Using snares for food
We have the will to outlast everything!
A metal cable does more than hold heavy stuff together. It
can provide you with food and even act as a defense system. Snares fashioned
from such cable make fast-acting, sure-holding traps. Using snares for food and
defense can make the difference between life and death for the keen
Trappers have known about snares for generations, but
today’s technology has pulled the snare out of the dark ages and turned it into
a finely tuned instrument. Gone is the flimsy wire with an open “eye”
for the loop to slide through. Today’s cable snares are equipped with fast-acting
and sure-holding locks. These features ensure that the snare will make a quick
and secure catch.
Snares cause mixed reactions in different states. In some
states, it is illegal to use them while in other states snares are the only
legal means to take fur creatures. Check your state’s regulations before using
snares for food and defense since some states have restrictive regulations.
Good quality snares make excellent survival and everyday food gathering equipment. But you must keep a few things in mind. One snare is not going to supply you with much in the way of food. Sure, it only takes one snare to catch an animal, but that snare must be set in the correct place. If an animal doesn’t go through the snare, you have no chance of catching it.
Snares, while good tools are not perfect. They do miss catching animals that come along. Snares miss because the animal bumped the snare and it closed before the animal put its head through the loop. They also miss because the wind blew the snare and it was closed when the animal came along. An excellent snare hunter whom I know figures two misses for each catch. And this is from a man who knows his business.
To rely on snares as a means of gathering food you need to
depend on numbers. Large quantities of snares put the odds in your favor. But
no matter how many snares you put out if they are not in the correct places
you’ll have no catch. You need large numbers of snares because, in addition to
covering an area, snares that do make a catch are often destroyed. Raccoons, in
particular, negate the second use of a snare cable. Though the locks and
swivels are often reusable, the cable nearly always needs replacing.
So, how many snares should you have? If one is too few, what number is too many? It depends on what you plan for your snares. If you only want to carry some in a day pack or survival pack, four to six may be enough. If you hope to run a long trapline to earn extra money, 300 may be a more realistic figure.
Now, If you think that quantity is high, consider this. I know of one longline raccoon trapper who takes over 200 coons a year with snares. Every one of those snares has to be replaced to keep his line working. Now consider the snares he had set that never connected. In a given season he may handle 500 snares.
Those are the extremes. We may all want to have a few snares
in our pack, but few of us will want to deal with a full-time trapline. Two or
three dozen good quality snares will fit the demands and needs of most of us.
The first snare I used was homemade from two strands of thin copper wire that I had twisted together. It had a self-locking eye and was of the correct stiffness to hold the loop open. I placed it in a beaver run, hoping to add to the camp meat supply while on an elk hunting trip. Well, I did everything right in selecting the spot to catch the beaver.
I caught it all right, but I didn’t hold it for long. Once in the snare, the beaver put up a good fight, and, by the looks of things, did a lot of twisting and rolling. At any rate, the beaver out-muscled the snare, and the broken wires contained only a few beaver hairs. These types of snares do work. They work fine for rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals. However, a snare that can catch and hold only a very small animal is of limited use.
In a survival situation, one small animal is not going to
make that much difference in whether you live or die. A rabbit will supply you
with a pound or so of meat, while a beaver will often tip the scale at over 35
pounds. It is for this reason that I feel a person should opt for the stronger
A cable snare doesn’t rule out catching squirrels or
rabbits, it just expands your catch to include such animals as raccoon, beaver,
coyote and even bobcat.
When good trappers use snares, they can target the animal
they intend to take. Most importantly they know how to avoid catching unwanted
animals. Deer are a good example of an animal that trappers avoid. Often a
location that will produce coyotes is along with a cattle or game trail. A
poorly constructed snare set can catch deer. By the way, the deer will not be
caught, around the neck, they will be caught by the foot.
It is a very simple matter to make deer avoid the snare. A
stick placed on an angle over the top of the snare will cause the deer to jump
the snare. Some of the newer types of cable snares are designed with locks that
breakaway when an accidental catch of a deer is made. This is fine for fur
trapping and everyday food gathering. In a survival situation, you’ll need to
hold on to whatever you catch.
Cable snares come in various sizes or gauges of galvanized aircraft cable. Usually from 1/16 to 3/32 of an inch. They are even offered in a variety of twists, such as 7×7 or 1×19. Top snare hunters prefer certain diameter cable coupled with the “right” twist to use on different animals.
This shouldn’t concern the beginning snare user at all.
Snares are sold by sizes that are matched to the animals you intend to catch.
As a general rule, I think the best all-around size is Gregerson’s number 4.
This is coyote, beaver and raccoon size.
Since you can take animals by using steel traps or by
hunting, why then should you consider using a device that has been used by man
since about 15,000 B.C.? Because snares can offer an efficient and low-cost
means of providing for yourself. They also offer a quiet way to harvest
animals. Snares can be set, so the animal is caught around the neck and is
found dead when you check the set. If a snared animal is still alive when you
arrive to check, a .22 short can be used to dispatch the animal. The short is a
relatively quiet round. In situations where no noise is a requirement, a club
can be used. When I say club, I don’t mean you have to bludgeon the animal to
death. A sharp blow to the head, “between the eyes” like the old
slaughterhouse method, is quick and efficient.
Telling you how to dispatch the animal may be putting the
horse before the cart. I need to tell you how to get the animal in the snare in
the first place.
