Primitive Trapping 101

Primitive Trapping 101As I have always stated, food is typically not my top priority in a survival situation. However, if you are going to go after food, you will eventually want protein. There are several ways in which you can acquire protein but many are risky or calorie-burning activities.Trapping is one way you can set and forget to collect animal protein.

In this article, I will cover why trapping is so essential for survival and also the different trap designs that you can use to catch the protein you need.

Is Protein that Important?

Before we can talk about protein specifically, we need to discuss the importance of food itself.

The four pillars of survival are food, water, fire, and shelter. These are the items required to survive the wilderness.

You can only survive a few hours in the cold without fire or shelter, so these are vital in certain weather conditions. You can survive about three days without water before dying of dehydration. Your body can survive about 30 days without food. So why is it so important?

The answer is complicated. Food is not just about staying alive. It gives you the energy you need to complete other tasks. Also, your body starts to degrade before you die from starvation.

You should also read: Protein, the foundation of a survival diet

How the Body Copes With Hunger

Without calories, your body starts to break down fat and muscle for energy. This makes you weak and clumsy which can cause injury. Then your body starts to break down the brain and internal organs. This process causes confusion, depression, and anxiety.

These issues can easily cause you to make a fatal mistake in the wild. The flip side of the coin is that even a little food can be an excellent way to boost the morale.

Wild edibles are a great way to get calories without expending a considerable amount of energy. With the right knowledge, you can easily provide a few meals with a quick walk in the forest. However, leafy greens alone are not enough.

You need foods with more fats, oils, sugars, proteins, and calories. These are the nutritional elements that keep your spirits high and keep you mentally and physically strong. There is also nothing quite like a steaming hot piece of meat to put a smile on your face.

Why Trapping?

I am sure you have seen some scantily clad madman chasing boar with a spear or hunting bow to survive on television. However, you must think about risk versus reward when going after protein.

Whichever method you use to find protein, there are resources and risks involved. You risk your time, energy, safety, and mindset. You have to consider these factors too:

  • What happens if you come home empty-handed after tromping through the woods all day?
  • How about if you spend all of your time looking for food when you need to be building a shelter?
  • What happens if you trip and hurt yourself, get bitten by an animal, or fall into the water and freeze?

While hunting might be a viable option in some cases, with primitive tools, I put it pretty low on the list.

Unless you have prey that is abundant and easy to hunt, you will risk a great deal. Traditional fishing is great for protein, but you have to have the right tools. Also, your success can be a hit or miss.

Unlike these previous two activities, trapping allows you to set your traps and just come back once or twice a day to check it so you have the rest of the day for other projects. You expend very few calories and do not risk your safety.

Trapping is typically the most efficient way to collect protein, and efficiency is everything when you are trying to survive.

General Trapping Strategies

Whenever you start to look for places to set traps, there are a few strategies you must consider. It is best to put yourself in the mindset of the animal. Think about their motivation and how to get them end up in your trap. Consider these general points:


Where you place your traps is based on different factors. Land mammals travel for just a few reasons. They move from their sleeping area to water and food primarily. Most animals are creatures of habit, so you will often see game trails where these animals have worn paths in the dirt.

You can also see where grasses and other plants have been parted on a regular basis. On the other hand, fish travel based on the temperature of the water and the food that is available. These factors should affect where you place your traps.


If you have a way to bait your traps, this will ensure you get the animal’s attention. Many trap designs require the animal to move into the trap in a specific way. Bait allows you to direct the animal so that the trap is tripped.

Scraps of food always make good bait. You can use the entrails from mammals or fish you caught to lure other animals. You can also collect nuts, insects, or berries in the wild to use as bait.

Animal Movement

Depending on the type of animal you are targeting, you have to adjust your traps to accommodate their movement.

For example, snare trapping a rabbit by the leg can be tough because of its leg’s shape and the jumping movement. You are better off to catch a rabbit by the neck.

