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Charles L. Dobbins

(This article was printed in the March 1984 issue of The Trapper magazine)

     I'm sure some of you readers out there have had the same experiences as I am going to relate in this article. I have trapped an area for wild canines (fox or coyote) and when the catch dropped off, I pulled my traps and went to other areas. Later I learned there was another trapper that came into my old area and made a respectable catch after I had pulled out. This sounds like I didn't know what I was doing when I was in that area.

     However, I've had just the opposite happen in other areas. The landowner informs me that Mr. So and So had been trapping on his farms and had caught an “X” number of foxes or coyotes, but I was welcome to trap on the land if I wished. I tell the landowner that I will have a "look see around" and if I find enough sign I will set some traps.

     I looked and found enough fresh sign to put some traps in the ground. Within the next few days to a week I make a respectable catch from this land.

     Now let's go back in my trapping career about twenty to twenty-five years. If this had happened back then, I would think that the previous trapper didn't know what he was doing. Today I don't think that way, because now I know better. Sometimes I knew the previous trapper. He was well known for his ability as a wild canine trapper. Then the first question that comes to mind is, how come he didn't catch the animals that I caught when I set up the same land just a few days after he pulled out?

     Did the animals I catch just move in after the previous trapper left? Maybe a few, but not all of them. Did the previous trapper put forth his full effort on this land? I would say he probably did. Was the previous trapper using good lures, baits and urines as well as good sets and set locations? Since this previous trapper is a person of long experience on the trapping of the wild canines, I would say his lures, baits, sets and locations were all right. After all, he did catch "X" number of wild canines which was a decent number for that area.

     Now for a repeat of the first question. How come he didn't catch the animals that I caught when I set up the same land just a few days after he pulled out? It has taken me quite a number of years to reason this kind of happenings out to where these happenings make some understandable sense.

     I will try to explain it as I have come to know it. (I do not claim to know the full answer to ALL of the question.) I will try to explain it to the best of my ability what I do know about it. First off, no two trappers will make the same identical sets. That is to say for instance the common regulation dirt hole. One trapper may make his hole larger in diameter than the other trapper. Or his dirt pattern may be larger than the other trapper. Maybe the hole is deeper than the other trapper. One trapper could constantly choose a larger and higher backing than the other trapper. This is just on one type of set and already there can be marked differences in the appearance of the finished set.

     Then we come to lures, baits and urines. Here the smells at the sets can be different as you can readily understand. Even if both trappers should be using the wild canine urine from the SAME source of supply. One trapper will probably use more of it at the set than the other trapper. Not only that, but he will more than likely apply it in a different manner. One trapper may apply it as a fine mist over the set area. The other trapper may place the urine at one concentrated spot. (Which of these urine applications is best? I will get to that later in this article.) Here I have just talked about the common, regulation dirt hole. As you can see there can be many variations of it and both trappers have good success with their own INDIVIDUAL way of constructing this set.

     However, the other trapper didn't catch the animals, that I caught. Why? Because my sets were made different than his. My sets probably smelled different too. Then on the other hand I didn't catch the animals that he caught, because his sets were different (looking and smelling) than mine.

     Here I just talked about the dirt hole.  There is also the post set and the flat set.  These three sets account for quite a number of wild canines. Then there are the variations that each INDIVIDUAL trapper does to each one of these particular sets that makes it different from his competitor.  WOW, sounds like the wild canines don't stand a chance of survival. But there will be just as many or more wild canines next season. (Thank you Mother Nature.)

     This brings to mind an incident that happened about thirty years ago. (I will bring it quickly to the point.) A trapper friend of mine found out about a state that would pay us bounty for every fox we caught in that state. We went. We started in mid-September and were making a pretty fair catch. Then one day my friend's motor on his vehicle breathed its last. The garage owner predicted it would take ten days to two weeks to obtain a short block and have it installed before the vehicle would be on the road again. To keep things going we both trapped from my Jeep. As we originally had agreed upon, he would trap on the east side of a state highway and I would trap on the western side of this highway.  We were both staying at the same place.  The first day was spent shortening up both lines so one vehicle could cover both lines.  That first day was a long one as we both had out rather extensive lines. The next day we started running my line first. At about the second or third stop he questioned me as to why I didn't have a set at such and such a place. (I guess it looked good to him.) So I told him to set a trap there if he wanted to and if he caught a fox there it was his even if it was on the west side of the highway. As it turned out he added a trap and sometimes two at every stop on my line. When we came to his line I then added at least one trap at every stop on his line.

     This man was about fifteen to twenty years my senior. His trapping experience was longer than mine. I always looked up to him as a trapper, as a guideline, as a pattern to follow. Needless to say we both learned new things about trapping fox during the time his vehicle was down for repairs. He caught fox in my area when I thought I should have pulled out of some farms.  Then on the other hand I caught fox in his area when he had first choice at selecting the locations for his sets. He and I trapped other states together in later years, but we would always talk about certain fields or sets that remained in our memories of the time his vehicle broke down. 

     Here is where I started to "see the light" that it takes a number of variations in set making to STOP all the animals. What it boils down to is each animal is an INDIVIDUAL. The trapper must make the set so it appeals (looks and smells) to that particular INDIVIDUAL animal. One type of a set and one certain smell will NOT stop ALL the animals. It takes a variety of sets as well as a variety of smells and don't forget eye-appeal to stop the majority of the wild canines.

     Back earlier in this article where I asked which method of urine application was best, they both are good, they both are bad. I am not the judge of that and neither are you. The ANIMAL is the FINAL judge. If the set is made so the animal will show interest in it, then the animal WILL work the set and be caught. However, if something is not quite to that INDIVIDUAL animal's liking, it may not approach the set close enough to get caught.

     If you want to learn more about wild canine trapping go back and read this article again. There are words and meanings to these words between the lines. 

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