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  1. Travis Shute


    SHTF Falconry: Don’t Think So! Falconry, what is falconry? Going by the text book definition falconry is “the training of raptors to hunt wild prey for humans”. This by definition is completely wrong. Take it from the ones who know. The instincts and innate ability of a raptor to hunt prey came from millions of years of evolution and where handed down from the parents to the offspring. The only thing that you are “training” a raptor to do is to put up with a human tagging along for the hunt. This is not an easy task. Some falconers will argue that when raising an eyass (a nestling hawk or falcon) that you, in fact, do teach the bird how to hunt. In my own experience, they already have all the mechanisms and drive in place. All we do is “prime the pump” so to speak. Falconry has been around a very long time. When the art of falconry started is still up in the air. Some historians believe the practice started in the steppes of Mongolia between 4,000 and 6,000 B.C. Other experts believe that it started much earlier in the Middle East. Regardless of when it started, most of the evidence found on ancient falconry was tied to royalty or aristocrats of the time. This is not by coincidence! Kings, queens and the upper-class in antiquity not only had more land, money and goods; they also had more time. When it comes to a SHTF scenario, how precious will your time be? If I haven’t lost you yet let’s talk about devoting time to falconry. A hawk or a falcon can be equated to an Olympic wrestler when it comes to weight. A wrestler finds his or her optimum fighting weight and does everything they can do to be at that weight when it’s time to hit the mat. Raptors, on the other hand, are very opportunistic hunters and will, even if they just gorged themselves, try to plug some more food down into their crop. They do this because, in the wild you never know when your next meal will be bouncing down the fence row. A heavy bird is bad when it comes to falconry. If the bird is overweight and you cast it into the air, be prepared to stand under your bird swinging your lure for a while. If the bird is sharp or underweight, you will have just as many problems. A bird lacking in nutrition and energy will never be a good hunter. So weight is a very important aspect of falconry. You must find your bird’s hunting weight and make sure that it is at that weight when you want to go hunting. So knowing how many grams/ounces of weight your bird burns in what climate is essential. If you know this number you have dedicated at least an hour a day, EVERYDAY, to your bird. Can you afford that much time in a SHTF scenario? Now that we touched on maintaining weight, let’s talk about actually hunting along with your bird. I have seen comments stating that falconry would be an ideal way of hunting in a SHTF scenario. I’ve read different explanations as to why, but none of them were from actual falconers. So let’s start with the first one. Shooting a gun will draw unwanted attention and hunting with a hawk is silent. The first part of that statement is true. Shooting a gun will let others know where you are. The second part however is very much not so. There is a saying among falconers that speaks a lot of truth, “I spent all this time and money just to become a beagle.” That’s your role when you hunt with raptors. You put the bird in the air and flush the game out for them. Almost every animal around knows when a raptor is in the air. I’ve seen ducks hold so tight on the water that you could almost grab them with your hands because there was a falcon flying in the sky above them. I’ve seen rabbits hold so tight that I have actually stepped on them because they knew that my hawk was in the air. So to make these animals move you have to beat the bush. Walk with a stick and slap the brush trying to get something to flush. Bring a dog to flush the game. Now you’re yelling commands at the dog. Falconry is a very loud hunt when compared to any other type of hunting. Falconry is by no means silent, not by a long shot. The bird will be able to put food on the table. Yes and no. Yes the bird will be able to put food on the table just probably not your table. Let me explain. Some of the best hawks that I have seen hunt were able to get a double kill that day. 2 rabbits sound great. Those were ideal conditions and they were located within city limits. In a SHTF scenario, you won’t be flying hawks inside any city very long, I don’t think. Now country rabbit hunting is a lot harder and they are spaced a lot farther out which means more work for your bird with a hell of a lot flybys or misses. There will be more beating around in the bush and making noise trying to flush game on your part. The both of you will be burning precious calories by the minute. Many days I have went hawking for 4 to 5 hours and came home with sore calves and scratched shins and no meat. Now you’re tired and hungry and so is the bird, but you have no fresh meat to feed the bird. What happens now? So if the bird does make a kill, most likely you will be saving some, if not all of it, to feed back to the bird. This article is not meant to discourage anyone from legally becoming and practicing falconry. In fact I encourage it. Falconry has changed my life in many ways. Mostly good changes, but a few changes are bad. It’s hard to find someone to take care of your raptor when you want to take a vacation or have a family emergency. Taking care of a raptor is like taking care of an infant that will never grow up. Every day you wake up the first thing that must happen is check on the bird. Every night before you go to bed… check on the bird. Somewhere in between all that you feed it and weigh it and do some flight exercises. These must happen every day whether it’s a SHTF scenario or not.
