5 Essential Bushcraft Traps for Survival Hunting

5 Essential Bushcraft Traps for Survival Hunting - SilverAnt Outdoors

In our previous blog post about wilderness survival skills, we talked about the importance of finding food in the wild.

Before heading out on your trip, it's essential to learn about edible plants by reading guidebooks, using online resources, or consulting with local experts.

For fats and proteins, animals are your best option. Learning basic trapping and fishing techniques can help you catch food.

So I've always wanted to share my knowledge of crafting traps for survival hunting, and during the recent labor holiday, I finally organized my thoughts.

In this blog post, I'll introduce you to five essential bushcraft traps for catching small, medium, and large land animals, as well as fish and birds, to enhance your outdoor adventures.

If you're planning a long day out in the wilderness or want an extra safety measure in case your food runs out, be sure to give it a read.

Understanding the Basics

In the old days, hunting was how people got their food before farming and taking care of animals became common.

But hunting face-to-face with animals, using spears or bows, could be too dangerous for the people.

So, folks came up with different ways to catch animals without having to fight them.

History of Traps

In Asia, folks used bamboo, rope, and other natural stuff to make traps like snares, pitfalls, or basket traps.

These traps were handy for catching all kinds of critters, from small animals to birds and fish.

I still remember my grandpa showing me how to catch a sparrow using just a rope, a stick, and a pot.

In Europe, trapping was also a big deal, especially in places where there were lots of animals to catch.

They made all sorts of traps, like deadfalls, snares, and cage traps, to catch minks, squirrels, and rabbits.

Over in North America, the native folks made traps specially for the animals in their area.

They used wood, vines, and stones to make traps for bears, chipmunks, and deer.

Traps have always been important for people to survive and get what they need from nature, no matter where they live.

Even though the traps look different from place to place, they all work on the same basic idea. That's why we've grouped them into five types.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

But things have changed over time. We can't just go around setting traps wherever we want anymore.

Before you start making traps, it's super important to know the rules about hunting.

Always check what the local laws say about trapping, and make sure you're being fair and kind to the animals.

Trapping should only be done when it's really needed for survival, not just for fun or sport.

Choosing the Right Location

Once you’re allowed to build a trap, its effectiveness relies heavily on where you place it.

Just like setting up a camp, location is key for bushcraft traps.

First, look for well-trodden animal trails, as these paths are frequently used by animals.

Identify feeding areas where animals regularly find food. Since animals need water, placing traps near streams or ponds can be very effective.

Lastly, make sure your traps are well camouflaged and blend into the surroundings to avoid detection.

Building and Maintaining Traps

However, constructing a trap is only half the battle; regular maintenance and checking are crucial for success.

You need to inspect your traps frequently to reset any triggered traps and humanely handle any caught animals.

Also, be mindful of the weather, as rain or wind can affect your traps. Make sure they are sturdy and protected.

For example, with a deadfall trap, rain can make the rock slippery, and wind can make the sticks unstable.

Lastly, use natural markers to help you remember where your traps are located.

This could be a distinctive rock, a uniquely shaped tree, or a pile of stones arranged in a certain way.

These traps are super important in survival situations because they help you get food when there's not much else around.

But getting really good at making these traps takes time and practice.

Moreover, remember that it's super important to do the right thing and follow the law.

Always use your trapping skills responsibly, and make sure to treat animals with respect and follow the rules set by the local authorities.

Understanding the Basics - SilverAnt Outdoors

Snare Traps

Let's start with Snare Traps for catching small animals.

These traps have a loop, often made from wire or cordage, that tightens around an animal as it moves through it.

Snares come in two types: passive and active.

Passive snares work when the animal moves and triggers the trap. For example, a noose placed in an animal trail.

Active snares use a spring mechanism to tighten the loop actively when the animal sets it off.

Simple Wire Snare

The simple wire snare is a classic passive trap. All you need is a wire or strong cordage and a stable anchor like a tree or a stake.

Metal wire is the better option since most animals can easily chew through rope or cord.

