Coyote activity in deer habitat today is markedly increasing throughout prime habitat, and particularly in wintering grounds. Although wildlife biologists contend that coyote diets consist mainly of small rodents, these wild canines are becoming more aggressive and bolder in their pursuit of larger prey.
Coyote distribution in North America has dramatically expanded in the last four decades, and coyotes now inhabit every state of the Union and Canada. In days past, coyote trapping and calling helped curb growing populations, as good fur prices prompted recreational hunting and trapping, as well as being a mainstay for many Midwest and high-plains trappers. However that all changed in the early 1980’s, as an embargo was imposed forbidding export of domestic furs to the European market. As a result, coyote pelts that were worth 100-135 dollars in the late 1970’s and very early 80’s, dropped in value on the fur trader’s table to around fifteen bucks top price for a prime, extra-large buff coyote pelt! Interest in recreational fur harvest evaporated, along with the monetary incentives, and consequently, most of North America has experienced a twenty-plus year absence of trapping or fur hunting pressure on most predatory species.
As many deer hunters will attest, it is now commonplace to find coyotes regularly running deer, and deer trails. A blanket of snow reveals this tendency in startling detail, often showing well-used deer and coyote trails, and in many locations it is hard to find deer tracks without canine tracks over them! During hard winters coyote predation can be a significant factor in the winter-kill on deer herds, but perhaps even more devastating is the predation that takes place during the fawning season. In many localities fawn survival rates are frighteningly low due to canine pressure.
Note that the last paragraph denotes canine pressure. Many areas of prime deer habitat are also over-run with wild dog packs, domestic dogs gone wild, and some of these large breed domesticated dogs are breeding with the coyote, creating a very wily, strong, unnaturally large cross-breed that is an extremely efficient predator.
With dwindling Federal monies for government trapping programs, a politically incorrect agenda when speaking of state-sponsored trapping, combined with rock-bottom fur prices, there is little progress made towards curbing the population explosion of these canine predators.
It is these, deer running coyotes and their ilk that this article addresses. Coyotes aren’t vile, evil critters, but an essential part of a healthy ecosystem when their populations are in proportion to their traditional small game and rodent diets. Our goal isn’t to exterminate coyotes, but rather to cull the packs of those individuals that primarily target deer. This specific coyote harvest is far easier than you might imagine, and taking only those individual animals that predominantly run deer is almost assured with the right tools, and correct timing of that harvest effort.
The timing is very important, and from October through late March are good months to target these coyotes with a taste for venison. The rainy season generally comes to most of the country by October, facilitating location of active deer/coyote trails in fresh mud, and later on snow, for those regions receiving snow. The primary tool of this trade is the snare. It is simple to set, inexpensive, light in weight, and easy to store.
The purpose of this article is not to give a complete course on coyote trapping; but rather, a quick, effective overview of one proven principle and a snare-set that efficiently harvests deer-running coyotes. Trapping, due to twenty years of non-existent fur prices is largely a lost art, and it is our hope that with a simple, and successful reintroduction to the activity will once-again awaken an interest in at least casual, recreational trapping for no other reason than population management of coyotes, and a conservation minded approach to predator control.
Okay, you want to know about the set. You’ve read some of the old-timer’s tales of the wily coyote digging up traps and trap chains because they smelled human scent, how they will pull traps away from dirt-hole sets and scent-post sets. How can this be simple? Well, as stated before, we don’t want to target any coyotes other than those that are specifically running deer. Since this is the case, all we have to deal with is those individuals, and target their vulnerabilities. And yes, it can be very easily done, and with only a weekend worth of time to harvest a few yellow-dogs.
When a coyote is running a deer, or fresh deer track, it has only one thing on its mind, the deer. Generally these fast-moving coyotes are sprinting through the trees and brush, heeding not, foreign scents or other commonly suspicious details. The only object of these venison-eating canines is to catch up with a deer! All this is to our advantage when snaring them, as most caution is thrown to the chase, and the meticulous attention to detail of a set, and human scent control commonly associated with coyote trapping can largely be ignored.
