Conibear Traps on Ebay
Conibear on Amazon
Trap Setter Tool (in video)
Trapping is always a very sensitive subject. What is the purpose of a trap, whether for a man or animal? I think mostly it is so you can catch something or someone without having to be there. Sure, silence is also an issue. In a survival situation, silence is golden. In the mountains a .22 rimfire will echo for miles, and even in the flatlands, a knowing ear will be able to single it out in a suddenly very quiet, collapsed world. But though you can kill with both a bow and a suppressed firearm, you still have to be there. A trap, a good trap, removes that variable, and either stands guard for you or hunts for you while you are off doing other things.
Why is trapping sensitive for most folks outside of flyover country? Mostly because of the danger of catching something you don’t want to catch in the trap. Then there is the pain factor. When we thing of steel traps especially, we think of leg traps. And yes, the thought of a coyote or possum waiting for you to come and kill it, with its broken leg in a trap, is not very pleasant. So that is why I decided to first explain the “killer trap.” This is an animal trap, not a man trap, and it comes in several sizes, depending on which animal you intend to trap. Also known as the Conibear trap, named after its inventor Frank Conibear in the 1950s, trappers call this trap a “killer trap” because it is designed to snap the neck of the animal. The big 330 size traps go for about $25 each on Ebay, and the smaller ones are about half that.
A note of caution, one of a few here so please read the whole article, you can’t “practice” with any kind of steel trap while game laws are still being enforced. Trapping is a highly regulated industry, with licenses and seasons and huge rulebooks, and if you try to trap animals illegally you will get caught. If you live in any of the cold states, you’d be surprised to know probably that there are already people trapping the waterways in your area. Most of the felt for high quality hats (think Stetson) come from North American beaver and muskrat pelts. If it weren’t for the trappers still working in America, many of our neighborhoods in rural America would have been flooded out by beavers long ago. Yet if you check out the National Trappers Association website, trapping is one of those industries that is always under attack, not unlike the gun industry.
Many types of animals that are completely illegal to trap now will be subject to trapping in a collapse scenario, even Bambi. And though a 330 Conibear might not be the best way to add some venison to your survival food (I hope to follow this up with other types of traps), it certainly isn’t a bad place to start either. If you look in the pictures, a Conibear has a steel trigger in the middle of it, and it can be driven through an ear of corn, or an apple, or just about anything else that deer regularly eat. The same goes for wild pigs, and having several different sizes of Conibear traps will allow you to try for different sizes of pigs. Breaking the neck of a 350 lb. boar hog with a 330 Conibear is kind of laughable, and I doubt it would even hold him until you get there, but you never know. Setting the large trap low, or even using a smaller trap might help you develop a system for catching perfect sized meat hogs. Nobody wants to eat a boar hog anyway from what I have heard.
The other thing you need to be very aware of with Conibear traps of any size is that they are really really really dangerous. Remember, these are designed to break the neck of an animal, so yes, they might also break your arm if you get it caught in there. In a survival situation, you can’t afford to get hurt, at all. Any injury could turn life threatening, so if you are going to buy some Conibears, you really need to practice setting them. Under the best circumstances you also may not have the strength to actually set a 330. It does require some hand strength and arm strength, and I struggled and got out of breath trying to set my first one.
It looks so easy on the video you see here! I bought his tool available on Ebay, for setting Conibear traps. Compared to the steel tongs that are traditionally used, I thought the physics of this device made a lot more sense. But even if you can use the tool successfully, and get it clipped, you still have to manually pinch the mainspring another inch or so to set the clips built into the trap. OMG is that hard! I almost gave up, then finally figured out where I could pinch with the most leverage to clip it. Mind you, I’m terrified of these traps because I had some years ago and had a small one snap on my hand. It was not pretty, so the 330s scare the heck out of me.
Eventually I did get it as you can see, and I can repeat the process without getting out of breath now. But fair warning, this is not something you want to do in the field in a survival situation. The traps travel just as well, albeit a little less compact, with both mainsprings set and held by the trap’s clips. I would get your traps to that state at home, then do the final set from there out in the field. Fortunately, once the traps have been clipped the physics are much more in your favor and the last step is really quite easy. you pinch the jaws the last inch or so, set the trigger, and the clips fall away. The trap is now set.
There are a couple other considerations. The first is anchoring the trap. In the pictures you will see what are called disposable anchors. They are a plate connected to a cable, and you drive the plate into the ground about 18″. When you pull back up on the wire, the anchor gets sideways in the hole, and grips solid. Most likely a decent sized hog will tear one out, but not many other animals would, and don’t forget, the goal is the kill the animal when the trap snaps with a Conibear, so it is just as much so that coyotes won’t carry off your animal as it is about holding the animal down. If you expect large hogs, it might be smart to just use a large chain and linkage connected to the trap. Use your better judgement.
Another possibly important addition is called a trap stand. If you think about it, other than like the trap on the ground, what can you do with it? I guess you could technically hand it sideways from a tree branch, but it’ll be a bit conspicuous. On the ground the angle is wrong for a deer with an ear of corn, or even a mid-sized hog. You have to get it up off the ground some, and the trap stand allows you to do this, for not a lot of money.
Trapping itself is also not so simple, and this you can actually practice, without including your traps. There is no law against attempting to funnel animals by where a trap would normally be, or using game cameras to see if it worked. You could also use game cameras to tell you where the animals usually walk. Baiting is the same deal. There is no law against nailing an ear of corn to a tree to see if the deer come and eat it with the fresh steel smell on the corn. And on private land, ie. hunting leases, there are no wardens to check if you are practicing your hog trapping skills along with your hog hunting skills. Like anything else, time is always different to put aside. Just remember that most animals have a stronger sense of smell than they do sight or hearing, so even if you are aren’t using lures and baits, cover your own scent as much as possible. If you smell the more popular scent cover sprays at Walmart, they are little more than leaf compost tea, which you can make yourself.
Like most topics in this series, my overview here is simply meant to introduce you to a survival resource that you may never have even thought about. I plan to purchase a few different types of snares going forward, and I already did buy some leg traps because for problem coyotes sometimes they are the only thing that works. Man traps are one of the most abused subjects in survival literate. If Rambo traps actually worked it would be great, but tend to be obvious, and just who is it that wants to dig a man sized hole to put sharp sticks in the bottom? Certainly not me! The way I see it, one 330 Conibear and setting tool is going to set you back about $50 including shipping. Check that one off the list.