I spend way too much time on Facebook. I see in the trapping groups the same question over and again: “Waxed Dirt or Peat Moss ?”
I can only speak from the perpetual rainy trapping seasons in southeastern Indiana and what I know and have seen in the western US (never trapped there though).
Here, the ground is clay and rock. When you dig a trap bed, you are essentially digging a tiny pond. The clay holds water all too well. Bone dry peat moss will float on top of the “bowl” of water. If you don’t actually poke the set, you will think the peat is working and that the ground has drained away the water ! I’ve drove by a set for days thinking “Man, that peat sure is doing well in this rain” only to pull sets and find out the trap was under water the whole time with a seemingly perfect covering over the set. What an idiot !
Now, I’ve taken formal, paid instruction from O’Gorman, Randy Schworm (Ohio mink man) and hung around and conversed hundreds of hours over 20+ years with Bob Wendt of Indiana. All of these men are tops in their respective “genres” of trapping. What I’m saying is, I’ve got the knowledge and field observation to know a little bit about what you’re about to digest.
Waxing dirt is a pain in the ass. It just is. Since I am privileged to certain information from certain coyote legends, I used my resources to a certain western coyote legend and called and ask about the written waxed dirt process I was given years before. I suspected the recipe just wasn’t right. I couldn’t help but think the recipe was flawed. The secretary answered the phone and I asked about the waxed dirt method that I had obtained years before. It was 4 ounces of flaked wax per gallon of dry dirt. I asked if this was weighed ounces or volume ounces as there is a helluva difference !
The secretary yelled to the wife and asked the above. The wife confirmed volume ounces. Now, fill a measuring cup to the 4 oz. mark with flaked wax and see how much wax there is. The answer is damned little. I tried the recipe that came with my instructions so many years before. The instructed 4 ounces of flaked wax wasn’t nearly enough to coat the gallon of dirt or even mix it by ¼. Maybe that little bitty amount would work in the dry west, but certainly not in the rains of the Ohio River Valley. Four ounces of weighed flaked wax is one-quarter pound. That might be enough to mix thoroughly with a gallon of dry dirt, but I didn’t mess around and try. I was “out” by that point with waxed dirt.
I’ve been to Gross Reservoir, near Ft. Laramie, WY (south of Lusk) in February of 2018. The ice was over 12” thick. I remember kicking the ground and dust coming up ! You’ll never, ever have that in the Midwest ! There is just SOO much difference in keeping sets working east vs. west. Powder snow of the isn’t hard to work in (we used to have cold, snowy winters) and neither is freeze/thaw with the right methods. I’ll take both over 4 days of rain per week, week in-week out here in a typical Indiana trapping season.
I use peat moss. The trick is, buy it in early July, cut the top fully open, and sit the bales (plural) in the top of your garage, barn, shed etc. and let it BAKE and DRY all summer in the heat of the upper reaches near the roof. Never, ever let if get wet during this time. If you’re lucky, mice will take up in it and so much the better ! (throw some bird seed in it… little known trick for you there..).
The baking process for months is the key. It will dry so much that it will actually repel water IF you don’t have soup bowl trap beds and the water can run off ! This is the key part people don’t get when using peat moss….baking it bone dry by buying the bales in the summer. Peat DOES have moisture in it right from the big box garden stores and it WILL freeze if not baked well before trapping time.
You can make trenches with your 3-in-one trapping tool to channel water out of your trap bed. You can dig dirt holes under your trap, in the bed, to catch water. You can set on knolls and on slants to drain water away. You can cover your traps with dried lawn clippings and still catch coyotes. But, when it rains an inch at a time, night after night, you’re just gonna fight remakes day in and day out.
What’s the answer then ?
Yes, snares. It is at this point you need to rely on snares. Indiana has rather restrictive snare laws, but if you THINK you can operate legally and still have success with no domestic dog issues. The same applies to running 220s on land without dog issues. It’s actually pretty easy to NOT catch dogs in snares or 220s if you study the situation a bit. PM me for more on this topic.
I’d never messed with snares much until the 2019-2020 season and let me tell you, you are missing coyotes that you never even knew were around your sets that are simply not working your traps !
I had success with snares within 2 check days. From there, I just kept repeating the process.
Bait/carcass piles didn’t work for me as we have mild winters here. Trails and fence duck-unders did very well though. I am in the deer capital of Indiana and there are hunter and road killed carcasses everywhere. Coyotes are never hungry here and man-made bait piles aren’t as effective as in the frozen prairie country of the northern plains.
I’ll save ideas on snares for another time, but let me end with you should get in the habit of putting out at least 3-6 snares for every foothold, or even more, when working coyotes.
You’ll be very glad you did !
**Check out Marty Senneker’s videos and STUDY the man. It’ll open your eyes to putting more coyotes on the boards.**