Secrets Revealed For Trapping Coyotes

The winner of last summer’s Coyote Cull contest tells all that he’s learned—methods that have produced 75 coyotes!

Louis Tanner | December 8, 2015

In July, I was lucky to win the first-place gun in GON’s Coyote Cull contest, and as a thank you to GON, I offered to share my techniques on trapping coyotes. It’s really cool helping others get started, and then they start sharing their successes.

On a duck hunt in Louisiana two years ago, a couple of friends and I shared how to trap coyotes, and the first morning going to the duck blind, we found we had caught a huge yote. By the end of the week, the news had spread, and we had several others interested in trapping.

In early November 2015, I was offered the opportunity to share how I trap with some students in an agriculture class at Jones County High School. A few had already been trapping for a while. It was fun sharing with them and the ones who already had an interest. They all asked great questions.

My belief is that coyotes are a huge problem, and the more people I share with, the better we will be. A friend was proofing this article before I sent it to GON, and he stated, “You don’t want to give all your secrets away, do you?” My comment back was, “There are no secrets when it comes to taking out yotes.”

Remembering back 25 years ago, I used to trap to sell the fur. I would catch bobcats, foxes, raccoons and opossums. It was rare to catch a coyote, and I actually can only recall one. There were a few around, but nothing like today.

Just a few years ago, a friend told my dad that he has seen 22 coyotes crossing the dirt road onto our land. At the time, the deer population was down, and we hardly ever saw a spotted fawn. In addition to this, we had a calf disappear. Around that same time, there was a coyote trapping seminar put on by the Johnson County Young Farmers meeting. Thanks to this seminar, it revived an old passion I had many years ago. I used to wake up really early before I had to get ready for school to run out and check my traps.

Today, trapping is just as fun. It’s really awesome to come up on a coyote you have caught, and he starts barking and howling. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

There’s nothing wrong with the enjoyment hunters get as they try and call up a yote and shoot it. However, if you have a coyote problem like a lot of places do, trapping is the most effective way to reduce the number of these fawn and turkey killers.

This is the time of year I get my traps back out and start working on the yotes. I’ve caught around 75, and I look at that as a minimum of one fawn per coyote saved. The reward is noticed every time I go hunting. It definitely makes a difference! I see a lot more rabbits, turkeys and quail, too. My neighbors can tell a difference, also. I’ve had a couple come and thank me for the efforts.

I’m sure there’s enjoyment in sitting in the woods calling for coyotes and taking out a couple during your hunts. However, if you have a coyote problem like a lot of places do, trapping is the most effective way to reduce the number of these fawn and turkey killers.

Trapping is not that difficult, but it does require some attention to details. I will outline the details you’ll need to know to get started.

Some Basic Trapping Regulations

  1. A trapping license is required, even if you trap on your own land. You can receive this license through the mail, so make sure you plan ahead.
  2. Traps are required to be checked daily.
  3. You must carry a choke stick and a .22 with you while checking your traps.
  4. Your traps must be identified. A small tag with your trapper number on it satisfies this requirement.
  5. You can trap coyotes year-round; however, other species must be let go if they are not in season.
  6. For a complete list of regulations and a link to get your license application, go to

Recommended Equipment

The below items can be purchased at or

  1. Traps: MB-550 with offset jaws.
  2. J-hooks, one per trap.
  3. Quick Links, one per trap. I like large ones, like a 3/16-inch. I have had the small ones (1/8-inch) to fail over time.
  4. Disposable stakes. I prefer the Duckbill Earth Anchors. You need one per trap, plus extras if you don’t plan on digging them back up. The 12-inch anchors are what I mostly use, but in very sandy soil, the 18-inchers would be better.
  5. Earth Anchor driver. This is required if you use the disposable stakes.
  6. Wax and dye. White wax blocks and powder dye is perfect.
  7. Sifter.
  8. Small sledge hammer.
  9. Dirt hole punch.
  10. Small rake. A kid’s rake is perfect.
  11. Small dirt trowel/shovel.
  12. Trap tags.
  13. Choke stick. If you’re crafty, you can make your own.

Recommended Bait

  1. O’Gorman’s Powder River Paste Bait.
  2. Deer meat chunks. The next time you kill a deer, save the heart, and cut it in chunks with other cuts of unwanted meat. Freeze in small Ziploc bags.

Trap Preparation

  1. Assemble each trap with a J-hook, Quick Link and an Earth Anchor. A vise is the simplest thing to use to bend the J-hooks.
  2. When you buy new traps, they will have an oily residue. Initially, boil your traps in water using an old turkey frying pot. I would do it a couple of times, pouring the oily water off. Hang them out to dry, and allow them to rust for a couple of days. The rusting effect helps the dye adhere to the traps.
  3. Time to ruin that old turkey frying pot. From this day forward your turkey fryer is now your trap preparation pot.

