Why is it that many trappers can catch truck loads full of coon but only a few mink? Is it because they make sets that aren’t attractive to a mink or is it the way the trap is set so they miss the short legged animal? The male mink can get up to about 2-3 pounds and the female is about half of that. Their body looks like a miniature otter and they have the flexibility of an otter. They dart in and out of small holes, swim with ease and speed, stay very close to edges, and are one heck of a predator to mice, rabbits, squirrels, muskrats, fish, frogs, and crayfish. Yet this animal is not one that many trappers target and they usually show up by “accident”.
This article will go into detail about sets that are deadly in the arsenal of a trapper focused on catching mink. I will describe the pocket set I use, blind set in water, 110 trail on land, the infamous bottom edge, and the baited bottom edge.
High Pocket Set
Mink by nature are curious and although a standard pocket set for the raccoon will work, the pocket I use for mink is a little different. I like to find a vertical bank along a creek that is grassy and about 12 inches above the water. Then I will dig a pocket about 3-5 inches in diameter and about a foot deep. I will not slick up the hole and I usually put a few drops of a mink gland lure in the hole at the back as well as a small piece of fresh fish, mouse, or frog in the back. The trap is placed at the bottom with the loose jaw up tight against the bank. It is not uncommon to catch mink by the back feet in this set as they stop to stand up to look inside the hole. A great location for this set is close to a beaver dam or where a small feeder stream enters the main creek.
The blind set is my favorite set to catch a mink. I view mink as sort of an elusive animal because of their small size and their instinct to hug many edges as it travels along a creek. Places where the blind set will shine are anywhere the mink is forced to enter the water. Such as bridge corners, under tubes that come in from fields, on either side of a beaver dam, around exposed roots from a tree at the waters’ edge, log jams, and grassy overhangs. To make this set you must start looking at things the way a mink sees them and although slightly awkward (especially for a big 6’8” guy like me), get your eyes down close to where the mink is likely to travel and you will be amazed at what you see from their point of view.
A corner where the bridge edge meets water/land is a great place to put a trap just under water. A tube that enters the creek from a surrounding field will have several opportunities for a blind set. Other examples include where the water hits the main creek if there is an inlet, behind where the water comes down from the tube, set behind a “waterfall” up against the bank as these places are magnets to a mink, beaver dams at the edge where the dam meets the creek bank…set the trap just under water at those places…stake well though as coon can be caught here as well. Also look for exposed tree roots, as mink love to weave in and out…find the place at the waters’ edge where he/she is forced into the water and place the trap. A side note is to never use lure at a blind set. Log jams can provide good places where the logs hit the land and the small places where water flows under them at the corners. Above all my favorite location is where the long grass overhangs on the bank and there is a tunnel underneath especially at a point sticking out. These places I actually place a forked stick to hold the grass a little more open and put the trap directly under the stick so the mink will duck under and directly into the trap.
110 trail set on land
This set forces you to think like a mink, as when one is on land they can have several options available while traveling/hunting. Locations for this kind of set are places where the creek makes a sharp bend. There is usually a very small trail cutting across at these places that a mink will to make a short cut. A 110 conibear stabilized in the trail in a “tight” spot can be a great place to catch mink. Another location is where mink can’t go under the road because a pipe sticks up too high for the mink to get inside and they are forced up and over. To locate the trail look for a small narrow depression in the grass at the “hump” where it meets the road. That also can be the spot for the trap stabilized at the same angle as the ditch. Other locations for such trail sets can be the other side of a big “hump” sticking out into the creek. This type of location is best guarded by a foot trap in the water at the edge and a 110 on the backside.
Infamous bottom edge
This set is unusual to many trappers as it just feels weird to set a 110 that deep underwater. Not all locations for this set have to be underwater but I have taken mink up to 5 feet deep and as shallow as 2 inches. It is not necessary for the trap to be completely underwater to be used in this set however, the bottom edge shines in the deeper water, let me explain. Mink spend much of their time traveling creeks to hunt. One of its biggest prey is fish. Fish like to hold at places where the water goes around a point into a deeper pool and will generally face upstream waiting for food to be brought down by the current. The mink will swim in these deeper pools and then swim to the bottom as it rounds the corner of one of these points trying to catch a fish off guard since they don’t generally see behind them. The 110 conibear placed at the bottom right on these points will score mink and usually the mink will be “suit cased” in the trap as he hit it so hard. It does take some practice to proficient at identifying these spots, at first it will not come natural to you if you have never used the set before. Don’t be afraid to set at the bottom of a deep pool where a big root sticks out or rip rap sticks out as these are places fish like to hide as well. This set has become a staple on my mink trap line. Because this set is entirely under water, and is designed to kill the animal it is not required to be checked every 24 hours in the state of Iowa…I check mine every 2 days.
The Not So Famous Baited Bottom Edge
This set is similar to the bottom edge set above except it employs a bait placed on the trigger of a 110 conibear and placed in a location where the mink is likely to be hunting. At first I was skeptical of this set and it took a couple of years of experimenting to be successful. This set really shines after the ice forms and the best locations are where the water moves fast into a deeper pool. All you have to do is put the trap on a long wooden stake about a foot up from the bottom, push the stake so the trap is close to the bottom and secured, and walk away. This is similar to setting a dog proof coon trap but underwater for mink. The best bait is not a real fish as they will fall off after a catch or 2 but use a soft plastic bait like you would use for fishing for bass. I like the white baits about 3-4 inches long.
Mink trapping can be addictive, it is for me as I love to catch the elusive animal. It does take some thought and patience to catch numbers of mink but I can assure you that if you weren’t setting to catch mink in the past, you were missing several. Get that trap so the pan is as close to the edge as possible and one tip that will help is to install Barkers Mink Pans on your traps to enlarge the “kill” area so your chances go up to catch the small footed, elusive mink.
Take a person trapping with you, support the Iowa Trappers Association, Fur Takers of America, and the National Trappers Association. They fight for you and your right to trap.