Canine Lure Usage
In the days of the old-time coyote and wolf trappers, most successful "wolfers" had their own pet scents that they formulated themselves. Most of these formulas were fairly basic, made from readily available animal parts, and were usually regarded as an important part of that individual's success. A lot of these formulas were traded amongst trappers from various parts of the country, and some were improved upon with time.

In most cases, these lures were used at "flat" and "scent post" type sets. Basically, the method was to put a little of the scent on a bush, rock, or cow chip, and bed a trap in front of it. The set was basic, quick, and very effective. A lot of wolf, coyote, and fox scalps were collected with a few drops of urine alone.

Today, trappers have a wide variety of lures and baits available. There are gland lures, food lures, and a variety of curiosity lures. There are also some that are a combination of gland, food, and curiosity ingredients. All lure types have their use on the line.

I will try to give a little insight into various types of lures, and their intended use at various sets commonly used by predator control and ADC trappers, mainly coyote and red fox lures used in the spring, summer and early fall months, when these animals do their most depredation. This information can be applied to fall and winter fur trapping also. Different areas of the country will have various results, but there will be basic guidelines to follow.

One of the most basic lures made, and probably the most natural, is the gland lure. It is usually made of the various glands found on the canine's body: the anal, neck, and hock glands, and in some cases the liver, gall, and brains. The glands are ground, and either used fresh, or aged to various stages, before being compounded into the finished product.

The resulting lure will have a concentrated smell of the animal the glands were obtained from. This type of lure holds various attractions. At scent post type sets, it will simulate where another canine has deposited their scent. Canines do this for various reasons, such as marking territory boundaries, migration routes, or maybe some outstanding feature that commands their attention.

At times you will see where various animals leave droppings, scratch, and urinate on various objects, and in general "loiter" around a specific spot. These locations are perfect for gland lures.

I have often carefully bedded a trap in a spot that was already being "scented" by coyotes, lured the set with a natural, fresh gland lure, and made catches fairly quickly. These natural smelling sets will attract the next animal that comes to the location.

I also use gland lures at some of my baited dirt hole sets. The lure can be placed on the upper lip of the hole, right at the base of whatever you are using for a backing. I also use it at times on a dropping (old or fresh) placed at the edge of the trap pattern as a guide to direct the animal's foot onto the pan. This works best for me when I put it just to the side of the trap. This also helps make the fox or coyote move their feet around, increasing chances of a catch.

Gland lures play an important part when experienced trappers are setting footholds. I use predominantly coyote gland lures when I am setting for problem coyotes here in eastern Montana. I rarely see where a coyote, even a sharp old lamb killer, will be shy of a well made gland lure. I have three variations of coyote gland lure. Two are made from formulas that call for fresh glands, and one is made of aged glands. All will work, but I prefer the straight, fresh gland when after a coyote that is probably a little wiser than average.

When I am first setting up an area for coyotes, I will use only one type of gland lure at all sets that require gland lure. If I need to leave the sets in for a rather long length of time, or I am having trouble catching the intended animals, I will switch to one of my other gland lure variations.

I have at times used a fox or bobcat gland lure to take coyotes. This variation works well at natural scent post locations. Last fall I took about 15 coyotes in sets intended for red fox. These were mostly baited dirt holes with a smear of fox gland lure on the backing. Late in the winter, I will take a lot of coyotes in cat sets lured with bobcat gland lure. These are mostly "toilet" type sets, even up in a few classic rimrock locations.

At the same time, I sell a lot of coyote gland lure to successful red fox trappers. This is especially true of western trappers, but I have also had eastern trappers say they had good success with coyote and bobcat gland lures on red fox. This holds true even in areas where there are very few, if any, coyote or bobcat. I've caught a lot of big boar coon in well blended flat sets where the only attraction was a coyote or fox gland lure. They seem to want to investigate the smell of their competitor for food.

One of the drawbacks to gland lures, probably their only one, is their attraction to some cows and rabbits, and porcupines. This is due to the salt content in the urine used in the lure. I have never seen where this was a real problem, and I still use gland lure quite extensively year round.

