Words From The Past

Baits and Urines

by Charles L. Dobbins

(This article was originally published in the December 1986  issue of The Trapper and Predator Caller)

    Baits and urines when used in conjunction with good lures greatly increases the chances of the trapper to have the target animals show more interest in the actual set. This causes the target animals to "work" the set longer. By the animal staying longer at the set, the better of a chance the trap has of catching the animal. I have often wondered about trappers that were using a lure, which wasn't the best, but were making a halfway decent catch of wild canines. How many of these animals fell victim to the trap, not because of the lure that was used at the set, but to the bait and/or urine used at the set? If these trappers were using a good lure, which would attract the target by itself, how many more animals would they have put on the stretchers?   
    I am not condemning the use of bait and/or urine along with lure at a set. I would like to know that whatever I use to attract the animals to my sets can do the job ALL BY ITSELF. Then when I use a combination of attractants at a set, this will intensify the excited interest due to the blend of enticing smells reaching the animal.   
   On my traplines there is a place for urine all by itself at certain sets. There is a place for bait all by itself at certain sets. There is a place for lure all by itself at certain sets. Also there are sets made with any two or three of these combinations.   
    I have collected urines for my own use on occasion. Collecting good urine in volume is practically a full time job in itself. Obtaining good fresh urine at times can be a real hassle. I have found good urine that is collected with care is an asset to any fox or coyote trapper. This can be extended to the mink and bobcat trappers as well.    
    Let me explain something here that will slightly increase your catch of wild canines by the use of urine or I should say urines. (Plural.) I need an example of this so will use three different urine collectors. I will call one "Mr. X," another "Mr. Y" and a "Mr. Z." I found urines collected by all three perform equally well for me. When each urine is checked for aroma by me, I notice that each has a slightly different smell. If I can detect a slight difference, surely an animal can, yet each urine works well. For the sake of this writing, let's say it is, all red fox urine. I cannot give a solid or valid reason why each urine has a different odor. Each could even have a distinct different color. The main thing I am concerned about is, "it all works" well because the animals told me it did when I ran tests on it.    
    The only two things I can contribute the different smells and colors to is the kind of feed being fed these animals and/or the collection procedures. This makes no difference to me since I know these are good urines.    
    Why use more than one urine? Here again I will need another example. Let's say at this stop I have three sets in a large harvested hayfield. A dirt hole, a post set and a flat set. The dirt hole has "X" urine and a piece of chunk bait. The post set has only "Y" urine at it. The flat set has lure and "Z" urine.    
    Once again for the sake of this writing, let us assume the fox enters this field and comes upon the dirt hole first. The fox approaches the dirt hole set close enough to get a good took at it. The fox stops. It remembers (association) a hole not too long ago that almost looked identical that had an exciting aroma coming from it, but something jumped up out of the ground and kicked loose dirt all over his red fur. The fox circles the set at a safe distance and continues on. It soon comes upon the post set, "Ah Ha," thinks the fox, "some stranger has passed by here and left his mark. I think I'll do the same." As he gets close to the object, a trap closes on his paw. The post set (Y urine) had a different smell than did the dirt hole (X urine).    
    Had I used "X urine" at both sets would I have caught the fox? Since it has been proven that animals can align bad encounters that has happened to them by association, I would have stood a chance of the fox detouring the post set as it did the dirt hole if it had "X urine" at it. The "X urine" at the post set could have been associated with the dirt hole.    
    Had the fox's travels taken it around the post set on such a route that the post set did not intercept the fox, then the flat set stands a chance of interception. Remember, all three sets look different and all three sets smell different.    
    This little tidbit of information should put a few more fox or coyote on your stretchers as it has helped me to do for a number of years.     I have used wild canine urines that I have kept over from the previous season and had fair to good results with them. However, ac- cording to the records from over a period of time (years), it shows that FRESH URINES produce the most animals for me.
    This doesn't mean that when my wild canine urines get to be a week old that I discard them. It means I like to use wild canine urines that are as fresh as possible to obtain. I realize that sometimes this is rather hard to do. 
    I test urine very much the same as I check the lure. I make the test set and use fine sifted dirt around it so I can "read" the sign left by the target animals. I also sift some dirt on nearby trails to see what animals "walked" close by these test sets.    
    When checking urine, the test sets must be on or within a few feet of the animal's travelway. The reason is simple if the psychology of the wild animal is understood. They will "mark" objects that are likely to be found by others of their own kind. Such as an object along their route of travel. Near a food source like a deer carcass, livestock carcass or other carcasses. When they find a set that has lure at it that excites them, but for some reason will not approach close enough to be caught, they surely will mark some object nearby to let others of their own kind know "they were here."    
    I look for the following target animal signs at the set. How close to the urine holder did the animal come? The animal came close enough that it would have stepped in a trap if I had one at the set. This is good. This is the way good urine is supposed to work. At least this is the way I like it to work for me. The rest of these questions are what the target animals tell me when urine of questionable quality is used.    
