Words From The Past

Canine Attractors
Charles L. Dobbins

(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 cooperate.
     I know to use more lure per set when the temperature gets well below freezing because the colder temperatures suppress the odor of almost everything.  I also know to use lures and baits that will not freeze out during these low temperatures.

     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.

     A good example of this is that I use a certain lure for fox(or coyote) that has "Beaver #1" (note: this Beaver #1 was what dad first named his Backbreaker lure) on the label.  I use this lure along with certain eye appeal.   A number of years ago, I noticed coyotes were interested in this Beaver #1 when I was trapping beaver in the late winter and early spring.  A few seasons later, I was trapping beaver where there were no coyotes, but there were a fair amount of fox.  At certain beaver sets, depending upon their construction and location, I noticed the fox were interested in this Beaver #1, especially the gray fox.  Since that time, many a coyote and fox ended up on my stretchers because of this lure - a lure that wasn't made for the canines.  My sign reading told me they were interested in this lure a certain locations and under the right conditions.

     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.
     I use other lures that don't have the word "coyote" or "fox" on the labels.  Some of these labels say "coon", "mink", or "bobcat".  Each of these lures takes a particular location as well as a different type of set for it to consistently take the wild canines.
     Then there are certain sets that I use which do not have the smell of fox urine, fox droppings, or fox gland lure.  (The same with the coyote)  The smell at this type of set is strictly FOOD.  The set is constructed to convey the message to the canine's eyes and nose that there is a natural food there.  Mice are one of the natural foods of the wild canines.  I've caught numerous wild canines by placing lure containing mice, or bait containing mice, in the conventional dirthole.  However, I've learned that if I construct the set so it has the eye appeal of "mouse workings", I will take more of the target animals.  This is a case of  making a set to fit the lure or bait.

     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.

     For instance, a wild canine is hunting in a minky type habitat.  The animal sees feathers or fur scattered about, and canine's nose picks up the smell of mink.  Since a mink does not have a stomach large enough to consume a whole rabbit, grouse or muskrat, the canine KNOWS that the mink will cache the uneaten part of the prey animal or bird.  The wild canine will search out the immediate area as to where the mink hid the uneaten part of the prey animal.  I copy the actions of the mink and hide part of a carcass "mink style".  When the wild canine tries to steal this hidden carcass, then my trap does its intended job.  Notice there is no smell of canine urine or gland lure at this set.  Matter of fact, there is no lure except some pure mink musk in the vicintiy of the hidden carcass.  This same method can be applied when the weasel, coon, or bobcat was the "killer" that caught a prey bird or animal.  Each of these animals cache the uneaten portion of the carcass differently.  The trapper must copy the methods that goes with the correct animal.  I wouldn't try to hide a part of a food animal and use mink musk with the bobcat's method of caching the carcass.  The correct cache methods must be used along with the smell of the correct predator species.  I relate to these sets as natural type sets.  These are situations I imitate that the wild cnine has come across before and has gotten a number of free meals.  They come in on these sets with conficence as long as the trapper keeps things looking and smelling as natural as possible.  These natural type sets have taken their share of smart eleck canines for me as well as pups that haven't seen their first snowflake.

     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 away.

     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.

     Since then, I've tried other baits and lures not natural to certain areas with mixed results.

     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 it.

     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 area.

     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 this.

     There is a large farm pond and the dam holding the water goes in a north-south direction.  There is a tractor roadway on top of this dam.  The water behind the dam is on the west side of the dam.  Sign reading reveals that fox or coyote use the roadway on top of the dam.  Also the farmer uses this roadway several times a week going to his back fields.  The farmer has a faithful companion by the name of "Ol' Shep" that faithfully follows the tractor where ever the farmer goes.  I won't make a set along this roadway because I don't want to pinch Ol' Shep.  I don't use a call lure on the western side of the dam because that is the lake.  One the lower side (east) of the dam is a pasture field across the fence at the base of the dam.  A call placed across the fence in the pasture has little chance of connecting the critters using the dam roadway -- because the predominant wind direction flows from the roadway to the pasture.
     How about something the target animal can see?  I will use something that most hunters and trappers will recognize.  That is either feathers or fur.  When a hunter or trapper sees a scattering of feathers or fur, it is assumed that a predator made a kill there and ate the victim.

     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 look different.

     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.


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