How To Trap Fox & Coyote - Herb Lenon
A special thanks to Asa Lenon for this 5 page article based on his farther Herb Lenon's Methods. Asa Lenon passed the Lure Formulas and Secrets to John S. Chagnon whom continues to formulate and supply us trappers with the same Lures that have made Lenon Lures an American favorite.
Herb Lenon in the mid 50's with big coyote, big cat and small wolf.
HOW TO TRAP FOX & COYOTE
(Herb Lenon Methods)
By Asa Lenon (Copyright 1998)
My father Herb Lenon (1902-1979) was one of the outstanding trappers of our times. For fifty years he was a consummate trapper and trapper instructor both privately and for the State of Michigan. Herb authored eight books of trapping instructions of which 15,000 copies were sold between 1933 and 1959, as well as distributing thousands of free trapping tips pamphlets. He was a regular contributor to "Fur Fish Game" and "Trappers World" magazines for many years. Many of the best trappers of this century learned from his instructions over the years. Herb was inducted posthumously into "The Trapper & Predator Caller Hall of Fame" in 1981, "The National Trappers Association Hall Of Fame" in 1994, and "Michigan Trappers Hall of Fame" in 1995 for his outstanding contribution to the trapping fraternity. Herb's life story as a professional trapper has been recognized with "The Trapper & Predator Caller" and "Michigan Out-Of-Doors" Magazines. Few men have been recognized w2ith this respect and honor.
The following guidelines were used and taught by Herb for many years. Those who follow them on their line will become successful fox and coyote trappers, as many have throughout the years.
Cleanliness is an absolute necessity for trapping a maximum number of the intelligent and wary fox and coyote. Human and other foreign odors must be kept to a minimum when at or near a set. Clean canvas or rubber dipped gloves must be worn when handling traps and equipment. Have a pair of rubber footwear or shoe rubbers that are worn only when at or near a set. A knelling pad made of canvas or rubber must be used when setting traps. Blood must be removed from the area of a set where an animal was dispatched. Use a clean trap for the reset if possible; if not clean the trap the best you can by rubbing with grass, evergreen boughs, or whatever is natural to your location before resetting. In warm weather wear a sweatband around your forehead to prevent perspiration from dripping at or near your sets. Always remember that an animal that can follow a rabbit track at a full run when it is several hours old can certainly smell a drop of sweat or strong odors on your footwear such as gasoline for several days.
Traps, stakes or grapple hooks, and tools must be clean and so treated that they will not become contaminated by rust. Boiling in a solution of lye such as SANI-FLUSH and water to prepare for dyeing will clean new oily and extremely rusty or dirty traps. New traps must have a light coat of rust in order to accept the dye. Dip them in salt water and leave for several days or until coated with a light coating of rust. Traps must then be boiled in commercial trap dye such as logwood or you may use tanning barks such as oak, soft maple, hemlock, or alder. Many trappers use walnut hulls where available. Boil until the traps are a dark blue-black color. It is advisable to add some aromatic tree branches to the second boiling. They must be native to your locality. Cedar, spruce, balsam, and pine are excellent. Waxing traps will help prevent rusting and extend their life. It also lubricates them so they will close more rapidly and not freeze down as easily. The quickest, easiest, and least expensive method is to melt a good commercial trap wax into the boiling solution. Use about two ounces of wax per square foot of solution surface. When the wax is melted and the solution is steaming hot, run a wire through several traps and lowered them into the solution leaving until they are the same temperature as the solution. Slowly lift them through the melted wax on the top. If the wax is too thick they were either lifted too slowly or too much wax was used. Repeat procedure if necessary for the correct thickness. Use a file to remove wax from the dog and pan connection or the trap will release too easily. Caution: Be extremely careful when boiling traps in a mixture of lye or dye and when waxing traps. It is very easy to be burned severely. One must always pay close attention to the process, wear protective gloves, clothing, and eye protection, and keep other people and children safely away.
