Making Coyote Sets Click - Part I
Because of some of the comments I hear at times, about percentage of misses, spacing, guiding, and the like, I suspect the title for this article might raise some eyebrows.

I've studied coyotes, coyote sets, and coyote traps for years, and I've come to some conclusions on my own, as well as some conclusions influenced by others. Bear with me while I explain why, after over 30 years of serious coyote chasing, I'm making my coyote sets a certain way.

First, there seems to be some fairly rock solid opinions out there, that coyotes work sets from a certain direction, or side, and even what foot they will step on the trap with. I guess I'll put those opinions in the "If it works for you" category, and if you're happy with your current way, maybe I can't help you much. But I've been at this way too long to think that coyotes are always that predictable.

Let's start with sets. The tried and true dirt hole, and a flat set of some variety, are no doubt the most popular for coyotes. It would be hard to say exactly what percentage of coyotes caught on a yearly basis with foothold traps are caught in these two sets, but it would no doubt be very high. And for good reason. Properly made, with some variations and adaptations, they will catch a pile of coyotes.

Still, I always seem to get asked more and more about my percentage of misses, how far back from attractor my trap is, etc., and judging by all these different questions I feel there is a lot of mystery, and hit and miss methods being used. In my opinion, when you stand up after making a coyote set, you should walk away feeling that the set is going to connect. There's no reason to make a set that's marginal, or leaves more to luck than is needed.

A dirt hole set, made into a slight backing, will already cut down on misses and make the coyote approach from the front or side, if the backing is something that the coyote won't want to step on. This can be a cactus, a mound of rough grass, a heavy patch of stubble, or basically anything else you will find in your area. Since you know that roughly half of his approach options are eliminated, that is, as they say, 'half the battle'.

A good bait, lure, or urine (or combination) down the hole is what works the best for most of us, and rightly so. I've also been using a wad of grass or other ground material, as a 'plug' on top of these smells, for a variety of reasons. First, it makes the set fairly natural looking, since it's not uncommon to have grass and roots left in a hole dug by a coyote or other animal. And the plug will hopefully make the coyote make those critical extra steps at the set to increase you odds of having it step on the pan.

I'm using more and more white, bleached bones inside my dirt holes, too. I'm seeing their value as lure holders, as well as visual attractors. A bone of some sort, driven securely down in the hole, acts not only as a lure/bait holder, but as something more for the coyote to focus on, dig for, and shift his feet for. Again, more tracks mean more catches. I like to add a little vegetation or ground material over the bone, and leave a just little of the white bone exposed. The old saying "Curiosity killed the cat" goes for coyotes, too.
Like a lot of you, I make all my canine sets as a 'walk-through' affair. I guess that terminology confuses some people. In this case, blocking of some sort, placed on the outside, or front of the set, will create a walk-through effect. In other words, the trap is in front of the dirt hole or flat set attractor, and the blocking is then placed behind the trap, on the side of the trap opposite the attractor. The blocking can be a cow chip, rock, tuft of grass, or whatever. I prefer something that can't be moved easily, and it should be natural to the area and set location. This blocking method really helps on misses, and I won't make a canine or cat set without it. I make sure that the spacing of the inside of the blocking, the side toward the trap jaw, is only a few inches from the jaw. With an average trap jawspread of 6 inches, this will create a space about 10-12 inches wide between the dirt hole and blocking, for the coyote to 'walk through'. This cut down misses even more. I usually use a good, fresh gland lure on the inside lip of the blocking, but urine will also work. I've found the two smells, one at the dirt hole or flat set and the other on the blocking, works great for me, and I've seen no reason to go back to using one smell at a set.

Droppings can play an important part too, and I'm constantly on the hunt for them. I cut the glands from virtually all the coyotes we take throughout the year, and I carry plenty of Ziploc bags in my pickup to store them until I get home, where they go in the freezer. When collecting glands I also strip the intestines of any droppings, and put them either in a separate bag, or in a plastic jar. Some people will say that droppings that haven't gone through the anal glands won't have much value. There might be some slight truth to that, but I've never noticed it. We gladly collect all the droppings we can while skinning in the fur season, too, and that goes for fox and bobcat droppings as well as coyote. Our son Tristan does most of our skinning, and he puts the droppings in a jar that we keep on a table at the skinning machine. They don't get any fresher than that. Placed in a jar, with a small squirt of good urine on them, and you have some super attraction, for basically free. You'll find droppings while scouting and running your line too. I pick up most of the ones I find, unless I'm using that spot as a set location.

I can't see any difference in the type of droppings used, and I can attest to the value of both bobcat droppings and bobcat toilets as being a main attraction, and of high interest to coyotes. That works both ways. Bobcats are regularly caught at sets with coyote droppings, gland urine, and urine. Predators are curious about what their competition is up too, so take advantage of it.

I've used droppings as a blocking of sorts, right on the ground, and it does work. When used in that application I like to make a small, shallow trench, or 'holder' to keep the dropping in place somewhat. Rodents, birds, dung beetles, and who knows what else will take off with droppings at times, and you can't always stop that, but you can stop the wind from shifting them around. I like to have them placed as an outside blocking too, a few inches out from my outside jaw, to create the walk-through effect.

Droppings have more uses, and I'll talk more about them, and other topics, in the next issue, in Part II of this article.