Buckshot's Trappers Tales


Snaring has been around for centuries. The older styles used light wire and required a straining device. Something to put pressure on the snare to keep it tight. This is most familiar in the movies were you see the rabbit run into the snare and then the bent over tree springs up pulling the animal off the ground. The reason for the spring action is to make sure the rabbit canít wiggle out of the snare. The old trappers used light wire for small animals 16- or 18-gauge wire but soon learned that this was not very effective on medium size animals and up. Once caught, the larger animal simply fought the wire until he broke free. So then the trapper started weaving the wire together like rope to increase the strength. This works, but it is a large loop that some animals will shy away from.

The modern snare is made out of different thickness of aircraft cable with a self-locking device. This is designed to only go one way and tighten on the animal neck. The harder the animal fights the snare the tighter it becomes. This eliminates the need for a spring pole and frees the trapper up to place snares where the animals are and not have to worry about a finding a spring pole. Because of this, the trapper can set more snares in a day. In fact once you get used to snaring you can easily set 100 or more a day. The biggest problem with snares is remembering where you placed them. The snares blend in so well that you can walk right by them. The other problem is people.

Snare Illustration

Here in Michigan, we are very restricted with snares, and only underwater snares can be used. The reason the elitist thinks that every trapper is a poacher and that soon as we get snares we will go crazy snaring deer. In Michigan, deer hunters rule, and if they cried about it, then snares would stay outlawed. Snares have been outlawed here for 50 years or more. Modern snares have what is called deer stops and this allows a deer to break free of the snare unharmed, so the whole argument is a joke. This is a very sore subject with me. The Michigan DNR is basing the whole trapping regulations on keeping the deer hunter happy. This is totally ridiculous. If the so-called experts would get off their butts and do some research they would find that trapping is the most important tool used today to control predators.

With trapping, the predator numbers stay at the carrying capacity of the land and more game animals flourish, including deer. One study done in Pennsylvania found that 67% of the coyoteís diet is deer. Coyotes are easier to snare then trap in deep winter snow. I know Iím stretching a bit here but come on, less coyotes equals more deer. Another study done out west found that a single coyote kills and eats 100 rabbits a year. You do the math. The Delta duck study hired a trapper to protect the nesting ducks in North Dakota. Where the trapper was, the nesting ducks had 90 to 100 % of all their eggs hatched and the new ducks flew south. Where the trapper wasnít trapping the predators, the ducks that nested had a 0-30% egg hatch that flew south. Do you see the importance of trapping in the big picture? Iíll get off the soapbox now and back to snaring.

Snares come in different sizes and lengths and I will give a few basic ones to get you started. The first is the small game snare made out of 1/16 aircraft cable. This is for small game like rabbits, squirrels, and ground hogs. The snare comes in 4-foot lengths. You can set them in trails, dens, and for squirrels on branches going between two trees. They are about $99 for 10 dozen. Once again before you fill my e-mail up, snares are only good for a few catches before the animals have kinked up the wire so bad you canít re-use them. That is why I recommend the conibears because 20 years from now they will still be catching fur.

The next snare is versatile and can be used for several different animals. Sure lock, support collar, #9 swivel that takes a standard ½-inch rebar stake, 3/32" cable and if needed deer stops can be add at no extra price. This snare is used for fox, coon, coyote, and beaver, they come in a standard 5-foot length. Their price is $109 for 10 dozen and $14 a dozen. This is a good all around snare to use and have on hand.

Pigtail supports are made to support your snare at the desire height off the ground. Or you can use number 11-gauge wire to support the snare. I have used 14-gauge wire for the support, but it takes a little monkeying around to get it at the correct height. When using wire for the support you form a "W" in the wire and stick it in the ground. Then you wrap the snare through the "W" with the collar just touching the "W" and set it to the desired height. Once you get used to it you will love how quick they are to use. Make sure you use a good 24-inch rebar stake to hold the animal after being caught.

