When you find yourself in a survival situation in the wilderness, food is one of your top priorities. However, you have to find a way to collect animal protein without spending all your energy and time hunting or fishing.
Trapping is the clear solution, but it is much more difficult than it sounds. I used to run the marten lines with my uncle, and there were plenty of mornings when we would come home empty handed. In this article, we will cover the best ways to become successful by learning trapping basics.
I used to run the marten lines with my uncle, and there were plenty of mornings when we would come home empty handed. In this article, we will cover the best ways to become successful by learning trapping basics.
Learning Trapping Basics
Must for all Traps
No matter what your target animal is or what kind of trap you are setting, there are some constants that you should always remember.
1. More is better – Many people set two or three traps and are disappointed when they come home without any meat. A successful trap line typically has between 15 and 30 traps. You do not have to set them all at once, but that should be your goal.
2. Always use bait if possible – Animal signs are great to tell you that animals are in the area, but it you want to ensure that they trip your trigger you need bait. The type of bait will vary based on the animal.
3. Try to cover your scent and the trap – Two common reasons why traps do not work is that the trap area smells like you, or that the trap itself is visible. Cover your scent with pine needles or charcoal. Cover the trap with leaves and twigs that will not interfere with its action.
4. Always check your traps at least once daily – You are not the only carnivore in the woods. If you leave a trapped animal too long, another animal will eat it first.
By far the most effective way to run a successful trap line is to use modern steel traps. These will kill, disable, or hold an animal in place until you can check your line. The two most common animals I see trapped are beavers and marten. Both of these animals are best targeted with a steel snap trap. When the trigger is tripped, the mouth of the trap snaps down on the animal holding it in place.
For beavers you want to attach your trap to a pole, cut a hole in the ice near the entrance to the beaver lodge, and bait it with some poplar branches. In the summer you can stake the trap near slides or lodges, but it does not work as well because of the ample food sources available. For marten you want to put your bait meat in the back of a mailbox or similar structure. Set your trap just inside and attach it to a diagonal log. Often trappers use leftover moose or elk hide for bait. The mailbox forces the animal to trip the trigger.
Snares are a more primitive type of trap, but they can still work just fine. You can buy steel traps for a few bucks that work much better than other options. If you want to make your own snares, I suggest copper wire instead of cordage. The wire allows you to manipulate the loop of the snare to hold the position you want. You can use cordage if you have no wire. For making your own snare, you just want to make a slip knot and attach the other end to something stable. For most animals you want the snare loop to be vertical and set at the height of your target animal’s head. You can even add a spring pole to the trap if you want to make it snap tight more aggressively.
Deadfall traps are most commonly used for smaller animals and use the weight of a large flat rock to crush the prey. For this trap you want two sticks with one being slightly curved. The straight stick holds the weight of the rock, while the curved stick is your trigger stick.
You need to carve the trigger stick flat on one end and pointed on the other. The flat end sits between the straight stick and the rock, and your bait goes on the pointed end. The curve should dip back to place your bait in the back of the trap. With any pressure, the sticks should collapse and the rock should fall. You pay want to try it out a few times before moving on.
The most important point I can emphasize is that trapping takes practice. This is true more so than just about every other survival skill. Even if you only have time to try out a few traps at a time, get out there and see what works. You will appreciate the skill if you ever find yourself in a position where your life depends upon it.