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The Dead-fall


There are several varieties of this trap, some of which are described

in other parts of this volume. In general construction they all

bear a similarity, the methods of setting being slightly changed

to suit the various game desired for capture. For large animals,

and particularly the Bear, the trap is sprung by the pressure of

the animal's foot, while reaching for the bait. Select some favorite

haunt of the Bear, and p
oceed to construct a pen of large stakes.

These should consist of young trees, or straight branches, about

three inches in diameter, and should be of such a length as to

reach a height of four or five feet when set in the ground, this

being the required height of the pen. Its width should be about

two and a half or three feet; its depth, four feet; and the top

should be roofed over with cross pieces of timber, to prevent the

bait from being taken from above. A straight log, about eight inches

in diameter, and six feet in length should now be rolled against the

opening of the pen, and hemmed in by two upright posts, one on each

side, directly on a line with the sides of the enclosure. Another

log, or tree trunk, of the same diameter, and about fifteen or twenty

feet in length, should next be procured. Having this in readiness,

we will now proceed to the construction of the other pieces. In

order to understand the arrangement of these, we present a separate

drawing of the parts as they appear when the trap is set (a).

An upright post, is supplied at the upper end with a notch, having

its flat face on the lower side. This post should be driven into

the ground in the left hand back corner of the pen, and should

be three feet or more in height. Another post (b) of similar

dimensions, is provided with a notch at its upper end, the notch

being reversed, i. e., having its flat side uppermost. This

post should be set in the ground, outside of the pen, on the

right hand side and on a line with the first. A third post (c),

is provided with a crotch on its upper end. This should be planted

outside of the pen on the right hand side, and on a line with the

front. The treadle piece consists of a forked branch, about three feet

in length, supplied with a square board secured across its ends.

At the junction of the forks, an augur hole is bored, into which a

stiff stick about three feet in length is inserted. This is shown

at (h). Two poles, (d) and (e), should next be procured, each

about four feet in length. These complete the number of pieces,

and the trap may then be set. Pass the pole (d) between the stakes

of the pen, laying one end in the notch in the post (a), and

holding the other beneath the notch in the upright (b). The second

pole (e) should then be adjusted, one end being placed in the

crotch post (c), and the other caught beneath the projecting

end of the pole (d), as is fully illustrated in the engraving.

The dead-log should then be rested on the front extremity of the

pole last adjusted, thus effecting an equilibrium.

The treadle-piece should now be placed in position over a short

stick of wood (f), with its platform raised in front, and the

upright stick at the back secured beneath the edge of the latch

pole (d).

The best bait consists of honey, for which Bears have a remarkable

fondness. It may be placed on the ground at the back part of the

enclosure, or smeared on a piece of meat hung at the end of the

pen. The dead-log should now be weighted by resting heavy timbers

against its elevated end, as seen in the main drawing, after which

the machine is ready for its deadly work.

A Bear will never hesitate to risk his life where a feast of honey

is in view, and the odd arrangement of timbers has no fears for

him after that tempting bait has once been discovered. Passing

beneath the suspended log, his heavy paw encounters the broad board

on the treadle-piece, which immediately sinks with his weight. The

upright pole at the back of the treadle is thus raised, forcing

the latch-piece from the notch: this in turn sets free the side

pole, and the heavy log is released falling with a crushing weight

over the back of hapless Bruin.

There are many other methods of setting the Dead-fall, several

of which appear in another section of this book. The above is the

one more commonly used for the capture of Bears, but the others are

equally applicable and effective when enlarged to the proper size.

In South America and other countries, where Lions, Tigers, Leopards,

and Jaguars abound, these and other rude extempore traps are almost

the only ones used, and are always very successful. The pit-fall

often allures the Bengal Tiger to his destruction, and the Leopard

often terminates his career at the muzzle of a rifle baited as

seen in our page illustration. A gun thus arranged forms a most

sure and deadly trap, and one which may be easily extemporized

at a few moments' warning, in cases of emergency. The Puma of our

northern forests, although by no means so terrible a foe as the

Leopard, is still a blood-thirsty creature, and while he shuns the

gaze of man with the utmost fear, he is nevertheless constantly

on the alert to spring upon him unawares, either in an unguarded

moment or during sleep. A hungry Puma, who excites suspicion by

his stealthy prowling and ominous growl, may easily be led to his

destruction at the muzzle of a gun, baited as we shall now describe.