By Josh Jones
In this article I will go over some “Opening Week ‘Coon Sets” that you can use to catch more ‘coon and give some tips that may help catch other fur like mink or muskrats.
Set #1—The “Pocket” Set.
To make this, you dig a horizontal hole anywhere from 3-4” to 12” in diameter and I prefer to make it at least a foot deep. This is called the pocket….bait like a piece of fish or other meat/fruit is placed in the back and I usually make a spot at the back that is out of the water so the bait will last longer…I then take some fish oil or a mixture of one half gallon of vegetable oil with one ounce of shellfish oil and squirt some in the pocket and a little bit on the outside to “draw” the ‘coon in. The trap is placed under water about 1-4” deep and pressed into the mud/sand bottom to stabilize the trap…the trap itself is within 2” of the lip of the hole and I usually center it so my chances of catching a mink or muskrat go up as well. Also make sure to press the chain of the trap into the mud/sand so that while a coon is there he doesn’t feel it loose and pull the trap out of position as he gets curious. Locate this set where you have a decent vertical bank of at least two feet high and close to places where ‘coons are entering/exiting the water or by ‘coon trails near the water edge.
Set #2—Elbow Pipe Set.
To make this set, you go to menards, home depot, or virtually any hardware store that sells plumbing supplies and get 1” PVC pipe cut to 18” long and then get the 1” elbow and put it at one end. This set shines along places that are void of structure like vertical banks, near concrete bridge areas, sand bars, etc. Take the elbow PVC and go about 1-2 feet from the water’s edge and push it in so about 6” of the PVC with elbow on top sticks above the water line. Push bait, like ground up fish or a commercial bait inside the PVC elbow and put the trap back about 2-4” and I prefer to have my traps 3-5” below the water line. Once a raccoon is caught in sets like these they will often times knock the PVC out of position and you will have to locate the pipe, wash it out and reset like you had it before.
Set #3—Waters Edge Blind Set
To make this set, you simply find a place where ‘coon are entering and exiting the water at either a pinch point along an open mud/sand bar where the ‘coon are forced to go in the water or the ‘coon trail enters the water and comes out at a point downstream. These places can be dynamite locations to catch bonus mink and muskrats. Set the trap so the animal steps between the jaws and not over the jaws and put as close to the water’s edge as possible as it only takes a couple inches to miss a mink. A way to preserve these locations is to set up the trap on a drowner set so the caught animal slides away from the set location and into deeper water and will quickly drown.
Set #4—Crawdad Hole Set.
‘Coon spend much of their time around water looking for food such as crawdads and frogs especially early in the season. This set utilizes that “weakness”. To make this set, all you need to do is find a vertical bank about 1-2 feet high and bare of grass/weeds. Use your finger, stake, handle of trowel, hammer handle, etc. to poke holes in the bank about 3-5” apart and make at least 2-6 holes. Place one or two traps below the bank/water’s edge about 1-3” deep. After you make the holes smooth the entrances with your hand to make them appear “slicked” up. For bait, I bet you can figure out what the best thing to put in these holes are, right? No, it isn’t fruit…it is fish based bait but if you can get your hands on some crawdads, grind them up, and mix in some shellfish or fish oil and put that paste in a couple of the holes. This is a deadly ‘coon set that will also take mink and do not be surprised if you take an otter in any of the sets above.
Set #5—220 Conibear Trail Set.
This set uses no bait and needs to be used with common sense and caution. This trap is a body gripping trap meaning once it has been set off anything inside of it is likely to be dead within 1-2 minutes. If the location you set this trap has a possible chance of catching a non-target animal such as a family pet then it would be better to set it in the water. If available or use foot traps or dog proof traps. The 220 is a great tool when used in correct places for taking a good amount of ‘coon. Find the trail they are making going from a food source to denning areas and you can set the 220 conibear in a necked down area of the trail and use small branches or grass to cover the outline of the trap. The picture below shows the trap set in a trail with 2 steel stakes used to stabilize the trap…the bottom jaws of the trap are about 5-7 inches from the ground.
Set #6—Dog Proof ‘Coon Trap Set.
This trap has revolutionized the ‘coon trapping world and has gotten many trappers permission on properties where they couldn’t have otherwise used more conventional traps. Locations for this trap can be around barns, edges of corn fields, beside creeks, around grain bins, near livestock feeding areas, etc. It is classified as a foot trap and you can use bait such as field corn mixed with cherry or anise oil. Also there are many commercially made DP baits made that work very well. I fill my traps to the top with bait to avoid having to refill the trap each day because of mice and other grain eating animals.
I hope this has given you some ideas on sets you can use to maximize your ‘coon trapping experience this season. I utilize all of these sets on my own trap line. I personally do not prefer to catch ‘coons in snares and that is the reason I did not include them in this article. Take a kid trapping with you this year…it could change their life and yours.