Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Foothold Trap Modification: Chain Alterations

In my previous post on foothold trap modifications, I discussed how I make a night latch trigger adjustment to my traps. You can see the post here. I also outlined the three areas where I think trap modifications could be beneficial to the trapper:

  1. To catch and hold the animal more effectively
  2. To minimize suffering for the animal and any damage to the fur
  3. To protect and preserve the traps

This post will address a modification that will effect the first and second of the above points. It will allow the trap to hold the animal more effectively, and will decrease any suffering to the animal and potential damage to the fur.

Foothold traps, much more so than body grip traps require secure anchoring in order to effectively hold the trapped animal. An animal caught in such a trap will naturally struggle to get out of the trap for a period of time. In so doing, if the trap is not properly secured, the animal may pull away the trap. Furthermore, if the trap is not properly anchored, the struggling animal may hurt itself in the process. Modifying the trap chain is a good way to address both of those concerns. As I mentioned previously, just about all modern traps are good enough to use out of the box. These modifications just make them better.

For this post I will be continuing to work on the same Oneida Victor #1 foothold trap that you saw in the previous foothold trap modification post.


For this modification you will need a specialized tool, called a J-Hook Tool. While it is possible to do the work without it, it makes things much, much easier, and I wouldn’t work without it. You will need the tool to open and close the J-hook connectors for the chain and swivel links.


As you can see, on this particular Oneida Victor trap the chain is attached to the side of the trap. For a lot of people, the ideal place for the chain attachment is the bottom center of the trap, not the side. It is believed that this reduces potential damage to the animal because it gives it less leverage when pulling. I have no idea if this is actually true. It is how I was thought to do it, so it is what I do on my traps. In all honesty, leaving the chain attachment on the side of the trap will serve you just fine. For this post, because the trap allows for it to be easily done, I will relocate the chain to a center mount.

Either way, begin by opening the J-hook on the side of the trap and removing the chain. Once the J-hook is opened, you can thread it out of the hole and remove it from the trap.



The next step is to center mount the J-hook on the trap. As I said, it is easy to do on these Oneida Victor traps because they have a center mount hole on the base through which you can thread a new J-hook. That will give you a mountain point for the new chain.


Some traps don’t have such an option. Some people weld center mounting brackets on the base for the conversion. I don’t think there is a point in doing so much work on a trap this size. I would say that if your trap doesn’t easily allow for the switch, leave the chain side mounted, unless you are doing a four spring conversion to the trap, in which case the welded base plate is needed for reinforcement to prevent bending of the base.

As far as the chain itself, I like to use single link #2/0 stainless steel chain. I also like to place additional swivels on the chain, as well as a quick release connector at the end. Be very careful when selecting chain components. Products that look the same may have very different strength characteristics. For these traps, the factory chain has a tensile strength of about 200lb. That is enough to hold target animals up through raccoon and opossum. I try to pick replacement components that are stronger, keeping in mind that your chain will only be as strong as its weakest link. Here is how I set it up:


I start with the J-hook threaded through the trap base/frame. I then add a single link of #2/0 chain, then a swivel, then three links of #2/0 chain, then another swivel, and a quick link connector at the end. The result is quite a bit shorter than the factory chain, about nine inches overall.


I like a shorter chain because it gives the animal less pulling ability because it can’t get any momentum going. Close all of the J-hooks using the J-Hook Tool.


For this modification I used just hand tools because I know not everyone has access to a work shop. The tools and parts I used are as follows:


  1. Hammer
  2. Metal working chisel (Home Depot)
  3. J-Hook Tool
  4. Standard 3/16” J-hooks (1)
  5. Standard swivels (2)
  6. Large quick link connectors (1)
  7. #2/0 single link stainless steel chain (Home Depot)

All of the above link are from Fur Harvester’s Trading Post so you can combine the shipping if you are thinking of purchasing the items. The owner is a great guy and orders ship out immediately. That being said, you can get the same supplies at many good distributors. The hammer and chisel are used to cut the chain links. It is probably the hardest part of the job if you are only using hand tools.

This modification will increase the overall weight of the trap. The factory chain weighs 2.6oz, while the new modified chain weighs 4.7oz. This brings up the weight of the completed trap to 14oz. Of course, the modifications I am showing you here are the ones for my standard traps. When I attempt to make a more easily portable set, I will have to implement different modifications, which I will discuss at a later time. Just for comparison, my Belisle 110 body grip traps weight about 15oz each.

You may be wondering why I use a quick link connector at the end of the chain. I do it so I can attach whatever end piece I want. If I am using wire anchors, I can connect them directly to the quick link, if I am using wooden stakes, I can attach a larger loop, or I can link directly to a drowner lock (have to enlarge the hole on the drowner lock to use with the large quick link connectors). 


So, what’s the point? Well, I think these modifications make the trap anchor stronger and more secure. The components are stronger, and the shorter length gives the animal less momentum when pulling. The center mount also allows (theoretically) for less leverage when the animal is pulling. This, combined with the additional swivel points (three overall counting the J-hook itself) will decrease any damage that can be caused to the animal.

Nothing says that this is how you have to modify your chains, or that you should modify them at all, but it’s what I like to do to my traps. Only one step left before I can put this trap to use…

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