The Ugliness of Trapping and its Necessity in Survival

James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: November 30, 2021
The Ugliness of Trapping and its Necessity in Survival

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Beaver pelts and the fur trade-built America. The Europeans decimated their own beaver populations and the furs were in high demand. Beaver felt was used to make the most desirable hats. The fur trade pulled the Native Americans into the world economy and created one of the first big supply chains from North America.

The fur trade was also a highly accessible means to make a good living. With a small party and a few Native American guides, you could plan to harvest a good collection of pelts and turn those pelts into money.

In the early 1500s, French explorers arrived at what we know today as Eastern Canada. These French explorers traded various items like knives and kettles with the local Indians to promote a friendly relationship with them.

To return the favor, the Indians gave the French explorers pelts.  

This exchange of fur between the French explorers and the Indians helped develop a strong demand for furs in Europe….especially for beaver. The fur trade was lucractive.

In modern times we are seeing more and more people turning away from natural furs. Groups like PETA have made it very clear that trapping is not something they approve of. Even in the 90s, there were people getting red paint tossed onto their fur coats.

However, in many communities in America and Canada, furs are worn by many people. The reality behind fur is that it is very warm and often highly effective at negating the effects of moisture. Because of this, it’s a desirable material.

While fur can be demonized, its very rare that we see the same sort of issues with leather shoes, jackets, couches or car interiors. That’s a strange thing but it’s a thing, nonetheless.

The Process of Harvesting Pelts and Fur

The idea that an animal must die to clothe and feed us is one that we have only recently concerned ourselves with. However, the process of harvesting pelts is the most disturbing aspect of this.

As an outdoorsman, I have seen animals die, killed animals and spent time thinking about both of those things. I don’t like seeing anything die. It’s a very strange experience. The bigger the animal the more affecting it is.

When you hunt, your goal is to kill an animal as quickly as possible. The lethality of your weapon is of the utmost importance. Whether you are depending on razor sharp broadheads or high caliber rifle rounds, a good shot means an animal is dead in moments.


The main concern in hunting is harvesting that meat.

With trapping, you are harvesting a fur or a pelt and that makes the motivations very different. Lots of animals are trapped by the paw. Now, there are instant killing traps and we will get into those and their survival uses later, but many are grabbing paws and crushing them.

The animals are then clamped and chained to these locations until the trapper returns. They often break their legs trying to escape. There is enough video content on trapping that I have watched delighted trappers walk up on a live coyote with their paws hung in traps. Let’s put it this way, they know something really bad is coming when the human walks up. You can see it in the way they move.

The animals are eventually killed by the trapper when they return to check the traps. This can be done using a .22 pistol to make the death a quick one.

I am not writing this report on trapping to turn people off or to push back against the industry. I am writing it, so you understand both what its all about and why I don’t trap for sport. Of all the things I do and have done in the outdoors I don’t think trapping for sport will ever be my forte. There is a look in the eye of a trapped animal, as it lay there exhausted from struggling, that tugs at my personal morality. It doesn’t feel right to me.

Trapping and Efficacy in Survival

All that said, I own traps. A good trap can be used for many years and help you put food on the table for your family.

So, now you might really be confused. This is where things get a little dynamic, so I hope to convey the other side of this trapping situation in a way that makes sense. Things change when you are hungry, and things change drastically when your family is hungry. In some ways, you can understand the motivations of professional fur trappers in that sense.

However, no one in our nation understands hungry anymore. I am talking about supply chain breakdown hunger, bare shelves and empty highway hunger. The type that might come if we see a serious enough natural disaster or if civilization is finally shaken from its moorings.

We don’t know, exactly, how much things will change in a collapse. However, you shouldn’t be foolish enough to believe that you will be one of the things that don’t change.

Food procurement will be one of the biggest changes. The moment tractor trailers stop rolling into town and making ‘just in time’ deliveries is when the food disappears. Once food stops rolling into your town and city you are officially on your own. That’s the breaks.

So, what do you do about food?


The more people who garden the better. That’s the end of my stance on gardening and whether you should or shouldn’t. That said, your garden should not be your plan to float your family’s caloric needs on a whole.

Two years ago, a Derecho ravaged my entire garden with tremendous winds and hail. I had about 20% of my plants survive. It was June and things were just getting good. I was harvesting kale and leafy greens when suddenly I had only a fraction of a garden left.

Gardens can go away fast. I think they are essential, but I would not stake my families well being on a garden alone.


If you are in a position to raise livestock, you are a cut above most. It’s just not feasible for most Americans to raise enough meat to feed their families. Suburban plots just don’t have the space for things like cows or enough goats to eat.

The average person might be able to take advantage of egg-laying hens.


