The Paiute Trap
The Paiute Trap, also known as the Paiute Deadfall Trap, or Paiute
Deadfall Mangle Trap, is featured in many survival books as one of
the most useful traps. Thomas J.
Elpel says it is the trap that he has used the most. Assuming that
you already have some cordage, it is the easiest trap to construct
that I have made so far.
There are three straight pieces of wood, plus a smaller
piece, to make the Paiute trap. There are only two cuts required,
one flat edge and one notch, compared to
The four pieces are referred
here as the vertical, the diagonal, the bait stick, and the trigger
(which is the smaller piece). You also need a short piece of cordage,
about a foot (30 cm) should suffice unless you are making a very
large trap. I used home made cordage, that
I made from Lomandra (Mat-rush) leaves, although almost any kind
of string, cord of rope will work.
It does not need to be very strong. You also need a weight. The "rock"
I have used here is a piece of broken up concrete slab that I found
in the garden.
The parts of the Paiute trap (not including the rock), from top to
bottom: the vertical, the diagonal (tied to the trigger with
a piece of cordage) and the bait stick.
Although the lengths are
not critical, in the trap shown here the sizes are 38 cm (15 inches),
(14 inches), 28 cm (11 inches) and 9 cm (3.5
inches). Gregory Davenport says to make the diagonal about 2/3 the
length of the vertical. The wood was from dead gum tree (Eucalyptus
pipertia) branches I found
backyard. I used a large heavy knife with a saw back for most of
this work. You could use many kinds of tools. Be sure always
to cut away from yourself!
Below is the assembled and set Paiute deadfall trap. This trap
is very sensitive, as the bait stick is balanced precariously
between the rock and the trigger (the small stick). Weight from the
rock is bearing downwards on the top of the diagonal. Since the diagonal
is notched into the top of the vertical piece, the weight makes the
diagonal want to swing outwards (to the left in this picture). The
diagonal is prevented from swinging outwards by the cord, that is,
it is pulling on the cord (pulling to the left in this picture).
The cord wraps (half a complete circle) around the vertical piece,
this end by the short trigger piece, which it is tied to. This makes
this end (the frontmost end in the picture) of the trigger piece
want to move to the right. The trigger piece is itself held by the
end of the bait stick pushing
on it (also to the left in the picture). If the bait stick
or trigger piece is disturbed even slightly, the entire assembly
falls to the ground, and the heavy rock falls on top of anything
underneath. This is all much easier to see in action than
Paiute deadfall trap. Bait would go on the lower, horizontal stick.
This is the first cut, a two-sided flat edge at the top of
the vertical piece.
is cut two, the notch at the top of the diagonal.
To cut a notch quickly, you can use the saw of a Swiss army knife
to cut the short edge of the notch. That is, the edge that goes
straight into the wood,
not at an angle. You can also use a knife, by placing the knife,
with the sharp edge facing downward, across the stick, and then
strike the back of the knife blade with a piece of wood. Do not
use a steel (such as a hammer) or a rock to strike the knife blade
or you may damage your knife. After making this incision, finish the
notch by cutting towards it with a sharp knife (or chisel).
is a close up of the above two cuts when the trap is
assembled, with the flat edge of the vertical fitting into the
notch of the diagonal.
Close up of the trigger, with the Paiute trap set. The upper part of the
cord is holding the weight and pulling to the left. The lower
part of the cord is just the loose end, which could be cut
a lot closer to the stick than I have made it. I didn't
want to cut the cord because it took me so long to make
Another close up of the trigger, taken from a higher angle of view.
The leftmost part of the cord is holding the weight, with the loose
end hanging down closer to the centre of the picture. The bait
stick (the rightmost piece) is being pressed downwards and leftwards
by the rock. It is pushing on the right-lower
end of the small trigger
piece. The cord is tied to the trigger piece and is pulling in the
Close up of the cord connecting the lower end of the diagonal to
Primitive Technology II: Ancestral Skills - From the Society of Primitive Technology, David Wescott (editor).
Primitive Technology II: Ancestral Skills provides the guide to rediscovery of the skills and crafts that bind us all into this great human family. Contents: Food Sources, Containers, Projectiles, Buckskin, Transportation Back to Basics. A continuation of the book Primitive Technology, what has been called “the best single source for primitive skills out there — PERIOD.”
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