Trapping is one of the most important skills humanity has used to survive over the years.
One of the earliest and simplest was the snare, which was elementary enough to be engineered by unsophisticated hunters yet effective enough to still be in use today.
And today is the day that you’re going to learn how to make a snare trap.
But before we jump into the how and why, we need to go over the what, when, where.
It is good to be able to tie knots check out our post on that before going further: How to Tie a Versatile Bowline Knot like an Expert
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In its most rudimentary form, the trap consists of a noose tied with a running loop to permit it to move freely and an anchor, which serves to hold the trap in place once it’s set.
The crafty hunter affixes the noose to a stake, tree, rock, or another available anchor, then gets out of sight and waits for the dinner bell to ring.
Sooner or later, a curious animal—typically a smaller one, like a rabbit or squirrel—comes sniffing around and traipses right into the noose. At this point, they become hopelessly entangled, leaving you to come back and finish the job.
If that sounds like a cinch (no pun intended), it’s because it is.
Snare traps are so delightfully uncomplicated that it’s possible to build one using only a knife, a few sticks, and a length of wire, rope, string, paracord, or other flexible material. Knowing where to put it, however, is another story.
Location, Location, Location
Hunting is a lot like real estate. Success is all about location.
When installed in areas that are rife with animal activity, a snare can blend in with its surrounding environs and snag a four-legged passerby before its lightning-quick reflexes send it scampering off to shelter.
When installed in areas where there’s not much going on, you’re guaranteed to go hungry.
With your survival at stake, you don’t have the luxury of just dropping a snare anywhere and hope that something will eventually come along and stumble into it. You need to be proactive, strategic, and cunning enough to take your prey on its own turf.
With that in mind, your first step when setting a snare trap should always be to choose the right spot.
Survey the area closely for signs of life. Nests, hidey holes, droppings, and faint footpaths or “runs” can all be indications that prey is close by. If you can actually put eyes on your target, all the better.
When Snare Traps Are Useful
Snare traps have one and only one application: hunting.
They’ll therefore be a boon anytime you find yourself in the wilderness with a rumbling stomach and without the benefit of more advanced tools and equipment.
As mentioned, the trap’s simplistic, unassuming design is most suitable for ensnaring small foragers of field and forest—squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, hares, birds, and the like.
But one of the niftiest things about snare traps is that they can easily be modified to catch larger prey, such as foxes, coyotes, and even deer, as you’ll come to learn.
How to Make a Snare Trap
The term “snare trap” refers to a category of trap rather than a single device. There are almost as many types of snare traps as there are critters to catch in them. We’ll be going over how to rig up three of the most fundamental.
Making a Basic Freestanding Snare
The freestanding snare trap works best for nabbing small ground game as they comb the forest floor for food.
- Start with roughly 2’ of metal wire. Something in the 22- to 26-gauge range will offer an ideal rigidity, flexibility, and strength balance.
- Take the final inch of one end of the wire and bend it back on itself to create a small fixed loop. Twist the remaining wire around the shaft just beneath the loop to reinforce it.
- Guide the opposite end of the wire through the small loop you just made to produce a second, larger running loop that’s approximately one-and-a-half times the diameter of the animal you’re hoping to catch. This loop is your snare.
- Wind the loose end of the wire around the base of a slender tree or similar anchor several times to ensure it’s secure.
- Position the snare perpendicular to the ground near the center of a game trail and wait.
That’s all there is to it. If desired, you can camouflage your snare trap using twigs, leaves, or loose soil or even leave a few appetizing pieces of bait for your prospective meal.
Another small game trap you can try is for Rabbits, we have a tutorial here: How To Make A Rabbit Trap
Making an Ojibwe Bird Snare
This clever contraption takes its name from the Ojibwe tribe of Native Americans (known colloquially as the “Chippewa”), who were master hunters and trappers. A well-made, well-placed Ojibwe bird snare will catch even the flightiest of creatures unawares.
- Find a big stick. It needs to be fairly stout, as it’s going to provide the post for your perch.
- Bore a hole through the middle of the stick several inches from the upper end. The tip of a knife blade or pocket auger will do the trick, though it will be slow going no matter what you use.
- Hammer your post stake into the ground at your trap site.
- Fashion a 2-3” noose at one end of a 3’ length of cord, twine, or string. You want your snare to be practically invisible, so the thinner the material, the better.
- Tie a series of overhand knots into the line just below the noose. Since this knot cluster will act as a stopper system, it must not fit through the bored hole.
- Thread the loose end of the line through the bore hole. Then, tie it around a small stone or chunk of wood so that your makeshift counterweight dangles about halfway between the ground and the top of the post stake.
- Find a small, straight stick to serve as a perch. Wedge one end into the bore hole on the same side as the noose. This is the most crucial part of the whole procedure—the perch stick should be thick enough to stay put on its own yet still slender enough to slip out with the slightest pressure.
- Stretch out your noose and drape it symmetrically over the perch stick so that it covers as much surface area as possible.
- Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Here’s how it works: a passing bird sees the perch and thinks it would be a good place to alight for a while. As it touches down on the snare trap, its weight causes the smaller stick to slip out of the bore hole, freeing the counterweight and yanking the noose tight.
Making a Deer Snare
Deer snares take the core mechanisms of the bird snare and upscale them so that they’re big enough for Bambi. You’re going to need some strong cord, an immovable anchor, and a little bit of knot-tying skill for this one.
- Pick out a sturdy sapling or healthy, low-hanging branch somewhere in your trap site. Ideally, this anchor point should be within arm’s reach overhead.
- Tie one end of a length of heavy-duty paracord to the sapling or branch using a secure knot, such as a bowline. The exact amount of cordage you’ll need will depend on the distance between your two anchor points.
- If possible, find a horizontal limb situated at around deer head height to function as a crossbar—your second anchor point. You also have the option of custom-cutting a crossbar and using your paracord to fasten it wherever you need it.
- Find a short, fat stick and use your knife to carve an angled notch 1½-2” from one end. The notch needs to be at least ½” in depth. This stick will be the trigger that springs the trap.
- Cut a wide groove into the circumference of the stick about 1” from the opposite end.
- Pull the sapling or branch down towards your crossbar until it no longer budges. Mark or make a mental note of where the cord meets the crossbar.
- Grab the loose end of the cord at the point mentioned above and wrap it tightly around the end of the stick opposite the notch two or three times. The groove you just cut will help hold it in place.
- With the remaining paracord, tie a noose big enough for a full-grown deer. You’re looking at a diameter of 2-3’ here.
- Pull your top anchor down again and hook the notch on your trigger stick onto the crossbar. You may need to cut a second notch into the crossbar to get it to seat properly.
If a roaming deer happens to poke its head through the noose, it will dislodge the trigger stick, which will, in turn, release the tension on the top anchor and close the noose. From there, all you’ll have to worry about is dispatching the deer quickly and humanely.
There you have it, fellow preppers—three separate snare-style traps that will keep your belly full and your energy up in the bush.
By making use of these time-tested designs, you stand to gain not only sustenance but the satisfaction that comes with knowing that you scored it with your own two hands, just like great-great-great-great-great grandad used to do.