Here's a step-by-step guide to making the snare:

1. Start by getting some galvanized wire from the hardware store.

2. Wrap one end of the wire around a stick a couple of times.

3. Twist the wire ends together and around each other several times.

4. Remove the stick to create a loop at the end of the wire.

5. Thread the wire through the loop to form a simple snare.

When an animal pulls on the snare loop, it tightens and traps the animal.

Next, place the noose across a well-traveled game trail or near burrow entrances. Then, tie the other end to a stake or tree using cordage like a paracord.

Lastly, don't forget to camouflage the snare with natural materials and set up multiple snares to improve your chances of success.

Now, you can set up your camp away from the snares and relax with a drink from your water bottle while you wait to see what they catch.

Twitch-Up Snare

For active snares, a twitch-up snare is highly effective.

Its success rate is much higher than a simple snare because the sapling springs up and tightens the snare with force, using the weight of the animal to hold and secure it.

However, it does require more effort to set up. Besides wire or cordage, you'll need a flexible sapling, a bait stick, and a trigger stick.

First, pick a young, flexible sapling that can bend like a spring. Willow, birch, or maple trees are good choices.

Bend the sapling down and tie one end of the cordage to the top.

Next, grab a strong stick and carve a notch at the top to make a bait stick. Stick it firmly into the ground with the notched end facing up.

Carve out another stick to fit into the notch of the bait stick. This will be your trigger stick. Attach the same noose used in the simple snare onto it.

Then, connect the cordage from the sapling to the middle of the trigger stick, making sure the sapling is stretched out.

Now, slide the trigger stick horizontally into the notch on the bait stick, so it's sticking out at a right angle.

Lastly, put some bait on the bait stick. When an animal tugs at it, the trigger stick will pop out, letting go of the tension on the sapling.

And the sapling will snap back, tightening the snare around the animal.

Simple? Yes, the simple snare is, well, simple. But the twitch-up snare, now that's a different story.

Setting it up just right takes some practice, especially with the trigger mechanism. It's gotta work smoothly, like pulling the trigger of a gun.

Snare Traps - SilverAnt Outdoors

Deadfall Traps

When hunting for medium-sized animals, deadfall traps come in handy.

These traps use a heavy object to crush the prey when triggered, making them effective but requiring precise construction.

The Figure-Four Deadfall is a good example, named because it looks like the number four.

To set it up, you need three sticks (one vertical, one diagonal, and one horizontal), a heavy object like a flat rock or log, and bait, of course.

And the main components are the three sticks:

Vertical Post

The vertical post should be sturdy and about 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) long.

First, carve a clean "chisel" point on one end, similar to a flathead screwdriver. This point needs to be square to ensure the trap is set properly.

The bottom should be flat to prevent it from getting stuck in the ground.

Next, carve two facets on the sides of the post: one in the center to create a flat face aligned with the chisel top, and the other at a right angle to the chisel top.

These carved faces form a square edge on the side of the post to catch a notch on the horizontal stick.

Diagonal Post

The diagonal post should be the same length as the vertical post.

You need to carve a notch near one end and a chisel point at the other end.

The notch will rest on top of the chisel-topped vertical post, while the chisel end will lock into a notch on the horizontal stick.

Horizontal Post

For the horizontal post, aim for a length of about 10–12 inches (25–30 cm).

Carve a notch into the side and another near the thicker end.

The notch at the end should point upward to support the diagonal post, while the one on the side should face toward the vertical post to hold it in place.

To carve these notches, start by making a straight downward cut into the stick.

Then, from the middle of the stick, shave off about an inch (2.54 cm) of wood towards the end until it meets the vertical cut.

Lastly, carve a point at the free end to hold the bait in place.

It might feel a bit tricky to carve those sticks, but you can try cutting them while you follow along with the instructions.

Once the sticks are ready, it's time to set up the trap:

Start by placing the vertical post upright on the ground, but don't push it into the soil yet.

Next, slide the notched end of the diagonal post onto the top of the vertical post, angling it at about 45 degrees.

Then, attach the bait to the horizontal post and place its end notch under the point of the diagonal post to support it. The middle notch should fit onto the vertical post, shaping a figure-four.

