Wild Geese – Corral Trap Capture

The Canada Goose has been an important food source for indigenous peoples for millenia.

Wild geese have been an important food item for people from the earliest times. They are found around the world. Geese remain a common target of hunters, wherever the taking of geese is permitted. Typically they are hunted with shotguns. However I am going to be talking about methods of taking geese that were used prior to the arrival of gunpowder, specifically the corral trap.

Shortly after breeding. for up to three weeks in mid July to August, geese (and other waterfowl) moult. That is they lose their flight feathers. During this time they typically take to the water. At this time it is possible to herd them towards a previously constructed corral consisting of long wings, extending into the water and funnelling down into a corral pen. You can see the general form of the corral pen in the image below. The three illustrations below are from  the FAO. 2007. publication, Wild Birds and Avian Influenza: an introduction to applied field research and disease
sampling techniques. Edited by D. Whitworth, S.H. Newman, T. Mundkur and P. Harris. FAO Animal Production and Health Manual, No. 5. Rome. (also available at www.fao.org/avianflu)

The geese can be herded by individuals in small boats, people wading in shallow water or walking on land, as the case may be.

The geese naturally follow the wings into the funnel. Wings should be up to 2.0 m (6 ft) for geese.

The number of boats or people will depend on the spread of the wings. Herders should move at a steady pace so that the birds simply keep moving forward. Poles and/or nets can be used to foil escape attempts.

Indigenous peoples of northern Canada would use bow and arrows, bird darts or nets to take their prey. Bird darts were spears with three pronged heads typically used with a “throwing board” or atlatl to provide more distance and force. Sometimes the birds were simply clubbed to death. As can be imagined, numerous birds in a small area made taking them a much simpler matter than hunting individual members of the species.

Large numbers can be taken at the right time of year.











Obviously it would be very difficult for a single person to manage this method of survival bird harvesting. Not impossible, but difficult. In some ways, this is very similar to game drives, used in the past to take jackrabbit, antelope, deer and buffalo in North America. Evidence for European prehistoric game drives has been report. It would seem to be an obvious technique, though once settled in an area, people may have been more careful to preserve a significant portion of any prey animal population for their own benefit.

Waterfowl being captured for survey and banding purposes by naturalists.










Taking birds is simplified during their moulting  period because they can only operate in two dimensions and their speed is drastically reduced. Advantage hunters. Because of the number it is possible to take, it is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people available to process the catch and preserve the meat, or to use it immediately. An alternative is to allow some birds to remain alive inside the pen, to be used as required. However, the corral pen must then be constructed sturdily enough so as to keep other predators out.

The technique discussed above has many similarities to the techniques used in fish traps and in game drives. Long wings, angled towards a collection spot. Large numbers of prey herded into a constricted area that make collection simple and efficient.

If you have any thoughts, don’t hesitate to comment, or to go over to the Survival Harvesting Facebook page to engage with others who have similar interests.




Bird Clap Net

If you check the “Bird Traps” category you will find a post about the “Clap Trap.” It is an ingenious idea that has been around for a long time.  In my post I reference it being used in a study of sandhill cranes, in Florida. I didn’t mention it in the post but the researchers invited a well known bird trapper from India to come and demonstrate the construction and use of the clap trap.

Bird Clap Net

I was recently on the Vintage Traps and Collectibles website and found two very interesting vintage photographs; one shows a “Clap Net” and the other has a newspaper clipping and a separate advertisement of the “Kings Lightning Trap” which looks like it might have been a spring loaded take on the clap trap. The image and advertisement are from a New Zealand newspaper

Below is the photo of the Clap Net.

The Clap Net was a one person managed net that would locate on the opposite side of a tree from the drivers

When the person on the opposite side of a tree created a commotion, many birds wound up flying into the net which was then closed and lowered to the ground to harvest the birds.

What made it possible for one person to manage the clap net was the belt and pouches which supported it. Take a look at the enlargement.

Supporting the weight of the net and poles on the operators waist allowed him to control it.

Powered Clap Net?

The King’s Lightning Trap appears to be from around 1919. It  is very interesting because it used a spring and trigger to cast a net over the birds it targeted. It appears to be patterned after the clap trap. It is hard to make out details from the image, but when I first learned about the clap trap I almost immediately thought about how it might be powered.

From the caption in the newspaper article:


The enormous bird-trap here illustrated is made of iron and steel, is 24 feet long, weighs 50lb. and covers an area of 192 feet.  Bait is spread on the ground between the open jaws of the trap, and when sufficient birds have been attracted to this the operator pulls a cord, releases the springs, and causes the nets to spread over the birds and bait.   So effective has this snare proved to be that as many as seven hundred and ninety-seven birds have been caught in it in New Zealand between seven o’clock in the morning  and six o’clock at night.”

