Camp Life in the Woods and the Tricks of Trapping and Trap Making
by William Hamilton Gibson
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This affair was set on the ground in a conspicuous place, the board covered with grass, and the nice fat Poland hen which was tied to the centre proved a morsel too tempting for the hawk to resist. Hence the "fell swoop" and the fatal consequences depicted in our illustration. The owl has also been successfully captured by the same device.


Following will be found two examples of traps in very common use for the capture of wild ducks, and in the region of Chesapeake bay, immense numbers of the game are annually taken by their aid. The first is the well known net trap, so extensively used in nearly all countries, both for the capture of various kinds of fish as well as winged game. Our illustration gives a very clear idea of the construction of the net, and an elaborate description is almost superfluous. It consists of a graduated series of hoops covered by a net work. From each a converging net extends backward ending in a smaller hoop which is held in position by cords extending [Page 95] therefrom to the next larger hoop. The depth of these converging nets should extend backward about three or four feet from the large hoop; and the distance between these latter should be about five feet. The length of the net should be about twenty feet, terminating in a "pound" or netted enclosure, as seen in the illustration. The trap may be set on shore or in the water as seen. "Decoy" birds are generally used, being enclosed in the pound.

When set on land the bait consisting of corn or other grain should be spread about the entrance and through the length of the net.

It is remarkable that a duck which so easily finds its way within the netted enclosure, should be powerless to make its escape, but such seems to be the fact, and even a single hoop with its reflex net, has been known to secure a number of the game.


Our second example is one which we are almost tempted to exclude on account of its cruelty, but as our volume is especially devoted to traps of all kinds and as this is a variety in very common use, we feel bound to give it a passing notice. Our illustration fully conveys its painful mode of capture, and a beach at low water is generally the scene of the slaughter. A long stout cord is first stretched across the sand and secured [Page 96] to a peg at each end. To this shorter lines are attached at intervals, each one being supplied with a fish hook baited with a piece of the tender rootstock of a certain water reed, of which the ducks are very fond. The main cord and lines are then imbedded in the sand, the various baits only appearing on the surface, and the success of the device is equal to its cruelty.


Of all oddities of the trap kind, there is, perhaps, no one more novel and comical than the "Fool's Cap" crow-trap, which forms the subject of our present illustration. Crows are by no means easy of capture in any form of trap, and they are generally as coy and as shrewd in their approach to a trap as they are bold in their familiarity and disrespect for the sombre scarecrows in the com field. But this simple device will often mislead the smartest and shrewdest crow, and make a perfect fool of him, for it is hard to imagine a more ridiculous sight than is furnished by the strange antics and evolutions of a crow thus embarrassed with his head imbedded in a cap which he finds impossible to remove, and which he in vain endeavors to shake off by all sorts of gymnastic performance. The secret of the little contrivance is easily told. The cap consists of a little cone of stiff paper, about three or four inches in diameter at the opening. This is imbedded in the ground, up to its edge, and a few grains of corn are dropped into it. The inside edge of the opening is then smeared with bird-lime, [Page 97] a substance of which we shall speak hereafter.

The crow, on endeavoring to reach the corn, sinks his bill so deep in the cone as to bring the gummy substance in contact with the feathers of his head and neck, to which it adheres in spite of all possible efforts on the part of the bird to throw it off.

The cones may be made of a brownish-colored paper if they are to be placed in the earth, but of white paper when inserted in the snow. It is an excellent plan to insert a few of these cones in the fresh corn hills at planting season, as the crows are always on the watch at this time, and will be sure to partake of the tempting morsels, not dreaming of the result. The writer has often heard of this ingenious device, and has read of its being successfully employed in many instances, but he has never yet had an opportunity of testing it himself. He will leave it for his readers to experiment upon for themselves.


This substance so called to which we have above alluded, and which is sold in our bird marts under that name, is a viscid, sticky preparation, closely resembling a very thick and gummy varnish. It is astonishingly "sticky," and the slightest quantity between the fingers will hold them together with remarkable tenacity. What its effect must be on the feathers of a bird can easily be imagined.

This preparation is put up in boxes of different sizes, and may be had from any of the taxidermists or bird-fanciers in any of [Page 98] our large towns or cities. Should a home made article be required, an excellent substitute may be prepared from the inner bark of the "slippery elm." This should be gathered in the spring or early summer, cut into very small pieces or scraped into threads, and boiled in water sufficient to cover them until the pieces are soft and easily mashed. By this time the water will be pretty much boiled down, and the whole mass should then be poured into a mortar and beaten up, adding at the same time a few grains of wheat. When done, the paste thus made may be put into an earthen vessel and kept. When required to be used, it should be melted or softened over the fire, adding goose grease or linseed oil, instead of water. When of the proper consistency it may be spread upon sticks or twigs prepared for it, and which should afterwards be placed in the locality selected for the capture of the birds.

An excellent bird-lime may be made also from plain linseed-oil, by boiling it down until it becomes thick and gummy. Thick varnish either plain or mixed with oil, but always free from alcohol, also answers the purpose very well. The limed twigs may be either set in trees or placed on poles and stuck in the ground.

If any of our readers chance to become possessed of an owl, they may look forward to grand success with their limed twigs. It is a well known fact in natural history that the owl is the universal enemy of nearly all our smaller birds. And when, as often happens, a swarm of various birds are seen flying frantically from limb to limb, seeming to centre on a particular tree, and filling the air with their loud chirping, it may be safely concluded that some sleepy owl has been surprised in his day-dozing, and is being severely pecked and punished for his nightly depredations.

Profiting from this fact, the bird catcher often utilizes the owl with great success. Fastening the bird in the crotch of some tree, he adjusts the limed twigs on an sides, even covering the neighboring branches with the gummy substance. No sooner is the owl spied by one bird than the cry is set up, and a score of foes are soon at hand, ready for battle. One by one they alight on the beguiling twigs, and one by one find themselves held fast. The more they flutter the more powerless they become, and the more securely are they held. In this way many valuable and rare birds are often captured.


One of the most ingenious uses to which bird lime is said to have been applied with success, is in the capture of humming-birds. The lime in this instance is made simply by chewing a few grains of wheat in the mouth until a gum is formed. It is said that by spreading this on the inside opening of the long white lily or trumpet-creeper blossom, the capture of a humming-bird is almost certain, and he will never be able to leave the flower after once fairly having entered the opening. There can be no doubt but that this is perfectly practicable, and we recommend it to our readers.

The object in making the bird-lime from wheat consists in the fact that this is more easily removed from the feathers than the other kinds.

We would not wish our readers to infer from this that a humming-bird might be captured or kept alive, for of all birds, they are the most fragile and delicate, and would die of fright, if from nothing else. They are chiefly used for ornamental purposes, and may be caught in a variety of ways. A few silk nooses hung about the flowers where the birds are seen to frequent, will sometimes succeed in ensnaring their tiny forms.

The blow-gun is often used with good success, and the concussion from a gun loaded simply with powder, and aimed in the direction of the bird, will often stun it so that it will fall to the ground. If a strong stream of water be forced upon the little creature, as it is fluttering from flower to flower, the result is the same, as the feathers become so wet that it cannot fly.

[Page 101]

[Page 103] BOOK IV.



he following chapter includes a variety of traps which have not been covered by any of the previous titles. Several novelties are contained in the list, and also a number of well known inventions.

There is probably no more familiar example of the trap kind than that of the common wooden box-trap, better known, perhaps, by our country boys as the rabbit-trap. A glance at our illustration, will readily bring it to mind, and easily explain its working to those not particularly acquainted with it. These traps may be made of any size, but, being usually employed in catching rabbits, require to be made quite large. They should be made of hard seasoned wood—oak or chestnut is the best—and of slabs about an inch in thickness. The pieces may be of the following dimensions: let the bottom board be 20+7 in.; side board, 20+9 in.; lid board 19+7 in., and the end piece of lid 7 in. square.

The tall end piece should be about 16 inches high by 7 broad. Let this be sharpened on the upper end, as seen in the engraving, and furnished with a slight groove on the summit, for the reception of the cord. Now to put the pieces together.

Nail the two sides to the edge of the bottom board, and fit in between them the high end piece, securing that also, with nails through the bottom and side boards. Next nail the lid board on to the small, square end piece, and fit the lid thus made neatly into its place.

To make the hinge for the lid, two small holes should be bored through the sides of the trap, about four inches from the tall end, and half an inch from the upper edge of each board. Let [Page 104] small nails now be driven through these holes into the edge of the lid, and it will be found to work freely upon them.