    Did the target animal dig up the urine holder? If the answer is no, this is good. If the answer is yes, then I want to verify this by more tests. I will check the rest of the test sets in the area. If some other test sets show they have been dug up by the target animals, then I change a few sets. At the flat or post type sets I already have in and have been visited by the target animal, I make this set into a dirt hole. I put urine in the hole, but no urine holder. I lightly cover the urine in the hole with short grass, pulverized rotten wood, short straw or crumpled dry leaves. (Whatever is natural from the surrounding area.) The next day if this covering is dug from the hole, then I discontinue the use of this urine.    
    It is not natural for wild canines to dig where good urine is placed. (I don't mean urine and bait or urine and lure, but urine all by itself.) How many times have you or I seen where a coyote or fox had dug where one of their own kind had urinated? I've never seen it, I don't know about you. I've never known them to roll on urine deposited by one of their own kind either. When these things happen, there are other things in the urine. It is not "pure." There are other contaminants in the urine which is causing them to roll or dig.    
    We all at one time or another have used urines which we were not very satisfied with.  If I have any doubt about the quality of the urine I am using, I will discontinue the use of the urine. The wild canines can be caught without the use of urine.    
    Then I've used some urines that caused the target animals to "roll" on the set. If I know beforehand that a certain urine will cause a target animal to want to roll, then I will place the trap differently so it will not be sprung by some part of the animal's body. My preseason testing of the urines lets me know what to expect when trapping season arrives and by then I know what kind of set will work best on this particular urine. Some wild canines will treat urine the same as a liquid bait, they will actually dig for it. This kind of urine takes a special type of set to catch these "rollers and diggers." I would much rather have the animal stay on its feet when it sniffs around a place where I have placed some good urine. This is much more natural and the animal has less cause to be suspicious.    
    I check each supply of urine (fox or coyote) that I am going to use on these animals. I do not take any baits, urines or lures on the wild canine traplines which hasn't been tested. I can't afford to. It would almost be a disaster for me to lay in a season's supply of urines and find (the animals will tell me) that it isn't very good.  Quite a number of yews ago this would happen on occasion. I would lay in a season supply of urine and find out later it was almost worthless. I also learned I could catch the wild canines without urines. Because when I narrowed down the cause of "rolled on" sets, dug up sets, animal bypassed sets and other things I attributed to the urine and quit using this poor quality urine, then my catch picked up. I know I would have caught more animals had this urine been of better quality.    
    I'm not saying I don't use urine at all, I do use it. Lots of it. There are some sets that don't have any urine at them. Good quality urine is an asset on any wild canine trapline. It is the hot weather trapper's "ace in the hole" for predator work. At least it is for me. Do not misinterpret this to mean use only urine for summer predator work, I don't. I employ other smells too.    
    Some wild canine urines are attractive to cattle and deer. If you had checked a certain lure and found it did not attract cattle, but when urine was applied to the set, cattle investigated the set. It is best to check the urines you will be using to see if cattle or deer are attracted to it.    
    The baits that are used to attract and HOLD the ATTENTION of the wild canines at the test set are made from a variety of things. I will mention a few here and this list is not complete by any means, but the baits shown in italics are the ones I personally prefer. I have caught the wild canines on all these mentioned baits. All of these are "cut baits." I also like for my bait to be somewhat tainted. Horse, beef, sheep, poultry, deer, turtle, snake, fish, muskrat, beaver, rabbit, fox, coyote, prairie dog, bobcat, mice, woodchuck, skunk, antelope, and others.    
    There are occasions that I will use a non-meat bait. These will work well if they are presented correctly to the wild canines. These non-meat baits are apples, persimmons, grapes, wild cherries, honey, certain cheeses, nut meats, wild plums and others. To keep these until trapping season, I usually freeze them. When I want to use them, I take them out and present them in somewhat of a natural manner to these wild canines. I don't make lots of sets with these non-meat baits, but they work well on occasion whenever the situation arises.    
    Here is a shortcut I use on this bait testing. (DO NOT DO THIS WHEN TESTING LURES.) This bait testing can be done along with the urine testing. This is very important - DO NOT place the bait close to where the urine test set is. Keep the bait to be tested at least twelve feet away. (With the use of traps at a set, this is different.)    
    I am repeating myself here, but this is what I want. I want the lures to be able to attract the target animal all by itself. I want the urines I will be using to be able to attract the target animals all by itself. I want the baits I use to be attractive to the target animals all by itself. Whenever I use two or three of these in combination at a set with a trap backing up this set, then my chances are much greater that I will capture the target animal.    
    When checking urine, I make the test sets very much the same as tests using the lure. Should I want to check some bait, then I go at least twelve feet away and make the same kind of a set as what I had made with the urine. Only this time I will use the bait to be tested. When checking these test sets and the same amount of sign or tracks are present at both of these test sets, then each is considered to be of equal attraction to the target animal. It takes a number of these test sets and should be done in a couple of different areas so you can get a true picture of how well these are working on the target animals.    
    I DO NOT check more than one urine in a test area. What this means is this. If I had urine from more than one supplier, I would not check two or more of these urines in one TEST AREA. I use only ONE in each area. (I do this different when actually trapping.)    
