The Fox Size Soft-Catch Trap
Charles L. Dobbins
(This article was published in The Trapper and Predator Caller magazine)
When these traps first appeared on the market, there was quite a bit of controversy about them. Some of this controversy was for the trap, but most of it was against the trap. Since human nature is what it is, it was only natural for some trappers to have some skepticism about this trap - or any other new device brought out on the market to capture wild animals.
The company that developed these traps did it over a period of several years with quite a bit of work being done in the field under actual trapping conditions. I didn't have any of these traps to field test before they appeared on the market and some of the trappers that had their doubts about the traps asked me about them. All I could answer was, "I don't know."
Shortly after these traps appeared in trapping supply catalogs, a market opened up for live red fox that were unhurt. The price being paid for these live red fox was considerably more than the pelt price, so it was naturally in the best interest of the trapper to take the red fox alive and unhurt.
In my position, I get quite a bit of feedback on any new product or new method introduced to the trappers. From the first reports that I got, about 50% of the trappers said the trap was all right for fox and the other 50% wasn't satisfied with the trap. I questioned the users of these traps to get all the information I could about them. I found that these traps seemed to perform better in the lands of knowledgeable trappers working with an open mind than the trappers that had defeat on their minds before they even made their first set with these traps.
My experience with these traps hasn't been as long as with other traps. I've used the Soft Catch trap for only two seasons. In as few words as possible, this is what my personal experience has been with these traps: These traps will catch and hold fox unhurt.
Like all the other foothold traps that I use, I make some modifications to them. I'm not saying that the trap has to be modified to achieve success with them. The modifications that I do on these traps makes the working parts perform smoother and better - mainly the dog, pan post and the pan shank. I do this modification to all other foothold traps that I use. Once this modification is done to these traps, they do perform better (not just the Soft Catch traps, but all traps).
Before I get into the tuning up or the modification of this trap, I must mention some things about it that I feel you should know. First is the initial price of these traps. Just by thumbing through some recent trapper supply catalogs, I find these traps range in price from $58 per dozen to $65.50 per dozen. That is considerably higher than the regular #1 1/2 coilspring trap made by the same manufacturer.
Animals such as raccoons, skunks and certain individual grey foxes, as well as coyotes, chew on the rubber pads of these traps. The replacement of these pads is simple, but costly. Four pads, which is what it takes to replace the rubber in two Soft Catch traps, cost about as much as one #11/2 regular coilspring trap. So far I've gotten two seasons' use from most of these traps without having to replace the rubber pads, except when certain animals destroyed or partially destroyed the rubber pads. These pads will not be destroyed by every animal the trap catches.
I've held three coyotes in this small Soft Catch trap to this date. I've had well over a dozen coyotes pull out or disassemble the trap. Of course, this small size Soft Catch isn't designed for the taking of coyotes and these coyotes were accidental catches in fox sets.
After I was done trapping fox the first season I had these traps, I tried them on the raccoon, mink and muskrat at water sets. When using this trap in conjunction with a drowning slide wire for drowning the raccoon, this trap worked well. Dry sets for the raccoon didn't prove to be as profitable. Some raccoons would power out of the traps and almost all the raccoons at the dry type sets worked on the rubber pads of the trap. Mink in dry sets chewed on the pads some, but the trap held all of the mink that got caught in the trap. Muskrats, of course, were all drowned, and a few of the traps had bite marks in the rubber pads. Now, all that I use this particular trap for is the taking of live foxes.
All that I've said about this trap has been from my own experiences. Other trappers may have come up with different views than mine on this trap.
Now to the trap itself. The first few dozen of these traps that I bought had round pans on them. The rubber jaw pads had a tread design on them where they came in contact with the animal. The Soft Catch traps that I bought late last summer have a somewhat square pan on them and the rubber pads have a different tread design. I've used both styles this past season and can't see any difference between the two. I questioned the representatives of the manufacturer about the change in pan design, but couldn't get a justifiable answer. The square pan works as well as does the round pan, but what about the trappers that use a Trapper's Cap for bedding their traps? I like to use the Trappers Cap under certain soil or set conditions.
This trap is centered-swiveled as it comes from the factory. I consider this much better than having the swivel at the end of the frame. There is also another swivel at the end of the chain in the stake swivel. This is a good arrangement by having the trap center swiveled. With an animal pulling and lunging against the trap, there is equal leverage being applied at both jaw hinges. It is almost impossible for a fox-sized animal to pull the jaws from this small Soft Catch trap with this swivel arrangement.
There is a shock spring on the chain of this trap. It was placed there to lessen the sudden stop when the animal lunges against the short chain. This spring can at times be bothersome when bedding the trap. I've had coyotes and big raccoon take hold of this spring with their teeth and stretch the spring out so far that it would be useless to leave it on the trap. Traps without these shock springs performed as well as the traps with the shock springs on them. I couldn't detect any injury to the paws of the animals caught in the traps without the shock springs. Under certain conditions, these springs will get packed full of mud. This takes extra time and labor to get the trap cleaned up, so I have removed these shock springs from most of these traps. They haven't proved to be an asset for me.
On this Soft Catch trap, be sure the jaw is all the way depressed before engaging the end of the dog in the pan notch. If the jaw is only part way down, and the thumb and dog is used to push the jaw the rest of the way down, this will create a fold, hump or bulge in the rubber pad under the dog. This can cause the rubber pad to take on a set with this fold in it. It also can create greater pan tension.
I have experimented with different size springs on this trap. When these traps are operated under the best of trapping conditions, the springs that are on the trap as they come from the factory are all right. Under most trapping conditions, there is adverse weather to contend with. Lightly frozen soil and most snow conditions will cause this trap to work in almost slow motion as compared to other traps. I put one spring from a standard # 1 1/2 coil on the trap and left one of the original springs on the trap. I did this to a dozen of these traps and they came through the covering a little better and caused no foot damage to fox or other animals.
On another dozen I put two # 1 1/2 coilsprings on the trap. This helped these traps considerably and they came through all covering very well. I had no foot damage to fox or other animals.
On a dozen of these traps I added one #2 coilspring and left one of the original springs on the trap. This caused some damage to a few fox caught in these traps. This trap held most (not all) of the raccoons caught in this trap. This arrangement took two of the three coyotes accidentally caught in these Soft Catch traps.
Since this experiment, I've discontinued using the #2 coilsprings on these traps. I now have two # 1 1/2 coilsprings on them and am well satisfied with this arrangement for taking live fox.