The principal part of the trap is now made, but what remains to be done is of great importance. The "spindle" is a necessary feature in nearly all traps, and the box-trap is useless without it. In this case it should consist merely of a round stick of about the thickness of a lead pencil, and we will say, 7 or 8 in. in length. One end should be pointed and the other should have a small notch cut in it, as seen in the separate drawing of the stick. The spindle being ready, we must have some place to put it. Another hole should be bored through the middle of the high end piece, and about 4 in. from the bottom. This hole should be large enough to allow the spindle to pass easily through it. If our directions have been carefully followed, the result will now show a complete, closefitting trap.

In setting the trap there are two methods commonly employed, as shown at a and b. The string, in either case, must be fastened to the end of the lid.

In the first instance (a) the lid is raised and made fast by the brace, holding itself beneath the tip of the projecting spindle, and a nail or plug driven into the wood by the side of the hole. [Page 105] Of course, when the spindle is drawn or moved from the inside the brace will be let loose and the lid will drop.

In the other method (b) the spindle is longer, and projects several inches on the outside of the hole. The brace is also longer, and catches itself in the notch on the end of the spindle, and another slight notch in the board, a few inches above the hole.

When the bait is touched from the inside, the brace easily flies out and the lid falls, securing its victim. Either way is sure to succeed, but if there is any preference it is for the former (a). It is a wise plan to have a few holes through the trap in different places, to allow for ventilation, and it may be found necessary to line the cracks with tin, as sometimes the enclosed creature might otherwise gnaw through and make its escape. If there is danger of the lid not closing tightly when sprung, a stone may be fastened upon it to insure that result.

This trap is usually set for rabbits, and these dimensions are especially calculated with that idea. Rabbits abound in all our woods and thickets, and may be attracted by various baits. An apple is most generally used. The box-trap may be made of smaller dimensions, and set in trees for squirrels with very good success.

There is still another well known form of this trap represented in the tail piece at the end of this section. The box is first constructed of the shape already given, only having the lid piece [Page 106] nailed firmly in the top of the box. The tall end piece is also done away with. The whole thing thus representing a simple oblong box with one end open. Two slender cleats should be nailed on each side of this opening, on the interior of the box, to form a groove into which a square end board may easily slide up and down, the top board being slightly sawn away to receive it. An upright stick should then be erected on the top centre of the box, in the tip of which a straight stick should be pivoted, working easily therein, like the arms of a balance. To one end of this balance, the end board should be adjusted by two screw eyes, and to the other the string with spindle attached. By now lowering the spindle to its place, the further end of the balance will be raised and with it the end board, and on the release of the spindle the board will fall. This plan is quite commonly adopted but we rather prefer the former. But as each has its advantages we present them both.


This works after the manner of the ordinary wire rat-trap; our illustration explains itself.

The box should be of the shape there shown, with one of its end pieces arranged on hinges so as to fall freely. An elastic should be fastened from the inside of this end to the inner surface of the top of the box, to insure its closing. If desired an elastic may be adjusted at the side as shown in the cut and a catch piece of stout tin should be attached to the bottom of the trap to secure the lid when it falls. A small hole should then be bored in the top, near the further end of the trap, and [Page 107] the spindle, having a notch on its upper end, passed through the hole thus made. The top of the spindle is shown at (a). It should be held in its place by a small plug or pin through it, below the surface of the box. A slender stick, long enough to reach and catch beneath the notch in the spindle should now be fastened to the lid and the trap is complete. It may be baited with cheese, bread, and the like, and if set for squirrels, an apple answers every purpose.

When constructed on a larger and heavier scale it may be used for the capture of rabbits and animals of a similar size, but for this purpose the previous variety is preferable.


One of the most useful as well as the most ancient inventions in the way of traps is the common Figure Four Trap, which forms the subject of our next illustration. It is a very ingenious contrivance, and the mechanism, consists merely of three sticks. It possesses great advantages in the fact that it may be used in a variety of ways, and a number of the machines may be carried by the young trapper with very little inconvenience. Our illustration shows the trap already set, only awaiting for a slight touch at the bait to bring the heavy stone to the ground. A box may be substituted for the stone, and the animal may thus be [Page 108] captured alive. The three sticks are represented separate at a. b. and c. Of course, there is no regular size for them, as this would greatly depend upon the purpose for which they are designed to be used. If for rabbits, the following proportions will answer very well. The sticks should all be square, and about half an inch in thickness. The bait-stick, (a) should be about nine or ten inches in length, one end being pointed and the other furnished with a notch, as indicated. The upright stick, (b) should be a little shorter, one end being whittled to a rather sharp edge. At about three or four inches from the other end, and on the side next to that whittled, a square notch should be cut. This should be about a third of an inch in depth and half an inch in width, being so cut as exactly to receive the bait-stick without holding it fast. The remaining stick (c) should have a length of about seven or eight inches, one end being whittled, as in the last, to an edge, and the other end furnished with a notch on the same side of the stick.

When these are finished, the trap may be set in the following manner: Place the upright stick, (b) with its pointed end uppermost. Rest the notch of the slanting stick, (c) on the summit of the upright stick, placing the stone upon its end, and holding the stick in position with the hand. By now hooking the notch in the bait-stick on the sharpened edge of the slanting stick and fitting it into the square notch in the upright, it may easily be made to catch and hold itself in position. The bait should always project beneath the stone. In case a box is used instead of a stone, the trap may be set either inside of it or beneath its edge. Where the ground is very soft, it would be well to rest the upright stick on a chip or small flat stone, as otherwise it is apt to sink into the earth by degrees and spring by itself.

When properly made, it is a very sure and sensitive trap, and the bait, generally an apple, or "nub" of corn is seldom more than touched when the stone falls.

[Page 109] THE "DOUBLE ENDER."

This is what we used to call it in New England and it was a great favorite among the boys who were fond of rabbit catching. It was constructed of four boards two feet in length by nine inches in breath secured with nails at their edges, so as to form a long square box. Each end was supplied with a heavy lid working on two hinges. To each of these lids a light strip of wood was fastened, the length of each being sufficient to reach nearly to the middle of the top of the box, as seen in the illustration. At this point a small auger hole was then made downward through the board. A couple of inches of string was next tied to the tip of each stick and supplied with a large knot at the end. The trap was then set on the simple principle of which there are so many examples throughout the pages of this work. The knots were lowered through the auger hole and the insertion of the bait stick inside the box held them in place. The edge of the bottom board on each end of the trap should be supplied with a tin catch such as is described on page 88 in order to hold the lid in place after it has fallen. No matter from which end the bait is approached it is no sooner touched than both ends fall and "bunny" is prisoner. Like many other of our four-footed game, the rabbit manifests a peculiar liking for salt and may be regularly attracted to a given spot by its aid. A salted cotton string is sometimes extended several yards from the trap for the purpose of leading them to it, but this seems a needless precaution, as the rabbit is seldom behind hand in discerning a tempting bait when it is within his reach.


One of the oldest known principles ever embodied in the form of a trap is that which forms the subject of the accompanying illustration. It is very simple in construction, sure in its action; and as its name implies, resets itself after each intruder has been captured.

It is well adapted for Rabbits and Coons and when made on a small scale, may be successfully employed in taking rats and mice. It is also extensively used in the capture of the Mink and Muskrat, being set beneath the water, near the haunts of the animals and weighted by a large stone. Of course the size of the box will be governed by the dimensions of the game for which it is to be set. Its general proportions should resemble those of the illustration, both ends being open. A small gate, consisting of a square piece of wood supplied with a few stiff wires is then pivoted inside each opening, so as to work freely and fall easily when raised. The bait is fastened inside at the centre of the box. The animal, in quest of the bait, finds an easy entrance, as the wires lift at a slight pressure, but the exit after the gate has closed is so difficult that escape is almost beyond the question.

The wires should be so stiff as to preclude the possibility of them being bent by struggles of the imprisoned creature in his [Page 111] efforts to escape, and to insure further strength it is advisable to connect the lower ends of the wires by a cross piece of finer wire, twisted about each.

The simultaneous capture of two rabbits in a trap of this kind is a common occurrence.


In strolling through the woods and on the banks of streams in the country, it is not an uncommon thing to stumble against a contrivance resembling in general appearance our next illustration. Throughout New England, the "dead-fall," as this is called, has always been a most popular favorite among trappers, young and old; and there is really no better rough and ready trap for large game. To entrap a fox by any device is no easy matter; but the writer remembers one case where Reynard was outwitted, and the heavy log of the "dead-fall" put a speedy end to his existence. The trap was set in a locality where the fox had made himself a nuisance by repeated nocturnal invasions among the poultry, and the bait was cleverly calculated to decoy him. A live duck was tied within the pen, and the morsel proved too tempting for him to resist. Thrusting his head beneath the suspended log, in order to reach his prey, he thus threw down the slender framework of support; and the log, falling across his neck, put him to death.

