Go To Sets for Iowa Furbearers

By JD Rogge

Simple yet very effective… sets are the backbone of any successful trapline. I often read articles in print or online describing sets that seem unusually complex and time consuming to construct, which always makes me wonder how efficiently the author’s line runs. The fact is that successful trappers don’t spend unnecessary amounts of time making overly complex sets, when they could take the same amount of time making multiple simple, effective sets. The following are examples of simple yet highly effective sets that you can use on your trapline.

The Smear Set
The Smear Set is the king of trapline speed and efficiency when targeting Raccoon, and is also effective for other water furbearers. The Smear set is used anywhere along a body of water which contains vertical structure, and animal sign. Vertical structures can consist of a rock or log sticking out of the water, or my favorite, a vertical bank. The Smear set is constructed by bedding your trap securely six inches in front of your vertical structure, staking it securely, then simply smearing about a tablespoon of a good loud sticky paste bait on your vertical structure. When bedding your trap, make sure to “screw” your trap down into the mud, so there is no movement if a coon steps on the edge of the trap, if they step on something and it moves they will pull at the trap until they flip or snap the trap. Another tip on bedding is to push the chain down into the mud, so they don’t find something on the creek bed to pull on. I generally like to have at least 1” of water over my trap but I’ve caught coon in this set with the trap under 6”+ of water. A big plus to the Smear set is the fact that it is a very discreet set. The smear set is easily hidden, and most passers by won’t notice it if they’re looking down the creek bank. The smear set can also be made almost anywhere, regardless of the bank type. If you have a flat featureless bank that the raccoon are working, shove a stick in the water, bed and stake your trap 6” in front of the stick, and smear some good bait on the stick. Congratulations… you’re coon trapping, it doesn’t get much easier or more effective than that! I have seen a variation of this set used on beaver, with a good castor lure on the bank and an appropriate piece of beaver iron bedded 8”-10” out from the bank.

The Pocket Set
The pocket set is an all around set for any furbearer that frequents the water. To construct a pocket set, I find a vertical bank with good sign that it is being frequented by my target furbearer. Next I take my digging tool, and dig a hole or pocket straight back into the bank at the waters edge. I use a tile spade to dig my pockets as I want my pocket as wide as the spade’s blade, and as tall as the spade’s blade, and about 12” deep. The mouth of the pocket can be scraped out so that water runs into the pocket so that your trap will be submerged, but I take my spade and make a shelf in the back so that my bait is out of the water. Bait in my pockets usually consists of a chunk of carp that I toss in the hole, then use my tile spade to jam the carp firmly into the shelf at the back of the pocket. I then set my trap, usually a 1 ½ coilspring, in the mouth of the pocket firmly bedded, with the chain pushed into the mud. A 1 ½ coilspring fits the pocket perfectly if it’s dug the dimensions of the tile spade blade, this is an important detail to keep from missing mink which are notorious for hugging the edges of a pocket. If your pocket is too wide and you don’t use any guiding you can easily miss mink. For staking on your pocket sets, I prefer to run everything on a 5’ slider/drowning rig. I do this even if I don’t have sufficient water depth to drown my catch, as it will preserve my pocket for future sets and speed up my remake tremendously. You can certainly stake solidly at the pocket itself, but your first coon catch will turn your carefully dug pocket into a large bomb crater. The pocket set is a simple effective set, and I can think of few furbearers that it won’t take.

The Flat Set
The flat set is one of the most versatile sets in trapping, which will take nearly any land animal, with literally hundreds of different variations. To construct a simple flat set I’m first looking for animal sign to set on, always set on sign no matter what you’re trapping for. For this scenario lets say we are talking about a ½ mile fence line corner in the center of a section, a classic location. The first thing I will look for is a backing to my flat set. Your set’s backing can consist of a large tuft of grass at the field edge, a cow pie, a rock, a log a cow skull, etc. The backing that you choose should be something that stands out at the location, something that will grab the furbearer’s eye and cause them to investigate further. The primary purpose of the backing is to get the target animal to work the set from the side that you want them to, as well as being a lure holder. For this example my backing will be a cow pie. I will place my cow pie near the intersection of the fencelines, and near my sign(tracks, turds, etc). I will then dig a bed for my trap in front of my backing so that I can bed my trap approximately 9” in front of my backing. The trap must be staked and bedded firmly, so that after bedding if I push on any portion of the trap(frame, levers, etc) the trap MUST NOT move in the bed. If the trap moves in the bed you will have digging problems, and once this starts it becomes very frustrating very quick. The trap should then have a pan cover put on and be covered with dirt lightly, and blended. An important part of a flat set is blending, it shouldn’t look like anything is buried in front of your backing when you’re done. I use a small whisk broom to blend the edges of your trap bed. I then add lure of my choice (gland, food, curiosity, etc), to the front edge of the cow pie, sometimes a small squirt of urine, and I’m on my way.

The Fake Slide Castor Set
The fake slide castor set is a great beaver set all year around, but it really shines in the spring. I prefer to use a snare as the method of take for this set, but it also works with a foothold trap, or a conibear. When I construct this set, I use my tile spade to dig/scrape a fake beaver slide approximately 2-3’long by 10-12” wide on a river bank. I will then slick the slide with water so that it looks like something has been crawing out on it. I slap a scoop of fresh mud at the top with two sticks at the top edges with castor lure on them. I set a short heavily loaded snare just up the slide from the water’s edge, with a 10” wide loop and the bottom of the loop 3” off the slide. With this snare setup I get a large percentage of neck catches. I then attach the snare to a sliding drowner cable which is firmly anchored in deep water. When the beaver smells the castor lure, and sees the slicked up slide they advance up the slide into the snare. When the beaver realizes they’re caught they retreat to the water and down the drowner cable. Simple, and a very effective beaver set. I usually set at least one if not two of these sets on each side of the river, that way whichever way the wind is blowing the castor smell is finding it’s way out across the water.

These are just a few of my favorite sets for Iowa furbearers. If you make these simple effective sets, and set on sign you’re sure to be successful this season. Take a kid trapping this year, they are the future of our sport. Happy Trapping!!