“The Book” on Primitive Trapping

Figure 4 deadfall

If you’ve ever been interested in learning primitive trapping techniques, this primitive trapping book is right up your alley.

Primitive trapping is a bit of a touchy issue these days. Some people argue they are invaluable survival tools, while others shudder at the mere mention of them. If fact, several years ago I had a fellow who wanted me banned from a social media group just for posting a primitive trapping video. He claimed I was giving too much fuel to the anti trappers out there. On the other hand, there are probably tens of thousands of resources out there about building primitive traps. One popular Youtuber who demosrates the effectiveness of primitive traps is Tom McElroy. If you are into primitive trapping and have never watched his stuff, you’ll likely be impressed with how effective he is.

Figure 4 deadfall
What are your thoughts on primitive traps? Some see them as almost too dangerous to bring up, while others celebrate their extensive history.

As a guy whose made some primitive traps, and even caught mice, I know where I stand on them. Primitive traps were used for tens of thousands of years as a survival tool for sure, and certainly could be used again if the builder was competent enough. History seems to prove that. The flip side of the coin is that we have steel traps these days that are just too good to pass up. First nations people readily swapped for steel traps when they had the opportunity for obvious reasons. They are just better for catching animals. Whatever your interest is in primitive trapping probably determines how you view them. Personally, I see them as a great way to learn about the lives of our ancestors, walk in their moccasin tracks for a few steps, and also a tool to help a guy out in a pinch. Not ideal, but possibly a help.

Recently while stumbling across the web I came across a primitive trapping book that really caught my eye. It is a resource made available by the excellent website masterwoodsman.com. The book itself is a pdf. file you can get without downloading it and is titled Deadfalls and Snares and has a copyright date of 1907. It was penned by author A.R. Harding and may be the most complete primitive trapping book you could hope to get your hands on. Click on this link to access the book in its entirety.

Harding starts off the book proclaiming some of the advantages of primitive traps from his eyes. Many of the same arguments he used over 100 years ago are still the ones you hear in advocacy of those traps today. Not only do they allow the trapper to travel light, but they highlight bush skills and can be extremely effective. In fact, these sorts of primitive traps were so popular during this time that one trapper in the book is quoted as saying;

“In my opinion trapping is an art and any trapper that is not able to make and set a deadfall, when occasion demands, does not belong in the profession.(Pg. 17)”

Strong words for sure, but as you can tell the man was likely convicted after a life of experience.

One thing is for sure, if you are into primitive skills, this primitive trapping book is a goldmine of information. It not only discusses a few dozen types of traps and sets, but has some decent illustrations as well. Although many are advanced designs, they might get your imagination going. You may also be surprised by the variety of animals the author claims can be taken with a primitive trap as well. Again, at almost 250 pages, you may not be able to get through the whole thing quickly. It’s also worth noting anytime you discuss primitive traps that checking your state’s regulations is important.

Although primitive trapping may be a hot button issue, hopefully you can appreciate this primitive trapping book for many reasons. It is a great historical resource that can help reveal some truths about primitive traps that we may have forgotten. It is strange to think about how popular these traps used to be, even at a time when steel traps were readily available. Personally, I also think learning about them increases knowledge of bushcraft, trapping, and our shared heritage as well. Even if you don’t plan on setting any primitive traps soon, this book can still be an enjoyable read.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on primitive trapping in the comments section below.

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you like the content you may enjoy this article about Primitive Trapping as described by mountain man Zenas Leonard.

Follow the author through his Facebook page.