Enclosed traps are good in certain situations
Q: I have some ’Coon Cuffs and I haven’t had much luck with setting them.
What is the best way to set a ’Coon Cuff? What should I use for bait and lure?
And should I bury the trap vertically, horizontally or on a 45-degree angle? — J.R., Georgia
Jim Spencer Responds:
There are several brands and styles of enclosed traps – ’Coon Cuffs, Duffers, Egg Traps, Lil’ Griz Get’rz and others. All of them depend on the ’coon actually sticking its foot into the trap and activating it by pulling or pushing on a lever that causes the trap to fire, pinning the foot inside. In my opinion, this is both their best feature and their worst design flaw: Best feature because they’re dog-proof. Worst design flaw because the ’coon has to make the decision to stick its foot in there before the trapper will be successful. Sometimes they just won’t do it.
However, if you use good-tasting and/or good-smelling bait in the trap, and (this is important) drop a few tidbits of that bait on the ground around the trap, sometimes ’coons will oblige you. My favorite baits, pretty much in this order, are: sardines, peanut butter, fresh ground or chopped fish, and marshmallows.
I’ve also found that it helps to wrap a piece of cloth or cotton ball around the trigger bar and smear it with bait. The bare metal, I believe, feels foreign to the ’coon and sometimes they won’t move it enough to spring the trap.
I also think it’s important to make sure the trap is firmly anchored in the ground so it won’t move.
While there are some trappers who will disagree with me on this, I think these enclosed-type traps are specialty items, best for use where it would be impossible to set a conventional trap. They are much more expensive than other traps, and over the long haul they’re simply not as efficient.
Rabbit screams differ in intensity and urgency
Q:I would like to use rabbit distress sounds to lure foxes. How is rabbit distress supposed to sound? Is it a high-pitched wee-wee? — E.H., Wisconsin
Dave Kaprocki Responds:
When a rabbit is caught by a predator, such as a fox or coyote, it will start “screaming.” Who wouldn’t? This “screaming” sound is generally a high-pitched series of repetitive cries, each lasting less than one second. Put this string of cries together and it will last five to 10 seconds, sometimes longer, depending on what the situation is.
Furthermore, the intensity, and urgency of this sound depends on how viciously the rabbit is attacked. Here are two examples of rabbit “screams” that I’ve personally witnessed.
The first one was when I was rabbit hunting. I rolled one with my 16-guage and the rabbit started making a high-pitched repetitive scream. It got even more intense for a moment. Then it lowered its tone until it was a medium-pitched sound. As soon as I moved, it started wailing again in the high-pitched sound…with much more intensity.
The second time was at night during one of my fox hunts. The night air was very still, which allowed me to hear every breath I took.
Suddenly, I heard the screaming sound of a rabbit. It was a high-pitched series of cries that lasted about five seconds. I suspect it was caught by a fox or great-horned owl.
Keep in mind that jack rabbits have a lower-pitched distress cry than their cottontail cousin. However, their series of cries are similar in repetition.
When using a rabbit-in-distress mouth call, your goal is to simulate this repeated series of screams. Most calls on the market are designed to imitate this natural sound. Your challenge is to learn how to control the volume and pitch of this call.
When fox calling, here’s an example of how I make this sound. I start out with a series of calls lasting five to 10 seconds, wait 20 to 30 seconds, then make another series of calls lasting five to 10 seconds. I keep repeating this sequence until the 10 to 15 minutes is up. Sometimes, the waiting period between calls is shorter, depending on the situation.
There are also many rabbit-in-distress recordings available in cassette tape or digital recordings. It might be beneficial to purchase one and listen to it in order to understand the cadence and pitch of the distress cry.
Cubby-type set works with foothold traps in buckets
Q:Is it possible to trap ’coons in baited bucket sets with foothold traps or are bodygrip traps the only possible way? — J.W., Missouri
Jim Spencer Responds:
Sure. It’s just a cubby-type set, except you’re using a bucket instead of a brush enclosure. Simply bed a trap in front of the bucket, as close as you can get it and give the trap room to work. Bed it solidly and point the dog either into the bucket or at a 45-degree angle toward it. This lessens the chance that a ’coon will step on the dog and have its foot thrown wholly or partly out of the trap when the jaw rises and forces the trap dog up along with it. Since a ’coon has a wide body and doesn’t set its feet down in a straight line like canines, it’s also a good idea to offset the trap so the center of the pan is about 2 inches off the midline of the bucket opening.
However, I suspect the reason you’re asking this question is because Missouri doesn’t allow #160s and #220s for dry-land use, so I’d like to suggest another option: Use smaller buckets (such as rural newspaper boxes) and use #120s in them, which are legal in Missouri. These little traps are very powerful and will quickly kill the largest ’coon, if you can get him to stick his head in it. The way to do that is by bending the trigger wires down and back into the bucket, so the ’coon can get its face and head through before encountering the triggers. It will then spring the trap with its chin or the back of its head, depending on whether you have the trigger wires on top or bottom, giving you a behind-the ears catch and a quick, humane kill.
The Answer Men is your chance to ask an expert from the esteemed T&PC panel a question about any aspect of trapping, predator calling or fur handling. Send questions to: The Answer Men, 700 East State St., Iola WI 54990, or e-mail them to Jared.Blohm@fwpubs.com.