Coyotes Late Season Dirt Hole Success

Late season coyote dirt hole trapping utilizes a #3 or #4 size trap, a stake, lures, urine, and bait. Throughout the decades this method has proved itself as a reliable method to catch late season coyotes in Iowa. The reason being is its versatility. The lure calls the coyote to the set location and the urine/bait combination brings it to the trap. Staying focused on basic trap preparation and understanding late season coyote behavior will yield heavy fur and plenty of it using this method. Summarized below are some of the basic preparations and late season knowledge required to succeed at catching Iowa’s late season coyotes using a method of fur trapping called dirt hole set’s.

Equipment Protection With Scent Control
Midwestern states offer a harsh climate of continual freezing and thawing for the late season dirt hole coyote trapper. Not to mention the occasional deep snow. Often an application of salt is required for assurance the set remains operable. Conversely, salt causes rust to occur very quickly on unprotected traps. No financial pain is worse to the trapper than paying close to ten dollars for a #3, or #4 coil spring jump trap, and have the springs rust up or even break because of severe corrosion. The use of salt means traps must be dyed and waxed. The good news is this added effort also leaves equipment so clean they rival any hospital operating room equipment.

Note: many other materials like buckwheat hulls and glycol added to the soil for freezing prevention are available. These may work for you.

Old traps have to be free of large amounts of rust, yet etched sufficiently for the dye to adhere to the metal. Any sort of lye type material works well for this process. Sani-Flush is a good alternative when locating bulk lye is difficult. Use extreme caution as boiling water and lye are dangerous to the eyes and skin. Eye protection and rubber gloves must never be forgotten. Avoid splashing and keep children away! Apply a long nylon extraction rope or wire to the traps which is not allowed to enter the water solution. Work slowly.

New trap steel may be etched by placing them in a bucket of salty water. Once the rust is a reddish color on the entire trap, remove. This very light coating of rust requires no lye boiling.

Add your favorite dye to clean boiling water. Then boil your traps until the steel is representative of the color of the dye. An example would be Walnut hulls cause a black coloring. Logwood crystals usually are a dark blue.
Waxing not only deters chloride corrosion, some believe it speeds up traps and it definitely helps prevent ground freezing. Simply add wax to boiling dye solution and withdraw the traps slowly and let cool.

Store your traps in a plastic bucket or plastic tote. Use the same water you boiled the traps in to eliminate odor. As the season progresses spray a small amount of urine in the bucket. Do your best to obtain buckets and totes with tight fitting lids.

An old predator calling friend often would say “coyote’s don’t fly” meaning look for tracks. These three simple words are indeed words of wisdom for the caller and late season trapper.

These words however do not mean you should be trapping areas where you find a single set of tracks. Even the best lure won’t make that coyote return. Straight-line single tracks indicate a traveling coyote and traveling coyotes have their eyes and ears turned on; and their nostrils are just bringing in oxygen. The late season trapper needs to target coyotes that are walking slowly, stopping often and moving off their normal straight line traveling behavior.

Indeed, Iowa coyotes eat some game animals or birds. But a good trapper learns that the staple diet for Iowa coyotes, is mice and voles. Look for areas that would contain such a population and great coyote sign will be apparent for a set location. A good area is where grain fields meet hay fields or pastures. Iowa Coyotes also like small areas of high vegetation around remote buildings and fence lines. Yes it’s hard to discipline yourself away from great pheasant or rabbit cover, but your reward for dirt hole trapping resides on the coyote’s ability to catch their staple food supply.

Swamps, sloughs and backwaters should not be passed up, especially those that contain an abundance of cattails. Water voles are active all winter and coyotes know this. Exercise caution not to disturb the area. Trap the routes and fence lines some 200 yards from the watershed to assure multiple catches.

While the coyote is generally associated with open areas in western states, in Iowa, coyotes spend a good share of their lives hunting and denning in forest areas. Especially pay attention to a forest where good cattle and deer trails are apparent.