  2. CaverDude

    Deer Hunt - The Hunt

    I am an over the road truck driver. I recently moved my camper out to one of my friends’ places in the woods about 3.5 miles from a state highway on a dirt county road. For the last year, every time I come in for a day or two off or leave out, I see deer hopping and jumping around. I began to figure it might not be difficult to kill a deer this year. I have zero time for scouting but I thought I may as well try anyway. So I came in one day on muzzle loading season and borrowed a 50 cal inline. I went up on the hill above my camper about 200 yards from the camper and sat down. I put on my leafy suit. I heard some things in the distance but didn’t see anything. No luck on that hunt. The coop blind Shot deer between those two trees at 42 yards. From where the deer was looking back towards me when I shot. I went to Walmart and bought some blocks. One feed block, one salt/mineral rock, and one deer cocaine block. I then took those up and placed them about 25 yards from the chicken coop on the road near the white metal shed. I also found some containers refuse around the buildings and placed them around the shed where they could collect rain water, thinking this would give the deer something to drink as well. The next time I came in these blocks appeared weathered and melted. It did look like something had eaten on the feed block because pieces of it were laying a few inches from it. This is where the deer was coming from and where she turned to run after being shot. This is where the two deer were headed just before I shot. This is a view uphill where she ran after being shot. This location was an old house place. The house had burnt down and there were several sheds/barns left. There was an old chicken coop that looked as if it might make a good blind. I had been hunting out in the open in front of this coop. I next planned on taking my vacation during gun deer season. The next time I came in I bathed in no scent soap, and washed my cloths in no scent detergent. I then realized it might be best to have clothes that are for deer hunting only, that is not dual purpose. This way you can keep them scent free easier and ready to go in a moments notice. I took my 410 Rossi Tuffy, 3 lb pack gun with a slug, and went up to hunt at daylight. I was in the open again this time. I put on the leafy suit pants and gloves. I was wearing cammo coat up top. A nice grey squirrel came along and played in the trees. He gave me at least 10 good shots at him, never saw me. He moved on. I heard crows in the distance. Again I occasionally heard something in the distance but saw nothing. So I went back home and then to Walmart. I talked to another hunter there that recommended the fake antlers and the Gold Doe Estrus, which I bought. From the old house foundation to the left is the white shed where I put the mineral and feed blocks. To the right is the barn where I put the scrape that is at 40 yards from the coop. To the left off the view is the chicken coop. To the right off the view is the scrape at 80 yards. From the old house foundation to the chicken coop. The deer where I left her laying at the old house place. I should have took a photo where I found her under the two cedar trees but I forgot to do so. Next time I went out I stood in the chicken coop or leaned against the hen roost in the coop. I saw nothing again, I did rattle some and I was also playing with a squirrel call. I think I heard a squirrel nearby making a lot of noise. Oh, on that day I heard what sounded like buck antlers crashing once fairly loudly. But no sight of deer. On these previous 2 hunts it was cold, 20 degrees and my legs, feet and hands were cold. So I go back to Walmart and get some buck scent. I also bought some nice neoprene hunting gloves, farmer john coveralls and what looked like freezer boots (black with water proof bottoms up to ankle, insulated throughout). The time before I was cold. My coats and head gear were plenty good, so my head was fine. Next time I was good and warm in the 20 degree weather. I then go to the scrapes that day and spray buck scent in them. I looked for signs to see if another buck was trying to take over the scrapes (saw nothing) and then went back to the camper to do other things like work the garden or whatever. A few days later, the day after Thanksgiving, I decide to give it one last shot before my vacation was over. I put on all my clothes and headed up to the coop at 15 minutes until full sun up. I overslept the alarm clock a bit. This time I decided not to try the squirrel call at all thinking that was a mistake the last time, just the antlers. I made a crash sound and scraping sound and rustling sound with the fake antlers. I immediately heard some noise in the distance past the old burnt house foundation and thought it sounded like deer or maybe squirrels. I would wait 15 minutes and give a little rattle that sounded like young bucks sparing, but not too loud. I waited another 15 minutes and again a little bit of rattling. In this chicken coop there is chicken wire to my left and right. To my left 25 yards away were the blocks I had put out. I could also see the scrape at 40 yards. To my right I could look through the wire and see the scrape that was at 30 yards, and through the door I had a very limited view, but could see about 42 yards away between two large trees. 07:35 I hear a noise and lo and behold a doe steps into view at 42 yards through that doorway. I raise my gun to take aim and before I can squeeze the trigger she moves forward to my right and out of sight between me and some limbs or brush. She was headed for the 30 yard scrape on my right, so I figured I might have another chance. Before I could even lower my aim a bit a second doe steps in the same place. I aimed steady down the barrel of the 410 as straight as I could at her chest area and fired. There was a slight delay as she looked up and then she leaped into the air and twisted at the same time to move in the opposite direction. She must have thought it safest to run the direction she came from. So I waited about 15 minutes to let her bleed out a little, hoping I hit her. I couldn’t wait a minute more, I paced off the distance and it was 42 yards from the coop. I immediately saw a good amount of blood on the leaves. That excited me that I had hit her. I started to track the blood and lo and behold it was like following a chalk line. She was heading up hill towards some cliffs above. As I’m approaching where she lay, that is before I had seen her, I heard this noisy galloping and looked back to my right to where it was coming from. Another doe, maybe the first one that I let get by, was running at me (or her maybe). It stopped, turned broadside to me and snorted then galloped away as fast as it could. I almost would have had time to shoot her, too. So I track another 50 feet then see her laying under a couple of cedar trees where she lay to die. She had laid down on the shot side. I thanked her for the food she would provide and then began to drag her about 200 yards downhill to the old house place. I then covered her up a bit with leaves so that no one else would easily see her laying there and hiked the 170 yards back to the camper to find some rope or something to drag her with. I found some 1/4″ fiber rope and a nylon ratchet strap. I went back up the hill to the house place and then dragged her the remaining 170 yards to my friend’s front porch. I swear she got heavier and heavier the closer I got to that porch. We are figuring she weighed in at about 120-130 lbs. I had no real way to weigh the deer itself. We did have a human scale that I used later to weigh the processed meat. I later recovered the slug from here skin on the opposite side. It had passed through her lung and liver and didn’t penetrate the skin on her back side. It had passed between the two ribs closest to her stomach so it was indeed almost a gut shot. In the next article I will tell you how I gutted, skinned and quartered the deer. And I will tell and show you how I deboned, processed and sliced the deer in the last article. One last note here on this hunt, I don’t know if the fake scrapes or scents helped at all. I do believe the rattle may have helped on this last hunt. I think the no scent soaps and detergent may have helped. Using the chicken coop as a blind worked very well, though it did shock me that I was able to get that shot through the door instead of out either side. There was much less view through that doorway and it was wide open with no wire or anything for blind. One thing to my advantage was that, as you can see in the photos, it was dark inside the coop compared to the partly sunny sky outside. I knew there were deer around me and I proved it. I also proved that the 410 Snake Charmer or Rossi Tuffy can be a good survival tool. I could have borrowed sniper rifles but I wanted to use my gun. This was the only deer legal gun I had. I’m pretty sure I used a rifled slug. But a friend of mine’s son said I got lucky with that 410, so now I’m going to get a full sized deer silhouette on some cardboard and walk it up there to where I shot her. I’m going to go back to the coop and shoot it in the chest area 5 times with rifled slugs and 5 times with non-rifled slugs. That should settle that argument. Later I may post the results as a comment on this article. On Dec 22 I returned home for one day. On that morning I got up and needed to go to my friends mobile home to get a gallon of water. As I opened the door to my camper I lifted my head to see a large Doe do a jump and 180 degree about face with fast gallop away, white flag flying. She was standing about 20 feet from my camper door in the driveway. I suspect I will get another with a bow before March.
