Categories: TRAPS FOR LARGE GAME.
This is the famous harpoon trap, so commonly used in Africa for
the capture of the hippopotamus. There is no reason why
it may not be successfully employed in our own country for taking
large game, or modified on a reduced scale for smaller animals.
The hippopotamus makes his daily rounds in regular beaten pathways;
and the trapper, knowing this peculiarity, turns it to advantage.
This is a common habit with many animals; and these runways are
easily detected by the matted leaves and grass and the broken twigs.
Over such a beaten track the harpoon-trap is suspended.
The harpoon used by the native African trappers somewhat resembles
a double-barbed arrowhead, and has a reflexed prong on the shaft
just behind the barbs,--a sort of combination between a spear and
a fish-hook. It is a terrible weapon; and, when once launched into
the flesh of its victim, its withdrawal is impossible, on account
of the reflexed barb. Any sharp steel shaft will answer the purpose
of the harpoon; it should be eight or ten inches in length, and
filed to a keen point. We will now construct the trap. The first
requisite is a straight section of the branch of some tree. This
should be about four inches in diameter, and four feet in length.
Into one end of this beam the harpoon should be firmly imbedded,
allowing the point to project about six inches. This beam should
then be weighted with two large stones, attached firmly by a rope,
about eighteen inches above the harpoon. At about six inches from
the other end of the log a notch should be cut, having its flat
side uppermost, as shown plainly in our illustration. The implement
is now ready.
Select some favorably situated tree, whose branches extend over
the pathway chosen for the trap. By the aid of a rope secured to
the log, and thrown over the limb, the weighted beam may be drawn
up into the tree. While thus held by a person below, the trapper
should climb the tree to complete operations. For this purpose, a
smaller branch about three feet in length should be cut. One end
should be flattened off on both sides, so as to fit in the notch
in the beam; and the part which rests on the limb, as seen in the
illustration, should also be flattened to prevent turning. A piece
of stout Indian twine should next be fastened to the unwhittled end
of the stick, which may then be adjusted in the notch of the harpoon
beam, as seen in the engraving. The string may then be thrown down,
and grasped by the companion below, who holds it firmly, after
which the original rope may be removed. It will be noticed that the
weight of the harpoon and accompaniments rests on the short arm of
the lever which passes over the limb of the tree, and the tension on
the string from the long arm is thus very slight. This precaution
is necessary for the perfect working of the trap. To complete the
contrivance, a small peg with a rounded notch should be cut, and
driven into the ground directly plumb beneath the long end of the
lever. It should be inserted into the earth only sufficiently to
hold the string without pulling out, and the side of the notch
should face the path; its height should be about a foot. Into the
notch the string should be passed, being afterwards drawn across
the path and secured on the opposite side at the same height. The
trap is now set; and woe to the unlucky quadruped that dares make
too free with that string! A very slight pressure from either side
is equally liable to slip the string from the notch, or loosen the
peg from the ground; and the result is the same in either case,--down
comes the weighted harpoon, carrying death and destruction to its
For large animals, this mode of setting will be found to work perfectly.
When constructed on a smaller scale, it may be slightly modified.
It will be noticed that, when the string is approached from one
side, it is merely slipped out of the notch,--a slight pressure
being sufficient to dislodge it,--while the pressure
from the opposite direction must be strong enough to lift the peg
out of the ground bodily. This is easily done when the peg is lightly
inserted; but, to insure success, even with light pressure from
either side, an additional precaution may be used, if desired.
Instead of fastening the end of the string securely to some object
on the further side of the path, it is well to provide the end of
the cord with a ring or loop, which should be passed over a nail
or short peg driven in some tree or branch, or fastened into an
upright stake, firmly embedded into the ground. The nail should
point in the opposite direction from the notch in the peg, and
its angle should incline slightly toward the path. It will thus
be seen that an approach from one side forces the string from the
notch in the peg, while an opposite pressure slides the ring from
This mode of setting is especially desirable for small animals,
on account of its being more sensitive.
Such a trap may be successfully used for the puma, bear, and the
lynx. When constructed for smaller animals, the harpoon may be
dispensed with, a large stone being equally effective in its