NATURAL LOOKING SETS
To become an expert fox and coyote trapper one must learn the art of making sets look natural. Every set must appear natural to the fox or coyote or they may shy away. A dirt hole set should look like a hole dug by another animal. It may be small like a gopher hole or large like a woodchuck. It must not be exceptionally smooth or extremely rough, just natural. Guide sticks to help place an animal's foot on the trap pan or trail narrowing twigs or branches should be so placed to appear as though they have grown or fallen there. Bark, stones, or little sticks placed around the set as guides should not be placed in a perfect pattern. Do not try to crowd the animal into the trap by placing piles of brush, weeds, stones, etc. Use only natural looking guides. Give much thought and consideration to this art and you will quickly see the results.
BE VERY CAREFUL
Successful trappers have learned to be extremely careful careful along their trap line. Avoid making trails of crushed grass, weeds, ferns, or brush leading up to your sets. Avoid leaving tracks near your sets. A fox or coyote traveling along carefree may immediately become cautious or frightened upon detecting human tracks or odors. Leave no sign to arouse this fear or caution. If tracks are unavoidable to complete a set in sand or snow, carefully brush them out for a considerable distance while backing away. Be very clean and careful, it pays well to be so.
Location is the greatest factor to success. The most perfect set ever constructed will not produce in a location where the animal does not come or pass near frequently. Never set a trap in any location unless you are certain the animal sought has frequented, visited, or passed by very near. The best lure ever made will not call animals for miles. Such ridiculous claims by lure makers should be a glaring sign BEWARE. Trapping a maximum number of animals requires a lot of advance prospecting for telltale signs such as tracks, droppings, feeding signs, or listening for coyotes to howl. Ask people you know if they have ever seen the animal in the prospective locality in the season you are trapping.
Fox and coyotes are generally found in back fields or grassy plains during the fall where mice are abundant. Both are generally found in heavy cover during the winter where snow is deep. Here they have protection from the weather and the most abundant supply of rabbits, grouses, deer, etc. both dead and alive. Mice are still abundant in open grassy areas but may be protected by deep snow and frozen ground. The locating of sets in groups for animals that travel in groups is a major factor in greatly increasing one's catch. Fox and coyote have regular travel routes. These may be where they pass from one feeding range to another or from a feeding range to a hill, field, burning, sandy area etc. where they come to play. These routes may be down an old road or railroad grade crossing a large swamp or an old road or ridge along a swamp edge where plains or open fields meet the swamp. It may also be the most open dry route in their range or from one woods to another across a field at its narrowest point. Along these travel routes are the places for group settings. Locating these areas where they come to play or coyote come to howl is the best. If your group setting is located in a play area, several animals may be caught at one time when they arrive to play. This is particularly important in coyote trapping as the remaining coyotes may not return for a long period of time after seeing one caught in a trap because their range is much larger than the fox. Many successful fox trappers are failures at coyote trapping. This may be because they do not consider location as being as important as it is. Fox have a smaller range and cover it more often than coyote. The fact that a trap set anywhere in a fox area is more likely to catch a fox due to their smaller range, leads them to believe they can catch coyote with the same tactics.
Wind direction is a vital factor to success. Few trappers seem to recognize its extreme value. For the animal to detect the odor of the lure, the wind must be relied upon to carry the odor to them. To take advantage of the wind you must learn from which direction it prevails in your locality in the season you are going to trap. Here in northern Michigan 80% of the wind prevails from North, West, or Northwest during the late fall and winter trapping season. Using Northwest as the prevailing wind direction during this period, traps are set to the North or West of the road or trail where animals have been known to pass. If traps are set in an open area where no road or trail exist, they are placed Northwest of animals anticipated approach. The trap must be down wind from the lure, lure upwind from the trap which is always to be upwind from the anticipated approach of the animal.
VISIBILITY & APPEAL
Many times there is no breeze, the breeze is erratic or coming from other than the prevailing direction. Visibility must then be relied upon to make a catch. The most important factor of visibility is the eye appeal of the set. Fox and coyote will normally rear up on their hind legs or go to a higher spot to look around when they see or smell something unusual. They have been seen doing this many times when detecting the odor of test scent that had been placed. Assume the animal is passing a set on a night when there is no breeze or the breeze is erratic. A tiny wisp of wind carries a short, faint odor of lure to it. The animal then rises up on its hind legs to look around. If the set is made at a visible scent post, or a hole set made in very short grass, smooth moss, rotted wood or any place where it is highly visible and appealing, the animal is almost certain to investigate. If the wind is from the other than the prevailing direction, your only chance is to have a visible set that is appealing enough for the animal to bother investigating.