This does not mean however, that carelessness in these regards should be the rule and standard either! For instance, in regard to scent, don’t handle your snares after going to the bathroom; don’t urinate in the vicinity of a game trail, and don’t store your snares, either at home, or in transit where they will be exposed to strong foreign odors such as chemicals, cleaning supplies or pet odors. Basically, use the same rules of thumb when setting out a coyote snare-line as you would for a really woods-wise whitetail buck, and you’ll be on the right track.
Here perhaps we should describe and define what we mean by a snare! Many outdoorsmen today conjure up visions of grandiose tip-up snares attached to the top of a bent-over sapling that snaps whatever hapless creature is caught in the trap to dangle back and forth several feet in the air! These mental images have been burned into our imaginations by stories of western conquests and frontier living, but by and large they are only stories, and ones embellished by Hollywood for our entertainment. The modern, efficient snare we use today poses no threat to unsuspecting people in the woods, and is almost elegant in its simplicity. It is constructed of steel, multi-strand aircraft cable, and uses a self-locking slide mechanism that creates a loop that when tension is applied to it, one end slips down along the cable creating an ever smaller constricting loop which the self-locking slide prevents from opening. A coyote caught around the neck in one of these humane, fast acting snares is usually asphyxiated in around three to five minutes.
The actual set is simple. On a well used game trail frequented by both deer and coyotes, either find a log or sapling fallen across the trail, or cut one yourself for the purpose, that lies across the trail at roughly ninety degrees to the direction of travel, and being between 18-24” off the ground. This obstacle across the trail should be a minimum of at least two inches in diameter. If there are limbs on the sapling (usually one you cut for the purpose), trim the branches on the top and sides of the tree where it crosses the trail, then, on the bottom side, trim only enough branches to make a natural looking opening about ten inches wide underneath the tree, from the trunk to the ground. If using an existing blow-down across a game trail, this step probably won’t be necessary. The purpose of this trail obstacle is to create a “jump stick”. A jump stick will force a deer to jump the tree or sapling, whereas a canine will invariably run underneath.
By setting the snare underneath the “jump stick” the possibility of catching a deer is virtually non-existent, while it greatly multiplies the odds of catching Mr. Coyote. The jump stick should be secured at both ends across the trail either with cordage or wire, to prevent a deer from simply pushing it out of the way, if it is small in diameter. Too, this jump stick is where you will attach the end of your snare securely with wire, (either old-fashioned baling wire, or coat-hanger wire works well too), as well as being the guidance point for the snare. The sliding loop in your snare should be about eight to nine inches in diameter, and set to hang with the bottom of the loop approximately eight to ten inches off the ground, directly over the established trail of travel. Ideally, the top of the snare loop will fall roughly even with the bottom of the jump stick. Each side of the snare’s sliding loop should be gently stabilized from twisting, either by existing sticks or weeds, and the top of the loop supported by a heavier wire (either No.11 or No. 9 wire is best), inserted into the poly-tubing collar fitted to the snare cable. (see instructions below for making the snares). A five-foot (60 inch) snare seems to be about ideal for this set, and when trapping only for coyotes, a 1/16th inch diameter snare-cable is adequately heavy to hold a coyote. Commercially made snares for coyotes are typically 3/32” in diameter, but are a bit too stiff for my tastes when making this particular set.
When the coyote is in hot pursuit of a deer, it will slip underneath the jump stick, and with the snare loop positioned as described above, will positively meet his end! Most times a coyote will hit the end of the snare, and literally be jerked off his feet! Even if a coyote is just “passing through” they seem to pay little attention to the snare near their head or even around their neck until it is too late. Apparently they encounter so much brush and so many limbs and such in their path, that they associate that light feeling of the unconstricted snare with a natural object offering slight resistance to their travel. In any event, this set is a proven performer on coyotes, the particular individuals that habitually are running the deer and deer trails. When selecting a site for your snare-set, just be sure that your jump stick is within the 18-24 inch height suggestion, so that all deer jump over the obstacle. When done properly is both fool proof, and productive.
Be sure to check your state’s game laws and trapping regulations on the use of snares, there are still a couple of states that don’t allow snares to be used, even for predatory animals, but they are very few, and in fact, most states list the coyote as a predator, therefore state trapping seasons don’t apply to coyotes, as they do to furbearers. Be safe, and check with state regulations before setting coyote snares however. Some states will require a trapping license, but even then it is usually just a nominal fee, and just a matter of paying your money and giving them the information necessary. One last thought on game laws and trap regulations, some if not most states require a metal tag of some sort affixed to the snare to identify the owner. Satisfactory tags can be made from pieces cut from aluminum beverage cans, and engraved with an electric graver tool as the ones made for marking tools and such.
