(This article was published in the March 1988 issue of The Trapper and Predator Caller)
I have used most baits, lures and urines sold commercially and
can catch my share of the wild canines with them. Some of these lures
and baits are old standbys for me when the animals seem stand-offish or won't
I will use eye appeal at most sets, but some of my wild canine sets will
have no eye appeal. The trail set is one of these. There are
other sets I make which have no eye appeal. I will make these sets
to fit certain situations. I also construct sets to fit the lure or
bait at certain locations. Most of the knowledgeable trappers that
read this know there are certain kinds and types of lures that will work better
at some types of sets than at other types of sets.
Now whenever I'm on the wild canine trapline and the situation is right,
I don't hesitate to use this beaver lure. It's not used haphazardly
at just any place on the coyote or fox line, but at very specific locations.
Then there is the association of the wild canines with the mink, weasel,
coon, bobcat and other wild animals living in the same area or habitat as
the fox or coyote. All these other animals eat the same food as the
wild canines. the mink or weasel isn't much of a berry or fruit eater,
but they prey on small rodents, small birds, and small animals. So
do the wild canines.
We know strange things sometimes happen on the trapline that quite often
leave us without an answer as to EXACTLY why they happened. Take the
time a certain coyote was giving me the runaround. I imitated a place
where a bobcat had made a kill on a pheasant. I cached the pheasant
bobcat-style and placed some bobcat gland lure close by. On this coyote's
next pass through this area, my trap contained this animal. The strange
thing about this is there were no bobcats in that part of the state.
The closest bobcat population that I knew about was over a hundred miles
Now for the mystery. This coyote had a habit of doing a certain thing
at every set it found. (No it wasn't uncovering the trap. If
I told what it was then my credibility might be questioned.)
All along a wide river bottom over six miles long, this animal violated most
coyote sets, and even some dry coon sets. I can assume this coyote
lived in this area all of its life. If that is the case, then this
coyote didn't know what a bobcat was. The smell of bobcat would be
foreign to this coyote. My past experiences with this particular coyote
showed it to have contempt for unfamiliar smells. Finally fooling it
with bobcat gland lure (a foreign odor) simply didn't make sense.
Over the years I've given this one particular instance much thought.
What I've come up with is only theory. I have no way to come up with
the true facts. Back through generations of coyotes in this area, there
had been bobcats 50 or 75 years ago. These ancestrial coyotes knew
to check out any place a bobcat had made a kill, because maybe a free meal
could be found close by. Down through the years, this inherited trait
was still in the genes of this coyote as it was in its ancestors.
The coyote's eyes saw feathers scattered about and the smell of bobcat was
in the immediate area. Closer inspection by the coyote and its nose
led it to a spot appearing as though a bobcat had cached a partly eaten pheasant.
In this case, the pheasant was guarded by a 3N trap.
I can't say my theory is correct on this, but as I mentioned before, I can't
get the true facts of why this particular coyote came in on this unfamiliar
smell when other unfamiliar smells I used were ignored or chastised by this
coyote. This was the only place that I used the smell of bobcat on
this particular coyote because I knew it would be an unfamiliar smell to
this animal. But when things started to get tough, then I tried it
and it worked.
Looking back before the coyote started showing up in numbers in the eastern
states coyote urine was used by knowledgeable trappers as a change-up to
take fox. Now with a growing coyote population and in some areas a
dwindling fox population, coyote urine has lost its curiosity to most of
the fox. However, coyote urine along with a good bait will still take
these eastern fox IF it is presented correctly.
The proper use of call lures can increase the wild canine catch of a trapper.
I will place call lures differently for different types of sets and situations.
I do not use a call lure at every set. I know some trappers do and
some of these trappers make a respectable catch of wild canines. I'm
not arguing with any method that will work for an individual trapper.
If it works for you and you are satisfied with the results, then stick with
I use more than one brand of call lure. (I don't use more than one
brand at a location) One is an oily liquid type and the other is a
gooey paste type. I find the gooey past type easier to work with, but
both of these call lures work equally well for me.
Sometimes I place some of this call lure on the back lip of a dirthole.
At another location it may be on the backing of the set. At another
location, I may place some five to seven feet above the ground where the
wild canines can't find it. While they are scouring the area trying
to locate this hidden smell they will find the other sets I have in the immediate
Then on occasion I will place the call lure where the intended animal can't
get to it, but it will be at two locations 30 to 50 steps apart. As
the animal circles to locate the smell, it will pick up the smell coming
from a different place. Does this cause the animal to assume the smell
moved while it was trying to locate it? I really don't know what the
animal assumes, but I know I have a good ratio of success with this method.
This is another case of making a set (or sets) to fit the type of lure being
used a a certain location.
Then there are instances that come up where eye appeal alone MUST be used
to pull the target animal from its line of travel. There are numerous
instances that quickly come to mind. The easiest one to explain is
When a predator (hunter) sees this same thing, they assume the same thing.
In most cases they will investigate it. On the lower side of the dam
40 to 50 yards away, I make a rough circle of feathers or fur about three
to four feet in diameter. This is placed so the animals using the higher
elevation of the roadway on the dam can see this eye appeal at a lower level
across the fence. A couple of yards away from the eye appeal material
I will make two sets. Each set will smell different and each set will
An animal using the roadway on the dam will see the fur or feathers at a
lower elevation in the pasture. Since the wind or air currents is from
the roadway toward the pasture, the use of a call lure wouldn't be of much
use, but the scattered fur or feathers can easily be seen from the roadway.
It wasn't there the last time the target animal crossed on the dam and they
will be inclined to investigate this. The use of feathers or fur may
not be legal in some states due to their regulations. I'm working on
a new twist to this eye appeal that would be legal in all states. Right
now this new twist hasn't been put through extensive use. It will take
two or more seasons before I know if it has merit.
The proper use of lures and baits will increase the catch of any wild canine trapper. Using some common sense and knowing the habits of the target animals, along with interpreting sign correctly, will go a long way to help put the pelts on the stretchers.