There are other advantages to having all sets highly visible except where thieves are an extreme problem. If the animal does its cautious sniffing a distance from the set, it is less likely to detect any possible trap odor. It will then approach directly to the set with very little caution. A direct approach will also make it more likely the animal will step directly on the critical small area of the trap pan. Do not place a set next to a large tree, stump, embankment, or whatever, and no heavy cover should be near the set. This is not as important with fox but extremely important in coyote trapping. Many years of experimentation with animals has proven that a coyote will always take a last look around before lowering its head. If the coyote can't see clearly in all directions it becomes nervous and jittery, many times leaving without further investigation. This is a good policy in fox trapping too as experience has taught that some fox will also shy away.
Many years of extensive testing with hundreds of formulas has proven that to attract fox and coyote in maximum numbers, a lure must contain high quality glands, musk, and multiple ingredients. The lure must appeal to the animal's hunger, sex, curiosity, and nature making it a complete scent appealing to all known calls of the fox or coyote. The animal will then investigate regardless of their mood at the time. Lenon's Fox or Coyote Super All Call #1 And Fox or Coyote Super Range All Call #2 are such lures and were named "All Call" because they appeal to all known calls. They are a sticky long-lasting paste consistency. On the market throughout North America since 1924, they have been proven to be highly successful in any season or locality. They were developed for maximum results at the dirt hole type set but may be used successfully at any type set. Use a quantity the size of a large red bean down in the hole and the same amount on the upper lip of the hole. For sets made at random or in extreme cold weather, use twice this amount. Super Range All Call #2 is recommended for random and cold weather sets. Urine is not necessary if your sets are clean. If in doubt, place five to eight drops over the set and ten to twenty drops down the hole. Never place lure on your traps to cover odor, as they will likely be dug out. Proven quality bait may be used in addition but is unnecessary when using these complete lures. Lenon's Fox or Coyote Nature's Call #3 liquid lures are designed for maximum results at scent post type sets in any season. Nature's Call is a base of female in heat urine with powerful gland secretions, passion additives, and curiosity ingredients included. It is specifically recommended for the winter set, as it will call much further than plain urine. It may also be sued along with your favorite bait at any type set to greatly increase the baits appeal and help remove suspicion. Don't skimp on lure as it is a very small fraction of your trap line expense; neither does it have to be overdone.
Expert and professional trappers use many different sets and variations of each. However, several sets have been chosen that have proven to be the most successful and practical. Before constructing any set, read the first part of these instructions thoroughly.
PREPARATION & EQUIPMENT
Select an area where you desire to make one of several sets. Considering the prevailing wind direction, look at the entire area over very carefully. Select the spot or spots where the dirt hole or scent post will be most visible. Be sure the animal's approach will be level, smooth, and noiseless as possible with no heavy cover near the spot. If weeds, ferns, roots, or small bushes are removed from the approach, cut them below ground level so no sign of their removal is noticeable. Gather all the tools necessary for constructing the set. This will normally be a trowel, hatchet, clean whisk broom for finishing the set, dirt sifter for rough or gravely soil, trap, knelling pad, lure, urine, and a trap pan covering. Any good #1 1/2 to #2 trap for fox and #3 trap for coyote is recommended. A trap covering must be used to prevent sand from getting under the trap pan. This may be waxed paper placed over the pan and carefully tucked under the jaws with a slit torn to go over the trap dog. Avoid making several trips back and forth. Put on your clean gloves and footwear and proceed directly to the set location. Spread a 30" X 36" kneeling pad directly in front of where the set is to be made. Lay all your equipment to one side, kneel down on the pad, and you are ready for the construction of a set.
