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Friday, March 17, 2017

How to build a Toggle-Trigger Scissor Trap



In this post I’m going to show you how to make one of my favorite survival traps, the toggle-trigger scissor trap.  This is a very fast, killing trap.  It’s kind of the improvised version of a Conibear trap.  If it is set correctly it will kill an animal quickly and humanely.  Please note that I am setting this trap in a location where I can take clear pictures of it, and you can see how it is constructed.  This is not how or where you would set this trap to catch an animal.  I will deal with de-scenting, camouflaging, and how to make an actual trap set in another post.
The toggle-trigger scissor trap is not a super complicated trap (simple is better), but it does have quite a few parts.  What I’m going to do is go over the making of the parts step by step, and then we’ll put all the parts together to make the trap.  This trap has a total of ten parts, not counting the cordage, and six of those parts are the trigger assembly.  The good news is that this same trigger assembly can be used on several other traps, so once you get the trigger down you’re more than 50% there on building a number of different kinds of traps.  So let’s get started.

The Toggle-Trigger

As mentioned above, the toggle-trigger assembly has six parts.  You can manufacture all of these parts with nothing more than a pocket or sheath knife, and you can assemble the trap with nothing more than a knife and a rock; but a multi-tool with a saw blade and a small hatchet make it a lot easier to do the job.  
The six parts for the trigger are as follow:

First you will need two fairly long stakes with a down-slanting side branch.  The diameter of these stakes will depend on the size trap you are building.  The stakes illustrated below are about ¾ inch in diameter. These stakes will be driven into the ground, and there will be considerable upward pressure on them; so they should be a minimum of a foot long below the side branch.  Make sure that the tops are flat and the bottoms are pointed so that you can drive them more easily into the ground.
You will need a cross-bar to hold your toggle.  This is nothing more than a straight stick that is about six inches long.  This one is about ½ inch in diameter.
The toggle itself is a straight stick that is about two inches long and maybe 3/8 inch in diameter.  Notice that I have carved a small groove around the center of the toggle.  This is not completely necessary, but it only takes a minute to do, and it will insure a more positive fit for your trigger line.
The last two parts of the trigger assembly are the trigger stick and what I call the bumper stake.  The bumper stake is about ¾ inch in diameter and about six inches long.  About five inches of the bumper stake will be driven down into the ground so it needs to be sharpened on the bottom end.
The trigger stick is the part that makes the whole thing work.  It is what will hold the bait and spring the trap when an animal takes the bait.  It will have considerable pressure on it, so it is best if it is a dead and dry, but solid stick.  A green stick may bend and not hold the toggle back.  This trigger stick is about ¼ inch in diameter and the length will be determined by the final trap set.  For now you should cut it about a foot long, and then you can cut it to final length when you set the trap.


So, that’s it for the trigger parts.  Now let’s make the final four parts that will actually capture the animal.
First we will need to make the scissor.  This will consist of two straight sticks that are about 3/8 inch in diameter and about ten inches long.  Size will, of course, vary according to the target animal and the size of the trap

You want to cut the bottom of each scissor stick at about a 45 degree angle so that when you put the bottoms together the sticks will spread out at about a 90 degree angle.
 Next, come up about 3/8 inch or so from the slanted bottoms and carve a shallow groove around each stick.
Now go to the top of each stick, about 3/8 inches from the end, and carve another shallow groove.
Now set these aside and we’ll make the scissor guides.

The scissor guides are part of the trap that help guide the scissors, and help the scissors ensnare the animal.  They will have a great deal of upward pressure on them when the trap is sprung, so they must be set firmly in the ground.  The size of the guides and the depth to which they must be set is determined by the target animal and the size of the trap.  One important consideration for the scissor guides is that they have to be bent into a half hoop.  They must be flexible enough to bend without breaking, but still sturdy enough to hold the game.  In my experience, the scissor guides are the hardest part of the trap to locate and make.

Setting up the Trap

To set up the scissor trap you are going to need about five feet of nylon twine and about two feet of waxed Dacron (artificial sinew).  You don’t absolutely have to have the waxed Dacron.  Just use what you have or what you can make.  The trap will still work.

You are going to need something to power your trap.  In this instance I am using a sapling as a spring-pole.  You could use a counter-weight just as easily although that would take considerably more twine. I will talk more about counter weights in a later post.
First you want to bend your spring-pole down so that you can see exactly where you should to position your trigger assembly.  When you have that location, start off by driving your two forked stakes into the ground about four inches apart.
Your cross bar will fit under the forks in the two stakes.
Next you will need to position and drive down the bumper stake.  The best way to do this is to put it about eight inches from your cross bar and then come back and cut your trigger stick to the appropriate length.
This picture shows how to measure the length of the trigger stick.  Notice that the toggle stick is on the front side of the cross bar, and the trigger stick goes from there to the bumper stake.