Food lures make up a lot of the lures on the market. Many have a base of rotted-down meat of various types. Added to this are a number of things, from musks (both natural and manmade), to root oils, glands, fish oils, and beaver castor. These are just a few of the most commonly used items; there are literally hundreds of ingredients used.
In my opinion, food lures have two practical uses. First, they can be used at dirt hole sets in place of bait. They can be placed down the hole on some sort of lure holder, or smeared inside the lip of the hole. This concentrated food smell will cause a canine to work the set, looking for the tidbit of food left by another animal.

The other way I commonly use food-based lures is at some flat sets. I use bones for a lure holder occasionally, and a little smear of food lure works well on the bone. The coyote or fox will approach the set to sniff, and possibly try to pull at, the bone sticking out of the ground.

As for curiosity-type lures, in all reality most are based on food lure bases. I use several curiosity-type lures that are built around food bases. Some are grease based, which helps the lure stand up to extreme weather conditions, either hot or cold. Others have a rotted meat base, with a "curiosity" type item added, like muskrat glands, beaver castor, skunk, civet, or a number of other musks.

This type of lure has a variety of uses. It can be applied at a flat set, on a backing at a dirt hole set, and in some cases, as a "call" lure placed above the set. When used this way, the lure is usually laced with skunk or civet musk because the louder smell increase the range a canine can smell it.

Here in Montana, I have had good luck trapping fall fox and coyote with a loud, food-based call lure directly at my sets. I usually "back up" a set lured with this type of loud lure, with a scent post set a short distance away, scented with gland lure. This combination has always had good results for me.

Quite often trappers call wanting something totally different than the lures they've been using. They usually want something to catch trap shy animals that. This problem can typically be attributed to the misuse of a particular lure in that area.

Usually I recommend a gland lure, and maybe one other lure to be used with it. Simple, basic lures will normally pick up some of these trap shy animals. It is usually best to change the type of set you're using in these cases, too. Flat sets just off a canine's travel way, lured with a fresh gland scent, will catch most of these problem animals.

Another question that comes up when talking to lure customers, is how often to re-lure a set. Of course, this can vary with weather conditions, and the type of lure used. I feel a lot of people make the mistake of luring the average canine set too often. In conversation, I've found that some trappers lure their sets at every visit, or every second visit.

In extremely wet conditions, with several inches of rain, a person will have to re-lure when remaking a set. Under normal conditions, though, the average set only needs to be lured every 7 to 10 days, and I will go a lot longer in some cases. If a set makes a catch, and the set is reconstructed on the same location, there will probably be enough animal smell there that only a small amount of lure will be needed.

When you are setting traps for specific animals that are doing damage, there can be considerable legwork involved in finding the best spots to make a catch in a reasonable amount of time. At times, I only find two or three locations that warrant a pair of traps. I usually use a fair amount of lure on a suitable lure holder, and then check the sets from a distance. At times, I won't go right to the sets for close to a month. I simply check the traps with a pair of field glasses or my rifle scope. During this time the set is not re-lured. I only go to the set if I make a catch, see a trap sprung, or to pull it.

I think too much activity around a location is enough to arouse suspicion in some coyotes, and can even make them change their travel routes. If this happens, you're back to square one. I personally believe that some coyotes know your set is there, but won't work it until conditions are right. There are a lot of factors to this: the weather, the moon, and that individual animal's mood.

I have at times been waiting for five or six old, wise lamb killers to return to sets in various spots, without action. The weather can be hot in eastern Montana in the summer, and we have periods where the only coyote movement seems to be between the denning areas, water, and a food source, which might be lambs. These "dog days" of summer can be very trying to a predator control trapper.

But then, let a little weather front blow through the area, and drop the temperature 20 or 30 degrees, and the animals will really work the sets that they have been avoiding. It just took that little break in the heat to make them move and show interest.

I have gone from having sleepless nights, trying to figure out more locations to take some of these bad killers, to basically "caught up" with life back to normal, all with one weather front.

By having the right sets, with a dependable lure waiting when the predators decided to move, my job can be accomplished. I snare, call, M-44, and trap coyotes year-round, but I still get real personal satisfaction from taking an old, wise, depredating coyote with a foothold trap.