    The same with baits. If I wanted to know if a certain bait would attract the target animal and I made this bait myself, I would not mix sets with another bait that I may have obtained from a lure maker. Each bait would be tested in a different area. (I do this differently when actually trapping.)     Of course good records must be kept of ALL the happenings at these test sets. Otherwise you may forget how a certain lure, urine or bait performed. This record keeping also tells what other non-target animals were attracted to these test sets. Record even the seemingly "unimportant" details that you see. These insignificant things sometimes have a way of fitting in to form a "picture" of what is actually happening.    
    At trappers conventions, through the mail, phone calls and personal contacts, I've been asked these questions pertaining to lures, baits and urines. Since there are hundreds of questions that I've been asked, I will pick the most often asked ones at random.    
    What is the best bait for red fox? Any type of meat that is natural food of the foxes of your area. If it is somewhat tainted, it seems to work a little better. Do some testing just prior to season and even after season goes out for future knowledge. (You don't have to use traps to do this testing.)     How much urine do you use at the post set? I've never actually measured the exact amount so am making an "educated guess" at these amounts. If the set is on or very near a known trail that the canines are using, I would say one-half ounce, maybe less. At flat sets, post sets, buried bait sets and dirt holes it would be closer to an ounce. In very cold weather it may be a little more. There are times I use NO urine at some of the mentioned sets. (Just for a change up.)    
    Which is best, commercial cut bait or do you make your own? I use some commercial baits as well as some I make. Anything I take out on the trapline to catch animals with I have done at least a little testing with to be sure it is attractive to the target animals.    
    How about the liquid baits sold commercially? I use some and there are some good ones out there on the market. Test some to be sure they are compatible for you, your methods and your area.    
    Would rabbit meat be best to use with urine or would lure be better with the rabbit meat? Either way is a pretty fair combination. You may find one way may have an edge over the other for your area. (Run some tests.)    
    Which is best, urine and bait or urine and lure at a set? I use some lures that don't do well when bait is present at a set. I also use some lures that don't do well for ME when urine is present at the set. I've learned this through extensive testing and record keeping. (Try doing the same.)    
    I made some shallow pocket sets along a stream using fresh fish for bait to catch raccoons. I was surprised to find muskrats in the traps on occasion. Why? I believe you will find the 'rats got into the traps through their own curiosity. The smell of the fresh fish and the pocket together will arouse the curiosity of a number of animals.    
    Will honey alone attract foxes? Yes, but it doesn't have a far reaching odor to pull an animal from any distance. A call lure should be used to get the target animals closer to the set where the honey is being used and you may find you will have better success. This combination works well for me in dog infested areas.    
    Are there other things that is a natural bait for fox other than meat? There are a lot of them, but use what is natural in your area. Grapes, persimmons, wild cherries, honey and paw-paws to name a few. The edible meats or kernels of beech nuts, hazel nuts, chink-a-pins, and hickory nuts when parched has some attraction to foxes, especially grey fox. You might try some different cheeses too.    
    By the answers to the last two questions, I take it these baits are dog proof? I wouldn't say they were 100 percent dog proof, but the chance of catching a dog is rather slim when using the above baits except the cheese. The call lure is generally up where animals can't find it and I place it about fifteen to twenty-five feet from the set itself. The set has EYE-APPEAL to the fox. Once the fox is in the vicinity of the call lure, then the smells of the parched nuts, honey or fruit will cause the animal to come closer to the set and over the trap. However, the dogs can still give you problems, even if you didn't catch them. They can find the trapped fox, then you will probably need a nine foot long stretcher to put the fox pelt on. I find it the best policy to stay away from dog infested areas.    
    Will mink come to a tainted or a very rotted bait? Yes, but I prefer it to be barely tainted. I believe they come in on very tainted or rotted bait more out of curiosity than actual hunger. Especially if the set has just a very light application of mink musk. After all the mink is a hunter and doesn't miss many meals.    
    Do you catch most of your mink in the water or on land? It would be close to half and half. I make wet and dry sets with bait as well as wet and dry blind sets. I try to get the mink under water to quickly drown it as well as to keep it out of sight of two legged and four legged predators. I usually do this with the aid of a slide wire and a drowning lock. Even when the set was made on dry land.    
    Is glycerine or salt the best anti-freeze for urine? I've found both to work equally well. I lean slightly in favor of glycerine.   
    Would house cat urine be attractive to red fox? I have used it with some success. It seems to work better for me on the coyote than on the red fox. I've also used coyote urine, grey fox urine, bobcat urine and mink urine on the red fox with varying degrees of success. They all worked for me to some extent.   
    Are there any lures that you know of that are long lasting? What I mean by that, the lure is just as strong ten days to two weeks from now as it was when I applied it to the set. There are some long lasting lures made and they generally have a petroleum jelly or a lanolin base to them. These bases do tend to make the lure last longer at the set because the ingredients in the lure don't evaporate away as fast. I have found that during colder weather I must use a greater amount of this lure at the set. Then during very warm weather, when I am doing some predator control work, the sun or hot weather kind of melts it away rather fast. In hot weather I must use less of this lure or it is too strong at the set. I would like to have a lure of this kind you asked about. Maybe some lure makers might give this some thought. 

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