Our illustration gives a very correct idea of the general construction of the "dead-fall," although differing slightly in its mode of setting from that usually employed.

[Page 112] A pen of rough sticks is first constructed, having an open front. A log about seven or eight feet in length, and five or six inches in diameter, should then be procured. An ordinary fence rail will answer the purpose very well, although the log is preferable. Its large end should be laid across the front of the pen, and two stout sticks driven into the ground outside of it, leaving room for it to rise and fall easily between them and the pen, a second shorter log being placed on the ground beneath it, as described for the bear-trap, page (17). A look at our illustration fully explains the setting of the parts. A forked twig, about a foot in length, answers for the bait-stick. The lower end should be pointed, and the fork, with its bait, should incline toward the ground, when set. The upper end should be supplied with a notch, square side down, and directly above the branch which holds the bait. Another straight stick, about fourteen inches in length, should then be cut. Make it quite flat on each end. A small thin stone, chip of wood, or the like, is the only remaining article required. Now proceed to raise the log, as shown in the drawing, place one end of the straight stick beneath it, resting its tip on the flat top of the upright stick on the outside of the log. The baitstick should now be placed in position inside the inclosure, resting the pointed end on the chip, and securing the notch above, as seen in the illustration, beneath the tip of the flat stick. When this is done, the trap is set, but, there are a few little hints in regard to setting it finely,—that is, surely,—which will be necessary. It is very important to avoid bringing too much of the weight of the log on the flat stick, as this would of course bear heavily on the bait-stick, and render considerable force necessary to spring the trap. The leverage at the point where the log rests on the flat stick should be very slight, and the log should be so placed that the upright shall sustain nearly all the weight. By this method, very little pressure is brought to bear on the bait-stick, and a very slight twitch will throw it out of poise. The fork of the bait-stick should point to the side of the inclosure, as, in this case, when the bait is seized by the unlucky intruder, the very turning of the fork forces the notch from beneath the horizontal stick, and throws the parts asunder.

If the trap is set for muskrats, minks, skunks, or animals of similar size, the weight of the log will generally be found sufficient to effect their death; but, if desired, a heavy stone [Page 113] may be rested against it, or the raised end weighted with other logs (see p. 18), to make sure. When set for a coon or fox, this precaution is necessary. To guard against the cunning which some animals possess, it is frequently necessary to cover the top of the pen with cross-sticks, as there are numerous cases on record where the intended victims have climbed over the side of the inclosure, and taken the bait from the inside, thus keeping clear of the suspended log, and springing the trap without harm to themselves. A few sticks or branches laid across the top of the inclosure will prevent any such capers; and the crafty animals will either have to take the bait at the risk of their lives, or leave it alone.

For trapping the muskrat, the bait may consist of carrots, turnips, apples, and the like. For the mink, a bird's head, or the head of a fowl, is the customary bait; and the skunk may usually be taken with sweet apples, meats, or some portion of a dead fowl.

In the case of the fox, which we have mentioned, the setting of the trap was somewhat varied; and in case our readers might desire to try a similar experiment, we will devote a few lines to a description of it. In this instance, the flat stick which supported the log was not more than eight inches in length; and instead of the bait-stick, a slight framework of slender branches was substituted. This frame or lattice-work was just large enough to fill the opening of the pen, and its upper end supported the flat stick. The duck was fastened to the back part of the pen, which was also closed over the top. The quacking of the fowl attracted the fox; and as he thrust his head through the lattice to reach his prey, the frame was thrown out of balance and Reynard paid the price of his greed and folly.

There is another mode of adjusting the pieces of the dead-fall, commonly employed by professional trappers, whereby the trap is sprung by the foot of the animal in quest of the bait. This construction is shown correctly in the accompanying cut, which gives the front view, the pen being made as before. The stout crotch represented at (a) is rested on the summit of a strong peg, driven into the ground beneath the outside edge of the suspended log; (b) is the treacherous stick which seals the doom of any animal that dares rest his foot upon it. This piece should be long enough to stretch across and overlap the guard-pegs at each side of the opening. To set the trap, rest the short crotch of (a) on the top of the peg, and lower the log upon it, keeping the leverage slight, as directed in our last example, letting much of the weight come on the [Page 114] top of the peg. The long arm of the crotch should be pressed inward from the front, and one end of the stick (b) should then be caught between its extreme tip, and the upright peg about ten inches above the ground. By now fastening the bait to a peg at the back part of the pen, the affair is in working order, and will be found perfectly reliable. The ground log (d) being rested in place as seen in the illustration. To make assurance doubly sure, it is well to cut a slight notch in the upright stick at (c) for the reception of the foot-piece (b). By this precaution the stick, when lowered, is bound to sink at the right end, thus ensuring success.

The Figure-Four Trap, already described in another part of this book, is also well adapted to the dead-fall, and is much used. It should be made of stout pieces and erected at the opening of the pen, with the bait pointing toward the interior, the heavy log being poised on its summit.


There is another variety of trap, somewhat resembling the dead-fall, but which seizes its prey in a little different manner. [Page 115] This trap, which we will call the Garrote, is truly represented by our illustration. A pen is first constructed, similar to that of the dead-fall. At the opening of the pen, two arches are fastened in the ground. They should be about an inch apart. A stout forked stick should then be cut, and firmly fixed in the earth at the side of the arches, and about three feet distant.

Our main illustration gives the general appearance of the trap, but we also subjoin an additional cut, showing the "setting" or arrangement of the pieces. They are three in number, and consist: First, of a notched peg, which is driven into the ground at the back part of the pen, and a little to one side. Second, of a forked twig, the branch of which should point downward with the bait attached to its end. The third stick being the little hooked piece catching beneath the arches. The first of these is too simple to need description. The second should be about eight inches long; a notch should be cut in each end. The upper one being on the side from which the branch projects, and the other on the opposite side of the stick, and at the other end, as is made plain by our illustration. The third stick may consist merely of a hooked crotch of some twig, as this is always to be found. Indeed, nearly all the parts of this trap may be found in any woods; and, with the exception of a jack-knife, bait, and string, the trapper need not trouble himself to carry any materials whatever. When the three pieces are thus made the trap only awaits the "Garrote." This should be made from a stiff pole, about six feet in length, having a heavy stone tied to its large end, and a loop of the shape of the letter U, or a slipping noose, made of stout cord or wire, fastened [Page 116] at the smaller end. To arrange the pieces for their destructive work, the pole should be bent down so that the loop shall fall between the arches. The "crotch stick" should then be hooked beneath the front of the arch, letting its arm point inward. After this the bait stick should be placed in its position, with the bait pointing downward, letting one end catch beneath the notch in the ground-peg, and the other over the tip of the crotch stick. This done, and the trap is set.

Like the dead-fall, the bait stick should point toward the side of the pen, as the turning involved in pulling it toward the front is positively sure to slip it loose from its catches. Be careful to see that the loop is nicely arranged between the arches, and that the top of the pen is covered with a few twigs. If these directions are carefully followed, and if the young trapper has selected a good trapping ground, it will not be a matter of many days before he will discover the upper portion of the arches occupied by some rabbit, muskrat, or other unlucky creature, either standing on its hind legs, or lifted clean off the ground. Coons are frequently secured by this trap, although, as a general thing, they don't show much enthusiasm over traps of any kind, and seem to prefer to get their food elsewhere, rather than take it off the end of a bait stick.


This most excellent and unique machine is an invention of the author's, and possesses great advantages, both on account of its durability and of the speedy death which it inflicts.

