by Randy Goldenman, Minnesota
It seems a lot of newbie beaver trappers have a hard time with footholds. This is the way I do it. I know some will disagree with some things I'll post, that's fine, but this has worked very well for me. Although the below set is a castor mound, I use the same trap placement and strategy at most foothold sets.
Another very important thing I do, especially with the smaller traps, are the two pink colored guide sticks in the front. At 14" apart, these guide the beaver's feet right in line with where you want them which is right between the jaws so the trap "suitcases" the feet. I'm convinced one of the main reasons for sprung, empty traps is because the beaver has it's rear foot on a jaw when the trap fires. It's very hard to get a good hold when this happens. Especially with smaller traps, the closer you can get the rear foot to right between the jaws and the center of your trap, the better off you will be. Set your trap so the outside jaw is right against one of the guide sticks, off-setting the pan 4" - 4 1/2". Traps set closer to center will only ask for marginal holds. If you measure a large beaver's width between the legs, you will see they are wide animals.
I prefer the 7 1/2" jawspread traps, like MB 750's. They are a lot more forgiving of bad trap placement than the 6 1/2" (#3 or #4) jawspread traps. 750's aren't legal everywhere though. #3 and #4 sized traps should ALWAYS be 4 coiled VERY strong. You can't get traps too strong for beaver. Make them as strong as you can set them. When they start to get weak, replace the springs. One lost beaver would have paid for a lot of replacement springs.
Pan tension should be at 4-5 pounds to get a better hold and avoid muskrats.
The trap dog should be at 3:00 or 9:00, depending on what side you have your trap set on, with the dog to the outside. Stabilize your trap, so it's not rocking, with small sticks or rocks under the jaws and levers.
When not in current, I like to dig the traps down so the pan is level with the bottom. If you do it in current, sand can wash underneath the pan.
I like to use lot's of the blackest mud I can find on my mounds for eye appeal. If there are some freshly peeled sticks in the area, I throw those up there too. I know eye appeal is important and useful, because often I'll catch beaver on both sides of a river or creek in the same night even when the wind is blowing hard from a certain direction. One of these years I'm going to try not using any lure on some sets just to prove this point. I also use a stick of popple at most sets. It's optional though. At least here, popple is candy, and can help in attracting up to the bank. All beaver don't go to the top of the mound. Especially smaller beaver, like 2-year-olds, sometimes will just go near the edge, get a whiff, and leave. Bait helps get them to commit.
Notice the blocking around the set in the above picture. Blocking can be very important. Sometimes beaver will try to go directly into the wind to your lure or just try to go around for some reason. Make the way over your trap the easiest route to the mound. Dead tree tops and brush tops laid sideways work well for blocking. If you have beaver that have been trapped hard before, a lot of blocking may put them on alert, although I have rarely seen this be the case. If I know I'm after possible smart beaver though, I'll make a small trench at the base of the mound with my boot and use a little grass to try to block off the sides best I can, without making it look too obvious and hope for the best.
IMO quick drowning is very important, especially with smaller traps. I know there are good trappers that don't drown their beaver and I admit it's not always necessary with 7 1/2" jawspread traps and in some situations. But with #3 and #4 sized traps it's necessary. I've always said a dead beaver on the end of a drowner isn't going anywhere, a live beaver still has a chance. The end of the drowner preferably should be in 4' of water or more. It's 4' from the nose to the drowner on a large beaver. With hind foot catches with the smaller traps, you want that beaver under water as soon as possible. Beaver can live a long time with just their nose sticking out of the water. You can get by with less water with larger traps, but I personally seldom set a foothold with less than 3 feet of water to drown.