5 Ways to Snare Dinner in the Wild

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This poor wildebeest is snared. See more safari pictures.

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5 Ways to Snare Dinner in the Wild

If you'r­e out in the middle of nowhere, and you're lost, and­ it's been a couple days since you last ate, you're in what we call a survival scenario. And you're going to be glad, when you dig down into your pockets, to find out that you held onto the following list of snare- and trap-building instructions -- because snaring your dinner sure beats knife hunting.

To capture an animal you'd like to eventually eat, you first need to know where your prey is located. It's no good to set out a trap or snare where no animal is likely stumble into it. So before you set up your trap, look for signs of animals in the area. Prints are one obvious sign, but there are other more subtle signals: animal droppings, plants that have been chewed on or rubbed against, and areas where the vegetation is flattened, indicating that animals rest there.

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For the best luck, set your trap or snare in an area where animals travel frequently like between a feeding area and a watering hole. Learn to spot the difference between a run and a trail. A trail is a very noticeable path through the area and it's used by many different species. A run is a smaller path that you may miss unless you look closely. It's used by only one species and often leads to the animal's home. Some types of snares, such as a drag noose, are more effective when set in runs.

Let's discuss some other snare and trap options.

A simple snare can be held up and open with sticks.

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Snare 5: The Simple Snare

Traps w­ork by some combination of crushing, choking, hanging or entangling prey. Some traps work by providing tension when the trap is released. But others like the simple snare work when the prey struggles in the trap. An animal caught in a simple snare will probably be alive when you reach it.

The simple snare works as the name implies -- simply. You create a noose, out of twine or fine wire, and attach it firmly to a sturdy stick driven into the ground. Ideally, the animal will walk right through your snare, catching its head in the noose. As it continues on its way, the noose tightens. This will, of course, panic the animal, and in its struggle, the noose only becomes tighter. To be effective, it's important to place the simple snare on a run that gets regular use.

But there are some problems with the simple snare. You have to decide when you set the trap what type of animal you plan to catch. Clearly, a rabbit-sized noose won't catch a deer. For the best results, the noose should be one and half times the size of your prey's head. The noose must be kept open so the animal can walk into it. But don't use anything that prevents the noose from tightening. A noose made of fine gage wire is a good choice. If you use twine, hold the noose open with blades of grass or small twigs.

Not sure that a simple snare will work? Consider a drag noose.­

A bushman in South Africa sets a snare to catch wildlife.

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Snare 4: The Drag Noose

The drag noose is a little more complicated to build than the simple snare. It should be placed in a well-used run. The drag noose h­angs from a stick that's supported by two other sticks on either side that are placed in the ground. The stick with the noose attached is propped gently on the supports, but is not attached, and the noose hangs into the run. A type of wire called snare wire, which is available in a variety if thicknesses, is a good choice for forming drag nooses.

When your prey makes its way down the run, its head catches the noose, which pulls down the stick the noose is attached to. The falling stick startles the animal and it sprints away, dragging the stick behind it. The stick becomes entangled in the brush along the sides of the run, tightening the noose and stopping your prey.

The drag noose works best in an area with heavy underbrush. An open area, even with visible runs, won't do because the brush may not stop your prey soon enough for you to track it down. If the area you're in doesn't have heavy cover, consider another trap, such as a twitch-up snare.

A bird hangs from a snare.

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Snare 3: The Twitch-up Snare

The twitch-up snare requires some construction, but it's an effective snare. It typically snaps the neck of your prey, eliminating the need for you to kill the animal once you've trapped it. Find a sapling that's growing along a well-used run and bend it across the trail. Use a piece of twine to hold the sapling over the trail and connect it to two sticks driven into the ground. The two sticks should be long enough to hold the sapling into position, but small enough to release when your prey enters the noose. Hang a noose from the sapling. When your prey walks through the noose, the pressure releases the sapling from the smaller sticks. As the sapling is released, it pulls back into an upright position, snapping the neck of your prey.

One big advantage that the twitch-up snare has over many other snares and traps is that the game, such as rabbits or groundhogs, are pulled into the air when they're captured. You generally want to stay away from the traps you've set so you don't deter your prey. But sometimes this also opens up the possibility that another predator will take your captured prey. If it's hanging in the air, that's less likely to happen.

Looking for something a little more simple? Try the deadfall.

As you can see, salt attracts wildlife. These reindeer are licking the salt from an icy road.

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Snare 2: The Deadfall

For the deadfall trap, you'll need three small sticks and a flattish rock. Lift one side of the rock and prop it up with the sticks. But the sticks are joined together in an odd way -- in the shape of a number four. One stick is staked in the ground and the others are tied to it to form a sideways 'V.' If you don't have string, you can cut notches in the sticks with a knife to hold them together.

When an animal runs into the sticks, it brings the rock down. Test the deadfall several times before you set it up to catch prey. It shouldn't take much pressure to release the rock. You don't want a stiff breeze to knock the sticks down, but you also can't expect a tiny rabbit to shove the sticks.

A deadfall trap is easy enough to build. The trick is convincing the animal to go under the rock. Baiting is an effective way to draw in prey, but it requires some consideration. You don't want to bait your trap with berries or nuts that are widely available in the area. On the other hand, using corn or other domestic food sources may make your prey uneasy. There's one bait that's effective, draws all sorts of animals in and is readily available -- salt. Sprinkle some around and under your deadfall, and your prey will come to lick the salt from the ground.

A deadfall is an effective trap for smaller animals, but what if you want to catch something big? 

This bushman could make his bow and arrow work for him if he used them to make a bow trap.

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Snare 1: The Deadly Bow Trap

The bow trap is an effective trap for larger prey. But it's important to note that the trap won't differentiate between animals and humans. So always approach the bow trap from behind and never set it in an area where other people may stumble across it.

Something to keep in mind when building a bow trap -- or any trap that requires some construction -- is that animals notice changes in their environment. You may prevent them from noticing your trap if you build it away from the area where you plan to set it. After you've handled the materials, they'll have your scent on them. To mask the scent, try coating the materials in mud.

The first step of building the bow trap is to construct the bow. Use a sapling and twine for this. Then, anchor the bow to the ground from the back, using short but sturdy sticks. Use a stick with a sharpened end as your arrow. Place this stick in your bow and then drive two sticks in the ground, one on either side of the arrow stick, to help it fly straight. Connect a trip wire to the back of the bow, pulling the bow back. Drive another stick into the ground to run the trip wire around, passing it in front of the bow. When your prey trips the wire, the arrow will release.

Lots More Information

Related ­HowStuffWorks ArticlesSources
  • De La Salle University. "Survive." (Nov. 28, 2008).http://www.dlsu.edu.ph/offices/sps/rotc/pdf/ms2/survival.pdf
  • Department of Defense. "Military Field Manual on Survival, Evasion and Recovery." 
  • McCafferty, Keith. "Trap or Die." Field and Stream.http://www.fieldandstream.com/article/Outdoor%20Skills/Trap-or-Die. (Nov. 30, 2008).
  • Wilderness Survival. 2001-2008 (Nov. 29, 2008)http://wilderness-survival.net/food-2.php