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Long before Mr. Coyote became established as king predator in much of the U.S., the primary target for most land trappers was the red fox. Sometime around the 1960’s and ’70’s, coyotes began moving in and taking over much of the fox’s habitat, and fox trappers, particularly those Northeastern farmland trappers, were ill equipped to hold the bigger canine.
Coyote trapping requires specialized equipment, and over the years trap manufacturers and tinkerers have improved greatly on designs, and introduced new ones. What resulted was a variety of coyote traps to choose from, in a wide range of size, quality, and of course, price. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices out there, you’re not alone. Let’s do a brief overview of some of the coyote traps available on the market today, and go over the details to help you make an informed decision on your trap of choice.
All coyote traps are footholds. Though some have tried, it’s pretty much impossible to get a coyote to go into a body gripper or a cage trap. So if you aren’t snaring, you’re using a foothold trap. Foothold traps can be broken down into three types: coil springs, long springs and jumps. Jump traps are no longer made – they were replaced by the superior coil spring trap. There are a few double long spring designs that still get use on some coyote lines today, but for the most part, when talking coyote traps, we’re talking about coil spring traps.
Coil spring traps come in various sizes, from the tiny #1 used for muskrat and mink, to the #5 and larger, used for beaver and wolves. The old 1.5 coil spring trap was a go to for fox trappers, but it just wouldn’t hold coyotes consistently. Sure it’ll hold a coyote, but not every coyote, and after all of the work put into getting a critter to step on the trap pan, do you really want to take the chance of losing him?
Going Small – The #1.75
You can catch and hold coyotes in the #1.75, or 1 3/4 traps, so long as the springs are strong and they are well modified. Victor has made #1.75 Professional trap for decades, and it was a go-to trap for many old fox trappers. The trap has a jaw spread of 5 3/8″, which makes it legal in most states with jaw spread restrictions, but also means there’s a tiny target to get a coyote to step on. Make absolutely sure the springs on these traps are strong when using for coyotes. A number of trappers fit #2 sized springs on these. Bridger and Duke make 1 3/4 coil spring traps as well. I wouldn’t use a trap this size for coyotes unless I had a bunch handy and couldn’t afford larger traps, or state regulations required such a small trap.
Standard number 2 coil spring traps are very common on the coyote trapline, and are very effective when properly set up and modified. Most #2’s are square jawed models with outside jaw spreads of 6″ or less. Victor makes a round jaw #2 nowadays, but their square jawed #2 was a popular fox trap back in the day, and was probably torn apart by coyotes more than any other trap around. It just wasn’t designed to take the beating a coyote can hand out. Bridger and Duke make square jaw #2’s, which can be improved by 4-coiling, adding swivels, and ensuring the chain is mounted to the center of the base plate. Offset jaws can help improve these traps as well.
The MB-550 is probably the most popular coyote trap in America today. Developed by Minnesota Trapline Products, the MB borrowed from some of the better innovations in the trapping industry and put them together into one incredible package built to catch coyotes out of the box. The MB-550 has a 5.5 inch outside jaw spread and a 4 3/4 inch inside jaw spread, which puts it a little on the small side as far as catch pattern goes, but that’s about the only downside I can think of when it comes to this trap. It’s built with heavy duty, thick cast jaws, making for a very comfortable hold on the foot with no need for lamination. For most trappers, this trap is ready to go out of the box. The heavy duty machine chain is mounted to the base plate with a D-ring and swivel, and the trap comes with the innovative Paws-I-Trip pan system, creating a night latch setup with a nice crisp fire and minimal pan travel. Pan tension is not adjustable with a bolt/screw, but can be adjusted by bending the dog. Every 550 is set and fired when assembled at the MTP shop, and I’ve yet to have one that wasn’t ready to trap with right out the gate. The MB-550 is small enough for fox, and will hold any coyote out there. It’s a little more expensive than many of the other coyote traps out there, but if you can swing it, I think you’ll find it worth the investment.
#3 Coil Spring Traps
The #3 coil spring trap comes in a couple of different configurations, depending on the brand. Victor, Duke and Montgomery make a round jawed model. It isn’t great out of the box, and can be vastly improved with better chain, swivels, lamination, etc. The good thing about the #3 round jaw is that it fits within jaw spread restrictions for some states, whereas other #2’s and 3’s don’t.
Bridger makes a square-jawed #3 coil that comes in either dogless or dogged configurations, and is a very popular coyote trap, particularly among Western trappers. The larger jaw spread of the #3 increases the catch area, and the jaws can break up through thick dirt and snow and still catch a coyote high on the paw. These traps are a great option, but may need some modifications out of the box.
The MB-650 is a unique trap. Also made by Minnesota Trapline Products, this is a trap in the size range of a standard #3 or #4. The 650 has a unique pan and jaw system, which can be a bit more difficult to navigate, particularly since there is no loose jaw (the loose jaw is held down by a rod system connected to the pan catch side of the trap). Some trappers love the 650. It’s a great trap that does take some getting used to.
#4 and up
Some trappers use #4’s, which are typically big square jawed traps with a jaw spread of around 6 1/2″. They work well, but may be a bit overkill in many situations. When challenged with lots of ice and snow, the extra power and jaw spread of the #4 may prove useful to a coyote trapper.
K-9 Extreme and Extreme Jr.
The K-9 Extreme and Extreme Jr. are the new kids on the coyote trapping block, and are gaining in popularity. They are the most ruggedly built traps on the market, with all of the bells and whistles and some new innovations, including a dogless night latch, bolted jaw attachments and a slick trap coating. They are impressive traps for sure, though there are a few potential drawbacks. They’re the most expensive coyote traps on the market (though the materials and workmanship definitely justify the price), they can only be purchased direct from the manufacturer (No-BS Lures), they are on the heavy side for fox, and a lot of trappers have been frustrated by the super high pan tension that can be difficult and time consuming to adjust. But it you’re looking for a trap on the leading edge of the market with an innovative design, you’ll probably love the K-9 Extremes.
Well, that covers most of the coyote traps available today. I’m sure I missed a few, but hopefully this gives you a place to start when looking for coyote traps. Feel free to add your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.