In my long trapping career I have used probably hundreds of lures and baits. Some worked great, some worked ok, and some didn’t work at all. Then again some lures worked wonderfully for my partner and I could barely catch a cold with them. But, I had lures I would never be without and he wouldn’t even put in his bag.
The last fifteen years of canine trapping I have been paying closer attention to my lures and baits. I have always kept records of which lures were used at which sets and when. The same lures and baits still continue to produce year after year after year. All of these lures are made by well known lure makers, who strive for consistency in their products. The baits are 90% homemade and I make them the same every time (I go by “nose” to tell me when I got it right).
What I have come to realize is that canine lures basically come in three different categories only.
Obviously enough is made from food that canines would normally eat. Any bait could also be considered a food lure for my purposes. These lures are meant to appeal to the animals hunger and need for food.
Lures made form the target animal glands, be they anal, foot, ear glands etc. Matrix lures are also in this category, but normally contain more ingredients to appeal to the targets mating urges. Urine should also be included in with gland lures. Either way these lures appeal to the animals desire to mark or defend its territory or its desire to breed.
This is a broad term that covers the largest majority of lures. These lures are made up of exotic oils, powders and secretions that have been proven over time to be appealing to canines. Call lures would be under this category as they do not fit into the other 2 categories.
Now I know you’re saying this is all well and good but what is the point you’re trying to make here Mike? Well after years of experience I think if you use the right lure in the right time of year you can increase your catch of canines. Let me explain by stating there are basically 3 sub season in a trapping season. Early Season (Late October to Late November), Mid Season (December to January), and Late Season (January to February). I have after studying my notes and talking to my old partner, my Father, and Pop come up with my hypothesis of what lures work best and when in OUR experience.
· Early Season (October to Late November)
This is the time of easy trapping, soft ground, no freezing (usually), and lots of young of the year pups just waiting for you to catch them.
From what I have seen baits and food type lures do not seem to work very well early in the season as food it still plentiful and easy to obtain for the animals. Now very mild bait, like fresh mice or very mildly tainted meat bait will work to a degree. (One of my best early season baits was ground woodchuck, lightly tainted with beaver castor and muskrat musk.)
I don’t like to use too much urine or gland lures early in the season, as young of the year that are shuffling or out roving away from Mom and Dad may be leery of intruding into another canine’s territory and getting their butt kicked by the resident owner. (This is not to say gland lures will not catch canines in early season, but you will notice most will be older animals and not young of the year pups.
My favorite lures to use early in the season are curiosity lures. The reason being I want to appeal to any passing canine, be they old or young, hungry or full. I like a nice complex smelling curiosity lure. I like to be able to smell four to six ingredients myself, when I sniff the bottle (oh right like you never do it). Some will smell sweet, others sour, but the vast majority seen to have a deep penetrating musky smell to them. Some of the call lures advertise that they appeal to all 3 desires of the canine Food, Gland and Curiosity. Well if you got all three I say it is a curiosity lure first. As stated above curiosity lures have multiple ingredients, so they appeal to a broad spectrum of animal senses and desires.
My sets at this time of year are mainly very simple flat sets, with just a small stake hole, and lure applied to the face of my backing and down the hole as well. I do stick in a few post sets (with urine and gland lures) along with my flat sets at trail and field intersections to nab the big old canines that are out patrolling their turf.
· Mid Season (December to January)
Ok the ground is getting harder, and the young of the year are gone. You have the seasoned veterans and the drifters on your line now. If you’re big time trapper you pull stakes and move on to virgin territory and leave what is left for seed. If however you trap the same area all season (like most of us), it is time to start changing things up.
Food is getting scarcer and harder to find, all of the young rabbits and mice have been thinned out as well, and the ones that are left know how to avoid being eaten.. Mild bait is best early, but as the end of December approaches and the cold wind howls bait with a bit o’ skunk in it will shine!
Gland lures and urine start to really shine at this time of year as well. As mating season is fast approaching, the male canines want to stake out their territory and the females are out looking for a male with good territory. The desire to find and/or protect their area makes them susceptible to gland lures at this time of year.
Curiosity lures still work for all the reasons stated above, and can be used with all three type of lure, and produce very good results!
This is when I make “Pop Style” dirt holes, big huge dirt holes with a big pattern for plenty of eye appeal. I put a nice piece of bait in the bottom of the hole and cover it (to make the animal work for it, and then I put some lure on the backing and also in the hole. I find food lure works best in small stake holes, so the animals thinks there is “food” in the hole, and really works to get it out. Flat sets still produce well, but post sets and gland lured flats set really seem to pick up the big old males at this time of year.
· Late Season (January to February)
Ok the ground is hard as flint, all of the easy canines are caught or dead by now, so you have your work cut out for you. Most northern states have snow cover on the ground lending its own difficulty to the problem of catching any numbers of animals at this time of year.
Food is real scarce about now, so the animals respond well to bait and food lures (only problem is most food lures are mild in odor). That skunky type bait or lure will greatly improve your chances about now.
Gland lures are still working well, but if you can find a good Matrix (Breeding) lure from a reputable maker it will make a difference. One season in late January my partner was catching two or three fox to my one. All season it has been about equal or a few times I was getting 2 to his one and now it was reversed. Our methods had not changed, nor had our set construction, so it had to be something else. I asked what he was using for lure, and got a surprise. He was using a Matrix lure from a very well known Western trapper and kicking my butt in catches. I tried the lure he was using but it didn’t produce as well for me; however another brand worked very well!
Curiosity lure lose a bit of punch at this time of year as the animals are mainly either hungry or looking for love. They still produce fairly well and shouldn’t be abandoned.
Set at this time of year are hard to make, and I hate trying to make a dirt hole set in concrete anyway. So this is the time of year I switch to flat sets and post type sets. My flat sets are mainly rocks, or pieces of wood, with a small hole punched underneath for my lure or a small piece of bait. Post sets I normally use a tuft of grass or a hunk of stick, apply some urine up top and gland lure near the base and call it good.
Ok quick review time fellas.
Early season is the time for curiosity lures mainly with a few gland lure sets throw in for the older animals. Flat sets are easy and fast to make when you need and want lots of set in the ground in a hurry. Food is abundant, so the animals are not usually hungry, so instead of taking the time to make one dirt hole it would be better spent making two flat sets.
Mid season is the time for more dirt holes along with food lures and bait. A few more gland type sets (posts etc.) are a good idea after the young pups are thinned a bit. Change up dirt holes with a curiosity lure and some bait now and then and throw in a few plain flat sets with curiosity just to keep the bases covered.
Late season is the time for dirt holes (if you can make them), baited flat sets, and post/gland type sets. This time a year most animals have only two things on their mind food and mating, so loud baits, gland lure and matrix lure should be used heavily. As I stated before food lures are generally mild, and not designed for late season use. Curiosity lure can and should still be used in order to keep an ace up your sleeve.
Mike Di Salvo