How To Trap Fox: Complete Guide

fox standing in the snow

I could barely hear my dad’s voice as he whispered “come over here”. It felt like I was going to lose my breakfast. I was so excited I couldn’t stand it.

It was the my first time going with my dad as he worked his fox trapline. It seemed like we had walked a hundred miles to get all those sets in place, but we were approaching the first set and I was sure there’d be a fox waiting for us.

Trapping Fox

I’ve set a few thousand fox traps since that first season with my dad. And the excitement of an approaching new season still get’s me revved up. There is no better feeling than putting in the effort to run an efficient fox trapline and reap the benefits with a healthy harvest.

With a few tips and some knowledge you can get right here, you can get your fox trapline running this season and do the same.

Where To Find Fox Signs

The exact locations of fox will depend on your local habitat. Generally speaking though, fox prefer hilly areas with plenty of cover.

Look for fox signs along old dirt roads going through the woods. Check ridges, dry creek beds, gullies, old camp grounds, lakes, and frozen streams in winter.

In mountain regions, fox can be found in the foot hills of mountains. Fox will travel the valleys of these areas and go from gully to gully in search of food.

Check open areas within forests and pay particular attention around old tree stumps and open meadows along the woods. These spots are particularly good for set placement.

Fox Trapping Equipment

Fully equipping yourself before the season is a must. With the right gear you will be ready to place your sets and start harvesting.

There is no shortage of suggestions out there on what gear to get. But the following items are deemed essential for trapping fox so start here and add on only when you know you need something else for your particular trapline.

  • Pack/Trap Basket
  • Trowel
  • Small hoe
  • Five prong weeder (for making scratch marks)
  • Trap cover
  • Wax paper or cloths
  • A container for the above
  • Sifting screen 7″x7″ (1/4″ mesh)
  • Rubber hip boots
  • Pre-prepared scent bottles
  • Number 2 traps for early fall (pre scouting will tell you how many traps to get)
  • Number 3 traps for late fall and winter
  • Stakes if trapping in open country
  • Four foot chain for each trap

Make sure that all your traps have been cleaned and waxed prior to opening day. Read more on how to do that if you are unsure what you’re doing.

Keep in mind that the more preparation you do before the season the more fur you will take. Set your traps and rig your chains before opening day. If using old traps make sure to tune them before every season.

Fox Trapping Bait and Lures

Scent and bait play a big role in how successful your fox traps will be. Bait alone is not recommended for fox, and should only be used along with lure.


Bait does not give off enough aroma to bring in a fox. Tainted fox bait works best. Pre-season preparation is needed to have your bait ready in time.

Tainted bait also works much better than fresh bait as it sends off a stronger scent and in turn will better bring in the fox to your set.

Some of the best baits I’ve used are fox flesh, woodchuck, skunk, muskrat, beaver, and smoked fish.


As they say, without lure, without fox. Using a a solid fox lure will dramatically improve your success rate on the trapline.

Fox gland has been used as lure for ages and it is still the best in my experience. You can make your fox gland lure at home. While they do sell quality lures if you are the do-it-yourself kind of trapper definitely make your own.

My homemade lure consistently outperforms the stuff I buy. Plus making your own is a good time so it’s a win win.

Fox Trapping Sets

Now that you have everything you need to trap fox, let’s layout the best sets for your trapline. Use any of these sets that fit your area. Learn how to do them properly and take notes on how well each set type works for you. Put thought into every trap you set and make sure it’s done the right way. No sense in putting in all the work only to miss a catch out of making a lazy set.

The Dirt Set

Easily the most successful set type I’ve ever used. The dirt set works great for gray and red fox and when done right is wickedly good.

You should make your dirt sets a couple weeks before opening day. This allows the local fox to get used to it before prime time.

Make your dirt sets in hilly areas, along ridges and in the valleys. Don’t skip either of these locations, set them both as their scents will play off each other.

Make about three sets in each location. Move on a mile or so down your line and do it again until you reach the end of suitable terrain.

Mix up your scents if you have multiple. See what is working best and take note.

Your dirt set should have some sort of backing to it. Make sure the backing is only about four inches high and use a stone, piece of log, grass or whatever else is found near you.

The key is that the backing does not obstruct the foxes view. They are wily critters and will not come near a set if the backing is too high for them to see around.

Dig a small hole that is about eight to ten inches deep. It should go straight down and have a small diameter. Make sure the hole is right up against the backing you used.

Cut out a ten to twelve inch square from the sod and place it on your set. Sift dirt from your hole around the edge of your set. Then place your trap where you cut out the sod.

The trap should be just above the surrounding surface of it’s placement. Now place your cover over the trap and the chain and grapple should be under the trap. Use some dirt to make the trap level.

How to make waxed dirt for trap covering

Your trap should be about one inch from your hole. Sift more dirt around the edges of the trap and the trap itself.

Early season your traps should be well covered, but as the cold sets in you will want to use less cover.

Use some wool with scent on it for your lure (keeping it in a small bottle, without a cap, that will fit in the hole will allow your scent to last longer).

Put your scent in your dirt hole, all the way down. I like to use some fox urine on the outside of the hole as well as some skunk scent inside the hole. Experiment and see what scent works best for you though.

Now take your weeder and make some scratch marks around the edge of your hole. If you have a fox paw with you, set a few tracks around the hole in the sifted dirt. A single paw print above the trap pan works well too. Just be sure not to set off your trap.

One finishing touch, make sure there is still some dirt outside of your hole, it should look like that hole was just dug out.

Round Set

This set was passed on to me by my old trapping mentor. It is a solid set option when not using a dirt set. It takes no extra equipment and is straight forward to use. It works best in sandy or loose soil locations.

It’s important to not leave any of your own scent so walk straight in to where you will making your set. Use a cloth to set your trapping basket down on.

Dig a round spot of about thirty inches in diameter. It should be all dug up including any sod and grass. Remove roots and large rocks as well.

About three feet away make another round hole.

Now use a chunk of tainted bait as a trap backing and make your set just as you would a dirt set. Use an upside down piece of sod you just dug up as a trap covering. The trap set should be level with the surrounding circle when complete. Make any necessary adjustments if it is not level.

Use a sifter to spread dirt to make it level and to cover. You will then use scent just like you did for a dirt set.

Tip: Fox can steal your bait with a single trap set. Set a second trap on the opposite side of your bait as the first trap and you will hit the fox no matter which side they come from

Use a fox paw to make tracks within the circle as well as on the pan of each of your traps.

Fox can smell freshly dug dirt and that makes the circle set particularly effective. Really muss up the dirt when making your circle and scent it well and it will bring in the fox.


As I caught up to my dad my heart was still thumping away. And sure enough, that first trap was a hit. It was the first fox I played a part in trapping. Over the years I haven’t quite captured that same level of excitement but I’d be lying if I said I don’t still love fox trapping. For more fox trapping tips read these articles.

Written by Fred

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