Chain Length - Part II
Cable stakes, or disposables, have been on the scene for a long time, too. I read 30 years ago about some that were made with a sickle bar tooth, and a nut brazed on them, and they'd been around 40 years before that, so they go WAY back! I use three different styles of them myself, and they all have their place. I use both 3/32 and 1/8 cable, 7X7, of various lengths, and I attach them to the end swivel of the trap chain with a rivet (J-hook) and my handy tool.

I wouldn't be caught without my 24-inch, ½-inch rebar, though. I have read numerous times about people not wanting to carry the weight of rebar around, but I guess I can't see where 50 pounds of stakes in the pickup box has hurt my mileage yet, and I always have more in the truck than I need any given day too.

I have been exposed to long chains on coyote traps by a variety of people, and I do sometimes use a bit longer. There are times I simply can't stake close to where I need to have the trap bedded, and a few extra pieces of chain attached by yet another rivet is usually enough. I don't like to use cable extensions on my coyote traps, for various reasons, mainly because of the tangling of the cable around the trap, or the leg of a trapped coyote, which basically compromises all swiveling.

I have used 30-inch chains from time to time, and years ago I bought several traps from a friend in eastern Montana that were equipped that way. I asked him why he had used that much chain, and he explained that it was what he had been taught, and it did help keep coyotes from pumping stakes because they were pulling at an angle to the stake, not straight up. I used them for a few seasons, but I slowly added chain and drags to those traps, and pretty much went back to 18 inches for staked traps.

I've seen some set-ups that I consider a little on the extreme side, and I've always wished I could talk to the people who used them, and find out their true results. Maybe there was some merit to their thinking, and obviously they had an idea that had derived from trying to solve a problem.

The first example that comes to mind is from almost 30 years ago. I was trapping coyotes and cats in a fairly rough section of badlands-type country in late winter. There were some two-track roads winding around through it, and I think I hit virtually all of them the month I spent there. Coyote prices were high, and I wasn't surprised to see a few old trap beds and manufactured round dirt holes right next to the roads. I remember thinking to myself how many times they must have had to shovel badger catch circles back in before they could travel the road, because the sets were that close.

I don't remember seeing many catch circles, though, and I'm not sure how many coyotes were actually caught, but I did come across a trap snapped in its bed right next to a trail. It was obviously long abandoned. I drove by that snapped trap for almost a month before I had to stop and investigate it. I picked it up, and saw that it the #1.75 size so popular at the time. I thought, "An eastern fox trapper comes West," and gave it a light tug. I was shocked when the 16-inch long, 3/8-inch stake very easily came out of the ground.
I was even more shocked when I saw that the chain was only 3 links of twin loop chain, and it only totaled maybe 9 inches. I recognized the name on the trap tag from reading the trapping magazines of the day, and I knew he lived in the East. I decided to just push the stake back in the hole it had left, and I tell the rancher about it, so he could pick it up or leave it.

I spent the rest of the day trying to estimate what percentage of coyotes would pull that type of set up and leave, in the type of soil they were used in. I guess in the end I just chalked it up to, "If it works for them ... "

On the other end of the spectrum, I also came across some traps that were specially modified (if you can call it that) by an old western trapper. A friend of mine had been issued them when he worked for the federal ADC program, and I have to assume that he got them because no one else wanted them.

I was startled when I saw them lying on the floor of his trap shed, and it took a little while to decipher what had been the original intent. They were old 3Ns, and were pretty beat up for the most part, but hey, I've run lots of beat up equipment in my day, so that didn't bother me much. What startled me was the chain length. All were equipped with at least 10 feet of heavy twist link chain. There was no evidence of drags, and the lap links on the end pointed more towards staking solid.

To top it all off, there was a trap dog welded to the jaw of the trap, in an attempt to make the trap a dogless longspring. Again, my mind was spinning at the thought of a coyote hitting the end of that long chain, and that trap dog damaging the foot at the same time. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why a trapper of that caliber had had some rigged up that way, but I knew that I wasn't going to test it out. He had passed on a few years before that, so I never got to ask him what the reasoning was behind it.

Those two extreme examples still have me scratching my head, even after all these years, and I'm glad that we have so much good equipment available for us to use today. Shock springs are gaining popularity with a lot of good trappers, and some people wouldn't trap without them in place on the chain of their coyote equipment. The simple task of making sure the spring pins on your trap of choice aren't so long that they promote half-hitching or fouling of the chain on an animal's foot or leg, is important too.

To repeat: my preferred arrangement for staked traps is 18 inches of straight link machine chain, with a swivel at the trap, a mid-chain in-line swivel, and a swivel on the end. Eighteen inches is a good in-between length, and it prevents stake jacking.

Staking and holding coyotes with a minimum of foot damage and loss is the norm today. I promise you that the old coyote men of years ago would be in awe of what we have available today. Benefit from their experience, and use what has evolved.