Now you will need about three feet of nylon twine to set the trigger.
Tie one end of the twine firmly around the toggle stick.
Move up the string about a foot and tie a knot in it.  The reason for this knot will be explained in a minute.
Then tie the other end of the string onto your spring pole.

To set the trigger, bring the toggle down in back of the cross bar, then twist it up in front of the cross bar and set the trigger stick between the top of the toggle and the bumper stake.  The picture below shows the trigger after it has been set.  It is best to go ahead and smear the trigger stick with bait or shove bait onto the stick before you set the trigger.  You can do this later but you will have to be very careful not to spring the trap.


Now let’s put together the scissor:

Take some of your waxed Dacron and tie together the slanted ends of your two scissor sticks.  Leave a little space between them so that the sticks can be pulled out into a “V” shape
Now go to the other end of the sticks and, using more Dacron, tie a loop at the top of one of the sticks.
Take about two feet of nylon twine and tie one end of it to the top of the other stick and then thread the loose end of the nylon through the Dacron loop on the other stick.
When your scissor is completed it should look like this.
Take the two sticks that you have cut for your scissor guides and bend them carefully into a half hoop and then shove them down firmly into the ground.  They should be about an inch-and-a-half apart and should be located two or three inches away from the trigger stick.  This photo shows you how they should be positioned.
Now spread your scissor sticks apart and set them down between the scissor guides.

Make sure that the nylon twine connecting the scissors is not down between the scissor guides, and then use some Dacron to tie the tops of the scissor guides together.  You want to leave about an inch between the tops of the loops.
Finally, take the loose end of the nylon twine on the scissors and tie it onto your toggle-trigger line.  Tie it just above the knot that you tied in the trigger line.  This will keep the scissor line from sliding down when the trap is sprung. Be very careful when doing this so that you don’t set off the trigger.  It is best if you have someone to hold the spring pole down while you complete this step; but if you are alone, you will have to just be very careful.  Whatever you do, don’t get your face up over the trap.  If you do, and if the trap springs you will have all kinds of stuff headed toward you.
So now the trap is set.   
 When you build an actual trap set you will build a “cubby” or use other obstructions to make sure that the animal can only get to the bait by sticking its head in between the scissors.

When the animal starts chewing on the bait stick, it will spring the trap.  The scissors will slam together on the animal and jerk it up against the scissor guides.  The animal will, most likely, be killed immediately.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Include a Light Weight Trapping Kit in Your Bug-Out-Bag



Any survival situation that lasts more than a couple of weeks is going to make it necessary for you to collect food.  Foraging for wild plants is one possibility, but it is hard to get enough protein and fat from plants alone.  You will need meat.  One of the most efficient ways to obtain meat in the wilds is by trapping.  Trapping is great because your traps will be hunting 24 hours a day, in multiple locations.  While your traps are hunting for you, you will be free to take care of other business like wood gathering, plant foraging, shelter improvements, and etc.

So, the simple solution to making meat in the wild would be to just throw a half dozen double-spring, number 2 steel traps into your bug-out-bag, right?  Wrong!  One number 2 steel trap weighs over a pound.  Six of them weigh almost seven pounds, and they are bulky.  Not the kind of thing that you need in your pack when every ounce counts. 

You could bring the weight down to around two pounds by carrying half-a-dozen rat traps, but you would be seriously limiting the size of animals that you could trap.  Anything larger than a squirrel will probably just shake off a rat trap; or worse, run off with it.

The most weight efficient way to trap animals is to (1) learn how to build improvised traps, and then (2) put together a light-weight kit that will make it easier to build these traps.  Don’t get me wrong.  You can build improvised traps using only native materials; but man, it can take a lot of time consuming work to build a trap this way.  If you’ve ever twisted up enough yucca cordage to build just one good snare trap, you know what I’m talking about.  And after you’ve built your trap you still have to find something to bait the trap with.  It’s much easier to carry along a few light-weight items that will enable you to build and bait some better quality traps in a shorter amount of time.

My trapping kit, including carrying bag, weighs just a shade over 13 ounces.  Depending on the kind and size of traps you build, it has enough materials for from ten to thirty traps; and it also includes enough bait to bait each trap several times. Here’s a closer look at what goes into my trapping kit.

First there’s the bag itself.  The bag is about nine inches by fourteen inches and is made out of heavy cotton with a cotton twill strap to tie the bag closed.


Inside the bag I have two different kinds of light cordage wrapped around wooden cradles.