  3. Knockdown Shooting Bench from kosterknives.com I found a good design for a shooting bench made from a single sheet of plywood on the web. It requires a 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood, and I chose pressure treated at near $45. It also requires some 1″ to 1.5″ screws and wood glue. So I spent around $50 thus far. If I paint it, I will spend a bit more. 4×8 3/4″ plywood (treated) $40-$45 Box of 1″ to 1.5″ screws $5. Wood glue $2 For the project I needed some tools. First, I need to build sawhorses from kit with brackets. $65 to $70 for 3 sawhorses (4’wide by 31″ high) 3 sawhorse bracket kits $30 Box of 8 penny nails (8d) $5 6 – 8′ 2×4’s (treated) $30 Tools needed for making sawhorses. Skill saw or hand cross cut saw. Carpenter pencil Tape measure. Rasp file or grinder with grinding wheel or cutting wheel might work. Small hammer. Tools needed for drawing shooting bench. Carpenters pencil Giant Sharpe Tape measure Tri square Framing square Drafting squares and circle tool Drafting compass 4′ straight edge if possible 1′ ruler marked in inches down to 16th inch Tools needed for cutting out the pieces and assembly. Jig saw with good wood blade. Sawzall or router might work, as well. Small skill saw or any circular saw could help with straight line areas. Drill Motor with bit just larger than jig saw blade for corners and slots also small bits for drilling pilot holes and counter sink holes. Phillips screw driver bit for drill motor for screwing a few pieces to the seat. Rasp file or grinding tool. Sanding tool or sand paper if you want to sand edges. Materials needed for target frames around $100 or less. 8′ steel T Post. 8 – 10 $7 ea. Chicken wire 24″x25′ $12 Tie straps and wire for tying chicken wire to post. Horizontal pieces for making the frame a box shape. These will be tied with wire to the vertical post. I used bamboo sticks. Tools needed for putting up target frames. Steel fence post pounder. Side cutters or wire cutters. Pliers for twisting wire. 4 Target Frames (2-3 hour $100 project) First, I’ll start with the target frames. I sized them for 2′ wide by 3′ tall human silhouette targets that I get for $1 each. In our case here, the pond dam was 60 yards long. There is a very steep and nice hill on the opposite side as a natural back stop. The pond dam curved in such a way that I was able to place each target frame so that all of them could be seen from the firing position, without one being in front of the other. Frames were placed at 20, 40, 50, 60 yrds. Not 30 yrds. because there was a hole in the dam where water had overflowed the dam and washed it out. I may put one there once I fill that hole. However, all one needs to do to have a 10 yrd and 30 yrd target is move forward 10 yrds. For bow target, we have a pillow rag filled type target and its very easy, now that I have these frame setup to move it back and forth to accurate ranges of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 yrds. I simply pounded the post in 2 for each frame and 2′ apart. The post might hit rock or otherwise become crooked during pounding. I simply bent the post by pulling on it to straighten it after I attained the proper depth. They bend quite easily.
  4. Trapping can be a huge topic. There are many reasons one might construct different traps for any living thing. I began my trapping research because I see that, for winter survival, trapping skills and equipment could be a huge asset. It can supply supplemental income to a homestead. It can supply insulation, in the form of fur clothing and bedding. But the amount of food you can put in the freezer or storage, when you combine trapping with hunting and fishing, could be incredible and the difference between starving and surviving. One man could certainly feed several people to even supplying a good amount to a community. Trapping items could make great barter goods. One might want to live trap and release just to see the inhabitants of his property up close and to learn more about the animals. Finally, one might trap to get rid of nuisance animals. This will be the first article of about five in this series. Some of this series will seem basic but it’s to set a frame of mind. Some will seem simplistic to those that already know trapping to some extent. I base what I say in this article on research, not experience. Feel free to comment and correct me, if I’m wrong. Mainly, in this series, I want to lay out an outline or guide in which to introduce and give the reader a good starting point on where to begin his own research. I want to give you some clues and make you think. Hopefully I will entertain a little, as well. Traps Traps are devices that kill, injure or hold your prey, or any combination thereof. A trap appears to have several basic components. A) Holding/Injure/Kill component B) Trigger (Pan) (C) Force Mechanism (Springs) D) Latching (Also called a “Dog”). In general, a force is applied to trigger, which unlatches some potential force causing a hold, injury, or kill. Many traps can be made with scrounged materials and simple tools. Using only deadfalls, for example, a man could enter the forest with only a good knife and, using only wood and stone found in the forest, eat quite well. If he had on him a bit of cordage and a few nails, even better. A few fencing staples would make another kind of deadfall or snare. Carry a bit of wire and cordage and snares are a cheap and easy way to procure food. For modern trapping most cheap and homemade trapping methods are illegal for the protection of some animal species or for protection of neighborhood pets. Anything you may want to trap probably is regulated, though there are exceptions in cases of nuisance animals. So be very well aware of the trapping regulations in your area or you would be poaching. In a real survival situation you would, of course, poach. Heck even in an economic downturn you might poach. Of course, if I’m not starving, I’m not poaching and I don’t recommend it. Traps are called sets based on an arrangement or placement. A trap in water is a water set, for example. A trap on land is a land set or perhaps dry set. We have log sets, trail sets, pole sets, mound sets, pocket sets and such. A cubby set is a pen made from any materials such as sticks, logs, stumps, rocks, usually roofed with evergreen boughs. There are limbs sets, and hollow log sets. There are den sets. There are also lucky sets that are spur of the moment improvised sets that might do better than a standard set. A set with no bait or decoy lure scent is called a Blind Set. A pit style trap might be an exception to the way most traps work where the creature merely falls into the pit or container. There is a plant in the Philippines that traps rodents in its cup shaped flower and then consumes or digests the rodent. Snares and deadfalls are common types of traps. Snares and deadfalls are illegal in most locations. Deadfalls are totally illegal in the state of Arkansas, but snares may be permitted for certain animals if you use a specific type of snare. The main reason these are illegal is because they are mostly indiscriminate. That is, they catch and or kill species they are not intended to be caught. If someone’s pet or livestock ends up in the trap, then you have accidentally killed or injured their property. Deadfalls specifically are kill traps where something heavy, usually wood or stone or a combination, falls on the victim, crushing it. You might recall Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator killing the alien with a log deadfall (Actually