Procure a board about two feet in length, by five or six in width, and commencing at about nine inches from one end, cut a hole four or more inches square. This may readily be done with a narrow saw, by first boring a series of gimlet holes in which to insert it. There will now be nine inches of board on one side of the hole and eleven on the other. The shorter end constituting the top of the trap. On the upper edge of the hole [Page 117] a row of stout tin teeth should be firmly tacked, as seen in the illustration. On the other side of the cavity, and three inches from it a small auger hole (the size of a lead pencil), should be bored. After which it should be sand-papered and polished on the interior, by rubbing with some smooth, hard tool, inserted inside. A round plug of wood should next be prepared. Let it be about half an inch in length, being afterwards bevelled nearly the whole length of one side, as shown at (b), leaving a little over an eighth of an inch of the wood unwhittled. This little piece of wood is the most important part, of the trap, and should be made very carefully. The remaining end of the board below the auger hole should now be whittled off to a point, in order that it may be driven into the ground. The next requisites consist of two pieces of wood, which are seen at the sides of the square hole, in our illustration, and also seen at (c), side view. These [Page 118] pieces should be about six inches in length and about an inch square. A thin piece being cut off from one side of each, to the distance of four inches, and ending in a square notch. The other end should be rounded off, as is also there plainly indicated. Before adjusting the pieces in place, two tin catches should be fastened to the board, one on each side of the hole. This catch is shown at (d), and consists merely of a piece of tin, half an inch in width, and three-quarters of an inch in length, tacked to the wood, and having its end raised, as indicated. Its object is to hold the bow-string from being pulled down after once passing it. The upper edge of these catch-pieces should be about an inch and a half from the top of the hole, and, if desired, two or three of them may be arranged one above the other, so that wherever the string may stop against the neck of the inmate it will be sure to hold. The catches being in place, proceed to adjust the pieces of wood, letting the notch be on a line with the top of the pole, or a little above it. Each piece should be fastened with two screws to make secure.

We will now give our attention to the bait stick. This should be about six inches in length, and square, as our illustration shows. There are two ways of attaching the bait-stick to the board, both shown at (e) and (f). The former consists merely of a screw eye inserted into the end of the stick, afterwards hinged to the board by a wire staple. The point for the hinge, in this case, should be about an inch below the auger hole. In the other method (f), the bait stick should be a half inch longer, and the spot for the hinge a quarter inch lower. At about a quarter of an inch from the square end of the bait stick a small hole should be made by the use of a hot wire. An oblong mortice should next be cut in the board, so as to receive this end of the stick easily. A stout bit of wire should then be inserted in the little hole in the stick, and laying this across the centre of the mortice, it should be thus secured by two staples, as the drawing shows. This forms a very neat and simple hinge. To determine the place for the catch, insert the flat end of the little plug fairly into the auger-hole above the hinge. Draw up the bait stick, and at the point where it comes in contact with the point of the plug, cut a square notch, as shown in (b). Everything now awaits the bow. This should be of hickory or other stout wood; it is well to have it seasoned, although a stout sapling will answer the purpose very well. It should be fastened to the top of the board by two heavy staples, or nails driven on each side of it. The string should be heavy Indian twine. Our [Page 119] illustration shows the trap, as it appears when ready for business. The plug is inserted, as already described, with the bevelled face downward, and square end in the hole. Draw down the bow-string and pass it beneath the plug, at the same time catching the tip of the latter in the notch of the bait stick. If properly constructed the string will thus rest on the slight uncut portion of the under side of the peg, and the trap is thus set. If the bait is pushed when approached, the notch is forced off from the plug, and the string flies up with a twang! securing the neck of its victim, and producing almost instant death. If the bait is pulled, the bait stick thus forces the plug into the hole in the board, and thus slides the cord on to the bevel, which immediately releases it, and the bow is sprung. So that no matter whether the bait is pushed or drawn towards the front, the trap is equally sure to spring.

In setting this curious machine, it is only necessary to insert it into the ground, and surround the bait with a slight pen, in order that it may not be approached from behind. By now laying a stone or a pile of sticks in front of the affair, so that the bait may be more readily reached, the thing is ready. Care is required in setting to arrange the pieces delicately. The plug should be very slightly inserted into the auger hole, and the notch in the bait stick should be as small as possible, and hold. All this is made clear in our illustration (b).

By observing these little niceties the trap becomes very sure and sensitive.

Bait with small apple, nub of corn, or the like.


If there is anyone subject upon which the ingenuity of the farmers has been taxed, it is on the invention of a mole trap which would effectually clear their premises of these blind burrowing vermin. Many patented devices of this character are on the market, and many odd pictured ideas on the subject have gone the rounds of the illustrated press, but they all sink into insignificance when tested beside the trap we here present. It has no equal among mole traps, and it can be made with the utmost ease and without cost. The principle on which it works is the same as the Fish Trap on page 120.

Construct a hollow wooden tube about five inches in diameter, and eight inches in length. A section of a small tree, neatly excavated with a large auger is just the thing. Through [Page 120] the centre of one of the sides a small hole the size of a lead pencil should be bored, this being the upper side. About half an inch distant from each end a smaller hole should be made for the passage of the noose. The spring should consist either of a stout steel rod, whalebone or stiff sapling, a foot or more in length, inserted downward through holes in the side of the tube after the manner of the Fish Trap already alluded to. No bait is required. A simple stick the size of the central hole at one end, and an inch in width at the other being sufficient. The trap is set as described in the other instances, and as the introduction of the spindle-stick is sometimes attended with difficulty owing to its position inside the trap, the bottom of the latter is sometimes cut away for two or three inches to facilitate the operation. The trap is then to be imbedded within the burrow of the mole. Find a fresh tunnel and carefully remove the sod above it. Insert the trap and replace the turf. The first mole that starts on his rounds through that burrow is a sure prisoner, no matter from which side he may approach.

Immense numbers of these troublesome vermin have been taken in a single season by a dozen such traps, and they possess great advantages over all other mole traps on account of their simplicity and unfailing success.


Our list of traps would be incomplete without a Fish Trap, and although we have mentioned some contrivances in this line under our article on "Fishing" we here present one which is both new and novel.

Its mode of construction is exactly similar to the Double Box Snare, page (57). A section of stove-pipe one foot in length should first be obtained. Through the iron at a point equidistant from the ends, a hole should be made with some smooth, sharp pointed instrument, the latter being forced outward from the inside of the pipe, thus causing the ragged edge of the hole to appear on the outside, as seen in our illustration. The diameter of the aperture [Page 121] should be about that of a lead pencil. Considering this as the upper side of the pipe, proceed to pierce two more hole's downward through the side of the circumference, for the admission of a stout stick or steel rod. This is fully explained in our illustration. The further arrangement of bait stick and nooses is exactly identical with that described on page (57). It may be set for suckers, pickerel, and fish of like size, the bait stick being inserted with sufficient firmness to withstand the attacks of smaller fish. The bait should be firmly tied to the stick, or the latter supplied with two hooks at the end on which it should be firmly impaled. To set the trap, select a locality abounding in fish. Place a stone inside the bottom of the pipe, insert the bait stick and arrange the nooses.

By now quietly grasping the curve of the switch the trap may be easily lowered to the bottom. The bait soon attracts a multitude of small fishes; these in turn attract the pickerel to the spot, and before many minutes the trap is sprung and may be raised from the water with its prisoner. This odd device is an invention of the author's, and it is as successful as it is unique.

[Page 123]

[Page 125] BOOK V.


or the most effectual domestic trap on record see our page title to this section. There are several others also which have done good service in many households, and for the sake of pestered housekeepers generally, we devote a corner of our volume for their especial benefit.

Foremost in the list of domestic pests the rat stands pre-eminent, and his proverbial shrewdness and cunning render his capture often a very difficult, if not an impossible task. We subjoin, however, a few hints and suggestions of practical value, together with some perfected ideas in the shape of traps, by which the average rat may be easily outwitted and led to his destruction.

First on the list is


This most ingenious device possesses great advantages in its capabilities of securing an almost unlimited number of the vermin in quick succession. It also takes care of itself, requires no re-baiting or setting after once put in working order, and is sure death to its prisoners.

A water-tight barrel is the first thing required. Into this pour water to the depth of a foot. Next dampen a piece of very thick paper, and stretch it over the top of the barrel, tying it securely below the upper hoops. When the paper dries it will become thoroughly flat and tightened. Its surface should then be strewn with bits of cheese, etc., and the barrel so placed [Page 126] that the rats may jump upon it from some neighboring surface. As soon as the bait is gone, a fresh supply should be spread on the paper and the same operation repeated for several days, until the rats get accustomed to visit the place for their regular rations, fearlessly and without suspicion. This is "half the battle," and the capture of the greedy victims of misplaced confidence is now an easy matter. The bait should again be spread as before and a few pieces of the cheese should be attached to the paper with gum. It is a good plan to smear parts of the paper with gum arabic, sprinkling the bait upon it. When dry, cut a cross in the middle of the paper, as seen in the illustration, and leave the barrel to take care of itself and the rats. The first one comes along, spies the tempting morsels, and with his accustomed confidence, jumps upon the paper. He suddenly finds himself in the water at the bottom of the barrel, and the paper above has closed and is ready to practice its deception on the next comer. There is not long to wait. A second victim soon tumbles in to keep company with the first. A third and a fourth soon follow, and a dozen or more [Page 127] are sometimes thus entrapped in a very short space of time. It is a most excellent and simple trap, and if properly managed, will most effectually curtail the number of rats in any pestered neighborhood.

