10 Tips to a Successful Snareline

By JD Rogge

I began my trapping career in the fall of 1984 at age ten, while growing up in a small town in Cherokee county Iowa. I could be found each morning after the first Saturday of November with a large tattered backpack on my back, stuffed full of traps and bait, riding my bike to the local creeks on the edge of town in pursuit of coon, muskrat, and mink. The late 70’s and early 1980’s was a time known as the Fur Boom. Fur prices were high, and a good trapper could make more money trapping than he could working 40 hours per week at his day job. Competition was also high as almost everyone seemed to trap then, and trapping techniques were kept close to the vest. As a ten-year-old wanna be trapper, my learning curve consisted of pouring over Fur-Fish-and-Game magazine, and a couple old Bob Gilsvik books in the school library. Pocket sets in the creekbank was pretty much the height of my trapping skills for several years.

In 1987 the fur market crashed along with the stock market, and that same coon that may have been worth $20-$25 in ‘86 was now worth about $6-$8. A few years later my line was changing with the addition of a driver’s license. Mobility expanded my line, but for the time being my techniques were the same. In 1992 while working a factory job I became friends with a coworker and accomplished trapper named John Lenz. John and I became good friends and our discussions at work nearly always turned to trapping. A year later John and I decided to partner up and run some long trap lines. Our lines consisted of water trapping and fox trapping, but it was during this time that John introduced me to snaring. I had tried a few snares in the past, but really had no idea how to properly deploy them and my results were poor at best. After John gave me some basic snare instruction I found snares to be fast, efficient, and above all very effective. As time went on John and I realized how fast and effective a snare only line could be, and transitioned to run long snare only lines for many years. Throughout those years we adapted our methods, learning from our own experiences as well as others’, until we felt our techniques and line management were at peak efficiency. These are ten highly effective tips that can help you run a more successful and productive snare line.

1 – Use Good Equipment
Have you ever heard the saying “Good equipment doesn’t cost, it pays”? It is a fact, buy the best that you can afford. I sleep well at night knowing that the equipment I put in the field will perform exactly as it’s supposed to. Many trappers buy equipment based only on the cheapest price, and not necessarily the best quality, for your dollar. Snares are a single use piece of equipment, so price is a concern, but shop around and get the best bang for your buck. I prefer cam locks on my snares; not only are they reusable, but they lock down tightly and result in very few misses and losses. I prefer a short (40”) loaded cam lock snare for most furbearers, with coyotes being the outlier. I believe coyotes require more length and a different setup, although we have caught several in the 40” snare described above. A last note on equipment, make sure your snares are burr free, especially at the terminal end (closest to the animal), as cable burrs cause fur damage.

2 – Support your Snares Solidly
I see a lot of competitor’s snare setups along my line, and one of the mistakes that stands out the most in their setups is poor snare supports. Think of it like this, if you have a high-quality snare but a limp support, that snare won’t react as it should when an animal applies pressure to the loop. Snares should be supported with wire that can be bent into position to hold the snare in the proper position and height over the trail. I have seen many types and sizes of wire used for supports, but by far the best is 9-gauge annealed. 9-gauge annealed wire is pliable enough to be easily bent into the position you want, yet stiff enough to withstand wind and allow your snare to keep its position and fire properly. I wrap, then weld my support wires directly to my rebar snare stakes; this makes for a very convenient and solid support setup. Most production snares will come equipped with a support collar on the cable known as a whammy. Whammies can be made from several different materials, the most popular being tightly coiled wire or polymer tubing. The 9-gauge support wire should fit tightly into the whammy, so that the loop can be manipulated into position above the trail with the support wire.

3 – Set the Right of Way
The Right of Way refers to road ditches. It is estimated that up to 80% of the furbearers taken yearly in the state of Iowa are taken in the road ditches. The Right of Way (ROW) is public property and can be set unless within 200 yards of the entrance to a private residence-in that case you must gain permission from the occupant of the residence. Snaring road ditches presents two very important opportunities for the trapper. The first is the speed at which you can set and check your equipment as compared to pulling into or stopping and walking into private permission areas. The second is even more important-a road line allows you to move between more populations of furbearers. I run each road line for 4-5 days, until the excess is taken off the population and the catch begins to slow, and then move on to new populations.

4 – Preseason Scouting
I begin scouting my lines around the first week of October-usually after the first good frost, the trails in the ditches really start to show up. After a good October rain is another great time as the furbearer’s muddy feet from the fields really pack the trails down. When I’m driving my routes, I take detailed notes of locations that I’ll want to set when the season comes. The notes you take can have sets added to them as you set or remove equipment, and are crucial to keeping track of your equipment as your lines become larger.

5- Loaded Snares vs Teardrops
Loaded snares are snares that have had a memory put into the cable which makes the cable “want” to be in the closed position, and when set take on a round/oval loop. Teardrop snares have no extra tension built into the cable, and as described take on a teardrop shape. If you are not using loaded snares, start now. When an animal works a loaded snare, the snare will close very quickly under the memory that has been built into the cable. When an animal works a teardrop snare the animal generally must pull the snare onto itself as it moves down the trail, with varying degrees of drag depending on the snare used. In my experience loaded snares lead to a higher catch percentage, anatomically better catches, and far fewer knocked down snares than teardrop shaped snares.

6 – Two is one… One is None
When I’m on the line I’m moving as fast as I can to cover as much ground as possible. It’s inevitable that you’ll leave something behind at a location, and could possibly be miles down the road when you discover it gone. I always try to have two of my most common pieces of equipment on the line; hammers, cable cutters, pliers, etc.

7 – Reading Signs and Locations
One of the mistakes I commonly see people make is not reading signs and terrain properly to choose set locations. Look in the fine sand at the sides of the road for tracks. The tracks in the sand will tell you not only what types of animals are using a trail, but which direction they’re going when they get to the road-it’s not always straight across. When the tracks travel down the road you should be looking for more trails further down the road as well. Common locations to look for trails include trees in fence lines, intersecting fence lines, culverts, field drives, electric poles, etc. The things to look for are the basics that animal needs-shelter, food, water. Look for any landmarks between these three things that an animal can use to navigate and you’ll find trails.

8 – Gang Set
Failure to gang set hot trails is another mistake I see people make. Gang setting is setting multiple snares in very active locations. It’s not uncommon to set 4-6 snares on a hot location; double and triple catches are common on animals such as raccoons. Your line is more efficient, and your truck fills up quicker when you’re catching 2-4 furbearers per stop.

9 – Learn from your Mistakes
Mistakes-everyone makes them, but very productive people learn from them. When John and I were running large snare lines and something went wrong we tweaked the method slightly until we found what worked. If there’s a problem-an escape, fur damage, or a miss, identify the problem and fix it. There is all the information you could ever want online, Youtube, Iowa Trappers Talk, and the Iowa Sportsman forums are great sources of information to help you fix problems on your line, and ask advice from others.

10 – Work, Work, Work… Then Work Some More
I’d love to reveal some super-secret to all of you that would make the fur jump in your trucks, but the fact is that there isn’t one. Snaring and trapping in general is a lot of hard work. The more driven you are to work hard, scout, set gear, and shift lines when necessary, the more successful you will be, but hard work is the key. If you can master simple techniques, pay attention to detail, and most importantly aren’t afraid of hard work you can be very successful on the snare line.