Coyote Trapping- The Ultimate Set

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Video how to set traps for coyotes

For those of you that don’t know what a dirthole set is, its definitely the first set you should learn how to make. First, in a location that has sign, you want to locate a good backing, i.e. something that will hopefully prevent a curious animal from working the set from behind and avoiding your trap. Once you find your backing you want to dig a hole 2-3 inches in diameter, around 12 inches deep, at a 20-25 degree angle. You want your hole to be deep and steep so than an animal cannot easily look down the hole and see what is in it without getting near (hopefully in) your trap.

Next you need to dig your trap bed. I like my bed rather close to the hole, say 3-4 inches from the jaw to the edge of the hole. Different people have different ideas about trap placement relative to the dirthole, so theoretically since a fox’s feet are closer to its nose the trap would be closer to the hole when targeting fox and farther from the hole when targeting coyotes, who have a longer stride. That all sounds good in theory, and I’m sure there is some truth to it, but once you set a few traps you’ll hit your stride and establish your own process for setting a dirthole. No two people’s trap sets are alike so don’t get bogged down in the details.

Back on topic, I like to bed my traps where they are slightly lower than the surrounding ground, with the pan being the lowest part of the bed. Ideally this creates a nice spot for the coyote to put his foot, and to encourage his foot placement even more I will take a couple of dirt clods -NOT rocks!) and place where I know the levers are located. This will help direct his foot to that nice low place, right onto the pan.

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So now you’ve got your dirthole dug and your trap bedded. You’ve got fresh dirt exposed, and I think this is a huge plus. Some people may encourage blending the set in to make it look natural, but I want it to stand out to whatever animal passes by, so I like the dirt as an attention getter. Next you need to bait/lure the set. With a dirthole I like to use bait down the hole, you don’t need much, and use a dab of lure on the lip of the hole or low on the backing. Hopefully this combination of smells will encourage the coyote to stay at the set long enough to get caught.

And that’s all there is to the basic dirthole. That set will catch game just like that. If you wanted to add a little extra to it you could use some sheep’s wool down the hole as well. This will add an extra scent to the mix and make the smell in the hole even more mysterious as you can’t see past the wool. A handful of feathers on the set is a HUGE attention grabber. But beware that using feathers in some states is illegal. You can also use flagging tied above the set. This gets a little more into the realm of targeting bobcats, as they are visual hunters, but I have no doubt that a duck or dove wing fluttering in the wind, where legal, will grab any passing coyote’s attention.

That’s the basics of a dirthole. I am a big proponent of, if a location is good enough for one set its good enough for two. So keep that in mind. I usually don’t use two of the same set, I’ll mix it up and use a dirthole with a flat set of some kind. ​

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Regardless, your traps won’t catch anything if they are hanging up at the house, so get out there and catch some game.

​Good luck and Happy Trapping!

If you want to learn more about coyote trapping be sure to sign up below for our Coyote Trapping School e course, where you’ll get step by step instructions on how to catch coyotes.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>