Getting Traps Ready For The Season by Mike DiSalvo
OK, if you really want to learn to modify your traps correctly, go buy a book. I highly recommend Charlie Dobbins book “Modifying Traps for Greater Profit”. If you know a little about it and just want to do some minor modifications, come with me.
Here are a few things you’ll need to modify traps:
Both flat and Phillips head screwdrivers
8″ mill file
We’ll cover fox/coyote traps first:
If you just bought the traps, set them and check the jaws for rough sharp edges. If you find any such edges use an 8″ file to smooth them out.
Next check the pan for wobble. If it does wobble side to side, undo the bolt and nut holding the pan onto the frame. Leave the pan in place, and take a #10 washer (for bigger traps like #3’s and 4’s) you may need 2, and put it between the side of the pan and the post. This can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. Once in place, reinsert the bolt and washer, and tighten to desired pan tension. I am not going to get into tension, as everyone has a tension they feel is right. I like my pan to hold until the fox puts his weight on it. I would say about 2 lbs. of tension for red fox, half of that for gray fox, and 3 lbs. or so for coyote.
The next step is to shorten and swivel the chain. Take your bolt cutters and cut off all but the link of chain connected to the trap-frame by the swivel on the frame. Next take a double swivel and put the pre-bent rivets in it and close one end of it over the link of chain you have left on the trap. Then take one link of chain and put it in the other bent rivet. I recommend the use of channel locks to close the rivets, or an s-hook tool. Now you need to attach a lap-link or a swivel with only one rivet in it. If using the swivel in such a way this trap can also be used for a coon drowner. If using a lap link, close the link as tight as you can with the vise grips, then place the link, open end down, in a vise. Close the vise as tight as possible, then insert the re-rod stake through the link, and give it a good 1/4 twist, doing this completely closes the link off.
At this point you’re almost done. Now you need to square off the pan notch and trap dog (trigger). Take your file and square the end of the dog, also file off any thing sticking up off the dog. Next you need to square the pan itself. Place your file in the notch, and give it a few strokes, then hold it up to a light to determine if it’s squared. If not file a bit more and look again. This seems like a lot of work, but it makes the trap faster and smoother. Try setting an unmodified trap and then modify one and spring them both. Trust me; the modified one is faster and smoother.
Now on to water traps:
If you’ve just bought them, set them and check the jaws for rough sharp edges. If you find any such edges use an 8″ file to smooth them out. Note: Older traps for water animals don’t have a way to adjust the pan, so for those that do, follow above instructions.
You need to add swivels to your chains and shorten them if you want to use them for drowners. Take your bolt cutters and cut off all but the link of chain connected to the trap-frame by the swivel on the frame. Next take a double swivel and put the pre-bent rivets in it and close one end of it over the link of chain you have left on the trap. Take the rest of the chain you cut off and attach it to the other pre-bent rivet. If you want a drowner trap, attach just one link to the pre-bent rivet, then using a double swivel, place just one rivet in it and close this over the end of the link of chain.
Dying and Waxing Traps:
Now all you need to do is boil and wax the traps and get going. (If the traps are new and greasy, run them through a dishwasher, or boil them in some lye water.)
For water traps you can use speed dip. I recommend Blackie’s Blend dips, they seem to wear forever and come in black, brown and white.
For land traps I prefer to do the old fashioned dye and wax. I use a 55-gallon drum cut down to about ¾ its normal height, heated with a turkey fryer, but you can use a large soup pot on a Coleman stove if need be. I further recommend using one of the commercial log wood dye powders. They are brown, but when added to water, turn black as night. Place the dye in the water and stir until dissolved, then place your traps in the water. Don’t remove them until they have boiled for at least 2 hours (new traps will not be black but a very dull gray). Note: Some people are afraid of the boiling weakening the springs, I say boiling water is only 212 degrees, and if that hurts the springs they probably need to be replaced. Remove and hang to dry, I recommend building a wooden rack with nails on it to hang traps.
Now you’ll need to wax the traps. This does two things, it speeds up the trap, and it also helps to prevent the animals from detecting the trap. Using a large pot heat the wax till it almost smokes.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO USE EXTREME CAUTION, AS WAX CAN BURST INTO FLAMES AND EVEN EXPLODE IF YOU PUT A WET TRAP INTO IT.
Keep a flat piece of plywood close to the pot to smother the flames if it does catch fire. Once it almost smokes place a DRY trap into the wax until completely submerged. Leave the trap in till the wax stops boiling and making noise. Remove the trap and place on wooden rack.
Once the wax dries, you’re ready to go get ’em.