Fill your pot about half full of water, add dye and a couple of blocks of wax. Then, heat to almost boiling. There will be a dye mix underneath a liquid layer of wax.

Some trappers do this in three steps: they will dye first, dry and then wax. However, I find it easier and just as effective to do it in one step. The added bonus is when you are done, put the lid on your turkey fryer for the next time you want to freshen up your traps.

Do be careful, I’ve always heard the wax if very flammable; however, I have never had an issue with this. Keep a close eye on your mixture, and don’t boil it over.

  1. Dip each trap in your solution. As you pull it through the wax layer, each trap will be coated for lubrication. Never touch your traps. Use gloves and your small rake to prevent scent contamination.
  2. Hang your traps out to dry for a day. I use a 2×4 with several nails to hang them out. After they are dry, put them in a sealed bucket. Again, make sure you do not touch them.

In this picture you can see the trap’s pan exposed. The dirt hole, made with a dirt hole punch, needs to be 8 to 9 inches above and 3 inches to the left or right of the center of the trap pan.

The Trapline

Coyotes travel roads just like we do, so you’ll want to always set your traps on these travel areas. Good locations for setting your traps are where two roads cross, where a road crosses a right-a-way, on a fire break, any trail that crosses a road or fire break or on the edge of any field or food plot. Look for tracks or scat with hair in it. If you find this, set a trap.

The Dirt Hole Set

There are several ways to set a trap and catch a coyote, but most of my coyote traps are “Dirt Hole Sets.”

  • I plan for my dirt hole to be on the edge of a wood line or other barrier and the trap to be slightly farther out into road or a trail where I am placing my trap.

Make your dirt hole with the dirt hole punch. The dirt hole, which will eventually hold the bait, will need to end up 8 to 9 inches above and 3 inches to the left or right of the center of the trap’s pan (see picture below).

The plan is for the coyote to come walking down the trail, smell the bait and investigate the dirt hole. As he does, his foot will step on the trap pan.

  • Disturb as little of the area as possible. You want everything in the area to look natural.
  • Dig the area for your trap (about 2 inches deep). Put the dirt removed in your sifting pan. You will use this to pack the trap in the ground.
  • Then drive the earth anchor in the center of this area until the swivel starts going in the ground.
  • Set your trap. Once set, pack the dirt (from the sifter) around the trap and underneath your trap, so nothing wobbles or moves. The trap and the dirt around it should be firm.
  • Next, using the dirt hole punch, make your dirt (bait) hole about 5 to 6 inches deep. The hole should be pretty close to straight down with maybe a slight lean toward your pan. Put the dirt from the punch in your sifting pan.
  • Now sift the dirt to cover your trap. Once it is all covered, wipe the dirt from the pan, and then sift dirt back over the pan. The area should be relatively smooth; however, you want a low point right over the pan. For some reason, coyotes will step in the low point.
  • Drop a teaspoon of O’Gorman’s Powder River Paste Bait in the hole, and then put two or three chunks of deer meat in the hole. I bait it like this, so if the coyote gets some bait and doesn’t step on the pan, he will be back for more and less cautious the next time.

Checking Your Traps

While checking your traps, if there is nothing in it or you don’t plan to reset it, stay in your vehicle; do not put unnecessary scent in the area. Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch one the first few days. I have gone a week without one and then catch three or four the next few days. I will run my traps for 10-14 days usually.

Now when you do catch one and plan to shoot him, I do not recommend shooting him in the head. It makes a bloody mess to clean up before you can reset your trap. A good friend told me to start shooting them behind the shoulder, so I pop off about three rounds, and it does the job just as good and makes a huge difference in my reset time.

Louis Tanner (red shirt) recently spent some time sharing his coyote trapping techniques with some youth at Jones County High School.

Scent Control

This is the most important thing when trapping.

  • Keep your boots scent free. I use rubber boots and keep them in a plastic tote.
  • Never touch any of your traps or trapping supplies with your bare hands. Wear gloves while setting and handling. I like to wear a pair of blue surgical gloves underneath the cheap $1 gloves you can buy in a 10 pack at Lowes.
  • Use an industrial trashbag to lie on the ground for your knees while setting your traps. I always mark the side my knees go on with tape, so I don’t mix it up.
  • Do not get bait scent on your trapping supplies. A lot of times, I will set my entire trapline, and then go back and bait each set to minimize glove changes.
  • Control your sweat! Wear a head band or long-sleeve cotton shirt to absorb the sweat. Sometimes I will wear a paper towel inside my cap.

There is a lot to trapping, but don’t let that discourage you. It actually gets to be second nature, and it’s really awesome when you start catching them.

Trapping season is just around the corner, and then in May GON will put on another Coyote Cull contest. Hopefully this article will get others started doing in what I believe we all should be doing to help improve our hunting properties. Also, maybe Santa will bring you some trapping supplies for Christmas.


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