Getting Set to Trap


I remember learning the figure-four dead fall and a simple snare close to a decade ago. When I learned them, I simultaneously learned that the law does not allow them unless you stumble into a real survival situation. This really put me off from ever trying them out or experimenting with them. So the art of trapping fell by the wayside to edible plants and other ancestral skills.

A couple weeks ago when I realized that thinking in terms of only trapping with primitive traps fell under the whole “purity” ideology that still has a grip over me in many areas. Why not trap legally? With legal traps? Anyone who has studied hunter-gatherers knows that trapper-gardener sounds like a more accurate term. Trapping uses energy much more efficiently in acquiring animal protein than hunting. If you set 20 traps in a night, rather than stalk around a forest with a bow and arrow or throwing stick, your chances of actually getting some animals increases dramatically. So while I plan on hunting this fall, trapping this winter sounds like a more lucrative act. Also, it will feel nice to have my knowledge of tracking actually working towards a purpose other than mental stimulation.

The State of Oregon requires a special furbearer’s trapping license. Trying to find out how to get my license proved difficult. With minimal information online, I had to go to a regional Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office and ask for the Trappers Education packet there. The education packet prepares you for the test you need to take to acquire a furbearer’s trapping license. The packet includes a trapping workbook, an Oregon trapping regulations book and several extra reading packets on furbearers and their behavior.

After completing the workbook and reading back over it several times, as well as studying the Oregon Furbearer Regulations booklet, I drove to Salem to take the test. You can take it at any ODFW regional offices, but they have to mail it to the Salem ODFW anyway to have it graded, and I wanted to get it as quickly and efficiently as possible. After passing the test, I filled out an application form and purchased my license for $31.50.

With my license in hand, for the last week or so I’ve looked at how much traps cost, which traps I want to use and have started to make plans for my trapping angle. With searching the net for info on trapping I ended up wandering to several animal rights website all about how fucked up trapping looks to them. I cringed when I watched the following video:

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Pretty fucking brutal, no? Yeah seeing that made me think a little harder about whether or not I should trap. I would hate to think that the animals suffered longer than necessary. At first I thought maybe I would just purchase live traps and shoot the animals to finish them quickly. But to lug a bunch of live traps around the hills doesn’t sound very efficient. Then I saw this video, which made me feel slightly better, but not much:

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I mean, yeah… I don’t think I’ll use leg hold traps, because you still have to kill the animal (unless you drown it, which is ideal with most traps anyway).  But the conibear body gripping traps seem like the most effective and versatile traps at killing the animals quickly. I may still have to end their lives with a gun or other means, up close and personal. But theoretically, the conibear kills the animal quickly by braking its back or neck. They work like this:

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When I heard that the lower Chinook wore muskrat cloaks, it made me want to make one really bad! Of course, muskrat’s have endangered status due to the introduction of invasive nutria stealing their habitat. So… how about a nutria cloak!? Because of their invasive status, nutria have no bag limit and have no season; you can hunt them year round. I may go mostly for urban nutria for their hides, but I don’t see myself eating an urban nutria. I may send one to a lab for toxicity testing if I find out where and how much it costs. I also want to trap other stuff like raccoons for fur and meat. So I decided to go with the conibear. The more you know the animal and can trick it into moving slowly, and directing its head into a particular space, the swifter the kill. This guy has the right idea:

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Of course the whole “raccoons as pests” thing looks ridiculous to me. I love them and think we should have more of them! …and I also love the way they taste! I bought one live box trap for trapping in urban environments where dogs and cats roam, so I don’t kill someones pet, even if they wander onto private property. It seems funny because the more I learn about trapping legally, the more inspiration I have to practice my survival trapping as well. I’ve ordered most of the gear I need and now my plans turn towards scouting a location or two. Any public land will work, but I want to go deep away from trails or other people. Private land works too, but I don’t know anyone out here yet. I think in the end I’ll spend probably like $500 on a decent trapping kit. I’ll put it up here (with cost) when I get it all ready.

