Build Your Own Paiute Deadfall Trap for Desert Survival

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

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.

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

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.

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

“Figure 4” deadfall trap parts on top; Paiute deadfall trap parts on bottom.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

At the end of your whittling, you want this set of pieces:

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

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.

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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!

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Step 7: Learn to Set the Trap

Now is the time of reckoning. Trap-setting time.

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

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:

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

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.

paiute deadfall trap, paiute deadfall

For more information on other survival skills, click here.




About David The Good

David The Good is a naturalist, author and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. At age five, he sprouted a bean in a Dixie cup of soil and caught the gardening bug. Soon after, his dad built an 8’ by 8’ plot for him and David hasn’t stopped growing since. David is the author of four books, writes a regular column for The Ag Mag in North Central Florida, is a Mother Earth News blogger and has also written for outlets including Backwoods Home, Survival Blog and Self-Reliance Magazine. You can find his books on Amazon here. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie who now lives somewhere near the equator on a productive cocoa farm. Visit his daily gardening and survival blog here: The Survival Gardener And for lots more gardening info, click here and subscribe to his often hilarious YouTube channel.

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