Sooner or later most Beaglers realize that the best way to train hunting Beagles is to train pups in starting pens, and then keep there skills sharp during the non-hunting season for rabbits by utilizing running pens. Pups can be started on several types of tame rabbits or hares such as san juans, smokey mtn. cottontails, redbacks, belgian hares, or buddhas. After a few weeks of running; however, your pups will be too good to stay with training on tame rabbits. They will start to easily catch them and that is when it is time to graduate your beagle to wild rabbits and hares. This is only one of many reasons that you may want to live trap wild rabbits and hares. Other reasons include relocating rabbits to your favorite hunting grounds, relocating rabbits away from crops and orchards, or relocating rabbits to your field trial area. Whatever the reason, live trapping is a safe method to use to capture the rabbits without injuring them so they can be relocated to a new area.
Types of Traps
Basically there are two types of live traps that are guaranteed not to injure the captured animal. The first type is the wooden box trap. This type of trap can be made at home from one of several different plans. The general design is a wooden box with a door in the front and some type of trigger in the middle, which is generally a wooden peg with a wire, or string attached to the entry door. The bait is placed at the back of the box as a lure to coax the rabbit into the trap. Once the rabbit enters, it will bump the trigger in route to the bait; thereby, setting the trap off and getting captured. Wooden box traps are generally easy to build and are fairly inexpensive. The biggest drawback is that they can be fairly heavy to transport even if they are made out of plywood.
Wooden box traps have been used successfully for centuries to capture rabbits since they like to go down holes and are not that scared to enter. On the other hand, this type of trap is totally ineffective with hares since they survive by outrunning their predators and are therefore scared to go into holes or enclosed places. Click here to a nice set of wooden box trap plans courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
To be effective, the wooden box trap should be constructed of fairly good lumber. The door and its guides are critical points, since gravity must close the door after the trigger is tripped. Be sure there is enough space between the guides that the door slides without binding. Some people extend the guides about 1 inch above the top of the trap to support the door. When the door is raised and the trigger is set, at least 2 inches or more of the door should be in the guide tracks. The opening should be at least 4 inches high. This height can be adjusted by changing the length of the string between the door and lever. The trigger is not complicated, although it may require some fine-tuning to insure a quick release when contact is made.
The second type of live trap that I want to mention is the open mesh live animal trap. The open mesh type traps are constructed of a heavy gauge wire and may have a steel frame. This type of trap comes in many varieties including single entry (open at one end), double entry (open at both ends), and collapsible (easy to transport and takes less storage space).
The functioning of this type of trap is exactly like the wooden box trap. The advantages include its lighter weight, openness, and ability to be designed with two entry doors. Since this trap is transparent it gives the approaching animal a sense of not being confined so it can be used quite successfully on both rabbits and hares.
Sizes of Traps
Some of the common sizes for rabbits are 24"x7"x7" and 24"x8"x8". The main thing in selecting the dimensions of the trap are to make sure it is big enough for the rabbit, but not so large that you catch a lot of different types of unwanted animals. The normal weight for a adult rabbit is usually three pounds or less.
The common size traps for hares (including jackrabbits) are 30"x7"x7" and 30"x9"x11". Since hares, such as jackrabbits, are larger and more frightened of tight enclosed spaces, a larger and more open trap is a must. Some hares such as the White-tailed Jackrabbit can weigh as much as 10 pounds or more. These huge hares will not enter a small, confining trap that they cannot see through.
Types of Bait
Both rabbits and hares are herbivores and eat plant material. Depending on the season of the year, some baits are more effective than others. It is generally harder to trap rabbits during the seasons of the year when green plant life is abundant, but it is not impossible.
Good winter baits include bread, corn on the cob, dried apples, alfalfa, clover, and red fox urine. Successful warm weather baits include fresh vegetables (carrots, lettuce, cabbage, brussel sprouts) and apples. Many Beaglers have found that a few drops of vanilla extract placed inside the trap can be very helpful in masking the human scent and attracting both rabbits and hares. Spraying the inside of the trap with apple cider is also effective.
Opinions vary as to the importance of baits for the wooden box trap. Some prefer using baits while others use no bait at all. Baits may attract opossums and skunks in search of an easy meal. If you are using a wooden box trap, try trapping both with and without bait and see which works best in your area.
Placement of the Traps
Rabbits live in areas where good escape cover is available--in brush piles, briar patches and thick fencerows. They also prefer low-cut bluegrass mixed with clovers and shrubs. In order to catch rabbits, the box trap bust be placed in or along runs or trails made by rabbits using these areas. Rabbits tend to follow the same paths all the time; therefore, the best way to catch them is to place the trap in the pathway. If a double entry model is used, it can be placed in the pathway with or without bait. As the rabbit hopes down the path, it will pass right through the trap and get caught. Another good location for rabbits is to locate the trap in front of a hole into the ground or into a brush pile that you know is being used as a rabbit den. Rabbits that live in holes are already use to entering into tunnel configurations and are easily caught with live cage traps.
Hares, such as Snowshoe Hares and Jackrabbits, are much more difficult to catch. They usually do, but may not necessarily travel on well-marked paths. The best way to find areas that they like to frequent is to look for the piles of scat or droppings that they leave behind. Use a large, wire mesh trap with fresh bait. A bit of the vanilla extract or cider spray inside the trap should help a lot. If the natural food sources are scarce and the hares are present, your chances of catching these large lagomorphs are even better.
If you use the right size trap with the proper bait in an area that has populations of your intended game, you should find success. Many people may favor one type of trap over another for various reasons, but both types work well if used properly for the correct game. You may even try tying the trap open and letting the rabbits and/or hares to get use to entering your trap for a free meal before you set the triggering device for the first time. No matter what you plan on using to live trap, before you start out trapping rabbits and hares for any reason, please check your state game laws first. Each state has different rules concerning when you can live trap and if you can relocate live captured animals. Some states have laws against selling wild animals, so if you plan on capturing live rabbits and hares to sell to the local beagle club, you might want to look into it a bit more. Also, some states do not allow capture and release of native rabbits and hares for the purpose of restocking enclosed training pens and field trial areas. Therefore, it is much better to check out the laws first, because if you break the law and get caught, the Game Warden will tell you that ignorance of the law is no excuse.