Trapping is one of the skills that built this country. Some would consider trapping inhumane, and dangerous. As with all hunting and fishing pursuits, there are those who don't take the time and do things right. These give all outdoorsmen a bad name. Trapping, when done right, is a great way to control local populations of furbearers. Every state has it's own rules, so make sure you contact you're local wildlife enforcement division (Game and Fish, Department of Wildlife Resources, so on and so forth), and get the official rules on what you can and cannot do.
I think that anyone who considers himself a renaissance man is really just interested in being self sufficient. One part of being self sufficient is finding ways to make a little extra money to fund those side projects that you can't justify on your current salary. You're never going to get rich trapping fur. (You may, but I don't think anybody wants the socioeconomic changes that would entail). You can make some extra money, and maybe have a little fun doing it on the side.
I'm lucky in that I have a wooded area behind my house to trap. Since I don't have a lot of time, I will be concentrating on this area during the week, and on the weekends I may run a few sets at the local Wildlife Management Area. I'm primarily going to target raccoons. Raccoons are supposed to be pretty easy to trap, so we'll see. A good first set for raccoons is the bucket set. You must be careful for with this set though, it's called a killing set. If your neighbors have cats or small dogs, do not use this set. It is unforgiving. It will kill the target animal. You have a little more leeway on public ground, every has the right to use it, and you have to right to trap there. But still you must use common sense. If you know that some guy has been hunting rabbits in the area with beagles, don't set you're traps there. While this is perfectly legal, it's unethical. You wouldn't like it if you're neighbor injured or killed your pet, now would you?
If you're like me, you want to try you're hand and trapping without a huge investment. You may like it, you may not. I would suggest starting out with a dozen traps, and a dozen square buckets. I just bought some and they set me back about $125. I figure that if I can trap around 25 coons, I should be able to make my money back. Set your sights low, and you won't be disappointed. I think with a dozen traps, and a season that lasts about 120 days in my state, I should be able to trap enough coons to make the traps pay for themselves. If I like it, then I can buy more traps, and increase my target catches. One thing I would love to trap are bobcats and coyotes. While coyotes aren't worth much, a nice bobcat can bring in some nice cash.
Coyote populations are exploding at alarming rates in many states. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders. By trapping coyotes, you will help out all the local species that you might like to hunt. Coyotes will kill deer, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, and many other species. They can also be very bold, there have been reports of coyotes killing pets. By all means please trap them. I could write a whole article on why killing coyotes is a good idea, but I won't. Suffice it to say, that they have good qualities in small quantities, but in large quantities they are a scourge on American soil.
What follows is a simple bucket set. You will need a trap, and a square bucket. There are several different sizes of traps. A lot of your trap selection will depend on what your local regulations prescribe. Where I hunt and trap, the largest trap I can use is one with a 6 inch jaw spread. This means that I can use #160. I went with Dukes, but there are several manufacturers out there. Just google for it, and you will find several places that will sell you traps. This trap size is just right for raccoon, possums, and muskrats. It will also work for bobcats, and some foxes. Again, this is a killing set. Keep that in mind, when you decide to start trapping. While the raccoon trapping season around here opens in September, I can't make this set until November when the rest of our seasons are open. While my chances of catching a bobcat or fox are low, they are still high enough, that I don't want to get caught with out of season furs.
The next thing you are going to need is a bucket. You can use round buckets, but conventional wisdom states to use square buckets. You can find square buckets in lots of places, but I'm lazy, and just paid an extra $25 for mine when I ordered my traps. If you want to try and scrounge some up, ask around at local eating establishments. Lots of condiments come in square buckets, butter, mayo, pickles, and so on. You can probably get a lot more than you will need for trapping. The good thing is that plastic buckets always come in handy around the house. So you can never have too many.
Once you have a trap and a bucket, you will need to make a small notch in the bucket to hold the trap. Place the trap in the notch, set and you're ready to go. Of course, trapping is harder than that. You need to set the buckets in places that animals are already going to be, and you will need some bait. There is a whole industry built around trapping baits, and there are more articles online about that special bait than you could probably read in a lifetime For my raccoon trapping, I've been stocking up on sardines from the grocery store, and I'll also buy some apples. Raccoons love fish, and fruit. I've also read that apples are good for muskrats. Sardines can also be used for bobcats. This should give me a wide range of catches.
Finding a good place to set a trap for an animal is hard work. You will need to do lots of scouting to find just the right spot. The only tip I can give you right now is to do like I do. Find an area with a with a stream or creek in it, and set you're traps there. I've trapped a few coons and possums in my backyard with a live cage trap, so I know that they are using the ditch behind my fence as a travel way. I've seen tracks at my local WMA around some of the creeks, so I know this will also be a good spot to set traps. Other than that, you will have to scout hard to trap wild animals.
I will get some pictures up later this week.