Hunting Series – Trapping
By Richard Bogath
No article series about hunting would be complete without at least mentioning the ancient art of trapping animals for food and fur. While in modern times this is more about income than survival, one must accept the fact that income is a means of survival in the fur trade. Not that a SHTF scenario could not occur and require the practice of trapping to re-shift back to uses of obtaining food and warmth, but for now, let’s call it a skill set that is purely a passive form of hunting.
What IS trapping?
Trapping in it’s most simple of forms is the practice of setting a predesigned form of capturing or killing an animal that happens to wander through, or is lured through, a particular area, causing that animal to become bound or fixed place or killed. Those that are not killed must wait to either be set upon by predators, die of exposure or killed by the trappers themselves, usually with some form of small arms. It is for these reasons that trapping grows ever more controversial, but for our purposes, we will assume that for whatever reason, trapping has become necessary to our survival.
To trap or not to trap?
- A chance to obtain meat, fur and whatever other resources might be obtained from small to possibly mid-sized animals.
- A purely passive system, removing the need for spending time actively hunting.
- Can yield multiple animals per day depending on how many trap lines are in place.
- Furs and skins can be of higher quality due to lack of puncture wounds to animals as common in hunting.
- Not a reliable source of obtaining protein for consumption.
- High probability of trapping animals that cannot be used.
- Some forms of trapping can be inhumane.
- Trapping requires certain skills and a level of experience that can take some time to develop.
What to use for trapping.
For land trapping, there are essentially a few standard types of ways to trap an animal. Baited snares, foothold traps, quick-kill traps and snap-shut cages. The “quick kill” variety are predominately used for small game hunting like rabbit and squirrel, but larger animals like bobcats and coyote need a foothold trap to secure them. If done correctly, the footholds can even be set to restrain but not injure the animal. If cheap and old fashioned is more your style, then the good old snare trap—loosely looped wire attached to a central line of wire that catches a foot, leg or neck if passed through. A snap-shut cage is literally what the name envisions—a cage that the animal can fit into, usually baited with something enticing, that snaps shut once the animal enters. All of these items are commercially available from trapping supply houses.
Dispatching means killing. When you check your traps day to day, you will usually have a small caliber firearm pistol or rifle with you to put down the animal with a quick, clean shot to the head at relatively close range. A .22 does the job just fine. A larger caliber would run the risk of damaging the pelt. There are some trappers who prefer a quick club to the head so as not to damage any part of the fur, but for some animals that would present a dangerous situation, as proximity can cause a fear reaction and lead the animal to attack (speaking of larger animals like a coyote or a wolf, I wouldn’t expect you to receive much damage from a spooked rabbit…or should I?)
The kind of game to trap
Any animal can be trapped. Literally. If it’s got a foot, flipper, neck, or just about any kind of appendage, it can be snared, clamped or enclosed, preventing it from escaping. From a field mouse to a blue whale, if it moves, it can be trapped.
Speaking from personal experience, and fully expressing that the purpose of this article was informational purely for the emergency necessity—I am not a fan of trapping. Through my research and experiences going out with trappers to see what it was all about, I found it to be largely based on luck and success only minority based on skill, ineffectual at culling populations and therefore unreliable in sustaining or managing game lands and largely inefficient as a whole. I am also not a fan of leaving an animal to suffer in any way. I witnessed some animals killed instantly with body grabbing traps and others snared and left to struggle or be set upon by other animals or freeze to death. Even if a trapper checks his traps every 24 hours, it still leaves the potential for hours upon hours for suffering—even unharmed—fear is a form of suffering. On one such occasion, we could not go back out to check the traps for 36 hours due to an unrelenting snowstorm and what we found was an animal that not only struggled while wounded, but eventually froze to death. Not a fan, but that’s just me and I would be hypocritical to say I would rule out trapping if the lives of my family relined on what it could provide or help us obtain.
But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. My advice? If you’re going to trap, learn how, from a professional or someone with years of experience to keep your mistakes to a minimum.