How to snare Red Fox in thick cover, cut off your trapping competition and pick up a lot of fox that you might be missing just trapping the open fields.
I was busy fleshing some beaver when the door opened, “ what are we trappen”, asked Newt Sterling. I knew he was stopping by for the night on his way to Arkansas, but this sounded like I had a trapping partner. He told me his plans in Arkansas fell through and he needed some fur to pay some bills. No question I was with another Pro trapper, living from fur check to fur check. I thought for a moment and decided we could hit the river for cats, coon and beaver. What happened on the line surprised me, we started nailing several doubles on red fox in thick cover on the river banks. I haven’t trapped this stretch of river for a couple of years and the reds had made a come back.
Just like most of the country the coyotes have hurt a once thriving red fox population. When I do find reds in Tennessee its only seems to be right in towns or close to subdivisions. I assume that the coyotes have not wanted to live with us house dwellers yet, but the red fox don’t seem mind the company. The reds have found their niche close to civilization and they seem to thrive there. The problem with this change is that trapping close to houses can be challenging at best for the fox trapper. I believe that Tennessee has about 50 house and stray dogs per square mile in my area of East Tennessee. For this reason I have been doing more snaring for cats, coyotes and reds. It seems that most house dogs can smell lure or bait from a quarter-mile away and have no trouble zeroing in on a lured set. On the other hand snares don’t draw the dogs in like a vacuum cleaner. Some common sense does have to be applied to the eastern snare line, but with some experience you can keep you dog problem to a minimum. For this reason I have turned into a snare man and I have learned that red fox love cover. This may be hard to believe if you look for the classic open field foothold location. I know that I have heard over and over that fox need to be able to see around to be comfortable, but my trap line has taught me different.
Don’t get me wrong reds do like the open fields with plenty of mice to chase. There are thousands of fox that have been taken in wide open locations, no question these locations will produce. You have to look at the big picture and red fox don’t sleep in the open and they do travel from field to field. They also love to hunt ducks and rabbits and they don’t live out in the open, this prey craves deep cover if at all possible. Plus fox have to go through fences and wood lots to reach the next field and this is a great way to snare him. Large rivers act as travel ways and barriers and if you can find this habitat next to cities, your on a hot spot. Rivers and large creeks are also fox magnets during dispersal. Fox will hit the river or creeks and run the banks to find their way to a new home. Because of this, good catches of red fox can be taken on the river, either from a boat or four-wheeler. On these location you will find the fox in more of coon and cat locations, not what is considered a good fox location. I prefer snares to footholds on tight cover fox, because it’s so simple and fast. One thing to consider when fox trapping in the thick stuff is the great North American marsupial and he is always the fastest set finder in the woods. I can miss 99% of the opossums with a snare but I can’t say the same thing for footholds.
There are three travel ways to keep in mind on a big river, next to the water, high bank trails and trails next to the open fields. All three will get attention by mister red and because of this you need to set up all three. My favorite zone is the high bank next to the water. Most of the time you will find a well-defined game trail that gets a lot of traffic. You will find coon, cat, coyote and fox sign on this high bank trail. From a boat the best location to get to this location is high cuts in the bank. Mostly these areas are formed by the bank caving in and making a U shape cut in the bank and causes an edge for the trail to run next to. The deeper the cut, the better, for making several trails meet and merge into one. The next location is the trails that are in the wood line next to open fields. These are usually less noticeable to the trapper, but not to the fox. This trail allows him to move in the cover and not expose himself to coyotes and people. The last location is at the water line. This trail can be tough to keep working with constant water level changes. Here one needs to look for humps that rise above the high water mark, to stay in the foxes travel way. The low water trail is not always as productive as the other two trails, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll some times find red tracks in the mud. When you set up this trail, always gang set the trail to account for the coon that will also be using the trail.
If you have a good red foxpopulation you should always set at lest two snares per trail, four snares is better. If the reds are on the move during dispersal, you may only get one shot at him. So why be stingy with snares and take a chance on missing the red if a couple of coons run the trail first. One thing I have noticed on the river that reds like to travel in pairs and doubles can really get the heart pumping on the snare line. Even if the red is traveling by himself, when caught in a snare he can call other fox by sound and smell. It would be a shame to have a fox on the trail and nothing there to catch him with.
The snare set itself is straight forward. There seems to be a hundred ways to set snares and most of them work, so uses what your comfortable with. If legal 1/16 1×19 cable is a great fox snare if one is not in the live market. I see no reason to go larger than 5/64 cable on the little red fox and the smaller the cable you simply have less refusals. The loop size I use in Tennessee is 7-8 inches round and 6-8 inches on the ground. Keep in mind that all fox are not the same size. The further north you go all animals get bigger, including red fox. In Wyoming and Montana the fox are probably a third to half as big as mine in Tennessee, so talk to some other fox snare men in your area to see what your loops need to be. If there are cats slinking around the area I will add a duck under stick to get the taller animal to duck his head in the loop. You can catch big coon in a fox snare and if you want to use one loop for both critters, you should lower your 7-8 inch loop a couple of inches. I would recommend using a duck under stick in this situation also. One other trick to make a snare the right height for multiple sized animals is to set your snares on downward grades on the trail. All animals will keep their head down when going down or up a hill and the same loop size can then take coons, fox and bobcat. I have tried many ways of fox snaring and I like to use 6-10 feet of extension on the end of my snares to save a good location. Some of the trails I find on the river may only have a few good natural choke down spots. The longer your snare is, the better chance you have of the fox getting away from the trail before entangling and losing your location. This method is not 100%, but it works most of the time.
The river is not the only place to snare old red in cover. Most fields will have some cover in between them. The hedge rows don’t have to be large to find the fox trails. I have been trained to set footholds in the tractor roads in between the fields, but not all fox will travel in this opening. A lot of fox will be on the edge of the field and will not go out of their way to travel on the tractor roads. I have noticed that the fox will stay on the edge of the field and cut through the thick growth to get to the next field. These fox trails can be hot and all the local fox can be caught in a few nights. I have a few farms that I snare fox that are right in or on the outside of town. These farms are not totally cleared and the fox will use the cover to go into the neighborhoods at night. Some foot work has to be put into finding these trails, but the effort is well worth it. The last location I will cover is the trails that the fox use to get around city’s and towns. The dispersal fox seem to use the same travel routes year to year. This trail can be found easily if the city runs next to a major road and the road is on the outskirts of the houses and buildings. When this dispersal fox are on the move in new country, they stick to the cover instead of exposing themselves. When one puts in the time to find these fox trails through deep cover, he will most likely have the fox to himself. and few if any of these foxes will be snare shy.
So the next time you have a case of red fever, head to the cover and find your fix. We have been trained to trap fox in the open, but if you want to add some silky red fur to your stretchers step in the thick stuff, because the fox are already there.