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Introduction To The Figure Four Deadfall
My knowledge of trapping comes from classes I have taken, books I have read, and time spent tinkering. I have never attempted to catch an animal using these methods, so please view this article as a launch point for your own learning. If you have experience using this trap or any other primitive variety, I would love to hear from you so that I may learn more. With that being said, I hope you find this article insightful and are inspired to spend some time working on these skills.
Why Trapping?
Conservation of personal energy is paramount to staying alive in long term wilderness survival. For this reason, one should always be in the mindset of acheiving the maximum benefit from a minimal expense of energy. Primitive traps achieve this ideal because they procure food without requiring your physical presence and attention. Essentially you create the trap... then you set em' and forget em'. In survival, you may set ten or fifteen traps in different areas to increase the likelihood of a successful catch. This article examines the use of the Figure Four Deadfall Trap, one of the simplest and most effective primitive methods of getting food.
Opinions on trapping ethics and hunting differ extremely from person to person. Only you can decide what approach is best for you, but here is my stance: I love and enjoy the primitive skills because they are a method of establishing a close bond with the earth that is lost in modern society. To me, using an animal for food is a spiritual experience that heightens my sense of appreciation for life itself. Just as many families pause for short prayer before eating a meal, I strive more and more to approach the primitive skills with the same attitude of thanks.
Ethics and Legalities
If you decide to experiement with these techniques, do everything in your power to ensure that your trap functions flawlessy and is as lethal to the animal as possible. There is no sense in prolonging the suffering of the creature, and besides a properly constructed trap should kill the animal instantly. It is also important to know that in most states, the use of primitive traps is highly illegal. Be sure to check with your local game warden to verify exactly what is permissable in your area.

Why Called The Figure Four?
In its completed stage, the three assembled components of this trap resemble the number four. Here is a picture of an activated Figure Four Trap so that you can see what the final result will be. When the trap is released, the heavy flat rock falls down and crushes the animal.

The Right Rocks
Deadfall traps employ the use of a heavy weight to crush the animal. In our scenario we will be using two large flat rocks although it is possible to construct the Figure Four Trap in a similar manner using logs. I found the perfect rocks in a creek. Keep in mind that overkill is good for this trap; you want to kill the animal quickly and with minimal suffering so the heavier the better.

Dig It Out!
The first of the large flat rocks will function as an anvil of sorts. In this picture I am digging a depression for the rock such that the top surface will be even with the surrounding ground.

The Anvil Effect
Now with the anvil rock buried, you can see how the deadfall rock will come crashing down against it. This creates a hard surface that will crush the animal from both sides at once and increase the chances of a humane kill.

The Components
There are three different sticks that make up the Figure Four Deadfall. Each must be aligned properly and with notches set in the correct place. The best way to learn this is to grab your knife and start carving. After several attempts you will get a feel for how this works. See the diagram below and use it as a guide for constructing your trap. Notice the circle in the bottom right hand corner is a "Top-Down" view of how the vertical stick and horizontal stick join together.

Tech Tips
Here is another glance at the completed Figure Four Deadfall. It is very important to just start tinkering with the design if you wish to get it right.
  • Make sure the vertical stick is set outside the falling path of the rock. Otherwise when the trap is released it will actually stop the rock and prevent it from falling.
  • The vertical stick is NOT set into the ground. The bottom of this stick has been carved flat. When the trap is released, the sticks should come apart and eject away from the rock.
  • George Hedgepeth showed me that to increase sensitivity of this trap, you can design it so that the diagonal stick is closer to a vertical position. The picture shows the diagonal at nearly 45 degrees which makes for a relatively difficult release.
  • At Marty Simon's Wilderness Learning Center I also learned that you can increase sensitivity by lengthening the bait stick (the horizontal stick).

Video Explanation
Click the below for more details and explanation on the use of this trap.

  Best always,
Paul Scheiter

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