The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game

James Walton
By James Walton January 27, 2020 12:07

The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game

Trapping is one of the most overlooked and underutilized skills in the prepping and survival world. Apart from being mostly overlooked its also rarely practiced because of its nature. In other words, few people build traps or own them, and even fewer use those skills on a regular basis to procure food and fur.

Storing food is a big deal in our house. I believe that we are going to face a rash of serious food scarcity all over the world that will likely lead to war in the nations that can muster it. The world is changing and how we grow food is changing, too! I also believe that we are behind the 8 ball when it comes to this issue.

I sleep well when the buckets are stacked high.

That said, sourcing fresh fish and meat are also things we do for fun and skills we practice for necessity. I have never run a legitimate trap line. However, DIY snares and simple traps are one of the best ways to consistently put food on a plate, outside of fishing, that exists.

Trapping is a solution for the masses because you can learn to build and set DIY snares much faster than you can learn to shoot well and stalk big game. Big game hunting is also hardly a guarantee and that is pre crisis. You won’t be the only guy out there with a rifle trying to bag food after a collapse or in a food scarcity scenario.

Related: 3 Non Lethal Booby Traps From An Army Vet

Simple Snare

While snares can be tied and created out of cordage, wire snares are more effective and easier to make. For this simple snare you are going to tie a slip knot into some cordage or wire. If you use cordage you are going to need to hold it open somehow because it will not hold its shape. People use sticks or a couple small strings for this.

The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game1

Set this trap at the entrance way of a den and as the animal rises out of its den it will be caught in the snare. The snare will tighten down and trap the animal.

If you cannot find a den you need only look for animal sign and create a run or path that the animal can follow through the snare. You could entice the animal with bait at the end of the run.

Twitch Up Snare

A simple snare is not a killing trap in all outcomes. The twitch up snare has a better chance of being a killing trap.

These are traps that have your dinner ready to process when you arrive. Instead of having to dispatch the game it will already be dead. There are big benefits to this.

You will use a simple snare design but add it to a different trigger system. This system uses the built up energy of a bent sapling to trap and kill game.

To build this trap you can carve a notch in a stick about 10 inches in length. You will carve the same notch in a smaller stick and tie strong cordage to the smaller stick. This cordage will attach to your bent sapling.

The two notches will fit together by turning one upside down and fitting it into the other. You might trip your notches a little to make the trigger fit together just right. Once complete you can drive the stick into the ground with flat side of the notch at the top end of your stick.The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game2

The smaller notched stick will be in reverse and tied to the sapling. The notches should only meet when you bend the sapling. At this point your trigger can be set. You can attach the same type of simple wire snare to the smaller stick, as well.

When an animal moves through the snare it will knock loose the two notch trigger and the built up energy from the bent sapling will rapidly tighten the snare and fling your prey. Many times, this will break the animals neck.

Related: 5 Traps to Catch Animals While You Sleep

Figure 4 Deadfall

The deadfall is built on a more complex trigger than the ones we have discussed so far. The figure 4 is exactly what the trigger will look like.

This is a killing trap. It kills by asphyxiation and the crushing weight of the rock that is rested on the trigger. This trap does not crush your prey on impact, rather the weight is such that the animal will not be able to take a breath in.

Because this is how the trap works you must have the right sized rock. You need a rock that weighs three times what you are trying to kill. So, depending on the small game you are after, you might be hauling a pretty heavy rock or a big log. The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game3

Here is a DIY deadfall trap trigger. Baited with the weight added, this trap is very effective.

It’s worth noting that there is an aluminum and rivet built version of this trap that is made by Self Reliance Outfitters. They are lightweight and allow you to avoid the carving and get right to setting the trap. They also hold more weight that wood carved traps so larger prey is not a problem.The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game4

Deep Hole Trap

It doesn’t get much easier than this. The deep hole trap, while not a snare, is just what it sounds like, it’s a hole deep enough to trap the creature you are after. Deep hole traps have been used to catch mice, rats and even crabs on the beach!

