There are traps for every situation, and lately the author finds that round body grips fit the job more and more.
By Jason Houser
Trappers have relied on a variety of traps to make their catches throughout history. Everything from footholds to cage traps, dog-proofs and body grips (aka Conibears) are all staples on the trapline for many trappers. And one thing that trappers are known for is their loyalty to particular tools. When they find something that works, they are going to be hard-pressed to change things up. That holds true whether we are talking about baits, lures or sets — and especially trap styles.
Visit any trapping-related social media site and you will soon realize that trappers are loyal to the brands and sizes of traps they use, and if you are not using the same trap, then you are wrong. I don’t think I have ever been a “trap-basher” on social media or anywhere else, but there are certainly some traps that are better than others in different situations.
I can’t even begin to guess what style of trap is responsible for more catches, but in all reality it is probably the foothold trap, just because it was around almost 100 years earlier than the body-grip-style trap.
Body-grip traps are the perfect trap for trail and cubby sets, beaver and otter trapping in channels and crossovers, muskrat runs, mink trapping and more.
When Frank Conibear first introduced the Conibear trap back in the early 1960s, he envisioned a trap that would close with great force over the neck and head of the furbearer, causing almost instant and humane death.
It didn’t take long for the news to spread across the U.S. and Canada about the new trap and how humane it was. Nobody ever dreamed of a trap that would so quickly kill the animal. There was no more having to dispatch animals, for they were already dead when the trapper arrived.
But, the same problems that trappers faced back then still hold true today. Body-grip traps do not know the difference between animals. A raccoon and a cat will get the same treatment. That is why it is so important for the trapper to take great care in trap placement. Also, good luck getting a coyote or fox in a body-grip trap of any style.
Mr. Conibear achieved what he set out to do and many trap companies have duplicated his original trap to some degree, with remarkably close similarities from one brand to the next.
Then came the RBG, or Round Body Grip trap. There is no other body-grip trap like it.
Bill Crum, from Indiana, started the RBG Trap company and recently sold the business to Nick Erny. The business is still located in Indiana and the traps are proudly made right here in the U.S.A. Not many other trap companies can lay claim to that.
Right off the bat when I first started using RBG traps, I noticed a couple of differences from most other body-grip traps. The first difference was their large safety hook. I have always trusted safety hooks, to some degree, on all trap brands, but the added size and strength of these gave me some extra peace of mind. Second, was the cable with swivels at both ends. I can think of only one other trap manufacturer that does this. I wish more trap manufactures would follow suit.
Body grips are a must on my trapline. Whether it is setting raccoon trails, muskrat runs, bucket and cubby sets, or for beavers and otters, these traps get a workout every year. For years, all I used were the old-fashioned square traps. Then I was introduced to the RBG. After being an avid user of body-grip traps for many, many years, I welcomed the change.
Over the years I have had the privilege of using the RBG traps in just about every size. One thing that I began to learn after going through my logbook was that my catches with body-grip traps began to rise once I made the switch. I was already having decent success with body grips, but then I was tinkering on the edge of great success with them.
Can a different style of trap that does the same thing really make that much of a difference? The answer is yes. I found that my catch rate on trail and bucket sets for raccoons were significantly higher, along with my beaver catches.
I am certainly not a rocket scientist, but I have a theory on why the success rates went up. First of all, I don’t know that beavers become trap shy, but I do think that they might become square shape shy. Over time, beavers — particularly those that had some close calls or watched other beavers get caught — begin to associate that square opening with danger.
The round-style body grip is something that they have not seen before, and I believe they are more willing to commit themselves to entering a round hole more than they are a square opening.
The same holds true when running my ‘coon line. I had a lot more catches in the round 160 and 220 RBG traps than I did with the old style of traps I used.
I believe the raccoons were more willing to push on through the round traps than they were before. Also, I had less traps being knocked over than what I originally experienced. It’s tough to catch any critter when the trap is not in place.
Those are my personal theories on why the round-style traps outperform other traps. Now it is time to hear what the owner of RBG Trap, Nick Erny, has to say about the traps he creates.
Being a trap maker, Nick knows what makes a certain trap better than another. I wanted his take on why a round body grip was better than a square style.
“There are several things that make them better. As far as functionality, the round actually makes the springs fire faster. They are also built with higher strength steel than other traps on the market. As far as catching fur, the roundness blends in so much more naturally than the square.”
I was not aware of the stronger steel being used or that they were quicker, but I can attest that they blend in better.
For years, Bill Crum was the owner of RBG and was doing great with it, so I was a little curious how Nick got involved with the company. “I had talked with Mr. Crum a few years prior to purchasing the business, as an add on to my feed and outdoor supply business. Then, my father semiretired from the sheet metal industry in the fall of 2017 and he was looking for something, and I thought this would be a great fit. It has done great for us and I get to work with my father daily, which has its ups and downs, but is definitely something that I enjoy.”
I have said from the first time that I used these traps that animals were more willing to enter the traps than conventional body grips. I posed the question to Nick to hear his thoughts. “I think they are. I’ve done lots of side-by-side tests with round vs. square traps, and the round always outperforms the square. I’ve really noticed the difference when it comes to trapping otters. I always think back to the phrase, ‘round hole with a square peg.’”
Of course, some sets are better than others for any style of trap. We all have our favorites and I thought it might be interesting to hear what some of Nick’s favorites are. “My favorite otter set is a round 280 on a crossover, if you get them in tall grass they blend so well it’s hard to even see the trap, and the otters definitely don’t. It is also unbelievable the amount of beavers that you can catch in a smaller trap on dry ground, as well as ‘coons, ‘possums, skunks, muskrats and even bobcats. Guys really need to focus on these crossovers when available.”
Erny goes on to add, “Another set that I like to make if I’m trapping a state where it’s legal is, I take the 440 and bend the trigger wires way down and half submerge the trap, and put some lure on the bank behind it. If you are in cattails, buck brush or flooded timber, you can hide the trap so well it is scary. And of course, anytime I’m setting in or around culverts or pipes they are the trap for the job.
“I’m a body-grip-type guy (even before I bought the company), they are the ticket to catching big numbers fast. Your animal is expired when you arrive and there is no dispatch, no blood and no disturbance to the area. It really speeds a guy up when you have to get back to your day job. I also gang set a lot, as well, on most beaver jobs I like to be finished up by the third check and moving on to fresh ground. When you keep your traps moving you catch more animals,” he said. That’s excellent advice for any trapper, and something that we should all be doing.
Now, I am not one to say that a certain trap is better than another. Just about every trap on the market will effectively do its intended job. But, some are definitely better than others in certain situations. It never hurts to change things up a bit.
Try something new and see if the results are better than what you were getting. RBG has a trap for all your needs. From a #40 with a 2½-inch jaw spread, all the way up to the #440 with a 12-inch jaw spread, you will find what you need. Animals do become accustomed to certain sets and traps after seeing them a few times. Grab a few RBGs this season and try them out. They just might make all of the difference needed to add to the number of pelts in your end-of-season photo.