Another Look at a Great Waterproof Set
The Pipe Dream Set for Canines REVISITED by Mark Zagger
Copyright 2017 - Mark Zagger
All Rights Reserved
Website by Hawk Mountain
Pipe Dream Set Basics
• The bedding method has the trap countersunk in sod ground but not resting in the bed, where dirt turns to mud and impedes the action of the trap.
• The hammer-bedding method pinches the sides of the hole against the trap, holding it above the bottom of the bed.
• Steel screen pan covers support the covering material, but just as importantly, allow moisture to pass through the covering, screen, and trap bed.
• The covering is dried grass or other vegetation only, vs. any type of dirt.
• Durable Schedule 40 conduit acts as a lure and bait holder, keeping odor contained within its interior and also providing a novel object for canines to lick, bite, or pull, encouraging foot movement and lengthening time at the set, thereby increasing odds of paws on pans.
Three years ago I published an article titled “The Canine Pipe Dream Set”. I had no idea that the reaction would be so robust and positive. Clearly, the weather-resistant nature of the set resonated with a large percentage of the trapping community, and to date I have received many hundreds of inquiries, questions, and comments (both positive and negative) about the set, and how to make it.
I said it back then, and I will say it again: If you think the Pipe Dream Set is only about the pipe, you have missed the point. The set is a weather-proof alternative that uses several key components that, together, work in concert to give you the Pipe Dream Set.
I had been making this set for years exactly as above, but I was using T-bones, grubstakes, or bamboo for the lure and bait holders. The epiphany I had with the pipe was that it would be more durable and more efficient for this job. It was! Many of the bulleted items above are not methods I developed on my own. I simply pulled them all together, added the pipe (which I’d never seen anyone recommend for coyote trapping), and dubbed it the Pipe Dream Set.
This follow-up article is to address the most common questions I’ve received, and to share some additional ideas and successes I’ve had over the last three seasons.
For sure, trappers are very visual. I’d assumed that the original article and drawings were, together, self-explanatory. I was wrong. I’ve had a huge number of guys watch me make the set at trapping academies or conventions, and I could see the light bulb going off in their heads.
When trappers send me pictures of their sets, three things jump out at me as to what they are doing incorrectly.
First and foremost, many people are using far too much covering over the trap. I think it’s natural for us to think we have to hide that trap, so more has to be better. It’s not. A small handful on the trap and screen is all that’s needed, and if desired, some to feather out beyond the trap into the surrounding sod.
When I’m done blending the set and look down at the trap, I can see small bits of screen or trap showing up through the grass. The screen and trap should only have enough grass on it to remove its entirety from view, but a percentage of your hardware can show through with no issues. All you need is 1/8 to ¼ inch of grass over the trap. Grass will absorb water and freeze, so you don’t want to put so much material on the trap that it impedes its action. Doing that is counterintuitive to the whole works; if you are too generous with the grass covering it can be as much of a problem as a dirt covering.
I promise you, showing parts of the screen and trap will cause no issue with fox or coyotes. Their minds and nose and eyes are on the prize -- the tantalizing odors emitting from the top of the pipe.
One 25-lb. sized onion bag of dried grass makes me 25-30 sets. With grass covering, less is more.
Secondly, in pictures of trapper’s sets I see that they leave far too much of the pipe out of the ground. As mentioned in the original article, my pipes are 9 inches long, and I like to have 6-7 inches below ground, with only 2-3 inches above ground. A side view of the pipe is not necessarily meant to be a visual attractor. The visual, in my mind, is the black hole peering out from a grass tuft when the coyote is looking straight down at it, vs. something the animal can see from 20 yards away.
With 75% of the pipe below ground, you discourage an opportunity for the animal to simply walk up, bite, pull the pipe, and leave the set without a catch. Wind direction can change, and the animal may approach the set with the wind in its face, and then be standing 180 degrees from your trap. Biting, pulling, and licking will keep the animal at the set, and if it’s on the wrong side initially, difficulty in pulling the pipe can bring it around to the right side of the set and result in a catch.
One exception to this rule is winter trapping. I have some longer pipes cut simply for then, and if I know we’re getting 3-4 inches of snow I will use the longer pipes and have a little more sticking out of the ground. But it probably doesn’t matter. Coyote noses are so good they’ll probably find it anyhow. Get those pipes down into the ground; 2-3 inches is plenty of room above ground for your lure or bait.
Thirdly, photos also show the pipe often sitting there naked, with no grass tuft or backing whatsoever behind it, or, the way I like it, with the pipe driven into the base of the grass tuft. Again, I don’t necessarily view the Pipe Dream Set as a “visual” set to be seen from a distance. I want to bury or hide that pipe in a tuft of grass if at all possible. Much of the reason coyotes are not afraid of the pipes is because I bury them enough that they really don’t see anything that might cause reluctance to approach.