A nice tip is to build a simple bit of cover over the hole. Animals will naturally gravitate to cover and when they shoot under your prebuilt cover they will fall into the trap.

Related: Six Primitive Traps For Catching Game In The Woods


While the trap itself is not DIY a good metal trap still requires that you find an area and set that trap in a way that the animal is deceived. A good metal trap, like a 220 conibear, will allow you to catch small game over and repeatedly.The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game5

If trapping is part of your survival game plan, metal traps should be part of your load out. Remember, metal traps don’t need to be carved, they don’t wear out and when taken care of they last for years and years.

Related: 11 Frontier Survival Hacks Worthy of Daniel Boone

Know Your Laws

Building these traps and setting them is one thing. You should truly look at your local laws and understand what you can and cannot do. Laws on trapping vary wildly.

Once you understand those laws, take a weekend on some public land and set legal traps. Check them daily and see what you are capable of.

The quiet, passive nature of trapping lends itself to an SHTF scenario where sounds like gunfire might bring even more trouble. During food scarcity you won’t be the only hunter in the woods. I think hunting in the woods will be like walking the lanes of a live firing range!

Traps are also going to allow the ability to work on other things while they work. Of course, one big deer feeds people a while, if you know how to preserve the meat. Still, the nature of trapping is such that you can have success on a regular basis without sacrificing hours to a tree stand.

Knowing how to make traps is different than using traps regularly. All skills decay with time and if you are depending on a skill that you never really earned in the first place, well, you might wind up hungry. Set some easy and practical DIY snares to catch small wild game.

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James Walton
By James Walton January 27, 2020 12:07
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  1. MrMMG January 27, 15:04

    I incorporate store bought old style rat traps into my my prepper equipment. They are large enough to catch squirrels and similar sized critters. I drill a whole in a corner and secure them to a stump or rock with para cord or wire. They are a time tested design, easy to set and are reliable.

    Reply to this comment
    • red January 28, 04:23

      Some folks moved t a new house, but squirrels eating all their pecans. Their mother bought rat traps and baited them with peanut butter. they ate a lot of squirrels that winter.niio

      Reply to this comment
      • MrMMG January 28, 20:41

        Red, I don’t doubt it ! I’ve seen them work really well. Granted, the weather can get to them, but in terms of simplicity and reliability, for small animals I’d pick a rat trap over a wire snare or dead fall 99 out of 100 times.

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        • red January 29, 01:03

          Same here. But, if snaring larger game, javelina up to deer, people liked piano wire. If done right, the animal bleeds out fast. niio

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  2. KDC January 27, 17:04

    In a crisis, laws really won’t matter.

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    • left coast chuck January 27, 18:13

      Agreed. If the world really ends, things like game wardens, courts, fines and jail for some time will be like buggy whips and hitching posts.

      That said, I would reemphasize what the author stated about knowing your game laws if you decide you are going to start trapping. It will be a big hea start if you already have traps on hand, but before you start setting them, I would urge you to carefully study your state game laws.

      Here in the PDRK I am not even sure we can still trap animals. I guess coyotes are still trapable but I don’t think you can use a trap that catches a leg. We have to use “humane” traps which kind of seems like an oxymoron when the purpose is to kill the animal.

      I do use traps to catch gophers and am fairly successful at that endeavor. In an end of the world situation, gopher would be like eating tiny woodchucks. As far as I know, they are vegetarian, so eating them might be a little like eating dirt but otherwise okay. As far as I know they don’t carry any pernicious diseases like rabies.

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    • Oldmtman January 28, 00:56

      You really should show picture of a 220 conibear instead of a 330 conibear. Also, anyone who sticks their foot inside a 330 conibear doesn’t need to be trapping. Once you trip it you’ll be wishing your foot was somewhere else. There is alot more to trapping than setting metal traps or snares all over out in the woods, all you’ll do is scare animals off. Their survival instincts and scense of smell are far superior than ours. Get some good trapping books, study them, then practice the sets.

