How to Make Animal Traps

At this point, it should be obvious that it is a universal truth that food will be incredibly scarce (unless you’re incredibly lucky or well prepared).  You have to accept that you will inevitably have to gather or hunt any food you eat.  The easiest way to hunt animals is to set traps for them because you simply build the trap and then occasionally check it for prey.

Traps and snares are designed to crush, choke, hang, or otherwise entangle the prey, commonly incorporating several of these principles together to better ensnare prey.  In general, the simpler the trap the better.  The more complex a trap is, the more points of failure you have to contend with and the less it fails, the more often you eat.  So leave the Rube Goldberg machines in your pack.

There is no “catch all” trap that works for all species, you need to establish what type of prey is in the area and focus on one.  There may not even be prey in your area.  Look for the following in the area you’re in:

  • Runs and trails
  • Tracks
  • Droppings
  • Chewed or rubbed vegetation
  • Nesting or roosting sites
  • Feeding and watering areas

These clues will let you know if there is prey in the area, and what species are around.  You will want to place your traps where you know animals will pass through.

Camouflage

The most important part of any snare or trap is to make it blend in with its surroundings.  This will keep from alert your prey that something may be wrong.  If you are evading pursuit or capture (from cannibals or zombies or a roving motorcycle gang of runaway midget circus clowns), camouflage can hide your presence in the area.

It is best to construct your traps away from the spot you want to place them.  If you construct them in place, you will likely break nearby vegetation, make tracks in the dirt, and leave your scent all over everything nearby.  All of this will cause the prey to be alert at the very least, and to completely avoid the area at worst.  If you have to dig a hole for your trap, make sure to remove all fresh, loose dirt as this will further alert your prey of your presence.

Green wood and other live vegetation will ooze sap which produces a smell that will raise the hackles of any potential prey, warning them away from your trap.  On top of that, that same sap  will eventually dry and can potentially gum up the workings of your trap, allowing prey to pass through it unharmed.

Scent is a big factor in trap making.  If anything smells wrong, your prey will become wary of the situation and potentially avoid your trap and let’s face it: you smell wrong.  It is imperative that you mask your scent near the trap.  You can try to remove it, but it’s a difficult process and, to be honest, not worthwhile.  There are a number of ways you can mask your scent.  You can use animal urine to mask your scent, but this is tricky because you need to use urine from an animal that isn’t a predator of the animal you are trying to trap, nor can it be from an animal not indigenous to the area.  Unfamiliar smells will cause animals to be cautious.

Fires are a common occurance in nature and the animal kingdom treats them with  a bit of non-chalance.  Animals will only become anxious about fire if there is actual flame present, so using smoke in the trap area is a good way to mask your scent.  You could go so far as to char your trap in order to lock in that smoke smell, just make sure your trap will still work after you set it.

Mud is also a good way to mask your scent.  Swamp mud is the best because the scent of rotting vegetation lingers on the mud and let me tell you, that is a STRONG smell.  Just cake your trap in mud.  Again, make sure your trap will still work afterward placing the mud.

Channeling

A trap by itself can be effective, but not a gaurantee.  If you place a trap on a trail, an animal could decide to simply walk around the trap, leaving your stomach empty.  What you want to do is set up some sort of way to guide your prey into your trap; make it more difficult to avoid the trap.  This technique is called channeling.  This can be as simple as putting your trap on the far end of a shrub that’s in middle of the trail, or as complex as constructing a funnel-shaped barrier between two trees.  Most animals will opt to push forward on their chosen path than try to backtrack, so they’ll walk right into your trap unless they’re certain that it’s bad for them.

Baiting

Baiting a trap is kind of like camouflaging your trap, but instead of hiding bad smells, you’re introducing enticing smells.  You are trying to lure the prey into the trap with the appeal of food.  This will greatly improve your chances of success if you can spare the resources.  If you are trying to trap fish, you need to bait the trap or you will more than likely not catch anything.  Try to bait the trap with something from the animals normal diet, don’t use something not indigenous to the area.  Also don’t use anything in abundance (baiting with corn in a cornfield won’t get you anywhere).  A lot of animals are big fans of salt, so you can bait your trap with some salt.  Have you ever given peanut butter to a dog before?  They go crazy for it!  For some reason, animals love peanut butter so it makes a great bait.  Make sure to leave bits of your bait outside the trap so that the animal will get a better smell and possibly a taste of the bait.  If its something good, they’ll be more likely to fall into your trap.

Simple Snare

As the name implies, a simple snare is the most simple of snares.  It is simply a noose  placed over a high traffic path for the animal.  Once the animal puts its head in the noose, the noose will tighten as it continues to move.  The more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose will get.  This trap will typically only restrain the animal, not kill it so you need to check these traps more often to minimize the suffering of your prey.  If your noose is made of rope, it is possible for the noose to loosen so it is recommended to use wire instead, as wire will retain its constricted size.

Twitch-Up Snare

A twitch-up snare is a step up in complexity (as well as effectiveness) fromk the simple snare.  Essentially, the prey gets its head caught in the noose (as with the simple snare) but then the animal is snapped off the ground, more than likely snapping its neck, killing it quickly.  The easiest way to get this motion to occur is to bend over a sapling and attach it to some sort of trigger mechanism.  I personally like to use a notched triggerbar set up.  This consists of a stake in the ground with a notch in it and a piece of wood (the triggerbar) that fits snugly into that notch.  Tie the trigger bar to the bent sapling and then tie the triggerbar to your noose.  When the animal is caught by the noose, it will pull the triggerbar away from the stake, which will cause the sapling to snap upright, which tightens the noose around the animals neck, pulling it into the air and snapping its neck.

Squirrel Pole

The squirrel pole is probably the most effective way to catch squirrels.  It relies on the naturally agility and curiosity of squirrels.  Place a series of nooses on a long pole leaned against a tree, so that any squirrels that climb the pole will have to walk through the nooses.  Place them close enough together that a squirrel cannot fit between.  If the squirrel is able to stand comfortably on the pole, they will chew on/through your noose, just for the sake of chewing it.  Squirrels will cautious of your trap initially, but eventually will have to investigate.  They’ll climb the pole, get caught in the noose, and then fall off the pole, snapping their neck or strangling themselves.  This trap is nice because you can catch multiple squirrels with one setup.

These are just a basic few types of traps that you can build.  There are a great number of different traps for any number of different types of animals to trap.

Further Reading

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Author: Adrian

Adrian Hannah is a system administrator and poor college student at Michigan Technological University. He currently resides in Hancock, MI where he observes the outside world and puts in his two cents.