Lastly, many trappers dig their trap beds too big, and then they try to recreate what Mother Nature had already provided to them before they started digging. The sod and its root base around your trap and trap bed are an important part of the hammer bedding method, and ending up with a rock-solid trap pinched in place. My Jake traps are basically 6x6 inches, so I dig my bed smaller than that, and use my hammer to widen the bed ever-so-slightly to squeeze the trap into place. Digging a 7x7-inch bed would be counterproductive, requiring me to fill in those gaps around the trap and trap bed with dirt, and undermining the idea of solid trap bedding. An animal attempting to pull the pipe makes a lot of tracks, and you want that trap to be solid should the animal step anywhere on it but the pan. Dig those beds smaller than you need. You won’t regret it.
Trappers are always trying to tweak and improve on ideas, and for sure, this inclination has led to a lot of the advancements we’ve all benefited from over the years. Still, I’ve had many inquiries from trappers wanting to make changes to the basic set before they’ve even tried it in its original form.
“Can I use white pipe?”
“Can I use metal conduit instead of plastic?”
“Can I use no pan cover, or wax paper pan covers?”
“Should I cut the pipes at angles to make them easier to drive into the ground?”
The list goes on and on. Try anything you want. I certainly am not naïve or hardheaded enough to think this set can’t be improved upon by others. But try it my way first, and see what you think.
This set, like others, takes some practice to perfect, and the more of them you make the better you will get at it. On the surface it may seem more complicated than conventional sets, but in reality it’s not. I can put these in faster than a dirt hole set, and many guys have told me they are finding it harder and harder to dig a dirthole set when the Pipe Dream is so easy and fast. Plus, they no longer need to carry 500 pounds of dried dirt in their trucks!
I now routinely use a pipe with an inside diameter of 1 inch, vs. the ¾-inch inside diameter mentioned in the original article. I find the larger opening an easier target for the bait or lure. But either size will work just fine.
I’ve used metal conduit, but in my opinion the malleable plastic is a much better option for encouraging biting and chewing. All my pipes get chewed up, and I’m sure a metal pipe would not be as pleasant a chewing experience for a coyote. Plus, picture a winter coyote with its tongue stuck to the metal pipe, like the young boy and the flagpole stories from our youth!
I no longer drill a drain hole for rain water; there’s no advantage to it. The dirt plugs up the hole more times than not anyhow.
When you pull the pipes, they will have a dirt plug in them that can be difficult to remove. During season I just reuse them. The bait and lure is still in them, and I often don’t even re-lure them at their next location. In the summer I put them all in a large, watertight plastic tote and fill it with water. After a week or more of soaking, the dirt softens and a quick snap of your arm will release the contents more times than not. I use a drill to loosen really difficult dirt clogs.
While I developed this set for use in the East and/or in rainy and muddy conditions, I have been using a version of it out West as well. While my partner and I are generally banging in dirthole sets out there, we have found locations that are too sandy to support the side walls of our beds and dirtholes. Further, with the constant wind blowing out there, our sets are often blown in and unproductive.
The pipes have saved our skins, so to speak, in those situations. Sure, they are not the pure Pipe Dream Sets in sod with grass clippings, but we bedded a pipe at the base of a yucca, sagebrush, or dry grass clump, with a Jake trap bedded in front. Like in snow back East, we’d leave more than 3-4 inches of pipe sticking out of the ground, knowing that the wind would blow the set full of sand. Still, the set would take a lot of sand before becoming inoperative, similar to its ability to take snow back East when I’d leave more than the normal amount of pipe above ground. Adapt or die!
Last year we pulled into a new permission to set up, and found an approach by coyotes between two silage concrete bunks. In between the bunks the coyotes had a smoothed-down, worn-out patch compressed into the loose material of the silage between the two large piles. I had to look twice to make sure it was not a raccoon trail! Beyond the bunks was compacted gravel, or even concrete. The only place to make sets was in the silage trail.
I made four Pipe Dream Sets along that trail. A dirthole would never work here, and while blind sets were obvious, I wanted to keep the trail intact and keep the catches 5-10 feet off it.
Our first check we had a triple, and we caught coyotes there every day for the next three checks, taking 10 coyotes at the bunks set in four checks with Pipe Dreams. Adapt or go home! Don’t get caught in a rut and be a one-trick pony.
Speaking of adapting, a well-known western trapper and friend told me he hammers the pipe into cracks in rim rock for his cat and coyote line, giving him a lure and bait receptacle that he’d not considered before reading my article. Again, a pipe alone pinched in rim rock may not be the pure Pipe Dream Set the way I know it, but it’s another adaption of the set nonetheless.
In the end, like all set types, there will be additional tweaks and changes and adaptations to the basic set. How many types of dirtholes can a guy dig, regarding hole width, depth, etc.? Think about the innumerable variations of flat sets. The Pipe Dream Set is no different, as trappers constantly adjust and change the basic premise of the set.
Still, the characteristics listed above regarding the simple components of the set (countersunk/floating trap, hammer bedding method, steel screen, grass covering, and Schedule 40 electrical conduit) are what work in concert together to make the Pipe Dream Set so effective, vs. just one or two of the components alone. Together, they give the trapper a weather-resistant alternative to conventional sets we’ve all struggled with, in the inevitable bad weather many of us face annually.
According to Zagger