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  3. Jose January 27, 21:33

    I strongly agree with “left coast chuck”. And this article really concerned me when the author stated that he has never run a legit trap line. Has he been sourcing meat illegally (poaching)? Sorry, but you can not just simply know your laws, find some public land and go “trapping”. Easy way to lose what ever you have on you and your vehicle.
    I suggest if folks really want to learn to trap, find a trapping school near you or find someone who you can partner with that already knows how it’s done
    Lastly, be prepared to incur the expense

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 28, 03:56

      Jose: I agree. There are a considerable number of people who think laws only apply to other guy. Unfortunately, in my opinion, poaching laws are not stringent enough. They rarely result in hard time in the penitentiary (excuse me, correctional facilities). The most they involve is loss of the equipment used in the poaching, including boats and vehicles and a fine. They rarely include confinement.

      The other thing that makes poaching almost as easy as burglary is that it is difficult to catch a thief in the forest or on the ocean or lake. Wardens usually spend hundreds of hours building a case against a couple of poachers who then get off with the loss of their gear and perhaps if the judge is a hard case, loss of their vehicle or boat or both and a fine of a couple thousand dollars. A slap on the wrist when they have made tens of thousands of dollars illegally selling their ill-gotten product.

      I am not anti-hunting or fishing. I have engaged in it myself in the past but I always tried to observe the unwritten rules of fair chase and especially the laws regarding the taking of fish and game. I recognize the need for scientific harvest of both fish and game. Unfortunately, with the commercial harvest of wild fish there is still too much waste. Too many commercial fishermen still are of the mindset that there is an unlimited supply to be harvested.

      Too frequently legislators don’t have a clue. I read just a couple of years ago that the Alaska legislature allowed the harvesting of a small clam on beaches in Alaska. The harvest was measured in tens of thousands of pounds of clams that weigh about four ounces each. That kind of take, while commercially successful, in my opinion has a devastating effect on the population and its ability to regenerate.

      Reply to this comment
    • red January 28, 04:28

      Like the lady I posted about, he probably caught game to save his garden or at the edge of a field. I never ran a trap line, either, but caught a lot of animals. Most states it’s legal to kill an animal raiding a field. One night in late summer, in Penna, we shot almost 3 dozen deer. It took quite a while to clean them, but a lot of people were more than happy to take the meat off our hands. BTW, my father and uncles taught me. niio

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  4. IvyMike January 28, 02:05

    I used to work with a country boy from El Salvador who could walk into thick brush and walk out a few minutes later with a live bird cupped in his hands, birds like a cedar waxwing or white crowned sparrow. Never learned his secret. Used to be common years ago for illegal immigrants to cross at Del Rio, TX and hike a hundred miles through the brush country to San Antonio. It is rough country, the brush is 15′ tall, thick and thorny and infested with rattlers. Their gear was a gallon milk jug of water, pieces of cardboard tied around their lower legs as snake guards, and sling shots to kill songbirds for dinner. When Texas was first settled by Americans huge flocks of robins used to overwinter here, they fed on the ground underneath the trees and people trapped them by dropping weighted nets from the trees. Then there is the quail trap from West Texas, chicken wire shaped into an 8 foot long tube with a funnel opening at one end, a narrowing shaft, and an enlarged end where they collected because they couldn’t figure how to turn around. And putting sticky stuff on tree limbs to trap small birds. Man, I don’t want to live off varmints.
    Run here, Sally, with a ten-foot pole,
    Run here, Sally, with a ten-foot pole
    To twist this whistle-pig out of his hole.
    Oh, groundhog!
    Ya eat up the meat and save the hide,
    Eat up the meat and ya save the hide,
    The best durn shoestring that ever was tied.
    Oh, groundhog!
    That’s an old Doc Watson song.
    Then there’s the whole world of fishtraps.

