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Minnesota Trapline Products, Tim's Trapping Tips

Tim's Tips


When I first started predator trapping 40 years ago I made 100% dirt hole sets. Twenty years ago I would mix in a post or flat set here and there. Today, when I pull up to a location my mind is thinking and eyes are looking for post set options. In a per- fect world there would always be a bush, stick or rock just where I want it. While it does happen, more times then not I have to quickly improvise.

Let's break the "Post Set" down into "natural" posts versus "man made" posts. Natural posts can be anything in the travel way of the canine or bobcat that they just have to check out or mark. A clump of grass sitting among an otherwise featureless land- scape would be a good example. When this is found and the animals are marking it already, I will slip a trap in there and use no lure. Sometimes I will give it a shot of fox, bobcat, or coyote urine but if it is "hot" already there is nothing wrong with adding the trap and nothing else. In these cases I want my blending to be as perfect as possible. Natural vegetation either laid on the pattern or vegetation ground through your sifter is a good covering. Don't overdo the covering as you don't want too much "stuff" that your trap jaws get fouled. When going down a tree row in the fall after the leaves have fallen I want to make my set under willow trees or other small leaf trees for blending purposes rather then basswood, oak, catalpa, etc. that have large leaves. When trapping in the south in open sand, blending is not a real option at times without spending too much time at the set. Remember that even though your set doesn't look blended due to the contrast of wet/dry sand, it will look much better in a few hours. In contrast to dirt hole setting where I pray for dry weather, I do not at all mind frequent light rains on my post sets. The key word here is light, meaning a tenth to quarter inch of rain.

On a trapping trip to Texas a couple years ago I found my host partner Dave Campbell the best I have ever seen at picking out natural post sets at 40 miles an hour. I thought I was fairly good at it but Dave took it to a whole new level. That is the best thing about trapping different states with different folks, you can always come away with some new found knowledge if you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. Dave and I were trapping a lot of pine plantations and he would see a branch or limb that broke off in the wind and fell onto the road or side of the road. The coyotes, cats, and fox either had already started marking these or would on their next trip down the road. When with Ray Milligan 30 years ago I noticed that he burned or torched a lot of his backings at his post sets. Another lesson learned, whether using clumps of grass or pieces of wood etc. I do light them up at times to add another twist. Burning a clump of grass or piece of wood and using no lure has added many coyotes to my truck that I was having trouble catching in more conventional sets.

One of my most valued tools in making post sets is a simple pruning tool, I use them constantly. They can be picked up at a vari- ety of stores for $10 or less. I make a lot of post sets using cocklebur bushes or various fence line weeds. I bend them over a bit so they are facing slightly away from my trap and then clip the branches that come back towards my trap. I can bend and clip one of these bushes in seconds. Each state I go to seems to have a different type bush but every state has had something good to use. In this photo from Texas I trimmed up the bush whose remnants can be seen just in front of the grey fox. I put a smear of Minnesota Red gland lure on the bush and a shot of red fox urine. It should be noted that when trapping for the live market I wouldn't have used this bush as it is too sturdy. For the live market I want lighter bushes or backings that will break away or tip over easily in order to avoid any possible injury to the catch.

Fence line weeds as well as corn and cotton stalks are some of my favorite natural projections. In this picture I juiced up a cotton stalk with Yodel Dog coyote gland lure and took this yellow colored male coyote that walked right past my dirt hole set 10' away.

Man Made Post Sets

I probably use 3 man made post sets to every one natural post set. Every minute of every day is important to me especially when long lining out of state. I quickly scan the set location for a natural post set location and if one does not stick out I quickly make one. When trapping in bobcat country I make a lot of combination Post Set/Walk Through sets. This Texas cat fell for a post/walk through set.

Below trapping partner Dave Campbell in Texas with a coyote catch and his post set/walk through/rub set remake. Dave uses a bunch of Lenon's Natures Call Coyote and Bobcat on his post sets as do I.

I have migrated toward making my man made post sets bigger and taller over the years as that's what works for me. I want eye appeal, lots of it. Remember you will have better luck with post sets when your post doesn't have competition. Meaning, to make a post set in among saplings or in a jumbled up mess of a clear cut, you have lost your eye appeal advantage. In open country when I pull into a field or down a field road or trail I want to see my post from a long distance. That tells me the animals can see it too. Notice the eye appeal of this photo (not yet blended). This set took 2 bobcats and 2 coyotes in 6 days.

I also had two dirt hole sets on the ridge by the hay bales tight to the woods line for fox and caught 2 grey and one red fox in the same 6 days. In mixed coyote/fox areas you always want some sets tight to the woods as fox that stray too far from cover have a short lifespan in many cases.

This southern grey fell for a large scent post on the edge of a field and swamp

This set was right on the travel way and eye appeal was not a concern. Beaver castor and red fox urine on the post. Three coyotes in 7 days here.

Another remake after a coyote catch. This particular post was tooth picks by the end of the first week.

Mr. Bob Young from Georgia explaining to this Tom where exactly he went wrong in exploring Bob's post set. Lesson learned, I don't think the cat will do it again.

Rambling Thoughts

  • The closest that I want to see my coyote sets that are empty is out my truck window. While fiddling around each day with your sets won't often cost you bobcats and fox, it WILL cost you coyotes. Leave them be unless they need work.
  • I want to know where every farmers dead pit is and set the trails or roads leading up to it, not the pit itself.
  • Cow pies are excellent backing for post sets. I like to stack two or three on top of each other.
  • When post setting in Minnesota where we run mostly coyotes I position my trap roughly 8" back and offset one way or the other 3".
  • When post setting in states where there is a equal chance of catching a coyote, fox, or bobcat I position my trap approximately 6'' back and offset one way or the other 2."
  • Post sets with coyote gland lure are a real coon killer and most will be big boars.
  • The list of objects that can be used as posts in a pinch is as long as your imagination. I have used bones, cans, chunks of rubber or pieces of tires that happen to be laying near the set area.
  • I throw sticks in our coyote and fox cages and let them chew, roll, and urinate on them, there's nothing better. If you don't have penned animals, pick up sticks from your catch circle that have been chewed on.
  • Look at your set as if you were a two foot high critter, not a six foot human. Things look differently down there.
  • According to many, I use way too much lure but that is a can of worms to open another time.
Until next time, keep your cages full and thanks for looking. Tim Caven 06/29/2011

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