Where and how you set your traps has a direct impact on your success. Read this page to learn the basics of how to set traps in water and on land.
Some species of furbearers spend most of their time in and around the water. Beginning trappers usually target muskrat, raccoon, and mink. The term generally applied to this type of trapping is water trapping. The sets ordinarily used to take these animals are the pocket set, the cubby set, and the blind set.
Pocket, Cubby, and Blind Sets
The pocket set is constructed by digging a hole into the bank at water level. Bait or lure is placed in the back of the pocket, and a trap is set in front.
The cubby set is made by building a small hollow structure open on one end at the edge of the water. Bait or lure is placed in the back of the cubby and a trap is set in front.
The blind set uses no lure or bait. It is made by placing a trap directly in a path or trail an animal is known to use.
One advantage in water trapping is you can make sets that will submerge the catch. Submerging the animal prevents escapes and yields a quick humane death.
There are two basic ways to make a submersion set. One is to use a slide wire technique, and the other is to use a tangle stake technique. The slide wire technique works well for any animal, but it is especially effective for larger animals like raccoon. The tangle stake technique works well for smaller animals like mink and muskrat.
Dry-land trapping is quite different for water trapping and a trapper must be familiar with bedding traps, covering traps and anchoring or fastening traps.
In water trapping, you can simply press a trap down into the mud to make it steady. When a trap is steady, not wobbly, it is said to be stabilized. It is more difficult to stabilize a trap in dry dirt than it is in mud. Also a trap should set level with or slightly below the area surrounding it. On dry land, this means you will have to dig a shallow hole in which to set the trap. This shallow hole is called the trap bed.
Traps set on land must be covered to hide them from the animals. Three things commonly used to cover traps on land are dirt, leaves, and grass or weeds. When you cover a trap, you must make sure the covering does not interfere with the action of the trap. For less wary animals like raccoons and opossums, you can cover your trap with grass or leaves. It is not necessary to have the trap completely hidden as long as the material camouflages the trap well. If you cover a trap with leaves or grass, do not put too much of this material on top of the trap. If too much covering gets between the trap jaws, this could keep the trap from closing completely. For more wary animals, like fox and coyote, you should completely cover your trap with dirt. Use a sifter to take the large objects out of the dirt. If objects get under the trap pan, the trap might not fire. If objects get between the trap jaws, the trap might not close.
Fastening or Anchoring Traps
Animals trapped on land are captured alive. The fastening system used to hold these traps must be able to withstand the struggles of the animal until the trapper arrives. Steel stakes are usually used to fasten land traps. Wood stakes can also be used, but steel stakes are more durable. The stakes you use must be long enough and strong enough to hold the largest animal that may get in the trap. Sometimes using two shorter stakes to hold a trap can be easier than using one extra-long stake. This is called “cross staking.” Another method that can sometimes be used to fasten a trap is to wire the trap to a tree or other solid object. While an animal is restrained in a trap, it will do a lot of twisting and turning as it tries to escape. It is important that you have at least one working swivel in the trap chain. This keeps the chain from getting tangled up. If the chain gets tangled up, the animal could escape from the trap, or it could injure itself because it cannot move freely with the trap. You need at least one swivel, but two or more swivels work even better.
Dry-Land Set Types
A number of furbearing animals restrict their travels to dry land. In Missouri, the major land dwelling animals are the fox, coyote, opossum, bobcat and skunk. Raccoons also are often captured in sets made on dry land. Trapping in these situations and for these animals is generally known as dry-land trapping. The sets most often used to take these animals are the dirthole set, the flat set, and the cubby set.
One of the most important considerations inland trapping is covering the trap and bait. This helps keep birds of prey from spotting the bait and getting in the trap. In covering your traps, you must be careful that the covering does not interfere with the closing of the trap jaws. You must also be careful where you set your traps. You should avoid setting traps close to areas of human habitation. This will help you avoid catching someone’s pet in a trap.
The dirthole set is one of the most effective sets for land trapping. It is made by digging a small hole in the ground and hiding a trap in front of the hole. The hole itself will attract the attention of an animal. Bait and lure placed in the hole will add additional attractions to the set. Any of the land-dwelling furbearers can be taken in a dirthole set. The dirthole set is especially effective for fox and coyotes. If you are trapping for fox or coyote, some fox or coyote urine applied to the backing will help attract these animals.
The flat set is similar to the dirthole set, except that it does not use a hole. The flat set uses an above ground object (such as a cow bone or pile of cow manure) to attract the attention of an animal. This attractor also serves as the backing for the set. The trap is placed close to the attractor and lure is applied to the side of the attractor nearest the trap. This set can take all land-dwelling furbearers, but it is most effective for fox and coyotes.
The cubby set can be used for land trapping the same way it is used in water trapping. The cubby can be made of rocks, logs, boards, bark, or any other available material. Bait, lure, or both are placed in the back of the cubby to attract the animal.