When using snares for food and defense, catching any animal
requires some knowledge of the animal’s habits. You must have the snare in a
location that the animal uses.
The snare not only must be in the proper location, but it
also needs to have the correct loop size and hanging height. Hanging height
refers to the height of the bottom of the loop off the ground. Loop sizes vary
with the species you intend to catch. The loop for fox is about eight inches
while coyote and beaver require a 12 to 14-inch loop. Beaver and coyote have
the same size loop. However, the hanging height is different.
Beaver snares are set four inches above the ground, and coyote snares are set with 12 inches of space. A common misconception is how the snare loop is set in relation to the ground. Most people believe the loop is laid out parallel to the ground. In actuality, it is set perpendicular to the ground. The snare is placed this way whether you intend to make a neck or foot catch.
Snares are set where a trail is naturally narrowed. Often a
trail will pass next to a tree, rock or fence. Such obstacles will help guide
the animal through the snare. Other good places are fence crawl-under where
animals follow a trail that goes under a fence.
Most snare sets are of the blind type, meaning they are
usually set without the use of baits or lure. They are placed in a narrowed spot
in the trail in an attempt to catch the animal as it makes its rounds. These
rounds may be nightly in some raccoon areas, or they could be up to two-week
intervals in coyote areas.
To make a snare set, you will need more than just a snare. You will need wire to attach the snare to a tree, fence post or stake. This wire should be 141/2 gauge doubled. In some situations, you may even want to increase to three strands. The wire also functions as a means of stabilizing and adjusting the snare. This is important to ensure proper snare placement and a good catch. Other equipment needed is minimal.
I’d suggest a good pair of wire cutting pliers and a hammer
for driving the stakes. Stakes are either wood or iron rebar. Also handy to
have are a few trapping books. While most trapping books deal with conventional
traps, it is possible to pick up some useful tips that can be related to snares.
Snaring Coyotes by Boddicker and Gregerson is a book that deals only with
snares. It is concerned mainly with coyotes, but it has good general
information and useful tips for snaring other animals also.
Now you know that snares can be used to catch animals for
fur and food. But how can they be used for your defense?
They can be set up in a perimeter to protect your camp from
marauding animals. In a survival situation, you could be confronted with roving
dog packs or even dogs that are on your trail. Snares set in trails will often
stop these dogs, but they won’t kill them. Almost every dog caught in a snare
will stop when the loop tightens. You see, dogs are leash and collar trained
and will just stop and wait for their master. Coyotes will even do this unless
the trapper provides a solid object for the animal to get entangled with. This
method should work with dogs also.
If you must dispatch
a dog in a snare, you can use the quick means mentioned for furbearers. If you
want to try to kill a dog with a snare, you could try entanglement.
The animal that most often follows trails is man. If you are ever in a position where you need to protect yourself from your fellow man, snares can be useful. A snare that is placed with the bottom of the loop on or just off the ground will catch a human foot. Of course, a man caught in a leg snare won’t stay caught for very long. It is a simple matter to release a snare and get your foot out. Simple that is if no pressure is applied to the snare.
You may be thinking of a lifting pole set-up that works on
animals or the method we’ve all seen in the movies. It’s the one where the bad
guy steps into the snare, trips the release and up he goes, head hanging off
the ground. I would guess this could be done, but it would be hard to set up a
heavy enough lift pole to get the job done.
A better method would be to rig the snare up to a pole
weighted to lift a man’s leg high enough off the ground with pressure on the
loop. This should keep your catch in place. Snares can also be set as trip
wires to drop nets, logs or whatever. The snare with its positive hold makes
certain a good pull is made when the wire is hooked to alarms, lights or rigged
to pull the pin on anything.
Snares have many uses and will make a useful tool for you to have in your equipment store. Snares can keep you well fed, make you money on a trapline, and even come to your defense. Using snares for food and defense is a skill mastered by few people, and it takes time to learn such skill to perfection. You can read as much as you want about using snares for food and defense, but you won’t learn anything if you don’t put your knowledge to the test.
You need info on processing the Coyote, Raccoon, and Beaver for food. Killing something and not knowing how to eat it will not keep you alive.
Good article – informative and well written. However, there is one statement I would like to correct. You state that a “duck-under” pole will prevent catching deer. While this is a good practice, as it does discourage some deer to duck under, just as many will, ESPECIALLY when there is moderate to deep snow present. I have trapped and snared my whole life, and in my area I have to work extremely hard not to catch deer. I have accidentally snared several deer that have ducked under a pole only 18 inches off the ground. In the severe cold and deep snow of the Rockies, the deer choose to crawl under more often than jump over this pole. I believe they instinctively choose not to expend the energy it takes to jump over. Also, here, we are required by state law to use “break-away” locks or “S” hooks that will allow a deer, wolf, or other large animals to break free. Never once has a deer (whitetail) broken the lock and escaped. Every one was caught around the neck and dead. In a survival situation, deer, if present, would be my main target. there is alot more meat on even the smallest of deer than there is on a rabbit or raccoon, and as easy as they are to catch on accident, I think I’d stay rather well fed. Another advantage to snares which you did not mention, is how lightweight and compact they are. you can carry dozens of them – not so with foothold or conibear traps. All in all, though – good read!
Using snares for food
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