Trappers Who Think

Just because one trapping technique works in one area doesn’t mean it’ll work on your trap line.

Mark E. Neely | December 13, 2018

I enjoy reading articles about trappers who have found a way or technique that really works for them. Lots of trappers have written books about trapping, some of which cover the basics while others go into great detail about specific sets or baits to use. Trapping videos are a great way to relax and spend time learning about various methods and tricks of the trade. Of all the ways to learn more about this great sport, my favorite is to ride along with an experienced trapper. 

It’s important for a trapper to gain knowledge from every source available and to then put it to work for himself. Knowledge is power, but if not used properly, it can be useless.

It’s great to gain all this knowledge, but let’s also remember to think through it all and put it to use for ourselves in our particular areas and in our particular situations. I’m not taking anything away from the trappers who write articles or make videos, but we must think about where they are and the facts that surround them as they share their knowledge. Lots of trapping information is basic and can be used almost anywhere in the United States, but there is trapping information out there that can be specific to certain areas or certain situations. Let’s look at a few types of information that may require you to think about before you use it when trapping your areas.

So you’re reading an article about catching raccoons using conibear traps. In the article it may say that this is the best and most efficient way to trap them. It talks about trails, baits and how to employ the trap to be the most successful. This can all be great information, but think about things for a minute. 

Are conibears used in this manner legal in the state I want to trap? In my trapping area, are there a lot of dogs or cats that may get in my traps? Before I rush out and buy several conibear 220s as the article recommends, I’ll need to know certain things (as mentioned above) before I begin. If you are trapping in the same state or same type of area as the author of the article, then full steam ahead and good luck. If not, and you’re only allowed to use cage traps, then think about the tactics that the author used and try to modify them to fit your set of circumstances. In my experience with reading or watching videos, there’s always something that I can take from it.

Here’s one that’s easy to fall for and to see as an easy fix for your situation. You’re reading an article about a trapper who catches hundreds of coyotes every season, and you feel that he’s someone to copy. In his article, he’s really putting all the success on the baits and lures he’s using. You immediately think that if you have some of his bait or lure that your success will jump. 

Your success could very well jump, but think for a moment before you purchase these attractants. Is your trapper a bait/lure manufacturer and pushing his product? Could you use another product and make a big jump in your success? Could changing products be enough to throw the yotes a curve ball? 

I have a favorite trapper who I learn from, but I do not use his bait or lures very much, and the main reason is that he traps up North, and I trap in the South. I have learned that most baits/lures will work when used properly, but I do recommend you think about the information that you learn.

Magazine articles and YouTube videos are great for teaching trapping tips, but it’s hard to beat spending time on a trap line with an experienced trapper.

One more thought on baits and lures: most baits and lures are made for specific purposes. Some are made as a sexual attractant, some as food and others are for curiosity. Think about your baits and buy the ones you need for that time of the year and for what is going on in the animal’s life.

You’ve borrowed a video from a friend and watch it over and over. The one thing that sticks out in your mind is that the trapper uses a flat set more than any other. In your mind, it must be the best set to use and you plan to employ the set exclusively this upcoming season. Let’s think about this for a minute. Is this the best set for your area? Is it the best for all your situations? What if most of your sets will be around cows. Is this the best set? 

Another thing to consider is the other sets that trappers in your area are using. Is there a chance the yotes have become educated to this set? Just because one great trapper uses this set does not always mean it’s the best for you. I would learn to make this set very well, and think about the best times and places to use it. Then when the time and place is right, use it. A good trapper will know how to use multiple sets and the best times to use them.

When I first started learning to coyote trap, I watched videos and read all I could by one of my favorite trappers. One of the things that I picked up on was that he liked to set his traps on the west side of the trails and roadways that he trapped on, which is what I did. I was never as successful as I thought I should be.

One of the reasons the author was successful was that the wind most commonly blew out of the west where he traps, which sent the bait/lure smells across the trails and roads to the noses of the coyotes. When I realized what was going on, I had a “duh” moment. I trap in an area where the wind hardly ever blows in the same direction. I live in an area where I don’t get a predominant westerly wind. 


There was a simple solution to my problem, and all I had to do was think about what the author was saying and find a way to apply it to my trapping. This is what I came up with. I realized that the wind basically starts off blowing westerly in the mornings, and by afternoons, it shifts and comes from the east. I started picking my very best locations and made two sets at each. One would take advantage of the morning winds, and the other worked with the evening winds. I put one on either side of the road.

I have also found that my state trappers association is an excellent place to gain knowledge. I joined many years ago, and although I help instruct at the events, I always learn something from the older trappers. I must think about what they said and how they use the tactics, but I can always improve my trap line with this new information. 

My trappers association presents training weekends for ladies and youth (separate), basic classes and a four-day long fur college that covers everything. The old timers love to sit around a campfire and talk. Although the truth of their stories are stretched a little, think of all the wisdom they share.

A trapper’s association often hosts field days with hands-on training. These workshops offers a wealth of information from those who’ve been trapping for decades.

A trapping partner is invaluable. Having someone to talk over a trapping situation, work through a problem and share his knowledge on the trap line cannot be beat. I like the solitude on my own trap line, but working a line with a pal is the best. Two brains are always better than one, and our successes are almost always better. 

I am so thankful that there are trappers out there who like to share their knowledge with those who choose to use it. As they write or make videos, they share information that is valuable to us. All we need to do is think of a way to use it. 

Let me suggest that you attend a trapping seminar, a rendezvous or a weekend expo by a state’s trappers association, and don’t forget a notepad. You’ll come home with your head spinning with knowledge and how you can use it. Just remember to think about it all and work it into a trapping plan for yourself. Don’t forget to get names and numbers, so you can call other trappers with questions. 

Now that you have all this knowledge, don’t forget to share it, especially with a kid. My grandson and I really enjoy the time we spend together on the trap line. 

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