Creek lines and frozen river bottoms are the winter highways of Iowa Coyotes. They use these to access good hunting areas and find mates. These areas are often bottoms containing a sparse timberline with fallen trees close to the bank. If you trap these areas set traps at least fifty yards inward. This will keep your traps from drifting snow during high winds and blizzards. Have no fear as lures will bring coyotes to the dirt hole set.

Locating coyotes using howls and sirens isn’t just for the predator hunters! Save some gas, use a sound that will stimulate a coyote’s vocal response and reveal its general location. An excellent time to locate using this method is often sunset. However, late season coyotes if stimulated correctly will give up their location with a vocal response anytime of the day. During breeding season a lonesome female howl will work very well.

Wind, A Forgotten Factor
Wind is critical to any dirt hole trapper because lures and urine are used. Using winds to your advantage improves the lure and urine performance one hundred percent or more. Pay attention to the forecasted wind predictions just as you would watch for precipitation weather forecast.

Making the Dirt Hole Set
All dirt hole sets have a hole approximately two inch in diameter and at least three inches deep for the bait placement. The trap is placed in front of the dirt hole in an indentation chiseled out of the frozen ground. Urine is sprayed on the trap and above it to disguise odor and as an attractant. In today’s digital world I encourage all readers to browse the internet for a video on dirt hole set construction and how to bed traps accordingly.

Antifreeze your dirt to keep the set working in Iowa’s freezing and thawing weather. I prefer salt as it does not vaporize and there is no odor. Apply salt to the bed, and on the cover soil. Morton Course Kosher salt or similar works well.

Bait and Coyote Urine
Unless you have a proven bait or make your own, it’s discouraged to pre order baits by mail. Instead find a local trapping supply house. Ask the owner which bait was purchased more last year over all others. Open that bottle and take a sniff. Purchase that one and two or three others that smell similar. Bait like lure is a nominal cost to your trap line. Do not be afraid to buy and use more than one or mix them at the set.
Coyote urine is critical to a late season dirt hole set and it must not be tainted. Do not use urine this time of the year that is last year’s urine, or has been left in the sun. Despite what has been written, try to avoid prepared urines with any antifreeze additive. Coyotes olfactory sensors can detect a foreign odor in parts per million. Don’t take a chance of ruining a good set location with a modified urine.

Lure’s are Critical
It’s late season and coyotes are on the move for food and breeding purposes. They are only taking time to sleep in the mornings and afternoons warm sunshine. There are so many coyote tracks in the snow or on barren land you want to set traps right where the tracks are.

Stop, now is the time to think. It’s late season which means more then not, breeding is starting or is in full swing. No point in catching just one when a barren female may be attracting six or more males, thus now is the time for lures.

A set placed off the coyote trail is critical to maximize catches on a roaming population. Place the lure as high as you can reach for maximum attraction. Place your dirt hole set about five yards upwind from the lure.

The top of fence posts or tall dried weed stems, also work well for lure placement. Make your own lure scent post with a five foot branch sticking out of the ground if none are readily available. You can easily make a hole even in frozen ground by driving a trap stake a few inches into the ground removing it and putting the stick in the hole. This type of lure use will require a bait hole and urine.

A good coyote trail close to low overhanging trees limbs will yield you a lot of coyotes if winds are in your favor. Place your lure just high enough when the coyote is directly below it has to jump for a better sniff. This article is about hole sets, but under the right tree limb, a flat set (set without a hole) is normally all you need. Place a trap directly under the branch with the lure. Apply urine liberally on top of your sifted soil. The coyote will come to investigate the lure, smell the urine and step in the trap.

Caution should be exercised in Iowa when trapping near carcasses of large animals such as road killed deer. As they indeed attract coyotes they also attract bald eagles, hawks, and crows. This is especially true in the late season when most ground is barren and carcasses can be seen from the air for a mile or more. Be mindful that these birds are not just on the carcass or in the immediate area. Bird activity may extend to be more than one-hundred yards away. This is where smaller species or juveniles wait for their turn to eat. Keep this in mind and place your traps accordingly.