the log was a weight that operated the spike trap, but it had the same function as a deadfall in that instance). Though snares can be set to hold and not kill many times, they do kill. A snare is a lasso style loop of wire or chord that closes around its victim on a leg, neck, or a combination. The cool thing about snares and deadfalls is that they can be made with very little investment in tools or materials. Materials for deadfalls, in particular, can be found entirely in the woodlands. What little you may need, such as wire or nails, weighs very little and are easy to pack. However, the deadfalls require a lot of work. This is work that can be done in the off season. It’s good to let these traps sit for months so that they look more natural when trapping time comes along. The wait means that human scent is eliminated until you set them and, at that time, you will be careful to leave as little scent as possible. Leghold traps are another type. These are spring loaded traps that have a jaw which clamps the leg when the animal steps on a pan (flat round trigger). The jaws of these traps are made in different ways. Some have had spiked teeth. Some have had flanges that hand down to prevent the animal from chewing his foot off. Modern jaws have rubber pads that keep the traps from causing too much, if any damage, and thereby only holding the animal until the trapper shows up. The larger the trap and the stronger the spring makes setting without tools difficult. The best thing to get is a C clamp shaped tool which will compress the spring and hold it until you get the trap set. A friend told me a simple method for keeping springs compressed. Wrap a chord or rope around the springs and keep it wrapped tight as you compress the spring (by standing on the spring). Do not attempt to set traps for larger animals with only your hands, as you might get your hands caught in them. Kill traps can be a trap, such as deadfalls or snare; however, many are simply spring loaded wire or rods that mash its victim by concentrating a force in a small area. A modern brand is Conibear and some have forces of 650 pounds per square inch(psi)! A tractor trailer fully loaded might only load the road surface with 200 psi or less. This kind of trap is similar to the standard mouse trap everyone is familiar with. A poison might be another kind of kill trap but most likely is illegal, unless used for pest control. Common poisons have been cyanide and the metal arsenic. Poisons or intoxicants have been used for catching fish. Green walnut shells mashed up and ground make a good fish poison. Clove oil has been used as an intoxicant but it’s not cheap in the quantities needed. Net traps are well known to be used in fishing, mainly commercial fishing. Netting is very effective and can be illegal in many cases, such as using gill nets. In Arkansas, if you are on your own land and it’s your lake or pond, you can do what you want with your fish. Fish nets may be used to effectively catch most any living thing. Nets can be dropped on animals or can be pulled upward and around the animal. A net is a mesh or grid made from some type of strong material that the animal cannot get through or break. In many cases, the animal becomes entangled. This net grid is commonly based on squares but can be of any shape. Nets are generally flexible but do not have to be. Chicken wire is, in effect, a netting. Fencing itself is a kind of netting. Have you ever thought about how a farm is where we keep animals in a 24/7 trap? Constantly trapped and when we need one we just go grab it and kill it. The homestead is a much improved method of trapping and hunting. The animals are born within the trap with little means of escape. Container traps are box, tube, can, jar, bucket or barrel traps. These are live traps usually. Make sure when in use you check them often enough so that critters do not die in them from exposure and lack of food water. In Arkansas we can use up to 8 box traps for rabbits with or without a trapping license. A cage is a stiff net container trap that can be in any shape. Trap walls and doors can be solid or partially open with netting of some kind. Gravity can be used as the trapping force but most especially in the pit style trap. Often a surface is baited and gives under the weight of the animal allowing it to drop into the container. In the case of some pit/container traps the animal risk falling in an attempt to get the bait. Otherwise there are various mechanisms for trigger, latch, spring forces. In one episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud used wide mouthed jars or cans to make pit traps to catch scorpions. He used a tube to catch a large centipede. Pen or corral type traps work good for animals that can be held by fencing such as hogs. An auto feeder can be placed in the pen. Once the animals get used to entering and eating for a period of time all that is needed is to show up and set the trap door or doors. Trapping There are common concepts and themes in my research on trapping that I have encountered, which I will relate to you. A decoy is anything that attracts the prey (victim) to the trap. Decoys may also be called Lures. Bait could be a decoy but it’s usually just called bait and can be something the animal wants to eat or is otherwise interested in or curious about. Though bait could be dragged from trap to trap spreading the baits scent in a trail fashion. In hunting a decoy might be a sound such as dying or suffering sound, or a mating call or feeding noise. A decoy in duck hunting is fake wooden or plastic duck. But in trapping it’s referring to a scent or smell. Scents are kept in oil or alcohol. Scents mixed with oil or honey tend to slow evaporation and last longer after application. Some scents are oils such as fish oil or skunk oil. These are rendered fats of the animal. Some scents are from herbs such as oil of anise which is similar in flavor of black licorice or black jelly beans. Honey is another good scent or bait especially for the bear family. In some cases, a scent oil is made by rotting something (meat, fats, commonly fish) in a loosely capped bottle for a few weeks. Then the oil/liquid is poured off into another container and filtered for applying a few drops at a time about a trap. Urine and feces can also be used as decoys. Animals are attracted to their own kind. Household pet urine and feces could be spread about a trap for example. Dog for dog family and cat for cat family. Or an animal that you might want to trap could be held captive where its feces and urine could be collected and then used to trap members of its family and kind. Some scents are from glands of an animal such as beaver castor, skunk scent or musk of Muskrats. As you might imagine coming up with your own scents is dirty smelly work. Just as you want scent to attract the game, you also want to eliminate, or at least reduce, human sign and sent. As far as elimination of sign, you should leave the area around the trap looking as natural as possible and use a limb to brush out your tracks. Traps should be covered for many types of game though some game pay no attention to the trap and readily step right on the pan or into it. Dig a hole level with ground putting dirt in a sand bag to be removed from trap area. Place some type of soft material under the pan to keep lighter animals from triggering the pan. This can be leaves, moss, wool or cotton balls, hair/fur etc. Place a piece of scrap paper over the trap and pan and lightly cover it with dirt from the sand bag. If it is too clumpy or