded traps designed to close over the body of the animal. They are sometimes referred to as body grip traps. They are lethal traps designed to kill the trapped animal instantly through force. The design allows the traps to be set up for the animal to walk or swim through the opening. Used on runs, trails, den openings, and water flows, these traps are versatile and effective in many environments. The sets for these are limited only by the imagination of the trapper. Some styles have springs on one side or both. Anchor stakes from limbs are easy to install on both sides of the trap. Although it is designed to be lethal, it is still a good idea to anchor the trap with a chain or cable. Remember a trapped animal is a tasty treat for any passing predators, and a coyote, bobcat, or wolf will gladly carry off your catch for their dinner and rob you of both your trap and dinner in one quick swipe. The small 110 sized conibears are perfect for placing over den openings and small game trails, and moving up in size to the 330’s are good for larger water animals, such as beaver and otter. Tips for conibears:
- Use safeties when setting the heavy springs, as these traps are strong enough to break bones.
- Anchor the traps solidly to prevent animals from pushing them out of the way.
- Sticks, rocks, and logs can be placed to help funnel animals into the trap for greater effectiveness.
- Can be adapted to fit into the openings of buckets with baits or lures added to entice the animal to enter the container.
Snares have their place in any survival situation. They are lightweight and quick to set up. You can carry dozens of them in the same space of even one leghold trap. However, snares have a major draw back. They are much harder to learn to use effectively. They also aren’t easily set to draw an animal in with baits or lures. So learning the animal’s terrain and habits is absolutely critical to success when using snares. If you are able to master setting snares in the proper locations, you will be rewarded; if not, you will be just wasting time and energy. Learning the proper sizes to set is important. The openings of the loop and the height the loop sits off the ground will be lessons you will need to learn quickly for the animals in your area. For example, a 6” loop might work for a groundhog, but a rabbit may slip right on through. Or a 2” wire loop for a squirrel may be perfect, but a possum will just walk over it. There are a few types of sets with snares that work well with baits. Holes that are baited and loops set over the entrance can be successful, as can putting baits back into deeper areas of a brush pile and setting snares on all the obvious routes of entry will work. Spring loaded snares have seen some popularity for a number of years and can be set up around a bait pile or other food source. The bottom line is that if you haven’t practiced with snares, they will not work well for you. No matter how many books or drawings you study, the only way to expect these to feed you is lots and lots of practice.
Live cage traps are some of the most underrated traps in the survival community. Urban nuisance wildlife trapping is a billion-dollar industry right now in the U.S. and the corner stone of this industry is the live cage trap. While it might be difficult to catch wary predators in live traps, all other animals are easily caught in these style of traps. In fact, this may be the easiest way for a novice to catch his dinner. The basic operation is a metal cage with a self-closing door. The animal enters the trap and steps on a trigger pan, and the door closes trapping them inside. One important advantage of this trap is that the animal is alive and contained, allowing it to be saved for future use by the trapper. Without refrigeration, keeping the animal alive is the next best way to preserve the meat for when it is needed. A word of warning: Keeping wild animals for long periods of time can be difficult and dangerous, so please exercise caution.
Tips on using live traps:
- Bed the trap securely on level ground to prevent wobbling when the animal enters.
- Line the bottom of the trap with dirt, sand, grass or other natural materials as they may shy away from stepping on the cold metal.
- Hang the bait or place it inside a metal soup can wired to the back of the cage to prevent the animals from reaching through the wire mesh from the outside and stealing the bait.
- Cover or conceal the trap under brush, leaves, and lightweight materials to increase its effectiveness and to camouflage. Be careful not to entangle the trap mechanism.
- Use small amounts of bait to get the animal to commit all the way into the trap for increased success.
Putting all these components into a trapping plan is the last part of the process. Setting up a trapline does take time. The upfront investment can pay off with a steady supply of meat. It will take more effort to set up the traps initially, but it will be easier to maintain and check once they are set up. Pick a route that you can easily and safely check. Ranging miles out may not be practical if you are on foot, but setting multiple types of traps on just a few acres can be very productive if done correctly. Wilderness fur trappers are used to traveling long distances to run their traplines. The main goal is to harvest quality fur from specific target animals. Survival trapping is more general, and any animal that you catch could be dinner. Setting multiple traps together can work well. Setting up on logging roads or creek banks can produce many animals quickly and easily. Urban neighborhoods actually have higher populations of some animals than in the deep woods. There are reports from nuisance wildlife trappers of getting dozens of possums from a residential yard over just a few weeks’ time. Catching 20 squirrels from a single backyard in a month isn’t that uncommon, and rodents such as chipmunks and rats are plentiful almost everywhere. Trapping is a skill that takes a lifetime to master, but the beginner can learn to succeed quickly with limited practice. Ethical trapping techniques and humane treatment of wildlife is important. Professionals don’t rejoice in allowing animals to suffer. Checking traps every 24 hours to make sure all catches are harvested quickly keeps both the trapped animal from suffering and losing it to a competing predator of both two- and four-legged varieties. Having a catch pole available to safely release unwanted animals will help keep you from wasting resources or needlessly killing wildlife. Utilizing the whole animal, including the fur, hide, and bones is always recommended to avoid wasting resources. All states have differing laws concerning the use of traps and the types that are allowed. As with all SHTF scenarios you will have to decide when the time will come to use the skills you have practiced to provide for yourself, your family, and others.
Recommended minimum trapping kit to have on hand for emergency needs for all terrains and environments:
- Leghold Traps: three #1’s, three #1.5’s, three #2’s, three #3’s, plus chain and cable for anchors
- Conibears: four 110’s, two 330’s
- Snares: 50 in a variety of sizes
- Live Cage Traps: two small, three mediums, and one large
- Setting supply tools, selection of baits and lures, and buckets for storage of gear.
Resources: All of these companies have the supplies, books, and training videos to get you started