Survival Traps to Catch Small Game – Deadfalls and Snares

Outdoor Skills 101

A sustainable food source is arguably one of the most important aspects of a successful survival plan. Building survival traps are an excellent way to diversify your current food procurement plans without spending a lot of money.

The Benefits of Survival Traps

Survival Traps

Food stores deplete over time and you can only carry so many bullets for your hunting rifle. Trapping provides sustainable nourishment for your family and can be accomplished with just a few simple tools.

Other key benefits of trapping include:

  • Trapping requires less energy expenditure than hunting. Although the thought of dragging a large deer home after spending the afternoon hunting sounds appealing, the energy consumed during this process does not usually justify the end result (especially if you are not successful).
  • A few well-placed traps often produce more food than a hunting trip and your time can be spent doing other survival-related tasks while the food comes to you.
  • In some survival situations, keeping your location a secret may be one of your best defense mechanisms. Discharging your firearm while hunting can quickly lead people with undesirable intentions into your vicinity.
  • Trapping is not an “all or nothing” option. Feel free to hunt, fish, and forage as you please. Your traps are going to be effective either way and the extra food and animal hides you harvest give you a serious survival advantage.

You don’t need expensive tools or equipment to trap successfully. As you will see below, a couple dollars’ worth of supplies in your bug out bag is all you need to become a successful trapper.

Types of  Survival Traps

Although we could spend hours discussing the types of traps that are effective in various situations, there are two basic designs that have been used for centuries effectively.

Known as the dead fall and the simple snare, either of these options (or a combination of the two) is all you really need to harvest meat from the wilderness.


Survival Traps

Dead falls are great because they can be constructed entirely from materials you find outside. Rocks, logs, felled trees, and branches can all be used to construct the dead-fall in a pinch.

In its simplest form, a dead fall is nothing more than a heavy object propped up by sticks with a trigger system. The idea is that an animal will activate the trigger mechanism; causing the heavy object to fall.

There are many ways to create an effective dead-fall in a survival situation. One of the best designs is known as the Paiute Dead-fall. This design has been used effectively by Native Americans for centuries and can be constructed without any special tools.

The design does rely on a piece of cord to hold tension on the system until the trigger is activated. If you do not have any cord or string in your bug out bag, you can usually fabricate some using vines, long grasses, etc.

Paiute Dead fall

To construct a Paiute deadfall, take two sticks of similar length to support the weight of the rock or other heavy object (logs also work well). A small twig is used as the trigger mechanism and a long thin branch is used as a bait stick. Your rope or cord is attached to the trigger twig and to the upper support stick.

The trigger is wrapped around the lower support stick and held in place by the bait stick. When an animal attempts to remove the bait, the movement releases the trigger and activates the dead-fall.

This design is ideal because it is extremely sensitive (higher success rate than other survival traps) and it is safer to construct because your fingers are not positioned under the weight of the dead-fall at any time during assembly.

Simple Snare

Survival Traps

A snare is a wire noose designed to tighten around an animal; holding it until it can be harvested.

Although there are hundreds of variations of the snare trap, a simple snare is the easiest to create and can easily be adapted to more complex implementations depending on your situation.

A simple snare can be made for materials you probably already have lying around your home. When trapping animals up to approximately 10 pounds, all you need is some copper wire to fabricate snares for practically no cost.

An old lamp or other small appliance works well. The wire connecting it to the outlet (usually 18-2 gauge) provides enough material to construct quite a few traps.

You can also purchase a small roll of wire from the hardware store and stash it in your bug out bag to build survival traps.

survival trapsUsing Appliance Wire for Snares

If you choose to use appliance wire, notice that it is actually two strands of wire held together by insulation.

  1. Start by cutting the wire into a 2 foot section. Separate the two pieces of wire so that you have (2) 2 foot sections of wire with insulation still attached.
  2. Using a sharp knife, carefully peel back the layer of insulation from each strand of wire. Notice that the copper wire is actually composed of multiple thin strands bunched together. Be careful not to damage these fine copper strands while removing the insulation.
  3. Separate the strands into halves again. You should now have four strands of copper wire in front of you.
  4. Take each strand and twist it together. This compresses the individual copper fibers into a single piece. Trim the ends of each strand and twist again to prevent the wire from unraveling later.