heavy you might need to bring in something that is lighter. Use leaves, grass, straw or feathers as well to cover the trap. To eliminate human scent, observe some strict rules in regards to not spitting or urinating near the trap areas. Some scents can be smeared on shoes/boots that overwhelm human scent such as skunk scent. Rubber soled shoes may hold less scent or not allow your scent to leave the inside of the shoe or boot. Also shoe or boot could be wrapped with a skin of some kind such as buck skin or practically any fur from a fur bearer. If you have to get down on your knees a skin such as buckskin can be laid out near where you will dig. Use buckskin gloves when handling and setting traps. Even with all of this effort you may not want to return to the traps the next day as nothing will go near them until all scent fades. Near water areas and water sets you can sprinkle area where you may have left scent with water to wash the scent or dilute it. Using a mount such as a horse/mule/donkey when traveling from trap to trap might be best as well since any sign you leave will be minimal and wild animals are not suspicious of the scents these animals produce or at least are not as suspicious. The metal traps have scent as well especially when they are new. They have scent of metals and oils. Trappers for ages boil their traps. They usually make a stew of bark and evergreen leaves and needles or acorns crushed up. Green walnut hulls are good too. These ingredients have an acid in them called tannin. And this is called browning the trap. The traps can also be coated with bees wax which not only covers up scents and protects from rust but lubricates the traps. Blood is also used to coat the traps. Traps are attached to clogs or grapples which are generally buried along with the trap and chain. In this way the animal is less likely to chew its foot/leg off or injure itself because a clog or grapple acts like a hobble and gives the animal only a little freedom to move about. The clog or grapple usually leaves a trail the trapper may follow to find the victim. A steak can also act as a clog if it is pulled out of the ground and if it is heavy enough. A branch limb can also be used as a clog. The length of chain is sometimes important. Shorter chain is more difficult to yank therefore the animal does less damage to the trap in trying to get free. Yet in water sets the weight of the chain aids in drowning the animal. In water sets a ring on the end of the chain is placed around a pole such that when the critter is caught it immediately tries to swim down and away. It doesn’t realize it can’t go back up and therefore drowns. Its generally preferable to drown animals caught in water sets. This protects the fur and prevents the animal from chewing his foot off. In situations where you don’t want the stake pulled up an earth anchor is used. Stakes or cables with earth anchors are used. In some cases these anchors pivot 90 degrees when the stake is pulled on. A buried clog can serve as earth anchor as well. Traps should be sized according to the animal you intend to catch. Metal traps are numbered from 0 to whatever the manufacture decides to use. Lower numbers for smaller and larger numbers for larger animals. One size of trap may work for several species and its often that while trapping for one animal you will catch another one. For food or fur this could be a better catch than what the trap was intended to catch. Many times one trap will catch similar types of animals as well. For example when trapping for beaver you might catch otter, mink, muskrat etc. When trapping for coyotes you might catch fox or wolf. When trapping for raccoon you might catch mink, weasel or skunk. And when trapping for bear you might catch a human! Some traps and trap setups discriminate more than others depending on size, kind and placement etc. By the way its illegal to trap game as large as bear or deer in Arkansas and probably most states. Traps should be baited based on the species you intend to trap. Some species such as skunks like tainted (rotted) bait. While others like the cats prefer fresh meat. Fish rotted or otherwise is good bait for coons and bear and other critters. Salmon, sardines and about any fish can work. Bait is not always placed on the pan or trap. Sometimes its placed beyond the trap so that the animal must cross the trap in order to reach the bait. Sometimes it is hung in the air or nailed to a tree. In most cases its best to tie the bait to something so that the animal must struggle with it in order to try to obtain it. In doing so the odds are greater that they trip the trigger. One can trap without bait or with only decoy scents. Or you can use decoy scents and bait in combination. In the case of no bait usually the trap is placed in a path so that the animal in its normal routine steps on or enters the trap. In the case of decoy scent the animal may be curious and try to sniff the scent thereby stepping on the trap. In some cases vegetable is a better bait. Honey comb for bears. Apple, carrot, cabbage for rabbits. Seeds for birds and squirrels. Young shoots or sticks of certain species of trees for beaver. In many cases with certain kinds of traps it would be good to lift the prey off the ground high enough that nothing but you can get to it. This keeps other animals from eating it and tearing the hide. A spring pole is a green sapling or small tree where the main trunk/branch is bent over almost a full 180 degrees. It should be large enough and strong enough to lift the weight of the prey and the trap off the ground to the desired height. A test could be performed using a sand bag of appropriate weight. Have the trap lift the sand bag as a test. A balance pole is tree trunk or log long where the heavy end is placed beyond a fork in another tree such that when the trigger is released its weight lifts the opposite end via leverage off the ground. Think of the play ground seesaw, fulcrum and lever. A weight such as a sand bag or heavy piece of log or stone could be tied and lifted over a tree limb as a counter balance such that when the trigger is tripped it pulls the prey off the ground to the desired height before hitting the ground itself. Another interesting fish trap that is spring loaded that lifts the fish out of the water is a fishing yoyo. And don’t forget any of these methods could be used to catch and lift fish out of the water. There are different kinds of triggers and they are difficult to describe in text. “Figure Four” is a common type in setting up deadfalls but there are more types for deadfalls. If using a nail as part of the trigger it should be a finishing type nail or headless. Triggers can be made to trip more easily or less easily depending on how you make them. Ever heard of hair trigger? Like many things this is probably a matter of balance when tweaking the trigger. Not too light a force or heavy a force needed to trip the trigger. Learn some basic types of triggers and then begin learning on variants. In the case of some types snares and deadfalls small nails and fencing staples can come in handy. Your spring poles, balance poles and weights also come in handy as a force applied to the trigger to keep it set. In the metal traps a spring force is applied to the trigger. Just like when the trigger on a gun is depressed causes the gun to action, same for traps. Guns have springs that direct a firing pin or hammer. In the case of the traps the victim is the one depressing the trigger. The next in this series will be on tracking and and more on trapping.
