Mink Trapping Simplified
Like most boys just beginning to trap I targeted muskrats that just seemed to be wherever there was water. But, my goal was to catch the elusive mink. Thirty years ago, as a young trapper I did not see a lot of mink but I managed to catch one in a coon set.
It didn’t matter to me what I caught the shy animal in, I was tickled pink. Would I ever be a good enough trapper to catch several mink in a season? I hoped so.
I treated mink trapping as if it was only for experienced trappers when I was a youngster. I practiced scent control with my traps just as I did with my coyote traps. I made complicated sets that took way too much time to construct. I would be in a state of jealousy as I listened to the old-timers talk of the mink they were catching.
Looking back, I feel a bit foolish. I could have used that time better on my coyote sets or to make more, simpler mink sets. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.
The mink, a member of the weasel family has tracks similar to that of a small cat, with an elongated body and a long bushy tail. What sets mink apart from other animals is their long thick fur that is normally dark brown to black in color. Males are considerably larger than female mink, so the bigger males will bring more money when you sell them. Recently though, neither have been bringing high dollars.
Denning sites very, but the biggest part of the time they will den in trees or rock crevices, but they are not afraid to move into abandoned homes left by other animals and call it their own, like a muskrat den.
Before setting out a mink line it is important to look for mink sign proving the animals are in the area. Because mink spend a lot of time traveling the water’s edge, some of the best places to scout are in the mud.
The tracks of a mink will leave behind toe prints that are pointed and pear shaped and normally their claw marks are visible. I normally compare a mink track to that of a house cat or otter, only smaller. Because males are bigger than females this will be reflected in their track size.
Another indication that mink are present is their scat they leave behind. Their scat is two to three inches in length and less than a half inch in diameter. It is common for mink to leave their droppings on prominent objects and features in their territory.
Mink are not hard animals to trap. Once you learn their routine, they almost become easy to catch. Notice I said almost.
In order to be a successful mink trapper on a regular basis, you need to get in your head that mink are predictable. Once you begin to believe that you are on your way to being a successful mink trapper. And remember that mink can’t smell your trap under water, or even associate it with danger.
For many trappers, including myself, the blind set is preferred over all other sets. They are easy to make, do not require lures or baits and above all else, they catch a lot of mink every season.
There are not a lot of mink in any given area compared to other furbearers. If you want to catch good numbers of mink, you have to set lots of traps and cover lots of ground. The quicker you can make a set, the sooner you can move on and make another.
The great thing about blind sets is that nothing stands out to catch the eye of a trap/animal thief. You do not have to dig holes, or use bait that could result in non-target catches. A good blind set is nothing more than a concealed trap in a natural location.
The best location to create a blind set is where a mink has to enter the water to go through a culvert or under a bridge. Mink will go in the water at the very last moment, and stay as close to the edge as possible.
Contrary to what many people think, mink are land animals. They only go in the water to find food or because they have no other choice. That is why a trap placed where a mink enters the water to go under a bridge is so effective.
The best place to set a trap is right where the stream and the wall of the bridge meet. Place the trap in the spot the mink first has to get its feet wet.
If you’re lucky, you will see mink tracks that will help you place the trap in the right spot. If you can place a trap on each of the 4 corners of the bridge wall, do so.
It is not necessary to cover the trap to help camouflage it if it is set under water. Mink look at the trap as if it is a rock or other object and just climb over it.
Sometimes on dry land, mink can go around an obstacle without having to get its feet wet. To force the mink down and into the water, place a rock or other object to make the mink swing out wider around the object into the water. Sometimes this will not work so you might have to make a dry land set and cover it lightly.
The baited set I use is the pocket set. A pocket set is simply a hole dug into the bank of the river or creek I am trapping on with a trap places at the entrance of the hole. Mink will investigate just about every hole they come across and that is why pocket sets are so effective. Lure the mink in, by placing bait and lure in the back of the hole and wait. Waiting is a big part of mink trapping because mink are always on the move, and it might be a week or so before they get back around to your set location.
Foothold traps should be rigged to a drowning system so the animal will quickly drown. If the water is deep enough, wiring the trap to a stake in deep water will often do the trick. The problem with only wiring to a stake in deep water is that mink sets often catch coon and this is not a good way to drown coon, so you will likely have a live coon to deal with when checking your traps.
A drowning rig is an anchor system setup using a slide wire and drowning lock. The slide wire is anchored near the trap on one end and in deeper water on the other end. The trap is attached to the wire with a drowning lock, which allows the trap chain to slide along the wire only one way towards deeper water. As the animal goes into the water to escape danger they cannot return back towards land and a quick, humane dispatch has occurred.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when trapping mink with footholds. The first thing is that I want my trap to fire as soon as the mink’s foot touches the pan. Adjust the pan tension to where the trap is just capable of staying set on its own. If it takes any pressure at all to fire the trap, you will miss mink.
Mink are tiny critters that step lightly and weigh little so set your pan tension accordingly. Keeping with the theme of needing the trap to fire with little pressure applied, the other thing I do is place the loose jaw of the trap against the wall or other object. This puts the outer edge of the pan, which requires little pressure to fire, right where the mink is going to step.
I catch lots of mink in No. 1 coilsprings and No. 11 longsprings using drowning rigs. Another good number of mink end up in 110 bodygrip traps for me too.
There is hardly any place that a 110 will not work. The good thing is they are a deadly trap that does not require any special rigging to drown a mink like a foothold needs.
When using a bodygrip, spread the two trigger wires apart and run a piece of fine copper wire between the two trigger wires. This will prevent mink from sneaking through without setting the trap off.
Trapping mink is not hard. Get out and do some scouting. Follow their tracks along a creek and see how they behave. If you happen to be fishing on the river and see a mink working its way along the bank, follow it. You will learn a lot and be entertained as well.