Home Survival 101 Building Primitive Traps

Building Primitive Traps

by Survival Dispatch Staff

Every year people get lost in the wilder places. It can be a simple day hike where you get lost or driving through the backcountry. We can easily find ourselves in a real life survival situation. The best plan in such event is to remain where you are. If you’re with your car, stay with it. If you were hiking and realize you’re lost, stop.

Tend to you needs, shelter, water, fire and food. Prepare signals and wait for rescue to come looking for you. In such a situation being able to find food can quite literally save your life. Trapping is the best method of food production as it allows you to tend to other needs while the traps work.

When you start talking about primitive trapping, everyone immediately thinks of the deadfall trap in its various types. But there are other traps easier to set up and won’t mash fingers or scrape knuckles. It requires very little in the way of materials. Every kit should contain a roll of brass wire and some cordage. These items are all you need to set simple traps.

Squirrel Pole

The easiest trap is the squirrel pole. Squirrels are plentiful in most forests of the country and a good source of protein. Find a stout limb to make the trap that’s about two inches or so in diameter and four to six feet long. Prepare several loops with the wire about two inches in diameter and long enough to secure it to the pole.

squirrel pole trap

Space the loops out along the pole, keeping them close. Once all the loops are secured, lean the pole against a tree. Squirrels are like people and will take the path of least resistance. They will use the pole to get up onto the tree it’s leaning against. As they make their way up the pole they will have to pass through the loops. If it’s done right, you’ll catch him. Simple and effective with no busted knuckles.

Pencil Snare

Another simple trap to set is the pencil snare. This one is a little more complicated but can also be scaled up to catch animals as large as deer. In smaller scales it’s perfect for rabbits. Cut two sticks about an inch in diameter and eighteen inches long. Roughly sharpen one end of each stick. About an inch from the other end, carve a notch into each. It doesn’t have to be very deep but should be cleanly cut. Find another stick about a half inch in diameter and eight or so inches long. Form the ends into a flat point by carving from one side of the stick to create a chisel like end. In the center of this piece secure a piece of wire with a three to four-inch loop in it.

Find the location to set up your snare. Look for small game trails. Drive your longer pieces into the ground on either side of the trail. Make sure your half inch piece will fit between them with no pressure from either side. They need to be spaced enough for the stick to rest against the notches you cut. Once they are properly placed you need an engine for the snare. Use a nearby shrub or low limb from an overhanging tree. If there isn’t one, find a long stout limb you can drive into the ground and pull over the top of your trap as a spring pole.

Pull the limb or shrub over and secure a piece of cordage to it. Then secure it to the half inch piece and place it between the two uprights, resting the chisel ends into the notches. It may take a couple of attempts and some adjustment. But when it’s correctly set, the top stick will stay in place with the upward pressure of the engine. Adjust your loop and the trap is set. When a rabbit or other small animal passes through the trap, the loop will close around them. They will pull the top stick free and the engine will snatch them up into the air. Your dinner will be there when you return.

Treadle Trap

The last one is even a little more complicated. It’s called a treadle trap. This is another snare utilizing the power of a spring pole or other engine. Just like the pencil snare, find a suitable location for the trap. You will need two uprights, just like in the pencil snare. But this time you’ll need two horizontal sticks. The top one will be tied between the two uprights, the other will be used later. When you’re done, it should resemble an H. And just like in the pencil snare, you’ll need a piece of wood to secure the cordage and wire to for a trigger stick. Once the cordage is attached to the engine and the trigger stick, load the engine by pulling it down.

Treadle spring snare

The cordage should run down in front of the top bar. Then take the top of the trigger stick and push it behind the same bar. Properly installed, you should be able to hold your finger on the bottom of the trigger stick to keep the trap in place. Now take your second horizontal bar and secure the trigger stick by pushing it back between the two horizontal sticks. Then place the second horizontal stick between the trigger and the two horizontals as close to the ground as possible. You can now let go and the trigger is set.

Break several small sticks then lay them on the lower horizontal bar and the ground. Cover the whole length of the bar like this. Once it’s covered, open the wire loop and place it on top of these sticks. When an animal steps on the sticks, they’ll push the lower bar down and free the trigger stick. This allows the spring pole or other engine to whip up and tighten the snare.

This snare can be scaled up to catch animals as large as deer or hogs. Just be sure to size your materials according to the size of the prey you are seeking. This is another snare that can be easily set without bruised knuckles or pinched fingers and is easier to master than the deadfall.

Final Thoughts

Trapping is a valuable skill to add to your toolbox of knowledge. Should you find yourself in a real life survival situation it will give the edge in staying healthy and strong until help arrives. Plus it keeps your mind engaged which is critically important in a survival situation. It will enable you to take positive steps to improve your situation and helps to prevent the creeping feeling of desperation that comes from finding yourself lost or stranded.

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