When I was in college, I took my Trapper Education course and began my trapping career. I would run a good-sized trap line while I was at school but when the semester would end I would have to pull everything before heading home for the month and a half break.
Once I was back home, I would get another trap line up and going. It was never easy to get started though, the ground was usually frozen solid and often there was snow on the ground. It would take so much time to chisel out a trap bed and to try to drive a stake in the ground, that I’d be lucky to get all my traps set in 2 days. I did have luck using dirthole sets but learning of the hay set really helped me increase the number of traps I had out without having to spend so much time hacking trap beds out of the frozen sod.
The hay set is a great set for foxes, but you can catch coyotes in them, just not as frequently. You want to pick a location that is in the open, as the set is very eye-appealing from a distance. Start by picking the location for the center of the set, and then drive the stakes for two traps 12” from the center (one upwind and one downwind from the center point). Make sure your trap chains have plenty of swivel points in them to keep them from binding up. Next, make a pile of hay with the tallest point being in the center between the traps and making it thinner where the traps will be set. Set the traps and find a stable bedding location for them and give them a light covering with hay. A four-coiled trap will ensure the trap will be able to go off in the hay and still catch what steps on it. Make a little mouse-hole into the center of the hay 8” in front of the pan of each trap. Put a food-based lure on a stick and shove it down into the middle of the hay pile. Spray fox urine on the side of the hay and add a call lure heavy with skunk essence to either the top of the hay pile or on something nearby that is a few feet off the ground to let the smell carry. Then walk away and go make another set someplace else.
When there is a risk of things melting then freezing again, make sure there is a layer of hay between the trap and the ground. This will keep the trap from freezing down and not going off when something steps on it.
The hay set really shines when there is snow on the ground as it stands out in an all-white landscape. When checking the traps in the hay set, I try not to walk right up to the traps every day. I will walk up to the set every few days or if I think I need to brush snow off the set. Foxes and coyotes are smart and they seem to be weary of tracks in the snow sometimes. The hay used in the set can help you out also. If you can get hay that has been in a barn where chickens walk all over it (and leave other scents on the hay), the additional scent can entice a hungry fox to commit to stiffing around the set.
By adding the hay set to your trapping repertoire, you can increase your winter time catch and save time when setting new locations.