Got Fox?
Fox aren't usually that hard to catch in foothold traps, at least when compared to coyotes. Fox don't cover the ground coyotes do, and by nature are generally not as cautious. Sure, they have their little quirks, and can avoid poorly made sets, or miss stepping on the pan at sets that will allow them to, but success can come easily if you follow the time honored basics. Still, I find myself taking things a step farther, after trapping them for over 30 years. I hate to miss any animal, and I take any necessary steps to cut down on misses before the problem can even arise.

First, my sets for fox are usually, with a few variations, the dirt hole and flat sets. Nothing earth shaking there, and for a good reason. I've never seen any reason to do anything different, at least on a large scale. I don't have any hard and fast formula for the ratio of the two; I let the location decide for me. And I might modify sets after a catch or two. But let's start with the dirt hole.

The exact location of the set can affect your catch ratio a lot. I prefer my holes dug back into something, such as a low bank, dead furrow, or even a little hump of grass. The visibility and eye appeal of the set is increased, but the avenue of approach for the fox is also narrowed down a lot. Many times I've dug a dirt hole into a bunch of weeds, cactus, or just rough grass in general, to keep fox from working from behind. It doesn't take much, but it's a big factor at times. I also try to pick a spot a bit higher than most of the ground around it, more for water drainage, and to keep it clean of blowing snow, than anything else.

The angle of the hole isn't as important to me as it seems to be for some people. Too many times I've started digging a hole and run into something that made the hole come out 'modified' anyway, and it never really seems to change the success ratio, if you take steps to account for it. In perfect conditions I prefer an oval-shaped hole over a perfect round one, but that's just the coyote trapper in me. I also like to dig the holes so they're partially into the ground at the trap bed level, as well as into the backing, as it is, in my mind, the most natural. Again, that will vary from set to set, but I like to be able to see the hole from a distance, to make sure it's still lured and/or baited, and digging them at too much of a downward angle doesn't always allow that. I prefer sets that don't require too much maintenance until a catch is made, and being able to stay away as long as possible will also increase your incidental coyote catch.

When I mentioned that the hole shape and position might vary, it's usually because of encountering a rock, root, or hard ground while digging. In that case I might modify the set a bit to fit the situation. Sometimes I find myself using a simple, shallow hole, 3 inches or so, chopped into a grassy spot with the digging end of my hammer. A stake or auger can be used in these cases, if you prefer a deeper hole, but in reality I've never found hole depth to be a huge factor. More and more I find myself taking a sun-bleached white T-bone (vertebrae) of a cow carcass and driving the pointed "stake" end into the hole until just the vertebrae itself is partially exposed. If the ground is hard, I make a pilot hole to drive the bone's "stake" into. I want the bone anchored well.

A good alternative to the T-bone is one of the many lure holders on the market. I prefer the type made with the wooden dowel and something such as canvas wrapped on it, to form a head. These types of lure holders absorb the lure or bait well, and can also be easily used at re-makes. I carry several in a Zip-lock bag in an inside pocket of my canvas set-making bag. I also find them valuable as a focal point at the set. Having a visible, stationary item like either of these two down a hole has helped me cut down my misses at sets for all predators.

I use a variety of smells on them, and a bait of some sort works very well. I've even smeared fresh gland lure on them with good results. A handful of grass in my hole sets also usually keeps the animal at the set longer. If they spend extra time scratching around to find the source of that smell, it means more footprints where you want them.

Flat sets have their place, too, and I like them for canines more and more. I trap in areas that make digging holes tough at times, and on the other side of the coin, very loose soil, like sandy spots, might find you moving the trap after a catch or two when a hole can't be re-dug there. Again, I feel the best spot for the trap will have a backing of some sort. This can control the approach of the fox somewhat. My all-time favorite flat set is made with bones, but I do use the lure holders I mentioned earlier. A simple set made with the standard re-bar 'wobble hole' (making a spot to apply the smells) works great, too.
Smells at the sets are a matter of preference, but I prefer a little variety. I almost always make two or more sets at a good fox location, which allows me to vary things a bit. I use a lot of bobcat meat-based bait, and I feel you would be hard pressed to find a better alternative. It can be smeared around on the walls of a dirt hole, on a bone, or under a cow chip or rock. It's attractive to virtually all predators, and fox are no exception. I don't like to use small bones, rabbit feet, etc. at my sets because they sometimes get packed away by rodents or birds, and you are then checking traps with an empty dirt hole.

Skunk smells are important too, especially to get the location "started", and I invariably make one set with a lure with skunk in it. Of course, the smells of the fox itself are attractive, and a good fresh gland works well. The ever-present bottle of urine in my bag gets used too. I really don't think you can "over smell" a fox location with gland odors. Think how attractive fox catch circles are, even to new fox that venture through. There's nothing quite like that pungent foxy odor on the air, and to have it concentrated in a 3-foot circle is like a neon sign saying "Check THIS out!" Yes, I have seen a few circle-shy fox in my day, but they usually end up in a flat set or other "fresh" set that I put nearby.

At times, these catch circles will be where you catch all the available fox on a property, or in a pasture. If they're in areas that see some migration, you can catch fox there for months. I've had spots produce 24 fox over the course of the season, with the last several being big old traveling males. Bobcat and coyote will investigate these hot locations too, and many times I've been rewarded with some of these bonus animals at a favorite fox location. Again, all that fox smell around makes them have to check things out, and if you have the location set up right, these larger predators will be caught there too. And, their smell will usually make the location that much better. I've actually seen some locations 'created' by this variety of smells, and see where coyotes check them out year-round.

Blocking at the set is also important. Even with the backing doing its part, fox can still visit or work your set and not get caught unless you use some blocking. I prefer walk-through type sets, for a good reason. A simple blocking behind the trap, on the side opposite the attractor, makes fox work the set to your advantage. This blocking can be a rock, cow chip, piece of wood, grass plug, whatever. I want something natural to the set location, if at all possible. I prefer the spacing of this blocking somewhat tight, with an inch or two of space between it and the outside jaw of the trap. A small smear of gland lure or urine on this blocking makes a good fox set even better. I very rarely make a set without this outside blocking, for any type of land trapping.

Fox droppings are often recommended for guiding or blocking, but I prefer not to use them in that manner, as they often get moved easily by beetles, birds, rodents, and even the wind. There's nothing worse than finding that a dropping has been moved right on top of your trap, and seeing tracks everywhere but in the right place.

Stand above a finished set with this type of blocking, and try to visualize where a fox would have to step if they were to work the set. Sure, they might work it from an angle, since the blocking dictates that, but the whole idea is to get them to walk between the blocking and the hole or bone, and step directly on the trap. Hence the name, 'walk-through'.

With the increases seen in the fox market this year, it might be wise to target some fox this coming season, if you have them in your area. Fox are a joy to handle, especially after putting up coyotes for awhile. A fully prime red fox is one of my personal favorites. Their habits usually allow for fairly fast success, and they are a welcome sight on any trapline. I hope these few tips will be of help to you.