Deadly Coy­ote Sets


Modern Pioneer - - Contents - By Pa­trick Meitin

Out­fox one of na­ture’s crafti­est preda­tors

I’ve al­ways con­tended that fol­low­ing an apoc­a­lypse only cock­roaches and coy­otes would re­main. Coy­otes, es­pe­cially, are the con­sum­mate sur­vivors, ca­pa­ble of learn­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence.

As a young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced trap­per, I eas­ily caught scads of gray foxes, as they read­ily suc­cumbed to my sloppy ef­forts. I even caught the oc­ca­sional bob­cat, de­spite the fact they were rare where I lived as a young­ster. Yet, it took years to catch my first coy­ote, which was dis­con­cert­ing con­sid­er­ing they were the most abun­dant preda­tor around. Once I re­fined my ap­proach, coy­otes con­sti­tuted most of my catch in those early days right out of high school when I was trap­ping and guid­ing for a liv­ing. I of­ten caught 150-plus coy­otes per win­ter.

Catch­ing coy­otes reg­u­larly, es­pe­cially trick­ing ed­u­cated ’yotes with as­sured­ness, is in the de­tails.

Scent Con­trol

All parts of a coy­ote-trap­ping pro­gram, from the small­est de­tails to the largest parts, must be ren­dered scent-free. This in­cludes any­thing or any part of you that touches the ground at or near the set.

Boil­ing Equip­ment

All trap as­sem­blies must be boiled clean. I use a 55-gal­lon bar­rel, cut in half and cleaned thor­oughly, set over cin­der blocks so a fire can be built un­der­neath. Af­ter fill­ing the pot with wa­ter, I add about 5 pounds of log­wood crys­tals (I’ve also used hand­fuls of leaves, cedar branches and oak bark). Af­ter the wa­ter boils, add 5-10 pounds of trap wax. Boil­ing ster­il­izes the works, dye (or tan­nin-filled de­bris) turns the trap deep black—cam­ou­flage of sorts, but it also re­tards rust—and seal­ing wax ren­ders traps rust re­sis­tant (ox­i­da­tion in­cludes dis­tinc­tive odors coy­otes will smell) and less prone to freez­ing.

Once your pot comes to a hard boil, trap/ chain bun­dles are dropped in, the pot is al­lowed to re­turn to a boil, and traps are “cooked” 10 min­utes to al­low the dye to at­tach and the metal to warm so the wax ad­heres evenly dur­ing re­moval. While re­mov­ing traps, avoid pulling them through smoke. Pile them di­rectly into scent-free trap boxes (mine are nor­mally raw lum­ber, thor­oughly sea­soned with leaves and cedar branches) or on top of clean grass or leaves.

Once the traps are pre­pared—and the wax ex­hausted—i drop in or dunk trap­ping tools:

ham­mers/dig­ging tool, shifter, trap wire, thick rub­ber gloves, ground cloth, rub­ber boots and wo­ven-wood trap bas­ket. I once used pan cov­ers (waxed pa­per or boiled can­vas swatches), but long ago switched to pink fiber­glass in­su­la­tion cut with scis­sors to fit neatly be­neath the pan. The in­su­la­tion holds no odors and oc­cu­pies space be­neath the pan to prevent clog­ging, but gives way when the pan is de­pressed.

On-site Cau­tions

When con­struct­ing sets, scent con­trol is equally im­por­tant. I use knee-high rub­ber boots stored in trap boxes and not worn un­less walk­ing over un­con­tam­i­nated ground (though I’ll in­ten­tion­ally step in cow flop as cover scent in cat­tle coun­try).

While driv­ing, skin­ning or do­ing any­thing else that could in­tro­duce alert­ing odors, I wear a se­cond pair of slip-on boots. In the past, I used a boiled can­vas ground cloth, toss­ing it down to kneel on while con­struct­ing sets. This is still a vi­able ap­proach, es­pe­cially if old joints make squat­ting painful. I’ve since learned to squat, noth­ing but boot soles touch­ing the

ground. I also wear boiled rub­ber gloves start to fin­ish (ex­cept when han­dling lures or baits).

Once the sets are con­structed, I re­turn my rub­ber gloves to the trap bas­ket and don a pair of sur­gi­cal gloves (stored in a zip-top bag) while de­posit­ing lures, baits and urines. Hand oils and sweat are eas­ily de­tected by savvy preda­tors such as coy­otes (and red foxes), so even han­dling a small stick dipped in a lure bot­tle can trans­fer hu­man odors. Like I said, tiny de­tails—es­pe­cially when deal­ing with ed­u­cated coy­otes—make the dif­fer­ence.

“All parts of the coy­ote-trap­ping pro­gram, from the small­est de­tails to the largest parts, must be ren­dered scent-free.”

The Ba­sic Set

The real key to catch­ing more coy­otes is get­ting vis­it­ing preda­tors to step on the trap pan ev­ery time the first time they visit. Each time a coy­ote vis­its a set with­out get­ting caught, es­pe­cially if they step on a jaw and dis­lodge a trap or ac­ci­dently dig it up, you’ve cre­ated a prob­lem an­i­mal that will prove ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to catch.

My ba­sic coy­ote set is a three-rock dirt hole. I choose a small back­stop (coy­otes don’t like be­ing hemmed in, so this is some­thing they must be able to see over eas­ily), a bush or rock, and cre­ate a clas­sic dirt hole (re­sem­bling a ro­dent bur­row) at its base. The trap pan cen­ter is off­set about 2-3 inches (con­sider pre­vail­ing wind and which di­rec­tion coy­otes will most likely ap­proach from) and 8-9 inches back (dis­tance be­tween out­stretched pinkie and thumb). The dog/trig­ger is pointed to the out­side edge of the off­set with the jaws clos­ing par­al­lel to the an­gle of ap­proach, so a jaw/dog doesn’t throw a coy­ote’s paw clear af­ter trip­ping. These spa­ces de­pend largely on whether you’re deal­ing with smaller desert or larger moun­tain or north­ern coy­otes.

