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Antler traps attract more than deer

During the late winter and early spring, we spend a lot of time walking about the timber and pasture looking for antlers the deer have recently lost.

Last year, I heard about an antler trap. The deer go in, knock off their antlers, and I could come pick them up at my leisure. It sounded like a good plan to me. I am not really opposed to a walk in the woods, but antler hunting can cover miles. If I am going to do that much walking, I want to be carrying a gun with intentions of shooting something to eat.

Last year, by the time I got around to doing any serious planning for an antler trap, it was April and the antlers had all long since been shed. In talking with my son, Damon, the other day, I learned he had heard of great success with the same contraption and was ready and willing to help with the project. He even had some improvements on my ideas.

An antler trap is nothing more than a piece of cattle panel shaped into a "V" with bait in the center. Bucks walk into the trap and eat some corn, apples, or whatever the bait may be. In the process, they bump their antlers on the cattle panel, causing them to fall off there, since they are ready to lose them anyway.

For those who do not farm, a cattle panel is heavy gauge wire welded into six inch squares making a 16-foot panel about five feet high. They are used for everything on the farm. A fence can be repaired or a semi-permanent gate made with only placing a cattle panel in the opening. They are fairly inexpensive and will hold up to weather, livestock and wildlife. They do not do so well with tractors backing over them. If a person has a cattle panel lying around that has been run over by a tractor just once, it is too good to throw out. A person must save it until a use arises for a partially destroyed panel, such as an antler trap.

When we went looking for parts for the project, I just happened to have two such cattle panels. I do not recall having driven over either one of them, so it must have been one of the boys that did it. With bolt cutters, we cut the first panel just behind the really smashed part. This left a fairly nice looking section almost 10 feet long. We then cut it horizontally, giving us two panels 30 inches tall and 10 feet long.

The other panel had a much worse life. We salvaged a section eight feet long and three feet high. With wire, posts, post pounder, shelled corn and deer blocks, we headed for the timber. Near a major deer trail exiting the timber, we set up the first trap. We bent a section of panel into a "V" and attempted to pound posts on all three corners. The ground was frozen much more firmly than we had anticipated. We wired the panel to three strategically-located trees. We put a protein block in the center and scattered shelled corn around. We repeated the process in different locations around the farm.

It is early for deer to be losing their antlers, but Sunday, Damon decided to take the boys out for a ride, just to see if the traps were being visited. At the first trap, deer were all around, but the turkeys were eating the corn. The second trap had no deer in the area but it also had turkeys eating corn as fast as they could. The same scenario was at the third.

With the abundance of wildlife around our "traps", I am sure we will have at least a few deer knock off their antlers when the time comes. Even if they do not, they and the turkeys will have an easy winter with people providing free meals in our attempt to trap some antlers.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.