Snares are set for different heights off the ground for different animals. A coon loop is 6-inch wide, 8 inches off the ground at the top and around 2 to 3 inches off the ground at the bottom. This is rough of course because different parts of the country have different size coons. If you come up and the loop closed with no animal your loop is too big.

Coyote snares are made with an 8-inch loop, 8 inches from the ground and 16 inches at the top. You will have to experiment a little this is just general of course. If you are just after fox then you would lower the snare so it is 4 inches off the ground and 12 inches at the top with a 8-inch loop.

If you are in real windy areas, some trappers use a brown thread and a stick opposite the support side and tie off the snare to keep the snare positioned correctly on the path. The snared animal will quickly break the thread and the snare will tighten up. As in all trapping, you have to get out and do this before you have to depend on it. Little lessons learned are the key to successful trapping.

If you are going to big time nail coyotes, there is a new staking device called earth anchors. They are made out of 1/2 pipe about 4 inches long with 18 inches of cable attached. You have to buy the driving tool to use them, but are they slick. You drive the anchor down 16 or 17 inches, remove the driver and pull up on the anchor at an angle.  This forces the anchor from straight down to an angle, setting the anchor in the ground. Let me tell you, when this baby is set, nothing is pulling them out. You wire the two cable ends together with two loops of 14-gauge wire or one of 11-gauge wire. You can use this stake with leghold traps also.

The advantage of this stake system is they are light in weight, easy to use, and no coyote can pull them out. The disadvantage of this system is that sometimes the driver gets packed with dirt, holding it to the anchor. If this happens use your hammer to whack the handle back and forth to loosen the dirt and work the driver out. The anchor has to be dug out or left for next year after you are done trapping. Donít ever leave these in farmers field as they will tear up their plowing machines and you just cost the farmer a lot of money.

Snares take a little practice using them to get the hang of it, but are one more useful tool to have on hand.

Beaver are probably the easiest animal to start snaring on. The beavers have trails everywhere that anyone can understand. Place your snares up on land. Find a good trail that is narrowed down away from water. Once snared the beaver become docile in the snare and just sit and wait for you still alive. Just shoot them in the head with a 22 short. Make an 8-inch loop 10 inches off the ground at the top and the bottom 2 inches off the ground. You can make the loop larger to keep the small beaver from being caught. Snares are truly selective when you are chasing beaver. Just snare the larger beaver off and leave the smaller ones for next year.  Food and fur on the long term plan.

To prepare snares, boil them in water and place outside to weather. The snares donít really rust, but will become dull after 45 to 60 days. You donít want to use shiny snares for animals.

Remember snares are hard to find so make darn sure you are keeping track of them. Some trappers use surveyor tape to mark the snare locations, some use sticks against nearby trees. Whatever you do, make sure you know where and how many you set.  This is especially important in a survival situation where you canít buy more snares.

Dogs once again will come up. Generally, dogs will not be harmed when caught in snares. Dogs once caught in a snare, stop fighting the snare and think their master just stake them out there instead of at home. Most dogs will sit and patiently await your arrival to release them. This is in general because there is always one dog that will fight the snare and die. Remember what I said in the dog article about the rabid dog I caught. All nice and friendly until the animal thought I was in his strike range and then changed in an instant, trying to attack me.

When checking any type of snare or trap, be careful! I have grabbed live muskrats in foothold traps that I was sure had drowned and were dead, only to have that dead animal come alive and attack my hands. This is a very enlightening experience on fight or flight. The muskrat knew he was going to bite me 200 times a minute, and I didnít know how a drowned muskrat could move so fast. Needless to say, I choose to fight and became very wet in the process. I somehow managed not to get bit and humanly dispatch the muskrat. How long can a muskrat hold its breath?  I donít know, but it seemed like we were under water for at least 10 minutes.

That is all for now.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions. For the woman who e-mailed me about her cat, snares are close to cat-proof as you can get, but like I said before, the only safe way to trap near cats is with live cage traps. If anyone else is interested in the homemade live traps, I have plans for sale. If no orders come in for June on the plans, Iím going to drop them and concentrate on other projects.


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