A Beginner’s Guide To Trapping

Whether you’re aiming to manage predator populations on your land, enhance your self-sufficiency, or gather fur-bearing animals for personal use or sale, mastering the art of dealing with unwanted or troublesome creatures is an essential skill for the contemporary trailblazer. When it comes to resource management, trapping stands as the ultimate technique.

Our nation’s expansion was carried forth by the resilient lineage of rugged mountain men. Armed with little more than a blackpowder rifle, a handful of traps, and an insatiable thirst for exploration, they ventured into the mountains. The fervor for trapping and the thrilling escapades it entails has burned within me since my earliest days. Just like a child eagerly unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, every day of the trapping season dawns with a rush of anticipation, wondering what the day holds in store.

Trapping has evolved significantly from the days of the mountain men; in many aspects, it has greatly improved. Nowadays, we possess specialized tools designed for distinct purposes, along with trap designs that were unimaginable during those earlier times.

These modern traps are finely tuned for specific targets, boasting heightened effectiveness. A prime illustration of this progress is the innovative dog-proof raccoon traps, which have achieved remarkable success. These straightforward yet incredibly efficient traps have transformed complete newcomers into skilled raccoon catchers.

Trapping helps game management

In this beginner’s guide to trapping, I’ll introduce various methods for effectively managing your property to mitigate predator-related issues. These practices are not only beneficial for safeguarding deer, quail, and, notably, turkey populations.

Turkeys serve as a prime illustration of the positive impact a well-implemented predator management plan can have on boosting your flock numbers. Reflecting on the fur boom of the 1970s and early 1980s, we can observe a subsequent surge in wild turkey populations—an occurrence I foresee repeating here in Arkansas.

Furthermore, recent years have witnessed an increase in fur prices, prompting more individuals to embrace trapping as a means of enhancing resource management. A minor raccoon presence around a game feeder can swiftly escalate into a substantial predicament if left unattended. By effectively removing these surplus animals, the foremost beneficiaries of such endeavors seem to be the wild turkey populations.

Even small poultry flocks eventually become prey to wild predators. The level of security provided by your backyard poultry housing matters little—predators possess a knack for accessing those easy meals. Without swift intervention, they won’t cease until your entire flock is decimated. These threats manifest in various forms including foxes, coyotes, minks, skunks, opossums, and raccoons. Fortunately, all these adversaries can be managed and controlled through trapping.

We’ll initiate our exploration with predator trapping on more expansive properties before delving into smaller-scale nuisance animal control. Trapping can be categorized into three primary types: large predator land-type trapping, water-based trapping (suitable for animals such as beavers, muskrats, minks, and raccoons), and thirdly, the utilization of dog-proof coon traps which offer versatile and effective applications.

What to get

what trapping equipment should you get

If you’re ready to take a plunge into this endeavor on a larger scale, consider exploring online trapping supply dealers to source the necessary equipment. Conversely, if you’re after just a handful of traps, you’ll likely find what you need at feed or hardware stores.

Personally, I find the number 1 ½ coil-spring trap or the 1 ¾ coil-spring trap with offset jaws that don’t fully close at the center of the jaw to be my go-to choices. These traps strike a balance between being substantial enough to ensnare most North American animals while also being sufficiently compact for smaller game.

The primary objective in trapping is to select a trap size that suits the targeted animal. This guarantees a grip that spans the foot pad without causing harm to the creature’s leg. The ultimate goal is to securely detain the animal until you can either dispatch it humanely or free it from the trap without causing harm.

For this purpose, a catch pole proves to be an invaluable tool. A catch pole is akin to a pole with a cable threaded through it, forming a noose at one end which can be tightened from the other. This ingenious tool allows for a safe distance between you and the animal during the release process. In my experience, it’s the most essential tool on the trapline, second only to the trap itself.

Necessary items for land-based trapping encompass traps, wires and/or stakes for anchoring, a sifter for covering traps, a hatchet and/or hammer, as well as some form of lure and bait. Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with your state’s trapping regulations, including details about licenses, tags, and bag limits. These regulations often include specifications for trap sizes and may mandate the use of identification tags on traps.

As an example, here in Arkansas, attaching a tag to each trap with the owner’s information is mandatory, and there are specific limits on the trap sizes allowed for land sets. This knowledge will ensure that your trapping endeavors are both effective and compliant with the law.

Using bait or lure

When it comes to selecting bait and lures for trapping, I’d strongly advise erring on the side of using minimal amounts. In fact, using more can often lead to more difficulties than benefits. In my experience, I predominantly rely on a lure crafted by the Leggett family in Maryland. This particular lure possesses the unique advantage of not contaminating your traps even if it comes into contact with them.

It has a remarkable ability to entice animals to your sets with remarkable effectiveness. Personally, I’ve been utilizing this lure for numerous years and without reservation, I recommend it to trappers at any skill level, from novices to seasoned professionals.

The issue with potential contamination arises when other baits or lures come into contact with your traps. When a trap absorbs the scent of another bait, animals can detect it and become attracted to the trap, possibly even attempting to dig it up.

Our objective here is to divert the animal’s attention toward a hole positioned in front of the trap, where the lure is strategically placed. This tactic aims to entice the animal to investigate the hole and consequently move past the trap, ultimately getting caught in the process. Importantly, the animal remains oblivious to the presence of the trap, allowing for a more successful capture.

By exercising caution and utilizing non-contaminating lures like the one by the Leggett family, trappers can ensure that their trapping efforts are geared towards luring animals to the set without raising any suspicion. This thoughtful approach can significantly enhance trapping success rates and contribute to a more efficient and humane trapping process.

