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Fastening a trap is one of the most basic things a trapper must do well, but it can be done in a number of different ways. Let’s go through the history of trap staking, and explore the staking options trappers have today.
You have to fasten your trap to something in order to make sure the target animal doesn’t get away. Aside from the use of drags (click here for a revew on drags), this means fastening the trap to an immovable object. In the old mountain man days, the basics of staking involved chaining a trap to a large tree. Sure, it worked, but it also limited options to where you found big trees, required long lengths of heavy chain, and just wasn’t a good option overall. While trappers still chain to trees in some places, like the alpine subarctic in Alaska and Canada, where the ground’s frozen, this technique has been replaced by in-ground staking on most traplines today.
The first stakes in the (somewhat) modern era were made of hardwood, usually cut to a long triangular shape, and driven through the ring at the end of a trap chain into the ground. This was pretty effective in fox trapping, where the holding strength of the stake wasn’t really put to the test, but when Mr. Coyote came along to much of the East, this method went out the window.
Too many pullouts with wooden stakes caused many trappers to switch to metal rod. Some of the first metal rod stakes were made of smooth rod. At some point trappers welded metal triangles to the tips of these so they’d hold better in the ground, and eventually most trappers transitioned to metal rebar.
Rebar stakes had several advantages. The ridges on the rebar helped hold the stake tightly in the ground, and also made it a little easier to get it out by twisting with a pair of vise grips. You could use multiple lengths of rebar, and could even cross-stake with two stakes per set, using double stake swivels. Rebar was used on many fox and coyote traplines for decades, and many folks still use it today. Rebar stakes certainly have their place on some traplines.
The disadvantage of rebar stakes is weight. Having to pack a bunch or rebar all over the country, pound it into the ground, and pull it back out again has worn out a lot of shoulders and backs. That’s when disposable stakes hit the scene.
The first disposable stakes on the market were the Berkshires. They were basically a flat, horizontal shaped piece of metal you drove into the ground, and pulled up and out until they caught in the dirt sideways, wedging tight. They were light and cheap, and worked nicely on the water line. Their big disadvantage was they were too light. They were no match for coyotes, and couldn’t be driven into frozen ground without crumpling. They were a great idea that needed some tweaking.
The Iowa Disposable Stake ushered in a modern era of disposable earth anchors for trappers, particularly those on the fox and coyote lines. It worked on the same concept as the Berkshire, but was made of heavy duty pipe material so it couldn’t be bent up or pulled out, and you could drive it into any type of ground. A number of others came out using this new type of design, including the bullet stake, duckbill, super stake, pogo earth anchor, and finally the Wolf Fang earth anchor.
In today’s trapping world, the disposable earth anchors are pretty much the standard in trap staking. Some folks still use rebar, and a few others use some of the older methods, but earth anchors are tough to beat. That is, until someone comes up with the next great invention and we all wonder why we didn’t think of it first!