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Hunting makes for better magazine covers.
About 2 years ago I came to the realization that trapping was the superior means of land-based survival food procurement. It was a combination of historical reading and also watching the people who set trap lines in modern times.
After buying steel traps and truly committing to this as a means of feeding my family in hard times, I find myself wondering: How did hunting become so popular when trapping is so accessible to the common person?
While writing this article I have come to the only conclusion that makes any sense. Hunting makes for better magazine covers, TV shows and so on.
Why Trapping Works in Survival
Passive income is all the rage, lately. People are building automated online businesses that make them money while they sleep or vacation or work at another job.
Trapping is passive survival income.
While hunting is an active method of food procurement that requires your full attention, traps can be set and left for days at a time.
In a survival situation you can focus on things like shelter building, fire starting or signaling for rescue while your traps are hard at work catching food.
Trapping costs no ammunition. Trapping is incredibly quiet. Trapping is repeatable and sustainable because you can make traps out of the woods around you.
All of these qualities stand in opposition to hunting. Hunting is not the villain of this article but its a method of food procurement that has hard limits, particularly, for the average person when survival is involved.
What is a Snare Trap
By learning how to make a snare trap you can begin your trapping journey. The snare trap is designed to grab or snare an animal that travels through it.
This happens through the use of a slip knot and a loop that allows the head of the animal to fit through but tightens, ideally, as the shoulders try to get through.
The snare should tighten around the animal’s neck but it’s not uncommon for animals to be snared in the midsection or even the back leg.
The snare trap is attached to a long anchor stick that is plunged into the ground. This keeps the animal in place.
Cordage or Snare Wire?
After you learn how to make a snare trap you will have to consider what you will pack in your survival bag to create those traps.
The two most common materials used to build snares are cordages like twine, bank line, etc or wire.
You have cordage in your bag already so there are some benefits to learning how to make a snare trap with cordage. Namely the fact that you don’t have to carry anything else.
The benefits of using wire are things like strength and durability. Animals have a much harder time chewing through the wire. the wire will last longer and the snare itself is more efficient when made of wire.
The decision of what you carry is very personal. So do some thinking and make your choice.
If we are going to talk about snare wire we should at least mention Survivorcord which is a 550 paracord that also contains snare wire, fire tinder, and fishing line.
Your Survival Knife in Trapping
One of the most important tools for the DIY snare trapper is a quality survival knife. Your survival knife and your abilities with that knife will determine how quickly and effectively you can create a snare trap.
You will use your survival knife to carve notches, trim sticks and modify your snare traps in many ways.
There are many types of survival knives out there but I am partial to a few qualities in my survival knives.
- Full Tang Blade
- High Carbon Steel
- Fixed Blade
- Quality Handle
- Wide Drop Point Blade
Knowing and practicing with your survival knife is much more important than the type of knife you have. Truth be told, I have met men who can do magic with a Swiss Army Knife and others who have $200 dollar knives they never unsheathe.
Practicing the Try Stick
Mors Kochanski, the Polish immigrant who grew up helping his windmill carpenter father in Saskatchewan, is the Godfather of modern bushcraft. His teaching influenced Dave Canterbury and other popular bushcraft minds that are active today!
He introduced the Try Stick to the general public and it has something of a cult following in the bushcraft world. The try stick is simply a small, 1 inch to a half-inch in diameter, stick that is about 2 to 2 and a half feet long.
Into this stick, the aspiring outdoorsman will attempt a number of different cuts.
- Spear Point
- Half Spear
- 90 Degree Latch
- V Cut
- Sharp Edge
Practicing this Try Stick will pay dividends in terms of learning how to make a snare trap. You will be tasked with cutting sticks, creating spear points and carving notches into the sticks.
It’s also a great project to practice around the campfire. The more you use your knife the better you will get at using it. The idea sounds simple but it takes the discipline.
The same could be said about learning how to make a snare trap.
How to Make a Snare Trap
A simple snare trap made from wood and wire or wood and cordage is a pretty simple project. The knife work is limited and the knotwork is simple also.
Let’s get a look at what we are going to need to create the simple snare trap.
- Survival Knife
- Cordage or Wire
- A Strong 2 Foot Stick (1 to 1 1/2inch in diameter)
Begin by carving your stick into an ideal anchor for your trap. This process begins by trimming a point onto the end of that stick. This point will be for driving your stick into the ground.
Before you do so there is one more modification that you can make to the stick to assure you have some success.
You are going to trim a small reduction at the top two inches of the stick. This is a very small reduction that should be just big enough that your wire or cordage can be tied into it. It will keep the animal from forcing the wire or cordage up over the end of the stick.
At this point, you can plunge the stick into solid ground. Leave about 4 inches of the stick above ground.
With your cordage first, create a simple slip knot or tie a loop in your material in whatever way you know-how.
Once you have that loop give yourself 1ft to 2 feet of wire or cordage beyond that loop to set the trap.
