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Beginner’s Guide to Trapping: Trap Type List

By guile

In All Articles
Jan 28th, 2014
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A key to being self sufficient and survival is your ability to obtain food. Any stored food you may have will help you through the initial months but what happens if a year goes by and supply chains do not recover? Some think ahead  to garden, and Survival Heirloom Seed Vaults as a means to survive long term but have you thought about the importance of protein in brain function and body repair? Your body needs protein and amino acids and outside of various legumes, protein isn’t common in most grown foods.

A garden will be high in carbohydrate, nutrients and raw calories. But in order to get sufficient protein you will need to eat animals if you are to survive. Hunting is always an option but survival is a calorie game, how many calories do you spend for the amount you gain in the kill. What if you don’t find anything, then how will you eat? This is where trapping can come into play.

Trapping is a dying art, but one that still promises meat in your pot when all else fails. Someone comfortable with laying traps in the wilderness is the one person you will never find starving or turning to cannibalistic urges. Setting traps increases your chance of success and allows you to spend your time in other areas of your survival. It is a force multiplier, each trap is like having an extra hunter in your group. This article is going to discuss the basic catalog of traps available for use. Specific trap construction will be discussed in future articles.

Types of Traps

Traps come in several shapes and sizes. There are several designs, employing the same classic principles that survivalists have perfected over thousands of years. Traps can be divided into five types:

Land Based Traps
wolf-leg-hold-trapFoothold Traps: these traps, as the name suggests, are meant to grip the prey at the foot. It consists of two jaws that are set to tightly close around the foot of the prey when it trips the trigger, which is a part of the trap. Note, that these are outlawed in some of the U.S. states.

Conibear/Body Hugging Traps: Named after their inventor, Frank Conibear, these traps were introduced as recently as 1950s. Animals that are caught squarely on the neck are killed quickly, and are therefore not left to suffer or given a chance to escape. These are a favorite among seasoned trappers as they are portable, simple, low-maintenance, sturdy, and very effective.

An animal may be lured into a body-gripping trap with bait, or the trap may be placed on an animal path to catch the animal as it passes. In any case, it is important that the animal is guided into the correct position before the trap is triggered.


Snares: Snares are anchored cable or wire nooses set to catch wild animals such as squirrels and rabbits. In the USA, they are most commonly used for capture and control of surplus furbearers, and, especially, for food collection. Snares are one of the simplest traps and are very effective. They are cheap to produce and easy to set in large numbers. A snare consists of a noose made usually by wire or a strong string; which traps an animal around the neck or the body.


Deadfall traps: A deadfall is a heavy rock or log that is tilted on an angle and held up with sections of branches (sticks), with one of them that serves as a trigger. When the animal moves the trigger which may have bait on or near it, the rock or log falls, crushing the animal. In the documentary “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” (2010), we get a great overview of how deadfall traps are employed and have evolved, by the hunters of Siberian Taiga.

The figure-four deadfall is a popular and simple trap constructed from materials found in the bush (three sticks with notches cut into them[clarification needed], plus a heavy rock or other heavy object). Also popular, and easier to set, is the Paiute deadfall, consisting of three long sticks, plus a much shorter stick, along with a cord or fiber material taken from the bush to interconnect the much shorter stick (sometimes called catch stick or trigger stick) with one of the longer sticks, plus a rock or other heavy object.

 Mouse glue trapGlue Traps: These traps are meant to catch small prey, like rats, mice, voles. They are just the way they sound i.e. pieces of cardboard, fiberboard, or plastic coated with a high-bonding adhesive (glue) designed to ensnare any small animal who wanders across or lands on its surface, set around a bait.

Trapping Pits, as they are known, are deep pits are dug into the ground, generally to catch the bait alive. Besides the previous traps, that can be can be installed and later moved, this trap is an old school (and forerunner) way to trap large and dangerous prey.

Water-based traps
 2012-08-24_17-20-26_589Yoyo Reels: Yo Yo Reels hang from tree branches jetting over the water from the banks. When a fish tugs at the bait a spring sets the hook and pulls the fish in.
 moving-trap-on-deck-1081Fish Traps: Most commonly used for minnows, fish traps are designed to be easy for the fish to swim into but hard to swim out of.

A careful choice of set and lure may help to catch target animals while avoiding non-target animals.


To Start With

If you are new to trapping, here is what you can start with:

  • Join your state trappers association – meet local trappers, who are better than trapping books anyday.
  • Buy one type of trap to start with and learn to use it well – don’t buy everything at once. start with a few body grippers and learn to place them strategically. Dog proof you trap – so that a dog cannot stick its head inside, and hence end up as an accidental casualty.
  • Place safety and responsibility above all else
  • Don’t start with big prey, like hogs. You will not believe what it takes to do that… Think 1/8″ aircraft cable secured to a mobile home anchor….

A good trapper will also be aware of the state trapping regulations, that might prevent him/her from using certain traps. For e.g. you could be arrested for using snare traps in California, as they are outlawed by the state jurisdiction.


Additional Resources on Trapping

Animal Traps
Trapping Books

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