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Although you can technically for weeks without food, you’re going to start feeling weak after just a few days. And in a survival situation, you want to make sure you have enough energy to not just stay alive, but to actively improve your changes of rescue. Foraging for food can work in some areas, but it can also be very time consuming. If you have the skills and materials, setting up traps can yield more food for less work.
Note that the following has been heavily sourced from an article originally published by Field and Stream.
3 Tips for Building Animal Traps
You can significantly improve the chances your trap will work if you plan accordingly. Animals follow patterns and understanding these patterns can go a long way to helping you acquire a meal.
1. Location: Rabbits, muskrats, groundhogs, and other animals usually follow the same trails through meadows and forests. These trails make for ideal locations for traps. In bright sunlight such trails can be difficult to spot so make use of the shadows of early mornings and late afternoons as a guide.
2. Direction: Sometimes it is possible to improve the “funneling effect” of a trail by narrowing it with small sticks and brush stuck in the ground. Doing so will force animals to pass through your trap. In addition, horizontal sticks placed at just the right height can “trick” animals in to ducking right in to the snare you’ve set up.
3. Size: A good rule to follow is to make your trap’s noose about 1.5 times the diameter of the head of the animal you wish to trap. Also, use materials that are strong enough for your intended prey, but weak enough to so that larger game won’t be accidentally injured.
When it comes to making traps, the most important construction material is a spool of snare wire. According to Field and Stream, 26 gauge is about right for all-purpose small-game snares; 28 gauge for squirrels; and 24 or heavier for beaver-size animals. In addition, “soft, single-strand wire is superior to nylon monofilament because it holds its shape and game can’t chew through it.” In a pinch, snares can also be made from braided fishing superlines or 550 parachute cord.
- Make a small loop by wrapping the snare wire around a pencil-diameter stick twice, then turning the stick to twist the wire strands together.
- Pass the long wire end through the loop to form the snare.
- To build a squirrel snare, attach a series of small wire snares around a long stick propped against a tree. You can catch several at a time with this setup.
Twitch-Up Snare Trap
- Tie a small overhand loop knot in your parachute cord, then fold the loop back on itself to form Mickey Mouse ears and weave the tag end through the ears as illustrated.
- To build the twitch-up snare, use more cord to tie a spring pole or the branch of a small tree in tension.
- Set up a trigger mechanism like the one shown. When the animal’s head goes through the loop, the trigger is released, and it snatches the animal into the air, out of reach of other predators.
Ojibway Bird Trap
This works best when set in a clearing where the trigger stick offers a handy perch. The slightest weight on the trigger should cause it to fall and the noose to catch the bird by its feet.
- Cut a 1/4-inch-diameter hole through one end of a stout 3-foot-long pole with a knife. If necessary, shave the sides of the pole to make it thin enough to make the hole. Sharpen the bottom end of the pole and drive it into the ground.
- Whittle the end of the trigger stick so that it resembles a pencil with the point cut off. This end should fit loosely inside the hole in the pole.
- Insert thin cord or fishing line through the hole and tie an overhand knot. Beyond the knot, form a noose. Tie the other end of the cord to a rock.
- Drape the noose over both sides of the trigger and insert it into the pole (if it’s breezy, wet the cord with saliva to help it stay put). Draw the cord until the knot catches at the point where the trigger fits into the hole, to keep it from falling back through–until a bird alights on the small stick.
Two-Stick Deadfall Trap
Your intention here is to create a precarious balance, so the slightest jostling of the trigger will cause the trap to collapse.
- Cut a shallow groove in one end of both upright sticks.
- Insert the trigger stick between the grooves. The upright sticks should not meet at the center of the trigger.
- Balance the sticks as shown under the weight of the deadfall.
After dark, fish often cruise the shorelines of a lake or the shallow inside bend of a stream’s ideal places for a trap.
- Build it as shown with the materials at hand: logs, rocks, or stakes driven into the bottom.
- The diversion arm of the trap directs fish into the V entrance. Most won’t be able to find their way out. Close the entrance and net the fish with a seine made by tying a shirt between two poles. This is much more effective than trying to spear fish or catch them with your hands.