  5. More on Trapping A friend of mine said, “What I like about trapping is that out of the 100,000’s of square feet the animal travels in I get him to place his foot in one 3″ circle area.” We use the animal’s greed, needs or miss fortune, his laziness or state of mind (mating, hunger, nursing young etc.), intellect or lack there of and habits are all used to his disadvantage. This is how fraud, scams and the con man works. This might also be how the police or even the military do their job at times. Its a matter of knowing your prey. As the great Chinese general said, “Know your enemy!”. “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer!” Learn as much as you can about the animals you intend to trap via actual tracking, in reading tracking guides, and conversation with trappers and hunters. Learn bedding, feeding, mating and migrating habits. Then you will know proper trap set placement. Trap placement as you might imagine is very important. A common concept in trapping is in using scent or lure to bring the animal in from a distance, then the animal sees and or smells bait which brings his foot, head or body to the trap. Trap placement is based on the type of animal you intend to trap, its habits, its nature and such. Two obvious locations might be on a game trail or path or at the entrance of a den. Some use logs as paths or as a bridge path. Many animals burrow which form holes as entrances to their dens. Many animals will steal another animals den or borrow as well. Some animals use trees as their den. Well known examples are raccoon and squirrel. Some use hollow logs as a den. For example, with a raccoon a log/pole might be laid at an angle against a den tree. The traps are place on this leaning log. For dog type animals, traps can be placed on high points or mounds or logs and stumps where they might climb to look around. Dogs will also circle a bait for a few minutes prior to going for it. Traps placed some feet away from the bait all the way around will catch the dog. Dogs also mark their territory by urinating on trees. Dog urine sprayed on a tree or stump will do the trick. Place traps around this tree or stump. A jaw trap should always be place such that the animal steps between the jaws and not over a jaw. This is so that the trap will not knock the animals foot from the trap as it closes. For cats and many types of animals an enclosure, called a cubby, can be made of rock, stone or wood and roofed with evergreen bows or brush. Bait is placed in the back and a trap or several traps at the front. These enclosures use materials on the sides called “fencing” to guide the animal over the trap. A “backstop” of wood or rock or something that may aid in getting the critters attention. Bait is placed next to the backstop. When the animal is standing to take or eat bate a trap is placed not directly under where the animal will be but is “offset” so many inches from center. This is so that it will be where the animal’s foot will step on the pan (trigger). Sometimes this corral arrangement is covered, such as when deep snow is expected. In this way, the animal can dig in the snow and enter and still be trapped. Water sets are almost always placed in a couple of inches under the water. Muskrat traps can be placed along the top of a log in the water. Bait can be placed in the water on a stick just beyond an artificial island, which contains a trap. For some animals, you can dig a hole in a bank (pocket or cache), set bait back in the hole and place a trap at the entrance just under water or covered with a bit of liquid mud or leaves. In one case, a trapper had an intelligent weasel turning his traps over. He placed his traps upside down and caught the rascal. When placing traps on trails and along shores, take advantage of natural brush or banks or rocks and even add barriers that funnel the animal into the trap. Sometimes these barriers can be made of rows of sticks pushed vertically into ground or mud creating a kind of vertical stick fence or wall. Larger pieces of logs can be laid horizontally. And you can make stream bridges with logs by placing logs across a stream. Hollow logs can be used with great success with traps on each end and bait in the middle. Culverts and stove pipes can be used to simulate hollow logs. Traps can be set in tunnels that lead from burrow to outside. Artificial tunnels can be made. Live bait can be used such as birds, rabbits, and rodents. Give the bait bedding, food and water to last a week or so. The baits smell grows stronger by the day and the predator can’t get to the bait because its caged. Caged live bait can be placed in hollow log or in a small fake chicken coop like structure in the case of fox. These trap setups can be made during off season so that they look more natural and have less human scent and sign before trapping season. And some trappers have good success setting traps around and nearby their camp as animals tend to be curious of human camps. One trapper told of how he would set a trap in his own trail in the snow and catch a critter that was following him. There are many hundreds of sets (ways to set traps). They all have names and over time you can learn them from books, web sites, articles, etc. I have simply given you a few to think about in these articles to show you that its a bit more complex than walking out in the woods and trowing a trap down in some random location. And to be honest I didn’t even give you a fair overview in this article. If you use google foo, you can fin many illustrations of different trap sets. Simply google for “‘type name’ trap set”, i.e. “trail trap set” or “log trap set”. Used google images for pictures and diagrams. I should mention trapping honey bees. One of the trapping books talked about how to find and rob bee hives. But what I’m talking about is getting the bees to come to a box. I have not tried this, but basically you set up a hive box and then place drops of lemongrass oil in it. There are other bait oils as well such as clover oil. And honey comb with some honey can be placed in the box as bait. Also I read you can start a fire and boil or burn some honey which will send the scent a long way out. The bees move in and set up housekeeping. Then later you rob them of honey. Trapping Humans?! String Perimeter Alarms I’m sure this will get big brothers attention. But what I’m going to be talking about here is more along the lines of camp security. Some traps can be set around camp to alert a person to animal or human presence. One kind suggested is a string pull trap fireworks supplier sell that sounds like a firecracker. And they are cheap you can get a dozen for 15 cents. I wish there were a whistling trap like this. Tin cans tied to barbed wire are famous. A bunch of tin cans tied to a string and hung in a tree is a good idea. When the trap is spring the cans fall making all kinds of noise. A bow and arrow trap can be easily made to cover a bend in a trail. This might be triggered with trip line. A spring pole trap was made famous in Rambo I. Spikes or blades can be affixed to it so that it stabs victim. Pungi stick pits are famous from Vietnam where spike shaped sticks or bamboo was stuck in the mud pointing upward. A dead fall was made famous in the movie “Predator” where Arnold tripped the trap to drop the log on the alien. Actually the log in that case was a force mechanism to cause the spike trap to function but it served as a dead fall in the end. Traps like nail boards are easy to make and can be placed around with nails up like landmines. Cover the nail boards with leaves and they are almost impossible to detect. Be careful when setting traps for human or larger game or one might become victim to his own trap. There was a story a wilderness skeleton told. The skeleton had both hands caught in a bear trap, in the wilderness and far from any help. This poor trapper attempted to stand on the jaws of a 55 pound bear trap and with both hands and feet pushing the jaws open. He had already fastened the trap to a log. It’s likely this poor mountain man died of dehydration and exposure long before starvation. Many of these intruder traps can be made non lethal or near non lethal though potentially still injurious. A pit could be made just large enough for a foot to drop into with nothing in the bottom. An arrow trap could have a padded arrow tip and set to light force (though it might still put an eye out). A spring pole trap