Lets talk Trapping

with Patrick McClain

     Hi everyone I'm Patrick McClain and I've put together a few notes and pictures on trapping furbearers.  This is a segment on trap prep and methods I use and have learned as a trapper over the last 30 years.  I started trapping as a kid at the early age of 12 years old.  I started out on coon, fox, and mink.  Coyotes were not plentiful like they are now.  Trapping is a lot of responsibility but very rewarding.   

     First, traps need to be adjusted when you get them to make them work smoothly and precise.  When I buy new traps I go over each one, file all burrs off the dog of the trap, square it up, and take out all of the play.  Then, I file a new notch in the pan and make sure the pan is level.  When I get the trap complete I set the pan tension to about 2lbs so that when the trap fires it is immediate with no drag or slop.  When the traps are ready to go I degrease them and get them ready to boil and wax.  When you boil them it kills all foreign odors and the wax makes them fast and keeps them from rusting.  Some people boil their traps in log wood crystals for the dye.  It makes the trap black.  It’s a good idea for water trapping because the traps are sometimes set in the open or under water and it helps to camouflage them.  When trapping under the dirt it doesn’t matter if they are dyed black or not but they must be scent free. 

     Traps must be checked every 24 hours.  On stormy nights sometimes I check them sooner but never more than 24.  Traps are humane and cause little damage to target and non- target animals if checked responsibly.  Trapping will teach you so much about animal’s habits and how to read signs.  It will make you a better hunter as well.

Dirt Hole Set - Step by Step

     My favorite set for fox and coyotes is the dirt hole set.  There are many variations of the dirt hole but this is my favorite.  I look for natural travel paths around fields, fence, ridges, roads and natural drainages.  I will find a natural backing such as a rock, stump, clump of grass etc.  I make a hole at about a 45 degree angle to almost straight down.  I then come back about 9 or 10 inches for coyote and 6 to 8 for fox to the center of the trap pan to the bait hole.  Next, I dig a hole straight down just a little smaller than a set trap.  Take the dirt from the hole and put it in your sifter.  Be careful not to spread loose dirt all over.  Then I drive my stakes through a double stake swivel at the end of the trap chain.  You need to cross your stakes in an x fashion to eliminate a coyote from pulling out the stakes losing your coyote and trap.  I set the trap in the hole offset from the bait about an inch or two left or right.  If you dig the hole the right size it will be a lot easier to bed the trap solidly.  I try to make sure the trap pan is slightly lower than the rest of the set.  Coyotes tend to step in the slight depression.  Pack dirt in all around the trap but not over the levers.  The trap must be solid with no tip or wobble.  This is the most important part.  If the trap is not solid you are wasting your time.  When an animal steps on the trap and not on the pan, it can’t move or they will dig it up or just walk away.  Now that it’s solid and packed in you can sift dirt over the whole trap, covering the pan and the rest of the set.  With the trap being adjusted and the notch being filed you won’t need a pan cover.  I use a tool called a trappers cap, it fits over the pan of the set trap and lets you pack dirt inside the jaws of the trap without setting  the trap off accidently, making the only spot that gives is the pan of the trap.  The trap will fire when they step on the pan.

     Now put up all your tools and change your gloves before handling bait.  I always wear rubber gloves and boots and wash my clothes in scent killing soap.  Next take the bait and shove in the bottom of the bait hole being careful not to get any over the trap or on the dirt covering the trap.  I will usually shove some grass or leaves in the hole over the bait.  Next I stick a little bit of lure at the edge of the bait hole and give a little shot of urine at edge of backing.  I try to brush away tracks and human sign and the set is complete!  Be patient, don’t expect much for a day or two, don’t go any closer than necessary to check the set, re-lure after a hard rain, and again be patient! 

     Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to email me at  patrick.mccln@gmail.com  and  I will help you all I can.