I can’t remember if someone pointed it out to me, or if I realized it on my own. I’ve known for a long time that no two years are exactly alike when it comes to many things, such as weather, fur markets, and animal behavior.

The weather has been changing since the world came about, I imagine, and always will, I’d think. I’ve seen drastic ends of the spectrum like getting 200 inches of snow in a winter and having to wade through snow drifts to fish brook trout in April. Then a few short years later, the water table at our farm required a new water well to be drilled.

Markets continue to fluctuate, and if you’ve been around trapping and fur long enough, you’ve seen a lot of ups and downs just like I have. We trappers are a bunch of optimists overall, and I’m always looking for ways to put a positive spin on things in my mind and think about and plan for next year.
Animals change and adapt too, and that leads me to the topic of this article, which is about remakes at canine and cat sets.

I’ve seen a lot of variables in the last 40 years of pursuing land critters. I’m always trying to assess if what I’m doing is effective and catching the available target animals.

I know I’ve written an article or two about remakes before, but I get a lot of questions and scenarios from peers and customers about it, so I decided to share some more of what I’ve learned.

First, I’ll mention that if you’re using metal drags with chain extensions, rather than staking, for the most part your sets shouldn’t be altered too much, and remakes can be done fairly easy.

I prefer to bury my drags and chains under the trap with the drag points pointed away from the set or backing. The chain is buried and tamped into place before I add the additional dirt to make a solid trap bed. This requires a deeper trap bed, and more dirt to make the set than simply tossing the drag off to the side of the set and then burying part of the chain. But in the arid and short grass prairies where I trap, I know I’d have a lot of refusals with any exposed chain left. When a catch has been made, it often looks like a mini explosion has taken place at the set, with the screen or pan cover close by, and the drag and chain marks leading away from the set.

Remakes are easy in this case. I usually just compress the springs on the trap and open the jaws enough to take 10 seconds to scour them with grass or dirt, and get any hair or animal DNA off of them, and then I snap it a time or two. I re-bury everything like before, and use a new screen pan cover, and usually smooth out any drag marks right at the set so they don’t become guides that could cause a miss from future animal visits.

Almost always, your backing will still be intact. If you’re using a dirthole type set, the hole will be fine and not collapsed or cratered. If it’s collapsed a bit, I usually just rebait or re-lure it a little, or maybe sprinkle a short squirt of urine on the backing, since the initial smell(s) should still be there. Sometimes I’ll ball up a wad of grass or leaves, and put it down the hole. This not only helps prevent it from collapsing further, but also creates a type of cache set, that’s very effective too, as long as whatever you used as backing is still in place and usable.

Usually, this process doesn’t take long, and I can have things back in working order quickly. Any smells left in the vicinity of the catch will only add to the overall attraction of the location in my opinion. Taking all of this into consideration, I’m sure that the vast majority of sets made for land animals are staked though, and that adds some more variables.

As I mentioned earlier, animal habits change with time, and in my area, canines, specifically coyotes, seem to be working remakes and catch circles well. While I’ve always had a fairly high amount of success with properly reconstructed remakes, I’m enjoying even higher percentage rates, quicker, for the last 4 or 5 years.

I remember a buddy of mine from northwest Wyoming mentioning to me many years ago, that when he caught a coyote or two out of a litter or family group the rest would move to different areas for a while. The naturally shy coyotes created by several years of the late 1970s and 1980s fur prices had created a super spooky coyote. They didn’t tolerate anything out of the norm in places they were really familiar with, and a catch and resulting circle were avoided like the plaque fairly often. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of smells left at a catch site or circle, and some of them would be associated with stress and fear. Depending on individual coyotes or litters, and even what I would call a strain of coyotes created by pressure and trapping practices, there will be some coyotes that will either avoid, or readily work a set that has caught an animal.

I’ll back up and mention red fox quickly which, in my opinion, are attracted to catch circles like they’re magnets. The more fox a set or location produces, the hotter that place seems to get, usually. It’s then just a matter of remaking the sets by replacing the backing and adding additional blocking at times. A simple hole punched or drilled in the ground, at a slight angle in front of a backing, is a super effective set for red fox remakes. Any droppings can be placed in a spot to further guide their feet, and fox just seem to jump in to them.

Bobcats are the same way, usually. Cat sets that produce a catch once are almost always the first place that other cats coming through the area will find and work. Again, blocking and the backing are important and you want to reconstruct the set with the same attention to detail as when you originally made it. You want to have the approach at the set level and use guides to make them step exactly where you want them to. I’m sure I’ve had more misses at remakes than at original sets over the years, and usually it’s because I didn’t take the time to eliminate all the options for them to step.