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    • Left coast chuck January 28, 03:42

      There were lots of ways of harvesting game in the 19th and early days of the 20th century. Punt guns were used. That was a small black powder cannon fastened to the front end of a punt which is like a shallow gunnel canoe. the commercial bird harvester would slowly approach a large flock of birds sitting on the water and fire the punt gun with its charge of duck shot. He would kill or wound 40 or 50 birds or more at one shot. He would then try to gather the dead birds before they sank to the bottom of whatever body of water he was in. The wastage of course was significant.

      We are all familiar with the story of the American bison. That slaughter was a combination of political as well as commercial ideology.

      Clouds of pigeons used to darken the skies over the U.S. As with the bison, they were hunted to extinction for the market.

      Today the situation is reversed. Hunters are the source of support for most of the game animals on the North American continent. Organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International and other hunter based organizations provide the bases for the wild game that exists in North America today.

      Without the vast tracts of land that Ducks Unlimited has purchased or leased to provide breeding grounds for waterfowl, there would be no waterfowl left in North America. Unfortunately, too many animal rights folk can’t make the connection between ethical hunting and scientific animal control and healthy wildlife populations. They don’t realize that nature’s way of game control is for the population to continue to increase until there is not enough forage to support the population which then dies off by starvation, to repeat the cycle again. If it isn’t lack of forage, it is some disease entity that kills off the population until there is sufficient space for each animal to isolate itself from the diseased animals. CWD in deer and elk is, I think a pure example of that natural culling process.

      Most of them don’t realize that when a hunter takes a trophy animal, the reason that animal is a trophy animal is because it is old and thus is in all probability no longer reproducing. It is merely consuming forage that could be supporting more younger animals.

      And, of course, the PDRK is the leading example of that. The deer herd in the PDRK is full of old does because does have not been hunted in the PDRK since 1968 when there was a huge outcry about hunters killing Bambi’s mother. Old does do not reproduce. All they do is eat the forage that fawns born by younger does would eat to enlarge the herd. The situation gets worse every year.

      Of course, we have now solved that problem because we have no hunting of mountain lions. Unfortunately, the mountain lions have pretty much cleaned out the deer herd. Between old does and the mountain lions the populations are greatly diminished over what they used to be. SO, the mountain lions are now attacking people. Inasmuch as they no longer fear humans because they aren’t hunted. The political game played by the Dept of Wildlife (no longer Game, that is politically incorrect) and Fish is that if the mountain lion attempts to eat its victim it doesn’t count as an attack. The lion is only harvesting game. It only counts as an attack if the victim manages to escape in an unclawed condition. So, according to the DWF, there have been few “attacks” by mountain lions in the PDRK. As in the book 1984, if you can control the definition, you can control everything. Only folks who don’t know better allow their pets out at night. Between packs of coyotes, bobcats which are now protected and mountain lions, pets are fair game.

      It may seem unusually cruel, but I really hope some liberal legislator that voted for all the bans on hunting gets some close member of his family seriously injured by some protected predator. Maybe then we will see a return to sanity. Don’t get me started on the wolf follies in this country.

      Sorry for the long political diatribe. It was triggered by Mike’s post about various old-time methods of trapping game. Our forefathers thought that there was a never ending supply of game and proceeded to act accordingly. When you have millions of bison and pigeons, it does seem as there is a never-ending supply. In the 20th century we have done that with horseshoe crabs. When I was a kid horseshoe crabs were abundant all along the east coast. I understand they have now been harvested almost to extinction, much as abalone have on the west coast. Don’t believe the lie that the sea otters have caused the abalone extinction. It was the hookah divers who drove the abalone and sea urchins to extinction.

      AND POACHERS ALSO PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN SPECIE EXTINCTION. Some folk still can’t get it through their heads that we all can’t take all the game we want with no control. There are just too many of us and not enough animals.