THE "OLD INDIAN" DIRT HOLE SET
The "Old Indian" set is an improvement over the commonly made dirt hole set. First, dig or chop out a trap bed the correct size for the trap being used. Make it deep enough that when the stake is driven or the grapple hook is placed in the hole and covered with one inch of soil, the trap will set one inch below the surroundings. Place the covering over the pan. Bed the trap solidly so it will not tip if the animal steps on the springs or jaws first. Always position the trap so the animal walks into it between, not over the jaws. The trap pan must be level. Selecting the finest soil, cover the trap with 3/4 inch. Starting at the back edge of the trap bed and off center one to two inches to the left, dig a tunnel gradually deeper until it becomes a hole. The hole should be placed back of the pan six to eight inches for fox, and nine to eleven inches for coyote. The hole should be about four inches in diameter and at least eight inches deep, slanting back at a 45 degree angle so the animal must approach from the trap side to look into the hole. When the trap is covered the right depth, use more soil to build two ridges about two inches high. Start at the mouth of the hole and come back one foot just clearing each jaw with the ridges. Make another little soil pile just at the mouth of the hole so the animal must come in closer to peek into the hole. The two ridges and little pile of soil at the mouth act as guides. The trap is in the lowest place between the ridges and off center one or two inches to the right of the hole. Additional small weather stained, natural looking branches may be used as guides on each side of the jaws. They must be firmly planted and pointing out from the jaws at a 45 degree angle. Place lure and urine as previously described. Place any excess soil, roots, stones, etc. on your kneeling pad to be carried from sight. Carefully examine the area and cover any signs of your having been there. All must look natural. Learn to make sets as quickly as possible to avoid leaving excess human odor.
THE POST OR BLIND SCENT SET
The blind scent set may be made in sand, fine grass, needles, moss, rotted wood, snow, etc. It may be constructed at a natural projection or one may be placed. The projection may be a clump of grass which stands alone, tiny tree, stump, log, or anything which is highly visible. In forestland, old weather-stained, hollow knowles are excellent for placing as a projection. They are firmly planted back of the trap at a 45-degree angle facing the trap. Fox or Coyote Nature's Call #3 Lure or plain urine is placed into the hollow part for protection from the weather. The animal is forced to come around to the trap side to peek into the hollow and smell the lure just like the dirt hole set. Hollowed out corn stalks in farmland and old bones in the west are used the same way for the same reason. An equal amount of lure or urine is placed on the outside of the projection nearest the trap so the odor will carry further.
Use all of the preparatory instructions listed in selecting a set location for the dirt hole set. First, carefully remove and lay aside the weathered surface. Dig the trap bed the same as the hole set except this bed should be deep enough so the sets only 1/4 inch below ground level. The trap is placed the same distance form the projection as it would be from a hole and slightly to the right. cover the trap with available soil and finish very carefully with the natural looking weathered surface you have laid aside. When completed, all should look exactly the same as before disturbed. No ridges are used at this set. A few tiny twigs, pieces of bark, hardpan, or whatever looks natural may be placed as guides but don't overdo it. Using your kneeling pad, carry all surplus soil away from the set and distribute it where it can't be seen by the animal.
THE BLIND TRAIL SET
This set is made in a trail where the animal is likely to pass. It is carefully set like the blind scent set so no sign of disturbance can be noticed. If possible, it is placed where the animal steps over some object lying across the trail. Otherwise, a natural looking small stepping stick may be placed on each side of the trap about five inches from the trap pan for fox, and seven inches for coyote. A natural looking dead branch is placed tightly against each jaw facing outward from the set at a 45-degree angle. This may cause an occasional animal to shy away but cuts the misses by 80%. No lure is used, as the the objective is to catch the animal unaware. However, tow such sets may be made one hundred feet apart with tainted bait or a large gob of Super Range All Call #2 lure placed between them.
THE "DIGGER FOX & COYOTE SET"
A simple and effective way to catch a "digger" animal is to make the same type set using the same type lure as applied where the animal is digging up the set. Make this new set at the edge of a clear trail and then construct a blind trail set three to ten feet each way from the new set. The "digger" animal is caught coming to or leaving the set.
LENON'S ALL CALL SET
In many heavily trapped areas animals have become wary of the much used dirt hole set. An excellent set for such areas is to make a set just as described in the blind scent set leaving no sign or disturbance. In place of a projection, a tiny hole is dug back of the one inch in diameter and four inches deep. Make the hole look like a mouse or small gopher kicking back a tiny bit of earth dug it . This set is not as visible as a conventional dirt hole. Digging the hole into the side of a small hump if possible, will make it more visible. Lenon's Super Range All Call #2 is recommended for this set for added calling power. Use a double quantity both in the hole and several inches behind the holes where the breeze can carry the odor for a long distance.