For additional details on both of these traps, head on over to the Vintage Traps and Collectibles website. While you are there, take a look at their wide selection of photos and examples of various traps. Some very good stuff is on hand and I am sure what you see will generate numerous ideas. They also have some great books on sale.

Bird Trapping with the Clap Trap

Harvesting birds with traps has been practiced since well before recorded history. There are multiple reasons why birds have been targeted.

  1. They are easy to kill, relatively speaking. Simply because birds must be light enough to fly, their bone structure tends to be delicate. Consequently it doesn’t require great force to kill or cripple a bird.
  2. Many birds are migratory, and/or flock together for much of the year. There are opportunities to grab multiple individuals in one location.
  3. Bird feeding locations tend to be easily visible and you can count on  birds returning there to feed repeatedly so trap locations can be scouted out.
  4. Birds don’t tend to be the sharpest tools in the shed. It can be far more difficult to trap mammals than birds. “Bird Brain” is not a compliment.

The trap I am going to write about in this post is the Clap Trap. It is quite simple to construct and is suitable for use on larger birds as long as you use stronger material. It lies flat on the ground and requires little metal or wood so it is not conspicuous. It can be operated by one person, but probably will be most successfully used with two people. If there is only one person available, you will have to make a slight accommodation for that.

First up let me give a tip of the hat to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. They produced a report called “Techniques Employed to Capture Whooping Cranes in Central Florida” for presentation at the 2008 North American Crane Workshop Proceedings.

Whooping Cranes were being reintroduced to Central Florida. This necessitated periodic trapping to band, attach transmitters, check the health of and more or less monitor the birds. The report mentions that they used six different methods of crane capture. The clap trap was responsible for 42% of their captures.

This six page document, with complete instructions on building and use is available here.

Below is an example of how the trap looks after operation and also some lower resolution images of the trap construction.


Clap trap used to live trap cranes

As you can see the materials used for construction are quite simple. The netting they used in their efforts was multifilament nylon gill netting with a string diameter of 0.55 mm. They also used two 15 metre long braided nylon ropes, threaded through the top and bottom of the net sections. In addition, to form the trap they used four 1.2 m long, 1.3 cm diameter ( 1/2″) dowels. In the illustration above the dowels are in pairs, standing vertically. The white pieces of rope stand out from the gill net by virtue of their greater diameter. The two diagrams below show the arrangement of the pieces.

The component parts of the Clap Trap bird trap.

As you can see in the photograph, and as indicated in the drawing, the trap must be operated by an observer, who must maintain tension on the trigger wires to keep the top edges of the trap closed. If the trigger person was near a solid object ( a sapling, sturdy stake in the ground etc.) then a couple of quick turns could secure the trigger wires and the observer could leave cover to collect the bird. Otherwise, a second person is necessary.

The rope placement and trigger wire attachment points are obvious in this drawing.

The trap works on tension and geometry and is simple to replicate in different sizes. Several stakes are required to be driven into the ground to hold the bottom ropes and dowels in place, but everything is explained in the report. I encourage you to download it.

The authors report, when speaking of the clap trap design “One of its most appealing features was its ability to safely catch multiple cranes at once. The traps were fairly easy to build and inexpensive (each under $40)…”

They further note, “Though productive, the clap trap was not perfect. Traps
were time consuming to set up, and if we did not take great care to set them up properly, the traps would not trigger correctly.”

The traps proved to be their most successful method of capturing birds. “We triggered the clap trap a total of 17 times. Six of those 17 times we caught 1 bird, 5 we caught 2 birds, and 4 we caught 3 birds. On 2 attempts we caught nothing. Of the 17 attempts made, we caught birds on 15, resulting in an
88% capture probability. ”

I have several thoughts on this trap. First, it seems as if it could be made with expedient materials. If you had a volleyball net or a tennis net or protective netting for a fruit tree or possibly even lightweight wire mesh, I think you could construct one of these. The authors note that they did colour the net and rope to camouflage it. I expect that leaf litter or other vegetative material  could be used.

I also wonder about the ability to put two of these traps in a line, both connected to the same trigger wire. The opportunity to capture multiple birds is one of the very attractive features of this arrangement. The speed with which the trigger wires are pulled must be fast enough to trap the birds. Perhaps a spring mechanism and release would improve over a simple tug from a trigger person.

I hope you have found this post on the Clap Trap informative. Keep your eye out for more in the near future.