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      • IvyMike January 29, 01:31

        The Texas Coast was the center of market hunting until 1900 when sportsmen began to get laws passed establishing seasons and limits. There were no environmentalists back then. Texas never had Public Lands for conservation, but the State has done a pretty good job over the years working with landowners to manage game. The big change now is the Rich buying up huge tracts of land (millions of acres) and managing them as private high dollar hunting resorts. This sounds bad, but they tend to be superbly managed with an emphasis on restoring natural flora and fauna. Of course these places are forever out of reach of the average Texan. The Cibolo Creek Ranch where Chief Justice Scalia died is a good example, they have been exemplary in restoring Quail habitat.
        Passenger pigeons required mature old growth white oak forests to survive, and those were all cut down by 1900, more a cause of that bird’s extinction than hunting. Same story for the Ivory Bill woodpecker, our busy ancestors cut just about every stand of virgin timber in the lower 48 by WW1. The Carolina parakeet was wiped out by angry Southerners because it ate everybody’s peaches.
        Hey, you get an urge to kill a mountain lion plenty of ranchers in West Texas will take you out for 250.00 a day, no season on the critters, and no shortage. Bring a donut to sit on, though, bouncing along a jeep trail all day is tedious.

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        • red January 29, 17:28

          Saw a sign here in AZ, Rough Road: Loosen Bra Straps and Take Out False Teeth. I should post that in the alley out back 🙂

          They say they can bring back the passenger pigeon. Let me know where. I need to invest in a shotgun

          One thing I admire about Europe, if it’s on your land, it’s you game animal.

          I thought they were spotting that woodpecker in Arkansas?

          LBJ’s family sold off the ranch, then petitioned Texas to create a state park in his name.

          One game animal you forget to mention, Preppers, it’s always open season on us. It does keep us motivated to survive them. niio

          Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck January 31, 01:01

          Yeah, Mike, unfortunately hunting is getting out of reach for Joe Average. Bought a “cheap” goat hunt to introduce my grandson to hunting. I bid $450 for the hunt ticket. That included guide fee and field dressing the carcass. While the hide might have made a vest and a pair of gloves, getting the hide tanned and the gloves and vest made would have priced it in the designer category, so I just got the skull with horns bleached and mounted. We donated the meat to the local food bank. The meat processor said he mixed it with beef and pork to make sausage and the goat meat extended the beef and pork, otherwise it was really inedible— maybe in the middle east it would have been fine dining.
          I didn’t do any shooting but with gas, motel, food, license, trophy mounting, hunt fee and tips for the guide and his assistant, it cost $1500 to shoot a wild goat — it was not a native goat it was a barbary goat, imported from the middle east. Nice set of horns, but pretty expensive horns. Although I was glad to share the time with the grandson and introduce him to canned hunting, the fee for just a damned goat was outrageous. Local fish and game newspaper laments the steep decline in the numbers of folk buying hunting and fishing licenses. Duhhhh. I wonder why? Had we shot hogs it would have been $500 for each hog. I don’t remember the regular price for goat shooting. It was more than I paid. Farmers complain about how much damage they cause but they want to charge you an arm and leg for shooting them on their property.

          I fear hunting is going the way of hunting in Europe where it is the pastime of only the very wealthy. When I was a kid, back in the dark ages, hunting only cost the price of whatever ammo you fired during the hunt. I walked out the back door and was hunting. I feel like the last cowboy.

          As Mike pointed out, the very wealthy are buying up huge tracts of land and turning them into private preserves for their wealthy friends and politicians (and that includes any of the supremes. They are politicians, only lie about it) whom they want to influence. I would be willing to bet Scalia didn’t pay a dime to hunt quail on that ranch. Probably flew to the ranch on a private jet free of charge and didn’t pay a dime for the food consumed nor the booze drunk.

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  5. red January 28, 04:21

    All tried and true. good post, James!

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  6. RonnyJ January 28, 07:37

    I had a grandfather who subscribed to several “fish and game” magazines; not for the advice on hunting and fishing, but because of the pictures of animals in the wild. He loved seeing them in their natural habitat, “acting like normal animals” as opposed to animals in a zoo, where most people in U.S.A. these days see them.

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  7. Dan January 28, 20:15

    Enough with the shortcuts. What the heck is PDRK?

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