Otter Trapping, water trapping — January 7, 2014 at 12:20 am

Circle or Bulls Eye Triggers for otter trapping, as good as it gets

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   circle bulls eye body grip trap triggerI know form personal experience; trappers are always looking for a secret to give them an edge. I have to admit that most secrets are not secrets at all. To the uninformed, something new to them may seem revolutionary or earth shattering. Sometimes the secret is nothing but an advertising scheme to separate you from a few dollars. Ask any veteran trapper and they will tell you there is no “secret”, only hard work. Amen to that brother. Is the bulls eye or circle trigger a true otter trapping secret? I don’t know if I will go that far, but it is new and it will up your otter catch by as much as 100%. So maybe it is a secret if I dare to use such a strong term. I can tell you that trappers may catch twice as many otter, up to a point, with this one equipment modification. I won’t go so far as to say that someone catching 100 otter will all of a sudden catch 200, but if you’re in the 10-30 range you will think there is an otter population explosion. I know what you’re thinking, those are bold words and I agree.

The first time I heard of the circle trigger was from a high numbers man from Arkansas. His name is Allen Brown and he has taken an average of 90 otter and 500 beaver in 60 days for the last five years. We were talking on the phone one day about otter and he mentioned his way of bending his conibear triggers. He explained that he would use extra long triggers and bend them into a complete circle and then connect them. When he was done he would have a complete circle that was about 6 inches in diameter. When he told me about it, I have to admit that I thought it was just another pet way a trapper bends his conibear trigger. I have heard of all kinds of ways to block the opening of a conibear and I have tried most of them. Some work, some worked ok and some worked good, but none were anything special. The way I fixed my triggers for the last five years was in a spread V with the trigger on the bottom. My logic for having the trigger on the bottom was simple. If there was to be any damage from the trigger it would be on the belly of the otter or beaver. Trigger damage does not happen very often now, due to the fact that I only using magnum and completely closing Canadian style jaws. It didn’t take long to see that weak non-closing jaws would not kill a lot of otter. Otter are very strong and since they never quite fighting, damage will happen with non-lethal traps. The V trigger also seemed to fill up the conibear the best without leaving any big area for the otter to wiggle through. I was happy with this trigger set-up and have caught a lot of otter with it. That all changed when I gave the circle trigger a test run on 60 330’s. What happened with the test run was eye opening to say the least.

otter trapping body gripOn a trip to Mississippi I set out sixty conibears with a 6 inch circle trigger. I cut off the original triggers and attached the circle with two double farrels. Since I was in Mississippi and there are no laws on how to set conibears, I tested the traps on land, half submerged and half completely submerged. One has to understand that the more experience a trapper has on a particular animal the better results he will get. Keep in mind that I have been chasing otter from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Coast so trapping otter is getting a lot easier and more deadly. One seems to almost sense where and what the otter are doing and where to place a trap to intercept him. So in most cases I expect to take an otter if one shows up or at least I did before the test. The traps with the circle triggers blew my mind. It was almost like otter where falling out of the trees. I could not believe how many otter were dead center of the trigger waiting on me. Over the 20 days I was in Mississippi there where 40 otter taken. Keeping in mind there was 7 inches of rain, my first time in a strange territory, and seven other trappers that I knew about. As the trip came to a close I started getting a sick feeling in my stomach. It was becoming clear that I was probably leaving 50%-100% otter on my past otter lines. They were getting through the traps that I had been using with my inverted V trigger set ups.