By some, it is considered an improvement to place in the bottom of the barrel a large stone, which shall project above the water sufficiently to offer a foothold for one rat. The first victim, of course, takes possession of this retreat and on the precipitate arrival of the second a contest ensues for its occupancy. The hubbub which follows is said to attract all the rats in the neighborhood to the spot, and many are thus captured.

We can hardly recommend the addition of the stone as being an improvement. The rat is a most notoriously shrewd and cunning animal, and the despairing cries of his comrades must rather tend to excite his caution and suspicion. By the first method the drowning is soon accomplished and the rat utters no sound whereby to attract and warn his fellows. This contrivance has been thoroughly tested and has proved its efficacy in many households by completely ridding the premises of the vermin.

Another excellent form of Barrel Trap is that embodying the principle described in page (131). A circular platform should be first constructed and hinged in the opening of the barrel This may be done by driving a couple of small nails through the sides of the barrel into a couple of staples inserted near the opposite edges of the platform. The latter should be delicately weighted, as described on the above mentioned page, and previously to setting, should be baited in a stationary position for several days to gain the confidence of the rats. The bait should at last be secured to the platform with gum, and the bottom of the barrel of course filled with water, as already described. This trap possesses the same advantages as the foregoing. It is self-setting, and unfailing in its action.

Another method consists in half-filling the barrel with oats, and allowing the rats to enjoy their repast there for several days. When thus attracted to the spot, remove the oats, and pour the same bulk of water into the barrel, sprinkling the surface thickly with the grain. The delusion is almost perfect, as will be effectually proven when the first rat visits the spot for his accustomed free lunch. Down he goes with a splash, is soon drowned, and sinks to the bottom. The next shares the same fate, and several more are likely to be added to the list of misguided victims.

[Page 128] Many of the devices described throughout this work may be adapted for domestic use to good purpose. The box-trap page 103, box-snare, page 55, figure-four, page 107, are all suitable for the capture of the rat; also, the examples given on pages 106, 109, 110, and 129.

The steel-trap is often used, but should always be concealed from view. It is a good plan to set it in a pan covered with meal, and placed in the haunts of the rats. The trap may also be set at the mouth of the rats' hole, and covered with a piece of dark-colored cloth or paper. The runways between boxes, boards, and the like offer excellent situations for the trap, which should be covered, as before directed.

Without one precaution, however, the trap may be set in vain. Much of the so-called shrewdness of the rat is nothing more than an instinctive caution, through the acute sense of smell which the animal possesses; and a trap which has secured one victim will seldom extend its list, unless all traces of its first occupant are thoroughly eradicated. This may be accomplished by smoking the trap over burning paper, hens' feathers or chips, taking care to avoid a heat so extreme as to affect the temper of the steel springs. All rat-traps should be treated the same way, in order to insure success, and the position and localities of setting should be frequently changed.


This trap is an old invention, simplified by the author, and for the capture of rats and mice will prove very effectual. It consists of a box, constructed of four slabs of 3-4 inch boarding, and open at both ends. The two side boards should be 10 x 18 inches; top and bottom boards, 6 x 18 inches. For the centre of the latter, a square piece should be removed by the aid of the saw. The width of this piece should be four inches, and the length eight inches. Before nailing the boards together, the holes thus left in the bottom board should be supplied with a treadle platform, working on central side pivots. The board for this treadle should be much thinner and lighter than the rest of the trap, and should fit loosely in place, its surface being slightly below the level of the bottom board. This is shown in the interior of the trap. The pivots should be inserted in the exact centre of the sides, through holes made in the edge of the bottom board. These holes may be bored with a gimlet or burned with a red-hot wire. The pivots may [Page 129] consist of stout brass or iron wire; and the end of one should be flattened with the hammer, as seen in (a). This pivot should project an inch from the wood, and should be firmly inserted in the treadle-piece. The platform being thus arranged, proceed to fasten the boards together, as shown in the illustration, the top and bottom boards overlapping the others. We will now give our attention to the stick shown at (b). This should be whittled from a piece of hard wood, its length being three inches, and its upper end pointed as seen. The lower end should be pierced with a crevice, which should then be forced over the flattened extremity of the point (a) as shown at (c), pointed end uppermost. The weight (d) is next in order. This should consist of a heavy oak plank two inches in thickness, and of such other dimensions as will allow it to fit loosely in the box, and fall from top to bottom therein without catching between two sides. A stout staple should be driven in the centre of its upper face, and from this a stout string should be passed upward through a hole in the centre of the box. We are now ready for the spindle (e). This should be about three inches in length, and bluntly pointed [Page 130] at each end, a notch being made to secure it at a point five inches above the pivot (c). To set the trap, raise the weight, as seen in the illustration; draw down the string to the point (e), and attach it to the spindle one-half an inch from its upper end, which should then be inserted in the notch, the lower end being caught against the extremity of the pivot stick. The parts are now adjusted, and even in the present state the trap is almost sure to spring at the slightest touch on the treadle-piece. An additional precaution is advisable, however. Two small wooden pegs (f) should be driven, one on each side of the spindle, thus preventing any side-movement of the latter. It will now be readily seen that the slightest weight on either end of the treadle-piece within the trap must tilt it to one side, thus throwing the pivot-piece from its bearing on the spindle; and the latter being released, lets fall the weight with crushing effect upon the back of its hapless victim.

The trap is very effective, and is easily constructed. The bait should be rested in the centre of the treadle platform. Built on a larger scale, this device may be successfully adapted to the capture of the mink, martien, and many other varieties of game.


[Page 131] For the capture of mice this is both a simple and effective contrivance, and it may be enlarged so as to be of good service for larger animals. Procure two boards, one foot square and one inch thick, and secure them together by two hinges, as in the illustration. Assuming one as the upper board, proceed to bore a gimlet hole three inches from the hinges. This is for the reception of the bait stick, and should be cut away on the inside, as seen in the section (a), thus allowing a free play for the stick. Directly beneath this aperture, and in the lower board, a large auger hole should be made. A stout bit of iron wire, ten inches in length, is now required. This should be inserted perpendicularly in the further end of the lower slab, being bent into a curve which shall slide easily through a gimlet hole in the edge of the upper board. This portion is very important, and should be carefully constructed. The bait stick should be not more than three inches in length, supplied with a notch in its upper end, and secured in the aperture in the board by the aid of a pivot and staples, as is clearly shown in our drawing. The spindle is next in order. It should consist of a light piece of pine eight and a half inches in length, and brought to an edge at each end. A tack should now be driven at the further edge of the upper board on a line with the aperture through which the wire passes. Our illustration represents the trap as it appears when set. The upper band is raised to the full limit of the wire. One end of the spindle is now adjusted beneath the head of the tack, and the other in the notch in the bait stick. The wire thus supports the suspended board by sustaining the spindle, which is held in equilibrium. A slight touch on the bait stick soon destroys this equilibrium: a flap ensues, and a dead mouse is the result. The object of the auger hole in the lower board consists in affording a receptacle for the bait when the boards come together, as otherwise it would defeat its object, by offering an obstruction to the fall of the board, and thus allow its little mouse to escape.

It is, therefore, an essential part of the trap, and should be carefully tested before being finally set.


We now come to a variety of trap which differs in its construction from any previously described. It secures its victims alive, and without harm, and, when well made, is very successful. [Page 132] It may be set for squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice, and the like, and on a large scale for muskrats and mink.

The trap is very easily made, and is represented in section in our illustration, showing the height and interior of the box. For ordinary purposes the box should be about twelve or fourteen inches square, with a depth of about eighteen inches. A platform consisting of a piece of tin should then be procured. This should be just large enough to fit nicely to the outline of the interior of the box without catching. On two opposite sides of this piece of tin, and at the middle of each of those sides, a small strip of the same material should be wired, or soldered in the form of a loop, as shown in the separate diagram at (b). These loops should be only large enough to admit the end of a shingle-nail. A scratch should now be made across the tin from loop to loop, and on the centre of this scratch another and larger strip of tin should be fastened in a similar manner as shown in our diagram, at (a), this being for the balance weight. The [Page 133] latter may consist of a small stone, piece of lead, or the like, and should be suspended by means of a wire bent around it, and secured in a hole in the tin by a bend or knot in the other extremity. Further explanations are almost superfluous, as our main illustration fully explains itself.

