Getting Started Furbearer Trapping

beaver trap

The state of Missouri, unlike many other states, does not require trappers to attend a mandatory trapper education class before they are allowed to trap. So, it can be difficult for a new trapper to learn the ropes. Here are a few good ideas for new trappers to investigate when searching for information on how to get started.


Basic Equipment

Beginning trappers should start out with basic gear needed to trap one or two species. Buying new equipment for a variety of species can be expensive, so you should learn to be successful with basic gear before you invest too much. As you gain experience you will develop a better sense of the gear needed for other types of trapping.


Trap tags

State law requires the trapper to have his or her name and address or conservation ID number attached to each trap in a permanent way. A laminated or weatherproof tag with permanent marker can be used.

Trap stakes and grapples

Steel stakes are needed to anchor traps. Know the length and size you need for specific furbearers and soil conditions. You may also need to use grapples in certain conditions.

Pliers and cable cutters

Pliers are needed for trap adjustments and cutting and bending wire. If aircraft cable is used for snares or anchoring systems you will also need cable cutters.


A hatchet is used for cutting limbs, driving stakes, chopping ice, and making certain types of sets.

Wire or aircraft cable

Wire or aircraft cable (3/32- or 1/8-inch) can be used to make submersion sets and fasten traps.

Trapping staff/walking stick

A staff has many uses. Use it to check water depths when wading, detect underwater dens, and retrieve traps from water. A heavy staff may also be used to dispatch animals caught in some traps.


Trowels are used to make dirt holes or pocket sets in water.

Pack basket, bucket, or heavy bag

Any of these items can be used to carry all your traps and other equipment.


Folding and locking knives are recommended for trappers. Their uses are endless on the trapline.

Dirt sifter

A dirt sifter is a frame about 8 inches square and 3 inches deep with a quarter inch mesh screen on the bottom and is used to cover traps with fine soil.

Pan Covers

A pan cover is recommended to keep dirt and debris from getting under the trap pan on land sets. Wax paper, screen, plastic, and clean cloth patches are used for pan covers.


A catchpole is used to hold an animal so it can be safely released or dispatched. It is essential for a land trapper.


Trappers need a variety of gloves. Latex gloves are used when skinning animals. Water trappers use gauntlet gloves that cover the arm to the shoulder to keep dry in cold weather. Land trappers use rubber or cotton gloves to keep human scent off of their traps.


Water trappers need either hip or chest waders as they will often find themselves working in water depths that would overtop boots.

What Trap Should I Use?

Foothold traps (also called "leghold" traps) are designed to catch an animal by the foot and restrain it. There are two types of foothold traps: coilspring traps and longspring traps.

It is important to consider the size of the animal and select an appropriately sized foothold trap to use for it. A trap that is too large could grip the animal too high on the leg and cause injury. Always use the smallest trap that will reliably hold the animal. Missouri law limits the size of foothold traps that may be used on land. Check the trapping regulations in Wildlife Code of Missouri for more information.

Foothold traps can be used on land or in the water. In land trapping, foothold traps offer an advantage because they restrain the animal but do not kill it. Non-target animals can be released alive from foothold traps that are set on land, which is important if a domestic animal is caught.

When foothold traps are used in the water, they can be fastened so the captured animal will drown. Foothold traps can be used for any type of animal on land or in the water, and they are also easy to conceal. Some animals, like fox and coyote, are very wary, so foothold traps are a good choice for these animals.


Body gripping traps, also known as Conibear traps, are the most commonly used killing trap. When an animal triggers a body-gripping trap, two rotating jaws close on the animal’s neck or chest. In Missouri, these traps are generally used in water sets for mink, muskrat, beaver, and otter.


Cable restraints function differently than most other trapping devices. Cable restraints are made of multi-strand steel cable. To use a cable restraint, form the cable into a loop and suspend the loop over a trail that the animal is known to use. The animal enters the loop and tightens the cable restraint down on itself. The cable restraint is designed to capture the animal by the neck or body and restrain it like a dog on a leash. Cable restraints are recommended for coyotes and foxes in Missouri.


Cage traps are sometimes called box traps or live traps. They are used to take animals alive, and the trap is in the shape of a box. The animal enters the box and a door closes behind it. The advantage of cage traps is they do not grip the animal, making release easy. Cage traps can be effective where the likelihood of capturing a domestic animal is high. These traps can be used safely around houses, barns, or other dwellings. One good use for cage traps is removing raccoons, opossums, and skunks from buildings.

However, cage traps are expensive, bulky, and hard to transport. Because of this, they are not practical for everyday trapline use. Some animals, like fox and coyotes, will not readily enter a cage trap.

Learn More About Trapping

Attend a Free MDC Trapping Clinic

MDC offers many free trapping clinics throughout the year. Classes vary, but many offer hands-on trapping, skinning, and fur preparation. Contact your Regional MDC office for information on free trapping clinics in your area.


Join the Missouri Trappers Association

The Missouri Trappers Association is a fine resource for new trappers. Consider joining the MTA for access to trapping publications and regular meetings. Many members are willing to mentor new trappers.


Find Educational Resources Online

An internet search using the term “Trapper Education Manual” will yield many in-depth educational materials. Just keep in mind that these manuals may come from states whose trapping regulations vary from those in Missouri.