Something I hadn’t heard of before is how the latch/trigger of a set trap will begin to stick. With a conventional coilspring trap, a latch hinges over one jaw and is fitted into a notch on the trap pan. That is a little point of metal-to-metal contact. With the Bridger Dogless, a little extension of the trap pan fits over a trap jaw when the trap pan is lifted. This keeps the trap set. It, too, is metal-to-metal contact, though larger than the contact on a conventional triggering system.
This metal-to-metal contact begins to change as soon as the trap is set. Initially, the trap will fire as it should – the pan tension staying as it was adjusted. Time begins to find this contact point rusting. I’m not talking big flakey chunks of iron oxide. It’s a more subtle, very light change – a mere coating to begin with. Through time, this rust will begin to create a bond between the two metal surfaces. Eventually, it can be almost like cement.
I first came across this when trapping late season near home. The weather was typical with snow, rain, freezing and thawing. The traps were bedded and covered with either buckwheat hulls and glycol, or waxed sand. Some of these traps were in the ground untouched for three to four weeks. After a good wetting and freeze, a thin top crust of hulls or sand would be flipped off the trap covering with a screwdriver. A little more covering would be sprinkled on top to replace it. The deeper, and dry, hulls or sand were undisturbed. Well, the season ends and it’s time to pull everything. I’d pick up the grapple chain and pull the trap out of the bed. Dry hulls and sand sifted off them as the traps were lifted. I’d reach under a spring and pull the pan down to spring the trap.
Many of these long-set traps would take an extreme amount of pressure before they fired. The triggering system was rusted together enough to greatly increase the pan pressure. I had my theory on this and decided to test it.
I took three traps fresh out of the box and degreased only. These were set in the garage where it was dry and had some heat. This was the control batch of traps. I took three equally degreased and set traps, and put these in a welded wire “trap cage” set outside on the lawn. The cage was to keep animals or blowing debris from firing the traps, thus ruining the test. A batch of three traps that were dipped in a Rustoleum primer/toulene mix and a batch of traps that were degreased and waxed were prepared. These were also set and placed in the “trap cage.” The wire lid on the cage was secured with electrical ties.
This set of four three-trap groups was made for both Victor #2 round jaw coilsprings and Bridger #2 Dogless. This meant a total of 24 traps were tested.
These traps were set and placed on February 27, 2021. They were pulled and the pan tension of each tested on March 12, 2021. That two weeks – which by no coincidence was the length of our fisher season – saw snow, light rain, dry days, and temperatures ranging from lows of 20° to 60°.
At the end of the testing period, the pan tension was measured with a Sullivan’s Trap Tester. I wished now that I had measured pan tension before weathering as well. Still, the results with only two weeks were interesting. In all but one case (the waxed Victors), the outside weathering caused the average pan tension to increase. With the wider contact surface of the Bridgers, the increase was almost two pounds more pan tension. That’s significant. You can imagine how a longer period at a set will increase pan tension even more.
Waxing traps surely protects them from the effects of weather. Unfortunately, for the triggering mechanism, we routinely scrape the wax off the surfaces so the trap won’t dry fire. In a great many cases, they are scraped down to bare metal which increases the forming of rust.
All this leads to some trapline management. When the cubbies are opened to relure and rebait, it is wise to snap the trap and reset it. Doing this once a week will pretty much eliminate any excess pan tension. This is good info to remember for any land trapping – with cubbies or not.
Another way around this increased pan tension with set traps is to put a spot of mineral oil on the triggering contact surfaces. I tested Bridger #2 Dogless that had all been degreased with no other treatment. Half were set and placed in the trap cage. Half were set, had a drop of oil placed on the pan latch and corresponding surface of the trap jaw, and placed in the trap cage. This was a November 16 through November 30, 2021, test. The pan tension testing afterwards measured a solid one-pound increase in pan tension for the traps with no mineral oil applied. Put some mineral oil in a 4-ounce squeeze bottle and put a drop on when setting in bad weather on land. Mineral oil is odorless and won’t evaporate. It won’t spook furbearers and will last a long time. •