After the weight is attached, the platform should be secured in its place, about five inches from the top of the box. To accomplish this and form the hinges, two shingle-nails should be driven through the side of the box into the tin loops prepared for them. To do this nicely requires some considerable accuracy and care, and it should be so done that the platform will swing with perfect freedom and ease, the weight below bringing it to a horizontal poise after a few vibrations. Care should be taken that the weight is not too heavy, as, in such a case, the platform will not be sensitive on its balance, and, consequently, would not work so quickly and surely. The weight should be just heavy enough to restore the platform to its perfect poise, and no more. This can be easily regulated by experiment. The bait should then be strewn on both sides of the platform, when the trap is set, and the luckless animal, jumping after the bait, feels his footing give way, and suddenly finds himself in the bottom of a dark box, from which it is impossible for him to escape except by gnawing his way out. To prevent this, the interior of the box may be lined with tin.

By fastening the bait—a small lump or piece—on each side of the tin, the trap will continually reset itself, and, in this way, two or three individuals may be taken, one after the other. Muskrats are frequently caught in this trap, it being generally buried in the ground so that its top is on a level with the surface. In this case it is necessary to arrange the platform lower down in the box, and the latter should be of much larger dimensions than the one we have described.

[Page 134] For ordinary purposes the box should either be set in the ground or placed near some neighboring object which will afford easy access to it. No less than a dozen rats have been caught in a trap of this kind in a single night.


The common cage trap is well known to most of our readers, and for the capture of rats and mice, it is one of the most efficacious devices in existence. The construction of one of these traps is quite a difficult operation, and we would hesitate before advising our inventive reader to exercise his patience and ingenuity in the manufacture of an article which can be bought for such a small price, and which, after all, is only a mouse trap. If it were a device for the capture of the mink or otter, it might then be well worth the trouble, and would be likely to repay the time and labor expended upon it. We imagine that few would care to exercise their skill over a trap of such complicated structure, while our pages are filled with other simpler and equally effective examples.

For the benefit, however, of such as are of an inventive turn of mind, we subjoin an illustration of the trap to serve as a guide. The principle upon which it works is very simple. The bait is [Page 135] strewn inside the cage, and the rats or mice find their only access to it through the hole at the top. The wires here converge at the bottom, and are pointed at the ends. The passage downwards is an easy matter, but to escape through the same opening is impossible, as the pointed ends of the wires effectually prevent the ascent. It is a notable fact, however, that the efforts to escape through this opening are very seldom made. The mode of entering seems to be absolutely forgotten by the captive animals, and they rush frantically about the cage, prying between all the wires in their wild endeavors, never seeming to notice the central opening by which they entered. This is easily explained by the fact that the open grating admits the light from all sides, and the enclosed victims are thus attracted to no one spot in particular, and naturally rush to the extreme edges of the trap, in the hope of finding an exit.

If a thick cloth be placed over the cage, leaving the opening at the top uncovered, the confined creatures are soon attracted by the light, and lose no time in rushing towards it, where their endeavors to ascend are effectually checked by the pointed wires. Profiting by this experiment, the author once improvised a simple trap on the same principle, which proved very effectual. We will call it


In place of the wire cage, a glass preserve-jar was substituted. A few bits of cheese were then dropped inside, and the top of a funnel inserted into the opening above. This completed the trap, and it was set on the floor near the flour barrel. On the following morning the jar was occupied by a little mouse, and each successive night for a week added one to the list of victims. A stiff piece of tin, bent into the required shape, may be substituted for the funnel top, or even a very heavy piece of pasteboard might answer.


Very effective extempore traps may be set up in a few minutes by the use of a few bowls. There are two methods commonly employed. One consists of the bowl and a knife-blade. An ordinary tableknife is used and a piece of cheese is firmly forced on to the end of the blade, the bowl is then balanced on the edge, allowing the bait to project about an inch and a half beneath the bowl. The odor of cheese will attract a mouse almost anywhere, and he soon finds [Page 136] his way to the tempting morsel in this case. A very slight nibble is sufficient to tilt the blade and the bowl falls over its prisoner.

In the second method a thimble is used in place of the knife. The cheese is forced into its interior, and the open end of the thimble inserted far beneath the bowl, allowing about half its length to project outward.

The mouse is thus obliged to pass under the bowl in order to reach the bait, and in his efforts to grasp the morsel, the thimble is dislodged and the captive secured beneath the vessel. Where a small thimble is used, it becomes necessary to place a bit of pasteboard or flat chip beneath it, in order to raise it sufficiently to afford an easy passage for the mouse. Both of these devices are said to work excellently.


A sheet of common paper, smeared with a mixture composed of molasses one part, and bird-lime six parts (see page 97), will be found to attract large numbers of flies and hold them prisoners upon its surface.

Spruce gum, warmed on the fire, and mixed with a little linseed oil, is also excellent. For a genuine fly trap, the following stands unrivalled.


Take a tumbler, and half-fill it with strong soap suds. Cut a circle of stiff paper which will exactly fit into the top of the glass. In the centre of the paper cut a hole half an inch in diameter, or, better still, a slice of bread may be placed on the glass. Smear one side of the disc with molasses, and insert it in the tumbler with this side downward. Swarms of flies soon surround it, and one by one find their way downward through the hole. Once below the paper, and their doom is sealed. For a short time the molasses absorbs their attention, and they, in turn, absorb the molasses.

In their efforts to escape, they one by one precipitate themselves in the soap suds below, where they speedily perish. The tumbler is soon half-filled with the dead insects, and where a number of the traps are set in a single room, the apartment is soon ridden of the pests.

[Page 137] BOOK VI.


assing from our full and extended illustrated list of extempore, or "rough and ready" examples of the trap kind, we will now turn our attention to the consideration of that well-known implement, the trade steel trap. Although the foregoing varieties often serve to good purpose, the Steel Trap is the principal device used by professional trappers, and possesses great advantages over all other traps. It is portable, sets easily and quickly, either on land or beneath the water; can be concealed with ease; secures its victims without injury to their fur, and by the application of the spring or sliding pole (hereafter described) will most effectually prevent the captive from making his escape by self-amputation, besides placing him beyond the reach of destruction by other animals.

The author has known trappers who have plied their vocation largely by the aid of the various hand made traps, described in the earlier pages of this book, and with good success. But in the regular business of systematic trapping, their extensive use is not common. The experience of modern trappers generally, warrants the assertion that for practical utility, from every point of view, the steel trap stands unrivalled.

These traps are made of all sizes, from that suitable for the capture of the house rat, to the immense and wieldy machine adapted to the grizzly, and known as the "bear tamer."

They may be bought at almost any hardware shop, although a large portion of the traps ordinarily sold are defective. They should be selected with care, and the springs always tested [Page 138] before purchase. Besides the temper of the spring, there are also other necessary qualities in a steel trap, which we subjoin in order that the amateur may know how to judge and select his weapons judiciously.


1. The jaws should not be too thin nor sharp cornered. In the cheaper class of steel traps the jaws approach to the thinness of sheet-iron, and the result is that the thin edges often sever the leg of their would-be captive in a single stroke. At other times the leg is so deeply cut as to easily enable the animal to gnaw or twist it off. This is the common mode of escape, with many animals.

2. The pan should not be too large. This is a very common fault with many steel traps and often defeats its very object. Where the pan is small, the foot of the animal in pressing it, will be directly in the centre of the snap of the jaw, and he is thus firmly secured far up on the leg. On the other hand, a large pan nearly filling the space between the jaws as the trap is set, may be sprung by a touch on its extreme edge, and the animal's toe is thus likely to get slightly pinched, if indeed the paw is not thrown off altogether by the forcible snap of the jaw.

3. The springs should be strong, scientifically tempered, and proportioned. The strength of a perfectly tempered spring will always remain the same, whether in winter or summer, never losing its elasticity. The best of tempering, however, is useless in a spring badly formed or clumsily tapered.

4. The jaws should be so curved as to give the bow of the spring a proper sweep to work upon. The jaws should lie flat when open, and should always work easily on their hinges.

5. Every trap should be furnished with a strong chain with ring and swivel attached, and in every case the swivel should turn easily.

The celebrated "Newhouse Trap" embodies all the above requisites, and has deservedly won a reputation for excellence second to no other in this or any other country.

They are made in eight sizes, as follows:

This is the smallest size and is known as the RAT TRAP. It has a single spring, and the jaws spread three and a half inches when set.

[Page 139]

[Page 141]

This size is called the MUSKRAT TRAP, and the jaws spread four inches. It is especially designed for the capture of the mink, marten, and animals of similar size.

This is known in the trade as the MINK TRAP, and the jaws spread nearly five inches. It is adapted for the fox, raccoon, or fisher.

