Certain lost arts still have their place in the required skill set for outdoor survival situations. Navigating by the stars, starting a fire without matches or a lighter, digging a snow hole, building a makeshift shelter with branches and brush, and filtering water from a wild source with rocks and pebbles are just a few. While the above skills take care of warmth, shelter, hydration, and navigation, at some point in any survival situation our thoughts are going to turn to the inevitable grumblings in our tummies and the need for something to put in them.
Unless you happen to have a rifle, fishing kit, and/or personal Davey Crockett along with you on your trip, then one of the most effective and simple methods of ensuring you get the edibles required to see you through any emergency is making a snare trap. It’s a lost art that might just save your life should things happen to go seriously south.
Even if never used in a survival situation, knowing how to make a functional, effective snare trap is a skill that can bring a great deal of fun to your outings in the backcountry. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s one that you can seriously impress your buddies around the campsite with—all the more so if your snare happens to bag you a tasty dinner!
In this article, we aim to show you how it’s done with a simple, step-by-step guide.
Preparing Your Trap
Step 1: Source the materials for a noose
Ideally, the noose of your snare should be made of thin, tough material like wire. If none is available, a number of other materials will do the trick, including:
- Fishing line
- Headphone wire
- Tent guy lines
- Plastic bags (tricky but doable)
- Dental floss
- Any string or cord capable of bearing the weight of small game
In extreme cases where none of the above materials are available, it is possible to use materials taken from natural sources, such as:
Step 2: Find a Suitable Location to Set Your Trap
The ideal location for your snare trap is, naturally, any area where the animal you hope to catch is likely to frequent. All animals are creatures of habit and, as such, are liable to return to areas they have already visited. To identify these areas, you have to do a little detective work, keeping an eye out for any traces of their presence. For instance, scat (droppings), scratches, hair, feathers, dens, shelters, burrows, nests, tracks, and carcasses of other animals lower on the food chain.
In most cases, your best bet is to start your search near any source of food (berries, shrubs, nuts) or water (creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes). For more on identifying tracks, check out this handy resource from Greenbelly.
Step 3: Find a Sapling Tree to Make Your Trap “Active”
A nifty noose alone is not enough to ensnare your supper. Without a suitable “trigger” and some means of making your snare active as opposed to passive, there’s a good chance that any animal that happens to wander into your snare will simply wander out of it again unscathed. That’s good news for the animal, but bad news for a hungry human!
Making your snare active means introducing a moving part that will jolt the snare when the trigger is tripped, thereby causing the snare to close tight around your prey.
The best natural feature for making your snare trap active is a small, bendy sapling tree. By attaching your snare to a bent over sapling and then attaching it to a trigger, when the trigger is tripped by your prospective dinner, the tension loaded on the trigger will release, thereby tightening the snare around your catch and hoisting it skyward.
If no sapling trees are available in the area you’ve chosen for your trap, a reasonable substitute can be made by loading the trigger with the weight of a rock suspended over a tree branch above the trap.
Step 5: Make Your Trigger
Various types of trigger can be used with a snare trap, but by far the most effective, discreet, and easy to make is a simple hook trigger.
This can be made by carving an opposing hook and latch into two sticks. The hook should fit snugly into the latch and be capable of withstanding the tension that will be applied by the bent sapling when “loaded”.
The stick in which you carve the latch should be slightly more substantial than that with the hook and made with a piece of wood with roughly a one-inch diameter. The hook doesn’t need to be quite so robust, but should be made with a twig at least half an inch thick.
Step 6: Set Your Trap
- Whittle the non-hooked end of your latch stick to a sharp point so it can be used as a stake and planted in the ground.
- Plant the stake under the branch or sapling you plan to use to apply tension to your trap.
- Tie a length of cord around the branch or near the top of the sapling.
- Bend the sapling over to gauge how much cord will be required to meet the stake once you have tied it around the hooked twig at the other end (always leave a little extra cord just in case—this can be trimmed off later).
- Tie the unused end of the cord to the hooked stick and place the hook into the notch on the stake, making sure that there’s enough tension on the cord to support the weight of a small animal.
- Finally, create your snare using a poacher’s knot or a simple slip knot and tie the unknotted end to the hooked stick.
Step 7: Lay Your Bait
After arranging your noose, you can increase your chances of making a kill by adding bait. Some foodstuffs known to attract small game include brussels sprouts, carrots, lettuce, apples, cheesy crackers, nuts, apple cider, peanuts, and—strangely—marshmallows, which are reported to be the chow of choice for raccoons.
If you can, wear gloves to avoid transferring your scent to the bait. (While it would be ideal to take this precautionary measure while constructing your trap, the logistics entailed make it a touch too tricky!)
Step 8: Kick back, relax, and wait for your supper!
The most exciting step of all—just wait for your supper to snare itself in your expertly made trap!