Any survival situation that lasts more than a couple of weeks is going to make it necessary for you to collect food. Foraging for wild plants is one possibility, but it is hard to get enough protein and fat from plants alone. You will need meat. One of the most efficient ways to obtain meat in the wilds is by trapping. Trapping is great because your traps will be hunting 24 hours a day, in multiple locations. While your traps are hunting for you, you will be free to take care of other business like wood gathering, plant foraging, shelter improvements, and etc.
So, the simple solution to making meat in the wild would be to just throw a half dozen double-spring, number 2 steel traps into your bug-out-bag, right? Wrong! One number 2 steel trap weighs over a pound. Six of them weigh almost seven pounds, and they are bulky. Not the kind of thing that you need in your pack when every ounce counts.
You could bring the weight down to around two pounds by carrying half-a-dozen rat traps, but you would be seriously limiting the size of animals that you could trap. Anything larger than a squirrel will probably just shake off a rat trap; or worse, run off with it.
The most weight efficient way to trap animals is to (1) learn how to build improvised traps, and then (2) put together a light-weight kit that will make it easier to build these traps. Don’t get me wrong. You can build improvised traps using only native materials; but man, it can take a lot of time consuming work to build a trap this way. If you’ve ever twisted up enough yucca cordage to build just one good snare trap, you know what I’m talking about. And after you’ve built your trap you still have to find something to bait the trap with. It’s much easier to carry along a few light-weight items that will enable you to build and bait some better quality traps in a shorter amount of time.
My trapping kit, including carrying bag, weighs just a shade over 13 ounces. Depending on the kind and size of traps you build, it has enough materials for from ten to thirty traps; and it also includes enough bait to bait each trap several times. Here’s a closer look at what goes into my trapping kit.
Inside the bag I have two different kinds of light cordage wrapped around wooden cradles.
The larger cradle holds about sixty feet of nylon twine. This twine can be used to hold down spring poles or hold counter weights for snare traps. Note that this twine is a kind of golden yellow in color. Since most animals don’t have very well developed color vision, this golden yellow actually looks gray to them making it less visible than either black or white twine. A little dirt or mud rubbed on the twine gives it a mottled appearance which makes it even less visible. The toggle trigger snare pictured below is built using both yellow nylon twine for the trigger and picture hanging wire for the snare loop.
The small cradle holds about twenty feet of waxed Dacron (artificial sinew). Although it is small cordage, it is very strong. It’s great for things like tying off toggle triggers on Paiute dead-fall traps, hanging sight lures, and making small snare loops. The toggle trigger scissor trap pictured below is built using both waxed dacron and yellow nylon twine.
I carry a small roll, about twenty feet, of light gauge steel wire that is perfect for making leaning log squirrel snares. Since each of these snares uses about two feet of wire, you can make quite a few snares with twenty feet.
I have a roll of picture hanging wire in the bag that is my favorite for making the actual snare loop on snare traps. It’s stiff enough to hold open well and it slides closed quick and smooth on spring pole snares.
One of the disadvantages of all natural traps is coming up with bait for them. You can, of course, set snares in animal pathways and hope that an animal runs into them, but your chances of success increase dramatically if you have a bait that draws animals into your trap. I keep an old baby food jar in my trapping kit that is full of my special trapping lure; peanut butter and sardines. Just put them in the jar, stir them together, and twist the lid on tight. The older it gets, the funkier it smells; and the funkier it smells, the better it works. Smear a little of this on your bait stick and hardly any animal will be able to resist it.
Some animals don’t have as keen a sense of smell as others. These sight hunters often need a visual lure to draw them to a trap. I keep a plastic bag with twelve or fifteen turkey feather fluffs in my kit. If you hang one of these on a piece of string over your trap, every puff of breeze will cause it to swing and twirl. This will often catch an animal’s eye and draw them in to investigate.
As with any other survival skill, building successful traps takes practice. You need to learn not only “how” to build traps, but “where” to build them. Do a little research on how to build different kinds of traps, how to descent them, and where to locate them; then head to the woods with your trapping kit and practice. Be sure to know the law and use common sense. The actual trapping of animals, game or fur bearing, can be outright illegal or regulated by any number of laws that vary from state to state and sometimes from county to county. On the common sense side of things, don’t set a trap and leave it where you might catch someone’s pet. It’s best to just set the traps and see if they work by tripping them yourself. You can test your bait and your ability to find good trapping locations by smearing a little bait on a twig and sticking it in the ground at a site that you think would be good for a trap. Come back the next day and check your bait stick. If it’s missing, or if it has been gnawed on, you will know that you picked a good location.