This size is called the FOX TRAP. The spread of the jaws is the same as in the foregoing, but the trap is provided with two springs, and consequently has double the power. It is strong enough for the otter, and is generally used for the capture of the fox and fisher.

No.3 goes by the name of the OTTER TRAP. The jaws spread five and a half inches, and the powerful double springs do excellent service in the capture of the beaver, fox, badger, opossum, wild cat, and animals of like size.

Commonly called the BEAVER TRAP. Jaws spread six and a half inches. This size is especially adapted to the wolf, lynx or wolverine. It may also be set for deer, and extra sets of jaws are made expressly for this purpose, being easily inserted in the place of the ordinary jaws, when desired.

[Page 142]

This is known as the "GREAT BEAR TAMER," and is a most formidable weapon. The jaws spread sixteen inches, and the weight of the machine is forty-two pounds. It is extensively used in the capture of the moose and grizzly bear, and is the largest and most powerful steel trap made in this or any other country. The springs possess most tremendous power, and require to be set by a lever, as the weight of an ordinary man has not the slightest effect upon them. This lever may be easily applied, as follows: Have at hand four stout straps, supplied with buckles. These should always be carried by the trapper, where the larger double-spring traps are used. To adjust the lever, cut four heavy sticks about three feet long. Take two of them and secure their ends together, side by side, with one of the straps. Now insert the spring of the trap between them, near the strap. Bear down heavily on the other extremity of the lever, and the spring will be found to yield easily, after which the remaining ends of the levers should be secured by a second strap. The other spring should now be treated in the same way, after which the jaws should be spread and the pan adjusted. The removal of the straps and levers is now an easy matter, after which [Page 143] the trap is set. The stoutest spring is easily made to yield by such treatment.

The SMALL BEAR TRAP. The jaws of this size spread nearly a foot, and the weight of the trap is seventeen pounds. It is used in the capture of the black bear, puma, and animals of similar size.

All of the foregoing are supplied with swivels and chains.


There is a very common and erroneous idea current among amateur sportsmen and others in regard to the baiting of the steel trap; viz., that the pan of the trap is intended for the bait. This was the old custom in the traps of bygone times, but no modern trap is intended to be so misused, and would indeed often defeat its object in such a case, wherein it will be easily [Page 144] seen. The object of the professional trapper is the acquisition of furs; and a prime fur skin should be without break or bruise, from nose to tail. A trap set as above described, would of course catch its victim by the head or neck, and the fur would be more or less injured at the very spot where it should be particularly free from blemish.

The true object of the steel trap is, that it shall take the animal by the leg, thus injuring the skin only in a part where it is totally valueless.

We give, then, this imperative rule—Never bait a steel trap on the pan.

The pan is intended for the foot of the game, and in order to insure capture by this means, the bait should be so placed as that the attention of the animal will be drawn away from the trap; the latter being in such a position as will cause the victim to step in it when reaching for the tempting allurement.

There are several ways of doing this, one of which we here illustrate.

A pen of stakes, in the shape of the letter V, is first constructed. The trap is then set in the angle, and the bait attached to the end stake directly over it. Another method is shown in the picture on our title-page to this section, the bait being suspended on a stick above the trap. There are various other methods on the same principle, which will be described hereafter, under the titles of the various game.


This is nearly always used in connection with the steel trap, in the capture of the smaller land animals. It not only lifts the creature into the air, and thus prevents its becoming a prey to other animals, but it also guards against the escape of the victim by the amputation of its own leg. This is a very common mode of release with many kinds of game—notably the mink, marten, and muskrat; and for the successful trapping of these, as well as many other animals, the spring and sliding pole are absolute necessities. It is a simple contrivance, consisting merely of a pole inserted in the ground near the trap. The pole is then bent down, and the trap chain secured to its end. A small, notched peg is next driven into the ground and the top of the pole caught in it, and thus held in a bent position. When the animal is caught, its struggles release the pole, and the latter, flying up with a jerk, [Page 145] lifts the trap and its occupant high in the air, out of the reach of marauders, and beyond the power of escape by self-amputation. Even in the capture of large game the spring pole often serves to good purpose. The struggles of a heavy animal are often so violent as to break a stout trap or chain; and the force of the spring pole, although not sufficient to raise the animal from its feet, often succeeds in easing the strain, and often thus saves a trap from being broken to pieces. The power of the pole must of course be proportionate to the weight of the desired game.


The first impulse with almost every aquatic animal when caught in a trap, is to plunge headlong into deep water. With the smaller animals, such as the mink and muskrat, this is all that is desired by the trapper, as the weight of the trap with the chain is sufficient to drown its victim. But with larger animals, the beaver and otter for instance, an additional precaution, in the shape of the "sliding pole," is necessary. This consists of a pole about ten feet long, smoothly trimmed of its branches, excepting at the tip, where a few stubs should be left. Insert this end obliquely into the bed of the stream, where the water is [Page 146] deep, and secure the large end to the bank by means of a hooked stick, as seen in our illustration. The ring of the chain should be large enough to slide easily down the entire length of the pole. When the trap is set, the ring should be slipped on the large end of the pole, and held in place by resting a stick against it. The animal, when caught, plunges off into deep water, and guided by the pole, is led to the bottom of the river. The ring slides down to the bed of the stream, and there holds its victim until drowned.


A trap which is set for heavy game should never be secured to a stake. Many of the larger and more powerful animals when caught in a trap thus secured, are apt either to pull or twist their legs off, or break both trap and chain to pieces. To guard against this, the chain should be weighted with a pole or small log, of a size proportionate to the dimensions of the game, its weight being merely sufficient to offer a serious incumbrance to the animal, without positively checking its movements. This impediment is called the "clog," and is usually attached to the ring of the trap chain by its larger end, the ring being slipped over the latter, and secured in place by a wedge. A look at our frontispiece will give a clear idea of both clog and attachment.


This answers the same purpose as the above, and is often used instead. It is manufactured in connection with the larger steel traps, and is attached to the chain by a swivel joint. Its general shape is shown in an engraving, and it offers a serious resistance to the victim, who endeavors to run away with it.


The business of trapping for profit must be confined to the season between the first of October and the beginning of May, as furs of all kinds are worthless when taken during the other months of the year. The reason for this is obvious. A "prime fur" must be "thick" and "full," and as all our fur-bearing animals shed their heavy winter coats as warm weather approaches, it necessarily follows that the capture at this season would be unprofitable. As the autumn approaches the new growth appears, and the fur becomes thick and glossy. By the middle of October most furs are in their prime, but the heart of winter is the best time for general trapping. [Page 148] The furs of the mink, muskrat, fisher, marten and beaver are not in their perfect prime until this season. And all other furs are sure to be in good condition at this time.


From time immemorial, and in every nation of the world, the art of trapping has been more or less practised. By some as a means of supplying their wants in the shape of daily food, and by others for the purpose of merchandise or profit.

To be a clever and successful trapper, much more is required than is generally supposed. The mere fact of a person's being able to set a trap cleverly and judiciously forms but a small part of his proficiency; and unless he enters deeper into the subject and learns something of the nature and habits of the animals he intends to catch, his traps will be set in vain, or at best meet with but indifferent success. The study of natural history here becomes a matter of necessity as well as pleasure and profit. And unless the trapper thoroughly acquaints himself with the habits of his various game, the sagacity and cunning of his intended victim will often outwit his most shrewd endeavors, much to his chagrin. The sense of smell, so largely developed in many animals, becomes one of the trappers most serious obstacles, and seems at times to amount almost to positive reason, so perfectly do the creatures baffle the most ingenious attempts of man in his efforts to capture them. A little insight into the ways of these artful animals, however, and a little experience with their odd tricks soon enables one to cope with them successfully and overcome their whims. For the benefit of the amateur who has not had the opportunity of studying for himself, the peculiarities of the various game, the author appends a comprehensive chapter on "Practical Natural History," in which will be found full accounts of the peculiar habits and leading characteristics of all the various animals commonly sought by the trapper, together with detailed directions for trapping each variety, supplemented with a faithful portrait of the animal in nearly every instance. A careful reading of the above mentioned chapter will do much towards acquainting the novice with the ways of the sly creatures, which he hopes to victimize, and will thus prepare him to contend with them successfully.

In the art of trapping the bait is often entirely dispensed with, the traps being set and carefully concealed in the runways of the various animals. These by-paths are easily detected by an [Page 149] experienced trapper, and are indicated either by footprints or other evidences of the animal, together with the matted leaves and broken twigs and grasses.

