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The Realities of Primitive Trapping

So you have watched YouTube. You have learned some primitive traps. You have even set some squirrel poles in your backyard and have killed some mice with deadfalls. Now you feel you are ready to go into the wilderness for an extended stay to test your trapping abilities. You’re going to live off the land from what nature provides. I think that is great. You are doing exactly what you should do to hone your skills. In this article I am going to try to help you along your trapping journey by adding a bit of reality to the fantasy. I will dispel some of the myths associated with primitive trapping. Some of these myths are repeated in many books on the market, others are just unstated inside the trappers mind. Hopefully this article will clear up some of the common misconceptions and ultimately help you tune up your trapping ability.

Myth #1- Primitive traps are almost as effective as modern traps.

It is absolutely true that the best way to learn about primitive trapping is to study modern trapping techniques. Modern trappers don’t do trapping in their backyards as a hobby. They do this in the real world to earn income and if they fail they lose money. There are many videos on the market that show very effective ways to catch animals with modern traps. These are valuable resources and will help your primitive trapping success.

However, you cannot expect your primitive traps to yield you anywhere near the amount of meat that these modern traps can bring you. Allow me to illustrate this point with an example from my own life.

Several years ago, when Sigma 3 was a new school, Rob Allen (Sigma 3’s founder) and I, did a survival trip together for a few weeks. We were comparing modern survival with primitive survival. I, being a primitive skills specialist, was relying on only what nature could provide for me. Rob is a modernist and believes in taking advantage of technology as long as it is light weight and easy to use. Rob brought with him four Conibear traps and five yo-yo traps. I set at least 30 primitive traps. His traps provided our food for the remainder of our excursion. My traps provided a couple mice while his traps provided us with raccoons, possums, a skunk, and several dozen fish. Now I was no beginner when this took place. I had already lived several years in the wilderness off of only my traps. I knew primitive trapping was difficult, I just didn’t realize the huge difference in effectiveness between modern and primitive traps. This event changed my view on modern traps and now, because I like to eat, I always carry a couple Conibears with me into the wilderness.

Myth #2- A few traps will provide you with enough food to survive.

I’m not saying that you cannot survive on primitive traps. I have. What I am saying is that primitive traps do not compare to modern traps. While you may be able to survive on five Conibears, You will not be able to survive on five primitive traps, or even 25. Realistically, if you want to survive on primitive traps you need about 100 per person. And this is if your game is good. If you’re new to trapping, 200 traps is not a bad idea. Now this may sound like a lot but really it isn’t that difficult to do.  This is how I go about it. I sit around the campfire on night one and make about 30 traps. The next day I go out and set these traps in a line in groups of five. I mark each group of five by stacking three rocks on top of each other near them. Everywhere I see three rocks stacked I know there are five traps in the area for me to check. If your traps are camouflaged correctly they will be hard to spot. Make sure you check them all.

On night two, I sit around the campfire and make 30 more traps. The next day I go check my traps and add 30 more to the trap line. I continue doing this until I’m bringing in enough food to keep me satisfied. Once my trap line is producing enough small game I start constructing a few large game traps. That brings me to myth #3

Myth #3-Primitive trapping will provide plenty of large game.

Large game is obviously desirable. One large animal can provide several meals and can be preserved for later hard times. But large game is not to be expected. Small game is your bread and butter, and by small game, I mean mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits. Once you have a steady source of these little fellows, then you can start aiming for larger things like ground hogs, possums, raccoons, and even deer. But remember; do not rely on these bigger animals for survival. Hope for them but do not expect them.


Myth#4-Primitive traps will start feeding you immediately.


There is some truth to this myth. Some of your traps may bring you food immediately, but the majority of your traps will not. Animals are not as stupid as most people think. They spend their entire lives knowing that everything wants to eat them. Because of this, animals have a naturally suspicious nature. When something new, like your trap, appears in their environment, their immediate reaction is fear.  They will avoid them at all costs. Your trap may need to be out awhile until it no longer seems out of place to the areas residents.


Myth#5-Set your traps on animal trails


Remember Animals live their entire lives knowing other animals are trying to eat them. When you happen across an animal trail in the wilderness, odds are that many animals share that trail. Generally a deer trail is not actually a deer trail but a deer, coyote, raccoon, possum, bobcat trail. When an animal is using one of these natural highways they are on high alert. They are checking their six with their heads on a swivel to avoid the animals which will make a quick meal of them. This generally means that animals will not eat while traveling on trails. There are some effective trail traps that are not baited but funneling becomes a priority and again animals will become suspicious of anything new in their environment. What I generally do is set my traps at least five feet off the animal trails and I create a hidden little cubby with the bait in it. Of course this “safe place” is anything but safe but to the mind of the animal it seems safe. It can’t be seen from the trail (entrance away from trail) and offers a good hiding place from predators. If you are used to trapping on trails this little tip could double your success overnight.

I do not want to discourage you from using primitive traps. I just don’t want you to have an unrealistic expectation of their effectiveness. You can feed yourself and your family primitively. It just takes a lot practice and a lot of work. Your ancestors did it and so can you.

The good news is, once you have your traps out, they do most of the work for you. Unlike, primitive hunting, you may be able to actually sustain yourself with primitive traps. But dispelling the myths of primitive hunting is another article for another time. Until then, Thrive on!


Interested in learning primitive traps?  Be sure to Check out our Survival Trapper’s Bible Series:

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission from purchases made through the links. I only recommend products I personally use and love, so if you support what we are doing, thanks for clicking.

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