Updated: Feb 11, 2020
If you follow Stan Potts at all on outdoor television, you may have heard him talk about how he got his start hunting whitetails and where his success over the years came from. A few years back, I heard Stan talk about trapping and how it has helped him with bowhunting whitetails. I became very curious. My old man trapped back in the day, so I started by asking him questions, and the next thing you know, I’m a new owner of a hand full of conibear traps. From there, I was managing three trap lines and was fortunate to have immediate success. I still do some trapping and I have learned a lot about animal movement through my past experiences, which has aided in my approach to bowhunting whitetails. For bowhunters, our objective is to get as close as possible to our target and create high percentage harvest opportunities. In this article, I will discuss some trapping techniques that can.
Understanding the Process
I started trapping a medium size swamp that was littered with muskrat sign. The swamp water filtered into a stream that connects to another larger swamp, which made this a prime spot. I started to locate potential muskrat dens. Some are obvious such as a mound of sticks, logs and swamp grasses. Other dens can be a small hole in the embankment of the swamp. I strategically placed my traps around these areas, but not directly next to the hole because by-law you need to be a certain distance away from their dens. When placing my traps in the swamp that were closer to their beds, I chose spots that I knew muskrats had to travel through. Small moss mounds would coerce them to travel into a certain lane, and if the lane was somewhat larger to where they could swim around the trap, I would place debris in the lane to create a tighter travel route. This tactic forced them to travel right into the conibear.
I continued this method out into the stream. Muskrats like to use the embankments to travel streams or rivers. With this in mind, I focused on placing traps along the edges and using sticks to force their travel movements into tighter areas where my traps were. I let the traps sit for only a day and I was very happy to return to five trapped muskrats.
How does this apply to Bowhunting?
I’m sure a lot of the verbiage I used previously to describe my ambush techniques were familiar to you. Trapping is not that much different than bowhunting. At a high level, I knew where the muskrats were bedding and I also had a general idea of where they were traveling. Using this knowledge, I set my traps up using natural or man-made barriers to force them into a specific path. This can be done with most bowhunting situations. The only difference is that it is done on a larger scale. Using falling trees or branches to create a barricade to force an animal in a certain direction is a great way to control animal movement. Your objective is to force animal movement in your favor to get a closer shot opportunity.
Natural land features are the best travel barriers to hunt around. Simply because they have always been there and you do not have to create a man-made barrier that may disrupt your hunting area. I found a deep embankment on some public ground that was located between a bedding area and a food source. I setup up a trail camera and planned to return to hunt that spot during the fall. Upon my return and first card pull, I was amazed at the amount of buck sign there was and I was lucky enough to get pictures of a buck that I would gladly harvest on Michigan public land. This is a spot that I plan to return to and hunt soon.
If you cannot locate these natural travel barriers or you don’t have access to them, then you can try creating them on your own. From a high level, try thinking of a way to funnel deer into your food plot by blocking travel ways with branches or downed timber. Get creative. It helps to use what is available in your surroundings provided by nature. In an area that I hunt, the deer use two different trails at a lower point in a river to cross over. I blocked off the trail that was further away from my stand on both sides of the river, and the deer now use that single trail exclusively. That is just one example that has proven to be effective for me.
I learned a lot about animal movement and travel patterns through trapping. I am not saying that you need to start trapping to be a better bowhunter. But my trapping experience really helped me better understand how animals travel and what we can do to manipulate their travel patterns. I am curious if anyone else has tried any of the previously mentioned ideas and tactics. How do you manipulate an animal’s travel pattern? Have you had any success? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!