Anything larger than a squirrel is difficult to trap with a deadfall because it can reach and grab the bait without exposing its internal organs to impact.


No matter what animal you are targeting, you need to find ways to force it into your trap.

For land animals, you can drive stakes into the ground or use the brush to direct the animal into your trapping lane. Most fish traps naturally redirect the fish. You also must angle your trap or prop it upright so that it is trapped properly.

Scent and Sight

Remember that most of the animals you will target have incredible senses of smell and vision.

For better results, you want to camouflage your trap as best you can. You also want to mask your scent if possible. You can rub ashes from your fire on your hands and feet to help mask your scent, or use other strong natural scents such as broken up spruce or pine needles.

Suggested reading: Ten Survival Hunting Essentials

Recommended Traps

Snare Trap

A snare trap is one of the primary traps for catching any land animals. It consists of cordage tied into a slip knot.

A simple overhand knot in the folded end of your cordage creates a loop. You then feed the other end back through the loop to create the slipknot. If you have access to wire to tie your snare, it allows you to bend the loop of the snare in place.

You can also find natural cordage if you do not have any. From here, there are several things you can do with your snare.

Simple Snare

  1. Secure the end of the cordage to a tree, stake, or rock to hold it in place.
  2. Use sticks to keep the snare upright, so the loop faces perpendicular to the game path. You want the loop to be larger than the head of the animal you are targeting.
  3. Use debris or stakes to direct the animal into your snare.

Squirrel Pole

  1. Attach several simple snares to a pole. They need to be made of wire so you can rest them on the top of the pole.
  2. Rest the pole at 45 degrees against the trunk of a large tree. Squirrels always take the easiest path, so they will climb your pole if it presents an easier path.
  3. Its head will get caught in the snare, and it will hang itself from the pole.

Spring Snare

  1. Insert a spring pole into your design. Secure the base of the pole in the ground and attach the end of the snare to the spring end of the pole.
  2. Drive a stake with a notch into the ground near where you want to set your trap.
  3. Attach another piece of cordage to the spring pole and tie a small stick with a notch at the end.
  4. Pull down the spring pole and rest the notch of the stick in the notch of the stake to hold it in place.
  5. Put your snare upright with sticks.

When an animal is caught in the snare, the trap springs upwards and holds the animal off the ground so it cannot get loose.

Two-Stick Deadfall

If you have a large flat rock, a deadfall may be the way to go. This trap crushes small animals as they go for the bait.

  1. You need one straight stick and one stick that is slightly curved. The curved rod should have one pointed end and another end shaved flat. The other stick should be cut round.
  2. Place bait on the pointed end of the curved stick.
  3. Now place the flat end at the bottom of the raised rock with the baited end curving downwards, and towards your trap.
  4. Place the rounded end of the other stick on the flat end of the bait stick and prop it up, so it stays in place.

When an animal touches the bait stick, the whole thing should collapse. You may want to test it to make sure it has a hair trigger.

Fish Trap

For this trap, you simply need shallow water with a good fish population.

  1. Use either sharpened stakes or rocks to create a heart shaped wall in the water.
  2. Leave a small opening at the cleave of the heart that is large enough for a fish to enter.

Once they enter, they will get confused and will not be able to find their way out. You can bait this trap or leave it un-baited.

Related reading: Try These Unusual Fish Baits for a Successful Catch

Explore What Works For You

If you can find some simple cordage and have a knife or other blade with you, you can likely make the primitive traps you need to catch some protein.

However, I have to emphasize that trapping takes lots of patience and practice. I encourage you to go to the woods where trapping is allowed and try out these designs. Find a few that work for you and stick to those methods.

With some time and effort, you can give yourself a skill that can make the difference between life and death.

Article written by Almo Gregor for Prepper’s Will.

About Author: Almo Gregor is a firearm enthusiast and avid hunter. Outdoors, hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood, and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others.

Useful resources you may like:

The Right Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

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Learn how to Safeguard your Home During a Crisis



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