Trapping The Right Way

Setting traps takes responsibility and requires attention.

I feel it’s safe to say that every county in Georgia is having problems with coyotes to some degree. Populations of these elusive canines have invaded cities, towns and communities throughout the state, including the metro Atlanta area.

It is a fact that they are reeking havoc on our deer and turkey numbers, not to mention our small game, some livestock and pets. We will probably never get their numbers under complete control, but control to some degree is now a necessity.

I spend many days a year working to do my part to help control the population in my home in Putnam County.

I’ve lived in Putnam all my life. My granddaddy taught me how to catch raccoons on the banks of Murder Creek when I was no more than 8 years old. That first coon absolutely set me on fire.

By the time I was a teenager, I was catching coons, possums and foxes pretty regularly, with an occasional bobcat mixed in. I simply loved trapping and still do to this day .

In 1965, when I turned 19, I volunteered for active duty in the United States Army. Vietnam was getting pretty hot by then, and I intended to do my duty for my great country. I did my tour of duty overseas and was reassigned to Fort Benning, where I was instructing and teaching soldiers who were Vietnam bound.

When I had only six months left on my enlistment, I took a job in wildlife management with the Fort Benning Game and Fish Division. My very first duty was to assist a gentleman from Canada who was hired to control the predators on the reservation. He was a professional trapper, and I was ecstatic.

We ran a 200-set trap line that was longer than 100 miles. I learned more from that man than anything or anyone remotely connected to trapping. I still consider him the best trapper I’ve ever known.

After my time in the Army, I continued to trap. By the mid 1970s, fur prices were at an all-time high. My fur check paid bills, bought Santa Claus and more trapping supplies. Trapping was good.

I caught my first coyote in 1975 in a set made for a fox. It was the first I’d ever seen. There were very few song dogs back in those days.

Man is partly to blame for the problem of our current high population of coyotes because we simply did not take them serious enough soon enough. Their populations have exploded and seem to be getting worse. Killing them from deer stands and using predator calls does help some, but the very best way to remove larger numbers of coyotes is with a steel leg-hold trap.

Some hunting clubs and many individuals are attempting to trap these animals, even though they may know very little about how it is done. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could cause an already shy animal to become even more shy.

If you are a beginner, then understand that the coyote is without a doubt the Mac Daddy of all predators roaming the Georgia woods. These animals are elusive beyond belief. They are more cunning than either the red or gray fox and smarter than the feline master, the bobcat.

Now having said that, coyotes can be trapped, if done correctly. You simply have to remember to be more careful when making your sets, and stick to the basic fundamentals of trapping. Now some of you are probably saying that you already know enough about trapping because you are catching coyotes now. This is great news, but remember the old saying about the blind hog finding an acorn every now and then. Well, the novice trapper will catch a coyote every now and then, also. To trap successfully on a consistent basis is the mark of a trapper.

This article is not a “How To” on trapping, although I will give a few tips. For now, if you want to learn to trap and do it right, then you owe it to yourself and the animal to know everything you can about the critter you are pursuing and its habits.

Here is the key I’ve learned from dealing with hundreds of trappers over the years. In order to be successful, one must truly enjoy and have a real desire to trap. It’s that burning desire that causes one to want to really learn how to properly trap, versus going out, putting a few traps in the ground and hoping to catch a coyote.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trapping or getting into trapping. I just want you to know what is to be expected.

You should also know the best equipment to purchase and how to use it effectively. You should know where, when and how to make your sets for the very best possible results. Weather conditions, wind direction and temperatures play a major role in trapping.

For example, if you are trapping an interior road on your hunting club and tracks and scat are present, you know the yotes are there. Say the road runs east and west and the prevailing breezes are out of the northwest. Make your set on the north side of the road. This will enable an animal traveling east or west to wind the lure and respond. This is simply basic fundamentals of trapping, but sometimes we forget the basics when making a set.

Most times I will actually make two sets, one on each side of the road, to allow for the possibility of wind change. Many times I’ve caught two coyotes within a few feet of one another.