On my traps that were out of the water I camouflaged the trap to the point that all the otter could see is the trigger in an opening in his trail. My traps were painted an olive green color. The set almost looked like a snare had been placed in a grass and weed tunnel. What really amazed me was that all but one otter had entered the circle and made it all the way to the hips. Let that sink in a minute, 25-35 pound otter were slinking through a six inch circle before applying any amount of pressure to the trigger. These were not small or average size otter, Delta otter are the biggest I have found anywhere I have trapped. What was happening is that the otter were getting snared by the circle trigger. The same thing was happening on the half submerged traps. Even in 2-8 inches of water the otter could almost get through a six inch circle. There should be alarm bells going off in your head. If your trigger set-up gives the otter anywhere to slink through your traps, he will and does. On the traps that were set completely underwater the results were a little varied. In clearer water almost all the otter would again be in the dead center of the circle trigger. Now most of the water in the Delta looks either like strong chocolate milk in color or black. About 20% of the otter in murky water would not be in the center of the circle, but about 80% still found the circle. Not even taking in account the circle trigger, otter see very well under water and can adjust to your trap and trigger. Not to get far off the subject, but if otter can see the circle and try to make it through it, what makes any trapper think they can set a bare exposed trap underwater and take most or all otter that make contact with the set. I blend in my conibears that are underwater because in Tennessee the water is crystal clear and the trap stands out like a sore thumb. I was hiding my traps in Mississippi more out of habit than thinking otter could see anything in the murky water of the Delta. The otter taught me different, and if one does not use this knowledge the otter will win more than the trapper. One great aspect of the circle trigger is that there is no way for an otter to bypass the circle and still make it through the trap. I’ll tell you how effective it is, the circle trigger makes the 330 conibear into a deadly muskrat trap, and nothing makes it through the circle. In my opinion the full circle trigger is the only way to set-up on the otter, except for a trip wire trigger that we will cover in a few moments.

During the same season that I used Allen’s circle trigger, I also put the concept in my newsletter “In the Trap Line Trenches”. Wayne Soper took the write up to heart and converted all his conibears with the 6 inch circle trigger. He also had big otter getting hip caught in the 6 inch circle. What he did was drop the circle to 5-5.5 inches. Then over the rest of his 80 plus otter season, the smaller circle stopped the hip catches. Wayne, by dropping the loop size, found the perfect trigger size. Over the rest of the season he mostly only got catches that showed the trigger was firing from the shoulders of the otter. Sometimes you will get one leg through the circle along with the head and that is about it. He told me about dropping his trigger size and what was happening in the field. So I tried the smaller loop and found that 5-5.5 inches is the best trigger size. I used #11 and #9 wire for the triggers and found no difference in the otter catch. With this trigger set-up, you are not trying to hide the circle or the triggers. For some reason otter, beaver, coon, rats and nutria focus on the circle and believe they can make it through the circle. As a snare man, I never liked the idea of having two trigger wires in the conibears opening. Anyone that snares would NEVER have two prominent sticks poking up in the middle of the snare loop. This would cause refusals and make the animal weave his head and body around tying to miss the sticks in the snare opening. Knowing this basic principle, why in the world would anyone use a mechanical snare (conibear) and put obstacles in the mechanical snare’s opening. The circle trigger does not seem to be an obstacle to otter, but an opening. The little extra work is worth it and the extra otter and money at the end of the season make it mandatory in my eyes.

If for some reason you’re not using the circle trigger, then I would suggest the V shaped trigger with the base of the trigger on the bottom of the trap. I can however tell you from countless mishaps that otter will and do get around the V trigger’s setup. I don’t know how to stress enough that how you use your triggers will mean the difference between doubles or no otter at all.

So whichever trigger system you use, always keep in mind that otter are like mink and can throw about anything if given the chance.

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One Comment

  1. I converted about 50 of my 110′s over to circle triggers last year. They work well on dry trail sets as well as in water. I make mine by wrapping a 36″length of 3 /32′ weld wire around a 1 1/2″ PVC pipe and then cutting them apart. This makes 4 triggers per length. I then put a 1/4″ bend on the both ends. I clip off the “V” triggers and tack weld the circles back on. I use a MIG welder with 75/25 gas and .030 wire. They will be joined by another 50 for next season, although I plan to give the Mink a season off and go back to Red Fox Trapping next season. The price should be low enough to shut down some of the huge numbers of trappers here. There has been around 1,200 Fur Taker licences sold in my COUNTY the past few years. $50.00 Foxes will do that!!!! Phil Brown lives about 10 miles from me and he is still taking his thousand Fox every year for the past 10 years at least.
    Hope to see you at PTA Convention in June.

    Dick Atkins
    Author of “EASTERN FOX TRAPPING”
    and DVD- ” FOX TRAPPING- 50 YEARS ON THE LINE”

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