The presence of human odour will adversely influence your trapping success therefore it is essential to minimise it around your trap and set. As human beings, most of us never fully appreciate the powerful sense of smell that wild animals have so be aware of this when setting your Fenn Mark4 or Mark6 traps. Wild animals survive by their ability to find a food source by smell. They also survive because they can detect the presence of higher level predators through their amazing ability to smell danger. It is a deep seated sense that is inherent in all wild species. Because man is the apex predator, virtually all wild animals live in fear of the human odour. Some vermin like rats have come to live in close proximity to humans and fear the smell. Being neophobic they have come to be very wary of new objects that suddenly appear in their environment especially those that have a human odour about them. This suspicion is heightened further if the object also has the smell of food about it. Urban foxes and rats are examples which exhibit this characteristic. So it is imperative therefore to minimise the presence of human scent anywhere near your traps and sets. Reducing human scent in the proximity of a trap has two key elements reduction and disguise. There are several ways to do this for example those detailed on my trap preparation page. I recommend users leave their Fenn traps outside for several days because that will reduce residual human smell. You could also bury your Fenns in damp soil for a 1 or 2 days. The added benefit is that the trap chassis acquires a slight patina of rust. This takes the shine off the metal and hence rats are less wary.
Human odour reduction:
The obvious one is to wear gloves however it pays to cover up well. For example a huge amount of odour is deposited on the trail because if falls down our sleeves and trouser legs. Hence I wear gauntlet gloves with an elastic cuff that overlaps my jacket. I also wear wellington boots with my trouser legs tucked inside in addition to headgear that covers all my hair. It helps also to superimpose another natural smell on your clothes. I keep a jacket, pair of trousers and wellingtons out in the cow shed when I am not using them. These items never come into the house. In this case keep your clothes in your garden shed but away from any chemicals. If the trap is to be set in the back garden, then cow shed odour is inappropriate as cows don’t go in your garden. After you have put them on, find a plant in the garden that has a strong smell and rub a bit of that plant over your boots and trouser legs.
Weather and scent:
If rain is expected later in the day it is useful to go out before the rain and set your Fenn traps. The rain will minimise your scent trail. On top of this please download and read the general instructions.
Human odour minimalisation
This is particularly important when trapping animals for their fur. Here is an excerpt from an old American magazine… The thinking about scent when trapping has changed drastically in modern times. From head to toe, all clothing worn had to be cleaned and scent free, and could not be used outside the trapline, lest it pick up foreign odor. Traps had to be properly boiled to remove scent, and all equipment treated similarly. The trapper knelt on a cloth pad to keep from spreading scent on the ground, and a minimum amount of time was spent at the set to prevent leaving scent. Today, trappers are still somewhat divided on the importance of scent control, but far more trappers place minimal emphasis on its importance. In fact, there are many successful modern trappers who set traps right out of the box, bare handed, with leather boots kneeling in the dirt. And they catch lots of critters, including foxes and coyotes. What’s up with that? Was scent control never as important as we once thought, or has something changed since the early days of trapping? A few possible explanations for the declining importance of scent control come to mind. It’s clear that during the most of the era when the old trapping methods were taught, there were far more trappers out on the land, and many more furbearers experienced being pursued by trappers and hunters. They associated human scent with danger above all else, and the smart ones (most of the dumb ones were culled from the population) learned to avoid humans, and passed that knowledge on to their offspring. Smarter critters meant that scent control was more important. Nowadays, there are far fewer trappers around, furbearer populations are very high, and human population densities are higher. So, furbearers are used to seeing humans, but don’t associate them with danger quite so much. There’s no need to be smart, so both the dumb and smart survive, and overall the species (made up of more, dumber animals) is easier to catch, negating the importance of scent control. It’s just a theory, but it could explain a lot about modern day trapping. .
Human scent – yes , we all smell ( to wild animals)
The author of the above went on to relate his experience
I can well remember the incident which was my first cause for this belief. On a lake near my home there is an island with an area of possibly an acre. One day, as I was passing by on the ice, I noticed that foxes were doing a considerable amount of traveling on the lake. On the back side of the island, close to shore, there was a trail where foxes had passed several times. There were several inches of snow on the ice and the tracks showed up plainly. The next day I returned and had with me in a new clean paper bag a clean trap free from any human or suspicious scent. I approached the island from the opposite side from which I wished to make the set. Part way across the island and from the top of a rock, I located a likely looking spot for the set. I then made my way carefully out to the shoreline. Along the shore there was a fringe of what I call pucker brush bushes about a foot and a half high.
With the trap placer (which was also free from scent) I reached over the bushes and made a very good blind a set in the trail, using no bait or scent. My tracks could not be seen from the fox trail in which I had set the trap, and I was sure that there was no scent about the set to arouse the suspicion of any fox.
To improve matters, there came that date a flurry of snow probably not more than ¼ inch, but sufficient to cover any slight disturbance I might have left. Possibly you can imagine my amazement the next morning when I arrived at the set and saw where a fox had come trotting down the lake and into the trail, and as he was about to step where the trap was, had turned and leaped away from the shore and ran for dear life out across the lake as though the devil was after him. I stood there dumbfounded as I looked at those tracks. I could not figure it out for a while. In fact, as I remember it now, it was not until a few days later while I was taking the set up that the answer came to me. I had gotten into the same position I had taken when the set was made in my attempt to fathom the cause of the fox’s flight when I noticed my face was very close to the bushes. I had taken considerable time to make the set and I could see now that I must have smeared those bushes well with my tobacco-laden breath!
We all will quite readily agree that a fox can detect human odor where the hands come in contact with any object, but just how much odor can you to detect on the dry clean hands of any trapper? Not much, but take a whiff of his breath, if you are not a tobacco user and he is, and you will smell tobacco plenty loud. Even if not tobacco, there are likely to be other odors, and in rare cases those odors will compete favorably with that of the most stinking fox bait. The human breath is laden with moisture. For proof of this, step up to the mirror and take a deep breath and exhale it on the glass. You’ll quickly understand how all of the odors in the breath can adhere to any object that it comes in contact with.