Mixed Bag - Part I
There have been a lot of articles and books written in the last 20 years about trapping bobcats, as well as DVDs covering tried-and-true methods. Some great info has been shared by very proficient people, and it’s safe to say that it has all been put to use by many people.

The Nevada-style, walk-through exposed set has been a game changer for many, and rightly so. It’s effectiveness in catching cats simply, with no burying of the trap and potential for freezing, as well as providing a definite spot for the cat to step, at times has advantages over other methods.

And it’s no problem at all to find posts about flags and flagging material choices, sets, lures, stretcher patterns, and just about any other topic about bobcats on any trapping forum.
With bobcats (lynx cats) from most western areas still of market interest, I predict there will continue to be a decent future harvest in many states. I’ve talked to a lot of people who still pursue them solely by using their usual cat locations and sets - although there has been a huge switch to focus on coyotes the last few years.

Because the coyote trim market is huge and very deep with Heavy and Semi-heavy coyotes driving the market in many areas, cats are now almost a byproduct of coyote harvesting. This is good business strategy, as there seems to be a decent population of coyotes in a lot of areas. Seasons are long (if not year-round) and it’s usually easy to access coyote-producing ground versus typical cat areas.

For years, I spent a considerable amount of time scouting and searching out cat locations, as my cat harvest was a major source of income for my young family. It paid a lot of bills in an area that didn’t have a lot of available jobs or alternative income. I was always pursuing coyotes as well, and many perfect, handpicked cat locations would produce at least a few coyotes in the course of a season. And, as many of you know, in some areas, a good coyote trapping location, especially one that borders rough terrain or some structure, has the potential to have a cat show up at any given time. I’ve found over time, and have also stated many times, that you won’t catch many coyotes in a really effective cat set, but you will still catch cats in a typical coyote set. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, at least in the areas that I’ve trapped, a flagged cat set with the tight, substantial blocking that’s typically used at cat sets, will make most coyotes shy away. I’ve had good trappers tell me that they’ve had cases in fairly large geographical areas where coyotes did not shy from these types of sets, but I can honestly say that I haven’t experienced it yet.

In the case of mixed target animal locations, I always seemed to opt for a more universal approach, and make sets that would catch either coyotes or cats with equal efficiency. Being predators, cats will work dirtholes, T-Bone type flat sets, and their many variations. Of course, you usually pick up fox, badger, etc. in these sets, and all that extra smell after catching one of them just adds to the attractiveness of the set location overall.

I learned the hard way about blocking cat sets, as they seem to make a habit of not stepping where the trap is buried, as at coyote sets. And smaller cats seem to not work a set the same as bigger ones, as their stride seems to be a little different, and they don’t always leave a lot of steps on a typical trap pattern or spacing.

I went to the “Y” type of blocking after trying different methods, and I see no reason to deviate from it. By “Y” blocking I mean that the rocks or whatever you use to block the set down are positioned like a “Y”, with the trap placed where the forks of the “Y” meet the long portion. This can be staggered a bit, an inch or two, so it creates more of a challenge for a cat to maneuver its feet to avoid stepping directly on the pan. I personally don’t like to set for cats with a straight line or easy access through my set. It’s amazing how many will naturally miss the pan if you don’t break their stride a bit.
When I’m blocking down a set for cats, my blocking is usually within an inch of the trap jaws. Since I use a #3 trap with a 6-inch jawspread, that means there’s roughly an 8-inch space for a cat to step. I use a stiff screen pan covering, which helps increase the target area substantially, and it all adds up to few misses overall.

Now, bear in mind that all this extra blocking can result in having fewer coyotes work your sets. If you’re leaning toward a true combination coyote/bobcat type set, you should probably opt for a different blocking method. I’ll share what I have found to be effective, and how I make almost all of my predator sets.

I’ve leaned towards the use of an outside blocking for many years now, and I honestly can’t imagine making a predator set without one. It has been a factor in my overall success with foothold traps, I’m sure, as it truly is a game of percentages at times, and I’ve never liked missing many target animals.

A backing of some sort is important at any type of set, because so many animals will approach from the back or side of the set. There’s really not much you can do about it, as there are so many factors to consider, so it’s best to always find a backing that will keep the majority of animals limited to a front or side approach. A steep bank, the dead furrow at the edge of a farm field, or a decent sized sagebrush, all are just a few of the endless choices for backings that I’ve used. Every area will have its own vegetation and natural spots, and in a lot of typical cat locations, you’ll have a rock or rimrock setting to use.

One of my personal favorites is a yucca plant, or “soapweed” as they’re called in some areas. The typical yucca plant is a few feet tall and has very pointed stems or leaves, which really helps in preventing any critter from approaching from the back or side. They’re usually easy to dig under, with the loose soil their root system seems to like or create. I use either a cut down tile spade or a 4-inch auger with a cordless drill to make a hole right at the base. The roots are bulb type and fairly big, like the size of a sweet potato, and they make a great outside blocking.

As for the outside blocking, I use one rather than two for various reasons, but mainly to not over-block and cause any avoidance by coyotes. I personally target coyotes 100% of the time, and consider any cats that show up to be a bonus. So, one piece of sod that came out while digging the hole, a dried cow chip, a cactus, or a rock right from the spot all are what I consider to be a great candidate for the outside blocking. Basically, to sum it up, something natural that fits in the location, and they won’t want to step on when working the set.

I place the blocking directly out in front of the trap, with maybe an inch or so of spacing between it and the inside jaw of the trap. I almost always place fresh gland lure on the lip or edge of this blocking, and/or some urine. This blocking will help dictate where the animal steps, and it doesn’t seem to cause any more refusals than a set without blocking. The misses you have when using what I have come to call an open type set, are almost completely cured by adding blocking. I know I’ve talked about this method several times over the years, but I feel it’s important and effective enough to mention again. I’ve got so used to implementing this type of blocking that I find myself collecting something to use while approaching the set.

So far I’ve discussed foothold sets. In Part II of this article, in the September/October issue, I’ll talk about using snares for combination coyote/bobcat sets.