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
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
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
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
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
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
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.