In this post I’m going to show you how to make one of my favorite survival traps, the toggle-trigger scissor trap. This is a very fast, killing trap. It’s kind of the improvised version of a Conibear trap. If it is set correctly it will kill an animal quickly and humanely. Please note that I am setting this trap in a location where I can take clear pictures of it, and you can see how it is constructed. This is not how or where you would set this trap to catch an animal. I will deal with de-scenting, camouflaging, and how to make an actual trap set in another post.
The toggle-trigger scissor trap is not a super complicated trap (simple is better), but it does have quite a few parts. What I’m going to do is go over the making of the parts step by step, and then we’ll put all the parts together to make the trap. This trap has a total of ten parts, not counting the cordage, and six of those parts are the trigger assembly. The good news is that this same trigger assembly can be used on several other traps, so once you get the trigger down you’re more than 50% there on building a number of different kinds of traps. So let’s get started.
As mentioned above, the toggle-trigger assembly has six parts. You can manufacture all of these parts with nothing more than a pocket or sheath knife, and you can assemble the trap with nothing more than a knife and a rock; but a multi-tool with a saw blade and a small hatchet make it a lot easier to do the job.
The six parts for the trigger are as follow:
First you will need two fairly long stakes with a down-slanting side branch. The diameter of these stakes will depend on the size trap you are building. The stakes illustrated below are about ¾ inch in diameter. These stakes will be driven into the ground, and there will be considerable upward pressure on them; so they should be a minimum of a foot long below the side branch. Make sure that the tops are flat and the bottoms are pointed so that you can drive them more easily into the ground.
You will need a cross-bar to hold your toggle. This is nothing more than a straight stick that is about six inches long. This one is about ½ inch in diameter.
The toggle itself is a straight stick that is about two inches long and maybe 3/8 inch in diameter. Notice that I have carved a small groove around the center of the toggle. This is not completely necessary, but it only takes a minute to do, and it will insure a more positive fit for your trigger line.
The last two parts of the trigger assembly are the trigger stick and what I call the bumper stake. The bumper stake is about ¾ inch in diameter and about six inches long. About five inches of the bumper stake will be driven down into the ground so it needs to be sharpened on the bottom end.
The trigger stick is the part that makes the whole thing work. It is what will hold the bait and spring the trap when an animal takes the bait. It will have considerable pressure on it, so it is best if it is a dead and dry, but solid stick. A green stick may bend and not hold the toggle back. This trigger stick is about ¼ inch in diameter and the length will be determined by the final trap set. For now you should cut it about a foot long, and then you can cut it to final length when you set the trap.
So, that’s it for the trigger parts. Now let’s make the final four parts that will actually capture the animal.
First we will need to make the scissor. This will consist of two straight sticks that are about 3/8 inch in diameter and about ten inches long. Size will, of course, vary according to the target animal and the size of the trap
You want to cut the bottom of each scissor stick at about a 45 degree angle so that when you put the bottoms together the sticks will spread out at about a 90 degree angle.
Next, come up about 3/8 inch or so from the slanted bottoms and carve a shallow groove around each stick.
Now go to the top of each stick, about 3/8 inches from the end, and carve another shallow groove.
Now set these aside and we’ll make the scissor guides.
The scissor guides are part of the trap that help guide the scissors, and help the scissors ensnare the animal. They will have a great deal of upward pressure on them when the trap is sprung, so they must be set firmly in the ground. The size of the guides and the depth to which they must be set is determined by the target animal and the size of the trap. One important consideration for the scissor guides is that they have to be bent into a half hoop. They must be flexible enough to bend without breaking, but still sturdy enough to hold the game. In my experience, the scissor guides are the hardest part of the trap to locate and make.
Setting up the Trap
To set up the scissor trap you are going to need about five feet of nylon twine and about two feet of waxed Dacron (artificial sinew). You don’t absolutely have to have the waxed Dacron. Just use what you have or what you can make. The trap will still work.
You are going to need something to power your trap. In this instance I am using a sapling as a spring-pole. You could use a counter-weight just as easily although that would take considerably more twine. I will talk more about counter weights in a later post.
First you want to bend your spring-pole down so that you can see exactly where you should to position your trigger assembly. When you have that location, start off by driving your two forked stakes into the ground about four inches apart.
Your cross bar will fit under the forks in the two stakes.
Next you will need to position and drive down the bumper stake. The best way to do this is to put it about eight inches from your cross bar and then come back and cut your trigger stick to the appropriate length.
This picture shows how to measure the length of the trigger stick. Notice that the toggle stick is on the front side of the cross bar, and the trigger stick goes from there to the bumper stake.
Now you will need about three feet of nylon twine to set the trigger.
Tie one end of the twine firmly around the toggle stick.
Move up the string about a foot and tie a knot in it. The reason for this knot will be explained in a minute.
Then tie the other end of the string onto your spring pole.
To set the trigger, bring the toggle down in back of the cross bar, then twist it up in front of the cross bar and set the trigger stick between the top of the toggle and the bumper stake. The picture below shows the trigger after it has been set. It is best to go ahead and smear the trigger stick with bait or shove bait onto the stick before you set the trigger. You can do this later but you will have to be very careful not to spring the trap.
Now let’s put together the scissor:
Take some of your waxed Dacron and tie together the slanted ends of your two scissor sticks. Leave a little space between them so that the sticks can be pulled out into a “V” shape
Now go to the other end of the sticks and, using more Dacron, tie a loop at the top of one of the sticks.
Take about two feet of nylon twine and tie one end of it to the top of the other stick and then thread the loose end of the nylon through the Dacron loop on the other stick.
When your scissor is completed it should look like this.
Take the two sticks that you have cut for your scissor guides and bend them carefully into a half hoop and then shove them down firmly into the ground. They should be about an inch-and-a-half apart and should be located two or three inches away from the trigger stick. This photo shows you how they should be positioned.
Now spread your scissor sticks apart and set them down between the scissor guides.
Make sure that the nylon twine connecting the scissors is not down between the scissor guides, and then use some Dacron to tie the tops of the scissor guides together. You want to leave about an inch between the tops of the loops.
Finally, take the loose end of the nylon twine on the scissors and tie it onto your toggle-trigger line. Tie it just above the knot that you tied in the trigger line. This will keep the scissor line from sliding down when the trap is sprung. Be very careful when doing this so that you don’t set off the trigger. It is best if you have someone to hold the spring pole down while you complete this step; but if you are alone, you will have to just be very careful. Whatever you do, don’t get your face up over the trap. If you do, and if the trap springs you will have all kinds of stuff headed toward you.
So now the trap is set.
When you build an actual trap set you will build a “cubby” or use other obstructions to make sure that the animal can only get to the bait by sticking its head in between the scissors.
When the animal starts chewing on the bait stick, it will spring the trap. The scissors will slam together on the animal and jerk it up against the scissor guides. The animal will, most likely, be killed immediately.