While doing research for an awesome upcoming post on desert survival, I came across Shawn Woods, a seriously cool YouTuber who makes primitive weapons, braids his own rope, hunts frogs with an arrow sporting a head he hand-knapped from an old Jack Daniels bottle… this guy is intense!
We often focus on finding water in the desert, or maintaining hygiene – but how about food? Knowing plants is a good place to start but you will soon start to crave protein. Shawn Woods may have provided the answer in this video on the Paiute deadfall trap. In it, we discover why this is a better option than the standard “figure 4” deadfall trap, and see how to build one step by step. Plus, don’t forget how learning to make and use traps like this lets you lighten your bug out bag load by scratching a couple of items off your bugout bag checklist.
How Does the Paiute Deadfall Trap Differ from a Figure 4 Deadfall Trap?
Shawn illustrates at the beginning the difference between these two iconic traps.
The Paiute deadfall trap is slightly more complicated and has a piece of twine and a small trigger piece which the figure 4 deadfall trap lacks. According to Shawn, this makes it more effective.
So, how do you build one?
Step 1: Find Your Rock
First, find a suitable rock or log.
Make sure the rock is big enough to kill your desired game. In the video, Shawn is hunting mice so the rock is small.
Step 2: Secure Some Twine or Braid Your Own
The twine for the trigger can be purchased or, as Shawn does, made from local materials. In his area, he notes that cordage can be made from milkweed, dogbane, cedar bark and stinging nettle. In the desert you would turn to the trusty yucca for good fiber.
Step 3: Get Your Blade Ready
For the sake of historic authenticity, Sean uses a piece of flint that he chipped off a larger chunk.
Most of us would simply use a pocket knife, but the flint is definitely an option for you hardcore history buffs.
Step 4: Start Whittling Sticks
Cut your sticks and notches as shown in the earlier illustration.
At the end of your whittling, you want this set of pieces:
Step 5: Create Your Trigger
Now it’s time to create the trigger. This requires drilling a small hole through the flat trigger piece and running your cordage through it.
You can secure the twine with a knot or a small twig looped through it.
Step 6: Tie On the Trigger
It’s time to attack the trigger and get this sucker ready for trapping!
Step 7: Learn to Set the Trap
Now is the time of reckoning. Trap-setting time.
Seeing the pieces and how they fit really puts it all together in my head. As you can see, the trigger is bent around the base of the prop stick which holds up the diagonal stick. The little twig in the back is then separately braced against the trigger and tucked tight under the rock to stabilize the deadfall.
Step 8: Bait and Kill Meat!
Shawn demonstrates his trap on rats and mice via a night vision camera:
To hunt bigger game, make the trap larger. Ideally, you would be nailing creatures a little larger than mice in a survival situation but the dynamics are the same.
Note the bait – what appears to be peanut butter – smeared above the small stick that holds the trigger in place. Any leaning or bumping that little twig and SMACK! You’ve nailed some meat.
So how hard is it to make a Paiute deadfall trap?
Well, my nine-year-old son built one after watching this video a few times. Though he is a sharp kid, I’m sure you could do the same. I’m going to practice my skills now before I need them.
Heck, I’d do this just to kill some of the rats eating my corn.
For more information on other survival skills, click here.