Finally, carefully balance the flat rock or heavy object on top of the figure-four structure, making sure it's directly over the bait stick.

When an animal takes the bait, it'll knock over the horizontal post, followed by the diagonal and vertical posts, causing the rock to fall and trap the animal.

To make sure the trap works smoothly, ensure the sticks are strong and the notches fit snugly, preventing it from triggering too early.

Deadfall Traps - SilverAnt Outdoors

Pitfall Traps

For larger animals, pitfall traps are a simpler option, requiring more physical effort than precision.

Start by digging a hole in the ground with a shovel. Make sure the hole is at least twice the length of the animal you're trying to trap.

Cover it with materials like branches, leaves, or grass that give way under the animal's weight.

Then, bury some sharp sticks or bamboo with the pointed ends facing up inside the hole.

Finally, place bait on top of the cover to lure the animal in.

But keep in mind, that pitfall traps can be dangerous for both animals and humans. Be sure to set up visible markers to warn people.

In some places, like Northeast China, hundreds of people have fallen into pitfall traps meant for bears. It's a serious matter.

And don't forget to regularly check the trap to make sure any captured animals don't suffer unnecessarily.

Pitfall Traps - SilverAnt Outdoors

Fish Traps

If you're exploring areas with rivers or lakes, it's a great opportunity to enjoy some freshly fried or roasted fish for a meal.

To catch fish, you can make a simple basket fish trap using natural materials like flexible branches, vines, and cordage.

To set it up, first, create a cylindrical frame from the branches. Use the square lash knot, as explained in the Knots 101 blog piece, to tie the branches securely.

After that, wrap the vines around the frame, leaving a tiny opening at one end.

Ensure the entrance is large for fish to swim through, but keep the exit small to stop them from getting out.

Place the trap in a flowing stream where there's plenty of fish activity, with the entrance facing upstream.

Finally, weigh down the trap with stones to keep it submerged and in place.

Now, all you gotta do is wait patiently and check back in a few hours to see if you've struck gold.

And trust me, cooking those fish in your own frying pan is way tastier than any restaurant meal.

That's why I still remember the amazing flavor of the snow trout I fried up during my long Himalayan hike.


Fish Traps - SilverAnt Outdoors


Bird Traps

Lastly, if there are no land animals or fish around, you will need to trap birds for food.

This can be challenging because it requires precise construction and an understanding of bird behavior.

One simple trap is the basket trap, which I mentioned earlier.

To put it up, tie a string to a stick and use the stick to prop up the basket or pot.

If your pot is lightweight, like mine, you can tape some wood to the bottom to make it heavy enough.

Then place bait under the basket, hold the other end of the string, and hide nearby.

When a bird goes under the basket to eat the bait, pull the string to knock the stick away, causing the basket to trap the bird inside.

For the trap to work well, it needs to be sturdy even in light wind.

You also need to know what the birds like to eat and when they look for food.

For example, in Hong Kong, pigeons are common, and they like grains. The best time to catch them is early morning or at sunset.

When birds start eating the bait, they are very cautious and aware of their surroundings. Wait until they lower their guard before pulling the string.

Moreover, you need to hide well, so mastering the art of stealth is essential.

Bird Traps - SilverAnt Outdoors


To wrap up, learning how to make traps is essential for survival on bushcraft adventures.

But before setting any traps, make sure to check local laws to see if they're allowed. If it is, choose the right location and maintain your traps regularly.

For small animals like rabbits or squirrels, snare traps work well. For medium-sized animals like foxes or minks, deadfall traps are effective.

If you're aiming to trap larger animals like deer or bears, pitfall traps are necessary, but be cautious to prevent accidental falls.

For fish and birds, basket traps can provide fresh, protein-rich meat.

Regardless of what you catch, always respect the animals and minimize their suffering.

Once you've made a catch, set up a fire and cook them. Whether you're using trusty titanium cookware or primitive cooking methods, a good meal is on the way.

What traps do you use to get food? Have you invented any new traps? Feel free to leave a comment and share your methods with others.

To your next adventure


Older post Newer post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published