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How to Use Grapple Drags on the Trapline

There are many ways to secure a trap. Over the years, I’ve tried everything from wire to rebar stakes to earth anchors. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, but one of the simplest, most universal ways to secure traps, I’ve found, are grapples.

Grapples generally have two or three prongs and range in size from 1/4-inch steel to 5/8-inch steel. The smaller versions are ideal for animals such as mink, muskrat, and raccoons and are approximately seven inches long by nine inches wide. Because these animals have shorter legs, they tend to have less torque when pulling the drag and the teeth of the drag easily dig into the ground. The 5/8-inch versions are generally 13 inches long by 11 inches wide and are designed for larger animals such as coyotes, bobcats, and fox.

My favorite all around grapple drag, though, is the two-prong 3/8-inch, which is 10 inches long by 10 inches wide. I’ve found this size to be the best all-purpose size for almost any critter from mink and raccoons to coyotes and bobcats.

Before using grapple drags, I should offer this disclaimer: be careful using them when setting a trap in an open field. Grapple drags are designed for brushy areas where the animal can tangle up quickly. In an open field, they may not reach brush for quite a ways. That’s still okay, I guess, if you don’t mind taking the time to track and search for the animal.

I’m not that patient. I want the animal to be relatively close to my set location so that I’m not wasting time trying to find it. If I’m trapping field situations, I make sure my chain is long enough that I can hook the grapple around a brush row or saplings so that the animal stays on location.

(Photo: Quick Links are a great way to attach the trap chain to the drag chain. I then use an S-Hook to attach the drag chain to the grapple.)

Most of my grapple drags are set up the same way. First, I make sure my trap chain has at least two swivels, one near the trap and one at the end of the trap chain. I then attach a six- to eight-foot length of chain to the trap chain using a Quick Link. Much like the carabiners that mountain climbers use, Quick Links can be used to join the chain to the trap. Also, if in the future you want to remove the trap from the grapple drag, you can do so just as easily with the Quick Link.

The main reason I use Quick Links is for versatility. When going into a new area, I never know what I’m going to encounter until I get there, and I like having options for how I want to set up my traps and drags. Those situations often change depending on the animal I’m after. For instance, if I’m trapping bobcats in the mountains and I need a couple more grapples, I can detach however many I need from my raccoon traps and transfer them over to my bobcat traps in a matter of seconds. And vice versa, of course.

I then attach the grapple drag to the end of the chain using an S-hook. Very rarely do I have the need to remove a grapple drag from the six- to eight-foot length of chain, and if I do it’s because the chain itself is rusted beyond repair. If that’s the case, I probably need a new S-hook, and possibly a new grapple drag, anyway.

Six to eight feet of chain may seem excessive, but once again, I’m shooting for versatility here. I rig all of my traps and grapples so that there’s consistency in my system. It’s easier to keep in stock one size of things than it is to keep two or three. Keep in mind, too, that a longer chain decreases the angle at which the animal pulls the drag and therefore causes it to tangle up in brush faster because the prongs actually dig into the ground better.

Another thing that might seem excessive is that I use #3 straight link import chain. If you’re rigging your traps for strictly smaller animals, #2 and #2/0 double loop chain is acceptable. However, bigger animals such as coyotes have the strength to break smaller chain if they get into a dead-pull situation. I like to err on the side of caution with the heavier chain and, as mentioned before, I like the versatility of a universal system.

If you dye and wax your grapple drags and chain, they’ll last forever – unlike wire which has a shelf life and can rust, and also unlike cable stakes which can fray and need changed every couple of years. Grapple drags are also a back-saver because there’s no struggle involved in moving trap locations like there can be with rebar stakes.

There’s nothing easier to use than grapple drags. Set-making can be done quickly and easily in a matter of seconds. When attached to DPs for raccoons, I can set the trap and secure the grapple drag in less than a minute. Time saved on the trapline equals more time to set more traps and make bigger catches.


Want to learn more about making sets and securing traps? Read Rich Faler's book "Perfect Sets," available in the bookstore.

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