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Dirt Hole Set - Ticket to Canine Success

Written by John Chagnon 20 years ago is probably the most read article in the trapping industry.  Many trapping websites and trapping magazines have featured Mr. Chagnon's opinions on how to trap.

John's 2011 Catch

Dirt Hole Set - Ticket to Canine Success
By John Chagnon,

The dirt hole set has probably caught more fox and coyote than all other sets combined. A properly made dirt hole set can catch every canine that passes, but the secret is learning how to make a good one.

The first step is to put your set location in an area inhabited by fox or coyote. In wooded areas, look for your set location near trails that cross. In farm country, locate where fence rows meet, near rock piles and old farms. Anywhere mice and other rodents are abundant or an open area is nearby will work also. The set location should be in an area that's open at least 20 or 30 yards in all directions and relatively flat. Gray fox don't mind sets in thickets, but red fox and coyote are too suspicious if set is not in the open.

Clean equipment is a necessity. At a very minimum, clean traps and equipment free of factory oil, rust and dirt. Preferably, dye and wax your traps and understand it's best to get your traps out before the deep freezes and heavy snows.

Have two pairs of gloves with you in case one gets contaminated. Wear rubber boots as they do not hold odors and can be rinsed off. Keep bait and lures away from traps and tools, either in a coat pocket or strapped to your packbasket.

The following dirt hole set described is targeted for red fox, but it can and will catch raccoon, gray fox, coyote, bobcat, etc. If coyote are your target use larger traps with coyote scent. Place the trap several inches from the dirt hole. Under normal conditions the 1-1/2 Coilspring trap works fine; however, in Michigan during fox season, we have plenty of rain, freezing weather and snow, so I use a lot of 1-3/4 and 2 coilspring traps. The larger traps have the strength needed to push through ground under adverse conditions.

Set your trap before moving to the set location and take large steps so the area is disturbed as little as possible. Place a 3' x 3' piece of canvas or tarp to one side and your packbasket on the other. Using your trowel, cut out your trap bed approximately 1" larger than your trap. Place the sod and dirt removed on the canvas. Dig the trap bed approximately 4 or 5 inches deep. Dig a hole 1" in front of the trap bed, 3 to 6 inches in diameter approximately 8 to 10 inches deep at a 45 degree angle. I vary the size of the dirt hole I make from a mouse size to gopher sized hole.

Decide if you want to use a stake or drag to fasten the trap. For stakes use re-rod between 15 and 24 inches depending on the soil with a short 6" chain. If you use a drag make sure to have 4 to 6 feet of chain, plus dig your trap bed deeper to accommodate the drag in the bed. Sift 1" of dirt over the stake or drag. Push the trap firmly into the sifted dirt and pack sifted dirt all around the jaws and springs. Having the trap firmly bedded is one of the most important steps to a good dirt hole set. It will be less likely to tip or spring when the animal steps on the outer area of the trap bed. The trap should spring only when the fox steps on the trap pan.

Place a trap cover over the trap and sift 1/2" of dirt over the entire trap and trap bed area. Be careful to make sure there are no small rocks or other debris that could get stuck in the trap jaws when the trap springs. The covering over your trap should be flush to slightly elevated compared to the surrounding ground.

The final step is placing the lure, bait and urine. I perform this step last so as not to get any odors on the trap or bedding material which would cause the canine to dig and scratch at trap resulting in a sprung and empty trap.

A good gland lure is a must. Put several drops on some fur and deposit in the bottom of the hole. Place a natural backing about 4 to 6 inches high behind the dirt hole and spray urine over backing. Use anything from the natural surroundings, such as a piece of wood or rock. If you use bait try to use something slightly tainted, as rotten bait seems to attract more possum and skunks.

Your set is ready and only needs to have lure added weekly or after rains. Try making several sets in one location, especially if a lot of sign is present. When you catch a canine, be sure to remake the set even if the area is all torn up. Just use a different clean trap and bedding material. As soon as the weather starts freezing, mix trap anti-freeze with your dirt or use dry dirt that you saved during the dry summer months.

The last several winters have been pretty mild, which has provided us with some excellent weather for canine trapping. Be patient if your line gets covered with snow, because having sets out during a thaw is one of the most productive times and could result in your best catch of the season.

By John S. Chagnon,

2011 Trapping Season Our Favorite Catches, Coyote, Fox, Otter ...

Dec 5, 2011 - 9 min - Uploaded by pcsoutdoors John Chagnon Favorite Catches 2011

Video with John Chagnon Showing you how to make a dirt hole set.


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