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Box Trap – How to Construct a Box and Stick Trap

In his book, “Survival Skills of Native California’”, Paul Campbell wrote and showed images of a live box trap used by Yaqui and Kumeyaay indians. The Mohave and Maricopa also used this trap.

Paul writes—

Benito Aldama Jat’am, Kumeyaay, of la Huerta, remembers his uncle, Antonio Vaquero Aldama, telling him that sometimes so many quail became trapped under the box they fly away with it.

Similar to the Arapuca bird trap of Brazil, both the Arapuca and the Box trap have the unique advantage of being a live catch trap. This ensures what ever you trap remains fresh. Designed for birds, these two traps are very well suited to catch other game, such as rodents, squirrels, etc. through very simple adjustments.

Both the Arapuca and box trap used an alternating layering of sticks, akin to that of the way a log cabin is built, to construct the trap.

For the purposes of this article, we will construct the box like the Arapuca did, but use the trigger system employed by the Native Americans. The difference between the two boxes is that the Arapuca uses the initial crossed cordage (shown in the first image), while the Native American one does not.

To begin, tie two sections of cordage to two straight sturdy sticks as shown below. The length of the cordage should be equal to about the length plus a half of one of the sticks. So if the stick is 18″ long the string tied at a diagonal should be about 27″ long. And, the end of the strings should be tied about 1.5 inches in from the ends

Next, begin to alternate other sticks, as shown below, while snugging them up against the cordage. You’ll notice as you start to ascend in construction, because the cordage is there as a gauge, the box will take the shape of a pyramid and will also become sturdy as tension is applied to the cordage. Be sure to leave plenty of length on the sticks until you’ve built the box— You can always trim the excess later.

Now that the basic shape of the box is complete, we need to secure all the corners in order to make it strong and sturdier. If we skip this step, the box will lose its shape, because the sticks begin to slide around.

To do this, take some cordage and tie it to the bottom stick in one of the corners. Now, by alternating back and forth, work your way up the box as shown in the picture below. Be sure to pull taut on the cordage, so the stick snugs up against the main gauge line. This will insure a strong box. Once at the top, tie off the remainder of the line to the top stick. When you are done with one side, do the same to all the other corners

For the trigger, take a stick about 8″ in length and make a simple scarf joint in the middle. It doesn’t have to be big. Just enough so the two pieces can marry back together nicely when set… See below

Now that your trap is all set up, place seeds or other suitable bird bait inside the trap, near the rear. As a bird hops around, it will trip the lines and trigger the trap, effectively trapping itself.

Final Note: When you build the box itself, do not lash down the last few sticks on top. By not doing so, you can remove them one at a time to create an opening you can stick your hand through to grab your trapped game. Alternatively, you may wish to just make a simple door out of extra twigs you can hinge to one of the top sticks using cordage, so you can swing it open to stick your hand in the box. If you do not do this, it is possible your catch will escape if you lift a side of the box to go after your catch from underneath.

Happy Trapping!