The larger cradle holds about sixty feet of nylon twine.  This twine can be used to hold down spring poles or hold counter weights for snare traps.  Note that this twine is a kind of golden yellow in color.  Since most animals don’t have very well developed color vision, this golden yellow actually looks gray to them making it less visible than either black or white twine.  A little dirt or mud rubbed on the twine gives it a mottled appearance which makes it even less visible.  The toggle trigger snare pictured below is built using both yellow nylon twine for the trigger and picture hanging wire for the snare loop.



The small cradle holds about twenty feet of waxed Dacron (artificial sinew).  Although it is small cordage, it is very strong.  It’s great for things like tying off toggle triggers on Paiute dead-fall traps, hanging sight lures, and making small snare loops.  The toggle trigger scissor trap pictured below is built using both waxed dacron and yellow nylon twine.

I carry a small roll, about twenty feet, of light gauge steel wire that is perfect for making leaning log squirrel snares.  Since each of these snares uses about two feet of wire, you can make quite a few snares with twenty feet.


I have a roll of picture hanging wire in the bag that is my favorite for making the actual snare loop on snare traps.  It’s stiff enough to hold open well and it slides closed quick and smooth on spring pole snares.

One of the disadvantages of all natural traps is coming up with bait for them.  You can, of course, set snares in animal pathways and hope that an animal runs into them, but your chances of success increase dramatically if you have a bait that draws animals into your trap.  I keep an old baby food jar in my trapping kit that is full of my special trapping lure; peanut butter and sardines.  Just put them in the jar, stir them together, and twist the lid on tight.  The older it gets, the funkier it smells; and the funkier it smells, the better it works. Smear a little of this on your bait stick and hardly any animal will be able to resist it.

Some animals don’t have as keen a sense of smell as others.  These sight hunters often need a visual lure to draw them to a trap.  I keep a plastic bag with twelve or fifteen turkey feather fluffs in my kit.  If you hang one of these on a piece of string over your trap, every puff of breeze will cause it to swing and twirl.  This will often catch an animal’s eye and draw them in to investigate.

As with any other survival skill, building successful traps takes practice.  You need to learn not only “how” to build traps, but “where” to build them.  Do a little research on how to build different kinds of traps, how to descent them, and where to locate them; then head to the woods with your trapping kit and practice.  Be sure to know the law and use common sense.  The actual trapping of animals, game or fur bearing, can be outright illegal or regulated by any number of laws that vary from state to state and sometimes from county to county.  On the common sense side of things, don’t set a trap and leave it where you might catch someone’s pet.  It’s best to just set the traps and see if they work by tripping them yourself.  You can test your bait and your ability to find good trapping locations by smearing a little bait on a twig and sticking it in the ground at a site that you think would be good for a trap.  Come back the next day and check your bait stick.  If it’s missing, or if it has been gnawed on, you will know that you picked a good location.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Build a Live Trap



Live traps, or box traps as they are sometimes called, are one of the easiest traps to build in your shop or garage.  They can be used to catch and relocate nuisance animals, or they can be used to catch food. 

The construction of box traps requires minimal tools.  A tape measure, a square, a pencil, a saw, a hammer, a drill with a few bits, and a sheet of sand paper are all you need.  The building materials needed are an 8 foot long piece of 1” x 10” lumber (actual dimensions are ¾” x 9 ½ “), an 18” by 2 foot piece of ¼ inch hardware cloth, a few nails, 4 small screw-eyes, and some string.
We’ll start out by building the box and door first, and when that’s done we’ll build the trigger and set the trap.  Incidentally, the dimensions I’m using here will build a medium size box trap; good for squirrels, rabbits, possums, small coons, feral cats, and (unfortunately) skunks.   So let’s cut out the pieces for the box and the door from our ¾” lumber.

You will need to cut the following:
2 pieces   24” x 7” for top and bottom
1 piece     8 ½” x 8 ½” for the back
2 pieces   4” x 8 ½” for the back sides
2 pieces   6” x 8 ½” for the front sides
1 piece     7” x 8 ½” for the door
2 pieces   ¾” x ½” x 7” for the inner door guides
2 pieces   ¾” x ½” x 8 ½” for the outer door guides
You will also need to cut two strips of hardware cloth 8 ½” high by 22” long for the sides.

Now we’ll assemble the box:

First, nail the back piece to the top and bottom.  The top of the back piece should be flush with the top of the top piece and the bottom of the back should be flush with the bottom of the bottom piece.  The back piece should stick out ¾” on each side of the top piece and the bottom piece.  That sounds a little confusing, but if you’ll look at the picture below you’ll see what I mean.

Now we’re going to nail our hardware cloth onto the sides of the box.  I have found that short roofing nails are good for this job but you can use carpet tacks, small u nails, or even heavy staples.  Just make sure that the hardware cloth is secure enough to hold a trapped animal.  The hardware cloth should butt up against the back and be flush with the top of the top and the bottom of the bottom.  Again, confusing but look at the picture.