Whether you purchased wire at the store or you created your own from an old appliance, these next steps are how you actually create the snare.

Wire snare ready for trap.Constructing a Simple Snare

  1. Make a loop the size of a dime in each end of the wire strand. One of these loops will attach to the anchor and the other will form the lasso or noose of the snare.
  2. Put one loop through the other to form the noose. Tighten the loop that forms the lasso so that there is just enough room for the wire to pass through when under tension.
  3. The small loop that attaches to the anchor can be hooked onto a tree, a rock, or some other heavy object that will hold the animal until you can retrieve it.

Correct Placement for Snares

For a simple snare like this to be effective, you need to think about proper placement. Look for areas where animals typically pass through and place snares in these areas. As animals move along their normal travel routes, with any luck you will trap some of them using this method alone.

 Other Adaptations of Simple Snares for Survival Traps

There are also many adaptations that rely on simple snares. Spring pole snares and squirrel poles are two of the most popular.

Springpole Trap for small game

For a spring poll snare, instead of anchoring your snare to an immovable object, attach it to a young sapling that is healthy enough to spring back to its original position after being bent over.

Using a trigger system similar to the one discussed for dead-falls, you can greatly increase your chances of success. When the trigger is activated, the sapling will spring back to its original position and tighten the snare around the animal.

A squirrel pole is simply a felled tree or large branch with multiple simple snares attached across its length. Once you’ve attached all the snares, lean the pole against a tree that shows signs of squirrel activity. The natural curiosity of squirrels often means that many of them will get captured in this simple design.

Although there are many other ways to trap animals, dead-falls and simple snares are the most reliable and easiest to create quickly. In situations where hunting is not practical, trapping is an excellent solution that can greatly increase your daily food harvest with very little energy expenditure.

Paracord, String, and Wire for Survival Traps

If you’ve been keeping track, the only materials your bug out bag needs for trapping are a length of string or lightweight paracord and a small roll of copper wire. As long as you have these two items, you can create traps and snares in any environment.

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Leghold Traps

Have been used for centuries, the steel-jaw leghold trap is the most commonly used trap in the United States by commercial and recreational fur trappers. Triggered by a pan-tension device, the weight of an animal stepping between the jaws of the trap causes the jaws to slam shut on the victim’s leg, or other body part, in a vice-like grip. Most animals react to the instant pain by frantically pulling against the trap in a desperate attempt to free themselves, enduring fractures, ripped tendons, edema, blood loss, amputations, tooth and mouth damage (from chewing and biting at the trap), and starvation.

On land, leghold traps are most frequently set for coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon, skunk and other furbearing animals. However, leghold traps are inherently indiscriminate and will trap any unsuspecting animal, including dogs and cats, threatened and endangered species, and even humans.

Snare Traps

Snares are categorized as either body/neck or foot snares. They are generally made of light wire cable looped through a locking device or of a small nylon cord tied so that it will tighten as the animal pulls against it. The more a snared animal struggles, the tighter the noose becomes, the tighter the noose, the greater the animal’s struggle and suffering. The body snare is used primarily on coyotes and often is set where animals crawl under a fence or some other narrow passageway. It is designed to kill by strangulation or crushing of vital organs. However, snares do not discriminate and will capture any animal by any body part. Because they are cheap and easy to set, trappers often will saturate an area with dozens of snares to catch as many animals as possible.

Conibear Traps

The Conibear trap consists of two metal rectangles hinged together midway on the long side to open and close like scissors. One jaw has a trigger that can be baited. The opposite jaw has a catch or “dog” that holds the trap open.

Originally intended to be an “instant killing” device, the Conibear trap is designed to snap shut in a scissor-like fashion on an animal’s spinal column at the base of the skull. However, because it is impossible to control the size, species and direction of the animal entering the trap, most animals do not die quickly in the trap, instead enduring prolonged suffering.

Manufactured in three standard sizes, Conibear traps are frequently used in water sets to trap muskrat and beaver. In addition, they are used on land to trap raccoon, pine marten, opossum, and other furbearers. Numerous research studies have shown that this trap does not kill instantly.

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