There are several providers of commercially made snares. They are top quality in every respect, and relatively inexpensive as well. Nearly all these ready-made snares must be ordered either mail order, or via the web. I’ve not found a retailer with snares in stock for sale over the counter in nearly two decades.
A few suppliers are listed below:
505 Polk Street
PO Box 1170
Mansfield, LA 71052
Funke Trap Tags & Supplies
2151 Eastman Avenue
State Center, Iowa 50247
The Snare Shop
13191 Phoenix Avenue
Carroll, IA 51401
Minnesota Trapline Products
6699, 156th Avenue N.W.
Pennock, MN 56279
Murray’s Lures & Trapping
Rt. 1 Box 18-A
Elizabeth, WV 26143
T-N-T Trapping Supply
10555 U. Avenue
New Hartford, IA 50660
Now, as is the custom of BeartoothBullets.com, we also offer a cost-effective, rewarding alternative for the do-it-yourselfer! Snare building is simple, inexpensive and fast. Odds are, that you can go to the hardware store, buy the necessary materials and have them assembled not much slower than filling out an order form for a mail-order based trapping supply company!
The snares we will describe making below are the very type detailed in the above article. The tools you will need are these:
Small Bench Vise
5/64” High-Speed Drill Bit
Needed Materials: (To make two 60” coyote snares)
The materials shown in the photos cost $3.11 at the time this article was written.
120” of 1/16” Aircraft Cable (Have cut into two 60” pieces at hardware store)
4 1/16” Aluminum Cable Stops
4 3/8” Steel Flat-washers
2 1” length pieces of ¼” diameter clear plastic tubing
All of the necessary pieces and parts for your snares are available at most decently stocked hardware stores, or home improvement centers. The cable is found in the same section where bulk rope and chain is dispensed.
The cable stops are usually found in the hardware section where other small parts are located. Select the cable stop with the same inside hole diameter as your aircraft cable, in this case 1/16”.
Now, for construction and assembly; the first step is to drill two 5/64” holes in two flat-washers, the holes being exactly 180 degrees opposed from one another as shown in the photograph. Also drill one 5/64” hole in the two remaining flat-washers. After drilling, use a flat file to remove any burrs left from the drill-bit.
Now, insert one end of your cable through one of the 1/16” cable stops, and then resting it upon your bench vise, pound semi-flat with a hammer to permanently affix it to the cable. Then, take one of the washers with the two drilled holes in it, and clamp it firmly in the vise jaws, with slightly more than half the washer exposed above the jaws. Using your hammer pound the exposed half of the washer over, to make a 90 degree bend in the washer, at roughly the centerline. Repeat with the other washer. These will become your self-locking snare slides.
The last step is to de-scent and dye any snares, either purchased or home-built before setting them. This is easily accomplished by taking your coiled snares, dropping them into a three pound coffee can or similar type container, then adding a generous amount of fresh peeled tree-bark, preferably either from hardwoods, poplar, cottonwood or aspen trees, including the cambium, then filling the can with water, and boiling for a couple of hours, being careful that the water doesn’t all boil away in the process. Adding a tablespoon of salt helps this process along. The object of this exercise, is two-fold, one, to de-scent your snares of human odor, and smells of new steel and oils, the second part is to dye your snares and get rid of the shiny appearance. The tree-bark added to the water will leach out a dark stain that will actually dye the snares, to some degree, and take the brightness off of them, and keep them from standing out like a sore thumb in the field when they are set.
If you’ll carry some No11 wire (or coat-hanger wire), a stout pair of wire-cutting pliers, a hand-axe and perhaps a folding camp or pack saw, an effective coyote set can be made in under five minutes once you’ve located a likely spot for a snare. These snares weigh but only a couple of ounces each, and half a dozen snares can be carried in either a coat-pocket or fanny-pack very unobtrusively and with no load. Enjoy, it only takes an hour or so to make six quality sets in an area frequented by both deer and coyotes, and they only have to be left out a day or two if your time is limited. It can be very rewarding, but be careful, it can also become addicting!