Mixed Bag - Part II
In Part I of this article in the previous (July/August) issue, I talked about foothold sets that can take both bobcats and coyotes. Another tool that I feel is important when setting up a combination coyote/bobcat location are snares.

I know that they aren’t practical in all areas for various reasons, such as legality, too warm and worried about spoilage, and even having birds find and destroy the cat pelt. And, let’s face it, in a lot of areas, good brush or vegetation isn’t always available. Sure, you can bring in or move around some blocking and create a narrowed down spot or gap to place a snare, but natural spots are always the best in my opinion. I do carry a 3/8-inch rebar stake to make pilot holes for some light blocking that I might place on the edges of a less than perfect gap. This allows me to use some spots that are marginal without the extra blocking, even though it might be just a heavy weed or two. But that’s getting ahead of myself, so I’ll start at the beginning.

The majority of my snaring, other than fence snaring with my predator control contract, is done in brushy draws, or small creek drainages. These are natural corridors of predator activity, both for hunting for food and also them using the natural cover and terrain to their advantage to navigate and travel through the area. These areas will get a lot of activity during and shortly after bad weather, such a snowstorm, and they need to be utilized as much as possible. I’ve learned over the years that when the going gets tough, like we all know it can in the winter months, predators hit the roughest pockets of terrain and/or the tightest cover available, because that seems to be where the prey base is. Big game like deer will congregate around those areas during stretches of bad weather too, and the predators follow suit. It’s just good business to have natural spots set up in advance, to take advantage of these waves of activity when they occur.

In my area where I trap and snare in the winter months, fairly large numbers of antelope move around nomadically, in their almost migration-like movements. With these constant influxes of numbers of antelope, comes some additional coyote movement. I’m sure that a lot of big, mature bobcats follow these herds, too. For the most part, antelope don’t venture down into the tight cover readily, but the predator will, so I typically don’t have any worries of having non-targets get caught in my snares. I anchor solidly and have a break-away release on my snares as an extra precaution as well.

As a general rule, if I see much hooved animal traffic on trails, or there’s droppings from previous activity evident, I won’t set the spot. I can usually find suitable spots close by, like maybe a small side draw or thin band of cedars, junipers, or sagebrush, that the predators will naturally follow.

I’ve pretty much evolved to where I rarely set any equipment without seeing sign like tracks, but tracking can be tricky and misleading in these areas, so I rely on my gut to set a majority of these spots.

As a rule, predators follow a slightly lower path and through the thickest and densest brush eventually, and those are always high percentage spots to set with snares. Cats and coyotes both will push through some very tight cover while hunting. Some patches of brush have multiple gaps that need to be set up to efficiently cover the possible route they’ll take when hunting in this tighter cover.

Many times I’ve followed a track or two in the snow, and set all of the suitable spots (gaps 7-10 inches wide) they would go through, as well as anywhere that I figured another predator would eventually go through. It’s not uncommon to have as many as 20-24 snares set in maybe half an acre
of cover, or in a quarter mile of creek bottom or draw. I know it’s tempting to just set snares where there’s easy access, like where a road crosses a small drainage, and call it good, but experience has taught me that many predators don’t always follow creeks, draws, or drainages for long distances. A fair amount tends to drop into a drainage from a smaller side drainage or terrain change, to access it. They then hunt down the main drainage for possibly a quarter mile or so, then cross the draw or creek, and then continue out the other side. This isn’t always the case, of course, but I see it happen enough to know that if I didn’t walk up the drainage at least a few hundred yards, I’d miss out on a lot of predator activity and potential spots. Almost always, the extra shoe leather invested will pay off.

In any kind of trapping, the more scouting you can do the better. One track, or one dropping, is all it takes for me to set an area up with snares, as I’ve learned that predators will follow the same basic routes time after time. It’s not uncommon to see multiple tracks right on top of each other in the snow, and some tracks will appear to have multiple toes! By following those tracks, and trying to stay off to the side of their route as much as possible, you’ll likely find naturally tight spots that they’ll travel through again.

As for the actual setting (or hanging) of the snares, I prefer to use a rigid support made out of ¼-inch cold rolled steel, with a 20-inch piece of either 9- or 11-gauge wire welded to the top. This type of support allows me to set virtually any spot or situation that I come across, and not have to worry about finding vegetation strong enough or close enough to the gap to use for a place to wrap an independent piece of wire for support. The support also lets me easily hang the snare in the center of the trail, and also to keep the snare at the right height, which are both important.

The height of the snare, from the bottom of the loop to the ground, is important. You want the predator’s head to go through the snare loop but its chest to hit the bottom of the loop, which will cause the snare to close as it continues walking.

For just strictly snaring cats, a loop with the bottom 8 inches off the ground is a good starting point. The loop size will be determined by the width of the gap, but typically, an 8-inch loop is average. If you see tracks that would indicate a large cat, such as a big tom using that area, you might raise the bottom of the loop a bit, to compensate for their longer legs and height.

For typical all-around predator snaring, I prefer to take into consideration coyotes as much as the cats, so I find myself usually hanging a 10-inch wide snare, with the loop bottom 10 inches or so off of the ground. That height will catch the vast majority of the coyotes, and also most of the cats too.

On occasion, you’ll see where a cat will duck under a snare set too high by even a few inches. This can be frustrating, I know, but in the long run, most will eventually get caught in loops set for coyotes. And, I’ve caught a lot of coyotes in very small loops set in some very tight cover that were intended for cats, too. Like I said earlier, they follow the same places; usually.

With the coyote and cat market hanging on, and hopefully fully recovering by this next season, I personally believe that, if possible, a mixed predator line will pay off in most areas. By looking for spots that you can work in a few snares in addition to your foothold locations, and by changing your sets to a more universal type setting, I think you’ll find that the end results will be very rewarding.