This set has another practical use. Making it in locations where trap thieves are a problem will reduce your trap losses by 80%. The ever-watchful eye of "sneakum" out looking for a dirt hole set will not as likely recognize this as such.
WINTER & DEEP SNOW TRAPPING
Trapping where snowfall is light, one may dig the trap beds and holes before the ground becomes frozen. Bed traps in dry leaves or needles. Sand that has been collected and well dried throughout the summer or in an oven is used to cover the set. Commercial trap line anti-freeze may be mixed into the sand to prevent freezing if the sand should get wet from rain or thaw. Walnut hulls may also be used as a freeze proof trap covering and are available form trapping supply dealers.
Deep snow trapping is much more difficult for the novice trapper. Here is a simple snow set that has proven most successful. Locate a cent post already established by the animal or find a suitable location for establishing one. A bundle of natural grass four to six inches in diameter and two feet long tied together with other grass or a clean brown cord is recommended for establishing a winter scent post. Pick a location for the set using the preceding preparation instructions. Approach as near as possible to the set location from behind a tree, stump or whatever may hide your tracks when possible, and proceed directly to the spot chosen. Be sure to have everything you will need to construct the set along with you so tracking back and forth will not be necessary. Plant the bundle of grass firmly into the snow so the wind will not blow it over. Sprinkle plain urine or Lenon's Fox or Coyote Nature's Call #3 lure for best results, on the bundle of grass. Place on side of grass where you anticipate the animal's approach and a few more drops directly on top of the grass bundle so the breeze con carry the odor more effectively. Pack the snow down thoroughly to give the trap a solid foundation. If in an evergreen area, place a layer of small evergreen boughs on the packed snow to bed the trap on. Cover the trap with waxed paper that has been crushed to prevent it being so noisy if the animal should step on the jaw first. Crushing the paper also reduces the chance of the wind drifting the snow from the set. If evergreen is not available for bedding, wrap the entire trap loosely in crushed waxed pager. A size larger jump trap is recommended for winter sets as a catch can still be made through several inches of additional snow. Traps must be equipped with grapple hooks and additional chain for snow trapping. When the trap is placed the right distance form the post in the position where you anticipate the animal approach and two inches lower than the surrounding snow, you are ready to cover the se. Simply throw the chain and grapple hook out into the snow where it can sink out of sight. Reach in back of you and scoop up snow with a snow spoon (will describe). Hold the snow at least three feet above the trap and carefully sift snow over the trap until all is level and natural. Snow must be sifted from three or more feet to allow it to gather air as it falls; otherwise it will freeze hard over the trap. Back away slowly while smoothing out all tracks with the snow spoon. Stop every few feet to throw snow up and over all signs. Tracks and sign must be covered for at least fifty feet or until hidden by some object.
No lure or urine is ever added to an already established natural scent post when one is selected to construct a set. This may spook a fox or coyote that comes there on a regular basis. A few professional trappers have learned to make sets at established scent posts by using a long ten or twelve foot pole. A paddle is at the end of the pole to hold and position the trap and use to pack the trap bed. The trap is placed at the post without having to come in any closer, avoiding tracks and human odor. This does increase one's catch but is not an easy task for the novice trapper, so will not explain it in depth at this time.
MAKING A SNOW SPOON
A snow spoon is a very handy and successful tool that is well worthwhile making. One can brush out tracks fairly well using a four foot tree limb that is curved at the end like a hockey stick; but the spoon has many advantages. To make the snow spoon, select a piece of soft wood such as cedar, cottonwood, or basswood two feet long and one foot wide. Cut an eight inch long spoon handle on the block of wood and checker it so it will not be slippery to handle. Cut out the balance exactly the shape of a spoon, rounded and smooth out the the bottom and hollowed on the top. When completed, the spoon length should be about sixteen inches, width twelve inches, and and eight inch handle. Heat the finished spoon in an oven until very hot and then paint with smoking hot trap wax. Waxing prevents it from becoming wet and from snow sticking to it. When you smooth out your tracks and throw snow up and over the smoothed area with this handy tool, there will not be a sign of your having been there.
Good Luck on your trap-line!
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