Muskrat Trapping For Rookies | Subject & Stream

Rising up, in northeast Ohio within the early Seventies, trapping was an enormous a part of what my father and I did each Fall. And whereas we didn’t particularly goal muskrats, they have been our bread and butter. Why? For a similar causes lots of people trapped muskrats again within the day: They have been plentiful to the purpose of overpopulation in lots of locations, they weren’t too arduous to catch, they have been (and nonetheless are) extremely fast and simple to place up (pores and skin/stretch), and, a minimum of in 1979, introduced $6 to $8 per pelt. 

Right now, trapping is, sadly, rattling close to a factor of the previous. After I bought my final batch of muskrats in Iowa round 2009, I averaged 35 cents a pelt. However trappers nonetheless entice, they usually nonetheless entice loads of muskrats in swamps, sloughs, ponds, and creeks throughout the nation. So let’s say you wish to get began trapping muskrats. What do you want? The place do you look? How do you make a set? And, what the hell do you do with a muskrat after you’ve caught it? You’ve come to the proper place. Welcome, to muskrat trapping 101.

The Greatest Muskrat-Trapping Gear For Rookies

A trappers pack basket and traps
A sturdy pack basket is nice for holding your entire gear, however you may also use a 5-gallon bucket. M.D. Johnson

True, trapping furbearers, even muskrats, could be tools intensive. However the most effective issues about ‘rat trapping is that it doesn’t must be. A handful of traps, some odds and ends of drugs, a carry-all, and a set of chest waders or hip boots, and also you’re primarily in service. Right here’s an inventory of drugs for the start muskrat trapper: 

Pack basket 

For trapping, I want a woven wood basket with adjustable pack straps and an excellent, strong wooden backside. My private pack basket is maple veneer, and whereas she reveals slightly put on at age 40, she’s nonetheless in positive working situation. Some trappers want to make use of tall 5-gallon buckets with drain holes drilled within the backside for hauling. I can’t argue with that, however I need one thing I can strap on my again.

4 Sorts of Muskrat Traps

This one’s open to debate, as some trappers use particular shapes and sizes of traps. However, in the event you’re simply getting began, I might counsel six #1 long-spring legholds, six #1 stop-loss fashion legholds, and 12 #110 Conibear body-gripping traps. Traps normally have to be tagged together with your info earlier than setting them. Test your native rules on trapping. 

1) #1 Lengthy-Spring Legholds 

A traditional leghold-style trap effectively fitted to muskrats, the lengthy spring leghold is easy to set and place. Nevertheless, owing to a muskrat’s tendency to twist out of a leghold entice, these ought to be utilized in deep-water drowning purposes.

2) #1 Cease-Loss Fashion 

Nearly an identical to the #1 Lengthy Spring, the stop-loss incorporates a spring-loaded switch bar, that holds a muskrat away from the entice itself, stopping loss from twisting.

3) #110 Conibear 

In my view, the #110 Conibear is the muskrat trapper’s finest good friend. A single spring powers two box-shaped jaws or arms. When the ‘rat passes by way of, it releases a set off, and the jaws snap closed fore and aft, killing the animal instantly. 

4) #1 Bounce-Fashion Traps (Optionally available)  

I really like small leap traps for his or her versatility and effectiveness. A single shortened spring gives rigidity to 2 jaws. When triggered, the entice “jumps” vertically gaining a excessive maintain on the goal. Bounce traps are light-weight, straightforward to make use of, they usually sit, or “mattress,” very flat.


Stakes safe and maintain traps in place. Muskrats usually don’t want a lot within the stake division. A 1″ x 1” picket tomato stake 4 to five toes lengthy is commonly lots. One factor to bear in mind although is that each mink and raccoons have a approach of blundering into muskrat units. Preserve this in thoughts when securing traps, and err on the facet of energy.

Wire and Equipment 

Any ‘rat trapper price his or her salt could have a roll of #16 black stovepipe wire, an excellent set of facet wire cutters, 10-inch black zip ties, and a 6- to 8-inch sheath knife, all for wiring and securing traps, chopping stakes or bait, and 1,001 different issues. I’ll typically carry a lightweight hatchet, too.

Lures and baits 

Candy-smelling liquid lures or scents designed to draw muskrats to the entice web site can be found on-line and may match to some extent. Nevertheless, I’ve had good luck utilizing apple quarters, which offer each a visible and olfactory aspect to the set. In case you discover a sizzling spot, like an energetic feed mattress (vegetative feeding platform), lures and baits change into pointless.


Orange flagging tied onto entice stakes serves to reply the query of, “The place the hell did I put that one?” I’d advocate this solely on non-public waters or the place entice loss attributable to theft isn’t a problem.

