Animal Drives – Jackrabbits

Animal drives, in their various shapes and forms, have been and continue to be part of human animal harvesting technique. Today they are still seen in aboriginal harvesting, typically under agreed upon terms, in animal tagging efforts which are not focused on harvesting but in tabulating, recording and tagging, and in animal population control efforts.

Cooperative efforts resulted in massive catches of jackrabbits in early drives to control their populations. Idaho

The image at left illustrates the results of an effort to control jackrabbit induced losses of crops.

Historical accounts of jackrabbit drives provide some incredible numbers. A report in the Chicago Tribune dated October 1, 1893 claimed 20,000 dead jackrabbits in a drive outside of Fresno, California.

A 640 acre ranch in Bakersfield, California was driven and the take was 1,126 jackrabbits.  Two more drives of the same field, the same day netted another 796 rabbits.

There were aboriginal tribes that depended heavily on the jackrabbit and were essentially “rabbit cultures,” making use of the meat and skin for food and clothing. Drives by natives were witnessed and reported on by John Townsend, in 1839 and by John Fremont in 1844. In both cases the tribes had fabricated nets which were then managed by individual tribe members stationed 5-6 feet apart. Each person had a club. The net was used to enclose a large area. A group of natives entered the enclosed area, walking close together. Then they separated and started walking outwards toward the net, beating the bushes. The rabbits rushed away from the disturbance and got caught in the net where they were quickly clubbed to death. As many as two hundred or more natives took part.

Rabbits being driven along 2 miles of wings that converge into the final 100 foot diameter corral.

A rabbit drive was organized in Lamar Colorado in 1893 and quickly became an annual event. A holiday was declared for the town.

“Wire netting some three feet high is divided into portable sections, and set up in the form of a wide-spreading V. These wings often extend two or three miles in each direction. They converge in a circular corral about one hundred feet in diameter.” (January, 1899 issue of “Outing” magazine)

Animal drives were used by local tribes in the American Midwest to catch antelope while they have been used by northern tribes to catch deer, and buffalo. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, outside Fort McLeod in Alberta, Canada shows evidence of having been in use as early as 6,000 years ago.

The cliff ends in a 30+ foot drop. Members of the Blackfoot tribe created funnels, using lines of rock cairns, that converged on the thousand foot wide cliff . Buffalo were driven into the funnel and over the cliff by specially trained “buffalo runners.” The drop was enough to stun or break the legs of the buffalo that were forced to take the leap. Warriors stationed at the bottom of the cliff finished the stunned or immobilized animals off.

California rabbit drive.

On a smaller scale, a drive could be managed by just a few people if they had access to fencing (snow fencing or rolls of wire mesh) and/or netting. By setting sections of fence into place, with short gaps and then leaving it alone for the animals to acclimatize themselves to it, you avoid the “new – danger” signal. When it is time for the drive, the gaps could be closed and the animals either driven down the funnel into nets or to kill zones.

In future posts I will take a look at large game animal drives in more detail. There are numerous prehistoric remnants of drive lanes, and plenty of early reports of drives being used by cooperating indigenous groups.

Trapping Squirrels

Squirrels are common and a relatively easily trapped mammal.

Almost no matter where you are in a survival situation, you probably have access to small game of some type. Squirrels are among the most common and widely distributed species of mammals in the world. They are members of a family of rodents that includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs amongst other rodents. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were introduced by humans to Australia.
Squirrels can be caught several different ways.

Squirrel Pole

You have probably seen the “squirrel pole” many times since it is featured in so many survival manuals. Below is an illustration from the “US Army Survival Manual.”

Squirrels are used to pushing their way through tight cover so this pole snare set will not put them off.

You can see from the above image that there is nothing complicated about this setup. Snare wire is typically 20-gauge in either brass or stainless steel. The legality of using snares, the material used and the gauge of snare wire required varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you intend to try snaring methods out, check your local requirements.

Rat Traps for Squirrels

It is also a simple matter to catch squirrels in a rat trap, particularly the smaller red squirrels. Find a location with a population of squirrels. Nail the rat trap to the trunk of a tree, high enough that it cannot be reached by dogs. Smear peanut butter onto the bait trigger. Use multiple traps.

For the larger varieties of squirrel, like the grey, some modifications may be necessary. Take a look at the image below. You can see the common mouse trap, made by Victor, and the less frequently seen rat trap.

The rat trap is obvious by it’s larger size. Notice the enhancements possible to improve it’s killing power.

Notice the two brace ends of the trap springs? One way to increase the power of the trap is to pry these ends up and wedge something underneath them, thereby tightening the coil. This imparts additional power to the kill bar when it snaps shut.

Additionally, a small piece of wood or a wooden dowel can be screwed to the trap at the indicated spot in the image. This helps ensure a killing blow by helping the kill bar deliver greater trauma to the neck.

Rat traps are discussed in greater detail in the Kindle book “More Than Just a Rat Trap” by Blake Alma. He discusses camouflage methods, how to remove the human and manufacturing scent from the trap by burying it, adding teeth to the trap and using the rat trap on different target species. The book is under $5.00, so it’s tough to go wrong.

Squirrel Snares and Bait Station

While looking for squirrel trapping info online I ran across an article discussing squirrel snaring at

The article suggested setting a pole up between two trees and mounting a bait station in the center. Multiple snares were set up at the ends  of the pole closest to the tree, so the squirrels had to pass by the snares twice. The baiting station was constructed from a 4″ grey plastic pipe with a couple of wooden half plugs screwed onto either end.

                   The bait station forces the squirrels to run a gauntlet of snares for food

Check Your Local Trapping Regulations

I have tried to keep this as simple as possible. Of course, there are any number of snares or deadfalls that could be made to trap squirrels, but the three methods I have shown here take the capture methods right to the squirrels habitat; the trees it lives in. This helps make any of these methods more effective.

Observation is important to success in any trapping or hunting effort. The traps need to go where the squirrels are.  Pre-baiting will make all of these traps more effective. The pole snare put in place with wires attached but no loops, and kernels of corn spread strategically around will help the local squirrels become accustomed to the object. Same suggestion goes for the baiting station. And a few days of peanut butter served up on the trigger of a rat trap that hasn’t been set will likely ensure a higher level of success.

As always I am not advising you to try any of these methods of catching squirrels without checking exactly what your local laws allow. I am presenting methods of acquiring food that you may need in a survival situation. I don’t believe any court would charge you with a penalty if you were in a survival situation and used these techniques to feed yourself. But I’m no lawyer. Before trying any of this in a non-survival circumstance, do your due diligence and understand your local trapping and small game regulations.

Nothing like fresh food cooked over an open fire