You could thread the tail end of your wire or cordage through the loop you created. However, with larger cordage that might not work. An easy method to get a better and tighter snare is to use your loop to create a hitch to run the tail end of your material through.
If you are using wire you can now open the snare hole as wide as you’d like and set the trap.
With cordage, you will need to prop the snare open using a stick or a couple of sticks.
How to Make a Twitch Up Snare
The benefits of the twitch up snare are pretty straight forward, its an effective killing trap that uses kinetic force from a bent branch or small sapling when the trap is triggered.
The traditional snare uses only the force of the animal to set the trap. The twitch up is a faster and more powerful set. Its also much harder for an animal to escape if they are not killed from the setting of the trap.
The most important part of this trap will be the opposing notch trigger.
Let us look at what you will need to create the twitch up the snare.
- Survival Knife
- Snare Wire or Cordage For Snare
- Cordage for Securing the “Spring”
- A Strong 2 Foot Stick (1 to 1 1/2inch in diameter)
- A Three Inch Stick (similar diameter)
Trim your longer stick up with a nice point to get deep in the ground. We are going to carve a notch about an inch from the top of the stick. Assure that your notch is carved flat at the top and the sloping cut is directed to the ground. If your notch is upside down the trigger will not work.
Cut a notch into your smaller length of wood. Trim this portion so the two notches match up at the flat edge. The flat edge of your stake in the ground should be facing and your new notch should be positioned just the opposite.
When brought together the two should line up flush.
These two notches are the basis for your trigger. Now you can attach some cordage and a snare to the smaller length of wood. I like to repeat the same small reduction for the snare wire.
You will now use your cordage to tie to a nearby branch or sapling that can be bent. You want the cordage to be tight when the notches on both sticks are put together flush and the sapling is bent and engaged.
Tie to your branch first and bend the sapling to measure how much cordage you will need to keep the whole trap mechanism tight.
Using a trusted knot tie the cordage from your sapling to your smaller notched stick. Secure the snare to your reduction and you are prepared to set this trap.
Simply bend the sapling and connect the notches and you will have a snare that is set and ready.
NOTE: The length between the reduction and the snare should be even shorter than the traditional snare. Maybe just a few inches between the stick and the snare loop.
Reading the Woods for Trapping Success
“Do you know what that is?”
“It looks like a deer path,” Carter responded to my question as we walked through a cut through next to a dense thicket.
The small break in the thicket and the low bending brambles would be missed by someone who hasn’t been taught what animal paths look like.
On that same day, we sat down on a fallen oak that was covered in pieces of acorn shell. It was another great example of animal sign
The trees, the leaves, and the dirt can tell you a story about animal activity in your area. If you know what you are looking for it will make setting a snare trap much easier and you will have much more success.
Keep your eye out for the following animal signs when you are considering where to place a snare trap.
- Disturbed Food Sources
- Disturbed Ground
- Small Paths
- Nests and Dens
When you find a well-traveled area that features a collection of the signs above you are ready to place your snare trap.
Placing a Snare Trap
The ideal location to set a snare trap is over a den. Of course, there will be areas that don’t have dens or you cannot find the den.
If you place a trap in the middle of the woods, randomly, you could get lucky and have success. With trapping, however, you want to be sure that you position a snare for the best chance of success.
Laying snares over or near dens is going to give you the best chance of success. You know the animals will either be leaving or returning from this area. You know their habits.
Funnel Your Prey
If you find a well-traveled area with lots of animal sign, you might consider creating a funnel. This can be done by modifying a small trail with rocks and wood that will naturally move the animal into a tighters and tighters space.
Your snare will be waiting at the end of that small funnel giving them no option but to go through it. You can put some bait in your funnel, too to make it more appealing.
Hide Your Snare Trap
Using things like leaves and sticks you can cover your snare set up so that it blends in with the forest around it. Trapping is very much about deception.
A resource that some trappers take advantage of is urine. Animal urine will disguise the human scent and that is a big deal. Animals know what we smell like and a perfectly placed trap that reeks of human scent will likely deter them.
The crafty and thoughtful trapper is often the successful one. Snaring involves being crafty and patient.
To the lazy hunter, the woods are always empty.E.O. Wilson
Passive, quiet and effective, trapping is a survival skill that is worth exploring. Unfortunately, trapping can get a little ugly and it keeps most people away. We like our meat ground and wrapped in plastic.
In a survival situation or during a serious collapse, trapping will afford your food in a way that doesn’t alert those around you. If people are hungry they will want you to share your food and by share I mean give it all to them!
What I like most about trapping is that it gives me options. I have options to go forage, fish or build a fire while the traps are working their magic. When you learn how to make a snare trap and how to place it you stand at the doorstep of an ancient and exciting undertaking.
For more information on trapping, be sure to check out our post “Guide to Trapping For Beginners”. The post includes info on topics such as deadfall traps that were not covered in this post.
Survival skills are important. What is on your list to learn?