I like simple.
When dog-proof traps for raccoons hit the market not too many years ago, I remember thinking I was going to need a few dozen of those things in my trapping bag. I’ve played with these traps for a few years now, and for me, they are by far the most effective way to trap raccoons on a piece of hunting property. I use a few cage traps and a bunch of leg holds, but these dog-proofs (DPs) outshine all other trapping methods put together by a mile.
The metal trap is cylinder in shape, hollow inside and is designed so that your bait of choice goes inside the tube. The raccoon meanders along, sticks its hand inside to get the bait, hits a trigger and is caught. As an added bonus, these traps are equally effective for opossums, another critter that has a taste for eggs.
For me, trapping is about trapping. I enjoy the sport. However, there can certainly be added bonuses to a trapping program. More specifically, when targeting raccoons right before they have a chance to eat a turkey egg—or 12—seems like a good thing.
However, as far as I know, and I asked WRD about this a few weeks ago, no one has ever put together a study that scientifically proves, or disproves, that simply eliminating raccoons will grow more turkeys. Growing more turkeys comes down to a number of factors, of importance is right habitat. However, when landowners begin to insert additional ingredients, like removing predators, it makes for a better recipe to grow turkeys.
Again, I’m simple and tend to operate under redneck theology that if I can catch a few raccoons—or a few dozen—right before our turkey hens lay those golden eggs, it might mean success or failure for a whole nest, and it may just mean the difference in some kid killing a longbeard in a couple of years.
Enter The DPs—Make Your Purchase
To get started, you’ll need some traps and a setting tool. DPs run in the neighborhood of $13 to $15 a piece. If you can swing it, get a dozen. It’s nothing to set a dozen DPs on a hunting club in a morning.
I like to purchase supplies from Brian at Southern Snares & Supply out of Hortense. I first met Brian at the GTA Convention, and I had lots of questions that he was willing to answer. Right now Brian is offering the Duke Dog Proof Trap for $13.75 a piece. There are price breaks with larger quantities. A half-dozen go for $76.95 and a full dozen totals $148.95. Online orders can be made at www.southernsnares.com.
I’ve also purchased supplies from F&T Fur Harvester’s Trading Post in Michigan. These guys are great to work with, too, and have provided me excellent customer service over the years. They are at www.fntpost.com.
You’ll need to figure out how you want to anchor your DPs so that a raccoon won’t take it home with him. I have hammered rebar through a DP’s swivel and into the ground, but I’ve lost a few traps when a strong-pulling raccoon pulled up the whole shebang. Won’t happen again…
Now I use coated steel cable rated at 480 pounds, the same cable I use for shark fishing. If a shark hasn’t bitten through it, I’m good. I’ve caught hundreds of coons and have never had one chew through it or break it. This will require you to get some crimps and a crimping tool.
Some guys use chains, which work, but they are much heavier and bulkier to carry around in the woods.
The No. 1 bait to catch raccoons is… whatever works best for you! I don’t have a magic bait, but I will tell you what works for me: wet, canned cat food. I like the meaty morsels versus the mushed-up stuff. Seems like a raccoon has to dig in the trap a little more and a little longer to get those strands of meat.
Trappers use dry cat food, marshmallows, commercial baits, corn, etc. Play with a little bit of everything until you find what works for you. You can also mix it up on your trap line. However, 95% of the time I’m using cat food. It’s simply my confidence bait.
Active corn feeders where raccoons are on camera are a slam dunk—usually. Recently I trapped a friend’s hunting club, and he had five raccoons hanging off his feeder.
I told him I’d be out of there in four nights. A few days later, I hadn’t caught a raccoon over his feeder, and there was one night he had them on camera with my active DPs.
I switched to corn and marshmallows, let the corn run out and stayed after it. Not one single raccoon. Did they only have a taste for corn on the dirt? Were they trap shy from another member trapping a little bit? I have no idea, but it wasn’t working. Plan B.
Knowing there were raccoons on the club, I went into deer-hunting mode one afternoon. I loaded my backpack with traps, bait and a GPS and covered some ground in a creek bottom. What I found was raccoon tracks in certain areas. After moving into these new spots, I caught several raccoons over the next few days. Scouting paid off.
I prefer to run my trap into the ground at an angle versus straight down into the dirt. I think this better protects the bait from rainy nights. I’ll also cover my steel cable with limbs and leaves to make sure it’s close to the dirt. It took me some years to learn this trick, but after discovering where raccoons or deer had walked between my trap and the tree and snagged the cable, pulling the trap from the ground, I started covering it up. Now it’s rare for me to return the next morning and find an unsprung trap laying flat on the ground.
How Long To Trap?
If I’m trapping coyotes, I like to run my traps for 14 days. This gives the dogs time to come through, my scent to get out of the area, and I think that bait in the hole just gets sweeter with time.
However, with raccoons, I have a different mindset. If you have the want-to and desire, I say trap when you can. If that’s two nights while you’re at the hunting club working on food plots or trimming roads, then go for it. However, remember you must check your traps every day.
Even with no season on raccoons and opossums, trappers must have what WRD calls a “Resident Commercial Trapping” license. The cost is $45. However, please note that these permits are not available online and also expire on March 31 of each year. So you’ll need to purchase one now and trap hard for the month of March to get your money’s worth, and then be prepared to purchase another one on April 1 if you want to continue trapping.
To get the paperwork for your Resident Commercial Trapping license, go to gadnrle.org/special-permits and scroll down to the link that says, “Nuisance Control RENEWAL Application & Commercial Trapping Application.” This will bring up a PDF document. Scroll down until you see the paperwork for “Application For Commercial License.”
Print, fill out and mail your two-page application to: LBRU-Commercial Licenses, 2065 US Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025. Or do like I do, and if you’re somewhat local, just go to the WRD Special Permits office in Social Circle and do it in-person.
DPs & More Gobbling
Back to the bigger picture of growing more turkeys. Will throwing out some DPs on your hunting tract help your chances at more longbeards? Absolutely! Is it a one step fix-all? I don’t think so. In other words, don’t expect to catch a few raccoons and opossums and then think you will for sure hear twice the gobbling next year. I really do believe growing turkeys is a combination of things, like great habitat, burning, trapping and so on. However, my limited brain says that trapping is a pretty high-ranking, important piece to that puzzle.
“In addition to being a fun and satisfying outdoor activity, trapping is an incredibly valuable wildlife management tool,” said Tina Johannsen WRD’s assistant chief of Game Management. “Allowing year-round harvest of raccoons and opossums gives private land managers the fullest range of options for managing these species. A lot of folks have done their homework, so they know which potential nest predators they need to remove and when is the best time to do so on their property.”
So, trap to maximize your chances to grow turkeys. Don’t do it, and you’re going to hit a low ceiling on how much gobbling you’ll hear in the coming years. In fact, I’ve got friends with great habitat, limited turkey harvest but are just now trapping. I am expecting results in the coming years from putting the missing piece of the puzzle in place.
I’m not a biologist, just a simple redneck theologian who loves to trap and hear turkeys gobble. Sure am glad those DPs are simple.