Next step is to nail on the back side pieces.  Easy enough.

The front side pieces are next, but before you nail them on, take your sand paper and sand the insides of them smooth for th first couple of inches.  This is to reduce friction so that the door will fall quickly and completely into place.   

When you’ve finished sanding, nail the front side pieces on so that 1 ¾” of them (the sanded part) extends out in front of the top and bottom pieces.

Now it’s time to nail on the door guides.  Before nailing we want sand the edges of the guides where the door will be sliding along them.  Smooth guides mean a faster and cleaner drop of the door.  

When the guides are smoothed out we’ll first nail on the short, inner guides.  You want to position these so that they are flush with the edge of the top and bottom pieces.  I used some old paneling nails to attach the guides.

Next we’ll do the outer guides.  You want to place the outer guides so that the distance between them and the inner guides is about an 1/8 inch wider than the thickness of your door.

With the guides all nailed in place it’s time to sand the edges of the door smooth.  Round the edges and corners a little to help keep them from binding when the door drops.

Slide the door down between the guides and check to see that everything fits and slides easily. 


If everything checks out, it’s time to build the trigger. The way this trigger works is pretty simple.  The actual trigger sticks down into the inside of the box.  The trigger is attached to the back end of a rocker arm that is supported by an upright on top of the box.  The front of the rocker arm is attached to the top of the door.  When the trap is set, the trigger stick is down in the box and the rocker arm holds the door up.  When an animal enters the trap and hits the trigger stick it releases the rocker arm and the door drops closed.

So the first thing that we need to do is drill two holes in the top of the box.  The first hole will be 8 inches from the back of the box and is 1 inch in diameter.  This is the hole that the trigger will fit down into.  The second hole is 16 inches from the back of the box and is ¾ inch in diameter.  We will use this hole to mount the upright that supports the rocker arm.  So let’s drill holes.

Once the holes are drilled we’ll make the trigger stick.  The trigger stick is made of a ¾” x ¾” piece of wood cut 9 inches long.   Round off the edges and give the stick a light sanding so that it will slide easily. Cut a notch in the stick that is ¼” deep with the bottom of the notch 2 inches from the top of the stick and then screw a small screw-eye into the top. 


The trigger stick should fit easily into the 1 inch hole and the notch should catch on the underside of the board.  When the notch is engaged, the trigger stick should not touch the bottom of the trap.

Now for the upright that will support the rocker arm.  Cut a piece of your ¾” lumber that is one foot long and  1¾” wide.

On one end cut  away wood on each side to leave a ¾” wide by ¾” long tab in the middle.  Use a knife or wood rasp to round off this tab so that it forms a peg that will fit easily into the ¾” hole in the top of the trap.

On the other end of the upright we are going to cut a slot that is  ¾” wide and 3 inches long.  The easiest way to do this is to use your drill and ¾” bit and drill a hole three inches down from the top, then use a saw to cut down to each side of the hole.

When you’re finished with the upright it should look like this.


The rocker arm is just a ¾” x ½” stick that is cut to 20 inches long.

Lay the rocker arm down so that one of the ¾” sides is facing up at you and drill a 3/16” hole in the center of it (10 inches from each end).  When this is done, drill a 3/16” hole through the slotted end of the upright.  The hole should be one inch from the top of the upright.  When the rocker arm sits in the slot of the upright it should look like this.

You should now be able to mount the upright into the hole on the top of the box, line up the rocker arm, and stick a nail through the holes in the upright and rocker arm.  The rocker arm should pivot freely.

We’re almost done.  All that remains is to screw a small screw-eye about ½” from each end of the rocker arm and another screw-eye into the top of the door.  Tie a piece of string from the trigger stick to the back end of the rocker arm so that there is about 5 inches between them.  Lastly, tie the front of the rocker to the top of the door so that there is, again, about 5 inches between them.  When you are finished, the set-up should look like this.

One little thing that I like to do instead of tying the string to the door is to make a little wire hook on the end of the string that hooks to the door.  This makes it easier to disassemble the trap for transportation or storage.


Well there’s you live trap.  To set it just place your bait in the back.  I like to use a slice of apple with some peanut butter smeared on it or a sardine, but just about anything will do.  Sometimes it helps to put a small piece of bait out in front of the trap.  If the critter gets a taste, they are less reluctant to go on into the trap for more.  Set the trigger and wait.  When the animal goes into the trap they will hit the trigger stick while trying to get to the bait.  The trigger goes up, the door goes down, and, boom, you’ve got him.  Once you’ve set the trap be sure to check it every day so that you don’t leave an animal confined for too long.

Happy hunting.