Scent control is another factor we must consider also. These Georgia coyotes know what humans smell like. They see us, hear us and smell us much more than we know. Because of this, they are not nearly as alarmed at simply smelling where we have been as opposed to where we are presently. They know if your scent is old or not and will react accordingly.

Having said that, you still must use all the scent protection you can. Always wear rubber boots if at all possible, and never get on your knees while making a set without using a rubber or foam knee pad.

Remember to use a separate pair of gloves when placing your lure from the pair that you used when making the set.

Rain is probably the trappers’ worst enemy. It can absolutely ruin a good set. You simply have to learn to deal with the rain. Also, a set that is wet before dark will likely lock-up if the temperature drops below freezing.

Non-target animals will test your patience, also. You spend a good while making a really good coyote set only to find a possum waiting the next morning. Trapping is not easy. When it’s done right, it is a very hard and trying work.

Beware of the uninformed human factor. This happens many times when you are trapping an area that has multiple people who have access. They see you and get upset very quickly. Be as polite and respectful as you can when you run across these folks. The key is to always make sure you have written permission on the property you are trapping.

Another situation you may encounter on a trap line is domestic animals. Any trap set for coyotes will also catch your neighbor’s dog. Rabbit, quail and coon hunters often hunt in the same areas that we may trap. Be careful here. You may be completely legal where you are trapping, but dog owners can become very upset when their prize hunting dog becomes caught in a steel trap. Again, be polite and respectful.

Never, ever dispatch any animal that is wearing a collar. That animal belongs to someone. Use common sense when dealing with domestic animals.

Wild dogs are another possibility. These animals can be very aggressive and will not hesitate to attack a human being if caught in a trap. If you are targeting coyotes only, then you need to have plans in place to deal with other critters. You will catch fox, coons, skunks, opossums and cats. These animals can be released unharmed easily, but always use care when doing so. Trapping laws require trappers to have a catch pole (choke stick) with us while trapping. They make for easy release of most all animals.

If you are in agreement with all the above and are not in any way discouraged, then do what is needed to get yourself started down the road of trapping. It’s a ball!

If you know an experienced trapper who will give you some tips, then by all means ask him or her to do so. Most trappers are more than willing to help beginners, so don’t be afraid to ask. GON has done some great how-to articles on trapping that you can find online, but I think the best way to learn is first-hand watching someone trap. After all, that is how I learned at Fort Benning.

I recommend anyone who has a genuine interest in trapping to join the Georgia Trappers Association (GTA). I am a lifetime member, not only with the GTA but also with The National Trappers Association. These are two well-organized associations that not only support trapping and trapping rights, but they also inform and educate the public on the need for trapping.

We have in our membership a number of elected officials and legislators who fight at the state and national levels to ensure our rights to not only keep and bear arms but also to hunt, fish and trap.

In the GTA, we teach trapping with live demonstrations, we teach young people the skills to be the future of trapping, and we have good friendly competitions among our members. We also give a college scholarship to a high-school student seeking a future in the wildlife field.

Check us out at, and get involved. We are always in need of members and students of trapping.

Today, with the fur market at or very near an all-time low, the folks who are left trapping mostly are the ones with a genuine passion about the sport and learning or carrying on the trade.

If your No. 1 goal when placing traps on your property is to rid yourself of critters, then I recommend you calling a professional trapper. With coyotes being so slick, and the learning curve being so steep, a professional trapper will allow you to meet your goals much, much sooner.

With fur prices near or at an all-time low, a professional trapper has to charge for their services. The overhead is simply too great. These people are very good at what they do, and they do their jobs well. Their rates are reasonable and well worth the cost to anyone with coyote problems.

To find a GTA professional coyote trapper, go to GTA’s website or call Lewis Todd with GTA at (478) 232-1040.

Remember to always be honest, legal and ethical in all you do. The same holds true in trapping. Follow all rules and law. The anti’s don’t need any more ammunition.


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