Trapping Ol’ Bucktooth
By Chris Pohl
Beaver, by far, are some of my favorite animals to trap. For the most part, they aren’t that difficult to locate. They leave quite a bit of tell-tale signs and I have yet to have a farmer tell me that he didn’t want beaver removed from his property. So getting access to trap other furbearers while beaver trapping on a property usually goes hand in hand.
Unless a beaver has really been spooked, they aren’t all that difficult to catch, either. You do need the right equipment though. I keep my equipment pretty basic these days. I prefer MB 750’s for my footholds, a strong 330 for my body grippers and a pretty standard 48” Iowa legal snare. I don’t typically set very many snares, though. Where I currently do the majority of my trapping, they just don’t work for me that well. However, that being said; when I trap a river out of a canoe, I set a lot of snares to save on weight. Now I do most of my trapping out of my truck, so weight is not much of a concern anymore.
I outfit my MB 750’s with about 8’ of machine chain and two swivels. One swivel approximately in the middle and another at the end. Typically, I use a 60” T-bar stake set in the deepest water I can reach, hence the height of the stake. I can set in four or five feet of water and still be able to find my trap, usually, in the event of high water. Depending on the base of the stream dictates how deep and where the stake is placed. I watched a seminar years ago and adopted this long chaining method from the presenter and have had no regrets since. Most information says to drown the beaver. I prefer to keep mine alive to bring more beaver in to the area and remaining sets. I typically gang set when I find sign. Depending on the body of water I may set all footholds with a few snares up in the runs or choose to guard the runs or channels with body grippers on typical 36” support stands. It is important to note that in Iowa any body gripping trap exceeding 8” has to be fully submerged.
For body grippers, I prefer to remove the factory chain and secure about 60” of 1×7 cable with a swivel on the end. Normally I’ll stretch my cable out just a little bit and stake the trap, while on the support a couple of feet away. I don’t set my supports super solid. I want these to fall away and sink with the caught beaver. I’ve learned a live beaver is usually good to attract others, a dead one, not so much. A well-positioned body gripper blended in at the bottom of a beaver dam or in a narrowed down part of the stream is deadly. You can typically find underwater runs around feed beds. The mud on the bottom will be hard packed and smooth. Once you feel an underwater run with your feet, you’ll never forget it. It literally feels like an underwater path. I’ve caught many beaver setting body grippers on stands in these runs.
For lure, I sometimes use a commercial lure for no other reason than I can. I’ve used several and some work better than others. I prefer to use a homemade lure concocted by a good friend of mine from Northwest South Dakota. Normally, I only use lures when making a castor mound set.
This set is nothing more than scraping a spade sized “run” on the bank and adding a good pile of mud and other bottom debris in the form of a shallow mound about a foot from the edge of the bank. This set is typically made with a foothold trap. I make these sets with the run starting from the downstream side and slightly angling upstream. The reason being is that the beaver is, in my mind, typically traveling downstream or possibly parallel with the bank, smells the lure and turns around to investigate. Think about loading a boat in a river. Is it easier to load your boat if the ramp is angled downstream or perpendicular to the water? That’s what I’m going for. On still bodies of water, I don’t get too worried about that. Subtle guides, a couple of sticks or corn stalks on either side of the trap works for me. There is no magic depth to set your traps. I prefer to be about two thirds of the way up my forearm, which would be bicep deep for some people. I offset my trap just a few inches to the right, only because I’m right handed and about six to eight inches from the bank if setting for a back foot catch. If I’m targeting a front foot catch, I only set the trap in about five to six inches of water and only offset by a few inches. Water depth and location determines whether I’m setting for a front or back foot catch. I set my traps very solid. I don’t want them to move when the beaver swims up to investigate, drops his feet and commits to climbing up on the bank.
This article is by no means all inclusive on beaver trapping. If you’re just starting out, there is a lot to learn and many other methods, tools and equipment to be used and researched. I try to bring my family with me whenever I’m outdoors, whether it be trapping, hunting, fishing, or whatever. These pictures are of my oldest son, much older now than in the pictures with a couple of nice beavers he harvested using the above methods. If you look, you can see the body gripper securely holding the beaver caught near a feed bed in an underwater run. The second picture is of a pair of successfully caught nuisance beavers. We removed seven from that particular colony alone!