The first rock (or pine cone or branch end), about fist size, is set out­side the trap jaws, to the rear and far­thest away from the dirt hole, at about 10/2 o’clock, with the dirt hole sit­ting at about 11/1. Another rock, slightly smaller, is set on the op­po­site rear cor­ner (the one closer to the dirt hole) at about 2/10 o’clock, a third rock on the same side as the largest rock, but at the front 8/4 o’clock cor­ner—all de­pen­dant on the an­gle of ap­proach be­ing en­cour­aged, which is based on how pre­vail­ing winds di­rect scent flow.

The works are sifted over, leav­ing rocks pro­trud­ing nat­u­rally. The trap bed is con­structed so the pan is set ever so slightly be­low ground level, and a stick is used to smooth a slight de­pres­sion di­rectly over the pan’s cen­ter. Small peb­bles, twigs, cac­tus-spine clus­ters or sim­i­lar ma­te­rial are strate­gi­cally placed out­side the trap jaws to fun­nel a coy­ote’s foot into that soft, clean pan de­pres­sion. The coy­ote’s foot will in­stinc­tively grav­i­tate to that soft, clean spot. To fur­ther fun­nel an ar­riv­ing coy­ote’s move­ments, stan­dard bait is pushed down the dirt hole, lure is added to the wider out­side cor­ner of the off­set, and urine is care­fully sprin­kled to each

side of the dirt hole in­stead of ran­domly over the en­tire back­stop.

The Walk-through

When ad­dress­ing known travel-ways like sand washes, farm roads and game trails, for ex­am­ple, the walk-through set gives you more of an ad­van­tage. This is a stan­dard for bob­cats, but for coy­otes, fun­nel­ing ma­te­ri­als must be sub­tler be­cause box­ing them in will gen­er­ally stir sus­pi­cion. In desert coun­try, cac­tus joints or pads al­ways work well be­cause no an­i­mal will step on them. Fun­nel­ing sticks or lines of rocks also work well. No ma­te­rial should be higher than a foot or so to avoid arous­ing sus­pi­cion.

The trap is placed in a cen­ter gap, slightly off­set (coy­ote’s legs are sit­u­ated to each side of their body), jaw hinges/main frame par­al­lel to the line of travel, the trig­ger point­ing out­side the off­set. In­stead of us­ing three rocks or ob­jects, the walk-through em­ploys four, one at each cor­ner of the trap jaws, set at 2, 4, 8 and 10 o’clock, the same clean, smooth de­pres­sion cre­ated over the pan’s cen­ter, and “step­ping sticks” placed at each end. Now, the minia­ture land­scap­ing be­gins. There is a fine line be­tween sub­tle fun­nel­ing with strate­gi­cally placed peb­bles, sticks and such, and ob­vi­ous block­ing.

A dirt hole is placed at one out­side cor­ner of the set, say 10 o’clock, a lure at the op­po­site cor­ner, say 4 o’clock, and urine is sprin­kled out­side the off­set at 3 or 9 o’clock. The coy­ote ap­proaches one or the other of these scents, in­ves­ti­gates, moves for­ward to sniff the se­cond and gets caught.

The walk-through is es­pe­cially use­ful for dif­fi­cult coy­otes, such as ha­bit­ual dig­gers. I’ve caught smart, re­peat dig­gers by cre­at­ing walk­through sets along ob­vi­ous trails lead­ing into the set. But, in­stead of adding bait and lure, I might only add the small­est hint of fox or bob­cat urine (a dif­fer­ent batch than used at the set they’ve been dig­ging), which only dis­tracts them slightly.

The Best Coy­ote Trap

I started trap­ping when #3 long-springs were con­sid­ered stan­dard. They cer­tainly worked, but that’s a lot of trap to bed and cover. In 1983, I dis­cov­ered the #1 ¾ or #1.75 coil spring. They’re much eas­ier to con­ceal, es­pe­cially in rocky or frozen soil, more re­li­able in freeze/ thaw con­di­tions, and hold like a vise (I’ve caught and held two cougars with them, a tes­ta­ment to their com­pact power). Some of my fa­vorites in­clude the #1.75 Vic­tor Oneida and #1 ¾ Sleepy Creek; Bridger and Duke also mak­ing fine coil-spring traps. I al­ways use off­set jaws be­cause they dis­cour­age chew­ing. In con­di­tions where mois­ture is a prob­lem, I choose four-coil ver­sions be­cause they break through frozen ground more re­li­ably.

Heed these guide­lines, and you’ll more suc­cess­fully trap wise, old coy­otes.

“Coy­otes … are the con­sum­mate sur­vivors, ca­pa­ble of learn­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence.”

(be­low) The au­thor once used a ground cloth to kneel on while mak­ing coy­ote sets to min­i­mize de­posited scent. He now wears ster­il­ized, rub­ber knee boots and sim­ply squats, never al­low­ing any­thing but boot soles to touch the ground at a set. PHO­TOS BY PA­TRICK MEITIN

(top) Like the three-rock set, how you place bait is highly im­por­tant for fun­nel­ing a coy­ote. Of course, the walk-through can be used as a blind set for coy­otes ap­proach­ing a set they have taken to dig­ging ha­bit­u­ally.

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