By: Duane Fronek
When it comes to canine trapping and what sets to use what’s the first set to come to mind? In most instances the dirt hole set is the first. And it stands to reason, it’s relatively simple to construct and understand, gives eye appeal, etc. But in my opinion there’s another set out there that gets less attention which is easier to construct with less work involved but remains under utilized and that’s the flatset. Sure the flatset may have less eye appeal, but that depends on who’s looking at it, you or the coyote. The flatset is nothing new, it’s been around for decades and has many coyotes and fox to it’s credit, yet it seems a trapper is less likely to utilize it as readily as a dirthole. Why? I don’t know. But if you think about it a lot frustration can come along with a dirt hole, especially for a beginner, things like the angle of the hole, trap placement, dirt patterns, which can dictate your success or misses. With the flatset you get away from that at least for the most part. I do speculate however that one of the reasons the flatset is less likely to be used, is a trappers confidence in the set itself because of the lack of bells and whistles. But subtle can be just as deadly and even more so if your in an area with high competition or you’ve been putting a hurt on the population yourself. Dirtholes in these situations can just plain go dead.
I was one of those diehard dirt hole guys, but over the years I’ve seen the benefits of the flatset and began using them more and more to the point where a good majority of my sets are flatsets these days. When I set a location I’ll usually gang set it with 3 or more traps and a lot of times I’ll just have one or two dirt holes in for some added appeal to the location, but the other sets will be flat sets and more times than not, the flatset will be holding the coyote or the double in the morning.
Let’s look at location first. For the most part location is the key for any trapping, but with the flatset lacking visual eye appeal at least eye appeal that can be seen from a distance vs. a big dirt hole is a little more critical. I use the flat set in the same locations I use dirt holes, fence intersections, logging road intersections, farm lane intersects, crop changes etc. Same basic locations just more on thee spot. By this I mean right in the animals travel way or within a few feet, unlike a dirt hole that you can set a little off but the visual hole can bring them within nose shot so to speak. One of my favorite locations I look for is a territorial marker which will usually consist of piles of scat and kickbacks, these a lot of times are located off the corner of fields or intersections and are deadly spots for the flatset. And this is where I mean eye appeal is in the eye of the beholder. Up close scat is very interesting to a canine, and is a very good visual, just watch your dog where another dog did his business. Now put scat on a flatset and it’ll put a coyote on the stretcher. Or put a trap in front of that pile of scat you found and a shot of urine on that scat and it can be deadly, simple but deadly.
One of the things I like about flatsets is their versatility and simplicity. They take less elbow grease to put in and quicker. One of my favorites is one a friend of mine Jack Hill told me about, I had read about it years ago but never really gave it a thought. Basically take a coyote or fox turd put it down and bed your trap in front of it, which I’ve done for years and for me I like to bed the trap 12 inches straight out from the scat. But here’s the twist. On each side of the trap about 12-15 inches in the 3 O’clock and 9 O’clock position’s punch a hole in the ground with your cable stake driver or rebar stake where the direction of the hole is pointed toward your trap. With the turd and 2 holes you’ll have a triangle with your trap in the middle right on the line between the 2 holes. What you do here is give a shot of urine to the turd and put your lures in the punched holes. I’ve tried different combos of lure and it all works. You can put a call lure down one and a food or gland lure in the other one, or just a smear of bait in one and lure in another. It all works. The idea is to get the animal to move it’s feet around increasing your chances of a catch.
A lot of times I’ll just punch a hole with my driver into a clump of grass or the base of a corn stalk and bed the trap in front of it, put lure in the hole and your good to go. The hole is just something to keep your lure in one spot, you could just apply it to the ground under that clump or base of a corn stalk, but I feel the hole keeps the lure from washing away from rain or drying out from sun and wind. Also instead of putting it at the base of a corn stalk I’ve taken and hollowed out the top of a cut stalk and put the lure in that. Other times in harvested soybean fields or rye fields I’ll just scrape up a small pile of chaff bed my trap in front of it, punch a small hole for lure and I’m set. Or use a small rock with lure under it or under a piece of bark. You get the picture. If your on location, you basically just need to bed the trap and apply lure to the object, it doesn’t get any simpler that that. For blending I try to find a spot that really doesn’t need it or very little. But if I need to blend I’ll use whatever is on the spot, chaff in a wheat field or soybean etc. I just rub it through my sifter over the set. What I like about all these sets is the different ways you can make the set and catch canines off guard. Dirt holes aren’t as subtle and can cost you fur in high competition areas or if you pinch a coyote in a dirt hole it can be a problem getting it to commit again..
I had an incident this year that shown me just how nice the flatset is. It was a location that butted up against an enclosed deer farm where the owner is always trying to catch coyotes inside and is normally a tough field to trap. We had a horrific rain and wind storm come thru this fall and while checking sets, one of my flatset on this property was hit, there where coyote tracks in the dirt, trap was tripped with a little hair on the jaws and a small rock holding the jaws open. My heart sank. I figured the heavy rain helped roll the rock over the trap before the coyote came thru. Well, I re-bedded the trap, it was set up against a turd in a spot with multiple turds laying around and kick-backs. I gave the turd a shot of urine and left it. The next day a coyote had left his calling card again but didn’t get caught. So I picked up the 2 piles of scat and put them in my scat bucket and put another one in its place from another area of my line, gave it a shot of urine and left it. The next day held a coyote, I remade the set, put a fresh turd there and a shot of urine and 2 days later caught another coyote off it. Well I remade the set the same way again. Three or four days went by and no action on it, so instead of pulling it I just punched in to holes with my driver at 9 and 3 O’clock, next day I had another coyote, only this one was missing all his toes on one foot all healed over. That’s 3 coyotes in one set. Also note I had 2 dirt holes at this same spot and both went untouched. On the opposite end of this field was a similar spot with scat and a flatset put in and a dirt hole. On my final check on this field that flatset held my biggest coyote to date, a 45 pound male, by the looks of his teeth I’d guess he was around 4 years old. What was interesting here was there were coyote tracks at the dirt hole with the trap dug out, I’m guessing it was the same coyote, but who knows, all I know is he was in the flat set 20 feet away.
In another location, I had where coyotes were coming in and feeding on a dead cow. I found the route they were traveling and managed to catch 8 in both dirt holes and flat sets until it went dead, I even caught my first wolf and it was on a flatset remake here. The remaining coyotes coming in changed their route. They were avoiding that location. I located that new route and put in a dirt hole and a flatset. I had 2 coyotes in two checks, both were caught in the flatset both the original flatset and the remake of that set.
I’m finding myself utilizing the flatset more and more every year. I’m finding that coyotes have a harder time getting wise to them, especially if you mix up how you make them. I’m not saying they won’t ever wise up to them, but I think it’s not as easy as wising up to a dirt hole. It seems easier to catch them off guard.
Give flatsets a more honest shot this year and you’ll see what I’m talking about, those of you already utilizing them already know what I’m talking about.