could be made to simply slap the intruder. A dead fall could drop a bag of rags on the intruder or water or oil or anything non lethal that would intimidate and piss them off. At least they might get the idea that they are not welcome and, at least for the moment, are not in the lethal zone. Of course, if I were really going to do any of this I’d make sure the land was posted on its perimeter every 50′ or closer. I like the purple plastic no trespassing ribbon you can wrap around trees. Boundary Tape Sniping is where hunting and trapping overlap. In sniping there is a concept called trapping. This is where you pick a location where the enemy will be traveling. Usually based on prior knowledge from intelligence reports (i.e. game cam on feeder). You set up your spider hole or nest blind or whatever. You figure ahead of time all the variables such as wind, lighting, temperature, barometric pressure, compass heading of shot, angle, visibility, rotation of the earth, etc. Then you adjust your sniper rifle’s scope accordingly. You make charts so that if adjustments need to be made they can be made very quickly. Then the gun is setup and positioned so that it is stationary and solidly aimed at the target location. Now all that is needed is to wait for the enemy (game) to move into the sights. The trap is tripped by a squeeze of the trigger. This is actually an active shooting situation and not a passive trap, but in essence compared to simply taking pot shots at the target it is trapping. I simply point this out as a note of a variation of trapping using a manned vs unmanned trap. In this hunting scenario you could even practice shooting given locations in the off season. Tracking “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, in my face and blowing my mind!” as the song goes. Signs in tracking may not be so obvious. Tracking is at least as important in trapping as in hunting if not more so. Tracking is something I have not spent much time at and may never get to spend a lot of time at. And you need to spend time at it to be good at it. Tracking is called tracking because all animals leave trails of foot prints, right? So we begin our study of tracking there. I have an app for my phone called “Critter Trax”. This app is good but could use a lot of improvement in the number of animals it contains. It mostly contains common animals of every kind. It is a good start however. I searched the web and found a pretty good web site that gives a decent introduction to tracking. Wikihow Tracking Animals It list 3 main methods. 1. Identify the animals. Interpret animal sign. Following the animals. The book below “Tom Brown’s Field Guide” was recommended by a TSP forum woman who has spent time on search and rescue teams out west. I have read it twice and recommend it myself. I will read it again and again in the future, too. Also, the field guide I show is good as well though I’m not sure if it is “the best” field guide, but it’s not bad. Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Natural Observation and Tracking. The first half of his book is dedicated to teaching you the Apache ways of getting in tune with nature and explaining the mental frames of mind needed to be a good tracker. His first chapter is about clearing the mind, quieting the mind and body and learning to listen, observe and ask questions like a child. It’s about being open minded and becoming one with nature. Listen to what plants as well as what animals are saying. Don’t be afraid to become uncomfortable, weather it is weather or getting down on your belly in the mud. The second chapter is on fine tuning the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. He has exercises which is meant to increase awareness. One of which is tracking blind folded. If you disable one sense the others become stronger. When it comes to vision, change from distant view with binoculars to wide view to up close view to magnified views. He uses something he calls splatter vision which is an unfocused wide angle vision. Take on the mind of an artist and musician. With hearing use natural echo chambers such as tree, rocks, even brush. He discusses ways to increase your sense of smell. Its mainly by smelling things. Smell bits of plants. Notice animal smells around dens and try to trace a smell to its origin. If you are a hunter you might try smelling the animals you hunt after a kill. I was sitting in the woods on my property a few weeks back totally camouflaged. Suddenly I smelled something different, somewhat dusty or dirty smell. I have no idea what it was, but it was different than a normal smell. One time walking in the woods in north Arkansas while looking for caves I smelled a pretty rank smell. Coyote? Bear? Big foot? I’ll never know. With blindfolding you can increase your sense of touch. You can take your castings of prints, use them to make tracks then feel the tracks. There are times at low light levels or during the mid day sun or overcast days when feel might become more important that sight. Its best to do tracking early morning or late evening because of the angle of the light and the shadows are longer. He talks about developing taste with blind taste test. Notice how taste is connected to touch and smell. Finally he covers increasing night awareness. The next chapter takes you to a deeper level of awareness. It covers his Apache grandfathers 4 veils or levels of consciousness. To get to deeper levels of conciseness you use relaxation, mediation and concentration techniques. He talks about subconscious perception, imagination and intuition. He tells you how to make a Native American sweat lodge which is like a sauna. All of this coalesces into a more spiritual observation. In the last chapter of the first half of the book he discusses how to move when stalking and observing. He talks about how to go from the city shuffle to coyote walk, fox walk, fox run, trail walk, weasel walk, weasel sneak, stalking high, low, on knees, crawling and on belly. He talks about how to use cover, clothing, concealment and camouflage. Also covered is de-scenting, other hiding techniques and disappearing. Tracking The next half of the book is on tracking. Tracking and observation are one and the same thing. Everything is a track, not just foot prints. Believe you can see it. Be a detective and use the ground like a manuscript. Good tracking takes patience and practice. Identify the tracks using number of toes, claws and shapes. This narrows it to a family of types of animals. For example you can pretty much figure 3 toes are birds, while 4 to 5 toes are mammals. Some mammals have 4 toes up front and 5 on back feet. Some are single toed as in hoofed. And in some cases cats can have 6 toes. Dogs usually show claws but cats do not etc. Next a gait is a speed of movement for grown humans might be walk, fast walk, run, sprint. For animals it can be diagonal walk, pace, trot, bound, lope, gallop. Some birds are hoppers and some walkers. But this all depends on the animal. Animals might use any of these as their normal mode of travel. You might think rabbits hop but what they are doing is galloping. Some weasels bound as normal mode of travel. Some animals use only one or two of these modes. With animals that have only one gait in order to determine speed you simply measure distance between prints. Faster means greater distance(stride) of course. There are also patters in how they place the feet in any of these moves. Cats and fox direct register meaning the back foot lands directly on top of the front foot print when they walk. Others indirect register where the back print is offset from the front print. And in some instances an animal that normally doesn’t direct register will. To narrow down from the family of animals to the species you will often have to take measurements of the width and height of front and hind foot prints. You will also measure stride and trail width. Stride being the distance they move forward on each movement of the same gait. Measure straddle which is inside width between left and right foot prints. And measure pitch which is the angle of feet to line of travel. Then consult field guides to narrow down to species. Next you can try to determine male or female, age, weight, and other signs. It is interesting to note that larger foot print doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a male. That depends on the species. If you can determine weight then