Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 49 seconds
By John Petersen
With the fur prices being what they are, I decided that this year I would land trap rather than water trap. Since it had been almost 40 years since I land trapped, I had to do some research on the trap that I was going to use, trap preparation, lures, and most important permission from landowners. I studied a lot of videos, read a lot, and talked to Terry, a long-time land trapper. After a couple of months, I decided to get a dozen 550 Minnesota Brand traps. They are a well-built trap and from past experiences with MB traps I knew that they would hold up with the rough treatment that a coyote puts them through. In August I was talking to Terry and he showed me the trap that he uses for coyote’s, the Bridger #3 modified. This is also a tank of a trap, especially since it was modified and had off-set jaws. I looked at the trap carefully and was amazed at the ease of setting pan tension and there is very little adjusting to get the pan level. I did some thinking about the size and because of the area that I was going to trap, I ordered a dozen #2 Bridger’s. Now I had 2 dozen traps and figured that I would have my hands full keeping them in working order when trapping season arrived. Everybody that I talked to said that I did not have to rust the traps, just boil them in lye to get all the oil off, then boil in logwood solution and wax. I had a hard time with this, but I did it anyway.
I started setting traps on October 23rd, after I got back from my annual pheasant hunt to North Dakota. It didn’t take long to set the 2 dozen traps as I did a lot of double sets like the days of fox trapping. The first check I caught my first coyote and was pleased with the results, because I knew that I would have to find the prime locations first if I was going to be successful at this endeavor. I set a lot of sets in locations where I had caught fox 40 years before. I figured that coyotes would hunt the same locations as the red fox did and in most cases I was right. After the first week of trapping I had caught over 10 coyotes and was very pleased with the results. With the new design of traps with the night latch, there was no guess work in getting the pan set right, every trap was set the same. As far as stakes, I used the earth anchors, which proves to be one of the problem areas I have had. The S hook that attaches to the chain had to be welded, it took me a couple of weeks to get the weld right so that they would not break when used. Another problem that I had was that I used foreign made chain for the anchors. This was indeed a problem and one I will remedy for next year.
I used the dirt hole set exclusively and found that it does the job very well. After I caught a coyote in a set, I would dig it up, change the trap and relocate the set, out of the catch ring. I found coyote tracks all over the old catch ring and soon learned that I didn’t have to move the set or change the trap. Now into my fourth week of trapping I am catching multiple coyotes in the same set location with what I call a “dirty trap,” but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to the coyote. At some of the remake sets the coyote destroyed the dirt hole, so I simply put the lure in a shallow hole and covered the hole with some grass and they work the set just fine and get caught.
Dealing with the rain has also been an eye-opening experience. One night we had over two inches of rain and I thought that I would be remaking all the sets, boy was I wrong. The first check after the rain I caught three coyotes. This made me think that if it did not freeze the rained-on sets would still produce so I just left the sets alone. Most of the sets produced, even without re-luring, this was a pleasant surprise. Of course, quite a few did not catch anything, but I figured that they were in the wrong location anyway.
As far as dirty traps go, I was told that after a catch there is so much scent left it doesn’t seem to bother the coyote. The one thing that I knew and have learned again, is that the coyote has a good memory. I have been troubled with the fact that I go into a new area and catch four or five animals and then it goes dead, I wonder if they soon learn that a dirt hole set is a bad thing. I know that there are still animals in the area, because I have seen new tracks in the field roads but they do not go close to the set locations. This is something that I will try to figure out before next year.
Now that it is starting to freeze I have been using salt mixed with the dirt to prevent freezing, this has worked very well. I haven’t had a freezing rain in my area yet this year but I am sure that if this occurs I will be in a lot of trouble. I was always hesitant about mixing stuff in the dirt, but the animals do not seem to mind.
Another thing that has happened is that some of the landowners in the area have called me to come and trap coyotes. This is a very pleasant surprise. I have one land owner that has 1500 acres of land which he bought for deer hunting and now I can trap his property, after deer hunting of course. Things like this make my trapping days a lot more enjoyable and now I have a new friend that appreciates what I am doing for the environment.
Locations of the set is something that has me going a little crazy. I know that a lot of articles on trapping stress location, location, location- boy are they right! I have made sets in what I thought were prime locations only to see them produce nothing, so after a week I move them, sometimes just across a ditch and then things start happening. In my area fall tillage happens a lot and fields are tilled up when prime trapping is here. I have found that the coyote loves to travel the water-ways, which has been the end for some. This is one new thing that I have learned and next year I will start in the water-ways earlier. Back to the tillage, talk to the land owner and find out which fields are going to be tilled up, so you are not looking for a trap that is somewhere in a plowed field. Not only will you lose the trap, but if the land owner gets it caught in any of his farm machinery, you may lose your privilege to trap on that property.
Another thing that I have done this year is to take an interested landowner on the line and show them how you make the sets and dispatch the animals caught. Some of them think that they are helping if they shoot the coyote, I discourage this, because most of the time they shoot them in the head and that is not where you want them shot. Most of the time I just have them call me and tell me that there is an animal in the trap. With forty coyotes already in the fur shed, I think that this year has been successful and I am already thinking about the changes that I will make for next year. I have really had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the wily coyote this fall.