I don't really share much on this site because there are much more knowledgable people on here than myself therefore i usually just lurk and learn. Thanks to all who contribute their time and knowledge to lesser experienced trappers like me. First I have to be honest because i truly cant tell you whether this is something i saw on this site or is something i just came up with but none the less, even if it was my own, the idea was spurred from learning from the exposed set cat trapers on here. But last year was my first year using an exposed set and i had success with it. I haven't laid a trap in the ground yet this year but when i do this week then maybe i will have a pic of the set so anyway here are my pan covers. Hope it helps. Also the reason why i like this method so much is because i dont own a pile of traps and many of my traps are used for multiple species as needed so i dont want a permanent cover or some kind of epoxy fixed on my trap pan.
First it must be noted that you will have to make different size covers for different size pans but the one in this first pic is for an MB550. First you go to walmart or some other store that sells "pilates exercise mats" (you know, the one like your wife has rolled up in the corner next to her TAE-BO tapes that she never uses, and trust me dont cut up her pilates pad no matter how little she uses it; GO BUY YOUR OWN) and through a little trial and error i come up with a template that i know will work on my trap pan and i cut many of this pattern out of the pilates pad. The pilates pad is nice and soft to work with but not so flexible that when it is finished it is floppy. Staple together two pieces of the precut and premeasured pilates pads from the mat. The tricky thing is you may have to make a couple and scrap them before you actually get the desired size according to your pan size and jaw spread. But here is a finised pad stapled together.
In this photo you will notice the slot for sliding over the pan.
Once you have gotten this far the next step is to get a caulking gun with some earthy colored caulking loaded into it. I use almond colored but i imagine that clear would work too. What you will do is put the caulking on one side of the pad and use your finger to smear a liberal amount over the entire one side of the pad. It is possible to get too much on there, of course, but you will know if you used too much or too little when you do the next couple of steps.
Next i will take some fine dry dirt and sprinkle a thin covering over top to give it a natural colored base. Next i will take the pad and smash it (caulking side down) into some previously collected fine rocks. You can choose whatever rocks you want but i have found that the finer the rocks the better coverage you get on the pad. Because after you smash it into the fine rocks you will turn it over and notice a few spots that may appear white (or almond) because you did not get coverage in this area. So the last step i will do is take another small handful of previously collected dry soil and sprinkle it over the pad paying particular attention to the areas that don't look natural. Here is a picture of a jar of dry dirt that i collected and a shoe box full of fine rocks.
After this you simply let them dry. You will find that the caulking will smell for a few days so i would give them ample amount of time to dry out. Although last year i made them and the next day put them in a ziploc bag and didn't realize til i went to set them that they smelled overly strong but the cats didn't seem to mind at all. Plus a few days or so outside will really diminish the smell to almost nothing; at least to the human nose that is, lol. So anyway here is some finished pan covers. The smaller size fits my MB550's and the larger size fits both MB650's and my Bridger #3's.
MB650 and Bridger #3
Of course i have no business telling someone how to set their steel but i will share with you how i do mine. First i will find some good backing where a cat is traveling. My intent will either be a walk through or a dirt hole. I dig out the trap bed and place the trap in and bed it up as solid as possible. But i do not pack soil inside of the jaws. Most of the time when i set the trap i will leave the pan in an extreme upward postion which makes it easier to slide on the pan cover. then i will use a stick (for safety purposes of course - last year it was quite time consuming and painful trying to remove a bridger #3-4 coiled from my hand but i usually do it once a year and i'm sure i got one coming this year) to push it down to the night latch until i hear the click. Then i will take leaves from around the set and lay them over top of the trap jaws but under the pan. Also in Charles Dobbins' book, Land Sets and Trapping Techniques
he has a section where he covers a method of using wooden dowell rods on the four corners of the trap jaws to help stabilize it. I have found this to be very helpful considering i only pack dirt on the outside of my jaws. And, yes, of course you block the crap out of the set. So when the cat appraches and is looking for the most inviting area to strategically place his next front pad he sees a nice soft looking little gravely area right in the center of the trap jaws that is slightly larger than his paw. Final step......... dispatch the animal and reset. Which reminds me i always use this set with a drag so when i dispatch the animal i simply pull the drag/log back over to the set and bed the trap in the same exact spot. Saves time and effort. Also dependiing on the drag you use, a good sized log (about the size of your calf) can be used as a place to deposit scent for you walk throught. So in other words your drag becomes you backing/scent post.
Once again i honestly don't recall if i saw some variation of this on the threads one day or if i actually came up with this. None the less i couldn't take any credit for it anyway because even if it was my own the idea was surely spawned from T-man anyhow. But i just though it may help someone. I wish i had known about exposed sets 3 or 4 years ago. So i want to say thanks to all those who submit good informational posts on T-man and who take the time to post pictures along with them. I can honestly say, like so many others already have said, that i have gained the majority of my trapping knowledge from Trapperman's "Trapper Talk" forum and the archived threads. And lastly i would like to say God Bless everyone on Trapperman and have a Merry Christmas!