Survival Skills: Make A Deadfall Trap

One of the best traps is the Paiute deadfall, dating back to the early Paiute Indians of the American West.

Like all deadfalls, this trap uses a rock for a weight and a stick trigger system to hold part of the rock up in the air until your future meal gets under there. What makes this deadfall different is the stronger, more sensitive trigger that can be fashioned without a knife. Just break a few sticks into the right size, scrounge up a bit of string and bait, and grab a flat rock.

Step 1
Break the sticks into shape and gather the other supplies. For an average-size rodent, you’ll need the following: a Y-shaped stick thicker than a pencil and about 8 inches (20 cm) long; a straight stick thicker than a pencil, about 9 inches (23 cm) long; a 2-inch (5 cm) stick that is a little skinnier than a pencil; a slender bait stick half the diameter of a pencil and about 12 inches (30 cm) long; about 8 inches (20 cm) of string; appropriate bait for your critter of choice; and a flat rock that weighs 5– to 10 pounds (2–5 kg).

Step 2
Take your 9-inch (23-cm) straight stick (this is called the lever) and tie one end of the string to it. Tie the other end to the 2-inch (5-cm) stick (the toggle). Square knots are fine. Wipe or skewer the bait on one end of the 12-inch (30-cm) bait stick.

Step 3
Set the trap by laying the rock down on a hard patch of ground. Stand up the Y-shaped stick (the post) by the edge of the rock. Put the string-less end of the lever in the fork of the post, with a small portion of it sticking out toward the rock. Place the rock on the tip of the lever. You should be able to hold the weight of the rock by only holding down the string end of the lever. Now wrap the toggle halfway around the post. Place the baited end of the bait stick between a rough spot under the stone and the tip of the toggle. When you can let go of the trigger stick and the rock stays up, you know you did it right.

This tip, and 337 more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s new book Prepare For Anything. This latest Outdoor Life survival manual is available at Amazon.

Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch  And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.

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One Response to “Survival Skills: Make A Deadfall Trap”

  1. Kerry Kirstein

    From the picture, it appears that the rock would be about 10 to 12″ inches across and about 18 to 24″ inches long, maybe weighing in the vicinity of 6 to 15 lbs or more. My question is, what SIZE of rodent are we talking about??? Obviously larger than a mouse since it will have to move or trigger the bait stick for the rock to fall. Will the rock kill a groundhog size rodent, or is this meant to be for smaller animals, of which I have NO IDEA what would fit into your “rodent” category!! Can you give us some suggestions of what this is actually for?? [name the animal/rodent]