Summer Prep for Trapping Season Success

By Dan Turner

A successful trapper never stops learning or pursuing to be more successful. And a successful trapper is an efficient trapper. As I think about some of my first years trapping, I remember putting down a bunch of traps, driving a bunch of miles, and using up lots of hours trying to put some fur in the truck. But with every passing year I read books, online forums, consulted with my mentor a lot, and was always looking for ways to become more proficient.

One of the first things I learned was that being prepared before the season saved me a lot of wasted time. Sure, everybody gets their traps out, looks them over, get their bait prepped, etc. But like so many other things in life, attention to details will make or break your season. This article will highlight some of the more important things you should be doing now, not the night before season opener.

While this article is coming out in September, there is one thing that is best done in July when its hot. And that is making waxed dirt. There are many methods for making waxed dirt and you can even buy it, but it is VERY expensive to buy and cost pennies per set to make. Try and do this during three hot, dry days. Take a piece of plywood and cover it with black plastic. Now take your dry, sifted dirt and spread it out over the plastic covered ply wood. A full sheet of plywood will hold 10 gallons of dirt when it is spread out. Stir in 3 pounds of trapping flake wax per gallon of dirt over your dry dirt. Cover with clear plastic and elevate it about a foot with small boards or buckets. After a few hours of high sun the wax should melt into the soil. Stir well with a shovel to incorporate all the wax and place into buckets with tight fitting lids for storage.
One thing I do throughout the year is make snares and earth anchors. I actually do this in the winter when there is nothing else to do. I try and keep two years’ worth of snares on hand so I am not trying to build some late season. In the winter I also try to make bait and freeze it for the next season. Coon bait is easy and whatever you use can usually be frozen for months ahead of time. For canine baits early season I love to use mice. I have also set up an area in my barn for the mice to live and breed, and also have food and water. Then when season comes I can easily harvest fresh bait for my sets.

At least a month ahead of time I like to pull all the piles of traps and supplies out, lay them on the garage floor and start organizing. If you can start organized and commit to staying organized throughout the season you will be much more efficient and successful. I separate all my equipment into the following groups: dog proof traps (DPs), #1 coil springs, #1.5 coil springs, #3 and #4 coil springs, snares, 110’s, 220’s, 330’s, stakes, snares, earth anchors, skinning/finishing equipment and supplies, and broken/ malfunctioning traps. All traps get cleaned and all are checked to make sure they have a tag.

I will go thru each group and do the following:
• DPs: Clean and test trigger. Ensure swivel(s) move freely. Anchor loop intact.
• Coil springs: Clean with power washer. Sand rust off of trigger components. Ensure swivel(s) move freely and chains are not damaged. Dip and/or wax traps. For the bigger traps, I will really focus on the triggers and make sure the pan tension is set properly and that they fire flawlessly
• Conibears: File rust off of trigger components, ensure chains are secure and anchor loop is intact. Test triggers and adjust as necessary.
• Stakes: I keep plenty of rebar stakes on hand so I make sure they are not bent and the washers on top are secure. For earth anchors I first make sure I have enough made, then make sure they are all clean and ready to go.
• Snares: I make sure all the left-over snares from last year are free from corrosion and that the slide lock still slides and closes easily and quickly. This can be tedious when you have a couple hundred or more snares but you can easily miss a catch if it is not perfect.
• Skinning/finishing equipment and supplies: I make sure all my knives are sharp, including fleshing knife. Sort through all my fleshing boards, replace duct tape on edges if necessary (helps skins slide off easier). Needles and stitching supplies to repair canine hides. Borax and spray bottles of water to clean fur. Brushes and combs not broken and clean. Apron intact and not tore or damaged.
• Broken or malfunctioning traps: I repair the easy ones and do the rest when I have time. Some are destined to the recycle bin but most of the time 10 minutes will have them working good as new. When I stopped buying cheap traps I had much less to repair. If you buy cheap traps you will pay for it eventually. Don’t buy the cheapest trap.

All of my earth anchors, snares, or any other new trap gets boiled in water with black walnuts. This takes off the manufacturing oil, adds a bit of corrosion protection, and helps with scent control.

Once everything is sorted, cleaned, inspected, and repaired it all goes back into their respective containers, then set outside until season starts to get rid of excessive odors. I love to use milk crates. You can put each type of trap in a milk crate and stack them in the garage five or six high and it saves so much space. You can also stack them two high in the back of your truck keeping it very organized during the season. I keep an empty crate in the truck for broken traps to keep them separated as well.

All my rebar stakes go into a 30-gallon plastic barrel that I cut in half. Inside the top of the barrel I attached two 2x4s in an “X” to help keep the stakes upright and organized. This stays in my truck for the whole season. I actually have two of those barrels. The second one is for my DP traps. I will thread each DP anchor onto a stake and then place the stake in the barrel with the trap hanging over the side. This saves so much time in the field. In a matter of 15 seconds I can get out of the truck, grab my hammer, bait bucket, and the chains from 5-8 DP traps and go, stakes and all.

Keeping your supplies organized can be the hardest part during season. For my canine sets I keep three buckets handy: one holds traps, one holds waxed dirt, the last holds peat moss. On the peat moss bucket I keep a bucket caddy; it straps to the top and has a dozen little pouches that go all the way around the bucket. I keep all my scents, urine, bait, screw driver, and my earth anchor driver in that. Inside my peat moss bucket I keep a pair of rubber coated gloves. Those gloves are for making the set and they stay with the peat moss to eliminate any other scents.

Any other bait I use I keep in buckets with weather proof lids so they can stay in the back of the truck. I use a dry homemade coon bait that smells like candy and very aromatic, so I have to keep it away from my canine trapping equipment. Always make sure you have all your bait a month before season. If you have to order it you don’t want to be on a backorder list and delay your season.

The last thing, and maybe the most important thing to do before season is figure out where you are going!! Throughout the year I am constantly looking and scouting for new fishing and hunting opportunities. Knocking on doors, looking at maps, scouting out new ground. I keep a legal pad with all the landowner’s names and phone numbers, as well as addresses if I can. I also keep a plat book of the properties I trap highlighted in yellow. You can buy plat books online or at the courthouse for less than $20. There are also phone apps available where you can do the same thing, and actually mark where each set is digitally. This prevents you from losing traps, especially when you are setting a couple hundred or more at a time.

Trapping success is very dependent on the prep work you put into it. The more sets you put out, the more important organization becomes. So get your stuff out now so that when November gets here you are ready!!