As my trapping mentor tipped back his third beer following the close of another trapping season, he leaned against the back of his chair, nodded his head and began to let me in on a lifetime of trapping wisdom.
That old timer had taken me under his wing years before after I pestered him with questions about trapping mink, otter and predators. He told me to meet him for the upcoming season opener to shut me up. The offer had it’s desired effect. He didn’t think I would follow through.
Well I did show up to trap with him that season and it became a tradition for many years. I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of trapping lessons from a man who forgot more about fur harvesting than I will ever know. And my intention is to write down some of that wisdom here for you.
Trapping Tips and Secrets From An Old Timer
It would be impossible to put down everything I learned from my trapping mentor. I will be returning to this article from time to time to add more things he taught me. Any one of these tips can change the way you trap for the better and there are ideas for all types of species. I don’t take the credit for any of them though to be clear, credit is given to the long line of trappers who came before us. So pass them on to the next generation yourself and keep the trapping spirit alive.
1. Bed Your Traps The Right Way For More Hits
Bedding traps improperly leads to more missed catches than an other reason. Bedding land traps correctly is one of the most important things you can do to be a successful trapper. A well set trap will not move at all if pressed down on.
The first soft dirt your target feels should be the trap pan. Use a cupped hole instead of a flat trap bed and practice bedding your traps at home before hitting the trapline.
2. Off The Circle Set
After trapping a fox remake your set and then add a second flat set next to the torn up ground of the first one. Conceal the set and add a small hole between the two traps with a stake. Add some fur from the fox you just took to the hole.
This set will produce a lot of hits and can even result in a double catch.
3. Extend Your Trapline
Each day you work your trapline add four or five more sets to the end of it. This will extend your trapline and produce more hits. At the same time, remove unproductive sets from the beginning of your trapline to use as you extend it throughout the season.
4. Get More Traps And Skip The Gimmicks
When money is tight (and it always seems to be) we short change ourselves on traps and this will limit how many furs you harvest each season. At the end of every season replace every lost or stolen trap and get an additional dozen. Check the second hand marketplace for deals or buy ’em brand new. In a few seasons you will have a well stocked trap collection. And don’t waste your money on unproven gadgets, use that money for things that matter.
5. Learn To Read Tracks
When out scouting or trapping locate fresh tracks and note their location. Watch those tracks each day and see how time effects them. Wind, rain and any number of things will change the look of tracks. The more you do this the better you will be at telling how old a set of tracks are. This comes in incredibly handy when trapping species that move locations frequently such as coyote. Knowing if a set of tracks are new or multiple days old will allow you to make more intelligent set location decisions.
6. Use Cement Drags For Lake Mink
Homemade cement drags work great for lake mink. Take a metal can and remove the top. Fill it with cement and place a number 12 wire in the middle of the wet cement. Once dried you have a cheap and effective mink drag.
7. Larger Holes For Raccoon
While a small stake hole will work great for fox and coyote, a raccoon needs a big hole to lure them in. Dig a large hole just off the edge of a river or lake with eggs, feathers, or fur scattered around it. Put a bunch of grass, leaves, and whatever is close by and it will catch any raccoons attention. Put your bait in the hole (make it deep) and you will take a raccoon. Set a fox or coyote set nearby, the set may just bring one in too.
8. Talk To Your Fur Buyer
Talk to your fur buyer and get to know what he prefers and you will get more money for your harvest. Some fur buyers prefer to not skin certain species and will take more money off their offer if they have to do the skinning. Some species they may not mind skinning so you can save yourself the time skinning them yourself. And the only way to find out is to talk to your buyer.
9. Trapping Difficult Lake Muskrat
If you are trapping a lake for muskrat and can’t find a good natural set location, dig a hole near the edge of the water in a bank and set your trap. It works best at a steep bank with little beach area. These shelves are favorite resting spots for muskrat, so just add an apple or your favorite lure and you have an excellent rat set.
10. Take Your Time Skinning
Not many trappers will master the art of speed skinning and will damage a lot of fur trying to do so. It’s more effective in the long run to take your time skinning. Especially when handling fragile fur like fox or muskrat. Fewer damaged furs means more money when it’s time to sell.
11. Trap More Fox and Coyote In Dry Creek Beds
It’s no secret that fox and coyote are best targeted along roads and trails. And in the Southwest dry sand washes are traveled just the same. The best set locations are where two washes intersect. Place at least two sets at these spots and you will be sure to catch a fox or coyote.
12. Baited Bank Can Set
Find a muskrat or raccoon trail near a stream bank and dig a hole about fifteen inches above the water line. Taper it upwards. Place an empty soup can in the hole with the opening slightly above the hole line. Place a scented cotton wad in the bottom of the can and drip cherry oil around the hole. Cover the hole with a tree branch poked in the ground just above the hole. This set works great for raccoon and will also catch you muskrat.
I know my friend kept some of his best secrets for himself but the stuff he taught me changed the way I trap forever. I can’t say if I take bigger harvests than he did but one thing is for sure, I’d be taking a whole lot fewer if it wasn’t for his fur harvesting lessons.
For more trapping tips check out these articles