Editor’s note: This article is for informational purposes only. Please follow all local and state ordinances regarding the snaring and trapping of animals.
Say you’re in a survival scenario, and you’ve already accomplished the tasks of finding water, building a shelter, and starting a fire. Your next priority will be to gather food. You’ve found plenty of edible berries and roots, but you are going to need more calories than they can provide if you want to survive: you’re going to need meat.
You can’t exhaust yourself walking through the woods with a sharp stick, and you probably wouldn’t have any luck anyway. You need to conserve energy and still have an efficient means to gather food. Snares are the answer; a dozen snares allow you to hunt in a dozen different areas at the same time. While you’re sleeping or working, the snares are hunting.
Before you start building snares, you’ll have to take some basic considerations. Knowing your game is important: where they eat, when they move, and what water source they use. Try to leave as little scent as possible. Cover your hands if you can when you handle the snare, and avoid getting sweat or saliva anywhere in the area.
Setting up random snares will not be the most effective means of catching game; you need to look for animal signs, such as paths, droppings, and dens. Setting up snares along game paths and in front of dens is a surefire way to increase your odds. Adding some kind of bait nearly guarantees you’ll eat tonight.
You can also use sticks and twigs to funnel your game to your snare. This is easy to do using fallen branches, and it looks more natural than planting twigs in the ground.
Also, I mentioned adding bait; this will likely double your chances for game. For bait, you can use it things like MRE peanut butter or even sugar or salt packets. You want to lure the animal to the snare, so drop little bits along a small path to your trap, letting the animal get a taste for your bait and let its guard down. Then leave the majority with your trap. After you catch your first animal, you’ll have a whole new source of bait.
The first snare you can learn is a very basic snare. It requires a length of cordage, preferably wire, but paracord works well and is likely to be in your bug-out bag anyway. A split stick is used to support the snare and allow the animal to walk into it. Last, you’ll need a tree or something else heavy that the animal can’t pull it away.
Tie the noose and attach the other end to a tree. Place the split stick into the ground and make sure it’s deep enough that it will not fall over or be easily pulled out. Set the noose over the split stick to prop it up. The noose needs to be strong enough to support a five-to-ten-pound animal. The length or the cord needs to be eighteen to twenty-four inches for animals this size.
The goal is for the animal to walk through the trap at about chest height, the noose tightening as they pull it. Any struggling and fighting the animal does will only tighten the noose. The trap is best set at the base of a den, catching the animal coming or going. Be prepared to encounter an angry animal when you check the trap and have a weapon (like a heavy stick or knife) to finish it off.
Trigger Spring Trap
The second trap option you have is a trigger spring trap. This is more complicated than your basic snare. You’ll need a small but strong sapling to act as your engine. You’ll also need a two-piece trigger system for this trap. There are a few different ways to do this. The first is two pieces of wood, each a hook carved into it, one at the top of your base stake and one at the bottom of your hook stake. The second is the catch method, where your base is something heavy enough that it will hold your hook stake. The third is the primitive Y-stick method, which is just two Y-shaped sticks holding each other in place.
Your noose and the line from your sapling will be tied to your hook stake. Sharpen the bottom of your base stake and drive it into the ground. Make sure it’s tight enough in the ground that the sapling won’t pull it out. Next, tie your line from your sapling to your hook stake. I suggest carving a notch into the hook stake to make sure your line doesn’t slip off. Carve a similar notch for the noose as well.
Bend the sapling down and connect the hook stake to the base stake, making sure the noose is open and at chest height for the animal you’re trying to capture. Use twigs if necessary to open the noose.
Figure-Four Deadfall Trap
This is an easy trap that requires no cordage, although a pocketknife may be needed to carve the notches and sharpen a few ends. The figure-four trap relies on a heavy object such as a log or rock to smash your prey.
The heavy weight of the log or rock rests on a stick running diagonal. The diagonal stick rests on the base stick, using a notch carved in the middle of the diagonal stick to hold it in place. You want the top of the base stick to be carved into a thin, flat end. The end of the diagonal stick is carved into the same flat end, and it rests in a notch carved into your bait stick.
Now, lay these on the ground and see where the base stick and the bait stick meet. Mark the place where they meet on each stick. Now you’ll need to carve a notch on both sticks where you marked. The notches need to be big enough to hold the sticks together.
Now, put it together and slowly rest the log or rock on the diagonal stick. (It is usually easiest to apply your bait before it is fully assembled.) When the animal trips the bait stick, the entire thing will collapse, killing or disabling it.
These are just a few of the most basic snares and traps that you can use in an emergency situation. Use these as a starting point, and once you have mastered making them, you can move on to more advanced designs.
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