Tutorial: figure 4 deadfall

This tutorial guide shows you how to construct one simple deadfall trap, but not how to de-scent yourself, or select an ideal location for the trap. These are probably just as important, if not more so, than the construction. I'll post a tutorial on these topics when I get a little better at them! In the meantime...

To begin, cut out 3 sticks, two 8 inches and one 12 inches long. 

They should be fairly sturdy, not too green, and reasonably straight. The sticks can be shorter or longer depending on what animal you are seeking to trap. This is a good size for a squirrel.

Start with the upright piece. This will be one of the 8 inch pieces. At the top, carve a chisel tip.

The diagonal piece is next. It should be the same length as the upright. Carve one end to a dull pencil point. About 1/3 of the way down, carve a notch to join the chisel edge from the upright. 

This placement is very important; this is the fulcrum which the deadfall (log) rests on. Too close to the tip, and the deadfall will not have enough leverage. Too far from the tip, and the trap will not be sensitive enough.

Carve the notch by first setting the knife edge perpendicular to the stick, where you want the fulcrum. Use a whomping stick to set the notch a quarter inch or so deep. Then carve down and toward that notch on the side opposite the pencil point, taking care to not accidentally cut the whole notch away with an errant stroke.

Now place the two pieces together and test the fulcrum. Does it move easily back and forth?

On the end of the diagonal piece opposite the pencil point, carve a chisel tip in the same plane as the one in the upright stick. The diagonal piece is done.

Diagonal stick: the pencil tip is on the left.
Notch about a third of the way down.
Chisel tip on the right.

The bait stick is next. It should be 12 inches long for this trap, or 3/2 the length of the upright and diagonal pieces. 

On the fatter end, if there is one, carve a notch in the same fashion as for the diagonal stick. Make the notch about 2 inches from the end. Too close, and the notch will strip off from the pressure of the deadfall.

At this point you should be able to position the three components in the shape of a 4, and play with the fulcrum action.

Pushing down on the diagonal piece should pull the bait stick back toward its notched end. 

Decide which side of the bait stick will touch the upright stick (and which side of the upright will touch the bait stick). Decide also exactly where on the bait stick the upright should touch. You want the bait stick to be a little above the ground when it is set up. So it's OK if it points down a bit, but do not have it point above horizontal. At the contact point, carve a notch, rotated 90 degrees from the notch that contacts the diagonal stick. Carve that notch so that it contacts the upright.

The bait stick: notch on the right.
Second notch toward the middle, rotated 90 degrees from the first

Now at the contact point, carve the upright stick flat on the plane facing the bait stick. Do the same on the plane 90 degrees counter-clockwise, or the side opposite the bait stick's notch.

You should now have a 90 degree edge on the upright stick, which secures against the sideways notch on the bait stick.

Corner edge carved into the upright stick

Close-up of the corner edge

You should now be able to set the whole thing up. Apply downward pressure against the pencil tip of the diagonal. This should hold the configuration together. If it does not (after a few tries) you may need to tighten up some of the notches and edges on any/all of the components.

Depending on how you intend to bait the stick, you may need to carve the bait end to a sharp tip to skewer, say a piece of meat. Last time I was out, I spread peanut butter on the unsharpened tip.

I've even duct taped a brazil nut to the bait stick.

Actually setting up the figure 4 can be really tricky. There must be a firm surface under it. If the soil is really soft, you may need to dig a space under the deadfall and fill it with a rock. The upright stick will also require a firm surface to support it – otherwise the deadfall will simply push it into the dirt. A thick piece of bark will often suffice.

The figure 4
A short log or rock will not work well as a deadfall with this trap – to get the figure 4 under it you have to raise the log or rock up at such an angle that it doesn't readily fall. For that to work, you would need to raise up the back end of the deadfall with another rock or log. I usually try to find a long log that need be raised to only 15 degrees or so.

I find it easiest to start with only the upright and diagonal sticks. Hold them in position with your right hand while lifting the deadfall with your left hand. Lower the deadfall to the diagonal stick's pencil point, and hold the contraption in position by pressing the chisel end of the diagonal stick with your right hand. You are testing for side to side wobbling or other issues.

If the log wobbles too much, a light breeze could knock the whole thing over (or you might not even be able to set it up). 

One solution is to plant two long skinny sticks into the dirt, to either side of the log, further down away from the figure 4. Tie the tops of the sticks together so that the log cannot push them over. The log should still be able to freely fall, so don't pinch them too tight.

Stakes planted to keep the log from wobbling back and forth

The figure 4
Finally, test the trap's sensitivity by pushing the bait stick with a branch. The trap should very easily collapse and pin the stick to the ground. If not, you may need to tweak the components.

Set the whole thing up again and get out of there!

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