As most of you are probably aware, small game can give you much needed protein when it may be otherwise unavailable. One challenge to sustaining yourself, even partially, in a survival scenario with small game is balancing the nourishment you will get from them against the time, effort, and resources needed to obtain them. You can expend a lot of time, effort, and calories hunting to only procure a few squirrels in an area where they are heavily hunted. In addition, you may be using ammunition that is literally irreplaceable in order to obtain a little protein- it may only take you a round or two of .22’s, but what if you are using what has become your lifetime supply? That .22 cartridge might be worth considerably more to you than the squirrel that you take with it. This is where trapping can come in handy- let’s look at a few simple ways to trap common small game.
Conibear traps for squirrels
The #110 conibear trap is an excellent, inexpensive tool that can obtain a lot of squirrels for you, with a minimal amount of effort and time on your part. They are an inexpensive trap, ranging from around $8 each if you buy them individually, to less than $4 each if bought by the dozen. Most local hardware or farm and feed stores will have a few of them around (at least in my area) and if not, they are easily ordered online. Here is a link to a six pack of them for $25. They are light, small, and easy to set with bare hands, and won’t normally break bones if you accidentally snap one closed on your hand (although you might have some choice words to say if you do so). Also, the 110 can catch animals as large as Raccoons, but they are a little small for that, and would not be the first choice. The 110 can be used to catch fish as well, by setting it in a channel that forces fish to swim through it, but I have never personally seen this done, so I can’t comment on the effectiveness.
To make a reliable set for squirrels, all that is needed is the trap, 3 roofing nails, and bait. First, two roofing nails are driven into a decent sized tree, around 5 feet from the ground, so that they have about ½” still sticking out at an upward angle, and so that they fit just inside of the corners of the trap, as shown in the picture. The third nail is used to attach the end of the chain to the tree so that there is some slack in the chain when the trap is set. A little of this nail should be left sticking out so that it can be pulled out in order to move the trap later, but the chain should be secure, or the trap might be lost if a squirrel flails around and runs off with it. They won’t run far once the trap gets them, the trap may still be lost. Now that the trap is set up, bait is placed on the trigger wires, the trap is set, and hung as pictured. Almost anything can be used for bait- peanut butter covered marshmallows or sponges, nuts, honey, corn, etc. as long as it will stay on the wire. The trap should now be left and checked periodically- more often in hot weather, if trapping for food, as nobody wants to get sick from spoiled meat. It might take a few days for anything to be caught in the trap, squirrels will recognize that the trap is something new and may take a few days before they try to mess with it. One word to the wise on setting a trap this way- this method of setting a trap may not be legal in your area. Here in NC, it is illegal to set any trap in a manner that causes an animal to be suspended in the air once caught, so I cannot use this type of set in NC for any animal.
Larger Conibears for Raccoons, Possums, etc.
A larger conibear trap, such as the 220, is a little more pricey, at $76 per half dozen, and in addition to being a larger trap, they also have two springs for additional power when they snap closed. The 220 conibears work well for larger animals such as raccoons and possums. With that being said, I’m sure that a possum isn’t what comes to mind for most of you when you think of gourmet dining, but we’re talking about putting food in a hungry belly here, not picking and choosing what we want to eat, and there are possums in large numbers in most areas. Raccoons are also very common, and there is a LOT of meat on a large raccoon. A jar of canned raccoon can be made into a tasty, filling meal if need be. In addition, you may want to keep raccoons and possums out of your chicken coops, cornfields, or rabbit hutches.
One of the easiest ways to set a 220 conibear for raccoons and possums is what is known as a bucket set. To make one, you need your trap, bait, a square plastic bucket like the ones that restaurants buy slaw in (I buy them from a local seafood restaurant for $1 each), and a wooden stake or metal rod to anchor the trap. A trap setting tool is also highly recommended when you’re setting a trap of this size or larger- they can be difficult to set by hand, and they can cause injuries if your snap one closed on your hand or arm.
Saw a notch on two opposing side of the bucket- the notches should be approximately 3/4” wide and 2 ½” – 3” deep. You can paint your bucket to make it blend into your local environment so reduce the risk of someone seeing a white bucket and discovering your trap, and subsequently stealing it, but it seems to make little difference in the effectiveness of the trap whether it is painted or not. Lay your bucket on its side on the ground with the two notched sides standing up vertically. I also like to pile some brush and/or tree limbs on top of the bucket to keep a curious animal from rolling it around and dislodging the trap. Stake your trap to the ground right beside of the bucket using your chain on the trap and your metal or wooden stake. Place your bait in the back of the bucket, open and set your trap, and place it with the springs in the notches your cut in your bucket. Remove the safety catches from the trap springs, and it is ready to catch animals. The most effective baits that I have personally found for raccoons and possums have been sardines, tuna, and canned cat food.
There are a few things I would like to point out about using ANY conibear trap. Conibear traps may be illegal to use where you live. Also, in most states that do allow the use of conibears, there are usually size limitations- for example, in NC the biggest conibear that you can set on dry land is the 220. Larger traps, such as a 330 can be set underwater for animals such as beavers, but not on land. Some states have smaller size limits- you should check your specific state’s regulations. Before you start trapping you should check your trapping regulations and seasons in your state, and also possibly in your local area. You will most likely need a trapping permit and/or a hunting license to trap anything legally- in NC you need both. The penalties for violating game laws and regulations can be very severe, so make sure you know what to do to stay legal.
Now that the legal stuff is out of the way, conibear traps are designed to be a “kill” trap, they are NOT a live trap. They are also, like almost all traps, are nonselective as to what species they catch. If you, or other people near your trapping area, have pets such as cats or dogs, conibear traps WILL kill pets that try to get to the bait. This is the number one reason they have been restricted or outright banned in many places. It goes without saying that young children should be kept away from these traps as well, for the same reason.
There are many, many ways to trap small game other than the two methods I listed, but these are two ways that I have seen work very well. I personally set 220 conibears for Raccoons during the NC trapping season and they are very effective. Snares, lengths of galvanized stovepipes, wooden box traps, leghold traps, etc. can be very effective as well, but I have little to no firsthand experience with those methods. Also, just like any other preparedness items, practice trapping if you want to be successful, it does have a learning curve, just don’t do anything to get you in trouble with the game wardens, or snap your neighbors pets up indiscriminately. If you have any comments or additions, please comment!