The notion of catching game in a survival situation is an attractive one. The reality, however, is that catching game is difficult, especially if you’re talking about anything larger than a rabbit. Without a gun, ammo, and hunting experience, the idea that you might kill big game is wishful thinking at best. So what does that leave us with? Small game.
The advantage of trapping and snaring small game is the same as that of fishing: You can set a series of traps that work while you don’t. Done properly—and in the right situation—these simple devices can add enough sustenance to your diet to keep you going for a while.
In addition to hopefully providing you with food, the other benefit of creating traps and snares is that it is proactive and enables you to feel like you’re doing something to better your situation. Another benefit of traps and snares is that they’re effective anywhere in the world.
There’s strength in numbers when it comes to traps. The more you set, the more luck you’ll have. If you can set 45 rabbit snares, do it. You’ll have to invest more energy at the front end, but you’re also setting yourself up for greater rewards at the back end. Although many people tout the benefits of complex traps and snares, my philosophy is to follow the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid!
The elaborate ones require tremendous effort and expertise and often don’t yield any more than the basic ones. You’ll increase your chances of success if you use bait in your traps and snares. Begin by scattering some of it around your trap. This will encourage the animal to develop a taste for the bait. When the outer supply is exhausted, the animal will likely venture in to the trap; its desire for more of the bait overcoming its natural sense of caution.
If you are lucky enough to snare or trap an animal, remember that you’re not looking for a few choice pieces. In a survival situation, you eat everything on the animal except bowels and excrement.
A basic snare is a simple device: a looped cord or rope that tightens around an animal as it walks through. Getting a snare to work exactly as designed often requires a bit of fine-tuning, though. The loop must be big enough for the animal’s head, not so big that the animal walks through unscathed, and at the right height off the ground for the animal’s head.
Always position any trap or snare in a location where there is evidence of animal activity: runs and trails, tracks, droppings, chewed or rubbed vegetation. Try to disturb the area as little as possible when setting the trap; otherwise, you will tip animals off to your presence.
To build a rabbit snare, use a rope or cord to make a noose and drape it loosely over some foliage growing close to the ground.
Attach the lead rope of the snare to a bowed branch overhead. Then continue the lead rope to a trigger mechanism that will release at the slightest movement. If you’re lucky, the rabbit will walk through the noose but catch the rope with a leg or paw. This releases the trigger, sending the bowed branch skyward and catching the rabbit in the noose.
To build a squirrel snare, lean a long pole or branch against a tree at approximately a 45-degree angle. Loosely wrap three or four wire nooses on the top and sides of the pole. The squirrel will use the pole to climb the tree. Should it feel the noose on its neck, it will try to leap to safety and hang itself.