The Workhorse Snare Cable
From time to time, when I thoroughly enjoy using something that I rely on in the field, I’ve considered writing a testimonial about it, because they’ve changed my life so much, and/or are a joy to work with. A couple of these items are: The Garmin GPS collar for my coyote dog, Dodger. This device tracks his every move and has saved me countless miles. When denning coyotes, Dodger can cover some ground in a hurry, and even if he goes underground a bit the signal is still strong enough to tell me where he is. If I remember to do my part and keep it charged, and to turn it on before I put it around his neck, it’ll do its part to keep track of him.

The Benelli M1 Super 90 shotgun that my son and I each have certainly has become one of my favorite tools to carry daily. I always carry a rifle, but when calling coyotes I haul the shotgun on the other shoulder with a good sling. It’s light, easy to operate, points naturally, and simply does not fail me. It’s great coyote medicine with 3-inch #4 buck or nickel-plated BBs. Sure, we have other shotguns, but the Benelli is our favorite.

But, when it’s all said and done, I’m just a user of a lot of things, and far from an expert about how they operate. If my GPS collar quits, I hope it’s just not charged, because I’d have no idea what to do next. And if my Benelli ever breaks, I’d have to hunt up my gunsmith, because the best I can do is keep it clean and change choke tubes.

But, at the risk of sounding a little cocky, I do consider myself an expert about a few things. One of those is snare cable for coyotes.

I started snaring coyotes 35 years ago. It was an earth-shattering experience when I saw that first coyote dispatched in a fence snare, in Wyoming. I’d just bought my first snares from Keith Gregerson, from Roundup, Montana, a few weeks before I headed to Wyoming. Keith had given me firsthand advice on cable, and showed me the variety he sold. I wanted an all-around snare, and Keith had nudged me towards the 5/64-inch, 7x7.

Keith was very fond of that size and configuration of cable, and also the 1/16-inch 7X7. His fur catches with snares are still legendary in Montana, so when he talks I listen. His opinions are based on his experience, plain and simple. My opinions and writings are based on my experiences, too, and during 35 years of snaring coyotes I saw a lot of things play out -- and I paid attention.

Let me describe 7x7 cable. If you were to cut the end of the cable, you will see there are seven different, individual strands. A closer look will show that there are actually seven tiny fibers in each of these seven strands. So 7x7 actually means just that -- 49 strands, or fibers, of wire, twisted into one cable.

There are other aspects to factor in, as not all cable is created equal. Some manufacturers don’t seem to twist it or make it as tight as others, and that can make the cable seem a bit “grainy” and less smooth. I can only speculate how this happens, but I’ve found that when cable seems tight and smooth it’s more chew resistant. This is important when a coyote isn’t caught perfectly, like if it has one leg and a shoulder in the snare. If you snare enough to experience less than perfect conditions you’ll get some chewing on cable, and tighter cable becomes an important factor.

Another factor is the quality of each of those tiny 49 strands. Some cables seem to be brittle, without much bend or elasticity, and those seem to be the ones to be less chew-resistant and durable. You can actually take your fingernail and separate those seven strands very easily, with a little practice. They’ll unwind and untwist, and become separated when a few inches are unraveled. It’s just another step to separate it into the next seven fibers. Take one of those fibers and bend it a few times. It should actually spring a little, maybe several times, before it snaps. It’s not a scientific test, but after you test some you’ll understand cable a little better.

I admit it’s not always possible to know what you’re getting when buying cable on a spool. The best solution to this is actually simple; buy quality cable. Over the years I’ve tried cable literally from around the globe; Russia, Turkey, China, Korea, and the U.S. come to mind. I always figured the stuff supposedly made in the U.S. actually originated elsewhere, so I didn’t hold it against it when it didn’t work out.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best cable, year in and year out, batch after batch, is made in South Korea. I’ve heard that there are different grades of Chinese cable, with some being better than the others, but I guess I never got lucky enough to come across the better quality. The overall quality of Chinese cable varied from roll to roll at times. I’ve cut and used enough cable to actually feel the variances in diameter, and the grain of it, while it ran through my fingers. Inferior cables are also a tad bit limper overall, but unless you have something to directly compare it with, it’s tough to actually tell. Like a lot of things, it comes to you over time. But to sum it up, cable has to feel relatively dense to be to my liking.