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Setting the trap

Now, let’s get into the enjoyable aspect of trapping—my preference lies in using what’s known as a dirt-hole set for my land lines. This set involves creating a hole roughly the size of a baby food jar at about a 45-degree angle in front of a backing element, such as a small rock or a tuft of grass.

This configuration compels the animal to approach the set from the side where the trap is located, as opposed to coming in from the back. The trap is slightly offset and can be positioned either to the right or left; the choice is inconsequential. Personally, I lean towards the right, resulting in a 99-percent capture rate targeting the right front foot of the animal.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this entire process, apart from properly securing the trap, is to ensure that the trap remains immobile in every way except for the pan when stepped on by an animal. It’s imperative to meticulously pack dirt around the trap, employing pushing and twisting motions until you can apply pressure to any part of the trap without detecting any movement.

Once you’ve excavated the hole and created a trap bed, gently place the trap within the bed. Now, there are a couple of options for securing the trap. You can either use a rebar stake, and I often opt for two of these stakes. The added effort of using two stakes is worthwhile as it guarantees that you retain what you successfully capture.

Alternatively, you can utilize wire to fasten the trap to a drag of some sort or to a tree with a trunk at least as wide as your wrist. If you’re using wire, it’s advisable to twist together a minimum of four strands to create a robust cable capable of holding even the largest animal indigenous to your region. This step is absolutely crucial to ensure the effectiveness of your trapping endeavors.

Covering the set

Now that the trap is nestled into its bed and properly secured, the next step is to conceal my sets using dry dirt. This dry dirt serves a dual purpose: it ensures the trap can swiftly and effectively trigger, and it’s also vital to use a single piece of unscented toilet paper placed over the trap pan. This simple addition prevents dirt from infiltrating beneath the pan, thus ensuring its uninhibited movement for quick and accurate triggering.

With these precautions in place, the final steps involve adding the lure and completing the setup. To introduce the lure, I generally apply a small quantity onto a cotton ball and position it in the base of the hole. I then place a modest cluster of grass or leaves into the hole, effectively obscuring the bottom. This strategy serves to pique the animal’s curiosity, prompting it to linger at the set for a longer duration. The objective here is to create the illusion that another animal has been present, either foraging or concealing food.

In this manner, the complete set mimics the natural behaviors of animals in the area, luring the target creature in with a sense of familiarity and enticing aromas. This artful arrangement significantly enhances the odds of a successful capture. By combining the right elements—properly bedded traps, secure attachments, dry dirt, and carefully applied lure—you’re creating an environment that capitalizes on the animal’s instincts and increases the likelihood of a fruitful trapping outcome.

Where to set up

where to set up your traps

After you’ve become proficient in trap setting, the pivotal factor for success becomes the chosen location. Effectively pinpointing locations can yield far more fur than spreading traps across numerous areas.

My approach focuses on identifying key spots rather than scattering traps widely. I zero in on game trails intersecting farm or forest roads, and I’m particularly attentive to areas where crops undergo transitions. These settings are prime locations frequented by predators.

However, it’s important to avoid the misconception that your lure or bait alone will lure the animal to your set. Regrettably, that’s not the case. To attract the animal, you must position yourself near its vicinity. Then, the aroma of your lure or the sight of freshly disturbed dirt in a well-chosen location will work together to entice the animal.

In essence, the adage “location, location, location” holds tremendous weight in the world of trapping. It’s not merely about the trap and bait; it’s about positioning yourself strategically in places where predators are likely to traverse.

By mastering this aspect of trapping, you enhance your odds of capturing valuable fur by capitalizing on the animal’s natural behaviors and movement patterns. This insight transforms trapping from a scatter-gun approach into a tactical endeavor, leading to more efficient and rewarding outcomes.

Water-type trapping

Water trapping for beaver or muskrat follows a similar approach. You’ll apply consistent methods to treat your traps, with the primary difference being that you’ll be working within aquatic environments and occasionally employing distinct trap types.

In water trapping, the majority of traps used are body-grip traps designed to capture the animal by its head or body while swimming through the trap. These traps are undoubtedly one of the most ingenious creations of our era. They ensure rapid and humane dispatch of the animal and are remarkably convenient to set up in locations frequented by the target creatures.

Water-dwelling animals often prove easier to trap due to their established trails that guide their movement in and out of specific areas. For beginners, this translates into simpler identification of optimal trap locations.

Our last method, often the simplest and highly effective, centers around the use of dog-proof coon traps. These traps were ingeniously designed to accommodate a small amount of bait placed within them. Additionally, they’re engineered to prevent activation by a raccoon’s foot, hence the moniker “dog-proof.”

The mechanics of this trap are straightforward: when a raccoon reaches into the trap to access the bait, it triggers the mechanism, swiftly closing the trap and immobilizing the animal’s foot. The beauty of these traps lies in their simplicity. They require no intricate setting or bedding process and can be positioned anywhere raccoons are likely to pass through.

A highly effective strategy involves setting several of these traps near game feeders to counter raccoons that consume feed intended for livestock or other game animals.

For those seeking further guidance on trapping within their locale, I recommend exploring resources provided by your state’s trapping associations and game and fish commissions. These organizations offer valuable information regarding season dates, rules, and regulations pertinent to trapping in your specific area. By accessing these resources, you’ll be better equipped to engage in responsible and successful trapping practices.


Suggested prepping learning:

Building traps and snares

Must-Have Knowledge to survive any medical emergency

Getting your traps ready for the trapping season

Survival lessons from our ancestors that can still be used today

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