Hunting is harder than it looks. It pains me to say it, but I am not a good hunter. I have hunted public lands for the better part of 3 years now and had very little success. I have hidden in blinds, stalked prey and most of the time I spook deer and turkey long before I get a shot.

It’s hard when its just you so I can only imagine what it might be like if there are 10 people in the same spot hunting to eat.


Fishing is the opposite for me. I have been at it since before I can remember. I can catch fish like crazy. When it comes to survival, I really like the idea of fishing for protein. It can be a passive endeavor and your food source is captive.

To me, fishing is a top 2 skill for food procurement in case of a long term, life-changing collapse or disaster. I would grab the fishing pole long before I went for the rifle.


Somebody is going to have food. Even when all the food storage has dried up there are going to be farmers and people with connections who have the food. If you have other things they need, you could look to barter with them.

When it comes to farmers there is a good chance you can barter your back for food. I mean labor. Of course, this is very circumstantial and depends on the relationships you make today.


This brings us to trapping.

I spent a significant amount of words in this article explaining my position on trapping for sport. It’s not something I particularly like for several reasons.

Trapping, though, is about the best method of food procurement, in long term survival, that I can come up with. If we are talking about getting meat into the household and on family’s plates on a regular basis, its gonna happen through trapping.

Trapping Supplies

While you can buy traps, there are plenty of traps that can be made. There are many bushcraft books that specilize in how to make your own traps. Of course you can also just buy some traps online. Live traps are commonly used to catch unwanted wildlife and rehome it but they could be used to catch game for the table or for fur.

Trapping Is Reliable, Repeatable, Passive and Effective

Now, if you are the rare person who has fields of cattle or other livestock, obviously that is going to be a better method of getting food on the table. For the rest of us though, it’s the metal trap. Many metal traps have a spot in the center where something can be placed to lure in game. Smelly food is one option.

Metal traps are the way to go. If you are going to walk down this path you need to think about it as a means of providing food. Therefore I have taken to killing traps. Steel killing traps like the Conibears are going to dispatch game quickly and you will arrive to meat that just needs processing.

trapping for survival

Metal has all the benefits. It’s the most durable and animals aren’t going to chew through it. There is even a metal deadfall on the market today that folds into itself and carries very light. It called the D4-Deadfall by Self Reliance Outfitters. It holds more weight than a normal deadfall and obviously can be repeated just by resetting it.

For those who are unaware, the deadfall is also a killing trap. While the process is grizzly, you should understand it.

You need about 3x the weight of the animal you are trying to kill. What that amount of weight will do is not allow the animal to breathe in after an exhalation. Once its lungs shrink, they will not have the strength to expand again and the animal will asphyxiate.

Traps are quiet, unlike guns. Silence is a serious benefit when you talk about food. A 30-06 is going to let people know about your kill. People from miles away can hear one of these powerful rifles. The metal jaws of a trap are silent in comparison.

While this might seem a little anecdotal you need only look at European heritage. We have been using metal traps to catch food and fur for 800 years! Nearly 1000 years of success has been had with these metal traps. I don’t know about you but that’s enough proof for me.

The Big Decision: To Trap or Not to Trap?

Nebraskan agriculture has been derailed by the recent bomb cyclone and the state is saying it could cost 1 billion dollars in agricultural damage. It’s clear that cattle are dying and that fields will be planted late. Some fields will not be planted at all.

Nebraska could be facing $1 billion in agricultural damage from the catastrophic flooding that has swamped parts of the Farm Belt, and there’s growing talk of Congress needing to take action. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said flood relief funds could be part of a broader disaster aid package working its way through Capitol Hill.

This is a reminder of the importance of food independence. We don’t need the top to blow off Yellowstone to need our food storage. It only takes a few good floods and storms at the right time, in the right place. Nothing is promised. What if that smaller yield is hit with a rash of pests? What about diseases?

To me trapping is ugly. Call me what you want. For those who do it to make a living, I get it. It’s about as American as any other bit of our culture but it’s not something I will do recreationally. However, it can make a huge difference when it comes to getting meat on the table in a crisis.

Author’s Bio

James Walton is the host of the I AM Liberty Show ( a podcast about 21st-century freedom. He is a freelance writer in the prepping and survival niche and likes to keep a healthy balance between prepping and enjoying life.

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2 Responses to “The Ugliness of Trapping and its Necessity in Survival”

  1. Unlike you i am good at hunting and unlike you extremely bad at fishing. Never caught more than a cold actively fishing. If native style fish traps were legal i could probably catch them that way but not with hook, line and sinker. i go out hunting though and 9 times out of 10 i will bring home food. Tracking and stalking are important skills to be able to do this. A good book on tracking is “The SAS Guide toTracking” by Bob Carss. i also have good knowledge of gardening and animal husbandry, and can make most things i have need of out of wood, leather or metal. it was growing up on the land that taught me all these skills

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