The place to Lure Muskrats

I’ve discovered and efficiently trapped muskrats in ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, swamps, marshes, and drainage ditches. With water, meals, and tender dust banks for tunneling, muskrats will—and do—make themselves at house from coast to coast.

For the novice, the best place to entice is a small pond or shallow marsh. In a pond, muskrat runs, the paths the animals use as they journey out and in of their dwelling, are sometimes fairly seen, because of the mud that’s stirred up because the animals journey backwards and forwards. Muskrats dwell in holes within the financial institution and in domed constructions manufactured from close by native supplies, like cattails, known as muskrat homes or huts. On nonetheless water, runs, financial institution dens, and huts ought to be straightforward to search out.

Shifting water, like creeks, streams, or rivers, can present wonderful muskrat trapping alternatives however presents a few challenges. One, the present flushes away the mud that might in any other case reveal muskrats runs. And two, with slightly rain and rising water, the traps you set beneath an inch could be coated with a foot of muddy torrent if you return, or misplaced fully. 

4 Primary Muskrat Units For Rookies

Each ‘rat trapping state of affairs goes to be slightly bit totally different because of the environment. Nevertheless, there are a handful of units that each trapper ought to know.

1) The Financial institution Den- or Hut-Entrance Set 

Find a financial institution den entrance beneath the water together with your hand or the toe of your boot. Then slip a tomato stake by way of the round spring on a #110 Conibear to a peak depending on water/mud depth. Drive the stake into the mud and safe the entice to it tightly with a cable tie. Compress the spring, set the set off, place the entice 6 to eight inches simply exterior of a financial institution den entrance gap. 

2) The Feed-Mattress Set

Set a stop-loss or leap entice an inch under the water on the spot the place a muskrat accesses a feeding platform, which is evidenced by a slim flattened path and bits of discarded cattail (typically white) or different vegetation. Mattress the entice firmly; that’s, set it stage and strong, so it doesn’t rock or shift because the ‘rat climbs aboard the feed mattress. Lengthen the entice chain with wire by 12 to 36 inches, relying on water depth, and stake securely. 

Fur trapper pulling a muskrat from the water.
Conibear traps kill immediately and could be set beneath water. M.D. Johnson

3) Run or Journey-Route Units

These prime areas will seem as trails by way of the cattails, coontail, algae, or duckweed, with or with out mud. Set a #110 Conibear and tomato stake someplace alongside the run simply as you’d at a financial institution den. Place the canine of the entice (the notched arm that matches into the highest of the two-wire set off) 2 inches above the waterline. End the set by bending a lightweight handful of cattails overtop the entice. The hot button is to interrupt up the sq. define of the Conibear.

4) The Bathroom Set

Muskrats typically use near-horizontal logs rising out of the water as common bathrooms. You’ll find them by on the lookout for an accumulation of brownish bean-shaped droppings atop the log. This set requires a #1 leap entice mounted, spring tab up, to the log with mild twine, slightly below the waterline. The trick right here is to safe the entice so it’s secure, however not so tight {that a} muskrat can’t break the entice freed from the log and attain deeper drowning water. Often, I’ll notch the log to permit the entice to take a seat flat.

Learn Subsequent: Why Learning How to Trap Can Improve Your Turkey Hunting

Learn how to Pores and skin a Muskrat

In case you can take a glove off inside out, you possibly can pores and skin a muskrat. Right here’s my methodology, step-by-step:

  1. Dangle the muskat from the rafters—I’m assuming you’re doing this in an outbuilding and never within the kitchen, though I’ve been identified to do exactly that—at a cushty working peak, by every again leg with binder twine or different robust twine.
  2. Utilizing a short-bladed sharp knife, reduce round every hind leg on the ‘wrist’ joint, the scaly tail, and every entrance foot.
  3. Make a reduce from every hind leg to the tail..
  4. Start peeling the disguise down and away from the carcass together with your fingers beginning at every hind leg and dealing towards the pinnacle. Watch out of the stomach pores and skin, because it’s terribly skinny and susceptible to ripping. Pull the pelt over every entrance foot and proceed to the pinnacle.
  5. Use a small knife to work on the ears, eyes, and nostril and free the inverted pelt from the carcass. Pelts could be rolled, fur out, nostril to tail, positioned in plastic baggage and frozen for market. Some trappers advocate freezing muskrat pelts fur facet out and flat. I’ve discovered that both methodology works. I at all times scrape or take away the fats and flesh and stretch my muskrat hides earlier than taking them to my fur purchaser. However this typically depends upon what the person purchaser needs.

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