To survive in the wild, you need a sustainable source of meat to meet your daily nutritional needs. There are different ways to get your supply going.
Prepping meat beforehand can help, but this only lasts in the short term. Hunting large animals such as deer and elk may sound like your next best option, but these creatures travel large distances. A large amount of energy is needed to chase them down.
On the other hand, trapping small game like mice, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, etc., takes much less effort, especially if you know what you’re doing.
In this article, we’ll discuss the groundwork information you need to get started on trapping:
- Starter tools
- Studying your game
- Types of traps
- Where to set traps
- Choosing the right bait
- Trapping tips
Trapping tools will vary depending on the size of the game, type of trap, and setting. But there is some generally available equipment that you can use to start making your traps:
- Survival knife — or anything sharp that can carve or cut natural materials
- Cutting implements — materials like rope, twine, metal wire, or string
- Rope substitute — you can also use the roots of small trees like spruce
STUDYING YOUR GAME
Understanding the nature of the game available in your area multiples your chances of success. Set aside a couple of days to observe the game in your area.
Take note of these signs to understand your local critter better:
- The tracks they leave — this will guide you on the kind of game available in your area
- Their type of habitat — this will guide you on the ideal spots to set traps
- What time they are active — this will guide you on the best time to set traps
- What kind of food they eat — this will guide you on what bait to use to lure game
TYPE OF TRAPS
This section will go over how these traps work and their construction.
A snare is placed outside of the game’s den or along its trail. A notched trigger activates the noose either by whipping the animal violently, breaking its neck, or strangling it while it struggles to break free. The action will depend on the snare’s construction.
A proper trap of this type is typically made out of wire, twin, or thin rope. The snare should also be big enough for the head of animals you want to capture. Other key features of the snare are its knots and the notched trigger.
A snare with a notched trigger (survivopedia.com/small-traps/)
This trap works by crushing the trapped animal. A horizontal stick supports bulky items like a log or rock. While the animal takes the bate placed underneath the deadfall, the flat stick acts as the weight trigger.
You might be familiar with its popular type, the Figure-Four Deadball. Its namesake comes from notched sticks that form the number “4”. The photo below illustrates the different parts that make up this kind of trap.
Parts of an effective Figure-4 Deadfall (from Wikipedia commons)
Snares and deadfalls are ideal for land critters but not the best trap for birds. The Pine Pitch Bird Cup is a trap designed explicitly for winged game. It works by trapping the feathers that get stuck in the pitch. The trap holds the bird immobile until the trapper can collect it.
To make this trap, mix sticky pitch or pine sap and some bait like birdseed in an empty dixie or coffee cup. A native version stitches Birch tree bark to form a small cone.
Because of the stress this induces on birds, it is considered illegal and cruel. So use this trapping method only during emergencies.
These are simple and quick to construct. But, as its name says, it works by trapping animals in a pit. Here’s a quick how-to on making your own pit trap:
- First, identify high “game traffic” trails. These are paths that animals frequently pass. You can locate these by droppings, tracks, or disturbed vegetation.
- Then, dig a pit wide and deep enough to hold and trap your desired animal. Keep in mind that its construction size limits the size of animals a pit trap can catch.
- Place sharpened sticks at the bottom of the pit.
- Camouflage your trap. You can do this by making a grill of branches and sticks to cover the pit. Hide the grill with grass and leaves.
- To increase your chances, place bait on top. Just be careful not to fall into the pit.
How a pit trap should look like (survivopedia.com)
WHERE TO SET TRAPS
There are two general rules for trapping: First, the more traps you set, the better your odds at catching game. The second rule mimics real estate. Location is critical; the higher the “game traffic,” the higher the catch.
To increase your success with trapping, here’s a guide on where you can set multiple traps:
- ‘Rabbit runs’ — Animals, in general, are pretty predictable. They’re literally creatures of habit and prefer to keep to the same trails–also called “paths of least resistance.” Rabbit runs or areas are trails that have been flattened from the consistent running back and forth of animals.
These paths of least resistance are not found in large, open areas because of their vulnerability to natural predators like birds. Instead, stick to fence rows, edges of fields, or edges of open ground.
- Watering holes or waterways — In general, any area close to water sources is an excellent place to set traps. Critters run to these areas regularly. If you’re in a mountainous area, animals also often seek salt licks.
Direct the animal to the trap to optimize your placements. You can do this by narrowing the trail with sticks, brushes, and other natural objects.
Even with the best spots and baits, a trap can be ruined when human scents put off animals. So before you set your trap, mask your scent blowing smoke or by rubbing your hands and the trap itself with dirt.
Earlier, we mentioned how it’s important to understand the kind of food the game around your area likes. This is especially true with bait-driven traps that don’t just rely on the passing of animals to catch game.
The bait needs to match your target animal’s diet.
- For carnivores and omnivores, use red meat, fish, and fowl.
- For herbivores, use roots, nuts, and fruits.
Try picking bait that’s out of season or out of their reach. The scarcity in the area will lure animals to the bait even further.
Now that you have the starter tools, basic knowledge on traps, and where to set them, it’s time to go for the kill.
A few tips for when you do land trapping:
- Check your traps regularly — In the wild, you’re going to have other natural predators who might steal away your dinner. Or other people if you’re in really desperate survival scenarios. So make sure to set a schedule to check on your traps.
Every 24 hours is a reasonable period to check for a successful catch.
- Don’t hang around the traps — Trapping can be equally exciting and frustrating, which can leave you impatient. But no matter the urge, avoid waiting to see if the traps catch anything. Your targets can pick up your scent and stay away. So each time you set a trap, just stick to your schedule and leave the area.
Instead, use this time productively by building your shelter, crafting weapons, foraging, and doing other essential survival tasks.
- Clean your meat — Like all food, you should clean small game caught properly for safe consumption. Don’t waste all your effort getting that meat.