Natural channels, such as hollow logs or crevices between rocks or fallen trees, offer excellent situations for steel traps, and a good trapper is always on the qui vive for such chance advantages, thus often saving much of the time and labor which would otherwise be spent in the building of artificial enclosures, etc.

The most effective baits used in the art of trapping are those which are used to attract the animal through its sense of smell, as distinct from that of its mere appetite for food. These baits are known in the profession as "medicine," or scent baits and possess the most remarkable power of attracting the various animals from great distances, and leading them almost irresistibly to any desired spot. Such is the barks tone or castoreum, of such value in the capture of the beaver, and the oil of anise, so commonly used for the trapping of animals in general. These various substances will presently be considered under their proper heading.

Many detailed and specific directions on the subject of trapping will be found in the long chapter following; and, in closing our preliminary remarks, we would add just one more word of general caution, which the young trapper should always bear in mind.

In all cases avoid handling the trap with the bare hand. Many an amateur has set and reset his traps in vain, and retired from the field of trapping in disgust, from the mere want of observing this rule. Animals of keen scent are quick in detecting the slightest odors, and that left by the touch of a human hand often suffices to drive the creature away from a trap which, under other circumstances, would have been its certain destruction. To be sure the various scent baits already alluded to, will in a measure overcome human traces, but not always effectually, and in order to insure success no precautions so simple should be neglected. A pair of clean buckskin gloves are valuable requisites to the trapper, and should always be "on hand" when setting or transporting traps.


These form one of the most important requisites of the trapper's art. A trap baited simply with the food of the [Page 150] required animal, may and often will be successful, but with the addition of the trapper's "medicine" judicially applied, success is almost a certainty. These scent baits are of various kinds, some being almost universal in their usefulness, while others are attractive only to some particular species of animal. We give a few of the recipes of the most valued preparations used by trappers throughout the land. The application and use of each is fully described in its proper place hereafter.


This substance, commonly known as "Barkstone," by trappers and fur dealers, is obtained from the beaver, and is a remarkable aid in the capture of that animal. It is an acrid secretion of a powerful musky odor, found in two glands beneath the root of the tail of the beaver. These glands are about two inches in length. They are cut out and the contents are squeezed into a small bottle. When fresh the substance is of a yellowish-red color, changing to a light-brown when dried. Both male and female animals yield the castoreum, but that of the male is generally considered the best. Castoreum is a commercial drug, and in many beaver countries it is quite an article of trade. There are other sacs lying directly behind the castor glands which contain a strong oil of rancid smell. This should not be confounded with the Castoreum.


The Barkstone is used both pure and in combination with other substances, the following prescription being much used: Into the contents of about ten of the castor bags, mix two ground nutmegs, thirty or forty cloves, also powdered, one drop essence of peppermint, and about two thimblefuls of ground cinnamon. Into this stir as much whisky as will give the whole the consistency of paste, after which the preparation should be bottled and kept carefully corked. At the expiration of a few days the odor increases ten-fold in power and is ready for use. A bottle, if thus prepared, will retain its strength for nearly a half year, provided it is kept closely corked. A few drops of either the pure castoreum or the combination spread upon the bait or in the neighborhood of the trap, as described under the chapter on the Beaver, will entice that animal from a great distance.

[Page 151] MUSK.

This substance is a secretion obtained from several different animals, notably the otter and muskrat. The glands which contain it are located similarly to the castor glands of the beaver, and the musk should be discharged into a vial, as previously described. The musk of the female muskrat is said to be the most powerful, and is chiefly used by trappers in the capture of that animal, the otter being chiefly attracted by its own musk.


This foul smelling production seems to have a specially attractive fragrance to many animals, and for general use is much esteemed by trappers. It is a vegetable drug from Persia and the East Indies, and is imported in the form of concrete juice, of a brown color.


This is a vegetable oil obtained from a species of rose, and is quite costly. Its power of attracting animals is surprising, and it is in very common use among trappers.


This is especially useful in the capture of the majority of the fur tribe, and particularly the water animals.

The oil may be bought ready for use, or prepared with little trouble. The common method consists in cutting up fish of any kind, especially eels, into small bits, putting them in a bottle, and setting the latter in the full exposure to the sun. It should thus be left for about two weeks, at the end of which time a rancid oil will have formed. A few drops of this oil will entice many animals from surprising distances, often drawing their attention to a bait which otherwise they might never have scented.


This, the ne plus ultra, or quintessence of diabolical stench, yields the tempting savor which irresistibly attracts many animals to their final doom. It is contained in a pouch beneath the insertion of the tail of the animal, and is spread abroad by the [Page 152] creature with lavish extravagance when circumstances demand, or we might say when occasion permits. It may be taken from the animal and bottled as already described in other instances, chloride of lime being used to eradicate the stench from the hands.


This substance is frequently referred to in the following pages, and is a vegetable product of the amber gum of commerce. The Oil of Ambergris is also sometimes used by trappers, and is likewise known as Amber Oil. The two are thus often confounded, although the former is supposed to be most generally used.


This is strongly recommended by many trappers as a most excellent "universal medicine." It is a vegetable product, and is obtainable at any drug store.


This plant is commonly cultivated all over the United States, and the seeds are often powdered and used as a scent bait. The Oil of Fennel is preferable, however, and may be had at almost any drug store.


This is another plant, somewhat resembling the former, and, like it, cultivated for its seeds. It has an aromatic taste, and its strong pungent odor renders it of great value to the trapper. The seeds may be powdered and thus used, or the oil of the plant may be easily procured. The latter is preferable.


Like the two foregoing this plant is valuable for its seeds, which are used for medicinal purposes. The oil or bruised seeds may be used.


This is another aromatic plant, the oil of which, either pure or diluted with alcohol, is much used in the trapper's art.

[Page 153] COMPOUND.

For ordinary use, a mixture of Assafoetida, Musk, Oil of Anise, and Fish Oil, together with a few drops of the Oil of Rhodium, is especially recommended by our most skilled trappers. This preparation contains the various substances which are known to attract the different fur bearing animals, and its use often insures success where anyone of the simple substances would be ineffectual.


The object of the "trail" consists in offering a leading scent which, when followed, will bring the animal to the various traps, and when properly made will be the means of drawing large numbers of game from all quarters and from great distances, whereas without it the traps might remain undiscovered.

Trails are sometimes made to connect a line of traps, as when set along the banks of streams for mink, etc., at other times, as in trapping the fox, for instance, they should extend from the trap on all sides, like the spokes of a wheel from the hub, thus covering considerable area, and rendering success more certain than it would be without this precaution.

The combination "medicine" just described is excellent for the purposes of a trail for minks, otter, muskrat, and many other animals.

Soak a piece of meat, or piece of wood in the preparation, and drag it along the ground between the traps. A dead fish smeared with the fluid will also answer the same purpose. The soles of the boots may also be smeared with the "medicine" and the trail thus accomplished. Trails of various kinds are considered under their respective and appropriate heads in the chapters on animals, all of which will be found useful and effective.


In the following pages will be found full and ample directions for the trapping of all our leading game, together with detailed descriptions of peculiar habits of each species. The various articles contain careful descriptions, whereby the species may be readily recognized, and, in nearly every case, are accompanied by faithful illustrations. We add also valuable directions for the best manner of removing the skin of each animal, this being a matter of considerable importance, as affecting their pecuniary value.

[Page 154] THE FOX.

Foremost in the list of animals noted for their sly craft, and the hero of a host of fables and well-authenticated stories, in which artful cunning gains the advantage over human intelligence, Reynard, the fox, reigns supreme. There is scarcely a professional trapper in the land who has not, in his day, been hoodwinked by the wily strategy of this sly creature, whose extreme cunning renders him the most difficult of all animals to trap. The fox belongs to the Dog family, and there are six varieties inhabiting the United States. The red species is the most common and is too well known to need a description here. The Cross Fox considerably resembles the above, only being much darker in color, the red hair being thickly speckled with black. This species varies considerably in color in different individuals, often much resembling the red variety, and again approaching nearer in color to the Black or Silver Fox. This variation, together with the name of the animal, has given rise among trappers to the wide-spread belief of the animal being a cross between the two species which it so nearly resembles. It seems to be a permanent variety, however, the term cross being applied, we believe, on account of a dark marking on the back, between the shoulders of the animal, suggestive of that title. The Silver or Black Fox is the most beautiful and most rare of the genus, and yields the most valuable fur produced in this country. Its color is black, with the exception of the tip of the tail, which is white. The Prairie Fox is the largest of the species. It inhabits the Western Prairies, and in color resembles the common red variety, only being a trifle yellower.

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