CHAPTER I. BUILDING DEADFALLS. During the centuries that trapping has been carried on, not only in America, but throughout the entire world, various kinds of traps and snares have been in use and taken by all classes of trappers and in all sections the home-made traps are of great numbers. The number of furs caught each year is large. The above was said by a trapper some years ago who has spent upwards of forty years in the forests and is well acquainted with traps, trappers and fur-bearing animals. Whether the statement is true or not, matters but little, although one thing is certain and that is that many of the men who have spent years in trapping and have been successful use the deadfalls and snares as well as steel traps. Another trapper says : "In my opinion trapping is an art and any trapper that is not able to make and set a deadfall, when occasion demands, does not belong to the profession. I will give a few of the many reasons why dead falls are good. 1. There is no weight to carry. 2. Many of the best trappers use them. 3. It requires no capital to set a line of deadfalls. 4. There is no loss of traps by trap thieves but the fur is in as much danger. 5. Deadfalls do not mangle animals or injure their fur. 6. It is a humane way of killing animals. 7. There is no loss by animals twisting off a foot or leg and getting away. 8. Animals are killed outright, having no chance to warn others of their kind by their cries from being caught. 9. Trappers always have the necessary out fit (axe and knife) with them to make and set a deadfall that will kill the largest animals. 10. The largest deadfalls can be made to spring easy and catch small game if required. 11. Deadfalls will kill skunk without leaving any scent. 12. Deadfalls are cheap and trappers should be familiar with them. It is a safe proposition, however, that not one-half of the trappers of today can build a deadfall properly or know how to make snares and many of them have not so much as seen one. First a little pen about a foot square is built of stones, chunks, or by driving stakes close together, leaving one side open. The stakes should be cut about thirty inches long and driven into the ground some fourteen inches, leaving sixteen or thereabout above the ground. Of course if the earth is' very solid, stakes need not be so long, but should be so driven that only about sixteen inches remain above ground. A sapling say four inches in diameter and four feet long is laid across the end that is open. A sapling that is four, five or six inches in diameter, owing to what you are trapping for, and about twelve feet long, is now cut for the "fall." Stakes are set so that this pole or fall will play over the short pole on the ground. These staples should be driven in pairs; two about eighteen inches from the end; two about fourteen farther back. (See illustration.)
The small end of the pole should be split and a small but stout stake driven firmly thru it so there will be no danger of the pole turning and ''going off'' of its own accord. The trap is set by placing the prop (which is only seven inches in length and half an inch thru) between the top log and the short one on the ground, to which is attached the long trigger, which is only a stick about the size of the prop, but about twice as long, the baited end of which extends back into the little pen. The bait may consist of a piece of chicken, rabbit or any tough bit of meat so long as it is fresh and the bloodier the better. An animal on scenting the bait will reach into the trap — the top of the pen having been carefully covered over — between the logs, when the animal seizes the bait the long trigger is pulled off of the upright prop and down comes the fall, killing the animal by its weight. Skunk, coon, opossum, mink and in fact nearly all kinds of animals are easily caught in this trap. The fox is an exception, as it is rather hard to catch them in deadfalls. The more care that you take to build the pen tight and strong, the less liable is some animal to tear it down and get bait from the outside; also if you will cover the pen with leaves, grass, sticks, etc., animals will not be so shy of the trap. The triggers are very simple, the long one being placed on top of the upright, or short one. The long triggers should have a short prong left or a nail driven in it to prevent the game from getting the bait off too easy. If you find it hard to get saplings the right size for a fall, and are too light, they can be weighted with a pole laid on the "fall." I will try and give directions and drawing of deadfalls which I have used to some extent for years, writes a Maine trapper, and can say that most all animals can be captured in them as shown in illustration. You will see the deadfall is constructed of stakes and rocks and is made as follows:
Select a place where there is game; you need an axe, some nails, also strong string, a pole four inches or more in diameter. Notice the cut No. 1 being the drop pole which should be about six to seven feet long. No. 2 is the trip stick, No. 3 is string tied to pole and trip stick, No, 4 is the stakes for holding up the weight, No. 5 is the small stakes driven around in the shape of letter U, should be one foot wide and two feet long. No. 6 is the rocks, No. 7 is the bait. Now this is a great trap for taking skunk and is soon built where there are small saplings and rocks. This trap is also used for mink and coon. * * * The trapper's success depends entirely upon his skill and no one can expect the best returns unless his work is skillfully done. Do not attempt to make that deadfall unless you are certain that you can make it right and do not leave it till you are certain that it could not be any better made. I have seen deadfalls so poorly made and improperly set that they would make angels weep, neither were they located where game was apt to travel. The deadfall if made right and located where game frequents is quite successful. Another thing, boys, think out every little plan before you attempt it. If so and so sets his traps one way, see if you can't improve on his plan and make it a little better. Do not rush blindly into any new scheme, but look at it on all sides and make yourself well acquainted with the merits and drawbacks of it. Make good use of your brains, for the animal instinct is its only protection and it is only by making good use of your reasoning powers that you can fool him. Experience may cost money sometimes and loss of patience and temper, but in my estimation it is the trapper's best capital. An old trapper who has a couple of traps and lots of experience will catch more fur than the greenhorn with a complete outfit. Knowledge is power in trapping as in all other trades. This is the old reliable "pinch-head." The picture does not show the cover, so I will describe it: get some short pieces of board or short poles and lay them on the stones in the back part of the pen and on the raised stick in front. Lay them close together so the animal cannot crawl in at the top. Then get some heavy stones and lay them on the cover to weight down and throw some dead weeds and grass over the pen and triggers and your trap is complete. When the animal tries to enter and sets off the trap by pressing against the long trigger in front, he brings the weighted pole down in the middle of his back, which soon stops his earthly career.
