Every hunter hates predators on his property. Not that we don’t value these species. I enjoy watching them in the woods but their numbers need to be kept in check in order for other species like whitetails and turkeys to prosper on a piece of property.
Trail camera documentation has proven that a single coyote who needs to feed her pups can kill a couple dozen or more fawns in the spring. As a result, hunting and trapping predators every year is a must in order to keep predator numbers down. Dr. Grant Woods from GrowingDeer TV has spent his entire adult life studying whitetails and knows a few things about managing them. According to Woods, fawn recruitment can be affected by several factors. “Everybody loves to hate the coyote,” says Woods. “The truth is a newborn fawn is an easy meal for many predators, including raccoon and bobcat. A big bore coon will kill a newborn fawn and everybody thinks of a bobcat as a cuddly little critter but they can kill several deer and turkeys.”
One mistake many land managers make is trapping aggressively one fall or winter and taking the next winter off, thinking all is well in the woods because they killed a few animals the year before. “If you kill every coyote in a certain area, there is a good chance others will move in the next year. Trapping is something that must be done every year to keep predator populations in check. One way many hunters reduce coyote numbers is by predator hunting. According to Woods, this may be fun but often doesn’t have much impact on overall predator numbers. “For every coyote a person kills, there are often others that are educated in the process. In many cases coyotes come in to a call and are spooked before they ever get shot. If a hunter wants to kill many coyotes, the best thing to do is trap. A good trapper can take out many coyotes in a short period of time and really have a positive impact on fawn numbers quickly,” Woods added.
When trapping coyotes, Woods believes the best time to trap is in the winter. “If you take out many coyotes before spring, there isn’t enough time between the time the coyotes were removed and when fawn are born for new coyotes to move in. As a result, you can quickly increase the number of fawns that survive through the spring and summer by killing several coyotes before spring fawning season rolls around,” Woods noted.
As far as trapping methods go, Woods believes the best trap is a snare but snaring isn’t legal everywhere. “Snaring is a great way to eliminate coyotes quickly without spending much money or educating many coyotes. The problem is snaring isn’t legal in every state, so land owners need to check their state regulations before setting snares. One of my favorite methods of trapping is just using foothold traps. Even these traps will not always outsmart a wise old coyote but a good trapper who takes his time setting traps and makes sure the area is scent free will catch a fair number of coyotes,” Woods stated.
Another predator we should focus on are raccoons. These cute little guys might look harmless but they really can take a toll on upland birds and even on fawns. “The nice thing about coon trapping is coons
aren’t incredibly hard to trap. My favorite coon trap is either a live trap or a dog proof trap,” Woods said. For those of you who don’t know what a dog proof trap is, it is a hand trap that a coon reaches into to get a piece of food. When they reach into the cylinder shaped trap, the coon sets off a trigger and a stiff metal wire catches their hand so it can’t be removed. The trap is typically attached to a tree or to a metal stake. Coons love treats like marshmallows which is what many trappers use for bait.
One of my favorite coon traps is a double spring 220 conibear in a box with bait in the back of the box. These traps aren’t legal in all states for dry land use, but they quickly kill the coon so I don’t have to mess with shooting them when I check my trapline. Footholds are also a great trap to use on coons. If I was just starting to trap, the dog proof trap would be what I would start with. They are economical, easy to use, and they work great. Eliminating coons and opossums, for that matter, can greatly increase turkey poult recruitment.
Last but not least, trapping bobcats is a must if you live in an area where it is legal to trap them. “Research shows bobcats have a much greater impact on deer numbers than most people think. They kill a lot of fawns and even kill adult deer. They are more than just a furry animal,” Woods explained. Most hardcore trappers say trapping bobcats is fairly easy. They don’t have a superb sense of smell, they aren’t very intelligent and they are curious about everything. These traits make trapping them fairly easy even for a beginner. Most people who target bobcats use box sets or live traps.
Keep in mind in many areas of the country, only one or two bobcats can be taken per season per trapper. Eliminating a few is a step in the right direction.
To help wildlife, trapping is something all landowners and hunters should do regularly. If trapping season is only open a short period of time in your neck of the woods, trap hard during the season. If you can kill coyotes and other critters year round where you live, by all means trap year round. The deer, turkeys and other wildlife will benefit from your efforts.