site logo

The Art Of Trapping


From time immemorial, and in every nation of the world, the art

of trapping has been more or less practised. By some as a means

of supplying their wants in the shape of daily food, and by others

for the purpose of merchandise or profit.

To be a clever and successful trapper, much more is required than

is generally supposed. The mere fact of a person's being able to

set a trap cleverly and judiciously form
but a small part of his

proficiency; and unless he enters deeper into the subject and learns

something of the nature and habits of the animals he intends to

catch, his traps will be set in vain, or at best meet with but

indifferent success. The study of natural history here becomes

a matter of necessity as well as pleasure and profit. And unless

the trapper thoroughly acquaints himself with the habits of his

various game, the sagacity and cunning of his intended victim will

often outwit his most shrewd endeavors, much to his chagrin. The

sense of smell, so largely developed in many animals, becomes one

of the trappers most serious obstacles, and seems at times to amount

almost to positive reason, so perfectly do the creatures baffle

the most ingenious attempts of man in his efforts to capture them.

A little insight into the ways of these artful animals, however,

and a little experience with their odd tricks soon enables one

to cope with them successfully and overcome their whims. For the

benefit of the amateur who has not had the opportunity of studying

for himself, the peculiarities of the various game, the author

appends a comprehensive chapter on Practical Natural History,

in which will be found full accounts of the peculiar habits and

leading characteristics of all the various animals commonly sought

by the trapper, together with detailed directions for trapping

each variety, supplemented with a faithful portrait of the animal

in nearly every instance. A careful reading of the above mentioned

chapter will do much towards acquainting the novice with the ways

of the sly creatures, which he hopes to victimize, and will thus

prepare him to contend with them successfully.

In the art of trapping the bait is often entirely dispensed with,

the traps being set and carefully concealed in the runways of

the various animals. These by-paths are easily detected by an

experienced trapper, and are indicated either by footprints or

other evidences of the animal, together with the matted leaves and

broken twigs and grasses.

Natural channels, such as hollow logs or crevices between rocks

or fallen trees, offer excellent situations for steel traps, and a

good trapper is always on the qui vive for such chance advantages,

thus often saving much of the time and labor which would otherwise

be spent in the building of artificial enclosures, etc.

The most effective baits used in the art of trapping are those

which are used to attract the animal through its sense of smell, as

distinct from that of its mere appetite for food. These baits are

known in the profession as medicine, or scent baits and possess

the most remarkable power of attracting the various animals from

great distances, and leading them almost irresistibly to any desired

spot. Such is the barks tone or castoreum, of such value in the

capture of the beaver, and the oil of anise, so commonly used for

the trapping of animals in general. These various substances will

presently be considered under their proper heading.

Many detailed and specific directions on the subject of trapping

will be found in the long chapter following; and, in closing our

preliminary remarks, we would add just one more word of general

caution, which the young trapper should always bear in mind.

In all cases avoid handling the trap with the bare hand. Many an

amateur has set and reset his traps in vain, and retired from the

field of trapping in disgust, from the mere want of observing this

rule. Animals of keen scent are quick in detecting the slightest

odors, and that left by the touch of a human hand often suffices to

drive the creature away from a trap which, under other circumstances,

would have been its certain destruction. To be sure the various

scent baits already alluded to, will in a measure overcome human

traces, but not always effectually, and in order to insure success no

precautions so simple should be neglected. A pair of clean buckskin

gloves are valuable requisites to the trapper, and should always

be on hand when setting or transporting traps.