This deadfall can also be used at runways without bait. No pen or bait is required. The game will be caught coming from either direction. The trap is '^'thrown" by the trigger or pushing against it when passing thru. During snowstorms the trap requires considerable attention to keep in perfect working order, but at other times is always in order when placed at runways where it is used without bait. The trap can also be used at dens without bait with success. If used with bait it should be placed a few feet from the den or near any place frequented by the animal or animals you expect to catch. Of course we all admit the steel trap is more convenient and up-to-date, says a New Hampshire trapper. You can make your sets faster and can change the steel trap from place to place; of course, the deadfall you cannot. But all this does not signify the deadfall is no good; they are good and when mink trapping the deadfall is good. To the trapper who traps in the same locality every year, when his deadfalls are once built it is only a few minutes' work to put them in shape, then he has got a trap for the season. I enclose a diagram of a deadfall (called here Log Trap) which, when properly made and baited, there is no such a mink catcher in the trap line yet been devised. This trap requires about an hour to make and for tools a camp hatchet and a good strong jackknife, also a piece of strong string, which all trappers carry. This trap should be about fifteen inches wide with a pen built with sticks or pieces of boards driven in the ground. (See diagram.)
The jaws of this trap consist of two pieces of board three inches wide and about three and a half feet long, resting edgeways one on the other, held firmly by four posts driven in the ground. The top board or drop should move easily up and down before weights are put on. The treddle should be set three inches inside level with the top of bottom board. This is a round stick about three-fourths inch thru, resting against two pegs driven in the ground. (See diagram.) The lever should be the same in size. Now put your stout string around top board. Then set, pass lever through the string over the cross piece and latch it in front of the treddle. Then put on weights and adjust to spring, heavy or light as desired. This trap should be set around old dams or log jams by the brook, baited with fish, muskrat, rabbit or chicken. I herewith enclose a drawing of a deadfall that I use for everything- up to bear, writes a Rocky Mountain trapper, I hate to acknowledge that I have used it to get "lope" meat with, because I sometimes believe in firing as few shots as I can in some parts of the Mountains. Drawing No. 1 shows it used for bait; a snare can be used on it at the same time by putting the drop or weight where it isn't liable to fall on the animal. Put the weight on the other side of tree or make it fall with the animal to one side. In this ease a pole must be strictly used. A good sized rock is all right for small animals. The closer spikes 1 and 2 are together and the longer the tugger end on bottom, the easier it will pull off.
Fig. 1. — Spike driven in tree one-half inch deeper than spike No. 2 (Fig. No. 2) to allow for notch. 3 — Bait on end of trigger. 4 — Heavy rock or log. 5 — Wire, fine soft steel. 6 — Trigger with notch cut in it. 7 — Notch cut in trigger Fig G. Spike No. 2 must have head cut off and pounded flat on end. In setting it across a trail a peg must be driven in the ground. In this peg the spikes are driven instead of tree as in drawing No. 1. The end of brush stick in between peg and trigger end and when an animal comes either way it will knock the brush and it knocks out the trigger. Good, soft steel wire should be used In setting this deadfall along river bank a stout stick can be driven in bank and hang out over water. This stick will take the place of a limb on tree. One end of a pole held in a slanting position by weighing one end down with a rock will do the same as limb on tree. If a tree is handy and no limb, lean a stout pole up against the tree and cut notches in it for wire to work on.
1 — Trail. 2 — Log. 3 — Trigger same as for bait on top deadfall drawing. 4 — Stake driven in ground with spikes driven in it same as above in tree. 5 — Spikes same as above. 6 — Wire 7 — Tree. 8 — Brush put in trail with one end between trigger and peg to knock off trigger when touched. This deadfall has never failed me and when trapping in parts of the country where lynx, coyote or wolverine are liable to eat marten in traps, use a snare and it will hang 'em high and out of reach. Snare to be fastened to trigger. Of course a little pen has to be built when setting this deadfall with bait. In setting in trail it beats any deadfall I have ever used for such animals as have a nature to follow a trail. A fine wire can also be tied to the trigger and stretched across trail instead of a brush and tied on the opposite side of trail. I like it, as the weight can be put high enough from the ground to kill an elk when it drops.
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