But back to coyotes, which usually are on a little different playing field than other critters. You’ll have to play it by ear, so to speak, and decide if you want to move the set completely or remake it. I’ve also added additional sets that have produced coyotes thousands of times, and yes, it is the logical choice to keep a location producing, especially when the coyotes in your area are a bit shy.
I use 21 inches of 1/8-inch, 7x7 cable, that makes a stake about 18 inches long after the loops are formed at each end. I prefer Wolf Fang disposable stake ends, but I’ve used a variety of others and they all seem to work to different degrees. All my traps have an end swivel, and I use a J-hook to attach the trap chain to the top loop of the cable. I try to drive the anchor well below the ground so when I give it a little tug to set it, the loop is still below ground level in the dug trap bed, or slightly above. I usually rest the free jaw of the trap on the top of the loop, which adds to the stability, and makes for quick bedding. The reason I mention this is because by driving the cable stake deep to begin with, it can help with the remake process; if you decide to set there again. A caught animal might pull the cable stake out slightly, depending on the soil, but you can usually get by without having to pull the stake and/or drive in a new one. It isn’t always the case, but it is a factor to consider. If I do pull the trap to reset close by, I use a S-hook tool to open the J-Hook or rivet slightly, and then connect to another cable stake. I personally don’t pull many stakes, in my arid conditions they don’t rust in the ground, and I can use them year after year.

Smells stay in the ground and at the general vicinity for a long time and there’s no doubt in my mind that old catch circles become regular spots for animals to visit throughout the year. It’s not uncommon at all to see droppings of various ages at old locations, and for me, it’s like money in the bank because I know they will have visits fairly fast.

Now, back to remakes of a set that has just caught an animal.

I personally don’t always reset spots that have caught badgers, especially if they dug up a large mound of dirt. Yes, there’s a huge amount of eye appeal there, but it’s very hard to block the set well, and I’ve had too many misses, so I prefer to pull the trap and set close by.

Skunk and raccoon catch sites, will be remade, if there’s not too many chewed limbs and twigs and other debris around. I know in some places this will draw coyotes, but in my area, the coyotes shy from that type of sign for some reason.

Like I mentioned earlier, fox and bobcat catch circles are a draw to both of them, and they are for coyotes too. There are lots of factors there, but I’d say greed and curiosity are the two biggest, in terms of why a coyote would work a set that those animals have been previously caught at.

When I catch a coyote at a spot that I intend to reset, I almost always use a Death Ray device, that dispatches a coyote quickly, and with virtually no blood. I take the coyote a few yards away, and I then gather everything that I will need to remake the set; my bag, my drill and auger, and any grass plug or debris from the vicinity to use as blocking, etc. I take pains to leave as little sign at a set as I can, with muddy footprints being number one; I try to step on grass and solid places as much as possible. I assess the situation, and see if I’ll drill a new hole, or use the existing hole, if it was a dirthole set initially. Dried bleached bones are tailor made for remakes, and I might place one in a shallow hole as a focal point and a place to put lure or bait.

The main thing to worry about at remakes is to have a blocking in place, and to use guides to reduce any misses. The smell factor will take care of itself.

I might re-fluff or plant a small tuft of grass as a backing, or slightly bury a piece of sod from nearby as it is important to eliminate their approach from the back of the set. If there’s something inside the circle that can be used for a front or side blocking, like a rock or piece of wood, I might consider using it. Any additional debris or dirt mounds in the ring are scooped up and throw away from the set, because they can work against you when they become guides and blocking in the wrong spots.

It might take a little time to age remakes, and any weather like light rain or a little wind and snow sure helps blend them in a bit too. In the case of snow, you might see where an animal approaches the set but stays back away from the trap, or works the set from the side. If you haven’t already made a set nearby, then you will probably have to make a set or two to catch that individual when it returns.

There are no hard-set rules on remakes and when to use them, in my opinion; I’ve seen about every possible scenario, a hundred times. I guess the main thing to do is pay attention, read sign, and evaluate.

This past fall, I’ve had a higher percentage of coyotes caught in remade sets than I’ve had in the last 40 years, and that’s with a fairly low, pressured, coyote population. Several locations that originally had 2-4 sets at them resulted in coyotes getting caught in the same trap, time after time, to the point that I’d pull the other sets, and let that one keep producing. If I saw a track of a coyote that was in the area, but not going near a set, I’d pick a spot and make a fresh set, or simply go back to one of the original sets and use the stake that was already there. A little change of smells usually netted another coyote there.

I pulled about 100 sets ahead of a huge storm that was predicted as I’d already taken most of the existing coyotes. I’ll go back after the snows melt, towards spring, and reset some of the better spots.

Remakes don’t have to pay off immediately. Some of my best sets have caught scores of coyotes and other animals over the years, and I have no doubt they’ll continue to pay off.