I’ve tried different cable diameters over the years, and I’ve always came back to 5/64-inch for coyote work. The larger 3/32-inch cable is too big to my liking, for a couple of reasons. Most of my snaring is done in fairly open terrain, with very little vegetation. Even though 3/32 is only slightly thicker in diameter than 5/64, it increases refusals quite a bit because it’s more visible. I also think most locks drag a little too much on 3/32-inch cable, and there’s no question at all that a loop made out of 3/32-inch closes slower than one made out of a smaller cable. That’s a huge factor on the percentage of neck catches vs body and hip catches, or even misses.

The other factor that I witnessed too many times when I started snaring is that the larger 3/32-inch doesn’t dispatch coyotes as fast as smaller cable. I guess if I was using cable restraints and trying to keep them alive, I wouldn’t let that be a determining factor. But I’ve always treated snares as a dispatch device, so my experience and conclusions are based on that.

On the subject of dispatching coyotes with snares, I always use a spring-compressed dispatch lock like the Amberg, especially with the 5/64-inch and 1/16-inch cable. If coyotes are not killed quickly, they can easily chew through these smaller diameter cables.

The thinner 1/16-inch cable does have some advantages. It’s a bit harder for a coyote to see when properly hung at the right height in a trail, so there are even less refusals.

Also, the 1/16-inch does make more of a teardrop-shaped loop, but that’s okay with me. The object to dispatch snaring coyotes is to have their head go through the loop, while the top of their chest hits the bottom of the loop. Neck catches are what you’re striving for, and that’s how you accomplish them.

This is why I’m not a fan of 1x19 cable -- it produces a round loop, which has basically the same dimensions from side to side as well as top to bottom. In other words, if you’re hanging a snare in a 10-inch wide gap, the loop size can only be about 10 inches high too. This will cost you coyotes due to refusals.

A teardrop-shaped loop will allow the coyote’s entire head, including its rather tall ears, to go through the loop. If you’ve ever seen a set of coyote tracks that shows where they slammed on the brakes and backed out of a snare, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Their ears hit the top of the snare loop, and they didn’t like it and backed out. I’ve witnessed that many times when snaring in the snow. Their ears fit through the higher teardrop loop without hitting the top.

You can get by with the lighter cable as far as strength (420-pound), but the loop might be a little too narrow at times, with the exception of tight brush situations, where the gaps and trails tend to be narrower usually. It’s for this reason that I opted for the 5/64-inch, 7x7, with its 650-pound breaking strength, which is entirely adequate. It holds a good loop, in even the widest gap that you would normally set in coyote type cover.

I’ve treated snares several ways over the years, and have settled on an easy yet effective way that maximized their efficiency. I usually boil them in water and a partial box of baking soda for a few minutes, which is then followed by a good rinse with clean water. Then shake them good and hang up to dry for at least a few hours, so all water has dried or evaporated. If you boil them any longer than a few minutes you can remove too much of the oil, and actually make the cable oxidize when in the field, which makes them rust quicker. It also makes them grainy, which can slow them down a tad. Also, light boiling makes the cable just a bit less flexible, which makes it hold a loop even better. You can run your thumb on the inside of the loop to expand it even more. Sometimes I use snares treated like this alone, especially in fences. They tend to blend in just fine in that application.

But for the bulk of my trail and brush snaring use, I spray paint my snares. I use dull camo paint, or off primer type paint. I use a few light coats, rather than one heavy coat. The color will depend on the type of terrain I’m snaring in. I use two or even three colors on most of my trail snares, and find that they blend in better. I give the lock/spring area of the snare a shot of sage green spray paint. The lock ends up in the corner of the gap when the snare is properly hung in the trail.

I also paint my snare supports, and with that combination, they’re sometimes so hard to find that I’m literally within a few feet of them before I see them.

I usually do this at least a few days before I set them, but the longer the better. A friend in Montana likes to get them painted in the summer, so they have plenty of time to dry before his late fall snaring. I usually hang a bunch on the headache rack of my pickup, so they dry even more. I take them off the rack as I set them.

I started using the 5/64-inch, 7x7 snares as a compromise tool, where I was trying to cover all the bases. But, looking back, there haven’t been many drawbacks in using them. I’ve tried lots of different cable/lock combinations over the years, and checked out a few of the fads along the way. I came back to my original choice for my type of snaring: For fur and control work, my workhorse snare cable is the 5/64-inch, 7x7.