It's getting to be that time of year. Whether you've got a big trap line or just a half dozen you play with, you should have them ready to go or getting them there.
Since there is always some intrest in the subject, I thought I'd share just a few things with you. Just like hunting, trapping is dependent on the next generation to carry it on, and more and more these days there are few left carrying the torch. Also like hunting, there is a lot to learn in order to become good at it. This post and a few to come will be to share info, tools, and techniques. By no means do I know it all, but maybe my knowledge can help you catch the trapping bug.
Now remember this too. You can ask 100 trappers how to trap and you will get 110 answers. Others that have tips and tricks feel free to chime in as we go! As a trapper, you're going to anyway
First and foremost is your trap.
Traps may have changed shapes and names over the years, but they've been operating off the same concept for hundreds of years, with the same basic parts.
Coil spring trap.
Long spring trap
There are many different brands, styles and sizes of traps to choose from.
Without getting to bogged down in text, use the pics to familiarize yourself with the different part of the traps if you're not already.
Once you've chosen your trap, there is some prep work to be done before you can start pounding steel and catching critters. I haven't found a trap yet that works perfectly right out of the box, although Newhouse comes the closest, so here are a few things that can be done to get it ready.
If you buy new traps, they come with machining and shipping lubes on them. These need to be removed. Now I'm all about the KISS method so all that follows is with that in mind, because my objective is to keep steel in the ground as long as possible. And that means quick turn around from catch to reset.
First, while your wife is out of town, throw those brand new traps in her dish washer and run them through a full wash and rinse cycle. Then run them through just the rinse cycle, this helps clean out her dish washer getting rid of all the evidence. Me? I now have a dedicated dishwasher.
Hang the traps outside to dry. This also starts the rusting process. Rust can be your friend, more on this later.
Go over all the parts to make sure they are in good shape and in working order. Some long spring traps have sharp edges on the jaws where the spring rides and on the spring loop itself. These will have to be filed down. The reason, the spring could catch as the trap is triggered and cause a miss. Bridger long springs are the worst at this I've found. Once filed down they work just fine, but remember you get what you pay for.
Next is your trigger. The pan and the dog work together to set and trigger the trap. I like a trap that goes off at about four pounds for coyotes. The pan tension is controlled by the pan screw, of course the tighter the screw the heavier the trigger weight and vise versa. You can buy pan testers that work much like a trigger weight tester on a gun or you can KISS it the redneck way. Take two zip baggies, fill one up to three pounds with sand. And the other with four pounds. If the three pound baggy doesn't set it off but the four pounder does. You've got a trigger weight of around four pounds. This is important, because you want to make sure your target animal steps firmly in your trap before it goes off. If their foot is not committed and it goes off early you could just catch a toe and they could pull that off fairly easy.
There are some other things to look for in older, used traps. The dog loop. Make sure it moves freely. And by making sure the dog doesn't set to deep into the pan latch (notch at the back of the pan where the dog is placed with the trap set). One simple way to make sure your dog is in the same place every time is by using what is called the night latch. This is a small notch filed into the back of the pan latch to make a stair step. While setting the trap you can run the dog all the way under the latch. Once you've got things like you like them, simply press lightly on the pan until you hear the click, then push up on the pan to make sure you have a good catch on the dog. Make sure your fingers are not between the jaws when you do this! It feels no bueno catching yourself in your own traps. And you look pretty funny dancing around the pasture...trust me.
Once you have your trap operating like you want, you can now add the items you will secure the trap with.
The most common way of securing traps is by chain and drag. On coyote and smaller critter traps I like to use 8 feet of chain with at least two J hook swivels, see the coil spring trap pic for these. On Mt. Lions I use no less than 16' with a heavy drag. Most new traps already come with one swivel attached to the trap, 12 - 18 inches of chain then half a swivel at the end. When I use drags, I attach the 8' piece of chain by completing the swivel then place a drag at the end of the chain. On some traps I place a quick link chain link in the swivel part provided. This is so I can attach it to an earth anchor cable.
Now that your trap is assembled and operating we can dip them. Again there are many different ways to do this, but I'm all about the KISS. I use Full Metal Jacket Trap dip. It's fast and easy. I don't dye my traps with this. And this is where the rust comes into play. You need a little rust coating on the trap for the FMJ to adhere to the trap well. Once the traps are rusted a little, take a wire brush and go over the trap. Not to knock all the rust off but to smooth it out so the trap works with out hanging and to rough up the surface just a little to help in the dip adhesion as well. The first time you dip traps in FMJ, they must be dipped at least twice making sure they completely dry between each dipping - at least 24 hours. After the second dipping hang the traps to dry and the FMJ is scent free in 24 hours and ready to pound in the ground. You will need a pair of long cuffed chem gloves for the dipping process. I use those and a five gallon bucket with a good lid. After each use, put the lid on the bucket and keep it out of the heat and extreme cold and it will keep a long time. Just add more FMJ as you need it. You will have to peel your chem gloves every now and again to keep them where you can use them. After your traps have been dipped the first time and used, you can use the wire brush to clean up the traps and water if needed, then dip them again. Water does loosen the FMJ on traps so either go light on the water or double dip them again. Make sure the water is completely dried from the trap before dipping.
Like I've said, there are many ways to do all this and many other tricks and mods you can put on your traps, feel free to add to this info or ask questions. This is just my way of getting it done simple and in the field fast. Next up will be basic tools, baits lures and such.
For trap supplies, do a google search for trapping suppliers. I like F&T, they are a one stop shop and usually have everything I need.
Most of all, have fun catching fur! I look forward to seeing everybody's catches this year.
In the mean time, it's 2 in the morning and I'm headed off to hunt some yotes.