that can also be used to determine sex based on species but again heavier is not necessarily the male. He talks about all the various animal families and their habits. An interesting note was that the wild dogs and wild cats have very regular patterns to their movement while the tame animals will meander around and not be so regular. While wild cats direct register the tame cats may not in their walk. I figure it’s because the wild animals are taking care of serious business when they move but tame animals are more relaxed almost playing. Next he covers animal highways and signs. He has large, medium and small scale signs, His major highways are game trails and minor ones are runs. Trails might be like our interstates and runs like local highways or city streets. Both trails and runs can be broken down into general, seasonal, singular (one animal), size group (certain size of animal uses it), directional (one way travel). Runs are offshoots of trails from what he calls manifold junctions or cluster junctions. Runs additionally have primary and secondary feeders. Some runs are push downs from fleeing animals. Some are escape routes to hides. A hide can be heavy cover where the predator may still enter to search or occlusive such as dense briers or dens. Runs lead to beds and lays, wallows, dens, feeding and watering areas etc. Feeding areas he breaks into 4 types. General, single plant, eat through and trail nibbling. So far this has been large scale signs. Medium scale signs are like rubs and nicks, scratches, gnawings and bitings. Bitings are insized, serrated and chewed vegetation. Predators being the ones that typically chew. There are breaks and abrasions of sticks twigs and logs. Look for upper vegetation disturbances such as bruised, bent or twisted leaves. Next medium sized sign that we all would think of is scat. He talks about aging scat, scat analysis, scat contents. He also tells you how to dry and preserve scat with a clear coat spray. Why might you want to preserve scat? Everyone has their own personal scat collection right? Well it might be that at the time you find it you simply can’t identify it and want to keep it for later identification. It might also be that if you are teaching tracking a collection would be good to show students. Also you may want to take fresh scat back to study weathering effects which would help in aging scat. He talks about small scale sign such as hair, leaf disturbances, stone disturbances, compressions and using a technique he calls sideheading. With sideheading get your head down to ground level and view the sign with light source on opposite side. There is also shinnings and dullings. A shinning is where an animal moved through grass or vegetation and left a trail that shines in the right light. A dulling is where dew was removed and therefore the path is dull while the vegetation shines. The chapter on pressure releases is worth its weight in gold. He list 31 common pressure releases out of 85 he has documented. He has nice drawings of each and shows you how to diagram them. Gouge Slide Slip Cave Cave-in Shovel Explosion Pock Reverse Pock Depression Cliff Overhang Slope Rounded Ridge Crest Dome Mound Crevasse Crumbling Plume Wave Disk Flat Pitch Roll Twist Pivot Spiral Wobble Stutter I won’t explain these but will refer you to the book. But the jest of it is that when animals step they put pressure down then release the pressure when they move the foot. Depending on what they were doing, how fast they were moving and what they had on their mind they will leave characteristic shapes aside from the shape of the foot itself. And by properly reading these you will get very good clues on where to look for the next foot print. It may be that the next foot print is not at the expected distance or direction. He also talks about using chalk or flower to make a track stand out. Sprinkle chalk in front of track and blow it over the track. He talks about preserving tracks with plaster which is easy. You see the forensic guys on TV doing this all the time with human prints or tire tracks. It’s simply plaster of Paris. You may need to clean debris from the track and spray clear coat on them before pouring plaster. If you want a good way to capture tracks so to speak make a track album. A track album is a smoothed circular piece of ground or a box with soil smoothed off on top. In the center is placed a stick with scent, bait and or something shiny or colorful that might get the animals attention. They will then come in to investigate or take the bait and leave you nice prints to examine. If the soil you are adding is too hard add sand, powdered dirt or wood ash. You could then use this casting to make prints in a sand box for further study. You could try to replicate different pressure releases. He talks about making a track like this in damp sand or dirt then cutting away small slices at a time to examine cross sections. Also you can make a layer cake of sand/flower/clay or whatever make the print and do the same. The layers show how the pressure move the soil well below and to the sides of the track. When aging tracks and signs there is a lot to consider. Having a record of the weather for the area is a must. Tracks will become beat down by rain and round out to flat. Debris will be blown or fall on track based on weather. Tracks will dry and then be blown apart by the wind. If tracks overlap then the one on top obviously is the most recent track. If you want to study weathering effects you can use your plaster cast to make tracks in soil or sand and then put in the weather and monitor it. Or you can created artificial weather with sprayers, and fans, ovens and freezers. You can practice on tracks of different depths by using more or less pressure when you make them. You can also use different hardness’s of soil in your test. Sand is softest, with typical loamy garden soil being medium and clay being hard. Vegetation ages by turning brown because of loss of water. How it turns and how fast is based on local climate. Grass will lay down and over time stand back up. Scat tends to dry from the inside out. It also has a mucous membrane on the outside which drys and goes away after a few hours. If its fresh it will still be warm of course and a temp reading might give age. In finding the next track a tracking stick comes in handy. I made one from a 36″ (3′) 1/2″ dia. dowel rod from Walmart, using water hose band washers that roll back and forth on the stick. They fit tight. I need to mark the stick with one inch and one half inch marks for measurement. Two of the band washers mark the width and length of the foot. And two mark the trail width and length of the stride. You can lay this stick on the ground and use it to find the next track. One technique if the animal crosses a stream or pavement is to cross over and follow the bank up and down or road edge up and down until you find the next track. This is called cross tracking. Also you can step out to expected distance of next track and circle the last track at that radius. If not found increase distance. In the end of his book he talks about tracking humans. I won’t talk about any of that in this article. I will end this article by giving you a list of items I bought from Walmart that is similar to the one he suggest in the book. Also I would always be carrying compass, gps, paper maps, lights, gun, knife, any needed clothing, rain gear etc. I also have “The Tracker’s Field Guide” which shows foot prints and other size data and info for most common north american mammals. In this trackers field guide the author has a section on tracking where he mentions Tom Brown’s guide. Tom Brown’s guide book is $16 on Amazon. It’s 280 pages with reference material in it. He explains all of this thoroughly and convincingly in detail. It is worth the buy. As a matter of fact I just bought one for a cop friend of mine and it was on sale for $13. Measuring stick with 4 band washers, extra bands. 10′ retractile tape measure 3′ tailors tape measure, as a 6″ flexible tape. 6 power Magnifying glass with tweezers with light. String (for outlining) Popsicle sticks (for marking) Small Cutting pliers (wire cutting) 3×5 file cards (for drawing tracks) Sharpe Pen Pencil Scotch tape (for hair collection) zip lock containers and bags or glad lock. Thermometer Plaster of Paris. A cup to mix plaster in. Some plastic to lay over plaster to keep weather off of it while it dries.