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Trapping For Survival

I plodded along the trail to my truck, struggling to carry the beavers in each hand and the 10 or so muskrats in my backpack. It was the early 80s, fur prices were good, and I had permission to trap a mile long section of beaver-dam-laced ranchland in the Colorado Rockies. The big problem was I had to make another trip down the trail for two more beaver. Life was good.

While fur prices are not what they once were, trapping can still pay for your gas, and it is a valuable survival tool to learn for hard times. If I was trapping for food, I would have had about 100 pounds of meat to put up that night along with the fur.

Many preppers will include some snares in their bug-out bags, planning to use them to catch something to eat in an emergency. This isn’t a bad idea, but if you don’t know how to trap, your chances of catching something are slim.  If you are serious about prepping, learning how to fur trap will give you a greater edge in feeding your family should food become scarce.

Trapping has several advantages over hunting. First, you don’t have to be in the same place at the same time as the animal in order to harvest it. Second, you can easily multiply your efforts by setting several sets out at one time. Finally, once your sets are in place, they take little time to check once a day or so, leaving you time for other important things.

If You Have Ever Wanted To Produce Your Own Cheaper Than Dirt Survival Food …

Water trapping

Animals caught while water trapping include mink, muskrat, beaver, otter, and raccoon. A waterway in your area should be looked upon as a potential source of abundant food. The muskrat, beaver, and raccoon are still widely eaten.

These animals usually leave well-defined trails around the water and it is a simple thing to place a trap to catch one. Muskrat and beaver dens are easily located, and a trap placed in the entrance will have you something to eat, usually by the next morning.

Land trapping

Animals trapped on dry land include fox, coyote, bobcat, wolf, mink, marten, skunk, possum, raccoon, and more. All joking aside, canines and felines are eaten around the world, so you should not rule out the fox, coyote, and bobcat as survival food.

Mink, marten, and skunks belong to the weasel family and are very musky and smelly. Eating one of them would be a chore, even in a desperate situation. However, their fur can be traded and their scent glands can be used to make lures for other animals.

The best dry land furbearers available for food are the already mentioned raccoon and the possum.


You can pick up traps everywhere:  flea markets, farm auctions, yard sales or even buy them on eBay. There are various types to choose from, but most of the traps you’ll find are all useful.

The most common type of trap is the leghold. These traps are the ones with jaws that close on the animal’s foot and hold it until you come along to kill it or release it. Contrary to the sensationalism of animal right groups, leghold traps are very humane when properly used. If properly set, they should catch the animal across the pad of the foot and hold it securely.

Any traps with teeth on the jaws are antiques and should not be used.

Body grip traps, also called conibear or killer traps, catch the animal around the body or neck, killing it very quickly. The larger sizes are used mostly in water trapping for beaver and otter. The medium sizes are used both on land and in the water, mainly as coon traps, while the smallest size is used for most small animals.

I have caught several fish in irrigation ditches while trapping for muskrats with 110 conibear traps.

Colony traps are wire boxes with hinged doors on both ends. They are used for muskrats by placing them in runs, or in front of a den. I have had five muskrats packed into one trap in a day’s time.

Live traps are shunned by most fur trappers, mainly because they are so expensive and hard to hide from trap thieves. I shunned them also for many years until I started trapping around our homestead. Wanting to avoid catching my wife’s cats, I purchased a live trap for pest control.

The raccoons, possums, and ground hogs don’t know what hit them. One of the greatest things about a live trap is it creates its own cubby set. I just nestle mine in the edge of some tall grass and it looks like a nice place for a critter to run into.

There are a couple of specialty coon traps on the market these days. I have not used any personally, but if you have a large population of raccoons in your area, they can be set indiscriminately without fear of catching something besides a coon.

Snares have their place in trapping, but they are a consumable. Snares wear out very quickly and in coyote and beaver snaring, they rarely will be able to be used a second time. Many states have differing laws concerning snares, so you should read up on them before you use them.

Learning to trap

There is nothing that can replace on-the-ground experience when it comes to learning to trap. Walking your trap line shows you first hand what kinds of animals tend to do certain things. It’s not something you can get good at by reading about it; nothing will replace actually doing it.

My advice to someone who earnestly wants to learn to trap is to seek out someone who is already doing it. Trapping is in decline in a lot of places, and many old timers would love to share their knowledge with someone who wants to learn.

Most states have trappers associations, and a quick online search should find someone close by who you can call to get more information. Many of these state organizations have fur sales and teaching workshops. If all else fails, read everything you can and use trial and error to see what works for you.

Handling a trapped animal

All of your traps should be checked at least once a day, unless they are designed to kill the animal.

If you catch it, it is your responsibility to do something with it. Nuisance animals should not be released, since that is giving someone else your problem.

If you are trapping for fur, you need to kill the animal humanely and then get it skinned and the fur put up properly so it is not wasted.

If you plan on using the animal for food, you should soak the meat in a couple changes of water since a trapped animal is usually not bled out. This will remove the blood from the meat, making it taste better and keep longer.

The best way to kill a trapped animal is the shoot it in the head with a .22 caliber; it’s quick and easy. Killing an animal in a trap should be no harder than killing a chicken you have raised. Make sure you are capable before you catch something.

The trappers of yesteryear were pioneers and trailblazers; they opened up new areas of this great country. It is a heritage passed down through generations and important for any survival specialist in today’s world.

© 2012 Off the Grid News

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