Nov 18

Old School to catch Coyotes

by Clint Locklear, Predator Control Group

As I am doing more and more coyote control work, I am amazed at how smart the trappers of our past really were. These men of the past did not have our road access, equipment or the experts we have on every corner now days. However, what these fur warriors of the past had was the knowledge of their prey and nature herself. They made some catches that were nothing short of amazing. As I have gone head to head with coyotes that did not want to get caught, the old ways have a tendency to be the right way to put that old dog in the steel. Modern trapping methods are based off of speed, ease and production. For this reason a lot of modern methods don’t have the design in structure to take more determined animals. So let’s look at some old school trapping and maybe, just maybe find a better way.

I’ll start with a little story about a particular coyote. I was trapping on the top of a mountain in Tennessee on a quail club. At first, all was right in my world, the coyotes, cats and coon were getting caught. After a couple of weeks, 28 coyotes, 9 cats and countless coon where out of the quail’s life. All I could find was this one set of tracks that would come out of a gulf and walk right past the equipment shed. The problem with this is that the land manager would see the tracks and sometimes the scat as he got out of the truck. About every other day the land manager would tell me about the tracks and ask me if I caught that coyote yet. So I went out to catch this coyote and it started to look more like my Moby Dick. He would just walk past all my variations of the dirt hole. He would not work my flat sets and seemed to avoid any new scat I placed on his route. I could see his tracks in the road; he would stop and look at my sets and then stick his noise up in the air and walk off.

I had played all my cards and this old boy could care less. So I came home and pulled out my issues of TP&C from the 1970,s. I started looking for something, anything. I came across a set by Wiley Carroll. It was a strange set, but I could not get the set out of my mind. So the next day I made the set the best I could from the directions in the TP&C.

The set was a log trench set with two traps. I pulled up a cut log about 12 inches in diameter and 3 feet long. Before I placed the log into position, I dug a trench about 6 inches deep and two feet long. Then I added a fresh mouse bait in the middle of the trench. I placed the log over the bait perpendicular to the trench. From a top view the set would look like a cross. I placed a trap at the end of the trench in the loose dirt. On the opposite end of the trench, I pulled the dirt to the side of the trench on the up wind side of the trench. On the downwind side of the trench I bedded a trap 11 inches pan center on a 45 degree angle and I blended in the set. Since the coyote was not working commercial lure, I added nothing to the mouse bait. The beauty of the set is that no matter which way the coyote circles the set, a trap is in front of him.

Also, the coyote was not getting off the road to work a set, so I placed this set in the middle of the dirt road. I find that by putting the set in the middle of the road, coyotes work it faster. You will have to use some common sense if you a setting traps in the road or they might get run over. I get several ran over every season, but to me, it’s worth it. There is one drawback to setting in the middle of the road. If the land owner gets to the set first, the coyote is in the middle of the road if you stake him in place. I have locked up logging operations more than once, because the loggers were scared of the coyote or they were not carrying a gun.

The next morning, there he was. Well, he was a she that needed to go on a diet. She tipped the scales at 39 pounds. I don’t know why or what she saw as the reason she would not work my other sets, but she would not. I know today we like to think we know the best way to trap. We catch animals doing something and then we “know” it is the way to trap any other animal. In reality, our basic dirt hole and most flat sets are set up for production type trapping. We use them because they a fast to put in and this allows us to put out more sets and take more animals per night. This is all fine and good till we have to catch a certain animal. The more I trap certain individual coyotes, the more I see modern land trapping techniques are not the best way to go. Those men of the past did make some unusual sets by our standards today. It is our job to mesh old school sets and modern sets.

I would suggest that every trapper cruise the pages of publications that are decades old. It will not take long for a trapper to see there is gold inside of the old books and magazines. The more we learn and do, the better we will get. It’s out there, so go find it and put it to use. Before long you just might find that old school is new school.



  1. Tim Ivey

    great article and information, thanks Clint

    1. Erik

      Actually you can add to the list caugors. About 2 years ago my driver saw one that had been hit on the 24 just outside of Waterford. We did report it, but by the time the police arrived it was gone. It was either unconscious and woke and wandered away or someone stopped and picked up the carcass. It was a cougar, he stopped to confirm it. We also have lynx. The difference is, most wildlife are people shy, coyotes are not. The coyotes are getting so big because they have no predators and there has been a plethora of deer and rabbit for them to feed on and nature is allowing the biggest and strongest to survive and as they do, the breed gets larger and stronger. Also, yes, they also do breed with dogs but most of these pups do not survive the winters unless they mate with a husky most of our domestic breeds are really not from this climate.

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