I’ve watched that horrible video above a couple times now, and it makes me really waver on the whole trapping thing. I asked my friend who writes the going feral blog about it. He has done some trapping and hunting and he gave me some wisdom that I would like to share here with you:

Whenever I have killed a larger wild creature, I have felt the loss quite deeply, I’ve felt that I took something extremely beautiful from this earth, far more beautiful than I can ever be, and in the back of someplace inside of me that knowledge is carried. It is actually really amazing to be in touch with how much we kill, how much suffering we create, and how much we therefore owe this earth. Cause, as you well know, whether we do the killing or not… we live.

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15 Comments on “Getting Set to Trap”

  1. I had heard that there was some virus that could be carried by raccoons that could be caught by humans and would go to the brain. do you know anything about this? i’ve been afraid to pick up roadkilled raccoon because of this, but after watching that dude handle raccoons, it seems there isn’t anything to be concerned about. perhaps there’s precautions to take?

    i’m excited for you that you are going to start trapping. I’ve really enjoyed my limited experience with trapping so far. your post is inspiring me to look into continuing with it.

  2. “I’ve watched that horrible video above a couple times now, and it makes me really waver on the whole trapping thing.”

    Yep, Urban that would be a good thing.

    Metal traps are inhumane, cruel, as well as unfair, in short: totally unacceptable.

    Stick with a bow and arrow.

    Fair enough.

  3. Hi Scout!

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking along these same lines the last few weeks, mainly ‘cuze I’ve been chillin’ with my trapper friend Katarra (I think she knows you,) who traps beaver in the North Woods in Minnesota. She uses the conibear traps and feels they are ethical. She says that she feels that because trapping has made her observe the beaver more closely, she feels a stronger connection to the beaver (and because she uses their hides and meat,) then she would if she didn’t trap. Because they’ve become part of her livelihood, she feels she is more likely to fight to save habitat for the beaver and the beaver themselves, more then if she’d never developed this relationship with them.

    This is just what she says; I guess I’ll reach my own conclusions and you will too..


  4. Hi Possum,

    May I suggest you take a good look at some real life that encounter conibear traps.

    Your friend finds them ethical?

    Few good videos found on YT show how truly ‘ethical’ these traps truly are.

    Thank you.

  5. Suffering happens.

    Watch a pack of wolves take down an elk. A farmer i know told me when he was a boy, cyotes would come to the farm and eat the newborn calves AS THEY WERE COMING OUT OF THEIR MOTHER.

    I think its great that you are exploring what you feel comfortable with.

    From my reaserach and limited expirience primitive traps are more effective and the most lethal. They have generations of design behind them. Whatsw the laws for snares and deadfalls?

  6. to add to the confusion of ethics-using a bow or gun runs the risk of just maiming the animal or killing them and not being able to find them.

  7. regarding raccoon meat, I thought they also carried the potential for spongiform encephalopathy but I could be super-imposing squirrels over raccoons. The japanese ate raccoons all the time, enough for a miso soup named after it… this post makes me wanna learn 2 snare

  8. Hey prince,

    re: “… not being able to find them.”

    Just take along your best pal, he/she will find the dinner.

    Thank you.

  9. Prince, whom ever your best little pal may be, be it canine, or feline, or any other non human pal that one may have, that has a nose for food from the natural world … yes.

  10. “I’ve watched that horrible video above a couple times now, and it makes me really waver on the whole trapping thing.”
    If you want to see horrible things go to industrial farm. In nature, most predator are not gentle with pray… If you can avoid animal suffer great but don’t expect killed animal to not suffer at all with trap.

  11. Conibear traps are wonderful, quick, and humane when used properly. That means all conibear sets for beaver are underwater. Never had any pet dogs or cats caught in them, ever. Set for mink and marten in trees 4+ feet above the ground. Again never had any dog, cat, or bird caught in them. All pet owners that allow their pets to run loose should know the trapping season dates and act responsibly. Don’t let your kids play on the freeway, or your pets in potentially dangerous trapping areas. Both trappers and the public need to act like adults.

  12. I grew up in Alaska with a brother who ran a trap line. I think the most important thing when we are talking about ethics is to check the trap line frequently.

    All killing of animals for food and resources is both cruel and necessary and I think the most important thing is to have a good sense of reverence for the act. It sounds like your mind is on that, based upon your actions (research, thinking about the things you find distasteful as well as tolerable, etc.).

    As far as nutrea go, wouldn’t they also be a source of oil for waterproofing of hide and such?