Words From The Past

Eye Appeal

by Charles L. Dobbins

(This article was printed in the November 1988 issue of The Trapper and Predator Caller magazine)

     Animals have the same senses as us human beings; the senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. There is another sense that at times can be debated, but I do believe it does play a part with some animals as well as with some human beings. It is called extra-sensory perception, but I won't deal with it in this article. Instead, I will deal with only the sense of sight, and to a lesser degree, the sense of smell.
    The use of lure, either a gland type lure or a food type lure, uses the animal's nose or sense of smell to attract it towards this smell. The ideal situation is to have the air currents coming from the lure or bait towards the animal's line of travel. This is harder to do in practice than saying it.
    The wind or air currents cannot be governed by man. If the air currents or wind generally travels from west to east most of the time in a certain area, then the smells used to attract the animals should be on the west of the animal's line of travel. This way, the air currents will carry the smell to the animal when it uses this travel way. But things happen to this theory.
    After the sun leaves the sky, the air cools. Now a common law of physics takes place. This law tells us that cool air descends and warm air rises. This could cause a shift in the air currents that is different after dark when most animals are active, than when the trap- per made the set during the daylight hours.
    An animal can come close to a very potent smell, but if the wind or air currents are going from the animal towards the set, it is very possible the animal can go on by the set without ever knowing it was there. Another thing about air currents is that they are unpredictable. Most trappers have used a campfire at different times of the day and at different times of the year. Under certain barometric pressures and conditions, we have seen smoke from the campfire rise above the ground, then spread out in a layer over an extended area. Other times it may go straight up only to settle near the ground some distance away. Then we have all seen it being carried away by the air currents, but staying close to the ground. In areas of woods when the green leaves are on, the smoke will generally go up. This same thing is true in areas of dense pine at any time of the year. All of these things I've mentioned are VOID if there is a strong wind blowing. Now change the smoke to lure and it is easy to see how, at times, the smell of the lure can be carried OVER the animal. If the animal is really interested in this smell, it will circle around and try to get a line on where the smell is coming from. Now it can be seen why I prefer to have more than one set at a location.
    (Here, I must explain something. Smoke is created by burning something. When something burns, it makes heat. One of the laws of common physics says heated air will rise, so that is the reason the smoke goes up. This is true to some extent, but then try this. Remove one burning stick from the campfire and hold it until the flame goes out. There will still be red embers on the end of the stick. Now go several steps away from the fire and see where the smoke goes coming from the hot end of the stick.)
    We all know wild animals have a keen sense of sight. One of the primary functions of the sight of wild animals is to see things and identify them as being good to eat. What if the animal saw a few feathers or a few bits of rabbit fur scattered about on the ground? Suppose you were out in the fields, grown up pasture, woods, or at the edge of a swamp, and you saw a few feathers or a few bits of fur scattered about. What would be the first thought to cross your mind? It probably would be that some predator caught a bird or animal at that spot. I'm sure the fox, coyote, wolf, bobcat, mink, and other predatory animals would think this same way. The wild canines sometimes bury their food to be eaten at another time. This is known by all the rest of the wild canine family and they will be looking around for a free meal. (They will steal from each other.) At least my traps tell me this is true, because when an animal comes to investigate what it saw, it will generally make contact with my trap. In some instances, I will make some sets that have no attracting smells - just eye appeal alone.
     If I have a set or sets on a certain location, the use of some kind of eye appeal will greatly increase my chances of intercepting this animal when it comes by. Most times, I will have more than one set at a location, and at least one set will have generous eye appeal and probably a smell to attract the animal. If the air currents are wrong and the smell I used is being carried away or over the animal, then the animal will still see something that will arouse its curiosity enough that it'll come to investigate.
    So far I've mentioned the use of feathers or fur. There are other things that are eye-catching to the wild animals. How about a mound of fresh dirt or a mound of fresh dirt with a hole in the side of it? How about a three to five foot rough circle with the sod removed and placed at the edge of the circle? This will work in the woods, also, with a four to six foot circle with the leaves removed. The use of a sizeable chunk of bleached bone seems to have an attraction if it is used at the correct location. A piece of charred wood as described in Tom Krause's book "Dynamite Fox Trapping" seems to work very well.
    Then there are natural things or terrain features I will use that I know hold an attraction for fox and coyote, but not discounting bobcat. A brushy ravine or draw in a field is one. Sets at either end are on location depending on if the air currents are moving up or down this ravine or draw. The wild canines don't have to go into this brush and weed-choked draw or ravine to check it out for any prey animals or birds. The predator will circle around to the downwind side and use its nose to check it out.
    What if there is an old stump out in a field with weeds, tall grasses, and maybe some brush growing around it? Wouldn't this be a good place for rabbits, birds and rodents to be? The wild canines think so, because when I place sets in this vicinity, I usually get some action. This doesn't have to be a stump. It can be a large boulder or a pile of stones. It can also be a piece of abandoned farm equipment with tall grass and weeds grown up around it. In several instances, I've used a small unplowable piece of ground about the size of an average size garden that was grown over with rank vegetation. A bale of old hay or straw out in an open field has caused more than just a few wild canines to lose their fur coats to me. Old agricultural lime piles are attractors to the wild canines - especially the red fox, because it likes to get on top of these lime piles to look over the area.  They will usually leave droppings close by or right on this lime pile. Here, I prefer the post type set, but any set will work several steps away from this pile of lime.
     As you can see, all of these things I mentioned in the way of gullies, ravines, weed grown stumps or boulders, abandoned farm machinery, and hay or straw bales have a visual attraction. They can be seen from some distance and convey the message "there may be food here"  - except for the lime pile. Its attraction is for marking with urine or droppings to let other wild canines of the area know the depositing canine was there.
    I mentioned the use of fur or feathers, but I know some state laws prohibit the use of this kind of material. When I'm trapping in states with this law I will use artificial fur. This can be obtained at hobby or craft shops, and it comes in all different colors. I prefer the blacks, browns or grays.
     Something else I make use of that seems to work very well is an old, black, empty, honeycomb. The paper wasps nests works well, too - the kind that are built up under the eaves of outbuildings. Empty eggshells hold an attraction for the wild canines, but crows like to investigate these, too. I crank the pan tension up on the trap pan and don't get bothered with crows in my traps. But, they move the eggshells around to where I don't want them.
     I make good use of this eye appeal material I just mentioned in the above paragraph at "remake" sets. This material works well at other sets also - if the message is conveyed to the fox or coyote that FOOD is or was there, especially if this almost non-smelling, eye appeal material is partially covered. Being partially covered will arouse the curiosity of the animal and it will look as if there is more than meets the eye. This way, they are more likely to work the set longer.
    Everything I've said about eye appeal for the wild canines can be applied to the mink. Sure, the mink can smell and this animal does use its nose to help it locate food, but the mink doesn't have the acute sense of smell as the wild canines do. The use of eye appeal material very close to a mink's line of travel will help to put its fur on your stretchers.    


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